“Don’t worry. That’s- God, that’s fucked up. The teachers would never do anything like that to you, Shinsou. I’m sure of it. They’d never do that to any of us.”
His classmate had sounded so sure of herself, as she’d comforted Hitoshi after he finally explained why he couldn’t bring himself to look at Hound Dog's hero costume.
The muzzle sent shivers down his spine. Even knowing that Hound Dog wore it willingly, even knowing it was nothing like the ones he’d been subjected to, it still scared him.
It was kinda funny actually. Not really. But he liked to say it was funny, because if he laughed while he talked about this shit, it helped him pretend it was all okay. But, realistically, the muzzle hadn’t been the worst thing his biological parents had done to him. It just shocked him whenever he tried to use his vocal chords. Made his jaw cramp up so he couldn’t move it. That wasn’t so bad. And they’d only made him wear it four times total. They’d threatened him with it plenty, but he practically went mute after his quirk developed, so there was rarely a reason for them to go through with it.
But Hitoshi still remembered the last time he’d been forced into it. It’d been a horrible night. He was 8 years old, and he just wanted his mother to stop, to just leave him alone for a moment. Stop screaming and slapping him, stop digging into his throat with her long, pointy nails. He hardly muttered a sentence, just pleading with her quietly to let him go. But he wasn’t supposed to do that, and it made everything so much worse.
Hitoshi couldn’t remember most of what happened next. Only that it hurt, and at some point he’d gotten out of the house. He’d run with no idea where he was going. The muzzle over his face and neck was hidden by a scratchy fabric cover that he couldn’t get off. His leg hurt, he was limping, and he’d just barely managed to round the corner when he felt a hand clamp onto his neck.
Her sharp nails had dug into his flesh, and Hitoshi recalled the sinking feeling his chest. This was it.
Purple eyes had searched desperately for a way out, and for a moment, hope had flared in him when he spotted strangers across the street. They were looking. Watching. He could make out concern in their eyes, flickering in the streetlights.
‘Help! Please help! I don’t want to be here! Please don’t let her take me! Please, she’s hurting me!’
He wanted to shout, wanted to scream, wanted to cry.
But even as he struggled, even as he tried to form the words, the muzzle kicked in, sealing his lips and cramping up his muscles until he couldn’t move his face at all. The nails dug in harder, and Hitoshi knew it was over.
Two days after that, the one teacher who wasn’t absolute shit at his old school had finally called the cops. Hitoshi got lucky, the officer asked to see him, and his mother was too drunk to think of a good lie. After a week in the hospital, and with some new scars on his neck from how long the muzzle was left on, he was dumped into the foster care system.
It wasn’t the worst thing that could’ve happened. He’d been through some shitty homes, but none of them muzzled him. A few would make snide comments, or even threaten it, but they never went through with it. Hitoshi would put up with anything as long as it meant never getting muzzled again. He’d keep his mouth shut, he’d take the beatings and the comments. Anything but getting muzzled.
At UA, things had been different. Or at least, he’d thought they were. His classmates were… odd. Nothing like his prior classmates. The teachers had been different. They seemed kind. He was allowed to talk in class, and not once did anyone threaten him with a muzzle. They didn’t threaten him at all. Things had been going okay at his most recent foster home too, they asked him to do a lot of chores, but otherwise left him alone. That was alright. He could handle chores.
Life had been looking up for him. He’d managed to talk to three of his classmates about his issues with muzzles, the last one just a few days before the sports festival, where he’d be planning to showcase his abilities and transfer into the hero course.
All of them said the same thing.
“UA would never do that to you.”
And like a fool, he’d believed them.
He hadn’t even been planning on watching the awards ceremony, too busy wallowing in self-pity over his defeat. But he’d glanced up at a screen out of idle interest, only to freeze at the sight before him.
What the fuck.
The blonde kid- Bakugou. His name was Bakugou. The one who’d won, was chained up to the awards podium. His hands were restrained. Completely encased in painful looking metal boxes that must be stopping him from using his quirk. Bakugou was thrashing, fighting back as best he could, screaming.
Or he was trying to scream.
He couldn’t actually get anything out, because there was an ugly metal muzzle forced into his mouth.
Hitoshi felt like he was going to be sick.
The people around him murmured, their eyes narrowed, they seemed unsettled, but- but nobody did anything. They all just shrugged their shoulders and moved on. As Bakugou tossed his head left and right, trying to escape. The muzzle looked painful, it must be, Hitoshi knew how much they hurt, and nobody-
“Glad they finally did something about that kid, I swear, it was like they were letting an animal run wild.”
It was some nobody, the comment was grumbled out to a friend, but it rang in Hitoshi’s ears loud and clear, because nobody else disagreed.
He couldn’t take it any longer. He ran. He ran, and he ran, until he was at his foster home, until he could lock himself in the bathroom and throw up what little food he’d eaten.
His worst nightmare had come true, and it seemed like he was the only one who cared.
