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Now My Neck Is Open Wide, Waiting for a Fist Around It

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“Shinsou, I need to speak with you.” Aizawa’s voice is quiet, a bitter edge to it that sends warning signals to Hitoshi’s brain. Hitoshi walks back into the classroom he had just left, facing the older man.

Hitoshi swallows. “Sure.”

Aizawa walks out of the classroom, Hitoshi trailing behind him. They walk past the teachers lounge, further and further down parts of the building Hitoshi has never seen. Hitoshi doesn’t try to make small talk, not with the ominous aura exuding from Aizawa. After two years of training with the man, Hitoshi has come to recognize his various moods; this is one Hitoshi has never seen.

The hallway grows dim, some of the lights flickering. Aizawa looks at Hitoshi, then sighs. “Don’t look so scared. This isn’t meant to be a punishment, but we can’t have anyone listening in. Even the walls have ears.”

“We?” Hitoshi asks, raising an eyebrow.

“The school.”

They reach a silver door, with a keypad and scanner that Aizawa sets an identification card against it. The door opens with a click, and Hitoshi follows Aizawa inside.

 


Hitoshi sucks in a breath of air as Bakugou sets off yet another explosion in the distance, his chest fighting for air after almost an hour of fighting. But now he can see the portal man, Kurogiri, begin to open a warp, and knows this is his only chance.

He's sprinting, using the muscles he had painfully built up with Aizawa. He ducks under a petty villain Tsuyu and Uraraka had tagged teamed as she flies through the air. He does not envy the way her back slams against the wall.

Kirishima, Kaminari, and Sero are facing against 4 villains of their own. Internally, his instincts scream at him to help, but he has a bigger task at hand. He'll have to apologize to them- if he ever gets the chance to that is.

 


“We both know about the League of Villains.” Aizawa has pulled out two chairs, and now they sit across from each other. The room is empty save for a few other chairs and a flimsy looking table. The walls are sleek and shiny, and there are no windows.

“No.” Hitoshi stares at Aizawa. “I know nothing about the terrorist organization that attacked our class 20 times while All Might was around last year.”

“Hitoshi.” Aizawa mumbles, and Hitoshi slams his mouth shut, waiting expectantly. Aizawa takes a piece of his scarf in his hands, and the fabric crinkles as he clenches his fist. “The school and the police agencies are still trying to stop the League at any cost. There have been too many heroes and civilians  killed because of them.”

Hitoshi nods. Nearly every night now, there’s some story about what the League has done. Some store robbed or some hero assassinated. Even Stain couldn’t live up to their fame, not when the League of Villains seemingly knew the weaknesses of every hero in existence.

“There is a mole within the school giving information to the League.” Aizawa states, voice flat. His eyes are tinged with red though, his teeth grit. “We also suspect there is at least one person in the League of Villains with some sort of analysis or information gathering quirk. The only issue is locating these individuals and bringing them into custody. As of now, the main tactic has been planned infiltrations into the league, to figure out who exactly these individuals are. However, anyone who has been sent in was found dead within a week.”

 


Hitoshi stumbles, narrowly avoiding being hit by one of Todoroki's ice tracks. Todoroki speeds up to him, pausing for a moment to mutter "Sorry" before chasing after an escaping villain.

Hitoshi shakes his head, getting rid of the clogging thoughts. He had to make it in time if this was going to work. He runs with renewed speed, the sounds of battle fading into the background as he focuses on his goal.

He leaps over a fallen beam, the portal only a few yards away. He can see their leader of sorts, Shigaraki standing just outside it.

This is just the chance Hitoshi needs, the one Aizawa has been preparing him for.

 


“Everyone is desperate to figure out the League. It’s inner workings. It’s informants. We need someone inside the League to give us that information. I suppose now its reached the point where they’re desperate enough to try sending in a child.”

Hitoshi narrows his eyes, his mind connecting the dots at last. Hitoshi freezes, mouth agape as he sputters, “Me?”

“They asked me to pick a third year.” Aizawa growls, and its only then that the full force of his anger washes over Hitoshi. “Someone who could ‘handle’ it. Dumbasses.”

Hitoshi looks down, staring at his hands. He looks back up at Aizawa. “I’ll do it.”

Aizawa’s scarf falls out of his hands, his hair standing on edge as his eyes flash at Hitoshi. “You know you’ll most likely be killed. You know that. The point of this was for you to say no so I could finally talk the police force out of this and not have to endanger the lives of any of students.”

“I know.” Hitoshi closes his eyes. “But they’ve taken just as much from me as anyone else. Besides, I’m the best student you have to handle this, with the training we do outside of class. I could save a lot of people too, finally be a hero and all that.”

“Hitoshi.” Aizawa warns.

“I know!” Hitoshi shouts, gritting his teeth as his eyes start to burn. Hitoshi shudders, whispering, “I know.”

Aizawa reaches out, and Hitoshi falls into the hug. Aizawa has his arms wrapped around him tighter than they ever have been.

“Two months. They’re giving me two months to prepare you. And then they want me to send you in.”

 


Hitoshi skids to a stop, jumping back when Shigaraki turns on him, fingers nearly brushing against Hitoshi's face.

"Wait." Hitoshi huffs, and Shigaraki pauses, finger only an inch or so away from Hitoshi's eye.

"What is it, hero?" Shigaraki sneers, and Hitoshi makes sure to steel his voice against  terror.

"Heroes?" Hitoshi chuckles for good measure; it’s bitter and angry, just what he's going for. "What makes you think I'm one of them? A bunch of idealistic liars."

"So?" Shigaraki snaps, but Hitoshi hopes that he's not just hearing the curiosity brimming at the edges of it.

"Let me join you." Hitoshi breathes, forcing a smile on his face. His words burn like bile in his throat but he spits them out, thinking of the people he could help if he just succeeds.

"What? We're just going to take any kid back with us now?" Hitoshi freezes as a wave of heat grows from behind him, the acrid smell of smoke curling into his nose.

"Dabi." Shigaraki greets, drawing his hand back. "This kid says he's sick of heroes."

"A third year in the hero course at U.A? With a provisional license? As if." Dabi snorts, the smoke starting to circle around Hitoshi. Hitoshi can feel sweat start to drip down his neck, suddenly much more aware of the sheer danger he is in.

"Probably." Shigaraki wheezes out, just as Kurogiri shrinks the edges of the portal and says. "We need to leave."

"Shinsou! Get out of there!" Hitoshi shoots his head up when he hears Aizawa yell from a distance. He turns to see Aizawa standing on the edge of a building, capture scarf held up high. He is staring at Hitoshi, and even with the distance between them, Hitoshi can feel the support coming from his teacher, the silent message that says to stay strong. And suddenly, Hitoshi knows exactly what he needs to do to win Shigaraki and Dabi’s trust.

"And what? Come back to all you worthless heroes? You've never done anything for me. You've never done anything for anyone." Hitoshi screams, projecting his real, but much weaker, frustrations with the hero society. "The hero course is a sham. It always has been. You're just creating a bunch of fakes."

Out of the corner of his eye, Hitoshi can see his classmates turn to him, but he doesn’t dare look away from Aizawa’s face. Hitoshi doesn’t know if he could stand looking at anyone else right now.

