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A Cautionary Tale About (Not) Making Friends

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“This is your new classmate, Shinsou Hitoshi.”

It’d taken over a year to get to this point.

Over a year of his entire life being upturned, uprooted, and everything in it changing enough that the life he had now was entirely unrecognizable from the life he’d had before—the life he’d come to UA with.

The only sound Hitoshi heard in the deadly silent classroom was himself drawing in a deep breath, stirring the rumbling anticipation inside him as he raised his eyes to the nineteen pairs of eyes trained on him, watching his every move, studying him. He held the class’s gaze for a long moment, standing in front of nineteen desks, nineteen pairs of eyes, and nineteen students, now his fellow classmates.

He let out that breath he’d taken slowly, and even under the close scrutiny of his new classmates, Hitoshi had to fight to keep his usual sotic, neutral expression. A strong, unrelenting gaze, a slight frown—to any of the nineteen other students, it might look flawless, effortless, but Hitoshi knew better.

He’d wanted this his entire life.

Sixteen years. Sixteen years of focusing almost solely on getting here and not much else. Sixteen years of being told it was impossible, that he couldn’t do it, that a person like him would never become a hero. Years and years of hearing that and every combination thereof from the people surrounding him, until he’d come to UA and people had started believing in him. And now he was here, standing in front of nineteen other students—heroics students.

It’d taken sixteen years and a year of training and having his entire life uprooted to get here. Here, to the hero course. But his transfer was complete now. The paperwork was done and accepted and this was his class now. In the very back of the classroom there was an empty desk, a desk designated for him. He’d finally done it.

Hitoshi had a reputation to uphold, though. He couldn’t show his excitement or his anticipation for this moment, no matter how many months he’d spent looking forward to this very moment, when Aizawa-sensei introduced him as the new heroics student to his class.

Hitoshi bowed, letting out another breath as he tried to contain himself. There was a lot going on inside of him, a lot stirring and flowing through his body, making him feel a little too full, like he had too many emotions and they were threatening to spill over the edge. It wasn’t like he’d never dealt with this; this year had been a lot of changes—a lot of good changes, changes that had caused Hitoshi to feel emotions at a scale that he wasn’t sure that he was capable of.

“Thank you for having me,” Hitoshi said, standing back up to face the class once more. He could recognize most of them, but couldn’t put names to faces or quirks for the vast majority. These were the people he’d be learning with for the next two years, until the day he’d graduate from UA with his hero’s license.

The people he’d met before, during the sports festival, in the hallways, and during the joint training exercise. Every one of them stared at him, silent and almost unmoving. Hitoshi was suddenly acutely aware of the fact that not everything inside of him was positive.

He opened his mouth. Nothing more came out. Just silence. Horrible, deafening silence.

The words were right there, right at the front of his head, but they stuck in his throat, forming an unmoving lump whenever he tried to speak—

I’m not here to make friends.

The words wouldn’t come. He tried and tried, but they wouldn’t. Hitoshi swallowed hard and glanced back, over his shoulder, eyes quickly finding Aizawa.

“Go take your seat,” Aizawa said simply from behind his desk, pausing as he flipped through the papers containing his morning announcements. Hitoshi was almost immediately filled to the brim with relief and gave him a short nod.

He ducked his head, ignoring all the eyes on him. The silence still hung heavy in the air, reminding Hitoshi of what he hadn’t said. He shook it off, keeping his shoulders high and his gaze trained on his goal as he started to move towards his new desk.

His seat was at the back of the classroom, right next to the black-haired girl with the Creation quirk. He’d known beforehand that he’d be in the back, since he’d seen the seating chart at home. At least in the back, he could hide away from other’s eyes, where no one could stare at him without being called out by their teacher.

The relief from before just flooded Hitoshi more when he actually took his seat. A few students did turn to look at him, but he just ducked his head away, resting his cheek on his hand and fixing his gaze on the front of the classroom, where Aizawa-sensei was writing on the chalkboard. He measured his breathing, in and then out, slowly, and as the moments of silence dragged on, the students gradually returned to looking at the front of the classroom where their teacher was.

Once their eyes were away, Hitoshi ran a hand through his hair. Everything inside of him was clashing—the excitement to be here, the relief he felt at finally hearing himself be introduced as a heroics student, the pride at the ride it’d taken to get here, and the anxiety at the other students’ reactions to him. None of it seemed to fit together and each of those emotions stirred and demanded to be felt, each in full and with seemingly no connection to the others.

There was one thing Hitoshi didn’t plan for. One thing he didn’t know how to plan for. One thing that took him off guard every single time he interacted with heroics students.

The students themselves.

There was something about them, something so conflicting, something that frustrated Hitoshi to no end, and it didn’t even concern their behavior. No, that was fine. Some of them could be more energetic and enthusiastic than others, but that wasn’t it. It was something else entirely, and it was that something that had reminded Hitoshi of the speech he’d made at the beginning of the joint training class. The same something that had made him want to make the very same speech just a few moments before.

He wasn’t here to make friends. He had a lot going on right now. In just a year, he’d gone from a kid tossed around in foster care and shoved down at every chance to a heroics student who had a stable home life for the very first time in his life. He had a lot going on right now. A lot to focus on. Friends weren’t something he needed, and the students trying would just make an unneeded distraction for him.

And a distraction was the last thing Hitoshi needed right now.

There were three things he wanted to focus on—becoming a hero, excelling in school, and his life at home. There was no room for anything else. Hitoshi was sure of that much.

“Onto regular business. As you all know, this is the first semester of your second year and the school is having…”

Aizawa’s voice made Hitoshi snap to attention once more, bringing him out of his own little world and back into the classroom. Hearing him helped—Aizawa was a constant, always so sure of himself, and when he talked, Hitoshi immediately listened. It was natural. Eraserhead had been his childhood hero, and had then taken Hitoshi under his wing after the first year’s sports festival. Over the course of the last year, Aizawa had become a lot more than just a teacher or a mentor to him and he’d given Hitoshi a chance at something better, and not just with regard to giving him a chance as a hero.

It was surreal, sitting in this classroom, listening to Aizawa start to go through the announcements of the day—and thinking that this was the new normal, that this was going to be what it would be like for the rest of high school. He’d be with these kids, with Aizawa as his teacher, and he’d be a part of every heroics class exercise and every part of their training. He was a little late and maybe still had a bit of catching up to do, but that was alright. He was here now.

It’d all be alright, even if there were still parts Hitoshi hadn’t quite planned for. Even if he didn’t know what to do about the other students yet.

The other kids would eventually get used to him, too, he knew. Eventually, they’d stop staring. They’d stop whispering. They’d stop approaching him. They’d get used to him and they’d realize that Hitoshi just needed to be left alone so he could focus on school. Hitoshi was polite to them and had worked with them when put on a team, but he had to remind himself that he was here to become a hero and learn, not to make friends with others.

Hitoshi could make friends after he graduated, after he started to establish himself as a hero in a world overflowing with villains. For now, he had a full life, and a lot of things to focus on. He didn’t need to add one more thing.

It was exciting. Here, in the back of the room, Hitoshi felt that excitement bubbling up again now that the other students had looked away, and he fought to keep it down. He wasn’t sure what to do if the others saw him acting so excited, and he wondered if any of them even had an inkling of the type of work it’d taken just to get here. He doubted it and though he’d begun to abandon his previous mindset of everyone else being blessed, all these students had to do was have a physical quirk that allowed them to pass the physical entrance exam. Nothing more.

He was excited, but he just… didn’t exactly want to show off his emotions quite yet. He was just beginning to learn how to do that again and he wasn’t quite ready to show it to people he barely knew and was trying to keep his distance from in the first place.

“...I’m sorry, I wasn’t aware that you all find your new classmate more interesting to stare at than your teacher. Maybe I should just end the announcements here and not tell you all when your next exam is.”

Hitoshi startled in his seat, too, at the tight-voiced scolding from Aizawa at the front of the classroom. It wasn’t directed at him, he knew, but it still managed to drag Hitoshi back down to earth. Lost in his thoughts about his fellow students, Hitoshi hadn’t noticed that a few more heads had turned towards him again and some gazes had drifted back to staring.

He was grateful for Aizawa’s scolding and let out a small sigh, sitting up more and keeping his eyes on the front of the classroom, even as a groan of unhappiness and protests erupted from the rest of his nineteen new classmates.

More excitement managed to creep into his body, taking root in his stomach and making him feel strangely giddy.

Was it going to be like this all day? It wasn’t like Hitoshi hadn’t been at UA for the past year. It’d be different if he was an entirely new student who hadn’t been here at all last year. The general education classes weren’t too far away and Hitoshi had even had actual classes with Aizawa before, besides their training sessions, since Aizawa taught an ethics course. But Hitoshi still found this all to be so new, exciting and nerve-wracking all at once, and he couldn’t seem to get over the notion that he was in the heroics course—and it seemed that his new classmates were preoccupied with him being here, too.

“Now that I have all your attention,” Aizawa went on at the front of the room, after the class had quieted down once more. “You’ll be having a school-wide exam at the end of the month. In order to prepare, I suggest you all—”

Hitoshi could feel the bubbling in his chest again, warm and filling him to the brim.

He glanced around the room, finding that the rest of the students had finally stopped looking at him and at last, Hitoshi let a small, genuine smile spread onto his face. He just hoped that none of his new classmates caught it.

 

It was like that all day. All day, Hitoshi caught other students looking at him, staring, caught a couple whispers here and there. All day, he avoided the others, ducking out of their way when they tried to approach him. And all day, his introduction to his new class stuck around in his head, refusing to leave, and by the time Hitoshi got home, he couldn’t stop thinking about it.

He sat at the dining room table, a blanket draped over his lap and his math homework open in front of him. The sounds of his parents’ usual back and forth chatting over cooking dinner filled the room. The dying light of an April evening shone through the open front windows, a breeze tickling the exposed skin of Hitoshi’s arms as he tried to focus.

Hitoshi usually didn’t have much of a problem with focusing, but every time he looked down at the problems he was supposed to be solving, the numbers and formulas just seemed to get more and more jumbled up. He was starting to think it was useless to try. It wouldn’t be bad if Hitoshi didn’t get it done tonight, since it wasn’t due until next week, but… he just hated how horribly, completely distracted he was.

Focusing seemed completely impossible. This was rare. Shinsou Hitoshi was a good student who threw himself into any work he was given, even if he wasn’t a big fan of math. That was something that he prided himself on, and that was something his teachers liked about him, too. But right now—it was just so hard to focus, and Hitoshi’s mind felt like it was going around in circles, turning itself over again and again.

Hitoshi shivered as the breeze reached through the open windows again and chilled him, and he finally threw his pencil down at his notebook a little too hard, and pulled the blanket on his lap up over his shoulders. He stared down at the notebook and the pencil pathetically laying on the page, and it still refused to tell him the answers, or even let him focus on it. Even now, staring directly at the page, eyes narrowed and mouth set into a thin frown, Hitoshi still drifted, every time, going back to earlier today and what had happened when he’d been introduced to the class.

It felt like he’d been sitting here for hours, struggling to even complete two math problems, stewing about what he’d said and what he hadn’t said. Finally, he just blurted it out, head snapping up to face his new adopted parents as they were getting dinner ready in the kitchen.

“Don’t you think I should’ve said something more? Something like what I said at the joint training class?”

The chatting stopped, as did the banging of pots and pans and the rhythmic sound of a knife cutting vegetables. Everything stopped the moment he blurted it out, and suddenly, two pairs of eyes were on him.

There were a lot of things his new classmates didn’t know about Hitoshi. There were a lot of things that Hitoshi wanted to keep to himself, not really because they were secrets, but because these things belonged to him and right now, he didn’t want to share them with anyone. Hitoshi was peculiar about things he considered his, after not having things he could consider his own for a long time, and sometimes he just wanted to hide those things away for a while and not tell anyone. It was his, private and for himself, and there were some things he didn’t want to share.

One of those things was the fact that Hitoshi’s parents were their strict homeroom teacher and their loud English teacher, both of whom turned to look at him the second Hitoshi blurted his troubles out.

Aizawa Shouta and Yamada Hizashi were standing in the kitchen together, both of them looking and acting completely different from how they usually did at school—and different entirely from how they acted as heroes. Yamada was dressed down, without his ridiculous hairstyle, with an apron tied around his waist and a small, quiet grin on his face. Stranger still, Aizawa-sensei was softer around the edges while at home, when he wasn’t in costume, and Hitoshi couldn’t help but to think that he looked particularly dad-like right now, with his hair pulled up into a ponytail and a set of reading glasses sitting on his nose. It was still odd to see, after a few months of living here, the two of them like this, because it clashed completely with the way Hitoshi had viewed them before. At home, they just looked—and acted—like normal parents, like a normal family, and Hitoshi wasn’t completely sure that any of his classmates would believe him if he told them what they were like at home. Even he wouldn’t have believed this if someone had told him back at the beginning of his first year at UA.

Aizawa and Yamada had told Hitoshi that them adopting him wasn’t a secret. They’d made that much clear. But they’d also given him the option of telling any of the other students about it, and Hitoshi had immediately decided not to, at least for now. It was one of those things he wanted to hold close and keep to himself, locked away and belonging to him and only him. He wasn’t sure when he’d tell anyone—or if he ever would.

At first, neither one of them replied to Hitoshi’s outburst. He’d been living here for a few months now and had started to grow used to his parents and the way they were and Aizawa in particular liked to take his time in responding to things, and logically, Hitoshi knew this was just a case of that, but it didn’t help his nerves at all.

Hitoshi stared at his two surprisingly normal parents, drawing his bottom lip between his teeth and momentarily glancing away, embarrassed at his sudden interruption. He broke the short silence, his voice coming out even more nervous than before, “I didn’t really say much. What if they forgot what I said before? Should I have said something more?”

Aizawa just raised an eyebrow at him, snorting in amusement and leaning on the kitchen counters where he’d been cutting up vegetables in preparation for dinner, “Are you asking if you should’ve told everyone that you don’t want to be friends with them again? Because in that case, the answer is no. You saw that it didn’t work the first time.”

Hitoshi frowned, leaning forward to rest his chin on the dining table. In front of him was his homework, barely even half done. He wanted to push it away from him or shove it back into his schoolbag, but he hated the thought of giving up on it. He knew he was too distracted to really get anything of use done, though. He kept thinking back to earlier today and wondering if he should’ve said something more, or even if there was anything more to say.

“It… It did work, right?” Hitoshi asked, more worry settling deep into his stomach, gaze flickering from Aizawa to Yamada. “They have to understand, right? I don’t want to make friends with them. There’s no reason to make friends with them.”

Truthfully, he didn’t think that making another speech about not wanting to make friends was the best thing to do, but he just couldn’t think of anything else. What else could he say?

It… wasn’t like he did want to make friends. He was there to learn and train and become a hero. Friends didn’t work into that. He had real parents now, a family, and was exactly where he wanted to be. He needed to focus on his studies and not let the other students distract him at all.

But, he still kept feeling like he should’ve said something. After that joint training exercise, Aizawa’s class had been nothing but nice to him. His teammates had thanked him afterwards. Some of them more tearfully than others, given that he’d stopped Midoriya from injuring himself during the mishap with his quirk in the second set of battles Hitoshi had been in. A couple of them had even gone out of their way to try to talk to Hitoshi in the halls or in the lunchroom ever since then. They obviously liked him, and Hitoshi was a little afraid that just like earlier today with the staring, they weren’t going to leave him to his own devices, like he was going to somehow become a victim of their friendship, whether he liked it or not. Like he had no choice in it.

He just felt like he should’ve said or some something more. Maybe if he had, he could’ve gotten his point across clearer. Maybe they would understand that Hitoshi just wanted to learn, keep his head down, and give his classes his all.

“Maybe it’d work this time?” Hitoshi continued, his voice a little hopeful. He was hoping, praying that maybe Aizawa at least would agree with him, but he knew the answer before Aizawa even said it.

“It won’t,” Aizawa told him solidly. He was always so sure of himself, yet another thing Hitoshi admired about him. He really did wish he could be like that, instead of sitting at the dining table second guessing everything from earlier today, going over again and again what he’d said and didn’t say.. Things would be much easier if only he was more sure of himself, if he could just be more like Aizawa.

Beside Aizawa, Yamada laughed, drawing Hitoshi’s attention to him. He hoped that at least Yamada would have some advice, given that he tended to be better at giving social advice than Aizawa-sensei was. This wasn’t the first time Hitoshi had asked him about what to say in a situation. This time was just more… serious. Much more serious, since for the first time, Hitoshi was really at a loss for what to do and Aizawa didn’t seem to think that just laying out that his goals didn’t include friend-making would work.

“Sorry, kid,” Yamada grinned at him, throwing a pointed look at Aizawa. “You know, Shouta gave that speech when he was transferred to the heroics course. ‘I’m not here to be friends with any of you.’” Yamada imitated Aizawa’s voice, and then laughed again, “Now he’s married to me! So unless you want your classmates to try their hardest to prove you wrong, don’t go around telling people that you don’t want to make friends. Maybe… try to talk to them about something you’re interested in. Be friendly.”

Hitoshi made a face, sticking out his lips and wrinkling up his nose in a pout. “But I don’t want friends.”

Yamada only laughed again, but Aizawa gave him a sympathetic look. Hitoshi managed to look at him, gaze connecting with his, and part of him just expected Aizawa to try to give Hitoshi an out of the conversation by changing the subject or letting the subject drop. To his surprise, he didn’t, though.

“You can tell yourself that all you want—” Despite all the joking from just a few moments before, Aizawa-sensei sounded oddly serious, though his voice was still much softer, much more affectionate than the tone he used in class. “—But I did the same thing when I was a kid. As it turned out, I actually did want friends. I just hadn’t had any until that point. So I didn’t know what it was like.”

Hitoshi raised his head from off of the table, fixing his new foster father with a curious gaze. Aizawa didn’t talk much about his childhood. Hitoshi had heard bits and pieces about he and Yamada’s days at UA in the form of the occasional story, but Aizawa talking about his family or what he’d been like back then was rare. It caught Hitoshi’s attention, even though he’d been wanting the subject to drop. Hitoshi couldn’t deny that he was curious—extremely curious—about Aizawa’s previous life.

Aizawa seemed to realize that he’d caught Hitoshi’s attention and his tone became a little less serious, a little more amused, “What? Does that surprise you? Hizashi was my first friend. I was a weird kid, Hitoshi. I didn’t even know I wanted a friend until Hizashi started bothering me everyday. Maybe it’ll be the same for you.”

‘Maybe’?!” Yamada scoffed, voice loud in disbelief, making Hitoshi startle a little. Yamada frowned at Aizawa, putting his hands on his hips. “You’re kidding, right?! He’s, like, an exact copy of you when you were in high school! At this rate, we’re gonna end up with him marrying another kid from your class!”

“No way!” Hitoshi immediately spoke up, voice squeaking as he nearly yelled it. He stood, suddenly, barely having time to react to Aizawa’s comforting words before he was hit with the total shock of what Yamada said. “I don’t want to get married to any of them! I don’t even want to be friends with them! I don’t want them to distract me! They probably don’t even want to actually be friends. They probably just… want something from me, or they’ll figure out that they don’t like me.”

It all came out in a jumble and he was met with silence.

They both stared at him again, and Hitoshi felt his face burning hot as he sat back down. Aizawa looked away from him, shaking his head in disapproval at Yamada with a sigh, “Come on, don’t scare him off like that… If you keep that up, he’s never going to want friends. Hitoshi, they do like you and they don’t actually want anything from you. They really aren’t that bad, anyways.”

Hitoshi still wasn’t convinced. It wasn’t that he didn’t like Aizawa’s class—now his class, though thinking of it that way was still hard to get used to—it was just that making friends with them didn’t align with his goals. It had no purpose, so Hitoshi wasn’t sure why he should make friends with them or accept their friendship if they tried to force it onto him. No one in the past had wanted to be friends with him, and up until coming to UA, his previous classmates had either been afraid of him or just wanting something to do with his quirk. Once he’d gotten into the general education course, his classmates had been friendly, but even then, Hitoshi was so deadset on his goals that he’d just wanted to be left alone.

“Really?” Yamada apparently still wasn’t giving it up, and laughed again at Aizawa. “Because Hitoshi seems to think they have cooties. Maybe he’s right. They’re a class of trouble-making cootie-filled kids. Except Hitoshi, of course.”

“Stop teasing him. You’re embarrassing him. Look, he’s all red.” Aizawa pointed, and Hitoshi just felt his face heat up more as they both turned to look at him. The embarrassment took over the uncertainty from before, though, giving him a much-needed relief from it. He didn’t mind being teased like this either, and he was just happy to have parents who could joke around with him and not make him feel bad.

“Sorry, sorry.” Another giggle, but Yamada quickly stopped and caught his breath, the house falling quiet again. It was only for a moment, before Yamada stepped over to the table, giving Hitoshi a gentle smile as he glanced down at his notebook of half-done homework. “You seem a little distracted, kid. Why don’t you come help us with dinner and work on that later?”

Hitoshi was a little too eager to close up his math homework and take Yamada up on his offer. Aizawa quickly gave him a cutting board like his own and split the vegetables with him, showing him how to cut them as the three of them talked. Hitoshi was relieved to not have to think about what had happened earlier, but it stuck around in the back of his mind, and by later that night, when Hitoshi was trying to sleep, he just felt even more confused than before.

 

“You’re up early.”

It was the first thing Aizawa said to him when Hitoshi crept out of his room after hearing the noise in the kitchen. Hitoshi felt like he was sleep walking, and he stopped in his doorway, peering out into the main room with a dazed look. Aizawa had only turned the kitchen lights on and it was still mostly dark outside, with only a little bit of grey-blue light coming in through the curtains covering the windows. Hitoshi raised a hand to try to rub the sleep from his eyes, but it didn’t do much to help, leaving him staring blearily at Aizawa, only halfway comprehending what he’d said to him.

“Hitoshi. You don’t have to be up yet,” Aizawa’s face twisted into an expression of concern. He sat at the dining table, right where Hitoshi had sat last night when he hadn’t been able to stop thinking about what he could’ve—should’ve—said, holding a cup of what he could only assume was coffee. Abandoned grading was spread out on the table before him, and Hitoshi knew he’d interrupted whatever he’d been doing. “You don’t have to be awake for another hour or so. You should go back to bed.”

“You’re—” He paused, words lost in a long yawn. “—You’re up.”

His eyes burned a little, but he shuffled his way to the table, flopping down in the chair next to Aizawa. He leaned forward, crossing his arms on the table and resting his cheek on them, turning his head so he could look at Aizawa, who only sighed at Hitoshi’s refusal to go back to bed.

“It’s different,” Aizawa tried instead, but Hitoshi just raised an eyebrow at him, and Aizawa quickly abandoned that. “Are you having trouble sleeping again?”

“Mm. A little.” Hitoshi admitted. He was still only halfway awake, though he was fighting to wake up more. He felt like he was drifting, like if he let his eyes fall shut, he would fall right asleep immediately, without even meaning to. He didn’t really want to try again, since at this point it felt useless, and his thoughts were keeping him up, anyways. “It’s not nightmares or anything. Just hard to sleep. And stay asleep. It’s too late to take my medication. I’ll be fine.”

He knew medication was the first thing Aizawa was going to suggest—Hitoshi had medication to help him sleep and medication he could take in the case that he had trouble staying asleep, whether because his mind wouldn’t quiet down or because Hitoshi had another bout of night terrors. Given that it was only a little more than an hour before he was supposed to get up, Hitoshi would just deal with it. He’d dealt with this all his life, and at least he had someone to talk to. He’d come out here almost as soon as he’d heard Aizawa in the kitchen.

“Are you alright after last night?” Aizawa set his cup down on the table, instead reaching over and putting a hand on Hitoshi’s head, feeling his forehead like he was checking for a fever. Hitoshi let his eyes fall shut for a moment, telling himself that he’d open them again once Aizawa pulled away, but instead, once he felt that Hitoshi didn’t have a fever, he gently touched Hitoshi’s head in an affectionate pat, and softly ran his fingers through his hair. “I know you were worried after our talk. Is that keeping you up?” “A little.” Hitoshi leaned into the touch, wondering if he actually would just doze off here. Aizawa, surprisingly, wasn’t really shy about affection at home. He’d pat Hitoshi’s head, pull him in for a hug if he knew it was alright, let Hitoshi fall asleep on his shoulder. Yamada was even more touchy with him. But after a lifetime of being starved for affection, Hitoshi felt like that was what he needed.

He still wasn’t used to it, though. Sometimes, it still made him nervous, and sometimes, it was weird to think about the fact that Eraserhead, the hero Hitoshi had idolized since childhood was now his father, who was nothing like he was out on the field when he was at home. Aizawa existed here, at home, while Eraserhead the hero existed out in the rest of the world and sometimes at school, too. Connecting the two of them was difficult, as was connecting Yamada with Present Mic. He wasn’t used to it, even after a few months, but he was trying, and he appreciated the affection and the touches from both of them, no matter how much he struggled to process it.

“You’re overthinking things, Hitoshi,” AIzawa told him quietly, but firmly, in a way that Hitoshi could immediately trust that he was telling him the truth. “They’re friendly kids. They’re probably going to try to make friends with you. You can do what you want, but I don’t think telling them you’re not there to make friends is the best option. I know it’ll work out just fine for you if you just let things fall into place.”

“You just want me to make friends,” Hitoshi murmured, sinking further into his seat. Aizawa was still gently touching him, just petting his hair in a comforting, fatherly way. It was the type of affection Hitoshi had always wanted from someone, and he was a little disappointed in himself for being so quickly lulled to sleep by it.

“It’d be good for you. Is there another reason you don’t want to make friends?”

Well, at least Aizawa hadn’t lied to him and told him that wasn’t what he wanted. Hitoshi appreciated that. His question got to Hitoshi, though, and he raised his head enough where he could look at Aizawa.

“Friends aren’t bad things,” Aizawa added on. “I used to think they were, but that’s not true. You need other people in your life. You know that. I know you think they’re a distraction, but I don’t think that’s the entire reason you’re so hesitant.”

“I have you and Yamada.” Hitoshi frowned a little deeper. Aizawa was being serious, really serious, and Hitoshi shook his head at the insinuation that there was another reason he didn’t want friends. “It’s just because they’re a distraction. I just want to focus on school and things here at home. I have you and Yamada and I don’t really need anyone else.”

“Yeah, you do have us, but being around kids your own age is good, too. Are you sure, Hitoshi?”

It was odd to think about how in just two hours, he’d see Aizawa in a school setting, and this part of him would be completely absent. Aizawa was much stricter in school, and much more aloof. He’d told Hitoshi before about how he was much different outside of school than when he had to take on the responsibility of the strict teacher at UA, but it was still so strange to see how different he was at work than at home. He didn’t think any of the other kids would ever believe him if he told them that this morning, Aizawa had sat with him and talked with him about Hitoshi’s worries in the way a loving father would, just to try to comfort Hitoshi and help him get some sleep before school. At least, Hitoshi knew he never would’ve believed it before experiencing it.

“I guess,” Hitoshi was really starting to drift off now. He knew he shouldn’t. He knew that it’d just make it easier to wake up when he actually had to get up. But he was so tired, that it seemed impossible to fight. “You’re really different at school, Sensei.”

He heard a quiet snort of amusement, “Someone has to be the mean teacher at school, right? Otherwise all you kids would be running around breaking rules and trying to be pros way before you’re ready.”

Hitoshi hummed in a hesitant agreement. Aizawa pulled away from him and Hitoshi heard him sit back, heard the sound of him picking up his mug again and drinking for it. He couldn’t deny that he was a little disappointed that the affection was gone, but he didn’t have the energy to do anything about it.

Aizawa beat him to it anyways.

“Come on. You should at least lay down on the couch. You’re going to hurt yourself slouching over like that.”

“I can’t move,” Hitoshi groaned, not even willing to open his eyes. He’d barely slept and he wanted to just stay here, at the table, with Aizawa beside him. “I don’t wanna.”

“I’ll carry you since you can’t move.”

Hitoshi couldn’t find it in himself to put up much of a protest against that.

 

By the time the lunch period came around, Hitoshi was worried that this would never end.

The staring, the whispering, the people trying to talk to him—it wasn’t any better than it had been yesterday and Hitoshi almost thought that it might be worse. Avoiding the other students took up a lot of energy and Aizawa and Yamada had been right yesterday; the others didn’t seem to care about him not wanting to make friends. Midoriya tried to approach him over and over, in the hallways, between classes, before and after classes. The girl Hitoshi sat next to—Yaoyorozu, he’d learned—greeted him in the morning with a bright smile and Hitoshi found it impossible to just ignore her and had mumbled a quiet greeting back. Avoiding others took a lot of energy and by the time lunchtime arrived, Hitoshi was exhausted.

So he did the most logical thing he could think of and went back to the classroom, lunchbox with his homemade food in hand, and knocked softly at the sliding doors.

