Actions

Work Header

Not Today (Tomorrow it May Change)

Work Text:

Hitoshi never knew what caused it.

It seemed to come on at random times. Sometimes it happened when he’d exerted himself too much. That was the most understandable, logical cause. But other times, there seemed to be no cause at all, as if his body sometimes just decided to give up out of the blue and drag Hitoshi down, down, down until all he could do was lay in bed and sleep the day away while hoping things would be better tomorrow.

No one had ever helped him try to figure out the cause of it. So Hitoshi didn’t have a name for it. He wished he had one, if only so he’d have a word for why this was happening to him. Because sometimes it felt like a punishment. A punishment for something he did. A punishment for having the audacity to be born. That sort of felt like overkill, though. Hitoshi was pretty sure his quirk was already a punishment for that. The point really didn’t need to be driven in any more.

Hitoshi stared at the window in his bedroom, his bed positioned in such a way that it was pushed up against the wall with the window, letting Hitoshi look out it when he was laying on his side. He was lucky enough that he’d been able to push himself to lay that way, rather than stuck in one position simply because his body would not move no matter how much he tried to convince it. Looking out the window was something, at least. His room now was colorful and decorated, rather than the drab grey impersonal rooms he’d slept in while in foster care, but no matter what, Hitoshi still preferred to look out the window.

It reminded him there was a world out there, at least. A world that he could rejoin after this episode was over. Bitterly, he thought that seeing that world might finally make his body realize that this isn’t productive! but he knew from experience that things didn’t quite work like that. Unfortunately.

But wouldn’t it be great if they did? Hitoshi had spent days in his life thinking about how much better things could be if he could just will his body into working correctly, like so many misinformed peopled seemed to think he could. What a great world that would be.

Outside, the sun was setting. There were a lot of nice things about this house, from the people who lived in it to the way it was laid out, but lately, Hitoshi particularly liked the way he could watch the sun set. This was a small, quiet little neighborhood and their house sat in such a way that Hitoshi’s window looked out west, past the other house’s rooftops and right into the horizon. The sky was painted with reds and blues and purples, a brilliantly bright ball of orange dipping lower and lower towards the horizon as Hitoshi lay there, watching, unable to do anything else.

‘Unable to do anything else’ was almost bearable when he could watch such nice sunsets. Almost.

He could feel the sleepiness dragging at him, the fatigue and exhaustion weighing him down, as if Hitoshi hadn’t spent the entire day laying in bed, sleeping off and on, only waking up when there was a knock at his open door to check on him or when his phone dinged with a notification.

The fatigue was the worst part. Not because of how it felt. Which, he did have to admit, it felt pretty damn bad. It was the worst for the simple fact that Hitoshi hadn’t done anything today. He hadn’t been able to go to school. He hadn’t been able to do any afterschool training. He hadn’t been able to come home and work on his homework or play with the cats or any of the things that he actually liked doing.

Hitoshi was out of foster care now. The people he was with now understood. Somehow, though, it was still bad. Because when no one else shamed Hitoshi, he was left to shame himself. And sometimes he thought that maybe that was even worse than when others shamed him.

Watching the sunset tonight wasn’t all good, either. There always had to be a caveat to things. An exception. Something always had to be bad. Tonight, that thing was the reminder that as soon as the sun dipped below the horizon, his new parents would both have to leave for their nightly job and Hitoshi would be left alone in the house, laying in bed counting the stars and waiting for them to come home.

It was what he did every other night like this when they had to leave. He’d lay here and try to not let his emotions set in, try to tell himself that they’d come back, that it’d be alright. He’d try to stay awake, though he’d always drift off at some point. Hitoshi hated nights like these, but there was nothing that could be done about it. No solution other than to do the same thing and to wait through each night, until the hero patrols were over and his new family returned home.

As if he’d spoken his thoughts out loud, two short knocks at the door tore Hitoshi out of his head, forcing him back into the real world.

He gathered all his strength and lifted his head, unable to stop the way he winced and tensed up. The roaring in his head grew louder, until it was almost deafening, and every inch of his body ached and burned, stoking a fire that was already burning hot and bright beneath his skin.

He meant to prop himself up on his arms to look, but he quickly discovered that his arms had completely stopped working. He could barely move them, much less put any weight on them. A thousand needles ran up them when he tried, the hot aching fire under his skin centralized there. By now, Hitoshi was used to it. It was no big surprise that his arms had suddenly decided to give up. It was just another inconvenience in an already long list of them.

He was able to lift his head enough to look at the door, though, and his body relaxed more the moment he met eyes with the person standing in his doorway.

Aizawa had a very distinctive knock. He always knocked softly twice. Yamada’s knock was sharper and always came in threes. Hitoshi could always tell who was at his door. He almost never closed it, instead leaving it half-open or totally open like this, but his new parents still always knocked, announcing their presence to him and waiting for him to signal that he was alright with them coming in rather.

There were a lot of new things here. A lot of things Hitoshi was slowly getting used to. He’d lived here for a while now. While it’d only been three months, to Hitoshi it felt way longer, as long as his entire lifespan twice over. Logically, he knew that wasn’t true, but he could never quite believe how small the amount of days actually was.

Hitoshi couldn’t see it from where he was laying, but he kept a calendar on his wall. Instead of counting down to something, he counted up from something. That something was the day his adoption papers had been signed and finalized. The day he’d official become Aizawa and Yamada’s kid. The day this place became home.

Hitoshi marked off a day in blue each night—when he could manage to get himself out of bed, that was.

Another wave of shame washed over him.

For the millionth time, Hitoshi searched for any disappointment in Aizawa’s dark eyes. He searched for anger and regret. He searched for it in his expression, in his movements, in his words. Hitoshi found none, but he would never stop searching.

The therapist he saw every week told him that someday he’d stop looking for signs that his new parents regretted taking him in. She said that he’d eventually stop looking for ulterior motives in everyone’s words. He’d join the normal curve. Eventually, she’d told him. Always that word. Eventually.

Eventually could mean anything. The way Hitoshi saw it, he’d be wondering if Aizawa and Yamada regretted him until he was on his deathbed. That would still technically be eventually. But that therapist tried so hard with him, even though Hitoshi couldn’t give her much at all, so he didn’t say that to her.

“How are you feeling?”

It was the same thing Aizawa always asked him when he checked in on him. He’d peek his head in and then leave quietly if Hitoshi was asleep or busy reading or studying—as if he could study when his brain was so full of static and wool—but if he saw that Hitoshi was awake, he’d always talk to him. Always.

And Hitoshi liked that. He liked that a lot. He’d never told Aizawa, but that being a constant was nice. After so many years of being ignored and not being allowed to speak unless there was the rare chance that he was spoken to, Hitoshi liked being able to speak freely. He liked being asked questions and not being limited to a simple yes or no answer.

One thing his therapist had been right about was the fact that Hitoshi was starting to feel things more. It was because of him being allowed to and not being stuck in survival mode anymore, she’d said. That was something Hitoshi knew she’d been right about.

“Same as before,” Hitoshi said quietly. He was still straining to lift his head, but he didn’t want to lay back down just yet. He tried to offer a small smile, though it was shaky. It wasn’t a lie; Hitoshi was used to these episodes and he had the comfort of his parents being around, checking on him at least once an hour, always there to talk to. “I think maybe if I just get some rest tonight I’ll be alright in the morning.”

Aizawa took a step into his room, keeping his dark eyes on Hitoshi in case he didn’t want him in here. Hitoshi knew the option was there. If he told Aizawa that he wanted to be alone in here, he’d leave. They’d explained over and over that this room was his space and he controlled it.

Aizawa was quiet as he stepped in. He went to his usual spot—the rolling chair Hitoshi usually had at his desk. Hitoshi struggled, the burning getting worse as he fought against it, but with a lot of trouble he was able to get himself to roll over, turning his back to the wall so he could face Aizawa.

“Did you want me to stay home tonight?” Aizawa had sat in the chair, which had been pulled to Hitoshi’s bedside earlier this morning, when his episode had started. He faced Hitoshi, keeping his eyes on him still. Hitoshi searched again but found nothing but sincere concern, the same thing he always found in his expression.

Somewhere inside Hitoshi he was waiting. Waiting for the day that there was something else. For the day that Aizawa got tired of all this. There was so much, so much that neither him nor Yamada had signed up for, from the constant doctor’s appointments to the unexplained episodes of little to no mobility to the cut short school days and training sessions. He was just waiting for them to realize that he was more burden than he was worth.

“No,” Hitoshi said with a solid voice, the opposite of the shakiness he felt inside of him. Aizawa had missed enough patrols already. Hitoshi’s last episode had only been a week ago and he’d stayed home both nights with him. Hitoshi didn’t want to be the cause of any more trouble and there were people out there who needed Eraserhead, maybe even more than Hitoshi did.

“Are you sure?” Aizawa raised an eyebrow at him. Cautiously, he reached out, his hand hovering towards Hitoshi. He waited, pausing in case Hitoshi wanted to tell him no, and then his hand settled on Hitoshi’s shoulder. “It’s really no trouble if you do.”

Hitoshi let out a long breath. He let his head fall back onto the soft pillow, his eyes fluttering shut for a moment. Aizawa’s hand was on his shoulder, Hitoshi able to feel each of his fingers through the thin material of his shirt. He was warm, but not hot like the rest of Hitoshi’s skin. Warm enough to be comforting but not painful.

“I’m sure,” Hitoshi assured him, opening his eyes again. He hoped—prayed—that Aizawa wouldn’t take his hand away, but he couldn’t outright say it. He didn’t have to, though, because Aizawa kept it there, gently rubbing his shoulder.

Hitoshi said the only thing that was on his mind, a phrase he repeated often, especially when the pain in his body flared up like this— “I’m sorry.”

Aizawa’s face changed a little. His mouth twitched downwards into a deeper frown. His eyes flickered away for a moment and then back to Hitoshi. He gently squeezed his shoulder, lightly so that Hitoshi would feel it but it wouldn’t set off sparks of pain. Hitoshi sucked a breath in and held it.

“There’s nothing to be sorry about. You haven’t done anything wrong.” Aizawa said each word with such sincerity that Hitoshi actually believed them. Or, at least, he did for a little bit, until that dark cloud of doubts moved in over his fuzzy brain and took over again. But there were a few blissful seconds where he fully believed Aizawa.

It wasn’t that he thought Aizawa was lying. Not really, at least. He kept watch over his face, watching for any sort of change that would indicate the regret Hitoshi knew would eventually come, but he didn’t think Aizawa was lying. Maybe he was just being… optimistic. Which was a weird word to associate with pragmatic, logical Aizawa.

Hitoshi definitely felt like he’d done something wrong. He also felt like he had a lot to be sorry about.

They’d been over this a lot. Hitoshi could never quite put into words everything he felt. That was still something he was working on. He had feelings now, and he had a lot of them. He just didn’t have all the words to fully describe them yet and that in itself was frustrating.

“I just wish I could’ve gone to school today,” Hitoshi admitted with another small sigh. Truthfully, that was one of the things he hated the most. He could deal with the pain if he could just go to school. But Aizawa and Yamada seemed to be staunch believers that rest would help him feel better quicker. They were probably right, given that Hitoshi’s episodes were now usually only one or two days long, but he still hated missing school, especially after he’d done so much to get into the hero course. It just didn’t feel fair.

Nothing about Hitoshi felt fair. A lot of the time, his life felt like a family sized serving on unfairness. The only remotely good thing that Hitoshi had was his new family, and the fact that he was in the hero course now. Part of him was just waiting for those two things to fall through, though. It was hard to kick that habit when Hitoshi’s life had been filled with nothing but bad before this.

“If you’re feeling better tomorrow you can,” Aizawa promised him, still gently rubbing Hitoshi’s shoulder. “I already gave you the work from today and helped you with it. You’re not missing much since I can teach you at home.”

Hitoshi bit his lip. He wanted to say so many things but mostly that it was unfair to him, Aizawa, to have to do this. It was more work, having to come home and go over the material with Hitoshi when he was already undoubtedly tired from the day teaching. He always told Hitoshi that he had to hold his own in battle before anything, but Hitoshi couldn’t even hold his own in his academics when he couldn’t go to school and had to have help with the material.

Aizawa didn’t complain. He never had. Not when it came to Hitoshi. Hitoshi heard him complain about other things—other students, other teachers. HIs job. His other job. Not getting enough sleep. Never once had Hitoshi ever heard him complain about Hitoshi, though. Not even in a passive way. There were no eye rolls, no sighs of exasperation, no just barely unconcealed irritation sharpening his words.