Hitoshi wishes they could know- god how he wants them to. But it can’t be any other way, not if Hitoshi wants to stay alive and get the information they need.

"Take him. He might be useful." Shigaraki mutters, and Hitoshi's world goes dark before he can make another sound.

He can almost imagine Aizawa’s eyes staying pinned on him as he falls.

 


When Hitoshi opens his eyes, there is a gag over his mouth and ropes binding his wrists. He blinks, trying to clear away the fog in his mind. At least the pain in his head tells him exactly how he got knocked out.

"The brat's awake." A voice that Hitoshi loosely recognizes as Dabi's grunts.

"Good. Patch through to sensei. We'll let him talk first." Hitoshi hears Shigaraki, and feels his blood run cold, his mind very much awake at the mention of this 'Sensei.'

Hitoshi had watched the fight between All Might and ‘Sensei’ a few months ago. How the man had warped and contorted and fought blow for blow with Japan’s greatest hero. Hitoshi had visited All Might, blinking away tears as he saw the man that had been a mentor figure for two years lie broken on a hospital bed, barely clinging to life.

Too late, Hitoshi realizes that he needs to breathe. Taking in a deep breath as nonchalantly as possible, and letting it out in similarly, Hitoshi tries to get his nerves under control. He had been over this situation countless times in the training before this. He knows his cover story and how to handle himself. But those were only done in theory. Not sitting tied up around a group of people who would kill him without ever looking back.

Hitoshi begins to take in his surroundings to distract from his labored breaths; he’s in some sort of concrete building. Hitoshi is sitting against a wall, Dabi standing near his left, a reptilian man to Hitoshi’s right. The room is sparsely decorated, a square couch and coffee table the only furniture. A small bar of sorts sits on the other side of the room, where Kurogiri is watching the situation with blank eyes. Nothing sits on the walls, save for a few burn marks and bits that are disintegrated away.

Shigaraki lounges on the couch, Toga rests near him, lazily tossing and catching a small pocket knife. So now he can assume he's in at least some part of their main facility, since half of their main members are here.

Suddenly though, part of the wall besides the bar slides away to reveal a television. It flickers with static, but Hitoshi swallows as the static starts to give way to a clear picture. All Hitoshi can see from his position is a dark room, with one light on in the background. There is a figure encased by shadows, sitting languidly.

"Tomura." Hitoshi schools his expression as the new voice trickles into his ears. It's raspy, smothered almost, but at the same time it's perfectly clear. It pierces into his mind, and even if Hitoshi had just woken up now, he would know that this is who the leader is. His voice radiates power, confidence, malevolence.

If Shigaraki was menacing, this man was a nightmare beyond legend. Hitoshi swallows again, wishing that his mouth was free so at least he had something. He is trembling, imperceptible, but enough that he feels like a child scared of the dark.

"Sensei. There's a boy from the U.A hero department who says he want to join us." Shigaraki seethes, scratching his neck. "There's something I don't like about him."

"Hmm. Let me get a look at him."

Hitoshi is dragged up by his wrists and shoved over in front of the television, Dabi chuckling when Hitoshi stumbles. Hitoshi can't see much of this Sensei, just a vague impression of a man with many, many wires sticking in and out and around him. In the background beside the chair, two blue orbs rest, although he can't see where they come from.

"Deku. Basic analysis." Sensei mutters, addressing someone behind him. The name startles Hitoshi. He has never heard of any villain using an alias that essentially means worthless.

"Shinsou Hitoshi. 17 years old. Quirk, brainwashing. Allows him to control the actions of any who respond to him verbally." The voice is small, contained, nervous. It almost doesn't sound like a villain's voice, but Hitoshi knows not to judge appearances alone. Regardless, this is the person Aizawa has labeled as the one with the analytic quirk. One of Hitoshi’s key targets.

"Good thing he's gagged then." Sensei comments, and Hitoshi frowns slightly.

"Is only known to control around 5 people at once. Unknown if he can control more or not. Has been receiving special attention from Eraserhead for some time. Has well developed physical combat skills. Most likely a good resistance to torture methods. Has been discriminated against because of the nature of his quirk, has probable cause for joining. Further information could be acquired to be absolutely certain of his loyalties and full capabilities." Deku finishes, and even if Hitoshi could speak, he would be speechless. Some of that information his classmates don't even know, let alone this complete stranger who- oh wait- is working for the League of Villains.

However, Sensei is silent as Deku retreats. Sensei places a hand around his chin and seems to peer at Hitoshi, and even when Hitoshi can’t see his face, it’s enough to make his insides squirm.

"…Bring him to me." Sensei decides finally, and Hitoshi can only hope that it means he is closer to being semi-accepted. "I want to see him "

Hitoshi fights the urge to close his eyes, hoping that he'll get lucky enough to get left conscious when they move him this time. But all it takes is a sharp stab of pain to the back of his neck for his world to go dark again.

Hitoshi wakes up this time as a foot connects with his stomach. His eyes snap open and he jumps back, muddled instincts screaming at him to run. He gags, coughing and wheezing as he tries to catch his breath.

"Took long enough." Shigaraki mutters while Hitoshi is left to regain his bearings. He is the same room he had seen through the screen. Hitoshi, unfortunately, is still gagged and bound at his wrists.

Hitoshi lifts his head up, and the first thing he spots is a massive bundle of wires and tubes, all leading forwards to the same spot.

"Now Tomura, everyone is different, and Shinsou looks like he needed a good rest anyways" Hitoshi gulps, recognizing the voice from the first syllable uttered. He wonders just how All Might ever stood against someone like this. He keeps his head lowered, memorizing the patterns of dust on the metallic floor.

"Release him," Sensei orders, and Hitoshi freezes up as he feels Shigaraki grow close. Cracked, graying hands reach towards his face and Hitoshi closes his eyes, waiting for a burst of pain. Instead, the ropes gagging him and binding him disintegrate into dust with a five-fingered touch from Shigaraki. Hitoshi is surprised he doesn't lose anything else in the process

Free, Hitoshi dares to stand, rubbing his sore wrists. He has a part to play now. "I didn't know you treated all of your potential members like this."

"Hey-" Shigaraki snarls, stepping towards Hitoshi.

"Tomura." Sensei warns, holding out a scarred hand. "I'm sure you'll be able to control his tongue in time. That is, if you even want to join us." Sensei has gone back to addressing Hitoshi, and Hitoshi has to stop himself from blanching at the instinctive wave of fear that rises up like bile in his stomach.

Sensei leans forwards, his form more wires than man, and gives a lazy grin. "You made quite the public spectacle of your 'turning.' And that causes quite the hassle for me. What makes you think we even want someone like you?"

"I don't care if you take me." Hitoshi spits out, dragging his mindset of years ago out from the corners of his subconscious and putting it on full display. "I'll find somewhere else. I'm tired of heroes. I'm tired of people giving up on me without even giving me a chance. I just figured this was the best way to get back at them."

"Simple minded. But you seem partly honest at least." Sensei leans back, considering Hitoshi for a moment before muttering. "Tomura, leave us for a moment."

Shigaraki looks ready to protest, but only gives Hitoshi a petulant glare before marching out past Hitoshi and slamming the door behind him.

