Chapter 1: “It’s okay. I couldn’t sleep anyway.”
His cellphone goes off, the alarm app letting him know that it’s time to get up to face another day. He doesn’t particularly want to, but today is a school day and being dead tired doesn’t count as being sick. His father can empathize, and mom would sympathize, but his insomnia is a fact of life, and there isn’t anything either of them can really do to help him. Once in a while he’ll be desperate enough to try a sleeping pill, especially if he doesn’t have anywhere to be the next day, but last night wasn’t one of those times and… damn it, he’s exhausted.
Still, with great reluctance, Hitoshi tossed aside his blanket and sat up. He grumbled as he ran a hand through his hair and slipped his feet into his house slippers. Trying to not stumble, he made it out of his bedroom and into the bathroom down the hall. He washed his face and then brushed his teeth, half-glaring at his reflection as he moved his toothbrush back and forth.
He looked like death warmed over, but that wasn’t anything new.
Returning to his bedroom, Hitoshi shrugged out of his pajamas and into his summer school uniform. Grabbing his schoolbag, he shuffled out into the kitchen to zombie-eat some rice and egg rolls, grunting once at his mom’s request to buy milk on the way home. Gulping down some milk, he picked up his schoolbag again and headed out the door.
“…Did I brush my teeth before breakfast again?”
Rubbing a hand over his face, Hitoshi made a mental note to stick an actual note on the mirror to remind himself to brush after eating, not before.
“Hitoshi! Good morning!”
Hearing the familiar voice of his best friend, he dropped his arm and looked forward. There she was, smiling as she waved at him, her colorful hair almost glowing in the morning light. She was happy this morning. Good, good.
“M-morning,” he yawned, continuing his shuffling walk in the direction of the station.
She fell in step next to him, still looking bubbly about something. He’d ask, but that ran the risk of busting her bubble, so he’d learned to wait. If she wanted to share, she would.
She didn’t that day.
“I’m back,” he drawled, stepped out of his shoes and nudging them aside with his feet.
“Welcome home,” his mom called from the couch.
She didn’t ask if he’d brought the milk, and he put it away without fanfare.
Going to his room, Hitoshi could barely find the energy to change out of his uniform before collapsing into bed. He’d been waiting for this moment all day, but even though this was all he’d wanted, sleep still continued to elude him. Staring dully at the desk opposite of his bed, Hitoshi wondered if this was how she felt sometimes, this mix of crushing hollowness and hopeless exhaustion.
A brief memory of That Day made his eyes twitch, and Hitoshi closed his eyes in an attempt to push it away (the mounting panic, his desperate prayer, their crying on the beach alone at night). He tries not to think about it (about The Day inexorably marching towards them), but sometimes he can’t stop the memories from replaying in his head. Today, though, he is lucky, and he sleeps—
chirp chirp. chirp chirp.
Hitoshi hates having to open his eyes because that means he’s awake when he could have been asleep. It’s not that he forgot to turn the sound off, it’s that he never does, just in case. His mom purses her lip whenever his phone rings because she knows how hard it is for him to sleep, but he got mad at her the one time she did turn the sound off on his phone. What was sleep if his best friend called him? (What if he was her lifeline?) It’s his own desire to be available no matter when she calls or texts, even if it wakes him up. He accepts that this means that sometimes he loses out on precious sleep, but that will always be an easier burden to bear than… than that.
Grumbling, he reached out with a heavy limb to grab his phone. Squinting in the harsh light as the screen lit up in his face, he saw that he’d at least gotten three hours of sleep. Better than nothing.
He touched the screen to accept the call and brought the phone to his ear.
[“Ah, Hitoshi. I was just calling about homework, but you sound tired. Did I wake you up?”]
The voice of his best friend sounds guilty and he doesn’t like it.
“The plan was to try to take a nap, but you know me.” He puts self-deprecation into his tone, making a reference to the insomnia she knows about, though he’s mostly certain that she doesn’t understand. He sat up with a grunt, slouching. “It’s okay. I couldn’t sleep anyway.”
[“Are you sure? I mean, it’s not important.”]
“It’s fine,” he says, standing to get his schoolbag. “Which homework are you talking about? I haven’t even started…”
She answers his question and soon he’s sitting at his desk with math homework in front of him. He’s better at it than she is, and he coaches her through the assignment. It’s when they’re done that she realizes how long they’ve been talking, and she utters a soft curse.
[“I should have just come over. I think I will, next time.”]
“Make sure to call first,” he said lazily, leaning back in his chair. His mom won’t let her in if he’s asleep, and he highly suspects her feelings would be hurt if that happened.
They say goodbye and hang up. With a cloud over his head, he decided to get the rest of his homework out of the way before he went back to his bed to try to recapture his sleep. His work was half-hearted and sloppy, but he got it done. Collapsing back down into his bed, Hitoshi sighed softly and ignored his grumbling stomach in favor of burying his heavy head into his pillow.