His knock was answered just moments later by a very stern-looking Aizawa, whose expression almost immediately softened when he saw Hitoshi standing in the hall, clutching his lunchbox and slouching, fighting off the exhaustion from both this morning and from the other students.

“You look tired,” Aizawa said bluntly, stepping aside to let him in.

Hitoshi didn’t immediately go, tilting his head to look up at him, “Can I eat lunch in here…?”

He needed a break. That Midoriya kid had made a beeline towards him at every free moment he got, and Hitoshi had been spending most of his free time avoiding him. He had no idea what he wanted from him. During the joint training class, Hitoshi had helped in stopping him from using his quirk after it’d started to unintentionally hurt him, but Hitoshi had just been trying to win and helping had been an unintended side-effect to that. It was over and done with—or so Hitoshi had thought. Now that same kid was trying desperately to talk to him and refusing to give up, no matter how many times Hitoshi walked away from him or dove into bathrooms and supply closets to avoid him.

That kid wanted something from him. He had to. There was no other reason for him to be trying so hard to talk to him. When people wanted to talk to Hitoshi, it was because they wanted something. Sometimes that thing was more innocuous, like in the case with his general studies class—short clarification on homework, an opinion on something, a request to be on a team for a group project—but other than that, it was usually something different, something worse, whether it was asking him to use his quirk for something or seeking him out because he’d done something wrong. Regardless, Midoriya wanted something from him, and Hitoshi didn’t know what it was.

Their lunch period was the biggest amount of free time they’d get in the day. Hitoshi wasn’t about to take his chances. So, tired and looking for a little bit of rest from constantly having to dodge and avoid people, Hitoshi had come here.

“That’s fine,” Aizawa agreed, without even taking a moment to think about it. Hitoshi let out the breath he’d been holding and his shoulders dropped as some tension left his body. He stepped inside the classroom, glancing around.

Unsurprisingly, there was a sleeping bag spread out on the floor by Aizawa’s teaching desk, bright yellow and plush and incredibly familiar. Hitoshi almost laughed a little at it. That explained why he’d been so surly opening the door—Hitoshi had interrupted a nap, an offense that would definitely earn any other student a strict scolding. Aizawa did nap at lunchtime often, from what Hitoshi knew, and he’d been taking a chance in coming here because if he wasn’t napping in the classroom, then Aizawa would spend lunchtime in the teacher’s lounge with Yamada and the others. That was going to be the next place he’d go if he didn’t find Aizawa here.

The blinds on the windows were drawn open, letting the warm afternoon light into the classroom. From the looks of it, the sleeping bag was laying half under the desk and half in a patch of sunlight, and Hitoshi suddenly understood why Aizawa slept here so much during lunchtime. He could use a nap himself, too, but he quickly shook that thought from his head. He’d be fine.

“Thanks,” Hitoshi nodded at Aizawa and quickly took his usual spot—sitting beside Aizawa’s desk, also in the small patch of sunlight. This wasn’t the first time he’d come here during lunch, and it probably wouldn’t be the last, either. Usually, he’d sit with his general education classmates, since they knew that Hitoshi mostly just wanted to be left alone and kept a friendly distance from him, but occasionally, Hitoshi needed something quieter and more comforting and he’d find himself here, in Aizawa’s classroom.

Aizawa raised an eyebrow at him as Hitoshi sat down, but didn’t immediately say anything. It was just the two of them here in the room and while any other student would probably find it nerve-wracking to be alone with Aizawa, Hitoshi found it comforting, like he could finally breathe after a day of tight nerves and being on high-alert in order to keep avoiding people. Hitoshi didn’t say anything, either, sitting cross-legged on the floor and setting his cat-decorated lunchbox in front of him before he looked up at Aizawa, meeting his eyes.

“Are you going to be alright to train today?” Aizawa finally asked him, crossing his arms over his chest. “You look exhausted.”

“I got some sleep,” Hitoshi insisted, unlatching his lunch box. He frowned, remembering back to this morning. He’d wound up sleeping on the couch for a bit before having to go to school and besides that, he’d slept a little during the night. It wasn’t that bad. “It’s not like I was up the entire night.”

Besides, he’d trained with Aizawa before where he had been up the entire night. That’d been before, before Aizawa and Yamada had taken him in and before Hitoshi had learned he could talk to Aizawa about things. He knew now that Aizawa would never let him train after a sleepless night, even if Aizawa didn’t sleep well at night himself.

Aizawa stared down at him a moment more, silence falling over them again. Hitoshi glanced away as he felt his stomach growl, reminding him that he hadn’t eaten much this morning—Aizawa and Yamada wouldn’t let him get away with no breakfast, so Hitoshi had given in and eaten a bagel begrudgingly, though he was now regretting his small appetite this morning, given how hungry he was.

“We’ll take it easy today,” Aizawa decided, using the tone that told Hitoshi there was no room for argument. “We can just train your quirk today. Nothing physical. There were a few techniques I wanted to work on with you anyways.”

Hitoshi was alright with that. It felt like a compromise; Aizawa obviously felt Hitoshi was too exhausted by everything happening to train while Hitoshi knew he’d be fine. So they were still training, but not doing anything physical, and Hitoshi was more than happy with that. Hitoshi even felt a bubble of excitement in his chest, almost making him forget about his worries with the other students in his new class. There was something about quirk training that made Hitoshi even more enthusiastic than usual. He’d gone most of his life not using his quirk and being told that it was villainous and now—not only had he transferred into the heroics program, but he was allowed to train his quirk, as well, and actually use it. After so long of having it pent up inside him, stewing in frustration and having it pull at him, that was nothing short of relieving.

In the safety of the classroom that was empty except for the two of them, Hitoshi let a small smile onto his face. He tried to not make a big deal out of it, instead looking down at the food neatly packed into his lunchbox. He knew Aizawa noticed, though, and could feel him still looking at Hitoshi.

But Aizawa chose to not say anything about it, changing the topic rather than pointing out Hitoshi’s obvious excitement, “We won’t be able to go too late tonight, though. We’ll have to leave for your appointment.”

The smile fell from Hitoshi’s face.

It wasn’t that he’d forgotten. There was no real way he could, not with the calendar that he had hanging up across his bed at home, with his weekly appointments written in with red ink. He’d even glanced at it this morning, bleary-eyed and half-asleep, before he’d wandered out into the living area. It was routine, a constant thing that happened on the same day each week at the same time, something that stuck around in the back of his head. It wasn’t something that could be forgotten, but it was something that had a way of creeping out of his mind and fading against all his other thoughts and worries.

Hitoshi wasn’t completely sure if it’d been a condition of his adoption or not from the people handling his case. Aizawa and Yamada hadn’t shared every single detail of the process with him, intentionally since they hadn’t wanted to stress Hitoshi out more. This seemed like something his old caseworker would require, but something told him that even if it hadn’t been required, Aizawa and Yamada would still make him go to therapy every week. So he wasn’t sure, and he didn’t quite think it mattered, because if the two of them were on board with it and as adamant as they were about it, then there was no way Hitoshi was getting out of it.

“Don’t make that face.”

Hitoshi frowned harder, “I’m not making a face.”

He knew Aizawa was joking around in his own weird way and he also knew that he probably was making some sort of face at having to remember that his therapy appointment was scheduled for tonight, but that didn’t help the dread that’d taken root deep in his stomach.

“It’s good for you,” Aizawa reminded him, repeating the same thing that he told Hitoshi every week. And Hitoshi knew that was true, too, logically. Unfortunately, logic and emotion were two very different things and Hitoshi knew that far better than anyone. As much as he knew it was good for him and that his parents wanted him to go and that in some weird, slow way it was probably helping him, that didn’t stop him from wanting to dig his feet into the dirt and refuse to go until someone dragged him.

Therapy wasn’t torture—at least it wasn’t the type of painful that Hitoshi was used to. In some ways, that made it worse. Because Hitoshi knew how to deal with painful things. But this? This was an entirely new and different demon. An hour every week of having to sit in his therapist’s office, struggling for words and for things to talk about and trying to figure out what everyone wanted from him. An hour of struggling between knowing he was supposed to open up and not being able to, of trying to do what Aizawa, Yamada, and his therapist wanted him to and simultaneously trying to tell them that it was impossible. Hitoshi knew his emotions for the most part. He knew himself and the ways he experienced things. But what he didn’t know was how to put them into words.

As it turned out, talking about emotions was much harder than just feeling them. And not being able to talk about his emotions made weekly therapy a painfully awkward experience. Hitoshi dreaded that hour and he dreaded that trip to the appointment and he dreaded even remembering his weekly appointment. But it couldn’t be helped.

“I know, I know,” He told Aizawa, eyebrows furrowing together as he turned to look at him again. “I know it’s good for me.”

He dreaded it so much that it was almost enough to drain out the previous excitement of quirk training. Almost. It was more of a nuisance than anything, something Hitoshi would have to get through tonight and then not have to deal with for another week. Even if it felt like it dragged on forever, it was still only an hour and Hitoshi supposed that it could be much, much worse.

With a small sigh, he sat back, leaning against Aizawa’s desk and turning his attention back to his lunch. The warm sunlight from the uncovered windows shone down on him, warming his skin and making him feel sleepier than before. It was easy enough to fight off, but Hitoshi leaned his head back, letting his eyes fall shut for a moment as tension started to drain from his body once more. He took the moment to be here, to let it fully sink in.

Even if he was dreading his appointment tonight and even if Hitoshi was trying to deal with the other students not leaving him alone, he was incredibly happy. He still couldn’t quite fathom it, couldn’t quite wrap his head around the fact that he was part of the hero course now. It still felt like a little bit of a dream; Hitoshi wondered when it would start to feel real. Maybe sitting here, in the empty classroom with Aizawa, eyes closed as he sat in the sunlight and took everything in—maybe it was starting to feel more real now, gradually, and maybe as enough time passed, Hitoshi would start to realize that it wasn’t a dream.

He hoped so at least. Maybe things weren’t perfect, but they were pretty close, and HItoshi just wanted it all to feel real.

 

“Shinsou! I didn’t see you at lunch!”

Hitoshi visibly cringed at the loud, excited voice belonging to Midoriya Izuku, not even having to look up from the textbook open on his desk to know it was him. The footsteps running gleefully at him was all he needed, and the sound of his voice just gave fuel to the fire. Hitoshi narrowed his eyes, staring down at the print of the textbook, wondering if it was possible to just ignore him. Deep down, he knew it wasn’t and Midoriya had cornered him. Sitting at his desk just after the bell to return to class had rung, there was nowhere for him to run now.

Slowly, he raised his head, fingers knotting in the back of his hair as he looked up. MIdoriya was right there, smiling down at him with a grin that seemed to take up half his face. Hitoshi opened his mouth, preparing to tell him to go away, to leave him alone so he could go over the material before class started, but—

Nothing came out.

The words wouldn’t come out. It was right there, so easy to say and readily available. For some reason, Hitoshi couldn’t force it out and stopped himself, harsh words lingering on his lips and refusing to come out.

“I… ate lunch in here,” Hitoshi glanced away, shifting his gaze away from Midoriya. His face burned hot and he wanted to kick himself. Why was he telling Midoriya this? It’d just make it easier to find him in the future. That had to be the last thing Midoriya wanted. Telling him to go away would’ve been so much easier.

“Oh!” MIdoriya chirped, as if that explained everything. “I was hoping you’d sit with us at lunch! I kept looking and looking, but I couldn’t find you. I thought I just missed you! Maybe tomorrow you can sit with us, right, Shinsou?”

“Uh…” No, he wanted to say. He’d rather sit with his general education classmates, who generally left to his own devices when he sat with them. Sitting with Midoriya and his friends sounded like a lot. Midoriya was a lot. Hitoshi hadn’t had that many interactions with him and even he knew that much.

But even a simple no wouldn’t come out.

“I’ve been trying to ask you all day if you’ll sit with us,” Midoriya carried on, as if Hitoshi wasn’t a total loss for words right in front of him. “But I keep missing you! I guess I’m just not very good at catching up to you. Anyways, please sit with me tomorrow! A bunch of us want to welcome you to the heroics course! And you should talk to Iida—he wants to give you a tour of the heroics department, even though we all told him you probably don’t need it.”

“...I don’t know if I’ll be in the cafeteria tomorrow…” There was a lot to unpack in Midoriya’s jumble of words and suggestions. Instead of dealing with it all, Hitoshi just focused on the one thing he sort of knew how to deal with. “I might be... In here again. Or something.”

Everything would be easier if he could just tell Midoriya to go away. Maybe he’d actually listen and leave him alone and even if he didn’t, at least Hitoshi would have an excuse to ignore him. Would he leave him be if he told him no? HItoshi wasn’t sure, but it didn’t matter—for some reason, he couldn’t just say it.

“That’s okay!” MIdoriya’s smile didn’t falter even a bit. Hitoshi stared up at him from his desk, hands balling into tight fists at his sides. He glanced to the side of him, eyes flickering away for a moment, and saw the classroom starting to fill up. The second hand of the clock ticked, inching closer and closer to the bell that would signify the start of another class period. He wouldn’t have to stall for much longer, hopefully.

“You can sit with us whenever!” Midoriya went on, not seeming to notice Hitoshi’s reluctance at all, or getting the hint that Hitoshi didn’t want to sit with him and his friends at lunch. “I can’t really imagine that sitting alone in this classroom is fun at all. I promise it’d be a lot more fun to sit with us!”

“Fun…?”

Midoriya paused a moment and Hitoshi realized that he’d repeated it without thinking. Hitoshi’s mouth twitched into a deeper frown, regretting speaking up further. He hardly knew Midoriya, but he knew enough to tell that it was just going to encourage him to talk more, rather than leaving and sitting down at his seat.

Even if that was the last thing he wanted, it didn’t change the fact that he was curious. He’d never really thought of the lunch period as fun, and the thought was nothing short of perplexing. Relaxing? Sure. Hitoshi tried to take his lunch periods to relax. He brought homemade food from home and spent the period either in quiet solitude or sitting with Aizawa in the classroom. It was a chance to wind down and he genuinely enjoyed making his own lunch each night and getting some time to himself to eat. He didn’t want that to be interrupted, especially when he’d gotten into such a routine since moving in with Aizawa and Yamada. It was relaxing and a well-needed break in the schoolday—but it wasn’t the first thing that came up when Hitoshi thought of fun.

“Haven’t you sat with friends at lunch before?” Midoriya’s wide grin gave way to an expression of total bewilderment. Wide green eyes, mouth slightly agape, eyebrows pushed up. At this point, HItoshi wasn’t entirely convinced that Midoriya was capable of hiding any emotion.

“I—” What was he supposed to say? ‘I don’t have friends’? Even if the truth was that he didn’t have friends and never had and much preferred the company of his new family over people his age, he couldn’t just say that. What if Midoriya thought that was some sort of weakness? He didn’t want to give away something like that about himself. That was something for him to know and for others not to find out and Hitoshi was determined to keep it that way.

Unfortunately, that left him without anything to say.

His luck wasn’t all bad, though. Just as Hitoshi was struggling, trying to find the words, the loud, high-pitched ringing of the bell split through the air. Hitoshi startled, sitting straight up at the sound of it, and Midoirya jumped, freezing, before finally scurrying off towards his seat.

Hitoshi let out a small breath as the door to the classroom opened, settling back into his seat and preparing for the lesson. Everything having to do with his new classmates was confusing and even frustrating, but classwork and listening to the teachers grounded him, reminding him of why he was here and reminding him of why he was focusing so much on school and his life at home.

Or, at least, that was what Hitoshi wanted. In reality, the first few minutes of the lesson were lost on him as Midoriya’s words stuck around in his head.

 

 

If Hitoshi had to describe his performance in school, the word he’d use definitely wouldn’t be unfocused. But today was an outlier, and for the rest of the day, Hitoshi had that same feeling he’d felt last night sitting at the back of his head. Just like when he’d been sitting at the kitchen table trying to do his math homework, there was something keeping him from giving the lessons his all and paying attention. His eyes kept drifting away from the board, staring blankly at his textbook without reading the words there, gaze falling to the classroom windows and the bright, sunny grounds of the school.

If Hitoshi had to describe his performance in school, the word he’d use usually wouldn’t be unfocused, but today he couldn’t deny that he was.

Things worked in his favor, though. Hitoshi had no problem doing the school work assigned during the classes, even with half the lesson being lost on him and having to constantly remind himself to focus on the lesson. He didn’t give up, but he was definitely relieved once the final bell rung and Aizawa dismissed them all from the end of the day homeroom.

Hitoshi waited, watching the other kids gradually file out of the classroom. Some were quicker than others, many eager to go outside and hang out with each other. Hitoshi watched all of them, each individual classmate, catching bits and pieces of their conversations as they made their way out. Midoirya glanced at him, but Hitoshi made himself look busy and he didn’t attempt to approach him, instead going back to excitedly talking with the Todoroki boy about their afternoon plans.

From what he could gather, most of the kids had plans with each other. They made no secrets of it, filling the room with enthusiastic planning and talking, voices fading as they left the classroom and walked down the hallways together, leaving Hitoshi in the classroom.

“Shinsou-chan, aren’t you going to leave?”

The voice startled him out of his staring stupor, and he turned to face it. He recognized it almost immediately as coming from the girl who sat next to him—Yaoyorozu Momo. She’d hung back, too, though unlike him, she’d packed up her books and things and was leaning on her desk, fixing him with a curious stare. Hitoshi glanced around, looking away from her, and realized that the last few kids had left the classroom and were just lingering in the doorway talking amongst themselves. The only ones left in the classroom were Yaoyorozu and Hitoshi—as well as Aizawa.

He tried not to look at Aizawa, instead glancing back up at Yaoyorozu, rubbing the back of his neck as he tried to search for words. Of course he was leaving; it was an odd question to ask. But he’d been waiting for everyone to leave so he could talk to Aizawa and wait for him to be ready to do their after school training. They all already knew he was being trained by Aizawa, but they didn’t know that he’d adopted Hitoshi, and Hitoshi wanted to keep it that way.

“Yeah, I’m—wait, what did you just call me?” It finally hit him: the cutesy nickname she’d called him by. Shinsou-chan—? What a weird thing to call him.

“Oh, sorry! That’s what Tsu-chan calls you. I suppose it’s just a little contagious.” Yaoyorozu noticed his shocked, confused expression and smiled at him. Hitoshi narrowed his eye, studying her, trying to work out what her motives were for talking to him and calling him… that. Did she want something from him? She must. But this was definitely a weird way of getting whatever she wanted.

“Who—?” Tsu-chan… He recognized most of the students in the class and knew their quirks, but names were lost on him. He knew a few and had learned a few more today, but he still only knew over half the class by their quirks alone.

Yaoyorozu didn’t seem the least bit fazed by him not knowing, though, and didn’t even hesitate in reminding him, “Asui! Froppy. The one with the frog quirk.”

“Right. Her.” That immediately rung a bell and Hitoshi sort of wanted to slap himself for forgetting. Yaoyorozu just continued to smile at him and Hitoshi paused, biting his bottom lip as he stared at her. Would she tell Asui that he’d forgotten her name? He didn’t know the names of the majority of the class, but that didn’t mean he wanted them to know that. It was rude and made him come off as meanspirited and uncaring and—

But logically, there… wasn’t a reason to care. He didn’t want to be friends with the other students. So he shouldn’t care. It wasn’t as simple as that, though. It never was.

Being a heroics student was way more complicated than Hitoshi had ever imagined it would be—and it wasn’t because of anything actually having to deal with the heroics courseload. It was the other students. They were hard to figure out, hard to analyze, and for some reason, Hitoshi couldn’t bear to tell them to just go away and leave him alone. Whatever he was doing, it wasn’t enough. What he’d said at the beginning of the joint training course hadn’t been enough. And Hitoshi wasn’t sure what was enough.

“I didn’t… forget her or anything,” Hitoshi muttered, glancing away again. It was far easier to stare at the tiles of the floor than look Yaoyorozu in the eyes. He scratched at the back of his neck, wanting nothing more than for this conversation to end. “I’m just really bad with names.”

“Don’t worry, Shinsou-chan.” There was that nickname again. Hitoshi’s eyes flickered upwards and then back down to the floor tiles, and he said nothing. “There’s so many of us; no one blames you for not knowing everyone’s names!”

“I remember yours,” Hitoshi suddenly blurted out, not sure what else to say. It wasn’t the best thing to say and he instantly regretted it, but he wasn’t able to think of anything else. Aizawa had told him her name this morning, causally mentioning it while telling Hitoshi to go to the classroom early. Hitoshi had managed to remember it throughout the day, but it was really only due to the fact that she sat next to him.

“Really? I’m honored!” She chirped, clapping her hands together in what looked like glee. “If you ever need to know anyone’s names, please just ask me, even if they’re not in the class! I know everyone in the heroics course. I promise I’ll help you with whatever you need!”

What did she want—? He couldn’t figure it out. There were a multitude of things people wanted from him. Not all of them were nefarious. Sometimes they were, especially in the case of his classmates in other schools before he’d come to UA, but other times it was just help on homework or short favors. With Yaoyorozu, he couldn’t figure it out. She hadn’t asked him for anything yet, or hinted at wanting anything, and for the life of him, he couldn’t figure out why she was talking to him.

“Yaoyorozu, aren’t you supposed to be meeting with someone for a potential internship today?”

Hitoshi nearly jumped at the sound of Aizawa’s voice and Yaoyorozu did jump, startling at the gruff, tired voice of their teacher. Hitoshi finally looked back up, finally daring to look at Aizawa, and found him still sitting at his teaching desk, pen in hand and the class journal in front of him, staring at Yaoyorozu with an expectant expression.

“O—oh right! Sorry, Sensei. You’re right. I have to go meet Fatgum today…”

“Better not keep him waiting,” Aizawa commented pointedly, and Yaoyorozu quickly got the hint and scurried to finish putting her books in her bag. Hitoshi watched, breathing a quiet sigh of relief at the fact that he’d been saved again from a conversation where he was doing nothing but making things awkward.

Before finally leaving, though, she turned to Hitoshi and gave him one more bright smile, “It was nice talking to you. Please don’t hesitate to come to me if you need anything!”

Like that, she was out the door, running off to the meeting that had evidently slipped her mind. Hitoshi watched, sitting in his desk in the back of the empty classroom, his own awkwardness lingering in his body and just making him more and more confused, and in the few moments of silence after watching her all but run out the door, Hitoshi found himself wishing that he’d at least told her goodbye.

 

“Do you want to talk about it?”

“Not really.”

Hitoshi covered his shame by hiding his face in his capture weapon, pulling it up enough that it covered his mouth and nose. His cheeks burned hot and Hitoshi cast a quick glance at Aizawa, catching his eyes for a moment before snapping his gaze back forward once more.

At the very least, they were out of the classroom now, Hitoshi following Aizawa as he led him into the city-simulation training grounds. The area was deserted without another person in sight, another relief that hit Hitoshi hard. After a long day of dealing with his classmates, he was looking forward to not having to see them for another day. Aizawa, Yamada, even the therapist he’d have to meet with later today—they were all people Hitoshi knew how to be around. To Hitoshi, it seemed that he just worked better around people older than him rather than those his own age.

That thought made him want to tear his own hair out, and he couldn’t quite figure out why. He’d been fine earlier today, telling Aizawa that he didn’t need anyone else besides the little family he had now. Suddenly, he hated the way he was, the way he struggled for words, the way he didn’t know how to react when talking to people. It’d be so easy to just tell them to go away. So, so easy. But the words stuck in his throat and wouldn’t come out and Hitoshi was left confused and not knowing what to say.

“Hitoshi—” Aizawa stopped and Hitoshi instantly halted, too, following his lead—though he didn’t expect Aizawa to turn on him and fix him with a hard stare. “I know something’s wrong.”

Nothing’s wrong, he wanted to say. He bit down on his bottom lip, letting a hissed sigh out, searching for what to say. He wasn’t going to lie to him and tell him nothing was wrong. A few months ago, that was exactly what he would’ve done, but a few months ago, he was just coming out of foster care and still feeling like he was two steps away from messing everything out and getting himself thrown back into the system. A few months had taught him a lot, and a few months had taught him that for once in his life, he had people he could talk to, even if talking about what he was thinking and feeling was one of the hardest things possible.

At least it was easier to talk with Aizawa and Yamada than a therapist. They were family, the two people Hitoshi now knew he could trust with anything and everything no matter what. Just a few months ago, Hitoshi had been cautious in everything, but now he knew that if he opened up here, in the grounds of the empty training area, it’d be alright, and that alone was the most reassuring thing possible.

The warm April son shone down on the open ceiling of the training grounds, making Hitoshi sweat in the long-sleeved gym uniform he still wore, but he still hugged his arms around him anyways, no longer able to look Aizawa in the eyes as he measured out his words.

“I… don’t know what’s wrong with me.”

“Nothing’s wrong with you,” Aizawa answered almost immediately, like it was a fact.

“Yes, there is.” It wasn’t an argument; Hitoshi didn’t argue with Aizawa. Aizawa just didn’t seem to understand, though, or maybe he just didn’t see. “I can’t talk to anyone. I can’t tell them to go away. I don’t know what to do.”

“It seemed like you were talking to Yaoyorozu perfectly fine.” Aizawa said.

Hitoshi frowned at that, staring at the road they were standing on, arms wrapped around himself. The sun above felt hotter than ever, but Hitoshi wished he had more to cover up with. He was vulnerable, putting himself out in the open, without anything but the capture weapon wrapped around his neck to hide with.

“I didn’t know what to say. I could barely talk to her. She must think I’m weird and won’t want to talk to me again and—”

“Hitoshi. Stop.” Aizawa cut in, and Hitoshi instantly fell silent. At least he hadn’t pulled on his capture weapon to get his attention this time. “You always think you did worse than how you actually did. Just stop for a second.”

Hitoshi did what he was told and shut up. For a long moment, it was silent between the two of them, the air of the empty training grounds filled with nothing. The lifeless buildings and streets lining the fake city blocks never felt so huge and looming and at the same time, small and threatening to close in around him. He let out a long breath, dropping his shoulders and trying to get himself to relax.

He was pretty sure he was supposed to save this stuff for therapy instead of having it all come out when he was supposed to be training his quirk with Aizawa, Hitoshi thought with an almost bitter amusement. Maybe he should’ve saved this all for therapy, but the thought of sitting on a couch and struggling to spill all this out to a therapist that barely knew him was an impossible task. He’d much rather be doing it here, with Aizawa, than anywhere else.

“Sorry,” Hitoshi said quietly, nodding in partial agreement. This wasn’t the first time he’d heard Aizawa say that. Even Yamada had talked to him about it before.

“It’s fine; don’t apologize. I just want you to be aware of it. I used to do the same thing when I was your age.” That caught Hitoshi’s attention and he managed to pick his head up slightly, sheepishly glancing to look Aizawa in the eyes. He was fixing Hitoshi with a look that Hitoshi was used to—but only at home. It was a warmer expression, involving less of Aizawa’s teacher side and more of the parent side of him.

It was jarring to hear about Aizawa’s past, especially here, in the training grounds with Aizawa still in his hero costume, talking to Hitoshi in the same way he did at home. Still, Hitoshi liked it. He wanted to hear more, wanted to know more about Aizawa and what he’d been like when he was Hitoshi’s age.

“I didn’t know that.” Hitoshi tilted his head up, fully looking at him now. Somehow, Aizawa had stopped him from spiraling so much, like Hitoshi had been teetering on the edge of doing before Aizawa had told him to stop.

“You’re a lot like how I was as a kid. You were fine when you were talking with Yaoyorozu.” Aizawa paused, staring at Hitoshi before going on— “Hitoshi, do you not know how to talk to kids your age? Is that what you’re so worried about?”

Hitoshi suddenly felt like he’d been thrown over that same edge he’d just been pulled back from.

He really honestly did like that Aizawa was blunt. It left little room for overthinking and questioning his motives and the hidden meanings beneath words. Hitoshi knew better than anyone that words had a lot of power and shouldn’t be wasted, and he genuinely appreciated that Aizawa seemed to think the same and put things in such a way that he always sounded sure of himself. But sometimes—sometimes that led to him saying things that Hitoshi didn’t want to hear. Things Hitoshi knew were true but didn’t want to even admit to himself, much less out loud.

“I just don’t want friends.” He didn’t want to answer; he just fell back on the same thing he’d been repeating to himself and his parents over the last couple days. It was far easier than answering Aizawa’s questions. “That’s all.”

Aizawa raised an eyebrow at him, “I thought you were worried about Yaoyorozu thinking you were weird and not wanting to talk to you again? If you don’t want to be friends with her, then that shouldn’t worry you, right?”

“I…” Hitoshi trailed off. Silence fell between them again, and over the empty training grounds. It was only the two of them and the empty city blocks, the sun shining high above them and Hitoshi’s heart beating hard in his chest.

Aizawa was right. It was all illogical. His life had somehow gotten a thousand times more complicated since joining class 1-A and he wasn’t sure how to fix it.