"Deku." Sensei calls, and Hitoshi straightens slightly, hoping to get a description of the person at least. "I need you to go through initiation procedures."

Hitoshi can see a small figure peek out from behind Sensei's throne of wires, the two glowing orbs appearing once more. As they get closer though, Hitoshi can't help but tilt his head in confusion.

It was a boy, not any older than Hitoshi was. He looked unassuming on a surface level, with a short, demure stature. Freckles litter his cheeks, accompanied by dark, fluffy hair. The glowing orbs turn out to be a machine of sorts. One orb rests just above each ear, surrounded by faintly green curls. A metal band appears to loop around the back of his head, connecting the two orbs together.

But when Deku gets close enough for Hitoshi to see his eyes, Hitoshi's breath seems to vanish in an instant. Deku’s pupils are small with focus, the irises glassy and fogged over. There's something in those emerald eyes though, alive and sparking and glimmering with hints of an untapped wealth of secrets.

They almost seem like a promise to Hitoshi, although what for he can't quite figure out yet.

"Hello." Deku mutters, the orbs flashing as he talks. “Name?”

“Shinsou?” Hitoshi responds, eyes narrowing. Deku nods, tilting his head to the side as if processing the information.

“Quirk?”

“...Brainwashing.” Hitoshi snaps. “Don’t you already know this?”

Deku blinks, lips twitching down into a frown. “Test quirk please.” He whispers.

Hitoshi waits for Deku to continue, but that's all Deku says. They stand in silence for a moment, before Deku takes a step forward, silently prompting Hitoshi.

Oh.

Oh.

Of course they want to see his quirk in action. He reaches out across the bridge Deku has made and wraps himself around Deku's mind like a steel trap.

Deku's eyes go blank, the tenseness in his muscles disappearing as his body falls limp. "Spin around 5 times and bark like a dog."

Hitoshi keeps his eyes trained on a spot of floor behind Deku as the boy follows his instructions. It still twists his stomach to use his quirk like this.

When the light returns to Deku's eyes, Hitoshi snaps, "What? Are you just going to ask me questions we both already know?”

"Nothing. If you are really of any use you'll show us on your own." Sensei grumbles rather than having Deku answer, pausing as he seems to consider his options. For a brief second, Hitoshi wonders if he should try and grasp control over Sensei. The option is immediately shot down. There must be a reason Sensei is talking so freely with him, and regardless, it's far too early to be blowing his cover.

"Deku. Go with Tomura and take Shinsou to the block A holding chambers and make sure he is fed." Sensei says, and Hitoshi has to hold back a sigh of relief.

Deku doesn't move though, staring at Hitoshi with a look that Hitoshi can't decipher.

"Deku." Sensei snarls, a hand moving to press something. The blue orbs on Deku's head flicker and go dark, and in an instant, Deku's eyes grow wide with panic.

"Sorry. Sorry. Sorry." Deku rushes out, his hands coming up to tug at his hair. He goes to take a step forward, but draws his shaking foot back. "Thinking. I was just thinking."

"Make sure you follow orders." Sensei warns, but the orbs come back to life, and Deku calms significantly.

Hitoshi allows Deku to lead him out. Looking at the orbs in a new light. What did they do? Why were they so important? Hitoshi catalogs those questions for later, concentrating on the way Shigaraki's lip curls up in scorn when Deku explains Sensei's orders.

"Whatever. Deku." Shigaraki hisses, and Hitoshi sees the way Deku flinches.

"Dust man." Hitoshi is talking before he realizes it. Deku turns even faster than Shigaraki does, fear etched across his face as he frantically shakes his head.

"You-" The moment Shigaraki speaks, Hitoshi's trap is sprung. Shiragaki freezes, his arms going loose against his sides.

"You can go walk into a wall for about the next ten minutes." Hitoshi says, a grin curling over his face. Now this part of his quirk he doesn't mind.

Deku looks between Hitoshi and Shigaraki, who is now uselessly bumping into the nearest wall.

"You can keep going." Hitoshi states, and Deku nearly jumps out of his skin.

"I-I-" Deku takes one last look at Shigaraki, swallows, then nods, moving ahead.

The rest of their walk is a silent one, Deku expertly navigating the maze to corners and curves that Hitoshi knows he won't be able to remember. The walls of this new building are all metallic, shining eerily underneath the lights. Doors line the hallways, and Hitoshi loses track of the number of people he sees through each door window.

Deku eventually stops in front of a door. Hitoshi slides up behind him. He watches carefully as Deku bends down, looking into a pad next to the door's lock. With a mechanical whir, the machine scans Deku's eye, then unlocks.

Great. There's only a miniscule chance of him being able to get out of this room on his own. Hitoshi sighs; he'll just have to accept it for now.

Deku opens the door and Hitoshi slips inside quickly. It's not a bad room, in all fairness. It has a bed and toiletries, more than what Hitoshi was expecting.

Hitoshi turns, and Deku is staring at him again, like he had been before.

"What?" Hitoshi asks, and Deku jumps again. Deku seemed to jump a lot more than anything else.

"Nothing. Nothing. Nothing. Just thinking." Deku scrambles to get the words out, and Hitoshi waits silently. "Food. Soon. It should be here soon."

Deku shuts the door, leaving Hitoshi in near darkness. Hitoshi looks around the room once more, his feet robotically leading him to the bed. As he sits on the side of it, he gives a breathy chuckle.

He's in. He's really in. But now he's in. And he's on his own.

The chuckle soon turns into a full-body shudder, and Hitoshi has to swallow back a wave of nausea. His mouth his dry, and he runs a hand through his hair. Stupidly, he can feel his throat and eyes burning with the threat of tears. He runs another hand through his hair, and then another, and keeps doing it until the burning has stopped.

His dry mouth doesn't disappear, but it's all Hitoshi can do for himself at the moment.

He wonders if his adoptive parents would even worry about him. Well, they would care about the time and paperwork they would be forced to do to keep up the charade. His classmates might worry, or they would too angry to worry. Hitoshi doesn't know which one is worse.

The lock to his room suddenly clicks, and Hitoshi straightens.

It's Deku, holding a tray of food and peering at Hitoshi with questioning eyes. He sets the food down on the floor just in front of the door before silently walking out. The door locks shut behind him.

Hitoshi stands up, his legs a little wobbly, and walks over to the tray. He knows his stomach won't be able to hold anything down right now, but he might as well move the tray closer to his bed just in case. As he picks it up though, he notices something lying underneath the tray.

Narrowing his eyes, Hitoshi has to blink not once, but twice when he realizes that he's now holding nothing else but an old All Might keychain. Its worn down, the colors chipped and faded, but All Might's classic figure is still completely visible.

Hitoshi smiles, tucking the keychain into one of the pockets in his hero costume. All the other pockets were empty- he could feel it- and the suit itself was battered and dirtied from the fight before his capture. Hitoshi might as well get comfortable

Still, the weight of the keychain is a comforting presence, and Hitoshi goes to sleep rather peacefully, considering his situation.

Although, one thought remains in his mind, scratching at his thoughts for hours.

Who is this Deku?