He’d never directly said it to her, but his best friend could call him any time she wanted, and he would do his best to answer, or get back to her as fast as possible if he missed her; even if she woke him up from much needed sleep. After all, no matter how vital it is or even how much he wants it, sleep will never be more important to him than she is.
I will love you through everything. Can you do yourself the same honor?
Chapter 2: "Look both ways."
Mornings aren’t easy for Hitoshi, you know this. His insomnia is worse than usual this month, and summer vacation is still a month away. Today Hitoshi isn’t exactly all here. He was swaying slightly when you came up on your meeting spot, and he hadn’t said anything other than a mumble you think was supposed to be ‘Morning.’
Concerned, you deploy some of your feelers in case he suddenly blacked out or tripped over his feet. They’re usually unnoticeable, and this morning Hitoshi is too out of it to either realize that you’re using your Quirk, or, if he did notice, was too tired to comment on it.
You walk by his side without talking, and he yawns more than once. After a while, a crossing comes up, so you reach over and tug on his uniform a couple feet from the end of the sidewalk.
“Careful,” you murmur, automatically quieter in the face of his exhaustion. You caution him, “Look both ways.”
The tug had brought him to a stop, and he opened his eyes a little more. He squinted in the light of morning and saw that you had arrived at the street.
“Ah, right, right…”
You both looked right and then left, and then right again. Seeing no traffic, you then crossed the road without incident.
All day long you worry about him, and at lunch you convince him to go to the infirmary and claim that he’s sick. The school nurse raises an eyebrow at you, but otherwise doesn’t comment aside from telling Hitoshi to lie down. Miraculously, your best friend falls asleep, and you ask the nurse not to wake him. She complies, but sends you back to class.
Hitoshi rejoins class less than two hours later, but at least he isn’t swaying on his feet.
Still, on the walk home, this time you don’t even bother speaking when you lead him across the streets. Hitoshi, trusting you, doesn’t bother opening his eyes the whole way back to his house, though he is a little sheepish that he didn’t even notice you went right by your split off route home.
“Thanks,” he says, one foot on the staircase leading up to his apartment floor.
“Maybe I should walk you the whole way,” you murmur, staring at the stairwell with misgivings. What if he lost consciousness and fell down the stairs?
Hitoshi tiredly shook his head. “I’m good, I promise.”
Blinking as though he just realized something, he made an uncertain humming sound and rubbed the back of his neck as he stared down at you.
“Isn’t this backwards? Shouldn’t I be walking you home?”
His words register with you and you giggle softly before returning his gaze.
“Maybe some other time. Today, I walked you home and that’s that.”
He grinned wryly. “So it is.” He lowered his arm from his neck in a motionless wave goodbye. “Later, then.”
You nodded back and waved once. “Later, Hitoshi.”
Reaching the sidewalk, you looked back and saw him still standing there. Lifting one hand, you cup the side of your mouth and call, “Goodnight!”
You smile as he waves goodbye again, and then you leave with a slight bounce in your step. You’re not exactly sure why you’re happy all of a sudden, but… it feels nice.
“But what are loyalty and caring really worth?"
"To me? Everything.”
~Richelle Mead, The Golden Lily
Chapter 3: "Call me when you get home."
Sitting with a cat on his lap, Hitoshi is disappointed that time flew by so fast. Neko’s Corner is a pay by the hour place, and while they both like indulging by coming here, neither he nor his best friend are the type to still be here when that hour is up. Reluctantly, he gently lifts Cocoa out of his lap and places the friendly feline on the floor. Feeling a smile tug at his lips, Hitoshi scratched under the cat’s chin for a moment before pulling his hand away.
Glancing around, his eyes land on his best friend where she is playing with a cat, waggling a feather on a string and stick above a calico cat which was playfully swiping at it. A small smile tugged at his lips and he hated to interrupt, but it was about time to go.
Slowly heading over to her, he came to a stop and softly spoke. “Hey.”
She looked up at him from where she was crouched on the floor. There was a look of happiness on her face and he wished that they had a little longer, but their hour was almost up. He didn’t need to speak, and she looked from him to one of the clocks on the wall and understood.
Every bit as reluctantly as him, she pulled away the cat toy and moved to place it back where she’d got it from. The calico cat she’d been playing with, Caramel, trotted after her and rubbed up against her leg when she’d stopped. Giggling quietly, Hitoshi watched fondly as she bent down to pet Caramel one last time before she joined him in heading for the door.
One of the workers called the usual goodbye and come again comments, getting a verbal response from her and a half-hearted wave from him. It was the tail end of summer, so leaving the cat café meant leaving an air-conditioned establishment and stepping out into the very warm afternoon air.
His best friend sighed the familiar ‘satisfied-but-disappointed-I-had-to leave’ sigh she often made after a visit to their favorite cat café. He shared her sentiment, but all good things came to end, right?