Hitoshi’s heart beat harder, fast enough that he was terrified Aizawa could hear it. The silence was more telling than anything, feeling as though it was hours and hours long before finally, Aizawa broke the silence when it became clear that Hitoshi couldn’t.

“Alright, Hitoshi. Try to relax. We can do some training.”

Instant relief filled him, like a rush crashing over him. He snapped back to attention, nodding, eager to shake the rest of the thoughts from his head and focus only on training. That, he knew. That was easy to deal with. He could put all his effort into training and not think about anything else until it was time to stop.

“What are we doing today?”

“Training your quirk. We’re going to play a game. I want to see if you can use your quirk in a search and rescue situation.”

 

Night fell. Aizawa didn’t stop him early, like he usually did, and Hitoshi appreciated that. He didn’t need time to wind down today—it was the opposite; Hitoshi wanted to keep busy, too afraid of falling back into a spiral of thoughts he didn’t want if he had even a moment to himself. The sun started to set overhead and by the time they were done and in the process of leaving the school grounds, night had fallen above and the dying lights of twilight were beginning to disappear over the horizon.

Exhaustion sat heavy in Hitoshi’s bones, a pleasant sort of tiredness that nagged at him. He welcomed it, because if he was exhausted, it was easier to rest, easier to deal with his thoughts, and it’d be easier to deal with the hour of therapy he was supposed to do today. They hadn’t been focusing on anything directly physical today, but running all around the training grounds in Aizawa’s weird version of hide and seek had the effect of tiring him out. Which, Hitoshi guessed, was probably the plan, due to his parents’ concern about him not sleeping much the previous night and their general worrying about him.

He just had to get through an hour of therapy. Yamada picked them up from the school campus and Hitoshi was all too happy to lean his head back and close his eyes for the drive. He didn’t nod off—couldn’t nod off—but at least he could focus on Aizawa and Yamada’s quiet conversation rather than his own thoughts. It was being alone that got to him, and that was the thing Hitoshi was worried about. When he was alone, there was no one else to drown out his head.

Well, it was being alone and therapy that he was worried about. But therapy was just an hour long, no matter how excruciatingly long it felt. Just an hour of awkward talking and trying and failing to express his feelings. He half wondered what it’d be like, if his therapist would question him about how school was going—and if she’d ask about Hitoshi’s lack of desire for friends.

Just an hour. Sixty minutes. That was all he had to get through. It wouldn’t be that hard.

Time just seemed to slow down in the office, though. Even just waiting felt like it took forever and suddenly, Hitoshi was more awake than ever, staring up at the clock on the wall in the little waiting room, waiting, waiting for the hour to turn so those dreaded sixty minutes could start. The door to his therapist’s office remained shut, but Hitoshi could see a strip of light coming from under it, signifying that she was in there.

Aizawa and Yamada were here too, of course. Part of him was glad he didn’t have to come to this place alone. The other part of him was embarrassed, embarrassed that they had to take an hour out of their free time to come here with him every week—an hour that would undoubtedly be better spent elsewhere. Yet, they insisted on being here with him, and with the part of him that was glad he wasn’t here alone, he wasn’t going to argue about that.

The clock passed the hour and right on the dot, like always, the door to his therapist’s office swung open and she poked her head out, giving him her usual smile and calling him.

“Please come in, Shinsou-kun.”

Hitoshi cast a glance at his parents, almost wanting to not go. As much as he thought he’d prepared himself for this, the moment that door opened, that all went out the window and was just replaced with dread. He said nothing, Yamada giving him an encouraging grin that reminded him that he was here doing this because he wanted to do what his parents asked of him and if they thought this would help him, then he was willing to suffer through it.

A pit of dread opening wide in his stomach, Hitoshi got up and followed his therapist to her office. She shut the door behind him.

Kanjou-sensei was a woman he’d only known for a few short months. Once a week, always on the same day, at the same time, in the same office. She always looked the same, sounded the same, and very often said the same things. He supposed he should appreciate the routine, as he did with most routines he was provided with, but he found himself desperately wishing he could cut this weekly therapy session with her out of his routine. He’d much rather be spending it at home, with his family, and no matter what Aizawa-sensei said, Hitoshi wasn’t exactly convinced it was helping at all.

Her office looked the same as it always did. Things moved occasionally. Sometimes she’d add another board game to the stack or another colorful poster to the wall or a new blanket to the couch. He guessed it was supposed to look welcoming, and in a way, it was. It wasn’t like Hitoshi hadn’t been dragged to mandated therapy sessions before in his life—though only for one or two sessions, with his unlucky caretakers complaining the entire time—but those had always been different, more intimidating and impersonal, always leaving Hitoshi feeling like he was just being taken to an appointment just to be sat on an uncomfortable couch and be talked at or scolded by a therapist that didn’t care about him in the slightest.

This was—different. It wasn’t that he didn’t like Kanjou-sensei. He liked her perfectly fine. He was sure she was good at her job. She certainly seemed like it. She was kind and did sound like she genuinely cared. Her office was bright and decorated, colorful and filled with little splashes of life. Her other patients probably felt safe and at home here. No, his therapist wasn’t actually the problem, as much as Hitoshi dreaded seeing her and being here.

The problem was him. It just didn’t work for him. He wasn’t sure why therapy didn’t work for him; maybe the circumstances of his life had just fucked him up too much for even a trained professional to be able to fix him. Maybe he’d always be the way he was.

“How are you, Shinsou-kun?” Kanjou-sensei sat in her chair opposite the couch, rousing Hitoshi out of his daze. He let out a breath, sitting in his usual spot on the couch. Kanjou-sensei, as far as he knew, specialized in children, and her office was decorated as such. He had to move a couple colorful pillows and smalled stuffed animals to make a place for himself on the couch, settling in quickly.

“I’m alright,” He said automatically, barely even having to think about the answer. Above her head on the wall was the clock, putting him in the perfect position to watch it as he sat across from her. In the silence, he could hear it slowly ticking away, sixty minutes now feeling like an impossibly huge amount of time.

“Anything new going on? You transferred into the heroics course at school this week, didn’t you?” She’d apparently learned that the answer to ‘anything new going on?’ was always ‘no’. He was actually a little impressed that she’d remembered about his transfer. It’d been upcoming for a while and he hadn’t talked much about it with her, but he knew she’d occasionally talk with Aizawa and Yamada.

He wondered if she had to ask what to talk to him about. He never volunteered much information. It wasn’t exactly on purpose; being here just had a tendency to send him back into a similar mindset he’d had in foster care, where he had to lock down all information about himself and all emotions he felt. He really felt bad for Kanjou-sensei. There was no way she could like him as a client, no matter how nice and welcoming she always was to him.

“Yeah,” Hitoshi nodded, glancing back at the clock in an effort to avoid her eyes. Even this, telling her a little about his transfer, was hard. After spending a decade being careful to not speak up too much or give anyone any information about himself that might be used against him, trying to open up in therapy about even the smallest things was like hitting a brick wall. “I’m in Sensei’s class. There’s nineteen students in the class.”

“Twenty now with you, right?”

“I guess so.” That was, of course, logical. But something about counting himself with the rest of Aizawa’s class felt off. Weird. Like he hadn’t been there long enough to be considered part of the group. “It’s only been two days.”

“It must be exciting! This is what you’ve wanted since you applied to UA, isn’t it?”

“Yeah.”

He knew she was trying to get more out of him and get him to talk more about his feelings and experiences. Usually, she’d try to get something out of him regarding his years in foster care and what he’d been through for the past decade. She didn’t typically focus as much on school, but she would sometimes ask him about his life at home.

He felt bad for not talking more or expanding on what she’d said. He could tell her that it’d been his dream since he’d been a little kid, since he’d first realized that he could become a hero. Since it’d first become a possibility. None of that felt useful, though, or even relevant. There was no reason to talk about things that didn’t matter to her or whatever therapy she was trying to do with him.

“Are you liking it?” She kept on the school questions. Hitoshi wondered if there was a way to get her to change the subject, and how to do it.

“I like being in Sensei’s class.” He finally offered. “The classes are still fine. But I like having him as a homeroom teacher. I get to see Yamada in English class now, too.”

Those were honestly things that he liked. He was proud to be in the heroics course. He liked having Aizawa as his homeroom teacher and he liked having Yamada as his English teacher. The general studies English teachers were fine, as was his old homeroom teacher, but Hitoshi liked this a lot better. He was much happier being in Aizawa’s class than he’d be in class B.

“Good! It’s great you’re enjoying things in your new class,” Kanjou-sensei smiled brightly at him, in a way that made him think that she might be genuinely happy for him. Or maybe he was just being a little less difficult today. “How are the other students?”

Hitoshi’s expression fell into a frown. He should’ve known that’d be coming. He’d wanted to change the subject, to steer her away from the frustrating topic of his new classmates, but hadn’t found the right way to do it in time. He knew she’d ask.

“They’re…” He searched for the right word. ‘Fine’ was the first one that came to mind, but that was a total lie. His classmates were far from fine. It was the word that would make her stop asking questions, but every time he tried to say it, he remembered Aizawa and Yamada out in the waiting room, waiting for him, here because they wanted to encourage him to make progress in therapy. He just… didn’t want to let them down.

“They’re frustrating,” He decided finally, rubbing at the back of his neck. “Frustrating and a little annoying.”

Across from him, his therapist pursed her lips, her eyes widening just enough for Hitoshi to notice. That clearly hadn’t been the answer she’d expected from him. He couldn’t blame her; saying what he was actually thinking was rare, especially when she hadn’t pushed too much. Guilt stirred in Hitoshi’s stomach, making him think twice about admitting that to her.

He had a really bad feeling he’d opened the floodgates to a hurricane of other questions. He tried to shove that guilt down, quieting it into the blanket of frustrations and confusion that he’d hidden everything else in.

Kanjou-sensei paused, and he waited, keeping a straight face and refusing to let his emotions betray him.

“How are they frustrating?” She prodded him, tone curious. “Are they upset that you transferred into the class?”

“No. Or… I don’t think so.” He had to stop. He was talking too much, giving too much information. But that blanket of frustrations inside him felt like it was bubbling and boiling, forcing words out of his mouth before he could stop it. “They just keep trying to talk to me. They won’t go away.”

“Do you want them to?”

A pause. Hitoshi looked at the clock. Only five minutes had passed. He was beginning to feel hot, like someone had suddenly turned the heat up in the building without warning. He took a deep breath in, letting it out through his nose.

“Yeah.”

“Why is that?”

So many questions. Only five minutes. He had fifty-five more. He’d already talked too much. He wanted desperately to go back and take back what he’d said, to tell her that the other kids were fine and everything was fine and nothing was wrong with him being in the heroics course. He should’ve never said anything.

“Nevermind,” He tried.

“It’s okay, Shinsou-kun. We don’t have to talk about this if you—”

—if you don’t want to. He didn’t let her finish, cutting in instead.

“I don’t want to be friends with them.” No, no, no. He had to shut up. This was too much. He knew better than this. He thought he did, anyways. “They’re just distractions. I just want to tell them all to go away. I can’t even talk to them, anyways. I don’t understand why they won’t listen to me.”

The room just felt like he was growing hotter and smaller, like the walls were closing in around him. Hitoshi swallowed hard, trying to force down the hard lump in his throat. The words felt loud and sticky, and more and more just kept coming, like he couldn’t stop.

Kanjou-sensei leaned forward in her chair, though, fixing him with a soft smile. The silence hung between them, growing with each and every tick of the clock, Hitoshi’s skin getting hotter and hotter until he felt like he was going to explode. The frustration had been burning over the past two days, growing as he tried to shove it down and now coming out when he least wanted it to.

“Have you told them all this?” Kanjou-sensei asked him. “Why do you think you can’t talk to them?”

“I just… can’t.” He wanted—needed—to stop answering. He wanted silence again. He wanted to be out of this suffocating room. It was no longer bright and colorful and welcoming, but instead mocking and closing in at a rapid pace, threatening to crush him within its four walls. He itched to get out of here.

The door was right there, so close to him, and yet, it felt so far away. Despite the burning in his body, Hitoshi was frozen in place, unable to get up and leave.

“I told them once,” Hitoshi continued, his voice louder, more frantic. “A few months ago. When I was getting tested to see if I could transfer. But they all just ignored that. They keep talking to me. They won’t go away. There’s this kid that… wants me to sit with him at lunch. And this girl who I sit next to in class. I tried talking to them but I can’t. I don’t know what to say. I don’t know what they want from me.”

He stopped, shutting his mouth with a quiet choked sound. His heart beat rapidly in his chest, threatening to burst right through his skin. His eyes widened and he looked at his therapist in horror, silence enveloping the room once more.

This was the most he’d ever spoken in therapy. All she’d been able to get out of him before were one word answers and the occasional short sentence. Even that was better than this. His heart dropped, the pit of dread from before opening up wider as his skin crawled with the realization of what he’d just done.

“It sounds like you’re wanting two different things here,” His therapist commented, still giving him that horrible soft smile. “You said you don’t want friends, but at the same time, it seems like you’re upset you can’t talk to your classmates. You’ve never talked about having friends before; have you ever had a friend before? Do you really not want friends, or do you think that maybe that’s just a way of protecting yourself?”

Quiet. The clock ticked on. Hitoshi coudn’t even bring himself to look up at it and see how long he’d been sitting here.

His shoulders slumped. His head dropped. His hands balled into fists at his sides. His nails dug into his palms, hard enough that he distantly wondered if he was drawing blood. All he could hear was the thundering sound of his heart and the second hand of the clock ticking away, echoing through the small room. He stared down at his lap, eyes still wide, the pressure he felt inside of him finally starting to die down bit by bit, replaced only with regret that he hadn’t just kept quiet and suffered through his sixty minutes of therapy like he did every other week.

“...Shinsou-kun?” She prompted when he didn’t reply or move. “It’s alright if you want to talk about something else or—”

“I want to leave,” Hitoshi said, voice weak and barely more than a muttered whisper. He couldn’t look up, nor did he want to. He couldn’t stand to see the disappointment on her face. “Please let me go home. I don’t want to talk anymore.”

He took a deep, shaky breath in. He couldn’t get enough air into his lungs, but he had to steady himself. He’d done enough damage already. The silence felt worse than ever before, and all Hitoshi wanted was to leave this office, to go home and hide away from the world. He wanted his parents, wanted to be comforted, and he could barely stand to think about the way he’d disappointed them, too.

“Okay. I’ll take you back out to the waiting room.”

“...Thank you…”

 

If there was a way to shut off the entire world, Hitoshi one day hoped to find it.

There were no arguments about going home. Hitoshi didn’t exactly expect there to be, but the possibility had worried him. His movements were robotic in nature, stiff and automatic and also weighed down with an exhaustion from the past two days. His limbs felt heavy and dragging himself from the office to the car felt worse than any sort of feat he’d taken on before.

He didn’t talk. He just shut down. Yamada and Aizawa didn’t push too much; they knew him well, knew that sometimes Hitoshi just couldn’t talk, that the state he reverted to in times like this was just silence. Yamada talked, but didn’t expect an answer, and Aizawa rode in the backseat with him.

There was one question on his mind, but he didn’t dare to ask it until he was through the front door of the house.

“Are you mad at me?”

He directed it at both of them, standing in the entry way of the house, schoolbag still slung over his body and jacket still zipped up. He felt stiffer than ever, and it was almost like the past hour hadn’t even been real, like nothing had been real since leaving the school to the time he walked through the front door of the house. He wished nothing that had happened had been real, that he hadn’t just asked to leave therapy early and completely shut down.

He didn’t get a verbalized answer, but he got an answer all the same. It was in a form of a hug, and Hitoshi suddenly found himself being pulled against Aizawa in a tight hug, Yamada joining in soon after.

For a moment, Hitoshi stiffened more, freezing up, but as soon as he realized what was happening, he relaxed, letting himself be hugged by his parents. Maybe he still wasn’t used to affection like this, but that didn’t mean he didn’t want it. It was the opposite, actually, something he needed and here he knew he could be weak and vulnerable. He didn’t get an answer in words, but actions often spoke louder than words and even with all of Hitoshi’s anxieties and worries, he knew what this meant.

They weren’t angry at him.

Hitoshi had made it through ten minutes of therapy before needing to leave. He’d made it through two days of being in the heroics course before his frustrations spilled over. He felt like a failure, like a disappointment, but even with his own feelings, he had his new family and a safe home he could come back to every night.

Things were confusing. There was no doubt about that. Hitoshi still wasn’t sure what to do about it or how to fix his issues with the other students in the class, and thinking about it made his head pound. But he was still happy. He had this and he was in the heroics course, following his lifelong dreams. That was what mattered.

Hitoshi let himself relax into the arms of his parents, letting out a shaky sigh. He could feel the wetness at his eyes and buried his face in Aizawa’s sweater, not wanting to deal with crying right now.

There were nineteen students in his class. Nineteen plus one. Nineteen people who didn’t understand, who didn’t know anything about him. Nineteen. Nineteen and him.

He wanted that number to be twenty. Somewhere deep inside, he wanted to be part of that group. He’d never been part of a group before, never had people treat him like this. He had no idea how to deal with it and now—he wasn’t sure how he wanted to deal with it. He’d tried getting himself to tell them to just go away, but in reality, he didn’t actually want to. So he had to come up with something else, and figure things out.

If only things were easier. If only those nineteen students would just treat him like he was used to everyone else treating him.

He knew that definitely wasn’t going to happen.

Chapter Text

“I’m sorry about last night.”

It was the first thing that came out of his mouth when morning came, and the only thing on Hitoshi’s mind. The early light streamed through the living room windows, bright and nearly white-colored. It was almost too early to be up, but sleeping on the couch for any longer than he already had probably wasn’t possible and Hitoshi instead resigned himself to being awake.

He didn’t remember falling asleep. His exhaustion had just gotten to him and he’d dozed off out here. Oddly enough, it didn’t surprise Hitoshi that Aizawa had spent the night with him out here. He’d done the same thing when Hitoshi had fallen asleep on the couch the first night he’d been here, and he always made sure that Hitoshi didn’t spend the night alone when he slept on the couch. While it couldn’t be comfortable for him, Hitoshi did definitely appreciate it—after all, the nights he fell asleep out here were the nights he couldn’t stand to be alone, and last night had been no exception.

The bedroom door to the master bedroom was ajar and Hitoshi could hear Yamada’s telltale snoring. Aizawa wasn’t a morning person by any means, but he was usually up before Yamada and if Hitoshi couldn’t sleep or woke up early, he was almost sure to find him already awake.

“It’s fine,” Aizawa told him quietly, sounding half asleep still. Hitoshi didn’t know how he slept like that, given that he was on the opposite side of the couch from Hitoshi, sitting up and looking like he was about to doze off in the morning light. “You didn’t do anything wrong.”

“I probably shouldn’t have left therapy like that…” There was no moment upon waking up where Hitoshi forgot what had happened the night before; it was still fresh in his mind, like an open wound. He was calmer now about it, rather than convinced that Aizawa and Yamada were going to be angry and disappointed in him, but that didn’t make him feel any less guilty.

“It’s alright,” Aizawa said, resting his cheek on his hand and opening his eyes to give Hitoshi a tired look. “You probably don’t feel like it, but it seems like you made some progress.”

“You’re kidding, right?” Hitoshi frowned, giving Aizawa an incredulous look. There was no world where walking out of a therapy session after only ten minutes could be considered ‘progress’. But Aizawa didn’t seem to be joking, at least not from his unchanged facial expression.

“Your therapist said you talked to her a little.” Oh. Right. He’d almost forgotten that Yamada had hung back for a couple minutes to talk to his therapist after Hitoshi had told them he wanted to go home. Aizawa had taken him to the car. Hitoshi hadn’t had a problem with them talking to her, but it was easy to forget about. It made sense she’d tell them about what had happened during the session.

“I guess.” Hitoshi pulled the blanket that’d been draped over him to his chin, wanting to hide beneath it. He was more comfortable talking here, at home, than he’d ever be in the therapy office, but there was still a lingering feeling of discomfort leftover from spending most of his life in places where he couldn’t talk about things. “I didn’t really mean to. It just happened.”

“That’s fine. You did good.”

“‘Good’?” Hitoshi repeated, still in shock that what had happened could be considered even remotely good. He’d take anything over Aizawa being angry with him or disappointed in him, but this was weird.

Aizawa just raised an eyebrow at him as Hitoshi stared with widened eyes, “Hitoshi, therapy is scary. It’s fine to not make it through every session. You talked to your therapist told us when you needed to leave. You did good.”

“Oh…” Hitoshi glanced away, gaze falling back on the ajar door to the master bedroom. He let out a breath, tension lifting from his body. When he looked back at Aizawa, he’d closed his eyes again, probably trying to get in a little more sleep before he was due to be awake.

Scary. Fear was one of those emotions Hitoshi thought he’d always be nervous about. The idea that fear was a weakness was yet another thing leftover from his years in foster care. There were a lot of things like that, a lot of things he was slowly unlearning and working on with his new family. He’d started to learn that fear wasn’t something he should run away from, especially here, in a place he could be vulnerable. But it was still hard to even realize he was afraid of something.

“I guess it is scary,” Hitoshi murmured in quiet agreement, settling back into where he was laying on the couch. It felt foreign to say something like that, the words sounding fundamentally wrong to say, but Hitoshi didn’t try to take it back.

“That’s normal; therapy isn’t easy. It’s going to be scary for a while.”

Hitoshi only nodded, saying nothing more. He wanted to let Aizawa get some more rest and while Hitoshi was doubtful that he’d be able to fall back asleep, he wouldn’t mind having some extra time to close his eyes and relax before school.

What Aizawa said did stick in his mind, though, even as Hitoshi tried to settle down again. He couldn’t help but to think he was speaking from experience. Part of him wanted to ask, but he kept quiet, letting Aizawa doze back off without bothering him more.

Hitoshi wasn’t aware, of course, but he had a long day ahead of him.

 

Hitoshi ended up feeling more rested once his phone alarm went off, and he did end up being more thankful for that extra bit of rest after initially waking up. For the first time since transferring to the heroics course, Hitoshi finally felt well rested, having managed to get enough sleep after what had happened the night before.

All he wanted was a quiet day where he could just get through school normally and then go home and spend time with his parents in the evenings. That was all he wanted.

Unfortunately, it didn’t work like that, and Hitoshi didn’t know why he ever expected a day with class 1-A to be quiet, of all things.

Most of his classmates stared at him when he walked into the classroom. Hitoshi just kept his head down, and quietly took his seat. A couple said hello to him—Midoriya was one, as was Yaoyorozu. Hitoshi returned the greeting in the shortest way possible, still remembering his awkward conversation with her yesterday afternoon and turned away, only hoping that he hadn’t come off as impolite, and wondering if he should’ve said more.

The first problem came halfway into the first period after homeroom. English, taught by Yamada.

Hitoshi’s intentions were to keep his head down, learn everything he could, stay out of trouble, and become the best hero he possibly could. That was his plan. That was all he wanted. He had a family and was on the right track to his dreams and Hitoshi was happy, but other seemingly minor things just kept throwing themselves into the way over and over again and forcing him to consider that maybe there was a part of the equation that was missing.

Yamada’s voice was loud and in school, it made Hitoshi’s ears ring a little, despite sitting all the way in the back of class. It was near impossible to hear anything else. It was a good wake up call for first period, he thought, though Hitoshi definitely considered that maybe Yamada was a little too loud. But Hitoshi knew how to focus with that and even with the small ringing in his ears, Hitoshi was easily following along with the passage in his textbook, keeping himself prepared to be called to read on at any time, finally able to focus after what felt like two days of being distracted in everything he tried to do.

The rest of the class felt… dead. Hitoshi wasn’t sure how else to describe it. Dead. Tired. Lethargic. It was like someone had taken him at his tiredest point—probably in the car yesterday evening—and copied that feeling into each of his nineteen classmates. Everyone had their heads down and none of them seemed to want to answer any questions. Only a couple seemed to be actually paying attention.

The kid with a tail—Hitoshi could never actually remember his name, for some reason—was idly doodling in his notebook at the front of the class. The pink girl wasn’t looking at the front of the class and was clearly daydreaming. Hitoshi could see that Kaminari wasn’t even on the right page and heavily suspected that he was actually asleep, though it was hard to confirm that from where Hitoshi was sitting. Even the frog girl—Asui, Hitoshi remembered from his conversation with Yaoyorozu—looked ready to nod off at any second.

It also didn’t help that it was a cold, grey April morning. The classroom always had the blinds and curtains opened, but it didn’t help right now. The world outside was just grey, the sky overcast and drawing long, dark shadows on the floor, the sun completely hidden from view. Part of him thought that the thermostat might be completely broken, with how cold the room was, because even through his heavy school blazer, Hitoshi could feel goosebumps creeping up his arms and down his spine.

It just seemed like a miserable day altogether. But Hitoshi was paying attention, and had made the mental note to ask Aizawa-sensei about the classroom’s temperature later. His classmates would probably be pretty thankful for that, though he hoped they wouldn’t figure out it was him who’d gotten Aizawa to change it. Even if it was sort of the truth, Hitoshi really didn’t want to be seen as the teacher’s pet. For now, though, he was focusing just fine, following along and—

And underneath Yamada’s loud, ringing voice, Hitoshi could hear this… noise.

It wasn’t constant. No, it was the opposite. It seemed to go off at random intervals, and Hitoshi thought it was getting longer, with the last one being a few seconds in duration. It sounded like a growling, a gurgling, almost, and due to Yamada’s voice distorting every other sound in the room, Hitoshi couldn’t quite tell what it was.

That was, until he glanced over, intended to crane his neck and see if he could tell if Kaminari was actually sleeping or not, just to entertain himself, and his gaze came to a rest on the girl sitting next to him, who’d greeted him with a friendly hello today.

Admittedly, there were students in the class who Hitoshi tolerated more than others. He wasn’t fond of the louder ones—most of the louder ones, that was. Explosion Kid was too angry and annoying for him to want to deal with. Pink Girl was friendly, but she was loud and excitable and while Hitoshi was on good terms with her, he definitely avoided her a little. Tail Boy still seemed angry at him for the sports festival, so Hitoshi kept his distance from him, too, not wanting to cause any trouble. But, at the same time, there were students he could deal with more than others. Yaoyorozu seemed to be one of them. Even with yesterday’s awkward conversation and what it’d eventually led to, Hitoshi didn’t actually mind her friendly greetings all that much.

He’d been appreciative that Aizawa had just put a seat at the back of the classroom next to her, who’d previously been the last seat in the class. He hadn’t known her much and had only seen her in passing before this, but even just from watching class A, he knew she was friendly, quiet, didn’t seem to make a lot of trouble, and she apparently had the best grades in the class. He was just happy to sit near someone who wasn’t keen on causing trouble and wouldn’t unintentionally draw attention to him.

But he’d never really seen her like this.

The second he laid eyes on her, he forgot all about trying to figure out if Kaminari was actually asleep or not. In the desk beside him, Yaoyorozu was clearly trying to pay attention and failing, hunched over with a horrible, pained look on her face, her arms wrapped around her stomach. Her eyes were a little teary, her face pale, her mouth set in a heavy, pained frown.

The rumbling came again, lasting even longer, and Hitoshi finally understood.

He wasn’t sure how it happened, exactly, since Yaoyorozu seemed like the type to take care of herself well, especially since her quirk was food based. But then again, Hitoshi didn’t live in the dorms. He didn’t exactly know how rigid the schedule was there. It didn’t exactly matter right now, though, since the deed was already done and Hitoshi knew he definitely couldn’t focus now.

Hitoshi’s gaze flickered back to the front. Yamada was in the process of writing out sentences on the chalkboard. It was already things that Hitoshi had copied down, and he’d worked out the structure a few minutes ago, when he’d gotten a little bored listening. He was fine to not pay attention for a little bit, as long as he didn’t draw Yamada’s attention to him. Not only did he not want to get in trouble, but he knew that if he was caught doing something like this, Yamada would never stop teasing him about it at home. He had to be quiet, and fast.

It was just a distraction. With Hitoshi finally able to focus on things for the first time in a couple days, he didn’t want any distractions. Which meant he had to fix this one before he missed something in class.

Hitoshi leaned down, keeping his eyes locked on the front, and blindly reached down, feeling around until his fingers brushed against the fabric of his school bag. He slowly lifted it up, until he could silently put it in his lap, and then quickly looked down to dig his lunchbox out of it. He’d started bringing his lunch to school since his adoption had been finalized, since there was enough food at home that Hitoshi finally had the luxury of doing so, and he felt like he’d been missing out on the experience since grade school. He could always get lunch at school, though, since he was giving his packed one to someone else right now.

A quick glance at the clock told him they only had about ten minutes left in Yamada’s class.

Hitoshi quietly set his bag back down, keeping his lunchbox in his lap, and then turned his focus to Yaoyorozu again. She somehow seemed to be in even more pain, like she was holding her clearly aching stomach even tighter. She’d definitely forgotten to eat this morning; Hitoshi was sure of it. Aizawa wouldn’t even let him out the door if Hitoshi hadn’t eaten breakfast.