Chapter Text

Hitoshi paces back and forth in front of his bed, a habit that he has quickly picked up in his time here. He hasn’t left the room in weeks, if his estimate of the time passed was accurate. He’s found it’s nearly impossible to tell time with food delivery as the only tell. At the least he had been given a change of clothes, out of his battered costume and into a loose pair of sweatpants and a shirt.

“Think Hitoshi, think. What can you do?” He mutters to himself, desperate to fill the silence with some sort of noise. The only other person he has talked to since that first day is Deku, and even then Hitoshi has only ever gotten a word or two from Deku every food visit. Hitoshi hasn’t brought up the keychain yet, waiting for Deku to mention it, but by now he’s thinking Deku will never mention it. Hitoshi needs something to go off of, a place to start. He can’t spend forever stuck in this tiny room. People are depending on him.

As if summoned, Hitoshi hears the door click. It’s Deku, as it always is, but this time Shigaraki stands behind him.

Shigaraki motions Hitoshi to follow with a wave of his hand, staying silent. Hitoshi supposes the man has learned his lesson from last time. Regardless, Hitoshi gives Deku a questioning look, trying to determine the motive behind the sudden summonings. Deku only moves his shoulders in a somewhat shrug, keeping his eyes downcast as he follows Shigaraki.

As they walk, Hitoshi looks at the other doors, trying to implant the numbers resting above each of them into his memory. He knows that his door is number 23, and that they are walking past the descending numbers, but the moment Shigaraki turns the corner Hitoshi finds himself somewhere entirely new. The sleek metal walls still remain, but the hallway is devoid of anything, save for the occasional light.

Soon they turn to the right, where a door sits at the end of yet another empty hallway. However, when Hitoshi makes it through, the metal walls are replaced with a rough, brick texture surface, reminiscent of the room where he had seen the members of the League. Hitoshi runs a hand along their surface, grounding himself from the worries about why Shigaraki only came for him now. Obviously Sensei must have ordered it, but that doesn’t exactly tell Hitoshi why. A part of him is hoping this is his chance to become more of a part of the League, the other part is praying that he goes back to the room after this so he doesn’t have to dirty his hands or end up dead himself.

The brick hallway leads to a more open room, where Kurogiri stands.

“Shinsou, correct?” Kurogiri steps closer, and Hitoshi nods. “I am here to test your physical prowess. Tomura, I- Deku, stand back against the far wall.”

Hitoshi rubs a hand against his wrist as Deku and Shigaraki step back. Wondering what exactly was expected of him, he steps closer to the smoky man.

“Hands only for the first round.” Kurogiri instructs. “I can assure you if you try to use me or any other person in this room to aid your escape you will not make it outside of this facility. He has already made provisions against that, and any attempts to escape will be met with lethal force.”

Hitoshi nods, swallowing. Welp, not as if he was going to try and escape, but at least now he wouldn’t be getting any second thoughts.

Hitoshi opes his mouth to respond, but Kurogiri throws a leg out, and it’s only years of training with Aizawa’s underhanded moves that allows Hitoshi to jump over it and throw a fist into Kurogiri’s stomach. Hitoshi feels the flesh concave slightly, but Kurogiri doesn’t even make a noise of pain.

Hitoshi flies backwards from Kurogiri’s punch, hacking up bile as he tries to catch his breath. He rolls to the side, watching a foot slam where his head was. Hitoshi leaps to his feet. Scanning Kurogiri’s blank face, Hitoshi edges backwards, searching instead for the tells of Kurogiri’s body that would give away his next move.

Kurogiri leans his left shoulder back. Hitoshi twists to the left, throwing his own punch after dodging Kurogiri’s. This time, Hitoshi doesn’t stop after Kurogiri doesn’t react, throwing as many blows as he can before leaping back to avoid a kick.

Hitoshi is breathing heavily, but not enough to slow him down yet. Kurogiri on the other hand, barely looks winded. As Hitoshi slows down and allows his mind to truly analyze Kurogiri, he begins to understand why. Kurogiri simply isn’t moving around- sure, he’s moving, but compared to Hitoshi’s style, which is all sharp jabs and quick footwork, Kurogiri’s precise, power filled strikes have been scarce. Kurogiri hasn’t had to come to Hitoshi because Hitoshi has com to him. So, Hitoshi waits this time, backing up from Kurogiri whenever the man moves closer. Kurogiri doesn’t rush him, and it gives Hitoshi the moments he needs in order to think of a plan.

Hitoshi waits until he is nearly backed into a corner. Hitoshi can’t help but smirk as he turns taking a running start and bouncing off the walls as he somersaults over Kurogiri’s head. Hitoshi barely sticks the landing, his knee slamming against the floor. Still, Hitoshi leaps to his feet and kicks Kurogiri with his good leg. He aims a punch for where Kurogiri’s head should be, and is thoroughly surprised when he actually hits something. Hitoshi strikes again, hoping that Kurogiri will be dazed enough to stop fighting.

An elbow comes and smack Hitoshi in the jaw, followed by a punch that sends Hitoshi sprawling. He pushes himself up, ready to keep fighting, but Kurogiri stops him with a raised hand.

“Enough. I’ve seen what I need to.” Kurogiri mutters, and a hand moves into his pocket to fish out something Hitoshi can’t see. Kurogiri walks over, and Hitoshi hears a click just before a pocket knife clatters to the ground beside him. Hitoshi stares at its metallic sheen and serrated edge, a cold numbness pooling out from his stomach.

“Pick it up.” Kurogiri gazes down at him, yellow eyes narrowing. “I am assuming you have at least wielded a knife before, if you really wanted to become a villain.”

“Of course I have.” Hitoshi huffs, remembering vaguely the class lesson given to them by Snipe recently on weapon safety. Hitoshi vaguely remembers being shown how to wield a knife, but the focus of the class had been how to disarm an armed assailant. Still, Hitoshi reaches down, feeling the cold base as his fingers wrap around it. He holds the blade away from him as he stands, pointing it towards Kurogiri.

Kurogiri holds his own knife almost lazily, twirling it around a few times before holding the knife downwards, with the tip towards the ground.

Hitoshi waits, scanning Kurogiri once more. Hitoshi doesn’t have a clue how to use a knife past this point, and absolutely not against an expert. Hitoshi can only hope to be able to match whatever Kurogiri throws at him.

Kurogiri slashes to the side, and Hitoshi leans back. He’d rather not figure out how to block with a knife by getting sliced first. Kurogiri doesn’t let up though, slashing again and again in attacks that are getting increasingly harder to avoid. Eventually, Hitoshi is forced to go for something, with his back against a wall.

Kurogiri’s blade comes down, glinting, and Hitoshi raises his own. Hitoshi grits his teeth as shockingly, his blade connects with Kurogiri’s. They stay like that for a second at most, Kurogiri bearing down his weight onto Hitoshi’s trembling arms, then Hitoshi is sent sprawling, his knife clattering against the floor.

“Enough.” Kurogiri sighs. “That is quite enough of that performance.”

Hitoshi rises to his feet, eyeing the smoke enshrouded man with wariness. Edging backwards, Hitoshi can see the scowl embedded into Kurogiri’s yellow, emotionless eyes clearly. He’ll take that as a sign that he royally screwed up the expectations.