No, Aizawa said what he meant. Hitoshi had always liked that about him. Even when he kept watching for it, for him to get tired of him, Hitoshi trusted him. Aizawa had never lied to him. He’d never let him down. He’d never complained about taking him in and caring for him. He was always genuine. Always blunt and literal. Hitoshi knew it meant he could trust that his words were always true.

Hitoshi’s own worries still got in the way. No matter how much he believed Aizawa now, his instincts told him that eventually, all that would stop. Aizawa would eventually tire, would grow irritated and upset that Hitoshi wasn’t trying hard enough.

“Listen,” Aizawa went on, as if he could sense where Hitoshi’s thoughts were headed. He used the soft tone he spoke in at home, a far cry from the strict, sharp teacher he was at school. “If you’re able to get up tomorrow, I’ll let you go to school. If you want to stay home, you can. If you do go and can’t make it through the day, I’ll take you home.”

He said it all like it was matter-of-fact, like it was a simple truth of the universe. Hitoshi had grown up being tossed from foster home to foster home, with doctors throwing their hands up in the air and saying that they couldn’t figure him out, with everyone always doubting him, with people forcing him to do things and go to school when he could barely move. This was going from one extreme to the other, and Hitoshi still wasn’t used to it. He didn’t quite believe his therapist when she told him that eventually, he would get used to.

“I just…” Hitoshi stopped, searching for the words. His eyes closed and he tried to will his brain into working, because if he couldn’t will his body into working then maybe he could will the static fuzz from his head so he could actually think. He tried for a moment and came up with nothing, letting out a frustrated sigh as he looked back at Aizawa.

Aizawa waited. He always did. He and Yamada were so patient. Hitoshi hadn’t thought that this much patience even existed in the world until he’d come to live here. Aizawa waited for him to gather himself, sitting in that chair next to the bed. His hand had stilled on Hitoshi’s shoulder and he gave it a gentle squeeze before he drew his arm back.

“At school people always say…” Hitoshi struggled for the words. He knew what he was thinking. But putting it into words he could say out loud was difficult, like all Hitoshi had in his head was a staticy picture that he had to somehow type out onto a paper. The last thing he wanted to do was offend Aizawa, but he wasn’t sure there was any other way to say this. “...That you’re the strictest teacher. They all say that you expel a lot of kids and don’t put up with any bullshit. They call you a hard-ass, you know. But then you go and let me stay home all the time. It just doesn’t… add up.”

There was a pause. Hitoshi’s body was in a tight knot, the sharp aching in his body increasing with each word he said. A black hole opened up in his stomach and Hitoshi bit down hard on his lip, focusing on that pain instead of the pain that spread through the rest of his body, covering him in a thick blanket of hurt.

“You don’t stay home ‘all the time. You stay home when you need to,” Aizawa finally said, raising an eyebrow at Hitoshi as he bit his lip. He didn’t need to say anything about it—his biting habit was at a point where Aizawa could just give him a pointed look and Hitoshi would stop. “Anyone with a brain and a little empathy can tell that the worst thing you can do for yourself on days like today is force yourself to go to school. Anyone can tell that you’re in pain. I’m strict, Hitoshi, but I’m not an asshole. You deserve to be in the hero course just as much as any of the other kids in my class. You needing a few adjustments and accommodations doesn’t change that.”

Hitoshi had heard this before. Maybe not in these exact words, but in their spirit. Aizawa was always so blunt, always saying what he meant. Hearing it now made Hitoshi unwind a little, made the weight sitting on his chest lighten a little. His breathing came a bit easier. The blanket peeled back to let up on the pain just enough for relief to flood Hitoshi

It didn’t matter how many times he’d heard this. He’d needed to hear it again.

It was just so hard to ask.

After a few months, Hitoshi still hadn’t figured out how to ask Aizawa and Yamada to reassure him. He still hadn’t figured out how to initiate it. It was the same with affection. He wanted it—needed it—so bad, but the words caught in his throat in a whirlwind of second guessing and convincing himself that he was alright without it when all he wanted was a hug or a few words assuring him that it was alright.

He was lucky that Aizawa and Yamada were good at picking up on when he wanted those things.

It didn’t matter, though. Hitoshi always felt like he wanted more. He’d gone so, so long without anyone touching him in an affectionate way. He had years of painful touches to undo, and Hitoshi wondered if even a million hugs from his new parents would come anywhere close to negating everything that had happened in his past.

He always wanted more, and that was another reason he could never ask for it. Aizawa and Yamada already gave him a lot of affection and spent a lot of time just like this, sitting by him and reassuring him. Why did he need more—? It was like an itch, one that would just need to be scratched more and more with every hug he was given, every kind word that came from his parents’ mouths.

He just… didn’t want to make that their problem. That felt like an issue with him. A Hitoshi problem. Something he had to figure out and deal with rather than asking for it every time he wanted affection. Maybe he just had to teach himself some moderation and it would be solved as soon as he learned that.

“Besides,” Aizawa continued after a moment of quiet between them. “I’m only strict with students who need it. At home you’re not my student. You’re my son. Hizashi’s, too. You definitely don’t need strictness, either. You need the opposite. I have no reason to be strict with you.”

Hizashi’s foggy brain immediately brought up memories of the things he’d heard from other students. Midoriya had once told him the story of how angry Aizawa had been at he and Bakugou for getting into a fight outside the dorms. He’d told him everything, from the look of pure rage and disappointment on his face, describing it in such detail that it left Hitoshi in awe, realizing that he’d never seen anything close to that look on his face. He remembered Yaoyorozu telling him something similar, about how angry Aizawa had been when the class had made a plan to rescue Bakugou.

It was true that those students had put themselves in great danger and outright broken rules. It was true that… they had probably needed a strict punishment and deserved Aizawa’s anger. And he could see why Aizawa had been so disappointed in them.

Hitoshi wasn’t putting himself in danger, really. According to Aizawa and Yamada, in staying home from school, he was actually doing the opposite and recovering faster since he was resting. So he could follow his logic.

“I’m kinda glad you’re not,” Hitoshi muttered, closing his eyes again. He sunk a little more into the bed and into his pillow. Suddenly, the tiredness from before increased tenfold, overtaking his entire body, blanketing over even the pain he was in. “So thanks.”

He was glad Aizawa wasn’t being strict with him, even if he couldn’t totally understand it. The Aizawa at home was totally different from the Aizawa at school, but he was just the same person in a different context, a context where he didn’t need to be the strict teacher.

“Hitoshi,” Aizawa called out softly. Hitoshi just hummed quietly, telling him that he hadn’t suddenly fallen asleep. He wasn’t that tired. “Are you sure you don’t want me to stay home with you?”

That caught Hitoshi’s attention.

No. Stay home. Please.

Hitoshi bit his tongue, keeping the words down, forcing them back where they came from so they didn’t shove their way out into the world and ruin everything.

“I’m sure,” Hitoshi said instead. He half-opened his eyes, blurry vision telling him Aizawa was still right there. “Can you stay until I sleep, though?”

“Sure,” Aizawa immediately agreed. Like it was nothing. Like Hitoshi was asking something small and inconsequential of him and not asking him to sit at his bedside and stay with him until Hitoshi happened to drift off into sleep. This was Hitoshi’s compromise with himself—if he wasn’t going to ask Aizawa to stay home tonight, then at least he wanted him here until he could fall back asleep.

He heard Aizawa quietly roll the desk chair closer. He heard him moving and soon enough, a gentle hand settled in his hair. Hitoshi leaned into it as much as he could, his eyes closed again, his head nestled onto his pillow. Aizawa’s warm fingers threaded through his violet hair, softly brushing the wild strands down. His fingertips brushed over Hitoshi’s forehead, sweeping away the few strands of hair that had escaped the wild mass and falled.

Aizawa’s touch was always so gentle. Hitoshi could always tell his and Yamada’s apart. Aizawa’s hands had these callouses on his fingertips that hardened the pads of his fingers more. He was always warmer, his touch always soft and ghosting over Hitoshi’s skin, like Aizawa thought that if he touched him with too much pressure that he might break.

Yamada was different. His skin was soft, his fingers long and thin like a pianist’s. He always touched him different when he brushed through HItoshi’s hair or laid his hand on his shoulder—he was always confident, like he knew that he wouldn’t break Hitoshi into pieces when he hugged him. Hitoshi could always tell the difference no matter what—but he didn’t have a preference. How could he, when he’d spent the last decade of his life without any sort of affectionate touch?

Outside Hitoshi’s open door, he could hear footsteps and then the telltale noise of a cabinet opening. More footsteps and the sound of the stove being turned on. Hitoshi’s body warmed more, not with the fire that burned his skin all over his body but with the warmth that Hitoshi always felt when he took the time to just be here and not worry and listen to the sound of his new family just existing around him.

Rustling. Aizawa moved closer, leaning in. Then his voice, quiet and murmured, “Hitoshi, I’ve been through this, too.”

Hitoshi pulled out of his thoughts. He wanted to look up at Aizawa, but he was exhausted. The conversation and fighting with his own emotions and struggling with his words had tired him out and Hitoshi was just inches from the edge of sleep. But he still heard what Aizawa said. He still committed it to memory. He would still remember later, when he’d wake up alone and to an empty house.

“Just remember that I know what it’s like,” Aizawa brushed his hand through Hitoshi’s hair, spreading the warmth across his head and down his spine. “You’re not doing anything wrong.”

Hitoshi wanted to respond, but he couldn’t He was past the point of being able to move. Aizawa just kept stroking his hair and it was putting him to sleep. Hitoshi had no chance at all of fighting it.

Before he drifted off, still hanging onto Aizawa’s words, all he could think about was how he wished he’d gotten a chance to talk to Yamada before the two of them had to leave for their patrol.

 

Dark had fallen while Hitoshi slept.

It would be logical for him to sleep well. There was no real reason he shouldn’t, but on days like today when Hitoshi found himself unable to do anything other than weakly lay in bed, he never slept well. His senses flared during his episodes and suddenly, everything was too much. The blankets were too hot and his skin itched with sweat, he could feel every rub of the sheet’s stitching against his body, his body turned to hard ice when he shoved the blankets off—everything hurt, no matter what he did, and even when Hitoshi couldn’t stand to keep his eyes open any longer, he couldn’t get comfortable.

He hated it. Maybe he could deal with the pain, but the over-sensitivity was worse. Things that didn’t usually bother him suddenly did and there was nothing Hitoshi could do about it. He couldn’t even avoid those things—the feeling of the blankets on his body made him ache, almost every piece of clothing he had itched, and nothing helped.

In his sleep, Hitoshi tossed and turned. Today was no different, even though he’d been in too much pain to move around a lot when he’d been awake.

Hitoshi slowly opened his eyes to find that at some point, he’d twisted himself tight in his blankets, the sheets now uncomfortably stuck to his thighs. He was completely tangled in them, which wouldn’t have been too much of a problem if it wasn’t burning hot under his blankets. That was the thing that’d woken him up in the first place—the heat. The heat that came and went, making Hitoshi’s stomach knot every time he felt his skin beginning to burn again.

So his first instinct was to get out of the cocoon of blankets he’d twisted himself into.

The pain quickly came back as he struggled. It’d been there, laying in the back of Hitoshi’s mind, as mild as it could be when Hitoshi was in the middle of an episode, only to come roaring back the moment Hitoshi tried to move.

He got as far as trying to prop himself up with his arms. They gave out immediately, Hitoshi hitting the bed once more, his head landing right back onto the pillow he’d been sleeping on a few minutes ago. He let out a groan, clenching his teeth and letting out some of the frustration that coursed through him almost as hot as the heat from the blankets.

That was when he noticed the window.

At some point while sleeping, he’d turned to face the window again. Rolling over seemed like an impossible feat right now, as he lay staring up at the ceiling, his arms turned to jelly and throbbing angrily at him. He’d fallen asleep facing the desk chair, where Aizawa had sat with him until he’d fallen asleep, just like he’d asked, and he’d woken up in the opposite direction.

It was completely dark out now. Hitoshi didn’t have to look at his phone to know that hours had passed. More time he’d lost, slipped away from him because Hitoshi couldn’t possibly keep his eyes open, because a simple conversation with his adoptive dad had drained him so much that he’d fallen asleep. Aizawa and Yamada always told him to not focus on that, to not think about all the things he could’ve, would’ve done, but that was way easier said than done. In fact, Hitoshi was convinced that it was impossible to not think about those things after sleeping the day away, and being told not to focus on it just made him think about it more.