“Yaoyorozu.” He hissed it, keeping his voice low. He could still barely hear himself, given how loud Yamada was being. He found himself wishing that Yamada used his ‘home-voice’ at school, and also wondered how the kids in the front row hadn’t gone deaf yet. Yaoyorozu didn’t hear him and didn’t turn to him, so Hitoshi tried again, “Hey! Yaoyorozu!”

It was still hissed and quiet, and Yaoyorozu still didn’t hear him. No one did, not even Bird Boy, who sat directly in front of Hitoshi. It was useless. He had to get her attention in some other way, because this wasn’t going to work.

He looked around for something, searching for a clue. He found it almost immediately, eyes locking on the eraser he had sitting on his notebook.

Without a second thought, he picked it up and threw it at Yaoyorozu.

Only once it left his hand did Hitoshi realize how hard he’d thrown it. Guilt filled him immediately as he watched it hit her, both because it’d hit her right in the chest and because that’d been Hitoshi’s favorite eraser, shaped like a cute cat and stolen from Aizawa. He just hoped she’d give it back to him later.

She turned to him immediately, eyes narrowed at him, rubbing the place near her collarbone where the cat eraser had hit her. At the front of the class, Yamada just carried on and no one else looked at him, and Hitoshi breathed a small sigh of relief knowing that no one had seen. But Yaoyorozu did look offended, and he couldn’t blame her, given that he’d just pitched his eraser at her in the middle of class when she was already hurting.

Hitoshi motioned to the lunchbox in his lap. Her eyes fell to it and slowly, her expression softened. She was smart, he thought, because she appeared to understand instantly what his intentions were. Hitoshi looked at Yamada and a moment later, Yamada turned back to write something on the board, and Hitoshi took the chance to hand the box to her.

He was just glad that she was willing to take it. After trying to talk to her yesterday and carry on a short conversation with her, he hadn’t known if she’d want to talk to him again. He’d been awkward and unfriendly and while he was still confused as to what she’d wanted from him, he hadn’t wanted her to think of him as the weird boy who sat next to her.

He couldn’t help but to be a little embarrassed when he watched her take it from him and examine it. It looked like it belonged to an elementary school student—hard plastic and square and decorated with large-eyed cartoon cats. He was actually pretty sure Aizawa had bought it years ago as some sort of weird joke that only he would find funny, but when Hitoshi had seen it buried in one of the closets at home, he’d immediately decided he needed to use it. He’d just… never really considered showing it to another student. His face burned hot and he had to look away, staring back at his notes, trying to will the reddening in his cheeks to go away and leave him alone.

But only a few minutes later, there was a gentle tap at his shoulder, and Hitoshi turned to see Yaoyorozu’s thin fingers holding a slip of paper to him. He took it and unfurled it, finding a message written in her neat handwriting.

Thank you, Shinsou-chan!

I forgot to eat this morning. My alarm didn’t go off and I was almost late! This was very kind of you.

Hitoshi’s face heated up even more at the cutesy honorific attached to his name. She’d called him that yesterday, too, saying that Asui had been the one to originally call him that. He meant to push the note to the side or shove it in his bag or something, but he couldn’t bring himself to. He stared at it for the rest of the period, until the bell rang to signify the start of the passing period when their teachers would be switched out.

As expected, Yaoyorozu took him up on his offer, and ate the lunch he’d given to her. He was a little impressed that she managed to eat it all in the less than five minute passing period, and grateful that she handed the box back to him, along with the eraser Hitoshi had hit her with and a smile.

“Be friendly,” Yamada had told him a couple nights ago, when Hitoshi had asked him and Aizawa about whether or not he should’ve said more on his first day.

Hitoshi wanted to be polite, but distant to his classmates. Not necessarily friendly, but… not unfriendly. This class was a confusing place, full of Hitoshi’s conflicting wants and desires, and he still couldn’t quite figure out why he hadn’t yet been able to tell his classmates to go away. He barely even understood why he’d given his lunch to Yaoyorozu and even he knew that his defense of her stomach growling being a distraction didn’t hold up well.

“do you think that maybe that’s just a way of protecting yourself?” His therapist had asked him last night, right before Hitoshi had locked up and shut down.

He just needed to keep his head down, he decided. Maybe if he was quiet and withdrawn enough, the others would leave him alone. But it seemed that the world had other plans, and Hitoshi had accidentally taken Yamada’s advice.

 

Halfway through second period, Hitoshi’s phone buzzed in his pocket and he suppressed a groan, almost immediately knowing what it was, and knowing that he hadn’t quite gotten away with his earlier endeavor, though he waited until the end of the period to answer it.

Yamada Hizashi: Throwing your erasers at people isn’t a good way to get them to notice you!!!

Yamada Hizashi: Especially girls!

Shinsou Hitoshi: Please don’t tell Sensei.

He didn’t get an answer to that, but he swore he could hear Yamada laughing from somewhere else in the school.

 

He should’ve known that wouldn’t be the end of it. He really, honestly, should’ve known better, and he shouldn’t have thought that there was any possibility of him getting away without another incident. Of course that wasn’t possible. Of course. But for some reason, the next incident took Hitoshi by surprise, when he knew he should’ve expected exactly this to happen.

The decision to eat lunch in the cafeteria was undeniably a bad one. Hitoshi knew from the moment the bell rung to release students for lunch that it’d be a terrible idea. There was no maybes about it. He remembered clearly what Midoriya had said while accosting him just after lunch yesterday, and he remembered telling him that he’d be eating lunch in the classroom again.

Hitoshi still went to the cafeteria anyways.

He had, after all, given up his lunch to Yaoyorozu. It wasn’t like he could avoid it. There was a way he could’ve, but it would’ve involved telling Aizawa what had happened to his lunch, and Hitoshi was neither willing to lie to him nor tell him the truth. He could also be sure to get a light scolding if he skipped lunch altogether, and Hitoshi didn’t want that, either—especially given that he was hungry by the time lunch rolled around. That left him with one option—buying his lunch in the cafeteria and therefore, eating his lunch in the cafeteria.

“Shinsou! Come sit with us!”

Hitoshi stopped dead in his tracks in the lunchroom on his way to his seat, tempted to ignore the excited shouting. He didn’t often actually eat in the cafeteria, given that he’d been bringing his own lunch ever since moving in with Aizawa and Yamada, and instead usually preferred to eat in a classroom or outside if allowed. It worked out better, since Hitoshi could be somewhere quiet and usually could catch a small nap before the lunch period was over.

Except, today he couldn’t quite do that. In a chain reaction of events, he now had to get lunch from the cafeteria and eat it here. Somehow, he thought that he could maybe quietly get food, go sit where he’d used to sit with the general education kids, and spend his lunch mostly unbothered. He’d, of course, been wrong to even consider that to be a possibility, and deep down, he knew coming to the cafeteria would lead to this.

Shinsou!” It was long and the last syllable of his name was drawn out. Somehow, that Midoriya kid could yell halfway across the large cafeteria, and there was no doubt that almost every other student had heard him, and no doubt that a bunch of students were suddenly looking at him, making it impossible for him to actually be left alone.

Hitoshi just eyed his usual seat with the gen ed kids, where he’d usually sit and listen to conversations and participate on the rare occasion. He debated on walking away, but something got to him, something made him grimace and then turn towards the sound of the voice, immediately picking out Midoriya grinning at him with a smile that took up his entire face and waving at him. He wanted to say it was because he could feel the stares from the rest of the school boring into him, waiting and expecting him to go to the boy calling out for him.

Hitoshi turned around and started towards him with a huff of annoyance. He was just trying to not cause any more of a scene, he told himself, as he made his way towards him. It would cause more trouble if he just walked away. Hitoshi liked to think that he was generally polite and knew how to act. He didn’t like getting into trouble, and both Aizawa and Yamada seemed to like how well-mannered he was, and Hitoshi wasn’t naturally a trouble-maker, anyways, no matter what his previous foster parents had written in his file. He wanted to be polite to his classmates, too, and that meant giving them a response when he was called over, no matter how much he just wanted to go to his own seat and keep to himself.

Except, it wasn’t just Midoriya waiting for him. Midoriya's entire group of friends were looking at him, and Hitoshi was beginning to seriously regret his decision to go sit with them, but he still didn’t turn back.

“What do you want?” Hitoshi asked, coming to a stop in front of Midoriya at the table, holding his lunch tray and not yet taking a seat, even as Midoriya scooted over and left an obvious open spot next to him. He couldn’t stop his gaze from dropping to that open seat, and he frowned at it.

Midoriya didn’t even miss a beat, though. Hitoshi’s facade of aloofness didn’t seem to faze him. “Sit with us, Shinsou-chan!”

Hitoshi narrowed his eyes at the nickname again. It’d been bizarre to see Yaoyorozu calling him it, but it sounded even weirder to hear it coming from another boy. What was worse was the fact that Hitoshi was sure the student who started it was here, too.

“I already have a place to sit.”

That was the truth, even though he still didn’t talk much to his former classmates. He never had. He’d been known as the quiet kid who’d placed high in the sports festival and had been trying to get into the hero course. They liked him and had supported him through his transfer. Plus, they had a certain amount of respect for Hitoshi’s withdrawn nature, and didn’t try to push him into joining their conversations unless he wanted to. That was the total opposite of what Midoriya was doing right now.

This time, though, someone else stepped in—Uraraka, the girl who was sitting next to Midoirya, looked at Hitoshi with wide eyes and a pleading frown on her face, “Please, Shinsou-chan?”

“Why do you all keep calling me that?” He looked around at each of their faces. At least he knew most of the names in this group, which was more than he could say for most of the other class—Midoriya, Uraraka, Asui, Iida, and the Todoroki kid. Three of them Hitoshi knew from the joint training exercise, and it was hard to not know the last two due to their families. All of them stared at him, most of them smiling, expectantly.

“Oh, Tsu-chan started it,” Uraraka helpfully informed him, telling him the exact same thing Yaoyorozu had yesterday. “Don’t you remember? She called you that after you were on her team! I guess it just sort of caught on with the rest of us.”

Hitoshi glanced at the girl sitting beside Uraraka, who just stared back at him with big eyes, a wide smile on her face. Of all the kids, he’d least expect her to orchestrate something like this. She seemed to be one of the more quiet kids and… if he was being honest, Hitoshi had liked being on a team with her during the training exercise that had gotten him a place in the heroics course. He sighed, frowning, but couldn’t bring himself to protest.

“Oh,” He said instead, glancing away and avoiding Asui’s gaze. “Yeah. I guess I remember.”

“You should sit with us,” That came with a familiar croak, only taking Hitoshi further by surprise. She continued to smile that wide grin at him, with an almost innocent expression, as if she didn’t realize why Hitoshi was hesitating. Out of everyone, Hitoshi had expected her to understand the most.

He wasn’t even sure that he could say no at this point. He’d come all the way over here and Midoriya had immediately gotten him into a conversation. Walking away now would be… rude. It would make him come off as nothing more than a rude asshole. He couldn’t deny that their intentions were obviously good—they seemed to genuinely like him, maybe, and Hitoshi couldn’t find anything in their expressions implying differently, no matter how much he searched,

After a long moment, Hitoshi conceded with another sigh of annoyance, dropping himself into the empty seat next to Midoirya. He was hungry and it wasn’t worth arguing, he told himself. That was all, of course. He just didn’t feel like putting up much of a fight.

It was no surprise that Midoriya immediately seemed overjoyed at Hitoshi giving in. He flashed an excited grin at him and then, expectedly, began talking to him once more, not even letting Hitoshi get settled before he started rambling.

“It’s so cool that you were able to transfer into our class! What you did in the joint training exercise was amazing. Especially what you did for me. Everyone thought it was awesome! You really are cool. I knew you would be. That mask is incredible, by the way. Could I take a look at it someday? What kind of voices can you do? Oh, how does that capture weapon work? I’ve always wondered but… I’ve never seen anyone except Eraserhead use it. You’re so cool, Shinsou-chan! I’m so happy you’re in our class.”

Hitoshi tried to not pay him any attention, resting his cheek on his hand and taking to pushing his food around his plate with his chopsticks, but it was hard to pretend to not hear Midoriya when he was sitting right next to him, so close that his arm nearly brushed Hitoshi’s as he babbled into his ear. In fact, it was impossible to not pay attention to what he was saying, and just like before, in first period, Hitoshi found himself thinking that things were just too loud. He did his best to ignore it, knowing that if he let Midoriya know that he was paying attention, it’d just encourage him, but Hitoshi couldn’t even do that.

What Midoriya said caught his attention, making him look up at Midoriya and pause. Midoirya fell silent, suddenly, grinning at him, and Hitoshi could feel the gazes of the others on him, waiting for him to say something. His face was hot and he was sure he was red, but he couldn’t do anything to hide it. He almost couldn’t believe that Midoriya had said what he did, and Hitoshi wasn’t sure how to respond, wasn’t sure what to say.

What did he want to hear?

Hitoshi couldn’t figure it out. What were his motives behind this? Why was he telling Hitoshi that he thought he was cool? Why was he bringing up Hitoshi stopping him from using his quirk during the training exercise? What was he possibly getting out of that? He just… couldn’t figure it out, and Hitoshi just stared at him, studying his face, the panic growing more the longer he looked at that stupid grin.

“...Thanks.” He meant it, even if he immediately looked back down and went back to pushing his food around on his plate. He wasn’t sure what else to say, so Hitoshi just said the first thing on his mind—a genuine thanks. He’d never really heard that sort of thing before coming to UA. Before high school, no one had liked his quirk at all, and now the kid who’d beat him in the sports festival was sitting next to him rambling on and on about it.

Midoirya seemed to explode into happiness at Hitoshi’s genuine gratitude and that stupid grin on his face just grew impossibly more, until Hitoshi was sure he was literally grinning from ear to ear. “Yeah! You’re amazing! I can’t wait to train together! Hey, do you use the capture weapon all the time? You’re really good at it! How’s it work? Does it have to do with your quirk? Oh, it can’t, though, since Aizawa-sensei uses it, too. Maybe it’s only people with non-physical quirks, or…”

“Actually,” Hitoshi cut in quietly, grimacing at himself for giving in like this. “Anyone can use it. It’s not specific to me or Sensei. It’s just really difficult to control, and Sensei’s the one who came up with the technique. It’s really hard to learn. There’s usually better weapons for people who do have physical quirks.”

Midoirya was completely silent, that excited, happy expression quickly falling into one of shock. Hitoshi wasn’t sure if it was because he was shocked that Hitoshi was actually talking to him about it, or if he’d actually been waiting a long time to actually find out answers about the capture scarf. Hitoshi couldn’t blame him—he’d been wondering ever since he’d first seen his favorite hero on the television. Eraserhead’s capture scarf had always been an enigma that had stumped him—until Aizawa had started mentoring him and given him a capture weapon of his own.

“What, really?!” Midoriya’s voice just grew in volume. Somewhere, Hitoshi was aware that the others were looking at them. He tried to pay them no mind, still pushing food around his plate, rubbing his neck in slight nervousness at actually having been roped into a conversation. “No way! That’s even cooler. What’s it made of?”

“Metal alloy.” He was well aware that he should be eating, but for some reason, he just couldn’t ignore Midoriya babbling next to him. “It’s really light so it floats around easily, if you know how to control it. I’m still learning. I probably won’t ever be as good as Sensei with it.”

“Don’t say that! You’ll probably be even better! You should come training with me sometime after school! I usually go to…”

Hitoshi pretended to not listen to it, turning his gaze back to his full tray of food, but it was even harder to ignore him now that he’d started talking full force, and completely impossible to not answer his questions. Before he knew it, Midoriya had a notebook out and was furiously scribbling down whatever answers Hitoshi gave him, and Hitoshi was just stuck wondering how this had happened, or why Midoriya and his friends were even talking to him. After all, he still couldn’t quite figure out what they were getting out of this.

 

Just like the night before, all that anxiety just seemed to explode out of Hitoshi when he got home.

He wasn’t sure why this kept happening. If anything, he thought he should be feeling that anxiety at school and once he went home, it should go away, and after his outburst last night, he’d thought that he’d be alright for a while. He’d learned, since being adopted, that home was a safe place, a place he could be himself and relax and do what he wanted, but his anxieties from school had followed him home these past few days, and Hitoshi found himself wanting, more than anything, to relax and melt into the comforts and warmth of his home. Not even the emotional exhaustion leftover from yesterday seemed to slow it down.

Instead, he found himself pacing the floor of the living room, not sure why he was doing it or how to stop it, with thousands upon thousands of thoughts circling his head, all screaming to be heard at the exact same time. It felt loud, too loud, and almost louder than it’d been since he moved in here.

Usually, the way to quiet his head was to sit with other people. But right now, not even that was working. Aizawa was sitting at the kotatsu, cross legged on the floor and staring at a stack of papers to grade, and Hitoshi was still feeling like this. He didn’t understand. Back and forth he went, from the living room to the kitchen, and then back again, trying his hardest to not make too much noise. The rest of the house was quiet, aside from the occasional jingle of a cat’s collar or the sound of cars from outside their house, and that quiet just seemed to make Hitoshi’s head louder and louder until—

“Hitoshi. Come sit down.”

Aizawa fixed him with a stare, looking at Hitoshi from over the rims of his reading glasses, head still bent towards one of the papers he was grading and hand still posed as if he’d suddenly stopped writing in the middle of a sentence. Hitoshi stopped dead in his tracks, halfway between the living room and the dining room, eyes growing wide as he met Aizawa’s hard stare.

He just nodded, swallowing hard, and finally stopped pacing. He crept to where Aizawa was sitting and then, without a word, sat down on the cushions next to him, sitting with his hands balled tightly in his lap. He kept his gaze down on the table, though he was careful to not look at his teacher’s papers. He waited, fingers wound together, limbs tense, his face burning hot with embarrassment. It wasn’t like him to get like that—frantically pacing the floor and radiating with anxiety, and he couldn’t help but to feel guilty, knowing that he’d distracted Aizawa from his work.

He’d been causing a lot of trouble for his parents these last couple days. That was another reason Hitoshi had just wanted to relax at home. He needed a break from the constant anxiety. He was sure Aizawa and Yamada did, too.

Hitoshi just waited for him to say something, and when he didn’t after a few long, dragging, horrible moments, Hitoshi stole a sheepish look up at him, and saw that Aizawa was still staring at him with that hard, dark gaze of his. He looked quickly back down, hanging his head a little lower.

Finally, though, Aizawa spoke, and it wasn’t what Hitoshi expected to hear, “Why don’t we play a game?”

“What…?” Hitoshi’s immediate reaction was for his head to snap up at the mention of doing something with him. Truth be told, he’d drop anything if it meant doing something with Aizawa, especially something so normal and fun. It turned out that Aizawa was more interactive at home and usually made time to do something with him every night, but not typically when he was in the middle of a stack of papers to grade. “A game? What game?”

“Chess,” Aizawa replied immediately, taking his papers and setting them off to the side of the kotatsu, giving Hitoshi his full undivided attention. “Go get the board and I’ll set it up. We can play a couple games before Hizashi gets home.”

Hitoshi almost forgot his anxieties in his scramble to get up and find the chess board and pieces they had. It wasn’t far—just stashed away in the living room closet, and Hitoshi knew exactly where to find it. Yamada had put a few spare blankets on top of it since the last time they’d played, but Hitoshi quickly dug it out and returned with it, placing it down on the middle of the table before taking a seat opposite Aizawa.

“You remember how to play, right?”

“Of course,” Hitoshi snorted, the question completely incredulous. He was good at remembering everything Aizawa taught him. “The last time we played was only a week ago, Sensei. I’m not gonna forget after a week.”

“Just checking.” Aizawa took the board out of the box and Hitoshi watched with interest as he began sorting out the pieces. While Hitoshi did remember how to play, he was still in the process of learning where the pieces went and he couldn’t set up the board by himself. Instead, he made himself comfortable, relaxing against the cushions and stretching his feet under the heated table, waiting patiently as Aizawa set up the board.

“You really like this game, Sensei,” Hitoshi observed, looking at the board still instead of at Aizawa. He’d almost completely forgotten about the fact that he’d just been pacing back and forth a few minutes ago, distracted by the prospect of doing something with Aizawa. If there was anything that could take him out of that anxious headspace, it was this.

“It’s my favorite.” Aizawa finished setting up Hitoshi’s side of the board and moved onto his own side, setting up the delicate black pieces in front of him. “The other teachers like mahjong a lot, but I like this one better. Some of them can play shogi, but Hizashi’s the only other person that plays chess with me.”

Hitoshi couldn’t help but to beam at that a little. He liked playing with Aizawa a lot. There were other games he’d taught him, of course, and sometimes the three of them played card games or mahjong together, but Hitoshi especially liked playing chess with him. It wasn’t something that a lot of people here knew how to do—though Hitoshi knew it was more popular in other places in the world—and Hitoshi liked sitting and playing with Aizawa, learning strategies from him and talking to him throughout the game. It felt special, and Hitoshi liked having this thing that only the two of them would do.

“It’s fun,” Hitoshi commented softly as Aizawa finished setting up the board. “I get to start, right?”

“Right.”

Hitoshi picked up one of his white pawns and carefully moved it. He’d tried to plan out his opening carefully, following Aizawa’s advice from their last game. Hitoshi still wasn’t very good at it and unless he went easy on Hitoshi, Aizawa could still beat him in five or six moves, but Hitoshi was learning and he’d jump at the chance to play with Aizawa whenever he asked.

“Good choice,” Aizawa praised him, Hitoshi raising his head to see a small smirk on his teacher’s face, before Aizawa looked down at the board, studying it. He picked up a piece within a few moments, and moved it, countering Hitoshi’s move. “This is better than pacing the house, right?”

Hitoshi froze, some of the shame from before washing over him. This was what he’d been waiting for when Aizawa had initially called him over to him. He knew Aizawa wouldn’t yell at him and Hitoshi hadn’t even been so much as truly scolded here, let alone punished, but he still felt terrible. The last thing Hitoshi wanted was to be a burden for Aizawa and Yamada, and he’d been enough of a distraction for Aizawa that he’d interrupted his work when he was grading important things. After what had happened last night at his therapy session, Hitoshi felt guilty.

“Sorry,” Hitoshi said quietly, choosing to look at the board instead of having to see Aizawa’s expression.

“What are you apologizing for? There’s no need.” Aizawa’s tone was soft, almost the same as the way he’d been talking to him this morning, when he’d spent the night out on the couch with Hitoshi. “Something’s clearly on your mind. I’m just wondering what it is.”

Hitoshi frowned and hesitated, not answering. He let out a long breath and reached forward, picking up another white pawn and moving it forward a step, giving him an opening for another piece. He sat back, rubbing at his neck as his mind turned itself over again and again, searching for an answer that he could give to Aizawa. He didn’t want to lie, of course, and he knew he wasn’t in trouble, but the truth was… Hitoshi wasn’t exactly sure how to tell him what was wrong, since he didn’t exactly know himself.

The room was quiet. Hitoshi slowly looked up. This time, he saw that Aizawa’s face was softer, and Aizawa wasn’t even looking at the game. Hitoshi’s face heat up, and he quickly dropped his eyes back to the board.

“The kids in your class keep trying to talk to me,” He said, trying to give word to the things that had stuck around in his head all day and exploded with anxiety the moment he’d walked through the door to their house. “I don’t know what to do. I don’t know what they want from me.”

Aizawa was silent for a moment, and Hitoshi sat opposite him, unable to look up and meet his gaze. Still, Aizawa made no move to make his play, instead seeming more interested in talking to Hitoshi about what was going on. Hitoshi sort of just wished that they could go back to playing.

He used to be so good at hiding things. He’d developed a skill for it after a life in foster care. He’d been good at hiding his thoughts and feelings and even, when necessary, his intentions. It wasn’t that he liked lying, but it’d been a necessity sometimes. Hitoshi was still good at hiding his feelings—but only when it came to people outside his family. In therapy, he couldn’t speak his feelings if he wanted to, with the exception of the way he’d exploded last night. Lately, it was like whenever he came home, it became entirely impossible to hide what he was feeling, or what he was anxious about, like it all just came bursting out of him the moment he walked through the front door of the house. He didn’t know why it was happening, much less how to fix it.

But he couldn’t exactly deny that maybe, just maybe, he’d wanted Aizawa to ask him what was on his mind. It wasn’t like he’d paced the floors on purpose or intentionally acted anxious, but part of him was a little relieved that Aizawa had asked him, even if Hitoshi still didn’t know how, exactly, to voice what was wrong.

There was just something about Aizawa that Hitoshi found comforting. Something about him that made him easier to talk to when they were alone. Something about him that put him at ease. Maybe it was his constantly calm demeanor. Maybe it was the way he always seemed to know what to say. Maybe it was how much Hitoshi looked up to him and respected him. Whatever it was, just sitting here with him, the chess board between them, as he waited for a response, made Hitoshi feel just a little more at ease.

He heard Aizawa draw in a breath, and Hitoshi stole another sheepish glance at him, heart beating harder in his chest.

“Hitoshi, they don’t want anything from you,” Aizawa said finally, voice slow. “Most of them are friendly. The ones approaching you genuinely want to be friends with you. They’re not trying to get anything from you. They don’t have any ulterior motives.”

“How do you know—?” It wasn’t accusatory, but curious, and a little worrisome. It was Hitoshi’s first reaction. He trusted Aizawa and honestly believed just about anything he told him, but he sounded so sure of this, and Hitoshi had no idea how he could be so certain. To him, it sounded logical that his classmates were interacting with him so much because they wanted something from him. But Aizawa seemed to think differently.

“I know my students—” Aizawa picked up one of his pieces and moved it diagonally to a position where he could potentially take one of Hitoshi’s. “—And I know you.”

Hitoshi didn’t move, distracted from their game. “What do you mean?”

“They’re good kids, Hitoshi,” Aizawa explained, leaning forward and fixing Hitoshi with his gaze. “You are, too. They see that. They see that underneath that exterior you put up, you’re a good, friendly kid.”

Hitoshi didn’t respond. He just looked down at the chess board, but he still made no movement to play. Aizawa didn’t wait for an answer, and didn’t seem to expect one.

“Hitoshi, can you tell me something? If you don’t want to be friends with those kids, why do you keep being nice to them? Logically, if you didn’t want to be friends, wouldn’t you try harder to push them away?”

Hitoshi dragged his bottom lip between his teeth and bit down hard. Suddenly, he could feel the anxiety from before flaring, stirring deep within his chest and stomach. It wasn’t as bad as before, but it was still there, making him feel sick to his stomach. It was the same thing Sanjou-sensei had said last night.

“I…” Hitoshi still didn’t have an answer for that. He’d been wondering it himself, making up excuses and half-baked explanations for his behavior towards his classmates. “I don’t know.”

He hadn’t been able to come up with an answer last night, nor could he now, but with Aizawa, at least he could admit that. It was different here, sitting at the kotatsu with his adoptive father, a half-forgotten about game of chess between them. It was easier to talk now, easier to come up with the words, and easier to admit that he didn’t know why he couldn’t push his new classmates away.

“Hizashi’s pretty bad at keeping secrets, you know,” Aizawa’s tone came with a bit of amusement, and Hitoshi froze, knowing exactly what he was about to tell him. His heart dropped, falling hard with the realization that he’d been caught red handed. “He said you did a pretty nice thing for Yaoyorozu today in English.”

“She missed breakfast and… her stomach was growling really loud,” Hitoshi tried, though even he knew that his defense was weak. “And…”

He hadn’t done that because she’d been distracting him. Hitoshi had grown up in foster care homes with many, many kids and even more distractions. Hitoshi was good at focusing and shutting out everything else, because he’d been forced to learn how to do it over the course of his childhood. He would’ve been able to focus just fine. It wasn’t like someone’s stomach growling was more distracting than any of his foster homes had been. That’d just been a lie he’d told himself.

“...And I felt bad for her.”

Hitoshi’s face burned with shame as he admitted it, red hot and feeling as if it were about to sear his skin. He hung his head, and slowly, picked up his knight piece and moved it, barely even thinking about the game they were supposed to be playing anymore. His hands fell in his lap after, and Hitoshi felt like he was more open and vulnerable than ever before.

It was still hard to admit things like this. He’d become better about opening up, but it still wasn’t easy at all, and right now, admitting that he felt bad for one of his classmates felt like the hardest thing in the world.

“It’s alright, Hitoshi,” Aizawa tried to comfort him, but Hitoshi still couldn’t look at him. He continued to stare down at his lap, face burning. Usually, it was easy to talk to Aizawa. Not now, though, not when Hitoshi wasn’t even wanting to acknowledge these feelings he was having. He’d been a little relieved earlier that Aizawa had asked him what was on his mind, but that feeling had since faded into a lingering, heavy dread.

Hitoshi just shook his head, “I don’t think it is. I just… want to focus on school and training. I don’t want other students to distract me.”