“Shigaraki take him to Sensei. I’ll give my report while you go.” Kurogiri waves a hand, and Hitoshi feels Shigaraki walk up to his right. A single finger touches his shoulder with the promise for the rest to follow, and Hitoshi takes that as his cue to move.

Hitoshi keeps an eye on Deku, who is fidgeting with his hands in motions that vaguely resemble sign language. Deku turns to follow them, but is instead stopped by Kurogiri placing a hand on his shoulder.

Deku freezes, back shooting up like a rod. His orbs flicker for a moment before returning to the same gentle glow. Hitoshi barely catches Kurogiri’s mutterer of, “Stay here, we haven’t done our training for the week.”

Shigaraki pushes him out of the room before Hitoshi has the chance to see anything else though, and he lets Shigaraki lead him as his mind ponders over it. If Deku was simply a strategist and information collector, there wouldn’t be a need for any physical sort of training- which is what Hitoshi is assuming Kurogiri is in charge of. There are a limited amount of options too. The first is the most simplest, the League simply wants all of its members capable of combat. That is understandable, and Hitoshi should logically accept it. Still, he can’t help but wonder if the training had something to do with the orbs resting on Deku’s head. Even though the boy was his main companion of sorts, Hitoshi doesn’t have the faintest clue what the orbs are there for.

Most likely they are to compensate for something, but Hitoshi can’t see anything that would need compensating. No scars or visible issues. The only thing that is even slightly off is the glassy sheen to Deku’s eyes, but no machine has been invented to restore eyesight, and even if there was, surely it wouldn’t look like that.

Shigaraki gives Hitoshi an especially strong shove out of nowhere, and Hitoshi only just manages to catch himself against the sides of what appears to be an elevator. Shit. So enwrapped in his thoughts, Hitoshi had forgot to track his location.

Hitoshi curses under his breath, ignoring the way Shigaraki purposefully elbows him. Shaking his head, Hitoshi settles on tracking where he is from here on out. And at least they didn’t seem so keen on knocking him out now.

The elevator jolts, and Hitoshi is thrown off balance as it starts a rumbling descent. Shigaraki is still silent, and its then that Hitoshi makes the stupid decision to maybe try and glean some information.

“So? Get any bugs trapped in that mess on top your head?” Scratch that. Hitoshi needs to learn how to keep his sarcastic side in check everytime he goes to speak. He’s still a little too used to the freedom the classroom and the dorms offered him. And Hitoshi may or may not enjoy taunting people, if the grin the appears on his face at Shigaraki’s obvious anger says anything.

“Not going to answer? Aw man I was hoping to figure that one out,” Hitoshi drawls, leaning against the side of the elevator as he watches Shigaraki furiously scratch at his neck, teeth bared, yet still shut tight. “I mean, is this elevator supposed to lead to my death or are you guys just screwing around with the whole ‘it's probably going to collapse at any minute’ idea?”

Shigaraki stops scratching at that, a grin settling over his face, and any amusement Hitoshi had fades fast. His grip on the elevator becomes just a little bit tighter, Hitoshi wondering just what Sensei is planning on doing with him during their second meeting.

The elevator settles, and Hitoshi wordlessly steps through the entrance. The hallway is pitch black, with only one light swinging over a door at the end.

“You really like your ominous hallways, don’t you?” Hitoshi mutters under his breath as Shigaraki walks him forward. The comment does nothing to stop his heart, threatening to pound its way out of his chest.  

Hitoshi takes in a deep breath, trying to steady the sudden rush of nerves. There’s no reason for them to kill him now. If they truly wanted to they wouldn’t have kept him alive for so long. The same thing goes for torture; a more effective method would have been dehydration and starvation. As Shigaraki opens the door, Hitoshi sucks in another breath and immediately regrets it. A wave of decay mixed with the smell of formaldehyde- a familiar smell that clung to his adoptive father’s clothes after a day at the morgue- hits Hitoshi’s nose and he gags silently.  

“Tomura,” Sensei rasps, his voice hoarser, but loosing none of its undertones. Hitoshi feels himself tense as a chill runs down his spine, his eyes averting to the floor on instinct. “Would you mind going to talk to Dabi about next week. Shinsou and I have things to discuss privately.”

“Sensei,” Shigaraki whines. “I want to hear what he has to say. He’s pathetic. I don’t want to have to order around someone pathetic.”

“I understand that.” Hitoshi can hear the amusement, calculating and distant, that lingers as Sensei speaks. “Although I think you aren’t giving Shinsou enough credit. He did come to us all on his own. His brashness must count for something.”

“He’s weak. He didn’t even try to stab Kurogiri.” Shigaraki throws his hands in the air, frown etched against his chalky skin.

“A weakness you once had.” Sensei reminds Shigaraki. “You don’t have to worry about Shinsou. If he is to take any part in missions his weaknesses will be corrected.”

“Maybe,” Shigaraki grumbles, turning on his heel and walking out. As he leaves, the silence becomes crushing. Hitoshi’s breath puffing seems to fill the room. He raises his eyes, seeing that one of Sensei’s arms is sitting in some sort of solution, while his other is fully wrapped in bandages.

“I apologize for the unsightliness. There was an incident earlier today I had to handle and I’m afraid my body isn’t what it used to be.” Sensei leans forwards slightly as he speaks. “Come closer, I need to be able to see you.”

Hitoshi takes a couple steps, swallowing his hesitation. He knows he needs to keep his eyes off the floor and manages to raise them to midway up Sensei’s chest. Only then does Hitoshi think that maybe he should say something. Before he can think of anything though, Sensei continues.

“You know, there are quite a few who come to my League. Petty criminals and drug lords, people of every color.” Sensei grins, and Hitoshi feels trapped. “But I must say no one quite like you has dared approach us. A story built on half lies and half truth. So, I wonder if you’ll be willing to shed the lies.”

Hitoshi turns cold, goosebumps rising as he breaks out into a sweat. Had he really been figured out that fast? “What lies?”

“I am afraid nothing says hidden for long, not when I have such sharp minds around.” Deku, Hitoshi’s brain supplies. Deku is the one who had found something.

Sensei’s grin turns into an unforgiving sneer, and it’s only sheer willpower that keeps Hitoshi’s shoulders from curling inwards. His hands are trembling and he can’t stop them so instead he keeps them pinned at his sides. “What are you talking about? Specifically. I’m not exactly in the habit of telling the truth.”

“You never quite got around to telling me who you had connections to. I assume the name Shinsou Hindeki is familiar to you?”

“I-” Hitoshi closes his mouth, hands clenching into fists. He grits out, “Yes.”

“And I also assume you know his fate.”

“...Yes.”

“I killed your uncle, albeit indirectly, but grudges tend to linger.” Sensei’s sneer levels out slightly. “You don’t seem particularly upset.”

“It was a long time ago.” Hitoshi mutters, his voice stiff. “Besides, he’s the one who put my father into debt.”

“That is true,” Sensei concedes. “And he is the one who tried to stab me in the end. He left a scar on this arm.” Sensei tilts a head towards the arm that is wrapped, chuckling slightly. “You know he was a human trafficker.”