The sun had long, long set. The outside world was dark, nearly pitch-black except for the few lights in a couple of houses and the glow from the streetlight on the road. Distant stars poked through the black night sky, glittering dully far away.

Hitoshi was sure that those stars were much closer to earth than he was to the outside world.

Being locked up felt alien. Hitoshi knew he didn’t belong here, laying in his bed in the house all day. He should be at school. He should be doing schoolwork. He should be training. That was what he was meant to do. None of his classmates were like this and it set Hitoshi apart. His absences couldn’t have gone unnoticed by the students. Sooner or later, they’d find out and the kids who liked him, or at least pretended to do so, would stop talking to him completely, rightfully giving him the label of exactly what he was—someone who didn’t belong. A weird kid who was too different from the rest of them to fit into their class.

UA and Hitoshi’s friends—is that what they were? He hadn’t thought to ask—and his schoolwork seemed further away than those stars in the night sky. Right now, still in the middle of his flare up, Hitoshi could barely imagine every going back. The distance felt so huge, like Hitoshi still had a million steps to go before he finally closed the distance in between himself and everyone else there. And he couldn’t even walk right now. It was all just getting further away, slipping past Hitoshi’s trembling fingertips after he’d worked so hard.

Hitoshi let out a slow breath. He paused, holding it, then breathed in just as slowly. Remember your breathing was what his therapist would say to him right now, as if breathing slowly and rhythmically would fix everything wrong in Hitoshi’s head and body.

Okay, maybe thinking about school was just causing him to get worse. Yamada always told him that stress would just exacerbate things. Aizawa said it was easier to take things apart piece by piece instead of looking at the overwhelming bigger picture. Yamada would always add that it was best to think about right now rather than what was going to happen tomorrow or what had happened yesterday.

What was happening right now?

Well, Hitoshi could think of a few things. None of them were things he’d stick in the ‘good’ category. For one, he was tangled up in his sheets without any real way of getting out given that his arms just wanted to be noodles right now and his legs were on fire. He was used to both things, to tell the truth, but that didn’t make it any better. He was still frustrated and whenever there was a free moment in his brain, the pain in his legs took up that space, burning worse than any normal pain did.

Nerve pain, Hitoshi silently noted, remembering other people’s words. Aizawa gets this too.

A twinge of relief soothed his stomach just a little. That was what Aizawa had told him back before Hitoshi even came to live here, when Hitoshi had collapsed soon after starting to train with him because of the pain in his legs.

He remembered exactly how he’d described it to Aizawa. Despite everything, it was still a little amusing. Not enough to make Hitoshi laugh, but enough to lift his mood.

“It’s not normal pain. Nothing helps it because it’s not in my muscles or bones. It’s different. I’d rather chew my fingers off myself than have to feel this pain.”

Aizawa had just raised an eyebrow and without hesitation simply said, “That’s nerve pain.” Like he knew from experience exactly what Hitoshi was talking about. He hadn’t even questioned Hitoshi’s sentiment of wanting to chew his fingers off rather than be in this sort of pain.

Now that he thought about it—

There’d really been the first time someone had truly believed him. Before, no one had ever just unquestionably taken his word for it. Hitoshi later learned exactly what Aizawa had told him earlier today—that he was no stranger to pain himself and could clearly see that Hitoshi was having a hard time because he went through the same things. He remembered what it’d felt like it hear that—the relief that had flowed through him, almost enough to crush the pain.

Hitoshi had felt that earlier today, when Aizawa had been sitting with him waiting for Hitoshi to fall asleep, when he’d reminded him again that he’d been through this, that he knew. There was something about having someone else around who understood, who got it, who wouldn’t question Hitoshi when he told him he hurt too much to even move.

Hitoshi turned his head towards the window again, staring out at the night. He momentarily gave up on trying to untangle himself or move at all, instead just laying in his bed and watching out his window.

The moon hung high and bright in the sky, shedding its light on the neighborhood and their house’s backyard. He had no idea what time it was, but given how high the moon was in the sky, it was late.

The rest of the house lurked silently around Hitoshi, empty except for him, and every moment of utter and complete quiet sunk deep into Hitoshi’s bones, settling in his body. His heart beat harder as the clock on the wall ticked the seconds away, a feeling of dread rising in his throat as he stared.

It was late.

So late.

It was late and he was totally alone, tangled up in his blankets and unable to drag himself out of bed. It was late enough that most of the neighborhood Hitoshi could see was dark, with only a couple lights in a few houses on, like everyone had long gone to sleep. In the house, silence reigned completely; even the cats were nowhere to be heard, probably curled up together somewhere in one of the rooms. He might as well have been totally alone, because as far as Hitoshi concerned there wasn’t a single other living thing anywhere near him. There was just silence. And the dark.

Hitoshi’s door had been left open. It almost always was. Hitoshi could count on one hand the number of times he’d closed it while living here and still have fingers leftover. He hated the idea of closing himself off, of separating himself from his new family. His head got too loud in the silence, his anxieties roaring in his ears and making everything hurt even more. As soon as the quiet set in, so would the thoughts.

Hitoshi’s door was open and the hallway light had been left on, letting some of the light shine into the room and onto Hitoshi’s bed. So at least it wasn’t totally dark. He couldn’t remember ever actually telling Aizawa and Yamada that he didn’t like the dark, but maybe him using up all his courage to ask for a nightlight had given it away.

That nightlight had been switched on, he noticed. It was plugged in by his desk, in full view of the bed when he was on his back. The kitten-shaped light was glowing, giving more light to the rest of the room. Hitoshi was able to relax a little when his eyes fell on it, his brain going quiet for a moment. Even on his worst days, his parents would make sure that nightlight got turned on every night and turned off every morning so Hitoshi was never alone in his dark room.

The relief was short lived. The house was still quiet. Soundless. There wasn’t even the distant jingling of a bell on a cat’s collar. Laying here in the near-dark, Hitoshi knew that he was totally alone. That Aizawa and Yamada hadn’t returned yet.

There was never a moment upon waking up that Hitoshi blissfully forgot that his parents had left for a nightly patrol. It was a fact that always sat with them; he’d never once forgotten that the two of them were pro heroes, no matter how different they acted at home. It was just a fact of life. In many ways, it was good. Cool, even. Hitoshi tended to keep his new parentage to himself just because this was his and he wanted to keep it from other people for a little bit, but it was nice to have family Hitoshi was proud of, people he and other people looked up to and for all the right reasons.

But in other ways it was bad. Hitoshi wasn’t stupid—he’d always known that hero work was dangerous work. People got hurt. People died. To Hitoshi, Eraserhead and Present Mic were the most competent pro heroes he knew but he wasn’t under the naive impression that would make them immune. Things still happened and unfortunately, Hitoshi worried. He already hated being alone, but it was even worse when he knew that the only family he had was out there in the dark, shadowed night, fighting villains and criminals that could very well kill them with one wrong move.

Hitoshi worried. It was more than that, though.

Something about having them here made things better. It made the pain a little more bearable, knowing there were people who loved him nearby to help him, who wouldn’t give Hitoshi those suspicious looks and raised eyebrows and sighs of exasperation. His head was so loud when he was alone with himself and his own thoughts and Hitoshi didn’t know if it was his quirk that caused that or his own maybe-broken brain, but when Aizawa or Yamada were with him, it was suddenly quiet. More quiet than it’d ever been.

The two of them were just such… calm and put together people. Hitoshi had heard stories of Aizawa getting mad, but he’d never experienced it himself even when he made mistakes and did things wrong. He couldn’t exactly say that he couldn’t imagine Yamada yelling, given that that was his whole mode of attack as a hero, but he couldn’t imagine him getting loud and angry at Hitoshi. It just seemed impossible. His parents were reasonable. Logical. They were the only two adults Hitoshi had ever trusted like this, and being around them just made the flames in his head a little less hot.

Being without them had the opposite effect. Laying here right now, Hitoshi didn’t think he’d ever felt worse.

He knew he had. He’d passed out before. He’d thrown up from the pain. He’d wanted more than anything to just die rather than deal with this. He knew logically that this was far from the worst state he’d ever been in. It still felt like it, though. He was alone in this house with only his thoughts and the pain that coursed through every part of his body, tangled in his bedsheets and stuck wondering when his parents would return.

They’d be back,

Hitoshi knew that, too.

But them coming back eventually and being back right now were two very different things. Hitoshi had no idea what was going on out there. Where were they tonight? Was it just a regular patrol, or had they gone out on a mission? Usually they’d say something if it was more than just a regular patrol, but they also could’ve not wanted to worry Hitoshi. There were so many possibilities. They could be anywhere. Fighting anything. In any state. Maybe they were injured. Maybe they needed to go to the hospital. Maybe they were worse.

Once the thoughts started, they wouldn’t stop. They never did. There was nothing Hitoshi could do but lay here and think, his brain filling the silence of the house with millions upon millions of worries, his mind wandering further and further towards worst case scenario.

Hitoshi suddenly squeezed his eyes shut, trying to force it all away from him. He tried to snuff it out like a candle, to extinguish the fire all at once. And for a moment, his brain was calm and quiet, almost like it was when he was around Aizawa and Yamada, but the moment quickly passed and the roar of Hitoshi’s head came back louder than ever.

Breathe, was what they’d be telling him right now. Remember to breathe.

Hitoshi tried. He took a deep breath in, held it, and then let it out slowly, repeating the process a few more times. He wasn’t sure if it was working—he never knew if it was working, but he always tried because Aizawa and Yamada wanted him to—but at the very least it did distract him, giving him a little respite from the thoughts. Enough to think. Enough to gather what he had of his strength.

His arms decided to work, at least a little. That was all Hitoshi needed. He clenched his teeth and beared it as he weakly reached up, the muscles in his arms straining and trembling and slipped his fingers under his pillow. He blindly clawed there for a moment, the rest of his body set on a brightly burning fire, until he was able to pull his phone out.

He used the rest of his strength to try to kick free of the hot, sweat-damp blankets and roll onto his side facing the rest of the room. While it usually wouldn’t sound like a lot, Hitoshi felt a warm surge of pride as he successfully rolled over. He couldn’t get the blankets off completely, too exhausted by all the movement to shove them totally off, but he loosened them up enough that he was able to push them down to his knees, the cool air of his room hitting him in relief.

He was spent after moving so much, but he’d done it. He’d freed himself as much as he needed, gotten his phone, and rolled over onto his other side. During some of his episodes, that was more movement than he could handle in a span of several days. Hope flared in his chest, reminding him of what Aizawa had told him. That if he felt well enough tomorrow, he could go to school.

He could almost hear Yamada smiling and telling him that it was a good sign he could move so much. Could almost feel him patting his head and telling him that he needed to keep resting so he could be in top shape for school. He always said it that way. Top shape, throwing in some English here and there, always keeping that Present Mic spirit even when he was just Yamada Hizashi at home.

Hitoshi did one more cycle of breathing before he turned on his phone. It laid on the bed next to him, Hitoshi not even having the strength in his arms to hold it up. That didn’t matter much now though—he could read the screen and navigate it like this.

Waiting for him were a few text messages.

One from Midoriya, of course. Hitoshi always got at least one when he missed school. Usually he got multiple. Today there was just one.

Shinsou! I didn’t see you at school today so I miiiight’ve asked Aizawa-sensei where you were. I thought he might know! I promise I’m not being nosy. Not too nosy, I mean. But he told me you were sick!!! Are you alright? I can bring you soup if you need it. My mom makes the best soup for when you’re sick! We can bring you as much as you want. I even know how to cook it, sort of at

Hitoshi stopped reading and skimmed over the rest. He could never quite figure out how Midoriya managed to babble through texts. Hitoshi only had so much energy right now and he didn’t want to spend it and then be stuck trying and failing to comprehend more important texts. His brain would go fuzzy again if he wasted too much energy. Hitoshi was always aware of how much he was operating on limited time, especially during his episodes.

He scrolled. There was one from Monoma, just saying that he heard from class A that he wasn’t feeling well—that had apparently gone around quick—and telling him he hoped Hitoshi felt better so they could spar sometime this week after school. A similar one was from Iida, the class president, again just telling him to focus on feeling better.

He wondered what they’d all think if they knew Hitoshi wasn’t ill, if they knew this wasn’t something he could just get better from. He’d return to school once the flare up went down enough for him to move around on his own, but it’d always be back, and Hitoshi never knew when or why. It was the cycle he’d been through for the last decade of his life. He’d quickly learned to not take his good periods for granted.

Maybe that was the most exhausting part of it: the idea that even if he felt better, even if he returned back to ‘normal’, it’d always come back, like a curse Hitoshi had been stuck with for no real reason.