On the walk home, he pauses at one of the intersections to point in the direction of a detour.
“Want to get some ice cream?”
She ponders his question for all of two seconds, patting the pocket that likely has her wallet, before nodding.
He starts in the direction of a soft serve stand and there’s a small queue when they arrive, but it isn’t that long before they both have ice cream cones handed to them, paid for by Hitoshi before she could get her wallet out. There’s a bench nearby with an open spot so he gestures for her to take a seat. She does, and he stands nearby while they eat their ice cream. The treat is more for her than him since he’s not exactly a fan, but today he enjoys it more than usual.
They finish and pocket the small bit of paper that had come with the cone, and then they are off home again. She talks about their summer homework and they make plans to tackle the math section together as that is her weakest subject. She says she’ll leave it to him to call her over whenever he’s ready, and he makes a mental note to get that out of the way soon.
Their intersection eventually comes up and their feet come to a stop. He’s facing her, and he slides his hands into his jean pockets, slouching slightly from the lazy vibe they’ve cultivated over their afternoon outing together.
“Call me when you get home.”
She grins at him. “Yes, mom.”
He rolls his eyes and she laughs.
“See ya, Hitoshi.”
He waves at her and then she is on her way down the street. It’s broad daylight, and there hasn’t been a villain attack in their neighborhood in what is probably forever, but he still worries.
(he always worries, deep down)
Taking one last look at her back, Hitoshi moves his feet towards home. They live nearly the same distance from this intersection, but he gets her call just when his apartment building comes into view.
chirp chirp. chirp chirp.
[“I made it home a-okay.”]
“Good,” he replies.
[“You’re such a worrywart.”]
He has his reasons.
“Yeah, yeah,” he drawls, stopping in front of the stairwell leading up to his apartment.
There’s a small pause before she adds, [“I had a good time today. Thanks.”]
“No problem. Text me if you need anything.”
She waits for his reply before ending the call, and Hitoshi puts his phone in his pocket before starting up the stairs. He looks back on their afternoon together and almost stops when he realizes, hey, wouldn’t their classmates take things like this as proof that we’re dating? Then he frowns and keeps trudging up the stairs as his thoughts take a dark turn.
Rather than as proof as ‘dating’ in a consensual manner between two people, isn’t it more likely that their classmates would assume that he was using his Quirk to get her to hang out with him? They’ve already said as much at school, and Hitoshi is just glad that so few of them ever see either him or her outside of school. With a small cloud over his head, Hitoshi called his greetings as he arrived home and heard a reply from his mother. Going to his room, Hitoshi laid on his bed to glare up at the ceiling.
Then, as if sensing his mood, his phone dinged. Discarding the momentary temptation of ignoring it, Hitoshi pulled out his phone and opened the message from his best friend. It was a picture of himself and Cocoa, with the text ‘best bois’. A small smirk crossed his face and he slid over to his own photo collection.
He gazed a picture of just her and debated sending it with ‘best girl’ but decided not to since that could be misconstrued. Swiping to a picture of her today, he sent a picture of her and a new cat called Saki and texted ‘best girls’.
She was quick to send a reply.
He gave a short laugh and set his phone down, earlier irritation dispelled by the short exchange. Even if he’d had other friends, things like this were why she’d still be his best friend.
Life is an awful, ugly place to not have a best friend.
~Sarah Dessen, Someone Like You
It’s a small thing, and neither of them really pays any attention to it.
There had been rain over the weekend, but the school day was bright and clear. It was their usual walk to the station on the way to school. On the way, one side of the street tends to collect rainwater, and yep, the usual puddle has formed.
It’s not a big puddle, and it’s natural for him to step over it, one foot on the sidewalk and one foot on the street, and for him to offer her a hand.
“Watch your step.”
Her hand in already in his, and she leaps lightly over it. Her hair is in a braid over her shoulder, so she hadn’t used her Quirk. Idly, he remembers that she dislikes the taste of wet concrete, but the thought drifts away as he yawns. They’ve already let go of each other’s hand, and they finish crossing the street.
They keep walking, accustomed to such small events.
It’s only in the spring of their graduation from middle school, which happens to be a sunny day after heavy rain, that one of her friends witnesses a similar event near the school. The friend informs the others, and they tease her. He overhears it and they both belatedly think, Oh, that’s a thing couples do?
During the ceremony, he debates changing his behavior before mentally shrugging. It’s not a big deal, so he sees no reason to change their ways.
However, he does notice that on that day, she hesitates for a split second when they come to the puddle on the way home and he wordlessly offers his hand. She’s slightly lighter on her jump over it, but he rationalizes it as her using her Quirk because the ground was much drier by that time.
After that, they start at U.A., and it’s a long while before they come across the same puddle at the same time again.
The only thing I want more than you, is to do right by you.
~Angela N. Blount, Once Upon an Ever After
It's my birthday. Let's see how many things I can update. This is number 2!