“You’re not the type to get distracted.” Aizawa sounded so sure, so confident, like he always did. Like he knew the answers already. “Interaction with kids your own age is important. You can’t just hang around me and Hizashi all the time.”

“Yes, I can,” Hitoshi insisted. He’d be fine with being around his parents all the time. He liked them, and he was in the process of catching up on lost time after being in foster care for most of his life. “I want to spend time with you guys. I didn’t have a family before you.”

“You also didn’t have friends.”

Hitoshi frowned, not responding. Aizawa was being his usual blunt self, but they both knew he was right.

“Hitoshi, are you afraid?”

That got his attention. He looked up at Aizawa, narrowing his gaze at him, sticking his bottom lip out in a half-pout. “You’re joking, right? I’m not afraid of your class.”

“That’s not what I meant.” Aizawa seemed wholly unmoved by Hitoshi’s half-hearted glare. “Are you afraid of making friends?”

Hitoshi really did wish that he could answer that right away. He wished he could brush it off in the same way he’d brushed it off when he’d mistakenly thought Aizawa had asked him if he was afraid of his class. He wished he could even think of a good way to answer.

He couldn’t. He couldn’t answer it immediately. He couldn’t brush it off. The second Aizawa clarified it and made it abundantly clear what he thought the problem was, Hitoshi’s head just went blank, and it was like something clicked inside his brain in the most horrifying, terrible way possible.

Aizawa had this way of being right about everything. Even with how quiet he was and how he didn’t talk unless he had something of importance to say, he always had the right answer. At least, that was what it felt like to Hitoshi. Hitoshi had always admired that about him. He could be blunt about things and more than a little intimidating on occasion, but he always had this underlying confidence of knowing what to say or do, and Hitoshi liked that. Aizawa never seemed to have a second thought about mentoring Hitoshi, or adopting him, or moving him into the hero course. He was just always so sure about himself—so right.

And unfortunately, he also was always able to pick up on things with Hitoshi. He could pick up on things that even Hitoshi wasn’t sure of yet.

“Why… why do you think that…?” The accusatory, confident tone had dropped out of Hitoshi’s own voice. He’d so proudly proclaimed that of course he wasn’t afraid of Aizawa’s class a few moment ago, but that pride was nowhere to be seen now. Instead, he was left with the dreadful notion that Aizawa had hit the nail on the head in a way Hitoshi hadn’t wanted to realize until now.

Was this what Aizawa had meant when he’d asked him if he had another reason he didn’t want to make friends? Was this what his therapist had been asking him last night? Had everyone just seen it before Hitoshi had?

Aizawa’s look softened at him, and he took a moment, as if realizing that Hitoshi hadn’t figured it out until now and that the idea of being scared of making friends wasn’t the most fun thing to have to sit with.

“It’s the way you’ve been for these past few days,” Aizawa told him quietly, never looking away from him. “I can tell it’s been bothering you a lot. I see you in class, with how you are towards your classmates, and it just doesn’t add up with how much you’ve been trying to avoid making friends. It’s like you want to, but you won’t let yourself. Does that sound right?”

“I don’t know.” Hitoshi genuinely admitted. “I don’t know what I want. I thought they wanted something from me, but I couldn’t figure out what it was.”

He glanced back down at the table, at the chessboard between them, and back up at Aizawa.

“I guess they didn’t actually want anything.”

“They just want to be friends with you. Nothing else.”

“I wish they wanted something from me.” Hitoshi sighed, running a hand through his hair, scratching nervously at his neck. “At least I know how to deal with that. I know how to avoid people who want stuff from me. That’s easy.”

He thought back to middle school, to being alone for most of it. He hadn’t had any friends, and he’d been transferred twice in three years. Even if he’d had a chance to make friends—and even if people were willing to be friends with him—he doubted he would’ve had any. The people who talked to him just wanted to know about his quirk, about the bad things he could do with it, and about whether or not they could get him to let them use it to their benefit. He’d been dealing with that for most of his life—middle school kids wanting to test their teachers using his quirk, students who only wanted him to show off, delinquents who wanted him to help them carry out whatever plot they’d come up with, foster parents who only took the kid with the brainwashing quirk because they wanted to use it… he was used to all that.

He could easily say no to people wanting something from him. He’d been dealing with that his entire life. It was second nature to him now. But this wasn’t that. These kids knew about his quirk and they didn’t want to use him for their own reasons. Hitoshi had never had to deal with that before, and he wasn’t sure how to.

“Is that why you’re afraid?” Aizawa asked him, raising an eyebrow at him.

Hitoshi bit his lip again. He didn’t like the way that sounded. He’d learned to not show weakness or fear throughout his entire life. Aizawa had not only picked up on his fear before Hitoshi had, but also wanted to get to the bottom of it, while Hitoshi hated the very idea that he was scared of something as simple as making friends.

“I don’t know,” Hitoshi said again, pangs of guilt stirring deep in his chest. He wanted to know and wanted to give Aizawa a real answer, since he was trying to help him, but Hitoshi truthfully didn’t know. “I’ve never had any friends before. I don’t know why… why this scares me.”

“I was the same, you know.”

Hitoshi blinked, raising his head to look at Aizawa more. The room fell silent, the game between them forgotten about.

Aizawa had been right earlier, when he’d said that he knew Hitoshi.

“You were?”

Aizawa knew how to make him feel better, and knew how to get his attention. He knew how interested Hitoshi was in Aizawa’s life and his history, and how much he wanted to know about what he’d been like in high school. Aizawa was more talkative and open at home, but Hitoshi still didn’t know a lot about his past. He knew enough, though, to know why Aizawa didn’t exactly like to talk about it.

In fact, it was that exact reason that Aizawa and Yamada were the only people Hitoshi felt comfortable opening up to—his past wasn’t a good one, and it was filled with experiences that were painful to think about and even more painful to try to talk about, but something about knowing that Aizawa felt similarly about his own past made him feel like they somehow understood better.

Hitoshi didn’t push, of course, and Aizawa didn’t push him beyond prompting him to talk. But Hitoshi did perk up and become immediately more interested whenever Aizawa mentioned something that had happened earlier in his life.

The corners of Aizawa’s mouth twitched upwards in a small smile. “Hizashi isn’t exaggerating whenever he talks about how much we’re alike. I was exactly the same when I was your age.”

“Yamada did say that you told everyone you didn’t want to be friends…” It’d been just two days ago, but that conversation already felt like it’d been such a long way away. “...Like I did.”

“I did say that. And you know how that ended up?”

“Well, now you’re married to Yamada, so…”

Aizawa snorted, “No, not that. I ended up with friends, Hitoshi. Even though I convinced myself that I wasn’t going to deal with anyone else in the class, I still ended up with friends.”

“Yeah, I figured that out.” Hitoshi still wasn’t quite convinced, nor did he know why Aizawa was telling him this. He’d already heard this much yesterday from Yamada. Why was Aizawa telling it to him again?

Aizawa just raised an eyebrow at him, taking a moment before going on, leaving Hitoshi to just wonder more why he was telling him all this.

“Do you know why I told everyone that I didn’t want to be friends?”

It was starting to dawn on Hitoshi. When Aizawa had said they were the same, he hadn’t just meant friendless up until high school. He knew why Aizawa was telling him all this now, and Hitoshi could barely believe it.

No way. There was no way someone like Aizawa could be afraid of something so stupid. Hitoshi hated that he felt this unnerving fear over the thought of making friends with kids his own age, after being an unwilling loner for his entire life. It was shameful, something childish and stupid and just a result of Hitoshi not being as mentally strong as he wanted to be. There was no way Aizawa could’ve been the same way, even if it was fifteen years ago.

This was Eraserhead, Hitoshi’s childhood hero. It was weird to even think about him being Hitoshi’s age, but this—? Hitoshi could barely fathom even the possibility that Aizawa could’ve felt the same as he did at some point.

Aizawa didn’t seem to actually want an answer from him. Hitoshi wasn’t sure he could actually give one. Aizawa just went on instead, never dropping Hitoshi’s gaze, “I didn’t have any friends until I went to high school. I barely interacted with other kids at all. I didn’t even talk much. The reason I told everyone that I didn’t want to make friends was because I didn’t know how to make friends, and I was afraid that I’d just mess up everything—including my place at UA—if I tried. So, to me, the most logical answer was to shut down any chance anyone had of liking me, and I thought I could do that by telling everyone that I wasn’t there to make friends.”

Hitoshi was torn between not liking how familiar that sounded and being relieved that Aizawa understood. These past few days— and honestly, ever since he’d done the joint training exercise—Hitoshi had been pushing his feelings to the side, trying to tell himself that he didn’t want to be distracted. It was all just excuses, though.

What he’d been trying to do was exactly what Aizawa was talking about—he’d been trying to shut down any attempts at making friends before they happened, so he wouldn’t mess anything up. But that hadn’t worked. People already liked him and if he was being honest, Hitoshi already liked some of the other students. He hadn’t known how to deal with it and it had scared him, so his reaction had been to try to push everyone else away willingly before he got attached and they’d figure out that they didn’t like him.

“I just… I guess I thought that they’d end up not liking me,” Hitoshi took a deep breath. He looked down, but this time, it wasn’t with the intention of looking away. His eyes fell on Aizawa’s hands, resting on the table near the chessboard. His engagement and wedding rings shone in the warm light of the living room, bright enough that Hitoshi could just barely see his own reflection in the metal of Aizawa’s wedding band. “...Like if I told them to stay away, then they wouldn’t leave later on.”

He met Aizawa’s eyes again, Aizawa’s expression still soft, full of concern for Hitoshi. It wasn’t for the first time, but Hitoshi wondered what was going on in his head—was he remembering the things he was talking to him about? Did he really see that much of himself in Hitoshi? He couldn’t help but to feel a small, almost shameful, swell of pride in his chest at the second thought. Ever since the day he’d seen Eraserhead on TV when he’d been five, Hitoshi had looked up to him and had wanted to be like him. Aizawa was the entire reason he wanted to be a hero.

Knowing that Aizawa saw himself in Hitoshi made him feel proud. If Aizawa had gotten over the same thing, the same fear, that Hitoshi was going through, then Hitoshi could, too.

“No one’s going to leave, Hitoshi,” Aizawa assured him, giving him a knowing half-smile at the way Hitoshi had glanced down at his rings. “I never got rid of Hizashi. I never wanted to, once he wormed his way into my life. He was my first friend. He didn’t leave and neither did any of the other friends I made. Besides, you’re probably a nicer kid than I ever was in high school. You already have most of your classmates wanting to be your friend.”

Hitoshi did know about the people Aizawa had gone to school with. Besides Yamada, there was Kayama and Kan—both teachers at UA—as well as the Pussycats. They were all still Aizawa’s friends, plus he had others from after high school. Aizawa had been worried about the same thing, but had kept his friends for the past fifteen years—which meant that if Aizawa had kept those friends, then Hitoshi could, too.

“Sorry,” Hitoshi said quietly. “I’m still just used to everyone leaving.”

“That’ll go away eventually. You just need to give it some time.”

He couldn’t help but to think that Aizawa was still talking from experience. It was hard to tell, with the way Aizawa always seemed so confident about everything he said, but something lingered, and it felt like he knew exactly how Hitoshi felt.

Hitoshi let out a long breath, letting his eyes fall shut for a moment, “Thanks, Sensei.”

“You know I’m here to talk to. I don’t want you to get so worked up. Just let yourself be a kid for once. You deserve to make some friends,” Aizawa’s tone was genuine, and it helped put Hitoshi a little more at ease. He let out another breath of relief and opened his eyes again, to see that Aizawa had looked back down at the chessboard. “I don’t think Midoriya's going to leave you alone, anyways.”

That got a small laugh out of Hitoshi, “Probably not.”

Aizawa snorted and picked up his chess piece and finally made his move, putting his piece right in a spot where Hitoshi could take it. Hitoshi was pretty sure Aizawa was letting him have a small victory, but it still felt good to knock his piece off the board, and it felt even better once he realized that his anxiety was finally gone.

Chapter Text

“You must’ve slept better last night.”

Today, it was Yamada who greeted him when Hitoshi wandered out of his room, still rubbing the sleep from his eyes. Hitoshi paused in the doorway, looking at him blearily, feeling half asleep, and then glanced around for Aizawa. He was nowhere to be seen—which meant he was either already at school or, more likely, still asleep. Hitoshi just yawned and went to sit down at the table, wishing that he could’ve slept longer, too.

“Yeah,” He said, laying his head on the table and looking up at Yamada. He was still dressed in his pajamas, wearing a bright smile at Hitoshi. He was a little too much of a morning person, but at least it helped him wake up. “I think I’m still catching up on sleep.”

It didn’t surprise him that Yamada knew about his sleep troubles from the past couple days. Aizawa and Yamada told each other everything. Sometimes, like in the case of Yamada telling Aizawa about Hitoshi’s ‘incident’ with Yaoyorozu, that got frustrating, but other times, it helped. He was a little happy that he’d noticed, because Hitoshi himself was surprised that he’d actually managed to sleep the entire night in his room, as opposed to the previous night he’d spent on the couch and the night before, where Hitoshi had hardly slept.

He didn’t want to exactly admit that his talk with Aizawa had helped enough that Hitoshi had actually been able to rest, but he knew it was true. He’d been wracked with anxiety these past couple days, all because he didn’t know what to do about his classmates, and talking to Aizawa had put his worries to rest. He felt better, and it wasn’t just because he’d been able to get a full night of rest.

“You definitely look much more rested than the past few days. I was afraid you were going to fall asleep in class.” Yamada said it with a laugh, but Hitoshi made a face, scrunching up his nose and narrowing his eyes.

“I would never do that.”

“Really?” Yamada raised an eyebrow at him, pausing before sitting down at the table with Hitoshi. “Shouta used to do that all the time. He constantly slept in class.”

Hitoshi picked his head up off the table, his look of incredulousness falling into a more curious expression. Yamada just grinned at Hitoshi’s sudden attentiveness, like he knew that talking about Aizawa would get Hitoshi interested. Hitoshi was a little offended that both his parents seemed to know his weakness, but he couldn’t deny that not only was he interested in Aizawa’s past, but also in Yamada’s.

“I used to call him the Sleeping Prince of Relaxation.” Hitoshi studied Yamada as he went on, noticing how the look in his green eyes turned to something more akin to nostalgia. “Shouta never half-assed things, but once he got his work done, he was always out like a light. He probably slept way more at school than at home.”

“That doesn’t seem like Sensei…” Hitoshi mused, and then thought better of it. “No. Wait. It does.”

Before Aizawa and Yamada had adopted him, Hitoshi had lost track of the amount of times he’d seen Aizawa doze off after training, whether he was waiting for Hitoshi or on the days when Aizawa took him to cat cafes. He still thought it was amusing to watch Aizawa start to doze off when he spent afternoons grading papers.

“Yeah. You know Shouta. He likes his naps and he doesn’t sleep great at night,” Yamada continued, resting his cheek on his hand and focusing on Hitoshi again. “It really surprises me how similar you two are. At least you don’t fall asleep in school like he did, though. Or get in trouble.”

Now that did surprise him.

“...Trouble?”

Yamada stared at him, almost in a dumbfounded, shocked way, and then the small smile he wore grew and spread into a far more mischievous one, “Oh, has Shouta not told you about all the stuff we got up to at school? I’m so disappointed in him.”

“S...Sensei got in trouble?”

Hitoshi’s eyes were wide, his voice filled with disbelief. Aizawa sleeping in class was a little strange, but expected once Hitoshi actually thought about it. But this? He didn’t expect this at all. He couldn’t imagine Aizawa getting into trouble at school at all. Part of him honestly just thought that Yamada was messing with him, but he sounded too serious, and this would be an odd thing to joke about in any case.

“Shouta’s gonna be so mad that I’m telling you all this. I bet he wants you to think that he was a model student,” Yamada laughed again, and then shot a glance at the bedroom, as if he was afraid that he’d woken Aizawa up. He leaned in, his voice more hushed than before, and Hitoshi listened close, as if he was being let in on a secret, “Shouta got up to trouble all the time. I mean—most of it was my idea, but Shouta came up with his fair share of plans himself! Once he came out of his shell and starting making friends, he got up to all sorts of things with me and our other friends.”

“I—” Hitoshi had no idea what to say. He had no reason to not trust Yamada, but this was all just so… unexpected and unbelievable. Yamada was telling him that his teacher—the guy who everyone seemed to think was strict and hard about the school rules—had made a bunch of trouble in high school. “No way. You’re joking, right? Right…?”

“I’m afraid not, Hitoshi.” It was clear that Yamada was enjoying telling him this—and seeing the shock written all over Hitoshi’s face—a little too much. “Your favorite hero was a huge troublemaker in school. Well, maybe not a huge troublemaker. The stuff we did was run-of-the-mill high school stuff, you know? Pranks on the teachers, practical jokes on the other students, stuff like that. But Shouta and I—and our other friends, of course—spent a few of our afternoons in detention because of it.”

Hitoshi truly was speechless now, as well as wide awake. The surprise of hearing about Aizawa and Yamada’s troublemaking school career had shocked the remaining sleepiness right out of him. And he was more interested than ever, too.

“I can’t believe that he—and… and you—got into trouble at school…”

“You can’t believe that I got into trouble at school? Come on, Hitoshi, I didn’t grow out of it like Shouta did.” He paused and Hitoshi studied him, realizing he was right. He could imagine Yamada getting into some trouble at school—but Aizawa? No way. “Shouta really did come out of his shell once he decided to stop being such a cranky curmudgeon about making friends. He actually got pretty popular, though he only had real interest in being friends with a couple people. Maybe the same will happen to you.”

Hitoshi glanced away, face heating up with embarrassment. “I don’t want all that attention. Sensei said that they’ll like me and everything and just… want to be friends, but I don’t like being the center of attention. When he introduced me to the class, I couldn’t stand everyone staring at me.”

“He did say that they were pretty distracted by you. That just means they like you!” Yamada joked, his face falling back into seriousness a moment later. “He told me about your conversation with him last night. I think you’ll feel better once you open up a little. It took Shouta a couple weeks, but he got there eventually.”

“Just don’t go making trouble for me.”

Hitoshi startled at the voice, sitting straight up and whipping around to see the source of it. Looking like he’d just woken up was Aizawa, standing in the doorway to his and Yamada’s room. His eyes were drooping as if he were still half asleep—or about to fall back to sleep—but he looked from Hitoshi to Yamada, before his gaze fell back on Yamada and he narrowed his eyes in a meaningful, pointed expression.

“Oops,” Yamada muttered, offering what was definitely a fake apologetic smile at Aizawa. “I didn’t realize you were trying to hide our—your—colorful past from our son.”

Hitoshi’s face heat up again in an embarrassed blush and he dropped his head down so he wouldn’t have to look at either of them, feeling like he’d just been caught talking about something that Aizawa definitely shouldn’t have overheard.

“Wasn’t aware that pulling a few childish pranks on my teachers and classmates means I have a ‘colorful past’. You, on the other hand…”

“Hey, Shouta! I didn’t do anything worse than you!”

Hitoshi let out a breath of relief, realizing the two of them were just joking around. He found that he was still working on getting used to his new parents’ sense of humor, and it was a little… unconventional when Aizawa was around. He didn’t mind or anything, but even though he knew they were both joking around, he still felt a little guilty for talking about Aizawa’s past without him being there. The last thing he wanted to do was offend him.

“Sorry,” Hitoshi said, picking his head back up and twisting around to look at Aizawa again. “I was just really curious.”

“That’s fine.” Aizawa didn’t seem to dwell on it, instead giving Hitoshi a yawn in response, like it was nothing. “I don’t suppose Hizashi told you about the worst thing I did in school?”

“No….?” That same curiosity flared up again, more of a curse than anything at this point. Hitoshi looked at Yamada, hearing Aizawa start towards the kitchen, and the other man gave him a grin.

“I’m surprised Shouta even wants you to hear that story.”

“Hm. Maybe I don’t. Better tell it to him before I change my mind.”

Hitoshi leaned in, trying to hold back his sudden rush of excitement. Hearing actual stories was even rarer than hearing about Aizawa’s past, and Hitoshi liked to listen to anything they would tell him. Yamada was far easier to coax into telling him stories about himself, and Hitoshi knew a lot more about him and where he was from because of it, but he was still eager to hear anything and everything. He just wished that he could figure out a way to actually ask either one of them to tell him a story about themselves, rather than try to indirectly do it. It was embarrassing to ask, and Hitoshi had been trying to get around it.

“Of course. Listen close, Hitoshi,” Yamada made a dramatic wave, coaxing him to come closer. Hitoshi raised an eyebrow but leaned in, and Yamada’s voice dropped to a whisper. “You see, this story starts way back in middle school for me. It’s a long, long story, but unfortunately all three of us have to go to school, so I’ll have to condense it. It all starts with this upperclassman, who I knew back when we were kids, and who got to UA a year before me. He was in the support class and… we had a bit of a rivalry.”

“That kid terrorized you, Hizashi.”

Yamada made a face, and shot a glare at Aizawa before going on, sticking his tongue out at him.

“Yeah, whatever. I’m trying to look cool in front of our kid. Anyways, Hitoshi, Shouta hated this kid, and really had it out for him after we became friends. Hm, that’s probably why he wants me to tell you this, isn’t it? Making friends is a good thing, Hitoshi! I promise. Shouta really wound up caring about me… enough so that he was willing to take an entire month of detentions for sabotaging this kid’s presentation during their cultural festival showcase.”

Hitoshi raised his gaze, over Yamada’s head and towards Aizawa, leaning on the kitchen counters and watching the two of them closely. Hitoshi wasn’t quite seeing the point of this story, but he was also having trouble comprehending it. Aizawa had sabotaged someone’s showcase? That seemed… well, it didn’t seem not like him, but Hitoshi still found it surprising. Part of the reason he’d always idolized Eraserhead was because of how unconventional he’d been. Eraserhead had always seemed like a neighborhood hero who operated in the shadows and was about as close to a vigilante as someone could legally get. It sounded like Aizawa had always been unconventional, even in school and his personal life.

“Why?” Hitoshi asked, without taking his eyes off of Yamada.

It was still Yamada who answered, though. Yamada, who always had a tendency to pause dramatically during his stories for effect, and to leave Hitoshi hanging for a few moments. “Well… Shouta’s right about this kid. He was a real piece of work. I didn’t see it at the time. I was a little afraid of making friends, too. I didn’t have a lot of them in middle school, but I always tried to talk to whoever would pay any attention to me. Which… is how this kid met me.”

You?” Hitoshi’s eyes widened in disbelief, eyes flickering back to Yamada. “You were afraid of making friends?”

There was no way he was hearing that right. After their talk last night, Hitoshi could believe that Aizawa had felt the same as him, and maybe he could even believe that Aizawa had been a bit of a troublemaker in school, but there was no way he could believe that Present Mic, the loudest man in the world and the host of the most popular radio show in the country and one of the nation’s most beloved stars was ever afraid of making friends with people.

“Come on! I was a dorky little kid!” Yamada laughed, as if he found Hitoshi’s disbelief hilarious. “But—yeah. I was. I always talked to people and had a couple short-term friendships over the years, but Shouta was my first actual best friend. Even then, though, I was convinced that he didn’t actually like me. I thought that way with everyone. To me, anyone who hung out with me was just doing it either to make fun of me or because they wanted something out of me.”

That sounded eerily familiar, too. Just like Aizawa’s story had last night.

From the kitchen, Aizawa was staring at him. Yamada was looking at him fondly, too. Hitoshi was starting to realize why Aizawa had told Yamada to tell him this story.

“Up until that point, I thought Shouta was just sorta annoyed with me. He’s got that scary look, you know?”

Hizashi.”

“Yeah, that one!” Yamada apparently didn’t even have to look behind him to see the glare Aizawa was giving him. “I thought maybe he was too exhausted to try to get me to go away. Or maybe he wanted something from me? I thought that was all anyone wanted. But when Shouta went out of his way and was willing to mess up that guy’s showcase, I realized that Shouta did genuinely like me. He helped me realize that I was actually a likeable person. I guess he helped me come out of my shell, too. Maybe some of your new classmates are feeling just as nervous as you are with making friends. Maybe they’ll help you with figuring out who you are and what kind of hero you want to be, like Shouta did with me.”

“But if you do anything close to what I did, I will ground you.”

The seriousness of Aizawa’s voice nearly succeeded in getting a laugh out of Hitoshi, as well as the simple threat of grounding him. Hitoshi couldn’t think of any more of a mild punishment than being grounded.

“I know that’s not the lesson, Sensei,” Hitoshi assured him.

“Good.” Aizawa sighed, and Yamada turned to look at him, as well, wearing a small, nostalgic smile on his face. “I can’t really see you getting into trouble or anything. Don’t let any of your classmates drag you into anything against the rules, but you should make friends with them. They’re nice kids. Some of them might even be going through something similar. I never thought Hizashi was nervous about making friends until he told me years later. You’ll be fine, Hitoshi. Don’t push people away. You’re not the only person who’s had to deal with this, and you’re not even the only person in my class who’s had to.”

Hitoshi tried to think of someone, anyone in Aizawa’s class who could’ve possibly dealt with this before. Midoriya was a nice kid and seemed to make friends like it was second nature to him. That Todoroki kid? No, he was surrounded by friends, too. The most unfriendly kid Hitoshi could think of in that class was Bakugou and even he had his own group of close friends. It seemed impossible—every kid in that class had at least one other friend, if not a group of people close to him—but Hitoshi trusted Aizawa, both in general and on this.

Maybe, just maybe, that would mean that the others would understand better. He couldn’t imagine anyone having the same problems he was, but he trusted Aizawa, and if what he said was true, then there was a good chance they’d understand better.

“Okay,” Hitoshi breathed with a short nod. “Thanks. I… I think that helped.”

“Good!” Yamada chriped, grin growing brighter. “I’m sure you’ll be making friends in no time, Hitoshi!”

 

With both his conversation with Aizawa and Yamada’s own story in mind, Hitoshi started trying to formulate a plot in his head. After all, he was best at planning and it distracted him, giving him something to think about other than his remaining anxiety over making friends with people.

He was still trying to convince himself that it was alright. Unfortunately, two conversations weren’t going to fully right a bad mindset he’d held for most of his life. He wished it would, but he still found himself sinking back into old thoughts, wondering if it was actually worth it to make friends, or if he was just wasting valuable time that could be spent on academics and training. But he trusted Aizawa and Yamada and according to them, it wasn’t a waste of time and deep down, Hitoshi knew that he was just afraid of making friends because of his past.

He just had to get over it. And if he could work past it, he’d be alright.

Hitoshi spent the time before school distracted and planning. He took too long in the shower, too long getting dressed, and too long getting his things together. He took so long that he happened to forget something important, and he didn’t even notice until Aizawa called out to him, Yamada having left nearly a half hour earlier.

“You forgot your lunch,” Aizawa told him, right before the two of them were set to walk out the door.

“Oh no,” Hitoshi wanted to kick himself. Not only was it a distracted morning, but he’d also had a distracted night. He’d been exhausted early in the evening and had gone to bed without packing his lunch and out of routine and taking too long due to being distracted by his own thoughts, hadn’t done it this morning either. “Ugh, I forgot to make it last night. I’ll have to get lunch at school again....”

While he didn’t mind and earlier in the year was more than grateful to be able to eat the cheap UA lunch every day, Hitoshi had taken advantage of the fact that there was more than enough food in his new house and he could make up for never having a homemade lunch before. He liked packing his own food and bringing it from home, and it was disappointing that he’d forgotten.

“I noticed. Hizashi and I made lunch for you. It’s already in your box.” Aizawa said it nonchalantly, like he wasn’t just casually saying that he and his husband had packed Hitoshi a homemade lunch, like it wasn’t a big deal.

Hitoshi was silent for a moment, trying to find the words to say. He quickly gave up, though, and quickly got his cat-decorated lunch box from where it’d been on the counter. He paused, though, not quite heading out the door, looking up at Aizawa. Aizawa said nothing, as well, just giving Hitoshi his usual stoic look, and Hitoshi found himself wishing yet again that Aizawa was a little easier to read.

“Um… thanks.” Hitoshi scratched at the back of his neck, a little more anxiety stirring in his stomach. “No one’s ever done this for me. Thank you.”

Aizawa reached out and patted his head, affectionately ruffling his wild hair, expression lifting into the barest hint of a smile.

Warmth blossomed all over Hitoshi and he grinned, wider and brighter than usual, with a bit more hope that things would go alright today.

 

When he walked into the classroom, Hitoshi was relieved to find that less eyes were on him. Over half the class was already here, a few more wandering in right after Hitoshi, and only a few of them looked up to watch him. Hitoshi found it much easier to make his way to the back and take his seat, breathing a sigh of relief and finally starting to see an end in sight for all the unwanted attention he’d been garnering these past couple days. Even if he was starting to come to terms with this whole friend making thing, he still wasn’t a fan of having everyone’s eyes on him, constantly watching him and staring. It made things much more manageable.