“No.” Hitoshi says, more habit than conscious thought. Hitoshi remembers of his Uncle is the ‘horse’ rides he would give Hitoshi as a kid. The presents and the late nights spent munching on popcorn and watching movies. Hitoshi also remembers the shouting Uncle Hindeki and his father would get into, words like “freeloader” and “useless bum” being thrown about. The arguments that then spread to his parents. His mother always told him after they moved away that his father had too big a heart.

“A twisted man really, becoming a Nomu didn’t change him all that much.” Sensei comments, and Hitoshi has to stop his fists from trembling- he doesn’t really succeed but he is trying. “Blood does run thicker than water though, and I’m sure you might want some kind of vengeance.”

Hitoshi stays silent, but after it becomes apparent that Sensei isn’t going to talk anymore Hitoshi gathers his thoughts. “I know now he tore my family apart, but I still loved him.” Hitoshi pauses, wondering how he should phrase his next statement. “I’m...bitter, but there’s no reason for revenge. He’s what killed my parents in the end, with all the trouble he brought.”

It’s actually a burglar that killed his father, and a freak car accident that landed his mother in the hospital, none of which were his Uncle’s fault. Regardless, Hitoshi has long moved on from all of it; however, it is an easy enough conclusion to come to for any other person. It’s also the one Sensei is most likely to believe.

“We’ll see.” Sensei dismisses with a slight upturn of his lips. “Quite soon actually. If you really want to prove your worth you might as well accompany Toga on her next expedition. We can consider it your inauguration.”

It takes Hitoshi a few moments to nod, and a few more to realize he should even out his breathing. He stands perfectly still, but Sensei doesn’t say anything else. Eventually Hitoshi’s arms relax at his sides, and its only then that Sensei speaks.

“Wait here until an escort comes to lead you back to your room.” Sensei instructs, leaning back in his chair. His lips smooth out into a smooth expression, and Hitoshi assumes he won’t be hearing anything else from Sensei.

Stumbling over to the nearest wall, Hitoshi collapses against it, to mentally drained to take a stock of the room. He closes his eyes, focusing on his breathing. It’s been years, he shouldn’t be having such a strong reaction to the mention of his parents- he thought he was past this. Aizawa told him grieving takes time, but that was nearly six years ago.

Hitoshi sighs, dragging a hand across his face. He doesn’t have time to ponder his mental state, he has to find out more, he has to learn more about the League. This isn’t about him, it’s about the sake of his home, his friends, and everyone’s safety.

A tap against the wall startles Hitoshi out of his thoughts, and he rests his cheek on his knees as he looks up to see Deku.

Deku glances at Sensei, the light in his orbs shrinking and travelling in a circle, like the loading icon on a computer.

“Are you scanning him?” Hitoshi asks, and the loading icon vanishes. The soft blue glow of the orbs highlighting the hesitance in Deku’s eyes as he nods. “Why?”

“Because…” Deku’s eyes flicker to Sensei for a moment, something akin to concern in them. “It’s my job.”

“Deku,” Hitoshi says, reaching into the pocket of his sweatpants to pull out the keychain, but before his hand is even inside the pocket, Deku is shaking his head frantically.

“Come on.” Deku turns around, walking to the exit. Hitoshi rises, following the smaller boy. As they walk Hitoshi looks over Deku. The dark circles under Deku’s eyes have become more pronounced, and somehow he seems more jittery. Deku’s hands tap at the wall as he walks, providing a constant backdrop of noise.

Hitoshi is proud of the fact he vaguely remembers the way back to his room, only getting a few turns wrong. As the get to the hallway with all the rooms, a scream pierces Hitoshi’s ears, and both he and Deku flinch.

Hitoshi runs a hand through his hair as another scream sounds, coming from one of the rooms near them. Deku’s face has twisted, looking pained as he places his hands over his ears. Still, the green haired boy marches forward, and Hitoshi is frozen for a moment, instinct telling him to investigate who was hurting but logic telling him to keep his head down and follow Deku.

Hitoshi trails after Deku, giving a silent apology to whoever it is that is still screaming. It sends chills down Hitoshi’s spine, and a firm reminder that he cannot afford to get caught. The screams tamper down into quiet sobs, and Hitoshi hears a feminine giggle that somewhat sounds like Toga.

Then Hitoshi hears something perhaps more peculiar, although less horrifying. Deku still has his hands pressed over his ears, yet he clicks his tongue in a consistent manner, as if trying to steady himself around the sound.

Hitoshi opens his mouth, but before he can say anything Deku stops clicking his tongue. Slowly removing his hands from his ears as he sighs in relief, Deku slows down too, bringing his feet together as he finds Hitoshi’s room.

Hitoshi slips in through the door, turning around as he reaches into his pocket once more. “Deku.”

“Nothing.” Deku shakes his head. “Nothing.”

“Bu-”

“Nothing.”

With that, Deku promptly closes the door, leaving Hitoshi alone with his thoughts once more.

Chapter Text

Hitoshi stares blankly at the pile of clothes Deku dropped at his feet. He raises an apprehensive eyebrow. “Is the mission today?”

 

Deku nods, but says nothing else.

 

Hitoshi picks up the first article of clothing, a black shirt, except its made out a material Hitoshi has never seen before. It’s cool to the touch, almost metallic in texture. “When is it?”

 

“Now,” Deku answers simply, and Hitoshi starts.

 

“Now?”

 

“Change first,” Deku says, as if that will make it better.

 

“You’d think I’d get an hour warning,” Hitoshi mutters, but he changes shirts regardless. He doesn’t bother with modesty or embarrassment, school gym classes making him long abandon such trivial thoughts. Besides, he’s actually halfway proud of his body, hardened from nearly three years training.

 

Deku’s silent escape goes unnoticed, Hitoshi only realized the boy had left when the door locks. Damn, Deku’s fast. He wonders if Deku had been embarrassed watching Hitoshi change; the thought gets an amused huff out of him.

 

Glancing down, Hitoshi raises his eyebrows at the outfit. He looks the same as he did with the old clothes on. The pants have more padding in them, although he’s not quite sure how that’s going to help him. He snorts. Maybe they were trying to kill him off naturally by giving him no equipment. Hitoshi shoves the hauntingly logical thought away before it can fester.

 

He takes the All Might keychain out of the old pocket of his pants, normally reassured by its presence on his person while he’s stuck resting in bed, trying desperately to get some sleep before his insomnia reigns freely. For now though, he tucks it in the space between the mattress and the bedframe. He can’t risk getting caught with it. He’s had one close call when Kurogiri came in to deliver food one time, and since then he’s been overly cautious with it. Deku’s reluctance to even speak of the object tells Hitoshi that revealing it will only result in some consequence, but for him or Deku he isn’t sure which. Either way, he won’t take the risk.

 

He still doesn’t know why Deku gave the keychain to him. It serves no practical purpose, there’s nothing hidden in it. It is simply a keychain. There’s no writing on it, no distinctive markings besides for its apparent age. It simply doesn’t make sense.

 

A light tapping at the door, just barely audible, pulls Hitoshi away from his thoughts. Right. The mission.

 

He’s been waiting for...a while, since it had been decided for him to go on this inaugural mission. Time gets harder to track in that room as the days go on. At least this mission would give him a chance to see the outside world.