When he went into school the next day, people were muttering about the sports festival, there was… unease in the air. But it seemed the school had collectively decided that Bakugou was at fault. Almost everyone Hitoshi overheard talking about was sure that he must’ve deserved it, although nobody ever mentioned what the teenager had actually done.
Hitoshi’s anxiety built and built, until he finally couldn’t take it and broke. He couldn’t bring himself to look at Bakugou, not with the fresh bruises marring his face, but he could talk to someone else would know. Tokoyami had been in third place, so surely he would’ve seen what happened. At lunch, Hitoshi managed to catch him alone in the hallway. He didn't have long, so he came right out with it. Speaking was hard, but he forced himself through it.
“What- what did Bakugou do? To cause them to- to do that?”
Black feathers smoothed down as Tokoyami’s entire body seemed to shrink with tension. He looked unsure, and maybe a bit guilty. It was hard to tell.
“Bakugou- He didn’t want the medal. He didn’t feel like he’d earned it. He wasn’t cooperating, and the teachers were running out of time, so…”
No. That couldn’t be right. They wouldn’t- Students were allowed to resign or deny medals. It was in the rules.
“He- He must’ve hurt someone, right? Or tried to?”
Tokoyami shrunk further, no longer looking at Hitoshi.
“No, he didn’t. Bakugou is… a lot, but he wouldn’t do that. Not outside of training.”
Just like that, Hitoshi’s entire world came crumbling down around him. He nodded numbly, and made his way back to his classroom. He didn't eat lunch that day. His stomach was too tied up in knots.
How stupid had he been? To think that UA would actually be different. If anything, this was worse. This was so much worse. His parents had always had clear rules for the muzzle, if he talked, it went on. They would hide it under that scratchy fabric too. But Bakugou hadn’t broken the rules, not the written ones at least, and UA hadn’t hidden the muzzle. They’d broadcast it out on national TV, and it was okay.
Fear overtook his body, and he felt himself shutting down. He’d gotten too careless. He’d thought he was safe, but clearly he wasn’t. Thank fuck he’d found out now, and not after he’d managed to break a rule.
This was okay, he could handle this. He’d just- He’d just need to be good. As long as he was good, then they wouldn’t muzzle him, right?
Hitoshi could be good. He just needed to know what good meant for them. His teachers weren’t like his parents, they wanted him to talk some of the time. But he shouldn’t talk unless asked to. And- and- what was it that had gotten Bakugou muzzled again?
Being uncooperative. Bakugou had said no. Sure, it’d been in the rules that he could say no. But adults liked to do stuff like that. They’d say ‘you’re allowed to say no’ but they never meant it. Adults hated being told no.
So, all Hitoshi had to do was not say no. As long as he never said no, and he was quiet and good, then they wouldn’t muzzle him. He could do that. He’d say yes to anything, do whatever they wanted, he’d be good in any way they asked of him, just as long as they didn’t muzzle him. Anything was better than that.
When his classmates shuffled back in, happily chatter about their lunch, Hitoshi kept his head down. He bit his tongue, he made himself as small as possible to avoid attracting attention. When his teacher called on him, he answered, but he didn't raise his hand. He avoided eye contact, avoided staring. Every time his teacher looked at him, he could feel her judgement. Could feel her searching for a reason. He wouldn't give her it. He'd be good, silent and obedient. Anything else would lead back to the muzzle. To silently screaming for help that would never come.
Hitoshi tried to reassure himself that it would be okay. He knew better now. He'd be quiet and he wouldn't say no and everything would be fine.
When classes got out, Hitoshi kept silent, only nodding to his classmates before slipping away. They looked confused, but not upset. That was fine. They'd understand. This was the only option.
On his way out, he saw Bakugou. The other boy was alone. His bruises hadn't faded. A snarl decorated his face, as he growled at a business course student who seemed to be taunting him. It didn't take a genius to figure out why. The snide look on the student's face spoke volumes. Bakugou wasn't backing down, but there was a hurt look in his eyes that Hitoshi knew all too well.
Hitoshi wanted to step in. He wanted to yell. He wanted to tell that jackass to fuck off. But he found himself looking around instead. Everyone else was watching passively and- And he could see Cementoss. The teacher could clearly see what was going on. The man just looked annoyed, and most of that annoyance was focused on Bakugou.
Hitoshi's words died on his tongue. He kept his head down and he made his way out of the school as quickly as he could. He couldn't- he couldn't risk it. Bakugou was strong, he'd be okay, right? Of course he would be. It wasn't his business anyways.
As Hitoshi hurried away, he could taste the metal in his mouth as cramps overtook his jaw from how hard he was clenching it. The scars on his neck ached and groaned. He tried to ignore them. They weren't real. They were only memories. If he said that enough times, one of these days it would have to be true. One day he'd be free to speak his mind.
Just not today. Not at UA. He wouldn't make that mistake again.