He did notice, though, that Yaoyorozu was one of the people who looked up at him, and she greeted him with a small, gentle smile as he took his seat beside her. She said nothing, quickly turning back to the book in front of her, apparently assuming that Hitoshi didn’t want to talk. Hitoshi wasn’t sure that he did want to talk, but he swallowed his nerves and took a shaky breath, forcing something, anything out.

“You, uh… Look better today.”

He sort of wanted to kick himself for the way it came out. Hitoshi had an affliction to his voice that made him sound tired and flat and he defaulted back onto it when he didn’t know how to act in a situation. He was just recently learning to express himself more, especially at home, but Hitoshi found social situations hard to navigate on a daily basis and even harder to navigate when he had no baseline to act off of. Reaching out to a classmate and starting a conversation with the intention of getting closer to them was definitely a very new situation for him.

For a long moment, Hitoshi’s nerves gnawed at him, chastising him for offending Yaoyorozu. Her eyes widened, but she didn’t frown, instead curiously turning her head at him and studying him. He regretted it even more as her grey eyes searched all over him. It would’ve been easier to just stay quiet and plan more, rather than throwing himself out there and saying the first thing that came into his head upon seeing the reserved girl who sat next to him.

But she smiled again, still gentle, a little wider than before. “Thank you, Shinsou-chan. I feel much better today. Your lunchbox is really cute, by the way. You must like cats.”

“Yeah… I do.” He had to think of something more to say. She was clearly trying to have a conversation with him. Hitoshi was so used to not being talked to or approached or—in the case of his general education classmates—being successful in pushing others away. He didn’t actually know how to interact with his classmates on a level deeper than distant politeness.

“I have three at home,” He blurted out suddenly, words running together and face burning hot. “I was never able to have cats at home before, but now I do.”

He was pretty sure Yamada, at least, would pity him for how awkward Hitoshi was being. At worst, he was making a total fool out of himself and would be a disappointment to his more extroverted parent. He wasn’t sure what he was expecting, but it wasn’t good. Maybe an awkward laugh and for her to drop the conversation and not want to talk to him again. Though that hadn’t happened last time, Hitoshi was fully expecting that he’d messed everything out already by blurting out unsolicited information about himself and his home life.

But Yaoyorozu didn’t actually seem to mind. “Really? I don’t have pets at my family’s home, either, but I always sort of wanted a cat or a dog. Do you have pictures?”

“Oh—sure.” Hitoshi’s face was red hot just from his own awkwardness and the embarrassment of not knowing how to interact, but he tried to ignore it, instead patting around in his bag to find his phone and bringing up pictures of the cats at home. He had to remind himself to not show her any photos with Yamada and Aizawa in them, but with what felt like a million cat photos on his phone, that wasn’t hard.

He held his phone out to her, showing her a photo of the three cats on Hitoshi’s bed. The three of them didn’t always get along the best, given that they were cats and cats were territorial, and Hitoshi hadn’t wanted to pass up the chance to capture a photo with all three of them in the same spot. Two of them were actually cuddling together.

Yaoyorozu immediately cooed at the photo, mouth dropping open and eyes widening.

“They’re adorable! What are their names?”

Hitoshi was even more relieved now, at Yaoyorozu’s reaction, than he had been upon walking into the classroom and not being the center of attention. He could hardly believe that Yaoyorozu was still interested in talking to him after Hitoshi’s weirdness.

“Blanket, Jelly, and…” Present Meow, but it wasn’t like he could just say that. Even uttering that name would immediately spring a thousand other questions and Hitoshi wasn’t quite willing to tell anyone why he had a cat named after Yamada yet. “...and Meow.”

“Wow, I wouldn’t have expected those names! Did you name them?”

Hitoshi bit down on his lip. He couldn’t blame her. They were pretty lame names. Or, he would think they were pretty lame names if he didn’t know who’d named their cats.

“No, my dad did.” It wasn’t a lie. Aizawa had named Blanket and Jelly and Yamada had named Present Meow. Technically, his dad had named all three cats—with the catch being that he had two different dads and they were both their teachers.

“What an interesting naming sense. Maybe it’s logical to whoever named them, right?”

She was looking at the photo still, smiling at it. Hitoshi studied her. Surely there was no way she actually knew who Hitoshi’s family was…? He had a different family name than Aizawa and Yamada and he hadn’t said anything to give it away.

Unfortunately, though, the entire class knew that he was somewhat close with Aizawa and had been mentored by him, and most of them were probably aware that Hitoshi was a not-so-closeted Eraserhead fan. Maybe it wasn’t actually that hard to figure out that half of the equation.

He opened his mouth to say something and respond, but just as he did, the bell to homeroom rang loud through the school, saving him in just the nick of time.

Hitoshi shoved his phone back into his bag, sitting straight up, Yaoyorozu pushing her book under her seat. The rest of the class rushed in and right behind them, looking as tired as always, was Aizawa-sensei.

Hitoshi wished he could say that all the red color had drained out of his face the moment he was saved from his conversation, but he could tell from the way Aizawa’s eyes lingered on him just a second too long that he could tell from Hitoshi’s face that something was up.

 

There was no embarrassing text this time. After all, even if Aizawa knew that Hitoshi had initiated a conversation with his reserved classmate, he was much better at keeping secrets than Yamada was. Hitoshi could almost entirely forget about his conversation with Yaoyorozu, though it stuck around in his head, and Hitoshi only hoped that he hadn’t scared her off and she hadn’t only been humoring him in acting interested in their conversation.

Now, Hitoshi could think over his plan more, and in the time between homeroom starting and the classes being released for lunch, he formulated a solid plan. He always felt a little better, a little more prepared, when he could go over things in his head again and again, even if it caused him to be frustratingly distracted from his classes. Luckily for him, as mad at himself for not paying attention as he was, Hitoshi didn’t get called on at all and he was left to think about his plan to gradually get over his anxiety surrounding making friends in peace.

By lunchtime, Hitoshi had a genuine plan. Even though this was uncharted territory, having a checklist of things he wanted to do made him feel better. It made things more real in his mind, more manageable, until Hitoshi no longer felt like he was looking at the daunting, humiliating task of just getting over it. Like this, with everything compartmentalized, it was easier to believe his parents might be right when they said that making friends could be good for him and that the kids here didn’t want anything except friendship from him. Slowly, he was starting to come to terms with it all.

Step one, he decided, was to join Midoriya and his friends at lunch, this time without being asked to, and to sit with them in the future, too.

Step two was to do what he’d did this morning and actually try making conversation with people. He wasn’t entirely sure how to do it, but he’d figure it out. Maybe he’d eventually figure out how to open up more, too, and share more of himself. Somehow, that felt like the most daunting task, but it was part of being closer with people. It was necessary.

Step three was to soothe over any bad blood he’d created before and during the sports festival. There wasn’t much of it, but Hitoshi felt deep pangs of guilt whenever he’d look at Tail Kid or catch the way he stared at him, with an odd sort of lingering suspicion bordering on disdain. Most of the others were fine with him now, after his performance during the joint training class, but he was the main one Hitoshi wanted to smooth things over with. There was also Explosion Boy, but Hitoshi was pretty sure he wasn’t the only person that kid didn’t like.

He wasn’t sure what to do beyond that, but he figured this was enough for now. To Hitoshi, it was a lot, and he was navigating new territories which made things even more nerve wracking. Having a plan made things better and more tangible, but all Hitoshi could hope was that he was doing things right and not making an even bigger fool out of himself.

 

“Can I sit here…?”

Hitoshi forced himself to keep his head up and look Midoriya in the eyes. Around him, the rest of the lunchroom buzzed with life. Hundreds of other kids were in here, talking to each other and not paying any attention to him, but Hitoshi’s stomach flipped with anxiety, making him feel like he was in the spotlight as Midoriya and his friend group stared at him.

Hitoshi fought off the urge to look down at the floor, keeping his face neutral even in the wake of what he was feeling inside. He swore that Midoirya’s group had grown, though he hadn’t exactly counted how many of them there’d been yesterday. Midoirya was right in front of him, grinning as Hitoshi stood, bag slung over his body and hands balled into fists at his sides, with Uraraka beside him and Asui next to her, and Class President and the Todoroki kid on the other side. Tail Kid was there, too, eyes narrowed at HItoshi, the fluffy tip of his tail twitching in what Hitoshi could only assume was annoyance, but he thankfully kept quiet.

It didn’t take Midoriya long at all to respond, but to Hitoshi, it felt like hours of him standing in front of him, forcing himself to look him in the eyes, his own anxiety growing with each passing second.

“Yeah, of course!” Midoriya chirped, loud and anxiety and bright in a way that Hitoshi almost couldn’t understand. “But, Shinsou-chan, where’s your food? Do you need lunch money? I can—”

“No,” Hitoshi quickly interrupting, swallowing hard. It was like there was hard lump in his throat that just wouldn’t go down no matter how much he tried to relax. “I actually bring my own lunch.”

“Oh, I didn’t know! I don’t know anyone else who does that, you know, with Lunch Rush and everything.” Midoriya didn’t wait for Hitoshi to respond, instead scooting closer to Uraraka an opening up some room beside him for Hitoshi to sit. He enthusiastically patted the spot next to him, inviting Hitoshi over.

“...Thanks.” Hitoshi didn’t give himself any time to second guess. He took the seat Midoriya opened up for him, having to once again sit so close to him that his leg brushed against his. Hitoshi could feel the other boy’s eyes on him, as well as the rest of his friends, but Hitoshi didn’t immediately talk, hesitating before reaching into his bag and getting his lunchbox.

He’d thought everything through, of course, and had decided that the risk of being laughed at for his cutesy cat-themed lunchbox was worth it if he wanted to try to move past his own hang-ups regarding friends. That didn’t make it any less embarrassing, though, and Hitoshi visibly cringed when he heard a small giggle from Midoriya in response to him setting his box on the table. To make matters worse, he glanced over to see both Uraraka and Asui stifling their own giggles at it.

“Shinsou-chan, you must like cats a lot,” Asui croaked, echoing Yaoyorozu’s words from before. Hitoshi’s ears burned at being called out for his obvious liking of cats. He couldn’t blame her—just earlier today, he’d been showing Yaoyorozu cats on his phone and now he was sitting here with a cartoon cat-themed lunchbox sitting in front of him. That was a reasonable reaction for anyone to have.

Even with the embarrassment, Hitoshi still couldn’t bring himself to regret using it. After all, he still liked it just as much as the day he’d found it buried in one of the closets and the fact that Aizawa, a grown man and Hitoshi’s childhood hero, had originally bought it made him feel far less ashamed. He was happy that he could bring his own lunch now, and he gladly carried around his brightly colored lunchbox with his homemade lunch inside—something that he’d never been able to do as a kid.

What was even better was that Aizawa and Yamada had gone through the trouble of making him lunch today. Hitoshi had forced himself to not look at what they’d made, saving it as a reward for when he sat with Midoirya and his friends at lunch, and now Hitoshi could feel the jittery excitement stirring deep in him.

“Um… I do.” He searched for something to say, something that would be different from the incident earlier. He’d learned that he didn’t like blurting out information about himself, so he had to stay away with that. He looked up, staring at Asui from across the table, searching for something to say before landing on something that sounded good in his head. “You must—uh—like… frogs…?”

Well, it’d sounded good in his head.

But saying it out loud, to the girl who’s entire quirk was frog and who looked and sounded like a frog, felt even worse than what he’d said to Yaoyorozu earlier today. In that moment, he felt like the dumbest person in the room, out of the hundreds of students who were here, and the silence that overtook Midoriya’s friend group only made it worse.

Asui smiled wider, though, and laughed. “Yeah. Frogs are pretty cool, I guess.”

Beside her, Uraraka joined in laughing, but it felt less directed at Hitoshi and more at what Asui had said. Even Midoriya laughed. The moment seemed to pass, but the tenseness didn’t leave Hitoshi’s body, and he wondered if he’d just narrowly escaped making the entire situation even more awkward, just like before. Both this and the conversation with Yaoyorozu had worked out, in the end, and Hitoshi wasn’t sure how or how many more times he could just barely avoid fucking up.

Class President—Hitoshi couldn’t remember his name. He’d really have to focus on learning—asked Asui a question that Hitoshi didn’t quite catch, and Hitoshi took the opportunity to let it drop and quietly unlatch his lunchbox. He’d had his fair share of socialization today and he was ready to go back to being his quiet and reserved self. He’d met at least one goal today—sitting with Midoriya and friends at lunch—and he was thinking that that was definitely enough for today. As it turned out, forcing himself to come out of his shell and interact with others was exhausting and—

“Wow, Shinsou-chan, do you always make that much for lunch?”

He’d barely even gotten his lunchbox open before Midoriya was talking to him again, leaning into his space and gaping at the contents of Hitoshi’s lunchbox. Hitoshi couldn’t even answer though, because he was also staring agape at the contents.

He could barely believe that Aizawa had helped with this. Yamada, sure, but Aizawa? This seemed a little… over the top, but Hitoshi wasn’t complaining at all. He knew right then, though, that Midoriya would never in a million years believe that their strict homeroom teacher had helped make Hitoshi such a cutesy lunch.

Inside the bento lunchbox was a variety of things, but the thing that Hitoshi saw first was the obviously cat-shaped onigiri, the rice balls shaped into cat heads with kitten ears and decorative eyes and mouths. The main part of the meal was chicken, accompanied in the next compartment by carefully rolled tamagoyaki and—Hitoshi squinted, leaning in, and stared harder—sausages that were cut to look like octopus. It was colorful and wellmade, with a section of the lunchbox filled with bright fruit and decorated with ham cut into the shapes of flowers. Hitoshi could barely believe his eyes and spent a few long moments just continuing to stare, having to remind himself that his parents had specially made this for him, all because they’d noticed that Hitoshi had been too tired and had gone to bed without packing his lunch.

Not only had no one ever made him a homemade lunch to take to school before, but no one had ever made him something so detailed and beautiful to look at.

“No…” Hitoshi didn’t look at Midoriya as he finally answered his question. “No, my parents actually made this for me today. I went to bed really early last night and forgot to pack my own lunch, so they did this for me.”

In any other situation, it might be a little embarrassing to talk about. Not because Hitoshi was embarrassed of it in general, but because he had this need to not tell others about his homelife. He wasn’t used to talking about stuff at home after being in foster care for most of his life, but things were different now, and his happy, quiet life at home with Aizawa and Yamada felt like a secret world that he wanted to keep to himself. He knew logically that nothing would change if others knew, but this was his secret for now, and he was in control of who knew. Hitoshi wanted to keep it as his secret and his alone for now and talking about his parents like this would usually make him feel as if he was giving part of the secret away.

But Hitoshi didn’t even have the capacity to feel anywhere close to embarrassed now. Midoirya was sitting right next to him, and Hitoshi had just let something out about his homelife, but the only thing he felt—or could feel—was warm. A buzzing, soft heat had grown deep inside him, rooting at his spine and growing outward and blossoming into the rest of his body, until Hitoshi felt the same warm buzz across all of his skin.

He was starting to learn that he put a lot of weight onto the little things. Things like this—like Aizawa and Yamada caring enough about him to make him a homemade lunch to bring to school and apparently spending a lot of time to make it something special. They knew that this was something that he’d like and despite it taking a lot of time, and probably a lot of cooking, they’d done it for him anyways.

“That’s amazing! They must be really great cooks! My mom used to pack me bentos like that when I was a little kid, but only on special occasions.” Midoriya carried on, evidently not noticing how taken aback Hitoshi was. “Like if we were going on a picnic or something! Or school trips, too. Ah… I kinda wish she would still pack me lunches. Your parents must really like this sorta stuff, right?”

“I guess so.” Hitoshi didn’t know what to say. Aizawa and Yamada did a lot of little—and big—things for him that filled him with this same feeling. It was hard to think about sometimes, because Hitoshi would catch himself dissolving into a puddle of second guessing and trying to tell himself to not get so attached—both mindsets left over from before they’d taken him in. He scratched at the back of his neck, drawing in a deep breath, “They’re really great. They dote on me a lot.”

It was best to be truthful, he decided, without giving away too much.

Hitoshi really did like these gestures. He liked being thought of. He liked being paid attention to, even after years of being told that attention seeking was the worst offense possible. He liked being listened to. And… he liked being shown affection, in big, obvious ways like hugs and pats on the head and especially in smaller ways like this, like his parents making him lunch or telling him stories about themselves or making the time to play board games with him or even just listening to his many anxieties.

It made him feel like he fit in, and it made him feel loved in a way he hadn’t before he’d been adopted.

“My mom did that a lot, too! Maybe a little too much,” Midoriya laughed quietly, but Hitoshi didn’t quite understand what was so funny. “She always worried about me a lot, but she doted on me. She still does, just in a different way!”

“Your mom sounds nice,” Hitoshi commented, glancing back at his lunchbox before picking up his chopsticks and prodding at a piece of chicken.

“She is!” Midoriya chirped, smiling bright again, making Hitoshi pause. “You should come meet her sometime!”

Hitoshi nearly dropped his chopsticks.

“I… What?”

He couldn’t possibly mean what Hitoshi thought he did, could he? Hitoshi was almost a stranger to him! Didn’t Midoriya know any better? Surely it couldn’t be normal for people to invite classmates they’d just started talking to over to their house.

But, no, Midoriya meant exactly what Hitoshi thought he did. “You should come over, Shinsou-chan! I bet it’d be a lot of fun to hang out and show you around my neighborhood. Tenya-kun and Shouto have both been over. My mom loves them!”

Hitoshi stared at him, dumbfounded. He swallowed hard and turned back to his food, his eyes falling on the carefully crafted cat-shaped rice balls again, reminding him of both this morning and last night.

‘I’m sure you’ll be making friends in no time,’ Yamada had told him, like he knew that for certain, like there wasn’t even a single doubt in his mind.

“I’ll… I’ll think about it,” Hitoshi managed to tell him, forcing himself to just breathe. It was alright. Midoirya was just being friendly. He just wanted to be friends with Hitoshi. It was a little quick, Hitoshi thought, for him to be asking Hitoshi to come over to his house—something Hitoshi didn’t even want to think about right now, since it was too much—but Yamada had told him that he’d make friends fast.

It wasn’t just Aizawa who Hitoshi trusted without question; it was Yamada, too. And if the two of them loved him enough to sit him down and talk to him about making friends, enough to comfort him and do both little and bit things to show their love for him, then Hitoshi was going to trust them when they said that Hitoshi should make friends, and that it was easier than he thought it was.

That was the problem. It had to be. He was just… overthinking things. He always did. If his parents thought that he’d be making friends in no time, like it was the easiest thing in the world, then he was definitely overthinking.

“Maybe. I’d have to check with my parents, but—” Hitoshi said, explaining more and trying to recover from his shock, still not turning back to Midoriya. “—But I’ll let you know.”

Maybe it was normal. And… maybe they weren’t actually strangers. Maybe they were a lot closer to friends than Hitoshi had thought, and maybe thinking of them as strangers had just been something Hitoshi had told himself so he wouldn’t have to think about making friends with him. Even Aizawa had said that he didn’t think Midoriya was going to leave him alone and Hitoshi agreed after what had happened in their fight during the joint training lesson. Midoirya apparently liked him and thought he was interesting, if his constant talking from yesterday had been any indication, and Hitoshi didn’t mind him, either.

He was nice to him—and had never been anything but nice to him, even during the sports festival—and he was clearly interested in Hitoshi and what he had to say. It was partially because of him calling him over and having him sit with him yesterday that had triggered Hitoshi’s discussion with Aizawa last night. While he talked a lot and asked a ton of questions, Hitoshi didn’t mind him.

If he was being honest, it seemed like they shared a lot of interests. Hitoshi had an entire bookcase filled with books on quirks and various quirk research and about heroes at home. He’d seen Midoriya writing in that hero journal of his more than once, including at lunch yesterday, and he had an obvious interest in quirks and the many pro heroes of their society. It really wouldn’t be hard to find something to talk about with him.

“So…” Hitoshi wasn’t sure of himself, but that was alright. He was starting to figure out that it was alright to not know how everything was going to go. “...What’s in that notebook you always carry around? I’ve been wondering. Is it stuff about heroes?”

Hitoshi picked up a piece of chicken, almost a little hesitant to eat his carefully made colorful lunch—if his stomach wasn’t currently growling, that was. He watched Midoriya’s face, Hitoshi’s eyes growing wide when he saw Midoriya's face light up It was as if Hitoshi had lit a fire in his eyes, just by asking about his notebook. Midoriya’s smile grew ten times, stretching from ear to ear, like he’d been waiting for someone to ask that very question.

“Yeah!” His voice grew in both pitch and volume. Hitoshi had to keep himself from flinching as he tried to nonchalantly eat. Midoriya reached into his bag and produced the notebook, though, slamming it down onto the lunch table hard enough to draw attention from the rest of hs chattering friends. Midoriya carried on like he didn’t even notice, “I have tons of entries on heroes in here! And a bunch of students, too! Oh, do you want to see your entry, or maybe…”

Midoriya trailed off, jittering with excitement and looking expectantly at Hitoshi. Hitoshi glanced to see the rest of the group looking at them, and part of him knew what Midoriya had been about to say.

Hitoshi decided to just suck it up and ask anyways. They both knew what Hitoshi actually wanted to see.

“Do you have an entry on Eraserhead?”

Midoriya somehow looked more delighted. Hitoshi wasn’t sure how that was even possible.

“Yeah, of course! I have a bunch of info on him—even more since you told me about the capture scarf yesterday! Maybe you can see if anything I have is wrong.” In a flurry of excitement, Midoriya picked up his notebook and thumbed through it, quickly landing on a page. He spread it on the table, wide open for Hitoshi to see Midoriya’s pencil drawing of Aizawa’s hero persona—floating hair and goggles included. Surrounding the drawing and on the other page were lines and lines of writing.

It was kind of cute, Hitoshi thought. He didn’t know that Midoriya went this in depth about his analyses. He had a lot of information about Aizawa’s quirk on here, though Hitoshi could see a few small inaccuracies. It wasn’t too hard to correct, of course.

“Your art’s pretty good,” Hitoshi mused, leaning down to look a little more clearly at Midoriya’s writing before he pointed to one section of it. “This bit here about the duration is wrong, though. Here, give me your pencil and I’ll correct it for you.”

Hitoshi did flinch this time, when Midoirya outright squealed in delight, dropping the cat onigiri he’d picked up right back into his lunchbox, where it flopped down and stared back up at him. One of Midoriya’s friends was quick to comment on his loudness, sending the other boy into a flurry of apologies, both to Hitoshi and his other friends.

Aizawa had been right, too. These kids did like him. He was starting to think he was right about everything and that they didn’t want anything from him. They genuinely liked him and they weren’t about to go away anytime soon. It was easier to see, now that Hitoshi wasn’t trying to distance himself. They liked him and Hitoshi was starting to warm up to them, too. Aizawa had been right and so had Yamada. And in the end, Hitoshi was happy they’d had those talks with him.

As Midoriya dug around for a pencil, Hitoshi stole a glance to make sure all the attention was off of him, and then flashed a soft smile down at the lunch his parents had made for him.

 

 

Thank you for lunch. It was really good.

I sat with Midoriya today. He wants me to come over to his house. I said maybe.

See you after school. Please show this to Yamada, too.

Hitoshi slipped the note into the top drawer of Aizawa’s desk, casting a last glance out into the hallway to double check that the groups of students out there were still busy talking to each other and not paying attention to him. None of them were looking his way, the group of mixed class A and B students in front of the door too involved in hearing one of Monoma’s many stories to pay attention to Hitoshi.

Satisfied, he stood back up, closing the drawer quietly so as to not draw any attention to himself. He wasn’t sure what the other students would think if they caught him slipping a note into Sensei’s desk, but that wasn’t something he’d have to deal with today. He’d inconspicuously gotten the note in there and Aizawa would find it when he came in to teach ethics after the lunch period would officially end.

Just as he stood back, a couple kids meandered into the classroom, giving him a passing glance. Hitoshi breathed a sigh of relief and silently made his way to his seat, pleased with how the day had gone.

Social interaction was tiring. Hitoshi couldn’t wait to get home.

Chapter Text

“Hizashi’s doing some work at the radio station, so it’s just going to be you and me tonight.”

Hitoshi looked up from his homework at Aizawa as he came out of the master bedroom, having changed out of his hero costume, looking just as exhausted as he usually did. Hitoshi was honestly a little surprised that Aizawa hadn’t opted for an after-work nap like he usually did when they went straight home without training or, in Aizawa’s case, staff meetings.

“You’re not patrolling tonight?” Hitoshi set down the math textbook he’d been looking through, pushing his homework away. Most of it was done already, Hitoshi’s focusing problems from the past few days having gone away after talking to Aizawa and Yamada. For the first time since joining the heroics course officially, Hitoshi hadn’t come home in a tight ball of anxiety, and he was left excited at the prospect of spending a quiet night here with Aizawa, even if Yamada wasn’t able to join them. “Does that mean I can make dinner?”

There was a twinge of excitement in his voice. Both of them could hear it. Hitoshi wasn’t the best at hiding away his anxious feelings at home, and he was even worse at hiding positive feeling like excitement.

“We can do it together,” Aizawa told him after a moment of studying him, Hitoshi all but holding his breath in anticipation. “I could probably learn a thing or two about cooking from you, anyways.”

Hitoshi grinned. It was rare that he got to make dinner at home. He tried to help Yamada in the kitchen as much as he let him, but Hitoshi hadn’t made dinner by himself since he moved in, unless it was because they were both patrolling and he was home alone. It’d been weird—and a bit of a cultural shock—to go from a foster home where he was expected to do most chores, including cooking, to here, where mealtimes were a more family-based time. Aizawa and Yamada seemed to feel a bit bad that Hitoshi had been the one taking care of dinner all the time at his last foster home, so even if he offered, they never let him do it by himself.

Food as a whole was different here. It was more of a social thing—something to do with family or people he liked. Hitoshi coudn’t deny that being able to eat dinner as a family was one of the highlights of his day. It felt like such a small, silly thing, but it wasn’t something that he’d had before, and it wasn’t something he was about to take for granted.

“You’re not that bad. Didn’t you say you helped with my lunch today?” Hitoshi had been meaning to bring it up, but hadn’t found a way yet. He’d left Aizawa a note in his desk, but hadn’t mentioned it beyond that. Now felt like the best time to do it. “Thanks for that, by the way. It was really cute. I wasn’t expecting it.”

The expression on Aizawa’s face softened a little, going from his usual look of tiredness to a different, more emotional look, more like the one he’d given Hitoshi this morning before they’d left for school together.

“It was a good excuse to learn how to make cat riceballs. Hizashi taught me.” Aizawa told him, sighing with content. “I hope none of the other students caught you putting a note in my desk.”

Hitoshi laughed quietly. “No. I made sure they wouldn’t. I don’t want you getting into trouble, Sensei.”

“Me? You’re the one who’d get in trouble for messing with a teacher’s desk.”

Hitoshi almost wanted to ask if he was speaking from experience. Given their conversation this morning, Hitoshi was still wondering about just how much trouble Aizawa and Yamada had gotten into during their years at UA. He could barely believe that Aizawa was one to make trouble. He could see Yamada—sort of, anyways—but knowing that Aizawa had gotten himself in trouble made him more curious than ever before.

But Hitoshi bit back the question ready at his lips, swallowing his words.

“I guess you’re right.” Hitoshi watched as Aizawa went into the kitchen, probably to decide what they were making for dinner. It was rare that he got to cook with just Aizawa and the idea of it excited him. Usually, Yamada was around to show Hitoshi new things. “I don’t really want to get into trouble.”

“I wouldn’t let you get into trouble for it. But you’d still have to answer to your classmates. I can’t protect you from that. They’d bug you until you let out every secret you know about me.”

Hitoshi stifled another laugh. Aizawa had a weird sense of humor at home, and the way he said things like that with such a deadpan, serious tone made Hitoshi laugh. He wasn’t sure what his classmates would think of their aloof, no nonsense teacher making jokes about how nosy he thought his students were. They honestly probably wouldn’t even believe Hitoshi if he were to tell them. No, they wouldn’t believe Hitoshi about anything at home regarding Aizawa. He was just so different here—still the same person, but softer and more open.

Hitoshi wasn’t sure exactly what it was about home that was so different for Aizawa. At school, he was serious and never let students forget about the harsh realities of what they were training to do. It was probably the fact that he didn’t have to deal with that at home—that there weren’t twenty kids for him to constantly look after and make sure they were up to par to put themselves on the line once they graduated. Aizawa had told him more than once that someone had to be the strict teacher, and if no one else was going to do it, then he had to. There just wasn’t that pressure at home, and Hitoshi supposed that Aizawa could be a little more himself here.

He thought about it a lot lately—about how both Aizawa and Yamada were much different in public than at home. Through them, he’d seen that the other teachers were like that, too. Would his classmates think differently of them if they saw them at home? Getting to experience them like this had definitely caused Hitoshi to attach to them more than before, but he wondered if it’d be different for others.