He kept going through his texts. There were a couple more with the same sentiments. Hitoshi always got them when he was out for more than a day, no matter how often it happened. He was grateful, but… like with Aizawa and Yamada, he wondered when his friends and classmates would grow tired and suspicious of his absences, just like everyone else had before. The only difference here was that they’d started off friendly.

He scrolled past a cat picture Yaoyorozu had sent him, making a note to thank her later. Finally, he got to his newest set of texts. Sitting right at the top of the bunch was one marked important by his phone. From Yamada.

Kid, we’re gonna be a little late tonight. Or maybe a lot late. We’ll let you know when we know more and give you a call when we can. If you need anything while we’re out, Nemuri’s home and has her phone on in case you call. Talk to you soon.

Another followed, just a minute after the previous one.

P.S: We’re okay!

Hitoshi read those two little words over and over again, as if they’d somehow tell him exactly what was going on.

His eyes drifted to the clock in the corner of his screen.

It was past three in the morning.

These texts had been sent two hours ago.

Aizawa and Yamada’s patrols were usually set to finish by midnight at the latest. Most nights, they were home a little after eleven. Hitoshi could count on one hand—if he could properly move his hands, that was—how many times they’d been this late coming home from a patrol.

There’d been no further communication. No texts. Hitoshi checked his call log history, just in case he’d missed the call Yamada had promised in his text. Though rare, he couldn’t slept through it—and hoped that he had. He had no such luck. The call log was exactly as it had been when Hitoshi had fallen asleep. His most recent call was from Aizawa earlier in the day, when he’d been calling to check in on him.

This could all only mean one thing: something had happened.

Something had happened and Hitoshi was stuck here, barely able to move, his stomach turning and flipping and the roaring in his ears becoming deafening. Suddenly, all he could read was uncertainty in Yamada’s final text, as if he’d known Hitoshi would worry but had wanted to try to calm him.

He had a horrible, sinking feeling that they were not okay.

Hitoshi froze, but forced himself to move as much as he could. He did the first thing that came to mind and took Yamada’s advice, dialing Kayama’s number and listening to each ring as it sounded, horribly loud and echoing through the silent house.

It rang five times.

No one picked up.

“Sorry I’m not available to take your call right now! If you leave a name and number…”

Hitoshi didn’t listen to the rest of the answering message. He ended the call and stared at the screen, his call log coming back up. No calls from Yamada and none from Aizawa. That promised call had never come. And Kayama hadn’t picked up. There was something very wrong and that fact was becoming clearer and clearer the longer Hitoshi laid here.

He closed his eyes and tried to look at the facts. Like Aizawa had taught him to do in situations where he had time to think.

Aizawa and Yamada went out on patrol. They were supposed to return by midnight like always. It was past three in the morning now. They weren’t home. Hitoshi was alone in the house. Kayama was the person they usually had Hitoshi contact if he needed anything—not even in emergencies, but if he needed anything at all and as long as they’d been having her act as that person while they were out, she’d never missed a call from him. But she had tonight. One more check on the list of things wrong.

The other facts of the situation were just as grim: he was stuck in bed, having used up the last of his energy to roll over and get his phone. Even navigating his phone’s screen with his fingers took a lot out of him. He didn’t have a lot of hope to get out of bed.

His stomach flipped.

He wished he’d never lied to Aizawa and told him that he was fine with him going tonight.

He had wanted him to stay. He’d wanted so bad to ask him to be here with him, to stay home like he’d offered. He hadn’t, though. Hitoshi had wanted him to stay until he fell asleep, thinking that his parents would most likely be home by the time he woke up and it’d be like they never even left. That was what he’d been hoping for, at least.

He wished he’d agreed. Aizawa had offered to stay. Hitoshi had told him not to.

Did that make whatever had happened to them his fault—?

There was a noise in the house, a quiet whimper. Hitoshi started at the sound of it and a moment later, he realized that he’d been the one to make the sound. He tried breathing again, just like Aizawa had taught him, taking those deep breaths in and holding before slowly letting them out. It didn’t help this time. It made things worse. WIth each breath Hitoshi felt the anxiety rising inside of him, pushing to the edges of his body and taking over. No amount of slow breathing was going to stop it.

He wished, he wished, he wished. He wished he’d told Aizawa the truth earlier. He wish he and Yamada had stayed. He wished he hadn’t downplayed how much pain he was in. He wished he’d just told them. He wished he hadn’t doubted everything so much, because if he’d just said what he wanted and what had been on his mind, then he wouldn’t be in this situation and neither would his parents.

Hitoshi’s head spun and spun and wouldn’t stop.

Another whimper came from his throat and shame filled the gaps the anxiety leftover.

If he was feeling like this now, how could he ever be a hero? How could he, when he could hardly even stand being alone?He was so attached to Aizawa and Yamada. They were the first adults to ever give a shit about Hitoshi and Hitoshi had immediately latched onto them, sticking to them like stubborn glue that wouldn’t come apart. Hitoshi was well aware that he had attachment issues. He’d heard those two words from nearly every therapist, psychologist, and psychiatrist who’d ever laid eyes on him. Usually, he didn’t care that much but right now, when those issues were making him feel like nothing more than a small child home alone, they did matter.

He just… wanted to know if they were alright.

If any one thing was different in this situation, it wouldn’t be so bad. If he could just move a little more. If Yamada had sent just one more text. If Kayama had picked up. If there’d been a missed call from his parents. If he wasn’t so drained of energy. Even if one of the cats was out and about, the bell on their collar jingling as they moved throughout the house. But the fact of the matter was that Hitoshi was an unlucky person and with the exception of things that had been happening lately with getting adopted by loving and understanding parents, life was solidly unfair to him.

He had to do something.

But what was there to do?

Hitoshi tried to run through his options. Desperately.

Call Kayama again. Try calling Yamada and Aizawa. Call one of their other friends. Call one of his friends and ask them to come help him get out of bed and figure things out. Try to push himself and move. Check the internet for any news about the area Hitoshi knew Eraserhead was currently working out of. Wait.

Those were all the options Hitoshi knew of. Some were far more plausible than the others.

He started with the least invasive, most obvious one. To Hitoshi, that was checking the news. It didn’t require much moving nor did it require him to talk to someone else. He could do it completely on his own. So he started there.

Present Mic would be where Eraserhead was; they were working together on a case in a district a few train stops west of here, still in the city. If anything that had happened had been caught by the media, it would’ve been reported on since it involved one particular very popular hero. Hitoshi knew enough about the media to be sure of that.

He didn’t know what he wanted. Both outcomes seemed terrible. He paused, typing the district name into the search bar of his phone, wondering if he should just stop and wait. If something had happened and he found out through this, what could he do? The answer was nothing. He’d have to wait anyways, but with the knowledge that something was terribly wrong. It was similar if he didn’t find anything—he’d be back at square one.

Ignorance is bliss sometimes,’ Yamada had once grimly said to him with an uncharacteristic frown and worry lines forming on his face. It’d been a very different situation, when HItoshi had asked what his foster parents had said about him in a meeting Aizawa and Yamada had with them. The words came back now, as Hitoshi was wondering if he should dare to search for what had happened.

He couldn’t just leave it. It was typed into the search bar, just waiting there for HItoshi to press enter. His thumb hovered over the button. His body was lit bright with the flame of pain, the anxiety just making it hotter and hotter by the moment. Hitoshi felt like he was burning alive just laying here waiting, unable to do anything else.

This was really the only thing he could do.

Hitoshi hit the button. Almost instantaneously, the phone lit up with search results, a line of news hits at the top of the page.

Hitoshi’s blood went cold. If he had any color left in his face it was gone, drained out of him and leaving him ghastly and pale. His breathing stopped. His heart felt like it would stop at any second.

Popular Pro Hero Injured in Villain Organization Fight

Present Mic and Unknown Hero Outnumbered in Fight With Underground Ring

Heroes Hurt in Bridge Collapse

Villains Taken Into Custody and Brave Heroes Being Treated at Hospital

Article after article. Piece after piece. Calling them pro heroes, referring to them by their hero names, calling them brave, valiant, courageous. They never called them what they were—people with families, fathers who had a son waiting back at home for them.

A son who couldn’t do anything to help, despite calling himself a hero-hopeful. He was useless. What was the point of him transferring to the heroics course if he wasn’t able to do anything? If he couldn’t even get up and rush to whatever hospital his only family was at? Some hero he was.

Hitoshi quickly made up his mind about the question that had stumped him just a few minutes before: it was worse knowing rather than waiting. Hitoshi had no idea what exactly had happened. All the articles conflicted with each other, none of them telling a full story. Some said it was a villain takedown gone wrong. Others said it was an ambush. Some focused on a bridge collapse; others just mentioned it. Some said ‘accident’ instead of ‘incident’. He very quickly realized that knowing some was far worse than knowing none.

It was especially worse when everything was so unsure, when every media outlet he looked at reported a different thing. For all he knew, it could be horrible. Or it could be minor. All he knew for sure was that something had happened to his parents and he had no way of knowing what it was unless someone decided to come tell him.

Everything hurt. It hurt so bad. It hurt even worse now that Hitoshi would give anything to be able to get up and take a taxi to the hospital and figure it out himself. His insides were on fire, burning brighter and hotter than they had earlier or ever before, even. He froze up, his muscles tightening and tensing and just adding to the pain, until it was completely unbearable, until Hitoshi was sure this was the worst pain he’d even experienced.

He knew exactly what Aizawa would be telling him right now/ He’d tell him to breathe, to lay still and just breathe slowly to calm himself down enough that he could think rationally. That wasn’t solving anything now, and Hitoshi wished Aizawa was here to tell him what else to do, because trying to breathe slowly was just making him tremble as the pressure in his body built.

Part of him knew it was coming. It wasn’t a huge surprise when Hitoshi felt the tears prickling at his eyes. He’d cried here before—both here in this bed, out of pain or unfounded fear, and here in this house for any number of reasons. The shame never stopped, though, and that was all Hitoshi could feel underneath the roaring pain as he laid alone and still in the bed, just trying to breathe like Aizawa so often told him.

What if I just said that I wanted him to stay—?

What if I’d just told the truth…?

Would they be in this situation? No. Aizawa would’ve stayed home. Yamada would have, too, if he asked. With nothing else he could do. Hitoshi could only think about how he wished he could go back in time, just a few hours, to when Aizawa was sitting at his bedside with him, asking if he was sure that he didn’t want him to stay. It would’ve been so easy to just tell him ‘please stay with me tonight; I need you’. But he hadn’t. He hadn’t and now he had no idea what had happened to them. He had no idea if his worst fears had become true.

The tears rolled down Hitoshi’s cheeks and onto the soft pillow under his head. Some gathered in his hair, making the wet locks stick uncomfortably to his face in a way that somehow made everything that much worse. Everything hurt, from the feeling of the bed he was laying on to the material of his clothes against his skin. Hitoshi wanted to be anywhere but here.

Anywhere but here…

He had to do something.

He had no idea why Kayama wasn’t picking up her phone. Calling her was just about the only thing he could do from his bed. He had to do something more. If he could just… get up, he could do something more. Find something out. Aizawa and Yamada always left a list of phone numbers that were constantly updated to reflect where they were working at the time. That sheet would have the phone number to the precinct they were working out of. That was the solution: all he head to do was get to the kitchen and find that list that his parents had left for him.

It was always in the same place—taped on the wall just below the line of hooks next to the door where Hitoshi would hang his keys when he came in so he wouldn’t forget them. It was always there. Always updated. Hitoshi sometimes lived in a world of brain fog and this was his parents’ way of making sure he had the contact information he needed. That had, of course, been dependent on him making it to the kitchen to see the list but—Hitosh could force himself. He knew he could.

He’d done it before he’d lived here. He’d done it at every previous foster home, with foster parents who hadn’t believed him, who’d told him it was all in his head, that he was making it up, that it couldn’t possibly be that bad. He’d dealt with it for so long that Hitoshi had just been used to forcing himself and used to the sometimes months long episodes of horrible pain and weakness. If he could force himself then, he could do it now for his parents’ sake. Then he could find out what was really going on without having to wade through the media’s biased reporting.

People had always told him that if he just tried harder he’d be able to power through it. Aizawa and Yamada had never seemed to believe that, always saying that Hitoshi couldn’t just force himself through everything or he’d end up harming himself more, but maybe there was some grain of truth. He’d spent years forcing himself. He could make himself get out of this bed and walk to the kitchen.

That was the least he could do.