 

Mentally, Hitoshi smacks himself. This is about getting information. If he does well on this job with Toga then he’ll be in a better position in the league. He needs to be accepted more than he needs a view of the outside. His body tells him otherwise, from his jumpy nerves to the pale hue of his skin.

 

The memory of holding a knife- the ice in his stomach at the thought of using it to actually hurt- kill - someone, hangs over him like a curse. A sharp inhale cuts through his numbing dread, reminding him once more that he doesn’t have a choice in this.

 

Chances are he’ll have to kill to keep his cover.

 

He looks to the door, surprised slightly that Deku hasn’t come back in. Was there actually time before the mission? Experimentally, Hitoshi calls out, “I’m done changing.”

 

The door clicks open. Deku beckons Hitoshi without looking at him, gaze instead lowered to the floor.

 

“So, where are we going?” Hitoshi asks after the silence becomes too much.

 

“Out. On the mission.”

 

Somehow, Hitoshi always forgets that Deku is the last person who would give him any sort of detailed answer. He bites his cheek to stop himself from snapping at the boy or using his quirk. Which one Deku would take worse, Hitoshi doesn’t know.

 

“But what is the mission?” Hitoshi runs a hand through his hair as he speaks, the strands brushing along his fingers grounds him..

 

Deku blinks slowly. “In the city…” he sounds confused, as if puzzled about why Hitoshi would have asked to begin with. “We’re going to leave a message.”

 

“Oh,” Hitoshi hums. That doesn’t sound too bad- he almost chuckles at the thought of the league scrawling graffiti messages in some alleyway. Maybe if the universe wants to give him a miracle, that’s exactly what it’ll be.

 

They take a different elevator from the one Shigaraki had taken to get to Sensei- Hitoshi still gets a chill at the memory, Sensei’s piercing voice echoing around him, “ I wonder if you’ll be willing to shed the lies.” Hitoshi peels his fist into a flat hand, one finger at a time, leaving crescent moon indents in his palms.

 

When the doors to elevator open with a loud creaking, Hitoshi recognizes the area in which he had first awakened. That time seems so distant now. It’s mostly empty, save for Dabi and Toga.

 

Toga’s cheery voice rings out clear. “Okay, okay, but how about I stab them first and then we talk.”

 

Dabi sighs. “We’ve been over this. Stabbing someone won’t solve an argument. Talk first, then stab.”

 

Toga sticks her tongue out, an action far too childish looking for a known serial killer. “That’s no fun.”

 

Dabi opens his mouth to retort, but something must signify Hitoshi and Deku’s presence to him, and he glances over with a scowl. “Just follow the plan this time.”

 

“What- oh! Deku! And brainwash kid.” Toga leaps over the back of the couch, bouncing over to the two of them. “You ready Deku? I can’t wait for the mission- ah, it’s been so long since I’ve been able to do something fun. It’s always, ‘No, you can’t kill her,” “Stay out of sight,” and “Don’t get caught.” It’s so boring.”

 

Deku nods. Hitoshi stays silent too, simply immersing himself in the feeling of all his hope of having a non-violent mission drain away.

 

“Ready?” Dabi questions with a raised eyebrow, cold gaze focused on Hitoshi.

 

Hitoshi swallows down his more tender emotions, making sure his expression is firm. He nods tersely, only getting a half amused, half condescending snort for his efforts. Dabi turns, and Hitoshi must admit he’s thankful the scarred man’s attention is off him. Toga is muttering to Deku now, who smiles faintly, but genuinely.

 

“Hey Toga.” Toga turns at Dabi’s call, grinning. “Is dry lips checking you out?”

 

“Nah- he said that I’m a big girl now.” Toga sing-songs, bouncing on one foot playfully.

 

“Good riddance.” Dabi plops back onto the couch, pulling out a phone. “Don’t be a dumbass.”

 

“I won’t.” Toga skips towards the bar. Deku follows, nodding at Dabi. Hitoshi trails after them hesitantly. Kurogiri walks in from somewhere behind the bar counter, giving the trio a spare glance as he moves to rearrange things. Hitoshi catches up to them quickly.

 

“Kuro, we need a warp,” Toga chimes, pushing herself up to sit on the counter, legs kicking.

Kurogiri hums. “I expected as much. Don’t act rashly, keep an eye on the newcomer.”

 

“Got it.” Toga gives a mock salute, leaping off towards the circle purple and black hole in space.

 

“Deku,” Kurogiri calls. “Put your training into good use if the situation arises. I want to see how you apply it to a real situation along with your usual report.”

 

Kurogiri pins Hitoshi with a narrow stare. Until now, Hitoshi hadn’t known how apparent an incorporeal face could express such disdain.

 

“Don’t make such a fool of yourself this time around.” Kurogiri’s voice is crisp, to the point, and although it was lower, raspier and lacking the weight, it still reminds Hitoshi of something Aizawa would say; a pang of loneliness rings, strong and true. He turns away, shrugging as if hoping the words will fall out of his ears and run down his shoulders to somewhere far far away where he doesn’t have to hear them and be reminded of what he left behind.

 

Toga has already gone through the portal. Deku waits for him patiently, only moving through once Hitoshi has made it clear that he’s planning on marching right through it.

 

He grits his teeth with his first step inside the portal, the uncertainty of it all nearly makes him pause, but he is far too proud to let that stop him. The portal is surprisingly warm. Static wavers behind his eyes, and he closes them to stop the incoming headache. He only opens them when the rank smell of trash smacks his unprepared nostrils.  

 

Toga giggles at the way he blanches, gagging. They’re in an alleyway that overflows with garbage bags and reeking of rotten food.

 

“Welcome to grand old Shizuoka prefecture.” Toga bows elaborately to both him and Deku. “Now, shall we continue?” She laughs at her own haughty accent, skipping along. Hitoshi follows her, not bothering to ask where they’re going. He’s gotten too many empty answers to consider it worth the effort, and besides, it’s not like he has much choice in the matter anyways, so why worry?

 

Aizawa would say that thinking like that is dangerous. It is, but then again this whole situation is one whole steampot of dangerous so Hitoshi feels justified.

 

It’s night, only a few faint stars are visible. Hitoshi smiles up at them, comforted by their presence. He feels as if he was expecting them to have disappeared in his time underground, which is ridiculous. The fresh air is a lifeline, and he takes it in with deep, quiet breaths. A smile breaks out across his face, and with a start he realizes he is...grateful. Gratitude is something he can’t afford to hold onto. Gratitude is an emotion that can be weaponized just as easily as spite or hatred- and even with his knowledge he had fallen right into it. He takes in the city to distract himself; they’re in the more run down area from what Hitoshi can see. No recognizable landmark can give him an exact location.

 

Thankfully the few people that are out give them a wide berth. Toga isn’t known for leaving witnesses. Who knows what Deku is capable of? As much as the boy has been kind to him, for as many peculiarities and hesitations surrounding him, Deku is still a part of the league for a reason. Hitoshi cannot afford to forget that.  

 

Toga hums as she skips, a tad too high pitched and a tad too cheery for Hitoshi’s tastes. It was also unreasonably loud, enough for him to grit his teeth. Deku seems blissfully unaffected, besides for the way his fingers drum a quick rhythm against his other arm.