It was easy to forget, sometimes, what being a hero was and how it meant laying one’s life on the line all the time. That was why Aizawa had to be the strict teacher. Usually, Hitoshi was good at remembering that, because up until his adoption, his reality had been pretty harsh. But today, sitting at lunch with his homemade food and helping Midoriya with his hero notebook, Hitoshi had felt like a regular kid going to a regular school. He could see how it’d be easy to forget that they weren’t just regular schoolkids.

“Sensei?”

Aizawa had gotten out a cookbook and was in the process of thumbing through it and looking for a recipe to make for dinner. Hitoshi felt a little bad, a pang of guilt stirring his chest, and bit his bottom lip, nervousness suddenly swelling in his stomach.

Aizawa looked up at him, leaning on the counter, clearly not expecting what Hitoshi was wanting. Even Hitoshi wasn’t expecting it. It was impulsive and honestly, Hitoshi was at a loss now. He hadn’t quite thought he’d get this far.

“...Are we starting dinner now? Or waiting? Isn’t it sort of early?” He was definitely trying to beat around the bush now. Hitoshi knew what he wanted to ask—just not how to phrase it—and though food was a lot more of a social thing here, it had nothing to do with dinner.

“No. I was just seeing what we had ingredients for. Why?” Aizawa raised an eyebrow at him, like he knew—because of course he knew. Of course he knew that that wasn’t what Hitoshi had wanted to ask.

Hitoshi hesitated again.

This couldn’t possibly get worse. The worst thing Aizawa could do was say no. Hitoshi knew him well enough to say for sure that he wouldn’t make fun of him or get angry. So that just left saying no, which was fine. As long as he didn’t mock him or get angry, Hitoshi could deal with anything.

“I was…” Hitoshi scratched at the back of his neck, looking down. Luckily, Jelly had sauntered into the kitchen and was pawing at a toy on the ground in the kitchen, giving Hitoshi something to look at. “...I was wondering if you could… tell me a little more about you and Yamada in high school? I’m just curious after this morning and the stuff you said before. But if—”

“Oh. You want a story.”

Hitoshi’s cheeks burned hot. That was exactly what he wanted, but it was so embarrassing when Aizawa put it like that. He knew that Aizawa was incredibly blunt, even when he didn’t mean to be, and hearing Hitoshi’s request phrased like that made him want to apologize and hide away in his room until the embarrassment was gone.

“If you don’t want—” Hitoshi started to say.

“Who said I didn’t want to?” Aizawa fixed him with a stare, closing the cookbook he’d been looking through. “Go sit in the living room. I have to find where Hizashi put those photo albums he made.”

“Photo albums…?” The fact that Aizawa hadn’t said no was shocking enough. Hitoshi hadn’t expected him to want to talk too much about the past. But showing Hitoshi photos—? Hitoshi was convinced he wasn’t hearing right.

“Any story’s better with pictures, isn’t it? Go on. I’ll be right back.”

Silent, Hitoshi nodded, watching as Aizawa left, gaze following him upstairs to where Hitoshi knew the storage room was. He made his way to the living room, abandoning his homework at the dining table and the cookbook in the kitchen. He sat on the couch, glancing back upstairs at the loft to see Aizawa looking through one of closets. He didn’t know what to expect, but Hitoshi tried to wait patiently, trying not to get himself too excited. It was times like these where he fell back into his old habits of not wanting to get excited for anything, since he didn’t want to be immediately let down.

Though… Aizawa had never let him down, and Hitoshi was happy to hear anything and everything Aizawa decided to share with him. He’d hung onto any stories he’d heard over the past few months, but had never dared to ask him or Yamada to tell him any. He hadn’t been able to figure how to ask until now.

He was happy he did. He wanted to ask more in the future. He wanted to know anything Aizawa and Yamada wanted to share with him. Other kids his age had been hearing their parents’ stories for sixteen years, but Hitoshi was just starting. He had a lot of catching up to do.

He sat straight up when he heard Aizawa coming back down the stairs and his eyes grew large and wide when he saw the thick photo album tucked under his arm. Just like Hitoshi, Aizawa also seemed wholly unconcerned with his previous task of finding something to make for dinner. Hitoshi was still very excited to cook with him, but this was far more exciting, and Hitoshi was practically buzzing with anticipation once Aizawa sat down next to him on the couch, close enough that Hitoshi could lean against his arm if he wanted to.

“Are these photos of you and Yamada in high school?” Hitoshi had a million questions in his head, but he was trying to not let his jitteriness show too much. Being this excited was already new and weird for him—the last thing he wanted was for Aizawa to also think it was weird.

Aizawa just snorted at Hitoshi’s question, though, seeming more amused than anything. He set down the photo book on his lap, moving it so when he opened it, one side of it was on Hitoshi’s lap.

Hitoshi was left staring down at a page of photos of two people who were simultaneously familiar and complete strangers to him.

Hitoshi had seen a couple photographs of Aizawa and Yamada in high school over the past couple months. He could count the amount of them on one hand, though, and it always came as a shock to see them looking so young, like they could fit in next to anyone in Hitoshi’s year. The uniforms were the same and so was the school. Hitoshi could recognize almost every location in the school these pictures were taken in. UA didn’t change, it seemed, but Hitoshi was seeing first hand how much Aizawa and Yamada had.

On the first page was about ten photographs, full of vibrant color and life. He could tell that the two people at the center of every photo were Aizawa and Yamada and yet—they looked so different. Aizawa looked so small and young, way younger than fifteen or sixteen, and Yamada had a round babyface and short hair, with Aizawa only coming up to his shoulders. For some reason, he hadn’t imagined that Aizawa would have ever been so tiny

“This was the day of the entrance exam.”

Aizawa pulled Hitoshi out of his shocked trance, looking at the photo Aizawa was pointing at. The photo was unmistakably taken in the UA auditorium and definitely before school, given that the kids in the photo looked even younger here. There was Yamada, dressed in gym clothes and grinning a wide, toothy smile, without even his trademark sunglasses, and Aizawa, hiding his face in an oversized scarf and sweater, looking more than a little annoyed.

“You look uncomfortable,” Hitoshi said quietly, unable to pull his eyes away from the photo. It was weird to think about his parents being this small, younger than him, even. They must have been around fourteen in the photo, a whole two years younger than Hitoshi. “That must’ve been the first time you guys met…?”

He wasn’t completely sure of it, but he knew that Aizawa and Yamada hadn’t met each other when they’d been any younger. Some people stayed friends from toddlerhood until adulthood. Some met their best friends in elementary school. But Aizawa and Yamada had met in high school, and Yamada had been Aizawa’s first friend. Hitoshi was like that, too—friendless up until high school, never having the same experiences with his peers throughout his earlier childhood. He and Aizawa really were a lot alike.

“Hm. It’s more like Hizashi accosted me and forced me to take a photo with him. He was trying to get photos with almost everyone he met. He was always a little over-friendly. And loud.” Aizawa sounded nostalgic. Hitoshi turned to look at him, finding that he was staring at the photo and not Hitoshi. “I just thought he was loud and annoying then. I couldn’t figure out why he kept talking to me. I also didn’t really know what I was doing, or why I was there. Being a hero wasn’t logical at all. I didn’t get why I went.”

Hitoshi stayed silent for a moment, lips pursed in curiosity. A thousand more questions ran through his brain, all begging to be answered. Hitoshi asked none of them, though, trying to weigh out his options. Aizawa didn’t talk about his history a lot. It was easier to get him to talk about his school life with Yamada than anything before it or anything having to do with his family. This sounded like it was bordering on that and Hitoshi was immediately curious, immediately wanting to know, but also immediately cautious of not asking too many questions.

“Didn’t you always want to be a hero?” He decided on, figuring that Aizawa could answer that vaguely if he wanted to. Hitoshi had never thought to ask Aizawa before. To him, it’d just been logical that his childhood hero had always wanted to be a hero. He’d never considered that there was a time where Aizawa hadn’t wanted that.

“No,” Aizawa answered him simply, without hesitation. Hitoshi studied him, sitting so close to him that their shoulders touched and Hitoshi could feel the heat radiating off his adoptive father’s body. “I never liked heroes. It felt totally illogical for me to try to become one with my quirk. Back then, things were different—but not by much. There was no one like me.”

Things were different now. But like Aizawa had said, not by much.

Hitoshi had just been lucky enough to see a certain special on TV when he’d been five, and just lucky enough to see one of Aizawa’s very few accidental media appearances.

Only then had he realized that he could be a hero, too. Only then did his dream start developing. Only then had Hitoshi started dreaming up Mind Jack, the hero he hoped to be someday. But Aizawa hadn’t had that. Things had been different. Aizawa hadn’t dreamed up Eraserhead in the same way Hitoshi had dreamed up Mind Jack.

“So, why did you…?” Hitoshi trailed off, leaving the question open. He hoped Aizawa would know what he meant. It felt so invasive, suddenly, to continue asking about this. Hitoshi was curious, though, and he wanted to know.

“There were a few different reasons.” Aizawa paused and for a moment, Hitoshi was terrified he was just going to leave it there. “Control, mostly. Things weren’t good for me up until then. I had no control over anything at home. I thought maybe, if I did the thing everyone was telling me I couldn’t do, then no one would be able to control me again. That was why I signed up for the entrance exam. But there were other reasons once I got into UA.”

Hitoshi looked back down at the photo album between them.

He couldn’t seem to stop thinking about how Aizawa looked so different then. It felt wrong, as a whole, to think about Aizawa being that young. He’d known, of course, that some things in Aizawa’s past weren’t great and more likely than not, painful to think about, but what he was saying sounded eerily similar, and Hitoshi started wondering about Aizawa being even younger, being told that he couldn’t become a hero, being mistreated. That felt even more wrong, like there was something so fundamentally incorrect about imagining his childhood hero as the same type of kid Hitoshi had been.

Hitoshi had idolized Aizawa—idolized Eraserhead—for the majority of his life. Seeing him like this, like he was in the photograph Hitoshi was staring at, stirred something different deep within him.

“What were the other reasons?”

He knew he should probably stop, that this was just getting more and more invasive with every question Hitoshi asked. But he couldn’t. He wanted to know more, and he felt like he was on the verge of discovering what this odd, wrong feeling inside of him was.

“Besides wanting to prove my parents wrong?” There was a tone of amusement in Aizawa’s voice, as if he wasn’t casually talking about his family for one of the first times Hitoshi had heard. “There were other things that happened, Hitoshi. Hizashi was a big part of that. I failed that entrance exam miserably. It was different from the one you took but the same in that you can’t pass it without a physical quirk. Hizashi got it in his mind to make friends with me, even though I was in general studies. I started seeing a different perspective and realized that I had something that other people didn’t and if those people can’t save themselves, then they need someone else to do it.”

Before Hitoshi could say anything, Aizawa flipped to the next page. Hitoshi was about to protest, wanting to try to process the previous photos for a little longer, but the next page hit him hard, striking him speechless. It was full of more colorful photos, filled with life and more brightness than the previous set. Aizawa and Yamada were in nearly every one, dressed in school uniforms, usually accompanied by Kayama and almost always with another heroics student with cloud-like hair. Sometimes there were others in the photos, as well—ones Hitoshi didn’t recognize.

“I actually got into the heroics course before I decided I wanted to be a hero,” Aizawa went on, not waiting for Hitoshi to take in the new set of photos. “There were a couple people there—Hizashi especially—who taught me what it means to save people and that I wanted things in the world to change. Even if learning that lesson was the hardest thing possible, it still forced me to make up my mind. I became a hero because I wanted control over my own life, and because there were things happening that I never wanted to see happen again. It was to help people, but not in the conventional way.”

“I… I understand.” Hitoshi honestly felt similarly. He had his own reasons for wanting to become a hero, and listening to Aizawa talk reminded him of himself. “I sort of… have similar reasons…”

“You have a good heart, Hitoshi.” Aizawa leaned in slightly, and when Hitoshi looked up at him again, he found him glancing at the photos on the page. “It’s fine to not want to be a hero just to help people in the conventional way. It’s fine if you just want to prove that you can do it. And it’s fine if you’re wanting to show other people that your quirk can help people. Everyone has their own reasons. Everyone wants to help people in some way or another, though. I did, too, when I was your age—I just didn’t exactly know it yet.”

“It’s really weird to think about you being my age,” Hitoshi said softly, returning his own gaze to the photos of Aizawa, Yamada, and their other friends. It was hard to believe that that was even Aizawa. “I’ve always just thought of you as someone who’s always had all the answers, but…”

Ah. That was it. That was the missing piece.

“...But I guess you were little at some point, too, weren’t you?”

The person in the photos was Aizawa. The person with the bad home life who took the UA exam because he’d wanted control was Aizawa. The person sitting next to him was Aizawa. Eraserhead was Aizawa.

Hitoshi had had an odd disconnect since meeting Aizawa. He looked up to Aizawa in every context, in every facet of his life, but it was odd thinking about Aizawa the teacher or Aizawa at home being the same as Eraserhead the hero. Whenever Hitoshi thought about Aizawa’s hero work, it was always Eraserhead, not Aizawa, and he always tried to put a bit of a separation between them. It wasn’t because Hitoshi liked one part of him better—but because he’d created the separation back when he’d first met Aizawa during after school trainings as a way to continue to idolize and hero worship him from afar, despite being close to him.

But Eraserhead was just… Hitoshi’s dad at work. And Hitoshi’s dad was Aizawa, a man who’d once been a child, who’d gone to UA not knowing what he’d wanted to be, who’d made friends and graduated and become a pro hero, and who’d adopted Hitoshi. Hitoshi’s hero worship of him had been getting in the way lately, causing him to not know how to react when Aizawa told him about his past or about being afraid of making friends or even now, when he’d shown him pictures, and making him nervous to even ask Aizawa about himself. The truth was that Aizawa was all the things Hitoshi thought of him as, and there was no separation. His dad was the same guy who taught his homeroom class and made time in the evenings to do things with him and packed lunches for him in the morning—and he was also the same guy who put his life on the line during the nights for his job, and the same guy Hitoshi had seen on the news when he’d been five years old and new to foster care.

He didn’t need that disconnect anymore. It was okay now. He was here, at home, sitting with Aizawa, talking with him about the part of his life he’d chosen to share with Hitoshi. Hitoshi’s adoption certificate hung on the wall near the kitchen, signed neatly in Aizawa and Yamada’s handwriting. The house was full of warmth and life and Hitoshi lived here, with his family, and he didn’t need that idolization of Aizawa to fall back on. It was okay now, and Hitoshi had no doubt that he was well loved here.

Hitoshi looked up at Aizawa, frowning a little. He wondered if he should feel guilty for trying to keep Aizawa separate from his hero persona for so long, just so he could always have that idolization to fall back on. He drew in a deep breath, trying to think of what to say, and then let it out slowly. He said nothing.

It was better this way—just trying to let go of something that once brought him a lot of comfort but now was just getting in the way of him bonding with his new parents more. He had to just let it go.

He’d been so afraid to ask Aizawa questions about himself, all because of that separation. That was why he hadn’t been able to process the thought of him being so much like Hitoshi as a kid, and why Hitoshi hadn’t even been able to imagine him as a kid.

“I know it’s surprising, but yes, I was your age once.” There was still a tone of amusement in Aizawa’s voice. Hitoshi didn’t think he had any idea of the realization Hitoshi just went through.

It would take some getting used to, but he knew now that seeing Aizawa as one person and not separating his hero persona from the way he was at home and school was better. It’d make him easier to talk to. It’d let Hitoshi stop feeling so nervous asking him about himself.

“It’s just a little weird to think about still,” Hitoshi admitted, eyes drifting back down to the pages of photos. Already, the younger Aizawa on the page looked a little familiar, a little less bizarre to see. “I’ve always thought of you as my favorite hero. It’s hard to believe that when I was born you were my age.”

“That’s right. I was around fifteen when you were born. I never thought back then that I’d ever have a kid.” Aizawa fixed him with a stare and one of his half-smiles. “Things really do change when you’re older.”

Hitoshi hesitated, sitting still and holding Aizawa’s gaze. He wanted to do something. Aizawa was sitting close to him, leaned in slightly, and not for the first time, Hitoshi had an overwhelming desire for affection. It was something that he was still having trouble asking for—though that was getting better at it—but at least he knew when he asked for it, he’d get it, plus all the other times he’d be pulled in for a hug or have his head patted or even just given an affectionate shoulder touch. Hitoshi didn’t want to ask this time, though. He just… wanted.

So Hitoshi didn’t quite let himself think and leaned against Aizawa, wrapping his arms around him and laying his head onto his shoulder.

Initiating anything affectionate wasn’t something he did. If he wanted something that wasn’t being offered immediately, he’d learned that he could verbally ask, but other than that, Hitoshi had only hugged Aizawa once on his own without asking, and it was before he’d been adopted and way before he’d learned that he even could ask.

He wasn’t sure exactly what he wanted from this. A returned hug, definitely, but he wasn’t sure if he wanted Aizawa to verbally acknowledge that he’d done it or not. He didn’t know what he wanted him to say—or if he wanted him to say anything at all.

Aizawa always knew what to do, though. He did return it, almost immediately, wrapping Hitoshi in a loose hug and holding him, letting him stay there with his head on Aizawa’s shoulder. He said nothing, only leaning back to make a little more room for him, and Hitoshi realized that he just wanted affection, not words, and he was more than happy to just be held here like this.

 

“Sensei… What are we making…?”

Hitoshi had been trying to figure out the answer to that question for a good five minutes, now, while watching Aizawa find ingredients in their cabinets and fridge. The cookbook he’d been looking at hours before still laid open on the kitchen counters, flipped to a page that Aizawa was obviously not following, leaving Hitoshi in the dark about whatever they were making for dinner.

Hitoshi was beginning to think that he should’ve just suggested something for them to make, given that Aizawa’s assortment of ingredients was… odd, to say the least. Currently sitting on the counter was a package of long spaghetti noodles, bell pepper, sausage and—a bottle of ketchup. Hitoshi was really starting to think that maybe he should just take over and find something that didn’t involve both pasta and ketchup in the same dish.

It was rare that Aizawa made dinner. The two of them usually just went to a cat cafe or ordered take out when Yamada wasn’t around. Aizawa didn’t seem to like the idea of Hitoshi cooking for him by himself, though Hitoshi was more than happy to do it, telling him that he’d rather go out than make Hitoshi cook for him. Hitoshi was excited at the idea of getting to cook with Aizawa—even more excited than he had been earlier, before he’d asked Aizawa to tell him a story about himself and Yamada—but he was beginning to remember why Aizawa didn’t cook much when it was just the two of them.

“Spaghetti,” Aizawa answered him simply, glancing up at him from under his reading glasses, offering no further explanation.

“Uh—I don’t think we have… all the right ingredients?” Hitoshi tried instead, not exactly wanting to criticise him, but also not being entirely convinced that Aizawa knew what he was doing. Aizawa was a good teacher, parents, and a great hero—but he wasn’t a great cook and this was one of the first times Hitoshi had seen him make dinner on his own.

The only thing more rare than Aizawa cooking was not being together as a family for dinner. Hitoshi hadn’t ever really seen him cook dinner on his own because Yamada was usually here, too. The times that the three of them weren’t all home for dinner together was few and far in between, and this was one of those rare times that Yamada happened to be busy enough that he wouldn’t be at home at all until tonight. Even on days he did his late night radio show, he’d still be home for a few hours, but Aizawa had told him there were other things at the station that he had to take care of and probably wouldn’t be home until Hitoshi was in bed.

Which… was disappointing, to say the least. Hitoshi had come to think of dinnertime with his family as one of his favorite parts of his daily routine. He also liked having them both home at night and getting to see them both before bed. But he understood Yamada had things to do.

“It’s spaghetti naporitan. It’s a little different than what you’re used to. I learned to make it back in high school. Now I’m teaching you.”

“Oh—” Hitoshi wasn’t sure he’d ever heard of that, but if Aizawa was sure of it, then Hitoshi knew it’d probably be alright. Even if Aizawa wasn’t the best cook, Hitoshi still trusted him and if Aizawa wanted to teach him something, then Hitoshi wanted to learn. He didn’t hesitate, going over to Aizawa and where he had the ingredients laid out on the counter. “Sensei, did Yamada teach you how to make it?”

There was a twinge of nervousness to his voice, just enough for Hitoshi to notice despite his attempts to hide it. He didn’t let himself think about it. He wanted to know, so he’d asked. Earlier, he’d decided that he needed to stop separating Aizawa from his hero persona and stop being so hesitant to ask him questions. He had sixteen years of catching up to do in regard to getting to know his parents; there wasn’t enough room to feel panicky and anxious whenever he wanted to know something.

He was closer to Aizawa like this, like breaking down that unspoken barrier of not being able to ask questions about his life had opened something up between them. Even if he was nervous, he felt better asking than not asking at all.

Aizawa just hummed in nonchalant agreement, glancing at Hitoshi over his reading glasses again, “Yes, Hizashi was the one to teach me. I’m a little surprised he hasn’t tried to teach you this recipe yet. This used to be Hizashi’s favorite thing to make me when we were in school.”

“Really—?” Hitoshi looked in disbelief to the odd set of ingredients on the counter. Setting next to the package of uncooked pasta was something Hitoshi hadn’t seen yet—a paper with a handwritten recipe on it, the edges a bit crumpled and the paper yellowing, Yamada’s handwriting a little faded but still legible.

Aizawa snorted at Hitoshi’s reaction, “Well, Hizashi wasn’t the best cook in the world when we were fifteen. And I was somehow even pickier then than now when it comes to food. This was probably the only thing he could make me that I’d actually eat at first.”

Hitoshi tried to imagine the two of them as kids his age again. He’d just spent a while with Aizawa, listening to him talk about him and Yamada in high school and looking at photographs of them. He could easily picture what they looked like and slowly, the more comfortable he got, the easier it was to imagine his parents as kids. He wondered what it’d been like—Aizawa was more than a little picky when it came to food choices and the idea of him having been even more selective when he’d been younger was pretty funny to think about.

“You’ll teach me now?” Hitoshi looked back up at Aizawa, standing close enough to him that Hitoshi had tilt his head up slightly to look him in the eyes. “How do we start?”

Hitoshi couldn’t deny that he was still a little skeptical of pasta that involved ketchup as a sauce, but if Aizawa liked it, then Hitoshi wanted to at least give it a try. Maybe Aizawa would even let him make it for dinner by himself one night.

“It’s pretty easy. Easy enough that I could do it, anyways. Cut this up and I’ll start the noodles.” Aizawa pushed the pepper towards him, along with the cutting board and knife he had out.

Hitoshi nodded, immediately going to wash his hands and start on the task delegated to him. This part was easy enough—Yamada usually had him chop vegetables or other ingredients when he cooked with him, and Hitoshi tried to work quickly, listening to Aizawa behind him as he got out of a pot and started boiling the water on the stove.

It was quiet between them, except from the noise they were making in the kitchen, and Hitoshi was fine with that, concentrating on cutting up the pepper, but once he was done, he looked up to see Aizawa leaning on the counter, staring at him in an almost expectant way with his arms crossed over his chest.

Hitoshi didn’t have to wonder what it was about for very long. His answer came quickly.

“I saw you were talking to Yaoyorozu this morning.”

Of course. He knew this morning that Aizawa had caught him talking to her. It wasn’t a bad thing or anything, but Hitoshi still felt a small flare of embarrassment. He frowned, scratching at the back of his neck, not knowing what to say. Every time he tried to open his mouth, the words just stuck in his throat, leaving him speechless.

“I actually thought the two of you might work well together as friends, Hitoshi,” Aizawa’s tone softened, as if he realized that he’d sounded more than a little too serious to Hitoshi, almost like he was confronting him. It wasn’t intentional, and Hitoshi knew that, but sometimes Aizawa didn’t seem to understand that he had a bit of an intimidating demeanor. “That was most of the reason I put you next to her, instead of in order.”

“I just thought it was because it was easier…” Hitoshi murmured. He hadn’t thought it was odd, to be seated next to Yaoyorozu. The rest of the students were in order by family name, but Hitoshi was a transfer, so it’d made sense to put him in the back of the classroom, next to the person who had the last name in the order. He hadn’t thought anything of it.

“No, it would’ve been the same amount of work. But you would’ve been towards the front of the classroom. I thought you might do better next to someone who was a little more like you. She seemed like the best person for you to potentially make friends with. Besides Midoriya, of course.”

“Oh—I—” Hitoshi felt his face flush. He hadn’t realized at all that Aizawa had put that much thought into where to put Hitoshi in the classroom. He’d been right, too. Hitoshi did like Yaoyorozu, and Aizawa had clearly known about Midoriya’s enthusiasm for Hitoshi. “I actually sat with Midoriya today at lunch, too. He’s sort of… energetic. But he showed me that notebook he carries around. He has an entry on you, you know.”

He didn’t mention that he’d helped Midoriya out on that entry today and that it now had accurate information. Aizawa didn’t need to know that much, and Hitoshi was embarrassed of how much information he knew about Aizawa’s hero work—enough information, apparently, to beat out the only other hero and quirk know-it-all in the class. He wasn’t sure if that was an accomplishment or not. He was starting to think not.

“I assumed he did.” Aizawa paused, raising an eyebrow at him. Part of Hitoshi knew what was coming next and he glanced back at the pot on the stove, finding that it was unfortunately far from boiling. “Have you told anyone that you’re my son yet?”

There it was, the question Hitoshi had known was coming but had still been dreading.

“No…” Hitoshi told him, drawing in a deep breath. “I… I’ve been waiting. I don’t know if I want to yet. I feel like I should, but…”

He trailed off, looking down at the handwritten recipe on the counter.

He wondered when Aizawa had told Yamada about his homelife, or when Yamada had first introduced him to his family. Had it been early on? Had Aizawa waited? If he had waited, why had he waited?

Maybe there wasn’t a lot of reason to keep it to himself. Maybe he was still trying to keep some separation there, separation that he was trying to move away from now. He was waiting, but he didn’t know what for.

He stole a glance up at Aizawa and was met with a softening gaze.

“Hitoshi, you can tell anyone you want to—or wait as long as you want to. Or even not tell anyone.” Aizawa’s assurance was enough, and Hitoshi managed to relax. “If you need time, then that’s fine. You should take your time. You’ve been doing well with making friends, but don’t push yourself too hard.”

Hitoshi let out a sigh of relief. He nodded, feeling the tension from before pass. He definitely needed a little more time to think about telling anyone about his new life at home, but maybe—just maybe—he’d be able to do it soon.

“Thanks, Sensei,” Hitoshi looked back up at him with a slight smile. The small big of praise settled deep within him. Aizawa honestly seemed to think he was doing a good job at making friends. That was all the encouragement he needed. “I’ll let you know once I do tell anyone.”

Behind him, Hitoshi heard the telltale sounds of the water starting to boil. Aizawa noticed it, too, and like that, the conversation was dropped. In the end, though, Hitoshi was glad Aizawa had brought up him talking to Yaoyorozu this morning—hearing that he thought Hitoshi was doing well felt good, and made him just a little more eager for class tomorrow. Maybe he’d even work up the courage to tell her more about himself.

But waiting was fine, too. He could take his time.

 

Yamada got home just after midnight.

Hitoshi had, admittedly, done something a little bad. He’d faked falling asleep on the couch after asking to stay up to see Yamada when he got home, just because he knew that Aizawa would carry him to bed if he saw Hitoshi dozing off on the couch so early. It’d been a little white lie, but to his credit, Hitoshi had been exhausted after making dinner with Aizawa and then helping him clean up and after all the excitement from today and the last couple days, Hitoshi never would’ve made it staying up to Yamada’s return.

A couple nights ago, after that disastrous therapy appointment, Hitoshi had spent the night out on the couch, but that’d been because he hadn’t wanted to be alone. If he just dozed off on the couch as a result of being too tired, Hitoshi knew from experience that Aizawa would take him to his bedroom. And of course, he was right, and it didn’t take long for Aizawa to notice.

Hitoshi dozed off at some point soon after Aizawa took him to bed and tucked him into his many blankets and pillows, and woke up to the sound of the front door opening.

There was still a small amount of momentary panic whenever Hitoshi woke up to the sound of the door opening. It was leftover after a decade of fearing the sound of people returning home. Something in Hitoshi’s body still woke him up at the sound of it and made his heart race and his mouth go dry at the noise of the front door creaking open. But it was getting better, just like the rest of Hitoshi’s leftover instincts.

Hitoshi didn’t sleep with his door shut, feeling like he was less alone when he had it open, and knowing that, Aizawa had left it halfway open—enough that Hitoshi could see out into the living room, and enough that he could watch as Yamada came inside and greeted Aizawa.

Hitoshi was planning on just rolling over and going back to sleep—until he realized that he could hear their quiet conversation. He knew he shouldn’t, but he eavesdropped, too curious about what Aizawa and Yamada talked about when they thought Hitoshi wasn’t listening.