Even moving his arms was horrible, though. The pain shot through his nerves like jolts of electricity, reminding him again of what Aizawa had said about nerve pain. He could do this, he reminded himself, biting down hard on his lip to muffle the whimper of pain that came out form behind his clenched teeth as he dug his palms into the mattress and tried to push.

Hitoshi managed to get a few inches off the bed before his arms wobbled and stung and gave out completely, turning back into noodles and refusing to even move again.

Please, Hitoshi quietly begged himself, like he’d done so many times before, like his body was some sort of sentient being separate from him that might just turn back into a properly functioning person if he begged enough. Please, just this once—

Maybe it was the begging. Maybe it was the shear determination Hitoshi felt in that moment. Maybe it was the worry that surrounded him in a dark, storming cloud. Something slipped into place, though, and when Hitoshi tried again, forcing himself to move, he was able to pull himself up, jolting into a sitting position on the bed.

He was biting his lip hard, his teeth clenched so hard that they were grinding together. His entire body stung, like electicity was running though him and lighting up every last nerve in his tired body. But he’d done it. He’d actually done it. No matter how much pain he was in, no matter how exhausted he felt just from the simple movement of sitting up, he’d done it.

Maybe pushing himself was good. Maybe all those doctors and all those foster parents in the past had some sort of inkling of truth to them. Maybe he really could force himself to move if he just tried hard enough.

There wasn’t much time for celebrating, though. The pride HItoshi felt in himself for succeeding at this was quickly overshadowed by the reminder or why he’d decided to push himself so much in the first place. His parents were hurt and unreachable. Hitoshi had to find a way to contact someone who knew where they were.

He had to hold onto that. The pain made his head swim, swarming with heavy, dark clouds that wouldn’t let up, blanketing all his thoughts and feelings and making it impossible to pick out one from the other. He would never forgive himself if he forgot why he was doing this.

Get out of bed. Walk to the door. Leave room. Go to the kitchen. Look at the paper next to the front door. Call the precinct Eraser and Present Mic are working out of.

It seemed simple. Breaking it down into small, simple steps helped. It always did. That was another technique he’d learned from Aizawa and Yamada and also his new therapist that they insisted he visit each week. Things were doable if he broke them down. He’d already done the first step. He just had to do the rest before he ran out of momentum. Which wasn’t as easy as it sounded, since Hitoshi never quite knew how much momentum he had to work with.

The next step was getting out of bed. Simple.

(Or, at least, to anyone else that was simple. To Hitoshi, getting himself to move like that was an entirely different feat than being able to sit up.)

But he could do it.

Hitoshi sucked a deep breath in, refusing to give himself any time to rest, not wanting to lose the energy he had left. His arms had become limp, weak noodles again, but that was fine. Hitoshi didn’t need to use his arms to scoot to the edge of his bed, though they’d make it easier.

He winced, hissing out from between his teeth as he lifted one leg to swing it to the side. His muscles almost gave out again, but Hitoshi fought it, battling himself for control over his own body.

Hitoshi knew he tasted blood in his mouth from how hard he was biting his lip. Aizawa would never say much about it, but he’d always give him that look when he noticed Hitoshi doing it, the look that wasn’t angry or disappointed but just served as a way to make Hitoshi aware of what he was doing. He was almost a little glad that Aizawa wasn’t here to give him that look and make him stop, because biting down on his lip like this was the only thing that was keeping Hitoshi from pathetically crying out.

He coudl do this. He had to just keep reminding himself of it.

Moving his other leg was actually worse. Hitoshi had learned long ago that this wasn’t the type of pain he could get used to. Moving was just going to continue to hurt like this, and if Hitoshi’s past experience was any indication, just going to keep getting worse. If he moved fast enough, though, maybe he could beat it—and all he could do was hold onto that hope, because he didn’t know what the other option was. He knew for sure that he couldn’t go back to laying in bed in a ball of anxiety of dispair.

Hitoshi tasted blood from his lip again as he kept biting it, tearing it open from the force of it. It distracted him enough from the other pain to be able to bear it, letting him think about one centeralized pain that he was causing rather than the unknown, buring, electric pain that throbbed through his entire body. He’d deal with the blood later, as well as the sort spot it’d leave on his lip. All that was important to him was getting off this bed.

Somehow—and Hitoshi really, truthfully wasn’t sure how—he managed to sit on the edge of his bed. His legs dangled off the edge, his toes brushing against the floor. Hitoshi could taste the sting of the blood from his lip in his mouth and his breathing came in hard gasps, as if he’d just run a marathon. He definitely felt like he had, from the soreness and exhaustion that pooled into every part of his body, trying to drag him back under. His bed looked more tempting than ever and everything inside of Hitoshi told him to just give in and lay back down, that someone would eventually come and tell him what was happening, but he didn’t. He couldn’t rely on other people like that. He had to do this on his own.

It wasn’t over yet. Hitoshi wasn’t even halfway there. He couldn’t stop, not even for a few moments to rest. Every second he was running the risk of his energy emptying out. He couldn’t risk that; he had to give everything he could to try to get to that list of phone numbers hanging up on the kitchen wall.

Over the years, Hitoshi had learned to not take his good periods for granted. He knew to appreciate them. The bad episodes came out of nowhere, and Hitoshi never knew what caused them. He’d learned to bask in those times when he wasn’t like this, when he could spar with Aizawa and outrun his classmates and get around by himself. The threat of an episode always loomed over his head like an impending doom only he could feel, and Hitoshi made sure to not waste his time when he was feeling like himself.

Limited. Everything felt limited in Hitoshi’s life. His good periods felt limited, always with a starting and a stop point, never quite knowing when those things would be. His bad periods were also, luckily, limited. Limited wasn’t always a bad thing, but it often was. Hitoshi also felt like his time here was limited, like no matter how many times Aizawa and Yamada tried to reassure him that they’d eventually get fed up with Hitoshi and send him back. That he’d disappoint them at some point and their opinion would fall. That he only had so much time left here and he had to spend it wisely. No matter how much he was reassured otherwise, his time felt limited, because that was the way it’d always been for Hitoshi, being shuffled from foster home to foster home.

Right now, sitting on the edge of his bed, trying to force his way through the brain fog to figure out his next steps, Hitoshi wished that this bad episode’s time was up. He wanted to be back to normal, able to walk the short distance from his room to the kitchen without any issues and able to think of the correct solution to the problem he currently faced. He wanted that back so badly, missing it with his entire heart, and in the short pause he took, the frustration at himself just grew and grew, ready to explode.

He just had to… keep going. He had to figure out what was going on. There was no telling if anyone was coming to rescue him and let him know what was going on. He couldn’t always count on other people to do that. Wasn’t Aizawa always saying that he had to be able to hold his own in battle? Didn’t that apply here, too?

Hitoshi wasn’t sure exactly what his plan was, but he took a deep breath, bit down hard on his bruised and bleeding lip again and pushed up.

For a moment, Hitoshi honestly didn’t think he’d make it. His head spun, making his stomach turn with dizziness, the little food he’d eaten today threatening to come back up. His legs shook harder than ever before. Hitoshi couldn’t lose his balance because he didn’t start off with any to begin with and in those first few seconds, Hitoshi thought he was a goner, that he was going to fall right back onto the bed or worse—the floor, where he could hit his head on any number of things.

But he didn’t.

Something must’ve been on his side, because Hitoshi somehow managed to not fall over. Maybe it was karma, some sort of long awaited reward for having to go through this his entire life without reason or explanation.

Whatever it was, Hitoshi didn’t fall. He didn’t exactly steady, still wobbling and swaying back and forth so much that he had to try to spread his arms out to give himself some semblance of balance, but he was upright and staying that was and that was all Hitoshi needed. He clutched his phone in one outstretched hand, his throbbing fingers wrapped so hard around it that his knuckles turned white. He had what he needed. The worst part was over, or so he hoped.

Nerve pain, he reminded himself again, gritting his teeth as he felt the familiar crawling in his legs, a pain separate from the kind in his arms or the throbbing at his bleeding lip. I just need to make it into the kitchen and then I can lay down again.

He raised his foot and took that first struggling step forward.

There was another moment where Hitoshi was convinced he was going to fall. It was right as he shifted his weight from one foot to the next, throwing off what little balance he had. He wobbled, but didn’t fall, successfully making that first step.

My medication’s in the kitchen, too, Hitoshi remembered, trying to convince his body to ease up a little on the pain. It wouldn’t listen to him, he knew, but it was worth a try. I’ll get that when I’m out there and then I’ll take it and lay down again.

He was trying to sweeten the deal more, to convince himself that he needed to go not just to find out what was going on with his parents, but to help himself as well. If he could get that number and grab his medication, which was always sitting right by the door, then he could make it back to his room, make that call, take his medication, and feel better knowing what was going on. Eventually, someone would come get him and he’d feel well enough to go to the hospital. It’d all work out. He did have a plan.

Another step, this time a little quicker. A little less wobbly.

Present Mic and Unknown Hero Outnumbered in Fight With Underground Ring

Villains Taken Into Custody and Brave Heroes Being Treated at Hospital

The headlines he’d read before ran through his head like wildfire, burning up every other thought in its wake, stronger than the pain, stronger than the weakness.

Hitoshi’s steps got a little more confident. He was still shaking, still struggling, but each was quicker than the last. With each step, his hope grew more and more, blossoming in his chest, making him really start to believe that he actually could do this.

He wanted to be a hero, just like his parents were. He had to prove to himself that he could do something as small as this. If he couldn’t do this one small thing—what kind of hero would he be? It wasn’t like hero work would stop the moment Hitoshi’s good period ran out and he plunged into a bad episode. The world didn’t stop turning. VIllains didn’t stop existing. As a hero, it would be Hitoshi’s responsibility to protect people from those villains, whether he was having a good pain day or not.

He wasn’t just doing this to find out where his parents were and what was going on—Hitoshi had something to prove, to himself, to his new family, to everyone around him. He could do this.

Hitoshi reached his open door. It was there he made his biggest mistake. He stopped.

His words were shaking so hard he was having trouble standing up. He just wanted to lean on the doorframe for a few moments to try to regain some balance. He was halfway there now and Hitoshi stared out into the short hallway, able to see out into the kitchen. Right there, taped to the wall next to the front door, was the list Hitoshi needed.

Hitoshi leaned all his weight onto the wooden doorframe, taking the pause to try to catch his breath. The fog in his brain swarmed, threatening to swallow all his thoughts whole, but Hitoshi couldn’t let it. He couldn’t rest here long—he had to keep going.

That list was right there. So close. Hitoshi almost felt like if he reached out his tired, limp arms he might be able to touch it.

He tried to pull himself up, standing back up from where he’d been leaning on the doorframe.

His arms instinctively spread, letting go of the wood to help with his balance.

He raised his foot and—

—Hitoshi’s legs buckled.

There was no warning. No worsening of his shaking. No sudden loss of balance that he tried to overcome. There wasn’t even any huge increase in pain. One moment, Hitoshi could walk—and the next, his legs were completely unusable.

His legs buckled and Hitoshi crashed to the floor, letting out a scream that fell on deaf ears as he collapsed. His limbs completely gave out and he couldn’t even scramble for purchase, his arms going the same way as his legs, Hitoshi losing all control he’d had over his body. In an instant, it was all just gone, and Hitoshi went from truly believing that he could make it to his goal to laying helpless and pathetic on the floor. Alone.

Hitoshi sniffled.

As it turned out, his confidence had been limited. His energy had been far more limited than he’d thought, too.

His body definitely hurt, both from the loss of control and the crash, but nothing hurt more than Hitoshi’s shame.

He hit the floor hard, inadvertently biting down even harder on his already bleeding lip. The skin below his bottom lip split open, hot blood dripping down his chin. His limbs sprawled out on the wood floor, Hitoshi’s body hitting with a hard thud that nearly deafened him as he came crashing down. He landed on his stomach, narrowly avoiding hitting his head on the floor, his legs sprawled and twisted and totally, completely useless, like they didn’t even belong to him.

And as if Hitoshi couldn’t get any more pathetic, a tear dripped down his face, mixing in with the blood on his lip and chin, dripping onto the floor with a soft plop.

A beat of silence—the world seemingly standing still. Nothing in the house moved. Hitoshi was completely alone. It was past three in the morning and he was completely alone in his empty house, with only the hallway light on, laying in a heap just outside his own room helplessly, unable to do anything but lay here and wait.

His phone was still clenched in his hand.

Hitoshi’s blurry eyes shifted to it. More tears fell, rolling down his cheeks in fat clumps.