 

Hitoshi was just about to throw away every survival instinct he has to ask Toga not so kindly to shut up when the humming stops abruptly. Toga spins on her heel, grinning.

 

“This is the perfect spot,” she declares. “Okay Deku, you know the drill. As for Shinsou- oh I need a good nickname for you if you make it through tonight- here you go.”

 

Seemingly out of nowhere, a knife twirls expertly in her nimble fingers. She pulls up one of his hand and presses the hilt into his open palm.

 

“This is my sharpest buddy, he’ll cut through anything. I don’t normally give him away but Kuro said you would need the help. Now you can’t go blaming my buddy for failing cause I know he’s as sharp as ever.”

 

“Right.” Hitoshi’s voice wavers despite himself, and Toga pats his hand with a sharp grin.

 

“You’re lucky, you know? You get to have all the action tonight. I’m just stuck on the sidelines to make sure nothing goes wrong.” Toga pouts, the childish disappointment is enough to send a surge of disgust through Hitoshi, and he transforms it into a sympathetic frown.

 

Hitoshi does his best to casually draw his hand back, to pretend to look at the knife in interest rather than fear of what he was going to do. The blade is so polished he can see himself distorted on its surface when he tilts it just right.

 

“Hide,” Deku suggests softly, head turning as he looks around. “He’ll be here soon.”

 

“Oh right- the plan.” Toga giggles. “I had forgotten already.” She latches onto Hitoshi’s wrist dragging him into a nearby alley. In the silence that follows, the only sounds he can hear is the nighttime rumblings of the city, the occasional shuffle of feet from Deku, and his own breaths. Time crawls on, leaving anticipation to rear its ugly head and taunt him with thoughts of what might go wrong. He grits his teeth, shaking his head to free himself of the thoughts. Luckily, before they inevitably return, a noise distracts him. He tilts his head, eyes narrowing in confusion because it’s...crying?

 

Not only that, but it sounds like Deku- but why on earth would Deku be crying? He leans forward, hoping to get a glimpse, but Toga pushes him back before he can.

 

“Shhh, he’s working.” Toga whispers gleefully.

 

Hitoshi looks down at her in confusion, on the verge of asking her just what Deku is working on while sobbing that loud. The sobs are broken too, punctuated by sharp intakes of breath that signify panic. Then the booming footsteps sound. They’re distant, but quickly gain traction.  

 

“Hey kid, what’s wrong?” Hitoshi listens hard, trying to put a name to the deep voice.

 

“Get ready, when Deku gets Mr. Hero Guy to round the corner you finish him,” Toga whispers to him. Hitoshi swallows, tightening his grip on the knife. This is it. He hasn’t lied to himself, he knows that to survive in the League he will have to commit crimes. It’s simply that he thought he would have more time to ready himself for murder- but then again, would any preparation really have readied him to take a life like this.

 

The fleeting fantasy crosses his mind, of taking control of Toga and Deku, making it so that no one has to die. He crushes it without even thinking about it, already knowing that it is a childish fantasy, one brought on by his growing horror. He takes a deep breath, running a hand through his hair one last time before he brings the knife in front of him, pointing the serrated edge outwards.

 

“M-My dad- he’s over there and- and someone was hurting him.” Hitoshi can admit that Deku’s impression of a terrified child is spot on- especially with the pitch of his voice and how it warbles in perceived terror.

 

“It’s okay, I’ll go check it out and save your dad. I just need you to stay here, can you do that?”

 

Deku doesn’t give a verbal response, because the next thing Hitoshi knows the footsteps are marching towards them. When a faint shadow falls in front of the alleyway, Hitoshi’s mind is scrambling.

 

“Help me,” he cries, feeling sick and twisted for the way that his real fear so easily seeps into his voice, a perfectly deadly deception.

 

“Don’t wo-” Hitoshi’s quirk rushes in, stopping the hero. He steps out from the alleyway and takes a good look at the man he’s been tasked with killing.

 

It only takes one glance for Hitoshi to recognize the figure. Death Arms, one of the more prominent heroes in the area. Now the hulking man stands quietly, a blank look in his unfocused eyes. His hand won’t stop shaking, and he doesn’t try to make it. Pain will break the brainwashing, so his strike will have to be final.

 

Memories race through him as his eyes flit about Death Arms’ form: a stab to the armpit will immobilize the arm, neck will cut a hole in the trachea, chest is better protected because of the ribs.

 

Aizawa, warning him of the consequences. Hizashi, wishing him good luck. Todoroki and him sharing a wary glance when partnered up for the first time. Tokoyami beckoning him over to the table where he and Shouji sat. Hagakure tapping him on the back and giggling when he turned around to see nothing. Tsuyu giving him a respectful nod when they pass each other in the hallway. Mei pestering him about what new improvements could be made to his costume.

 

Mom, telling him bedtime stories about the noble prince who rescued the princess and killed the evil dragon. Dad, giving him airplane rides around the apartment, telling Hitoshi that he could do anything, even with his quirk. Uncle Hindenki’s goodnight speech days before he went missing.

 

He remembers the day he had pledged to be a hero, young and full of idealistic dreams of granduer. Taking the U.A exam and crying in relief when he got an acceptance letter back. Aizawa’s brutal first day. Hitoshi asking for extra lessons after his mediocre performance and the sports festival. Interning under Midnight. Getting his provisional license and crying over that too.

 

Hitoshi’s breath catches, his hands shaking harder than they were. He had to do this. Not just for them, but for all of Japan. He dares a glance back at Toga. She watches him with a lazy grin, waving a hand as if to say, ‘Get on with it already.’

 

Hitoshi looks at Death Arms; he memorizes the set of his jaw, the flicker of life that still exists even in this mind-numbed state. He had a feeling he wasn’t going to forget this face anyways.

 

Hitoshi raises his arm, takes careful aim. I’m sorry , he says silently. I’m so sorry.

 

His arm swings true, but he can’t stop himself from closing his eyes at the final moment, when the knife digs in deep into flesh with an ease that makes him nauseous. The knife is let go as his hands reach up to cover his ears from the choked cry of pain. Eyes shut to hide from his actions, he doesn’t notice as Death Arms staggers towards him, reaching out with the last bit of energy.

 

He does notice the motion in front of him, a feeling more than anything, and it is that which convinces Hitoshi to open his eyes. Deku stands in front of him, a toppled Death Arms in front of him.

 

Hitoshi takes one look at the blood pooling on the concrete- he did that, he killed him - and empties his stomach in the road. A hand rubs his back, and he groans a thank you as he spits to try and remove the aftertaste.

 

Toga hums another ditsy sort of tune. The knife she gave Hitoshi is in her hands. The blood that runs off it is collected in a vial, which Toga snaps shut with a smile.

 

She bounces over to him. “You’re a natural Shou- oh no I can’t use that one again, eh, I’ll work on it.”

 

Hitoshi shivers, some mix of disgust and regret and relief that it was over mixing in him. In his mind the blood is still spreading, covering every inch, every spot that he can see until he’s drowning in it.

 

He heaves up bile, coughing and spluttering. The hand starts its soothing motions once more. When Hitoshi looks up, he meets Deku’s eyes. They glimmer in quiet understanding.