He could call emergency services. Would that be what Aizawa and Yamada would want him to do? He had no idea. Probably. Hitoshi was in a world of shame already. Doing that couldn’t be that bad. Except it could.

No, Hitoshi would much rather lay here in pain and wait. Wait for his fate and wait for someone to come tell him what was going on and hopefully, help him. Maybe his karmic punishment would just be to lay here forever.

He kept staring at his phone.

It was suddenly really setting in that he hadn’t tried either of his parents.

He just… hadn’t wanted to bother them. Not while they were dealing with whatever had happened and were quite possibly injured. It was the same reason he wasn’t going to call any sort of emergency services—he didn’t want to bother anyone. It wasn’t like he was injured, and there was a good probability that his parents were. They didn’t need any distractions, and Hitoshi was nothing but.

That’s what he’d thought before, but now, when he was laying on the floor unable to get up, he just… wanted to hear his parents’ voices.

He wanted to hear them tell him that it was alright. He didn’t want to hear anyone push him and tell him to just get up and try again, that it couldn’t be that bad, that if he just tried hard enough he could make it work. His parents never did that. They always understood. Always took care of him. Always assured him that they’d be there, that it was alright and he’d feel better if he didn’t force himself. That was what he wanted to hear right now, not all the things he’d been telling himself before in order to get himself up.

What was he supposed to do—laying here on the floor bleeding and crying like a child? He almost thought that living here had made him soft, because instead of being able to handle it alone he just wanted to be hugged and comforted.

Vulnerable and unable to argue with himself, Hitoshi gave in.

His fingers barely worked enough to find Yamada’s contact in his phone. The phone slipped out of his hands as the line began to ring, sliding onto the floor face up, close enough that Hitoshi could talk into it without being able to move or hold it up.

It rang once.

Twice.

Three times.

Thick tears dripped off of Hitoshi’s face and onto the floor under him.

And finally—a click.

Hitoshi’s heart felt like it was going to thud to a stop.

“Hitoshi!”

The voice on the other end sounded out of breath, but not surprised. Still warm. But like the person on the other line was in a hurry.

Yamada didn’t even wait for Hitoshi to talk. Which was good, given that Hitoshi had no idea what to say. The moment the line picked up, every word left Hitoshi’s brain and all he could do was hang onto that voice as more tears fell from his eyes and rolled off his cheeks.

“Hitoshi, I’m so sorry—I—we—meant to call you, but things were a rush at the hospital and the doctors wanted to clear us before—” He stopped for a moment. In the background, Hitoshi could hear the sound of angry honking, the screech of breaks, and Yamada muttering frustrated under his breath. Following that was a murmur, low and too quiet for Hitoshi to be able to make out the words, but undoubtedly belonging to Aizawa. “—Before we could call, and then the police wanted to make sure that they had our story straight, and then everything got leaked to the press and—”

He trailed off.

Hitoshi’s vision was blurry, not from pain and not from brain fog, but from the tears that were falling faster and faster, streaming down his face nonstop now. He couldn’t see anything; the light in the hallway blurred with the dim scenery of the kitchen and the light from Hitoshi’s phone mixed in with it all. He couldn’t make anything out and he sniffled and—

“You’re not dead—” Hitoshi sobbed, blurting it out, not even trying to hold back. He couldn’t if he wanted to; he didn’t have the energy for it. Every bit of energy he had had been wasted on his misled journey out here and on the worry and anger at himself. “—I was so worried that—that you were dead—that you wouldn’t come back and I’d be alone and—and I tried to get up so I could call the precinct but—I fell and now—”

He stopped, his words getting lost in his cries. He couldn’t actually remember the last time he’d cried like this, so hard and so openly. Even when his adoption papers had been signed he’d held back, shedding a few tears but not sobbing nd blubbering uncontrollably like this. He’d just been so worried—so helpless and hopeless, not even able to find out what was going on.

“Oh Hitoshi—” Yamada started. On the other end, there was honking again. Yamada was obviously driving, and Hitoshi just hoped they were coming home.

“We’re fine,” Came another voice, tearing yet another sob from Hitoshi as he recognized Aizawa’s tired voice. “Did you say you fell?”

Hitoshi couldn’t answer. All he could do was cry. Usually, he’d feel pathetic, collapsed on the floor and crying like this, but the relief and anxiety was too much to care about anything other than the fact that his parents were okay and coming home and they hadn’t left him or died or gone away.

“Hitoshi, just stay where you are,” Aizawa went on when Hitoshi didn’t answer. Couldn’t answer. “Don’t try to move. We’re coming home as fast as we can. Just stay put and don’t try to go anywhere. You’ll be alright.”

He heard Aizawa whisper something, something along the lines of ‘go faster’, but it was muffled, as if he didn’t want Hitoshi hearing. Another wave of relief washed over him with the confirmation that they were coming home, that whatever had happened tonight was over and they were coming back to him and it really would all be alright.

They were fine. Hitoshi was fine. Everything would be aright.

Hitoshi nodded, as if Aizawa and Yamada would be able to see him, because he couldn’t do anything else.

“We’ll be home soon,” Aizawa said again, in a softer voice. “We’re a little scratched up but not hurt.”

A pause. They were obviously waiting for Hitoshi to say something in response or even just to answer or comment on what Aizawa had said. Hitoshi couldn’t, though, and he let out a quiet sob, wanting to say something but unable to.

“We’ll all stay home tomorrow,” Yamada was the one to pick up where Aizawa left off. He was always the one who seemed to understand the quickest, who recognized when Hitoshi just couldn’t speak because Aizawa did. “We all need a day to recover. It’ll be good for all three of us. Right, Shouta?”

For a second, that distracted Hitoshi. He almost thought Aizawa wouldn’t agree. It caught him off guard, reminding him of how much of a workaholic Aizawa was, how Hitoshi had very rarely seen him take a day off. He would on Hitoshi’s worst days, but other than that, rain or shine, in a full body cast or perfectly healthy, Aizawa was notorious for going to work no matter what. The very notion that both him and Yamada would take a day off to spend with Hitoshi was enough to tear Hitoshi out of his sobs and force him back into the present.

There was just a small pause and then a quiet— “Right.”

Brakes squealed in the background, and Hitoshi was just barely able to whimper out, “Please don’t hang up.”

“I promise we won’t,” Came Yamada’s immediate response. “How about we tell you what happened? I can’t imagine that the media even got it close to being right…”

 

That was what Yamada and Aizawa did. They stayed on the phone with Hitoshi, even though they were exhausted, even though they were banged up from their fights, even though Yamada was driving and had to concentrate on the road. They stayed on the line and they talked. They told Hitoshi what had happened. And as Hitoshi listened, his sobs subsided. They never stopped, but they quieted as he listened to his parents’ voices, as he finally learned what had happened and finally began to calm down.

Present Mic and Eraserhead had been tracking down a villain group for a week now and found that they operated within a secret base located in the hollow concrete structure of a bridge that stretched over a river and connected one half of the nearby city to the other. Tonight had been a festival and while they hadn’t thought there’d be an incident, the team they’d been working with had determined that it was the perfect time to raid it, since the members would most likely be distracted and they’d be able to hide within the crowds of people traveling over the road above.

Something had gone wrong, though, or as Yamada said, Aizawa mentioned having a bad feeling and going against orders, the two of them decided to evacuate the bridge of civilians without orders, which caused chaos but as Hitoshi soon learned, saved the lives of everyone. It was no sooner that they’d finished that an explosion went off, later found to be one of the ringleaders’ quirks, in an attack against Hitoshi’s parents, sending the bridge collapsing and the two of them into the rushing water below.

They’d pulled themselves out and had been rushed to the hospital, for hypothermia due to the water and whatever other injuries they had. Emergency contacts had been called and in both Aizawa and Yamada’s case, that was Kayama, hence why she hadn’t picked up the phone when Hitoshi called. They’d had to be medically cleared, which meant headscans and temperature checks and hours of batteries of tests just to make sure and after that they still hadn’t had their phones returned to them, as they had to go interview at the precinct—where they always left their things when out on a mission.

It was a series of bad events that had prevented anyone from calling Hitoshi. Yamada told him someone would’ve contacted him immediately if something had actually been wrong, though. He laughed and said the worst part was the cold water—despite a few scratches and going down with a concrete bridge both of them had avoided any sort of serious injuries or blows to the head. The hospital had confirmed that.

So they were alright. Which in turn meant that Hitoshi was alright. Except he still didn’t feel alright, because he was still crying, sniffling with the tears falling from his eyes in a nonstop stream, and he could still feel the anxiety deep in his body, having taken root inside of him and refused to let go. He was still laying on the floor, still unable to move, and that was exactly where he’d be when Aizawa and Yamada finally returned.

 

He heard the car pull into the driveaway right as Yamada told him he was going to hang up and they’d be inside in just a couple moments.

The line clicked, the phone going silent, and suddenly, Hitoshi was alone in the house once more.

Logically, he knew the car was right outside. He’d heard it pull into the drive way, heard the engine turn off and one of the doors open. He’d seen the lights through the curtain-covered windows of the living room as they pulled in and parked. He knew they were out there. Knew that he wasn’t really alone.

But outside still felt a million miles away, just like it had when Hitoshi had been looking out the window in his room earlier. That was an entirely different world, one that he couldn’t be a part of and once that wouldn’t accept him when he was at his worst like this. His parents might as well have been in another universe, far away from Hitoshi, no closer than they had been speeding down the highway when Hitoshi had called them.

They’re right there, Hitoshi tried to tell himself, trying to even out his breathing. After all this time, he thought his tears would’ve stopped, but they didn’t. Wouldn’t. No matter what Hitoshi did or how hard he tried to convince himself that everything was alright, he couldn’t stop crying. Just a few minutes. He said just a few minutes.

Outside, he heard another car door open up, then quickly shut. He heard hushed voices, quiet and tired and as weary as Hitoshi had ever heard them. He couldn’t make out their words and he wondered what they were talking about—him? How tired they were? What they’d just gone through? How much pain they were in?

A pang of guilt hit him hard. His parents had just fallen off of a bridge after an explosion aimed at them caused it to crumple and had to pull themselves out of the rushing, freezing water, and here Hitoshi was, laying alone on the floor unable to move after trying to walk a few steps. His dream of becoming a hero was as out of reach as ever as he laid here, thinking about how his parents had every right to be in pain and be exhausted, when Hitoshi himself hadn’t done anything today.

The footsteps were quickly approaching, drawing closer and closer to Hitoshi’s world. His heartbeat quickened as his parents came nearer, thundering in his chest by the time they stopped just outside the door.

In the dead silence of the house, Hitoshi could hear the jingle of keys being found, then the easily recognizable noise of the lock being opened, clicking into place.

A pause. Hitoshi heard a quiet, murmuring voice, though he still couldn’t make out the words. His heart beat harder and Hitoshi was growing increasingly more concerned that it would leap right out of his chest any second now.

Then the door opened.

Hitoshi had known that Aizawa and Yamada were right there, standing on the front porch in front of the door, but he still jumped. Or, he jumped as much as he could, whimpering softly as his body jolted and startled at the noise. The simple sound of the door swinging open felt deafening, too loud and too much, and like Hitoshi had suddenly been thrust into the real world, the world he’d been away from all day, the world his parents were in.

“Oh, Hitoshi—”

The voice was quiet, soft. Gentle. Always so gentle. The porch light was on behind his parents and in the dim lighting of the rest of the house, the light shone bright on them, making Hitoshi blink his eyes as they burned and adjusted. Through the tears that were still falling, he could make out his parents—Yamada standing in the doorway, looking nothing like his usual hero persona, his hand still on the doorknob, and Aizawa behind him, slouching, looking far more exhausted than usual.

All eyes were on him. Him, Hitoshi, crumpled on the floor, clenching his teeth hard in the pain that throbbed through his body, punishing Hitoshi for daring to startle at the sound of the front door opening.

For a long, long moment that felt more like hours than seconds, they just stared. Stared at Hitoshi, at his surroundings, at the way he was laying and how he’d barely made it beyond his room. The door to his bedroom was still wide open behind him, and if Hitoshi could walk it’d take only a few steps to be back in his bed. But he couldn’t, so that didn’t matter.

“I’m… I’m so…”

Somewhere, Hitoshi did recognize his own voice. He knew he was the one talking. It sounded so foreign, though, like someone else was speaking through him without his consent. The words were just tumbling from his mouth, uncontrollable and impossible for Hitoshi to stop even if he wanted to.

There was only one thing going through his mind—

“— I’m so sorry—”

His voice broke into a quiet sob, cracking as he started to cry harder again. He’d mistakenly thought that his tears were all dried up, that it’d be physically impossible for him to cry anymore, but he’d been wrong. As he always was. And now he was just making an even bigger fool of himself than before, right in front of both of his parents. There was nothing he could do about it—all he could do was lay here and cry and wait for one or both of them to say something.

He didn’t have to wait long.

“Hitoshi, it’s okay.” It was that same soft, gentle voice. That voice alone was almost enough to calm him. On any other day, it would be. Today, Hitoshi was too far gone, too ashamed and upset and all of it was bubbling out at once, flooding out of his body in a torrent he couldn’t do anything to hold back.

Footsteps. Unlike before, when he’d heard footsteps outside approaching the door, these were much louder and they came right at him. Hitoshi squeezed his eyes shut—half in some sort of attempt to will the tears away and half out of pure shame, out of not wanting anyone to see him like this. Aizawa and Yamada had never seen him cry like this—never this wrecked, crumpled ball of sobs and tears. The tears he’d shed when his adoption papers had been signed and Aizawa and Yamada had scooped him into this huge, tight hug was nothing compared to this.

Hitoshi hadn’t even known that he was capable of crying like this. It seemed so unlike him; Hitoshi had tried for years and years to not show any emotion at all, lest be punished and ridiculed for it, and just a few months living here had managed to undo enough of that training to the point where he was easily crying in a mixture of relief and frustration and anger at no one but himself.

In reality, Hitoshi had just gone through a roller coaster of emotions. From feeling terrified to feeling proud of himself that he’d been able to get himself out of bed to feeling determined, to then having it all comes suddenly crashing down the moment he fell.

And above it all, Hitoshi had thought that something had been horribly wrong, that the only family he had was terribly injured. He’d truly thought that his worst fears had come true, that Aizawa and Yamada had left for hero work and wouldn’t come back and Hitoshi was totally alone in the world again. With no way to contact anyone, the contact he did have failing, and no way to get himself out of bed and able to normally move, Hitoshi had been stranded. Stranded and alone in the silent house, with no idea what was going on and only a lingering feeling of dread sitting like a heavy boulder in his stomach.

“It’s okay,” Yamada was saying again as Hitoshi sobbed, the cries wracking his entire body and putting him in more pain with each passing second. He tried to bring his arms up to cover his face, just to try to hide his expression at least, but he was shaking and weak and he could barely move his hands at all.

More footsteps. Even if Hitoshi wanted to, he couldn’t raise his head or open his eyes to look. But he felt his parents there with him, close by, and instead of the wave of shame he expected to wash over him from that, there was something else instead—confort, like he could believe Yamada’s words that it was alright.

He didn’t jump when he felt the gentle hand on his shoulder. He recognized it immediately—it was the same way Aizawa had touched his shoulder earlier that day, when he’d been sitting at Hitoshi’s bedside and staying with him until he fell asleep. Aizawa always touched him so softly, almost like he thought he’d break him. Hitoshi could always tell his touch from Yamada’s, even when he was in the state he was in now.

He heard quiet whispering, his parents talking softly to each other.

“He’s bleeding a little from his lip here,” Aizawa said, always logical, always the first to notice when Hitoshi was hurting.

Yamada’s response came near instantly, “I’ll grab the first aid kit from the bathroom if you want to move him.”

It was decided. There was no more discussion between them. Aizawa’s fingers curled around Hitoshi’s shoulder, his thumb rubbing in small circles against the material of his shirt. The fire inside Hitoshi roared, but not with pain and discomfort but with the itch that Aizawa was simultaneously soothing and irritating by touching him. He felt that itch constantly, ever since Aizawa and Yamada had started showing him affection, like no matter how much he got he always wanted more, more, more. Like he was insatiable, wanting nothing more than to be held and have nice, genuine words murmured to him. Hitoshi would give up all his hopes and dreams in a second if it meant being able to know that Aizawa and Yamada would always be there to give him that affection, to know for certain that their time wasn’t limited.

“I’m going to pick you up,” Aizawa told him, as if blissfully unaware that Hitoshi had heard their conversation. Or maybe he was just trying to warn him. That was the thing about Aizawa—he always told Hitoshi things before he did them. “You don’t need to move, but let me know if I hurt you.”

That was easy enough. Hitoshi sniffled and hiccuped, his hands curling into tight fists as he tried to move, just enough so he could rub some of the tears from his eyes and actually see Aizawa, because when he opened his eyes all he could see was a blurry shape behind the tears that filled his eyes. He couldn’t even do that much, though, and he watched, shaking and tired and weak, as the bleary shape of Aizawa came closer.

Aizawa never hurt him. Never intentionally and very rarely unintentionally. Hitoshi could could the number of times on one hand when Aizawa had caused him pain. A couple times Hitoshi had missed a block during training and Aizawa’s hand had accidentally wound up in his face. Once Aizawa had been trying to help him out of a tangle of blankets Hitoshi had gotten himself into during an episode and had pulled too tight. He was always wary, always aware, like he knew exact how much and what would hurt Hitoshi.

He’s been through it too, Hitoshi reminded himself, remembering the things Aizawa was never quite shy about sharing with him. Most pro heroes experience chronic pain… and he has since he was my age. Even Yamada does.

That was definitely why they were so understanding, why they never took ‘no, nothing’s wrong with him, it’s all in his head’ as an answer from doctors when Hitoshi’s old foster parents would’ve been overjoyed at such a direct denial of Hitoshi’s problems. They knew—they knew him, knew what he was going through, knew what it was like. Hitoshi had quickly learned while living here that the experience they had with exactly what Hitoshi was going though meant everything.

Aizawa went slow. Gentle. Like always. He always picked Hitoshi up in the same way, whether he was moving him after he’d fallen asleep on the couch or because Hitoshi literally could not move himself, like now.

He fit an arm under Hitoshi’s legs and braced the other around his shoulders, slowly lifting him up into his arms. There were a lot of other ways Aizawa could potentially carry him, but he always chose this way—the way a parent would carry a very small child. Aizawa was the only person Hitoshi could ever remember holding him and carrying him like this.

Aizawa didn’t move immediately. For a long moment, when he stood back up with Hitoshi safely in his arms, he just stayed there, Hitoshi held close to his chest. He could feel the heat radiating off of Aizawa’s body and it warmed him to the core, calming that horrible, painful fire inside of him as he finally started to relax.

In the bathroom next to Hitoshi’s room, he could hear Yamada looking through the well-stocked first-aid kit they kept in the cabinet. Even after everything they’d been through tonight, their first priority was Hitoshi—taking care of him, comforting him, making him feel safe after what felt like days and days of panicking about whether or not they were heavily injured.

Hitoshi let out a breath and finally, the tears started to slow down. They still fell, rolling down his cheeks and dripping off his jaw onto either his own clothes or Aizawa’s. Though, Hitoshi thought with just a little amusement, being cried on couldn’t possibly be worse than plunging down into a river after a bridge collapse.

Hitoshi always thought that Aizawa and Yamada were amazing, but it was never more evident than right now, when the two of them were so focused on helping him instead of sleeping off their definite exhaustion after saving the lives of tens of people. Hitoshi was lucky, and he knew it. He couldn’t have gotten better parents.

That was why his time often felt so limited. Aizawa and Yamada always told him this was for forever, that they were his parents now and they were family and neither Hitoshi nor them were going anywhere. But Hitoshi had spent so long with terrible luck, being passed from one house to the next, that it was the only thing he knew. Bad luck was what he was used to, and sometimes in the darkness when he was alone with silence, his brain told him that someday his luck would suddenly run out and this all would disappear completely.

Hitoshi sniffled and gathered his strength, able to turn his head up a little. He blinked his eyes hard, doing everything he could to clear the tears from his eyes so he could see and gradually, Aizawa came into view, staring down at him, dark eyes heavy with exhaustion but filled with a warmth that Hitoshi totally forget about the strict, mean teacher he was supposed to be at UA.

“Are… Are you alright?” Hitoshi asked, his voice breaking and weak. He tried to clear his throat, but it didn’t do much. It was alright; Hitoshi had stopped sobbing and could speak somewhat intelligibly now. “You guys kind of went through a lot tonight…”

Now that he was up close, he could see a bandage on Aizawa’s head, wrapped twice around it and Hitoshi frowned, worry suddenly lighting up inside of him.

“I’m fine,” Aizawa answered quickly, as if he could sense the way Hitoshi was already starting to spiral. “There was a could superficial cuts on my head. Nothing that required more than a couple stitches. The tests all came back clear for both me and Hizashi.”

Hitoshi breathed out, his anxieties leaving him once more. His parents always knew what to say to calm him down. All Hitoshi needed was assurance and information. He knew they’d been run through a battery of tests, especially for head injuries, but it was a relief to hear again that everything had come back clear. It really was a miracle that neither one of them had been very hurt. The worst part, Yamada had said in the car, laughing a little, was that his jacket had been ruined by the water and the press had photographed him looking rough with his hair down and backup civilian clothes on.

Actually, it wasn’t a miracle. Aizawa and Yamada were amazing. They were exactly the kind of heroes Hitoshi wanted to be.

Again, he was reminded of what Aizawa always told him. How he went through exactly what Hitoshi did, how he still had his flares and bad days and even his episodes. How Yamada had chronic pain, too, and so did a lot of the pros they worked with. And yet, Aizawa and Yamada were so amazing. Despite going through what Hitoshi was feeling right now, they could pull off amazing things like they’d done tonight.

“I hope I can save people someday like you and Yamada did tonight.”

He said it without thinking, his body starting to unwind and relax in Aizawa’s arms. His head buzzed and swam with pleasant warmth, nothing like the fire of pain he’d felt not long before.

“You will,” Aizawa assured him simply. He always talked in this way that left no room for argument, like everything he said was an indisputable fact. Something about that was comforting—Aizawa always said what was on his mind, so if he was telling him this now then he truly, genuinely meant it. “We’ll keep training. Soon enough you’ll be better than both of us. You’ll do great things.”

In that moment, as Aizawa held him close in their silent house, as they heard Yamada in the background, rummaging around and looking for something to help treat Hitoshi’s bleeding, Hitoshi actually believed him.

It was so easy, sometimes, to believe the things Aizawa said to him. He was always so blunt, always saying what was on his mind. If this was what was on his mind, then it must be true.

Aizawa was like him. Yamada was, too, though maybe not to the same extent. They understood. They wee here with him now, taking care of him and making sure he was alright, even after an undoubtedly long, tiring day. If Aizawa could be a great hero even while living with the same pain and uncertainty of when he’d fall into another flare of bad days, then Hitoshi could, too.

After all, he’d always idolized Aizawa. Ever since he’d been a child. Hitoshi’s fascination with Present Mic had been much more of a recent thing—Hitoshi had never paid much mind to popular heroes as a kid—but he looked up to Yamada just as much as he did Aizawa now. Hitoshi wanted to be like them in every way—they were good people, good teachers, good heroes. The best role models Hitoshi could possibly ask for. If they could be heroes while knowing the same pain Hitoshi did, then there was no reason he couldn’t be either.

“You’ll be more comfortable in your room,” Aizawa told him quietly, not waiting for Hitoshi to respond to his genuine encouragement.

“Anything’s more comfortable than the floor,” Hitoshi agreed, finding it in himself to be a little amused. It was true; the wood floor had been just about the most uncomfortable place Hitoshi could think of, besides something like an actual pit of spikes. Though, the floor had felt like that too.

His bed seemed even more attractive than ever now. It wasn’t that Hitoshi had forgotten about the burning he’d felt when he’d woken up tangled in his sheets and blankets, but he was missing the soft mattress, the comfortable pillow, the access he had to things like his phone and books and computer so he could do things besides just lay there if he had the strength. And he missed having his parents with him there, being comfortable and able to drift off to sleep listening to them, knowing they were right there, never far away.

Aizawa didn’t say anything more. He didn’t need to. He went carefully, as if afraid that if he moved too fast Hitoshi would cry out in pain or worse, fall again. His room was only steps away, though, and before Hitoshi knew it they were back.

Aizawa turned on the soft light in Hitoshi’s room. Not the bright, overhead one that always hurt his eyes when he was having days like the one he was having today, but the soft yellow light that sat on his bedside table. He flipped it on before setting Hitoshi down, flooding the room with a dim light that didn’t pull at HItoshi’s eyes, letting him see both his own room and Aizawa.

Aizawa set him down a moment later, even more carefully, laying Hitoshi on his back with his head resting on his usual pillow.

Hitoshi immediately felt his limbs unravel, falling apart, the tension disappearing from them as he instantly relaxed. He let out a long breath, his eyes sliding shut for a moment, and calmness took over his brain, grabbing hold of him and hugging him tight. FInally, he was back in his own bed. He was safe. His family was, too. It was alright.

Things were truly okay.

Aizawa took his seat beside Hitoshi’s bed. He didn’t have to open his eyes to watch him; he heard Aizawa straighten his desk chair and roll it closer before sitting down in it. When he did open his eyes again, he found Aizawa in the same place he’d been earlier when he’d sat with Hitoshi—right next to the bed, near Hitoshi’s head, bathed in the calm yellow light from Hitoshi’s bedside table.

On the table, the digital clock blinked with changing numbers. It’d just past four in the morning.

Hitoshi definitely felt like tonight had taken far longer than just an hour. It felt like it’d been a decade, an eternity—but at the same time, Hitoshi was glad it hadn’t been that long. Glad that everything that had happened had been limited, with a set end time, that time being the second Aizawa and Yamada had come home and taken care of him, showing up with barely more than a few scratches and bruises.

Yamada was in the kitchen now, but it wasn’t for long. Hitoshi didn’t have time to say anything before he was in Hitoshi’s doorway, wearing a smile that would be foreign at school or in an interview but was familiar here, close and personal, his smile gentle and tired but still full of light.

Aizawa and Yamada genuinely loved him. Hitoshi knew that for sure.

Yamada didn’t linger. He came into the room without saying anything and sat on Hitoshi’s bed, just beside his legs, and let out his own relieved sigh.

Finally, Hitoshi broke the silence.

“I was so worried,” He started in a soft voice, glancing between his parents. Aizawa, who sat at his bedside with bandages wrapped around his head and an exhausted but warm expression and Yamada, still smiling quietly at him. Hitoshi focused on him. “I… didn’t get to talk to you before I fell asleep today and I was just… really scared that I hadn’t gotten to say something before…”

He swallowed hard, unable to say it out loud. They all knew, though. Hitoshi was talking about his worst fear, not for the first time and definitely not for the last time. It never got any easier to say. No matter how comfortable Hitoshi got talking to his parents about things.

“I know, Hitoshi,” Yamada said, the smile falling from his face just a little, giving way to a more serious expression. “I know.”

Beside him, AIzawa’s hand came to a rest on Hitoshi’s shoulder. Hitoshi moved his head, tilting it back on his pillow to look up at him. Aizawa stared back at him with his dark eyes, the whites of his eyes still tinged with red from overusing his quirk today. In the light, Hitoshi could see his bruises, a few on his face. There was a small cut bandaged just below the existing scar under his eye. His jaw was lightly bruised. Hitoshi was sure there were more bruises on him, more cuts, more minor injuries. Same with Yamada.

He glanced back at Yamada, looking at him closely. He wasn’t bandaged as much as Aizawa, but his lip looked like it’d been split and he had some bruising around his eye, not quite enough to be a black eye but enough to be noticable. Hitoshi sucked a shay breath in; even without any major injuries, his parents hadn’t come out unscathed.

“We’ll make sure it doesn’t happen again,” Yamada went on, meeting Hitoshi’s eyes and holding his gaze as he spoke. “Someone should’ve called you and told you what was happening, but we made the mistake of making our emergency contact the same person who we rely on to tell you. That was our fault. How about we work on a backup plan tomorrow? We all need our sleep tonight and since we’re all staying home tomorrow, that’d be a perfect time to do it.”

Hitoshi didn’t know what to say. It was equal parts exactly what he needed and still not quite a solution. Because it didn’t fix the underlaying problem. But nothing could. Hitoshi had been adopted into a loving family of two pro heroes who he looked up to and wanted to be like. Danger was in the job description. It could be hard to be so proud of his parents’ achievements like tonight when he was now involved in it, constantly worrying that he was going to lose the only family he had.

He knew for a fact that Aizawa and Yamada had already toned down their hero work after adopting him. They’d never told him directly, but Hitoshi knew. He’d spent the better part of the last decade as Eraserhead’s number one fan, tracking his movements and any information he could find about him. He knew that Eraserhead was mainly taking care of minor things now, doing more routine patrols, taking on less of the bounty hunting he was known for and more of the tasks of a hero contracted out to a certain district. He worked with other people more now.

And Yamada had done the same. Present Mic was no longer often involved in big villain fights, the ones that were all over the news and the internet. His radio show was bigger than ever, as was his media presence, and because of that, no one really seemed to notice that he’d started to fade a little from hero work. But Hitoshi noticed. He noticed everything.

He couldn’t ask them to retire. He wouldn’t. They were his parents; this was their life dream. They’d been like Hitoshi once, hero hopefuls at UA, wanting nothing more than to become heroes themselves. Hitoshi couldn’t ask them to leave that.

He couldn’t lose his hero role models, either. So Hitoshi was stuck between a rock and a hard place.

He just nodded in response. It wasn’t the solution to the underlying problem, but what Yamada was suggesting was a preventative measure that would prevent what had happened to Hitoshi tonight. If he had been able to get ahold of who he was supposed to call, Hitoshi wouldn’t have gotten the idea in his head to try to leave his room on his own and thus, he wouldn’t have fallen and hurt himself even more. So it was a solution. Just not a permanent one.

Hitoshi looked away. He couldn’t meet either of his parents’ eyes. Instead, he laid his head back and stared up at the ceiling, trying to trace patterns in it as he thought.

“I really am sorry—” He said, half to himself and half to his parents. “—That I tried to get up like that. I guess I knew it wouldn’t work.”

He remembered the run of confidence he’d felt when he’d been able to stand up. That was when the idea had actually formed in his head that he could do it, that if he just did what everyone else told him his entire life and pushed himself, he’d be able to make it. Just like all those people, he’d been wrong. It wasn’t a matter of Hitoshi’s determination or drive. No amount of confidence or even energy would be able to break past his bodily limits. It hadn’t been possible and Hitoshi’s time on his feet had been limited. Deep down he’d known that, but had still taken his chances. Stupidly, he now realized.

“It’s alright.” It was Aizawa’s turn to speak and comfort Hitoshi. He gently rubbed Hitoshi’s shoulder, moving his thumb in circles just like before, just like he always did when he was comforting him. Hitoshi focused on that, on his touch, on the way it soothed that itch for affection deep inside of him. “You didn’t do anything wrong. You were just trying to get in contact with someone. We were on our way home, anyways, and you didn’t hurt yourself too much. We’ll just have to come up with a way to make sure it doesn’t happen again.”

In response, Hitoshi felt the sting of his lip, the pain he’d been ignoring all this time. He could still taste rust in his mouth, the familiar taste of blood, but he wasn’t sure if he was bleeding anymore. He was able to raise a hand to feel at his lip—which made Yamada jump into action.

“Oh—Hitoshi, I have something we can put on that. It’ll help the bleeding and make it not hurt so much. I have your medication, too.” He moved up, sitting closer to Hitoshi, letting him see him even better now that he was right at his side, just inches from Aizawa. The three of them were so close together. In an entire house, silent and filled with empty rooms, the three of them were all here, close to Hitoshi, close enough that Hitoshi would just have to reach his hand out and he could touch either one of his parents.

This was closer than any of his foster parents had ever let him get, always saying that he was a danger, that if he came too close he’d surely brainwash them.

The storm inside Hitoshi’s head had finally died down, calming into quiet. His head was near-silent, without any of the usual overwhelming emotions and circling thoughts and constant anxieties. It was never like this when he was alone. Only when his parents were with him. He latched onto their calmness, onto their always collected demeanors, holding on tight. He’d always had a tendency to pick up the emotions of others and unintentionally wear them himself, but with Aizawa and Yamada that was never a bad thing. He could relax with them. Being around them was like taking a break from the non-stop barrage of thoughts and emotions from the rest of the world.

“I’m glad you’re alright,” Hitoshi murmured, his eyes sliding shut as yamada leaned forward and applied ointment to a cut caused by biting his lip in nervous anxiety.

He didn’t get a verbal response from Aizawa, but he didn’t need one. Instead, Aizawa’s hand left his shoulder, moving up until his fingers carded through Hitoshi’s wild, messy hair. Hitoshi let out another shaky sigh as Aizawa brushed through his hair, careful to not mess up Yamada’s work, and the rest of the worries left him as he exhaled.

Everything was alright. His parents were alright. They were back now. They were with him. Hitoshi was alright. He was alright because they were alright. He’d be alright as long as they were.

Hitoshi was aware that there was something different about him. Something beyond his pain, beyond the unknown thing that took him completely out of commission some days, beyond the sickness and hurt he’d always lived with. No, this was something that laid heavy in his relationships with other people.

Aizawa and Yamada were the only people Hitoshi had ever been able to bond with. Until Aizawa had taken him as his protege, Hitoshi had actually thought he was broken, that his quirk had turned him into something that couldn’t connect with other people, a being so different and separate from other people that he couldn’t even form human relationships. Hitoshi had since learned that was wrong, that the truth laid in the opposite—Hitoshi had always wanted a connection, an attachment, but there’d never been anyone he could trust. His history had left him so wronged and betrayed that Hitoshi just hadn’t been willing to let anyone else get close enough to hurt him.

That was, of course, how that therapist Aizawa and Yamada dragged him to weekly described it. But Hitoshi thought there was actually a lot of truth in there. Maybe that therapist knew what she was talking about.

And maybe that was why it calmed Hitoshi so much to have them here.

 

They didn’t talk much after that. The three of them were all tired and had long days. Hitoshi was exhausted from his attempt at walking and then subsequent fall and panic. Aizawa and Yamada needed their rest after a long night and a hero mission gone awry.

Yamada gave Hitoshi his medication and it wasn’t long before it started to take effect. Hitoshi didn’t remember much beyond that; it had a tendency to knock him out, blanketing his pain and making him unable to keep his eyes open anymore. He knew, though, that Aizawa and Yamada both stayed with him, talking, telling him about what had happened on their patrol, until Hitoshi drifted off.

He must’ve asked one of them to stay with him, because Hitoshi woke up a couple hours later and discovered Yamada still here with him, looking like he’d fallen asleep reading a book that was still in his lap, still sitting on Hitoshi’s bed.

The house was once again silent, the world outside Hitoshi’s window still dark, but Hitoshi’s head remained quiet. The pain was still dulled, still manageable, and Hitoshi was careful to not stir Yamada, sleeping sitting up against the wall at the end of the bed, as he rolled over and went back to sleep.

Hitoshi fell back asleep without a problem.

 

Either he or one of his parents had turned off his alarm, because by the time Hitoshi woke up, the world outside was lit bright and light was streaming through Hitoshi’s bedroom window. The outside no longer felt universes away and for the first time since falling into a bad episode, Hitoshi actually felt like he was part of it.

Yamada wasn’t here anymore—at some point he’d left and gone to sleep in the room nextdoor with Aizawa, but the world was bright and new now, not dark and faraway, and Hitoshi could handle it now.

Besides, he wasn’t really alone. His head was quiet and his parents were in the next room, so close that all Hitoshi had to do was call out and they’d come. But he wouldn’t, because he was alright. Everything was alright.

Today, all three of them were going to stay home. They’d spend the time together and recover from yesterday with each other.

It was alright. And as Hitoshi laid here in his bed, basking in the warm sunlight that streamed through his window, he thought about what Aizawa had said, how he’d told him that someday, Hitoshi would make a great hero. Both he and Yamada believed that, the two people who knew Hitoshi and all his difficulties and troubles best. They knew him, and yet, they still believed in him.

So Hitoshi could believe in them, too. Even if he still sometimes felt like his time here was limited. Even if he had his doubts.

If they thought he could do it, he could.

Hitoshi blinked the rest of the sleep from his eyes and slowly pushed the blankets down, stretching his legs out and then reaching his arms high above his head, spreading his fingers wide and shaking the sleepiness from his body.

Hitoshi didn’t even realize it until he was done stretching—

The pain was still there, but it was dull. Barely there. Barely still bothering him.

A smile tugged at Hitoshi’s lips. He was coming out of his bad episode. This was proof. He was doing better. He was alright. Soon, he’d be able to go back to school. He could go back to training with Aizawa again. He’d catch up on the days he missed. He’d tell all his new friends that he’d just been sick and he was fine now and he’d try not to think about the fact that the good times would end once more and Hitoshi would be plunged back into a flare up.

He was getting better. He wasn’t all the way there yet. He still had to rest and sleep and take it easy, but there was a chance that tomorrow he’d be able to go back to his normal life.

Not today, but tomorrow it might change.