“Hitoshi made some friends today.” Hitoshi was a little surprised to learn that the first thing Aizawa mentioned was him. Out in the living room, Aizawa was helping Yamada take off his heavy jacket, pushing Yamada’s hands away as he unzipped it. He heard Yamada laugh, and Hitoshi quickly shut his eyes as he realized that Yamada was moving to glance inside the room. He was still in the entryway and far enough away that Hitoshi didn’t think he’d be able to see if Hitoshi’s eyes were open, but he wanted to be safe.

“Is he asleep?” Yamada asked. Hitoshi dared to crack an eye open, breathing a quiet sigh of relief when he saw that Yamada had gone back to focusing on Aizawa, who was tugging his coat off of him.

Aizawa nodded. “He wanted to wait up for you, but he fell asleep out here. He didn’t even wake up when I took him to his room. He must be tired.”

“Yeah, all that new socialization must be tiring him out!” Another laugh from Yamada, followed by Aizawa shushing him and what Hitoshi could only interpret as an apologetic glance as Yamada quieted. Hitoshi watched as Aizawa pulled Yamada towards him, wrapping his arms around him, and almost without realizing it, Hitoshi smiled to himself a little. “You said he made some friends today?”

“Mm. He told me about while we were making dinner today,” Aizawa told Yamada, keeping his voice low. Luckily, they were a little too distracted by each other to look in Hitoshi’s direction. “I caught him talking with Yaoyorozu this morning and he told me about how he sat with Midoriya and his friends during lunch. Seems like talking to him yesterday worked.”

Hitoshi remembered the first day he’d been here, how he’d been too nervous to ask what Aizawa and Yamada were to each other, and how he’d only figured out that they were a couple by watching them together when they’d thought he’d been sleeping. It’d been so weird to see his childhood hero being so affectionate with someone—and for that someone to be Present Mic. But he was used to it now. He was used to seeing his father—who just happened to be the hero that Hitoshi had looked up to for his entire life—with his other dad, and the three of them felt like a family together. It was feeling more and more like normalcy with each passing day.

Things felt a little different since his revelation from earlier, with realizing he needed to stop thinking of Aizawa and Eraserhead as two separate people, but it wasn’t a bad different. He actually felt closer with both Aizawa and Yamada, like he could connect with them on an even better level now that he’d stopped seeing their hero personas as different. They were just his fathers, who also were heroes.

“Good!” Yamada cheered, getting a little loud once more, and was again met with insistent shushing from Aizawa. “Oh, right. Sorry. Don’t wanna wake kiddo up, especially after such a long day. Aw, it’s so cute that he’s making friends. I knew he’d be able to.”

“Yeah. He’s a good kid. My class likes him.” There was a pause between them. Hitoshi let himself beam at the praise, hidden away in his room where neither of his parents could see him. He was about to try to go back to sleep, suspecting that Aizawa and Yamada were done talking for now and probably headed to bed themselves, but just when he was about to let his eyes fall shut again, he saw Aizawa pull slightly away from Yamada, looking him in the eyes. “He actually asked me to tell him a story today, too. He wanted to know more about you and me in high school.”

Even from inside his room, Hitoshi could see the way Yamada’s eyes widened at that. Hitoshi fought away the urge to look away, suddenly embarrassed. He hadn’t thought that the two of them had picked up on his reluctance to outright ask them about themselves and their history, but it was clear from just this conversation that they had. Otherwise, Aizawa wouldn’t be pointing it out to Yamada. He felt ashamed at it now, since he’d learned that all he’d had to do was ask and that the worst thing either of them could say was no. He’d just been… afraid of intruding or overstepping or being shut out. But he knew now that wouldn’t happen.

“Wow, really?” Yamada even sounded surprised and was answered with a nod from Aizawa. Hitoshi listened closer now, guilt tugging at him as he realized that he was eavesdropping because he wanted to know what they really thought about Hitoshi wanting to learn about them. “I thought it’d take a little longer for him to do that. Poor thing always seems so nervous. What’d you tell him?”

“I showed him some photos. I managed to remember where you put those old photo albums and I got them out to show him.”

“Remembered? Shouta, they’re just… in the bookcase upstairs. It’s not that hard to remember.” Yamada’s voice dropped a little and though he still sounded amused, his tone took on something similar to what it had this morning: nostalgia. Sleep was just about the furthest thing from Hitoshi’s mind as he listened in. “Hitoshi must’ve really enjoyed that. Though, I imagine he had a lot of questions…”

“A few. I answered whatever he asked for him.” Aizawa’s voice got a little quieter. He was right; Hitoshi had asked a few questions and they’d talked for a while over the photo book even after Hitoshi had hugged him. There’d not really been anything negative, though, so Hitoshi was a little unsure of why they both sounded borderline bittersweet. “I didn’t tell him too much. Just a couple stories. He was more surprised that we were both kids than anything.”

“Aww. Cute. I’m glad he’s finally asking for that kinda stuff. I just wish he’d learn that there’s no reason to be nervous about it.”

“It’ll come. It just takes time.” Aizawa’s answer was immediate and with the same sort of confidence Hitoshi had come to expect from him. “It takes a while to warm up to the idea of sharing things with other people like this. He’ll get used to it, just like I did.”

“Yeah,” Yamada sounded more nostalgic than ever. “Time heals all wounds, doesn’t it, Shouta?”

“That’s all Hitoshi needs.”

Chapter Text

“Good morning, Shinsou-chan!”

Yaoyorozu was already in her seat by the time Hitoshi made his way to the classroom, smiling brightly at him, not even hesitating in enthusiastically greeting him. Hitoshi froze for a moment, staring at her, and wondered if he’d ever get used to class A’s friendliness.

“Good morning.” He tried to return the smile, but didn’t quite get it right. He looked away, instead taking his seat, and Yaoyorozu seemed pleased at him returning her greeting. Silence fell between them for a long moment, before Hitoshi sheepishly looked back at her— “How… How are you today?”

Small talk felt weird. He’d never really done small talk before coming to UA and he’d never tried to do it until being moved to class A. It sounded awkward and weird, but he was trying and doing his best. He wasn’t going to get it right away—that much was unfortunately clear after the things he’d blurted out to Yaoyorozu yesterday—and Hitoshi was slowly coming to terms with the fact that he hadn’t really had the best socialization in the world and was learning from scratch now.

“Thank you for asking. I’m doing pretty well this morning. I thankfully remembered to eat breakfast again this morning.” She laughed softly and Hitoshi felt the tension in his body lift a little. “Actually, I’ve been meaning to ask you… I never see you in the dorms. Since you’re in the hero course now, don’t you have to live with the rest of us?”

Oh. He really should’ve seen this coming.

Hitoshi didn’t answer immediately, drumming his fingers on his desk in an attempt to hide his immediate worry at finally being asked about his living situation.

“No,” He answered after a moment, voice flat. “I live off campus.”

Yaoyorozu frowned at that, turning her head at him, expression turning to confusion, “...I thought living in the dorms was required? I’m sorry, I don’t mean to pry, but… will you be moving into one of the vacant rooms soon?”

“No,” Hitoshi said again, drawing in a deep breath. “My living situation is a little different.”

Yaoyorozu pursed her lips, as if trying to decide whether to question him further, or maybe even trying to figure out what he meant. Hitoshi continued to look at her, though inside his head was much different than the blank, usual expression he wore on his face.

A few days ago, he would’ve chalked this up to ulterior motives. He would’ve automatically assumed that Yaoyorozu had other reasons for asking him and wanted something from him that involved finding out information about Hitoshi’s living situation. It would’ve been logical—and Hitoshi’s mind still immediately went there, a voice in his head pulling at him and trying to convince him that she was asking for whatever malicious reason and he should be defensive and tell her off about it. But that wasn’t true, and Hitoshi knew that now.

Aizawa had said that they just wanted to be friends with him. This was… a logical question to ask. She wanted to be friends with him and was trying to talk to him to find out more about him. He didn’t live in the dorms with the rest of the kids—so an obvious starting point would be to ask why he didn’t live in the dorms with the rest of the kids.

He hadn’t really wanted to tell anyone about Aizawa and Yamada before, but…

“I live with Aizawa-sensei. And Mic-sensei. They’re married and they took me in recently.”

...But yesterday had changed that, and he was starting to think that maybe living with them didn’t have to be such a huge secret.

After all, they were Hitoshi’s dads, and they just happened to be heroes and also teachers. If he wasn’t trying to separate the hero from the people he saw at home, then there was no reason to keep this big secret. It was still his and still his to choose to tell or keep, but it was time to tell. There was no point in hiding it.

“O—Oh,” Yaoyorozu stuttered out, her mouth dropping open at Hitoshi’s sudden admission, eyes widening. “Y—You’re really Sensei’s son? I mean, some of us sort of thought… but we weren’t really sure or anything!”

So he’d been right yesterday. She’d suspected. Her remarks made more sense now and honestly, it was a bit of a relief for someone to actually know. Oddly enough, she was the person he’d shared the most about his life with so far, even if it’d really just been talking about the cats at home. She also seemed like someone he could actually trust to not tell anyone because even if Hitoshi wasn’t keeping it a secret anymore, it was still his thing to tell people and he didn’t want any potential friends knowing before he told them himself.

“Yeah, I am. It’s only been a few months, though. Just don’t tell anyone else, okay?” It felt easier to talk now, now that she knew. He wasn’t nearly as afraid of letting something slip out as he had been before. “I sort of just want to tell people on my own.”

“Of course! Your secret’s safe with me, Shinsou-chan!” She smiled again, nodding as she promised him to keep quiet about it. “But… I have to ask—what’s Sensei like at home? And he’s married to Mic-sensei? LIke, Present Mic? Our English teacher? The loud one?”

Hitoshi snorted, smiling, “I couldn’t believe it, either. They’re married. I swear. It’s really weird until you get used to it. And Sensei is… really nice at home. He’s pretty different in school. I guess he thinks he has to be the strict teacher here or something.”

“No way…” Yaoyorozu breathed, her mouth dropping open even wider than before. Hitoshi was afraid she didn’t actually believe him, given that he wouldn’t have believed any of this if he didn’t see it with his own eyes, but she seemed more shocked than disbelieving.

“You can’t tell anyone about that, either, alright? He said I could tell people about him and Yamada and them being my parents but I don’t know if he wants you all knowing that he’s actually nice.” Despite what he was saying, Hitoshi couldn’t quite bring himself to feel guilty for telling her that tidbit. He thought it was pretty funny, watching the shock on her face, knowing that any second, the bell would ring and Aizawa would walk in and she’d have to sit through homeroom knowing that Aizawa was a soft, loving person at home.

“You can trust me, Shinsou-chan! I promise. But, please, tell me more.”

It was even funnier to see how much she wanted to know about Aizawa-sensei. Not that he could blame her or anything.

 

This time, Hitoshi didn’t ask to sit lunch with Midoirya and his friends. He saw that Midoriya had left him an opening on the seat next to him and, not letting himself think too much about it, Hitoshi sat down next to him without a word and without asking.

He could feel his heart beating hard already, from only sitting down without asking, and he forced himself to swallow the anxiety threatening to creep up on him and act as normal as possible. The cafeteria buzzed around them, filled with all the students in the school, all talking together and laughing.

It’d be alright. He was here, they’d left a seat open for him, and Hitoshi could make conversation with Midoriya and eat his lunch. It’d be just like yesterday. If things continued like this—just like this—then Hitoshi would eventually get used to it. Eventually, it’d get even easier.

“I was hoping you’d sit with us again today!” Midoriya immediately broke off his other conversation with Todoroki and turned to Hitoshi. Hitoshi glanced at the others, finding the usual crowd, minus Tail Boy. His absence didn’t surprise Hitoshi, but it upset him a little, reminding him that there was at least one student in the class who still really didn’t like him. Someone he still had bad blood with.

So far, Hitoshi had worked on the first two points of his plan. He’d started sitting with Midoriya and his friends during lunch and he’d started making more conversations with others and working on sharing more about himself. He’d made progress at home, too, unexpectedly. But he hadn’t done anything with the third step of his plan, soothing over bad blood, and Hitoshi just wasn’t sure yet how to approach that, or how to approach the one kid who still obviously disliked him.

His dislike was obvious. It was as clear as day to Hitoshi. He couldn’t really blame him, either, and it sat at the back of his mind, eating at him. And now that kid wasn’t here, with the rest of his friends, all because Hitoshi had joined their group. It was his fault that he wasn’t here, his fault that he couldn’t sit with his friends, and his fault that he was probably sitting with people who weren’t part of his friend group.

It was his fault, and Hitoshi needed to start thinking about what he could do to fix things. He had to. But he had no idea how. No idea how to approach him or how to apologize to him or how to show him that he was different now or—

“...So my mom said yes and I was wondering if you wanted to come over today after school since I’m going home for the weekend?”

Upon hearing those words, the world just… stopped.

Hitoshi snapped out of his thoughts just in time.

He startled, sitting up straight, eyes snapping up to look at Midoriya’s face. For a split second, before he could get his thoughts in order, he searched for a reason, a motive Midoriya would have to invite him over to his house, to meet his family. It took a conscious effort to stop and remember the same thing he’d had to remember with Yaoyorozu earlier today—he just wanted to be friends. That was the only reason he was asking Hitoshi this. There was no other reason.

But somehow, that didn’t matter right now.

Hitoshi was suddenly hyper aware of everything around him. The sound of the cafeteria surrounding him, once a murmur and now a deafening roar in his ears. The lump in his throat that he couldn’t swallow and was spreading fast into his chest. His own frozen, rigid body. The lights above that were glaring down on him, too bright and blinding. Midoriya’s smiling face, all his attention on Hitoshi and Hitoshi only as he waited for an answer.

The sights, the smells, the sounds—it was all too much, too quick. Hitoshi couldn’t breathe. He couldn’t move.

“Um,” Hitoshi didn’t have an answer immediately. His brain was blank, all thoughts having left him the moment he heard Midoriya’s question. He’d never been over to a friends’ house. He’d never had friends at all, but he’d never gone to a classmates’ house or anything, either. And now Midoirya was asking him to come over, out of the blue, without even a warning? “I don’t know? Can I go ask my dads first?”

Hitoshi’s heart pounded in his ears. His voice only wavered a little. Hitoshi fought to keep it under control. His chest screamed for air, but Hitoshi felt paralyzed. He couldn’t move even if he wanted to. Midoriya gave him a look that was somewhere between surprise and confusion, as if he didn’t understand why Hitoshi had to ask his parents first. He couldn’t exactly blame him—he couldn’t imagine that most sixteen year olds had to ask their parents about going to a friends’ house, and Midoriya probably thought that he was asking permission when in reality, Hitoshi desperately needed advice and quick. That was all. He just needed to get out of here and go ask Aizawa and Yamada for advice. They’d tell him what to do and everything would be perfectly fine.

Just advice. That was all he needed.

What he really needed to be anywhere but here. Anywhere but here, with his heart pounding and his throat suddenly dried up and his chest closing in on itself.

The faster he could get out of here, the better. The faster he could get away from this table and that question and this conversation, the better. He’d be fine. He just needed to think and get advice. Everything was okay.

He’d been so confident sitting down here, feeling prepared for a lunch period of trying to make conversation with Midoriya's group. He’d thought he had everything in order and everything planned for, but then Midoriya had immediately hit him with this and Hitoshi had no idea how to respond. All he knew was that he couldn’t breathe and all he could hear was his heart in his ears, pounding away frantically.

“Okay! Feel free to give me your answer whenever!” Midoriya cheerfully told him.

Hitoshi was already scrambling to gather his things by the time the words were out of his mouth, and was darting to the teachers’ lounge not even a minute later.

 

 

Hitoshi liked to think of himself as someone who could regulate his emotions and deal with most immediate situations by himself. But this? There was no way he could deal with this by himself. He’d barely started getting comfortable with the idea of making friends. He couldn’t do this. It was suddenly overwhelming, suddenly too much and he just—couldn’t.

The door was locked when Hitoshi got to it. He’d expected that. Someone called out that they were coming once he started frantically knocking, but he couldn’t make out the words or even whose voice it was over the thundering of his own heart in his ears. His chest was too tight and he was out of breath from running here and he really just felt like collapsing against the wall instead of waiting for someone to answer the door.

He didn’t even hear the door unlatching. The only thing he heard was—

“Shinsou-kun…?”

He realized he’d been staring at the tile floor. Slowly, he raised his eyes, trying to stop the way his breaths were coming quick and labored. It took him a long, long moment to recognize the person in the doorway but he eventually realized that it was his parents’ long time friend, Kayama Nemuri.

She didn’t give him any time to respond, turning to call out behind here.

“Hey, I think your kid is having a panic attack!”

Hitoshi wished he could tell her that that wasn’t the case, that he wouldn’t make a big deal out of something so small. He really did think that she was just mistaken and obviously, this wasn’t a panic attack, because who would have a panic attack over being asked over to a friend’s house? No, he just needed advice. Nothing more.

He wished he could tell her all that, but the words stuck in his throat, heavy like glue and refusing to budge. He could barely breathe, his chest tight and burning and if Hitoshi didn’t know better and hadn’t felt this before, he might actually think that he was dying.

Hitoshi had felt this before, though. During a panic attack. He’d dealt with those a lot in foster care.

It felt unfamiliar to him now. It’d been a few months since he’d had such extreme anxiety that it’d sent him spiraling into an attack. He’d almost—almost—forgotten what it felt like. He was just out of breath and a little upset, he told himself over and over again. He wasn’t making a big deal out of something to small and insignificant.

Kayama’s words just sent him further spiraling and the second he saw Aizawa and Yamada rush to the door and saw the way they looked at him, he knew that all those things he’d just been telling himself was nothing more than a total lie.

“Sensei—” He looked between them, trying to choke out more words, trying to force it. Back in the cafeteria, he’d at least been able to put on his usual tone when asking Midoriya if he could talk to his parents, but that was nowhere to be heard here. His voice was shaky and small and breaking and Hitoshi had no control over it.

Apologize, he told himself. Apologize. He had to apologize. He was standing at the door of the teachers’ lounge at the beginning of the lunch period bothering his two dads just because he couldn’t handle a simple question. Why hadn’t he just said no? That would’ve been easier. So much easier. But instead he was here, taking up unnecessary time in one of the few break periods his parents got during the school day.

The expressions he saw on their faces didn’t make it any better. In fact, as he slowly processed the way they were looking at him, it just stirred the guilt until it sat heavier and heavier inside of him.

“Hitoshi? Did something happen?”

He slowly recognized Aizawa’s voice. He was standing in front of Yamada, having gotten to the doorway just before him. His usual stoic expression was gone, replaced with furrowed brows and concern in his dark eyes, like the shock of seeing Hitoshi like this had forced him out of his teacher role and into the person Hitoshi saw at home.

“I—”

He choked on his words again, not getting anything more than that out. There were a million things he wanted to say and a billion thoughts running through his head, but none of it would come out. His hands balled into fists at his sides, nails digging into his palms. He had to fix this. He had to say something.

“Shouta, he can’t answer.” Yamada. Even with his orange sunglasses on, Hitoshi could still see his worried green eyes. Yamada had a way of being much more expressive than Aizawa, no matter the situation, and this was no exception. Yamada paused a moment, and Hitoshi watched as he bit his lip, looking from Aizawa back to Hitoshi, clearly searching for words before deciding— “Okay, we… need to get him somewhere else. Here isn’t good. Can you move by yourself, Hitoshi?”

Logically, he was able to move. His legs worked. Nothing real was stopping him from moving. But Hitoshi already knew here that the answer wasn’t a logical one.

He shook his head. The guilt sitting in his stomach somehow rolled itself into an impossibly heavier ball.

“My office.” Aizawa didn’t even wait and for a moment, Hitoshi was struck with fear that one of them were going to pick him up and bring him someplace. That wasn’t all bad, but here, in the middle of school, with all the other teachers surely watching inside the teachers’ lounge? That was enough to break through the panic and let him know that nothing would be more humiliating.

Just with everything else, though, both Aizawa and Yamada seemed to know what to do. He’d told them that he couldn’t move on his own, but they apparently knew that that didn’t mean that he couldn’t move at all.

He didn’t fight back at all when Aizawa closed the distance between them and gently—but firmly—took hold of Hitoshi’s arm, slowly pulling him towards him. Hitoshi just went, some relief breaking through the panic, finding it much easier to just do what he was told than to have to make decisions on what to do himself. He shakily drew in a deep breath, but the lump in his throat stayed, stuck and not budging enough for Hitoshi to catch his breath.

Still, Hitoshi nodded. He wasn’t sure exactly what he was nodding to, given that no further question had been asked of him, but Aizawa was watching him and gave him a small nod back.

His fingers curled around Hitoshi’s upper arm, warm and solid and there, and Hitoshi went when he pulled him. He stumbled a little, nearly falling over himself, but Yamada was quickly there and helped steady him.

His legs felt like they were going to fall apart at any second, as if they were made up of jelly. As long as someone guided him, though, and told him what to do and when to do it, it was alright. If there was one thing Hitoshi knew how to do, it was follow orders.

“We’re just going to go to my office, Hitoshi. It’s not far.”

Hitoshi knew that already, of course, but it was still comforting. Silence would just make things worse, would just make him panic even more, because there was the unspoken question of whether or not they were upset at him in the silence, gnawing away at him and setting him further on edge. But with Aizawa talking to him, in that low, reassuring tone, Hitoshi knew for certain that that wasn’t the case. By no means was he calm, but at least that gave him one last thing to worry about.

“It’ll be alright, kiddo.” Yamada was much the same—comforting, sure of himself, knowing exactly what to do and how to get Hitoshi to calm down. Hitoshi barely noticed that he was moving, that Aizawa was pulling him just a little further down the hallway, slowly taking him to where his office was. “You’re safe with us. I’ll make you some tea once we’re there and then we can talk, alright?”

Talk… Hitoshi’s face burned like a lit fire. What was he supposed to say? It all sounded so silly in his head. He was overreacting. Things were too fast and he was already out of his comfort zone in making conversation with his classmates—as stupid as it sounded to him now, going over to Midoirya’s house had felt impossible, too fast and too sudden, and Hitoshi had had no idea what to do. For a few moments, he’d been right back at square one, wondering what Midoirya could possibly want from him, what motive he had for asking him over.

It’d just been too much. Too much too quick and too much on top of everything else that had happened today. It still felt like that—like having friends had suddenly become a reality that had been thrown in his face, and not just some goal Hitoshi was working towards and slowly getting used to.

He just nodded again.

The hallway was well lit with the windows lining one wall. Hitoshi’s pounding heart had quieted enough that he could barely hear the sound of his own footsteps on the tile floor. Aizawa was still holding firmly to his arm, guiding him to a place Hitoshi had been far more than probably any other student in the school. Through the windows, the lunchtime sun shone brightly, reflecting off the tile and too bright and too loud.

Aizawa seemed to prefer his desk in the teachers’ lounge, but he did have an office. Hitoshi had been inside the teachers’ lounge before, as well, but Aizawa liked to keep that as a no-student space and to only meet with students in his office. Hitoshi was just the exception and, as far as he could tell, the only student in his class who’d ever met Aizawa in the teachers’ lounge—as well as the student who frequented Aizawa’s actual office the most.

Aizawa had been right before; it wasn’t a far walk. Not many teachers had offices, but this hallway was designated for meeting rooms and offices and the hallway was completely empty except for the three of them. Hitoshi was grateful for that, too. It would’ve been even more panic-inducing if someone had seen him here. Hitoshi was hyper-aware like this, and he knew it, with everything, every sense and reaction, feeling like it was amplified at a magnitude of a hundred. If someone had been in the hallway, Hitoshi didn’t even want to imagine how eaten up he’d be at the notion that they’d immediately know what had set him off so badly.

A meeting room, the principal’s office, a storage closet, and then, finally, they were at the door to Aizawa’s office.

Aizawa Shouta

Eraserhead

Head of Heroics

Hitoshi wasn’t sure if he was actually able to read the words on the plaque next to the door in this state, or if he’d just memorized what it said after spending so much time here.

“Look, Hitoshi, we’re here.” He was appreciative of Yamada’s narration, since Aizawa was a little preoccupied in unlocking the door. He let go of Hitoshi in order to do it, but Yamada was there in an instant, grabbing Hitoshi by the back of his jacket as he started to wobble on his shaking legs and pulling him so he was leaning against him. “You’ll be able to sit down soon. It’s just going to be the three of us. No one else.”

Hitoshi managed to tear his eyes away from the plaque and raise his head to stare at Yamada. He wanted to do something, whether that was talk or stand by himself or even just emote in some way, but all he could do was stand there, silent, still breathing raggedly in and out through his mouth with Yamada supporting his entire weight.

That didn’t bother Yamada at all.

“All the other students are still at lunch, so no one’s gonna be around here. We’ll just say that you got sick or something, that Recovery Girl had to send you home. It’ll be alright.”

Was Yamada saying that he had to go home—? No, he still had classes left. It was totally illogical to send him home. Why wasn’t Aizawa saying anything? Why wasn’t he protesting? Surely he saw that it was a bad idea to have Hitoshi not go to the rest of his classes—

“Come inside, Hitoshi.” Aizawa’s voice again. The world was moving in slow motion, because Hitoshi couldn’t even get himself to move to look at him before Yamada was leading him in, Hitoshi leaning on him enough that Yamada had to wrap an arm around him just to get him to move.

Everything else was moving so fast around him and Hitoshi couldn’t catch up. Everything inside his head was suddenly slow and no sooner had he realized he was inside that Yamada was having him sit on the couch and Aizawa was flipping the lights on and closing the blinds.

Hitoshi’s eyes widened and he looked around.

He’d been inside this room probably a thousand times. At least, that was what it felt like. It was familiar. It almost felt a little like home, given how many times he’d fallen asleep on the same couch he was sitting on right now while waiting for Aizawa to be done with work and ready to go home. The room was small, but not cramped, despite the stacks of papers and grading Aizawa had on his desk and the floor. He was used to this room and being here, away from any prying eyes that might be in the hallways at school or the cafeteria, Hitoshi felt safer.

He took a deep breath and finally, that lump in his throat budged enough that the air filled his lungs, flooding him with relief.

It was alright here. He was safe. No one else would see him but Aizawa and Yamada, and they were fine. They’d known exactly what to do with him and he was going to be alright. He wasn’t sure what time it was, but he knew that the bell hadn’t rung to announce the end of the lunch period. He wasn’t due back in class yet. He could relax here until then and be back to normal by the time he was supposed to leave.

“Hitoshi?”

Hitoshi’s head snapped back up, meeting Aizawa’s gaze. He opened his mouth to answer, but no sound would come out, even when he tried. There was some sort of a disconnect between his brain and his body, like his body just wouldn’t do what he told it to. The words still wouldn’t come, and Hitoshi still couldn’t really move on his own other than to look around.

Aizawa didn’t seem bothered by it, though. He took his seat in the chair pushed into his desk, sitting facing Hitoshi. With how small the office was, it didn’t leave much space between them, but Hitoshi honestly found that more comforting than anything.

His gaze drifted a little and he found that Yamada was nowhere to be seen.

“Hizashi went to talk to Recovery Girl and make tea. He’ll be back soon,” Aizawa told him, answering the question that Hitoshi couldn’t say. It just made more questions, though, and Hitoshi desperately wanted to tell them not to get Recovery Girl involved, that he was fine and didn’t need anyone else bothered by this. But the words wouldn’t come. “You’re safe in here now. Lunch isn’t over for another fifteen minutes. We’ll figure out what to do before then.”

Hitoshi nodded and swallowed hard, pushing and pushing and trying to force his body to do what he told it to.

“I...I’m sorry.”

It was all that came out. Nothing else and nothing more or less. It was what he’d meant to say outside the office, when he’d seen the way Aizawa and Yamada were looking at him. He hadn’t meant to say it now—but he couldn’t deny that the guilt was at the forefront of his mind right now.

His parents didn’t get a lot of time in the school day where they weren’t being bothered by students. He knew for a fact most of their friends were their coworkers and that was the only time all of them were in the office together. Hitoshi had gone and interrupted that time, forcing them away from their close friends and making them deal with him in one of their few free periods. If the two of them thought that Hitoshi needed to have friends and socialize with people his own age, then it was the same for them, too—wasn’t it?

“Why are you—” Aizawa started and then stopped abruptly, frowning at Hitoshi. Hitoshi knew what he’d been about to ask and even he wasn’t totally sure he could answer that right now. Aizawa seemed to see that Hitoshi wasn’t ready to talk that much just yet. He sighed, shaking his head slowly, voice dropping back into a comforting tone, “It’s alright, Hitoshi. There’s nothing to be sorry about. I’d rather be helping you through this than anywhere else.”

“But—” Hitoshi tried, hesitating as he searched for the words. “Lunch—?”

It came out far worse than Hitoshi had meant. He’d meant to protest, to say that it wasn’t alright because he’d interrupted something and that was why he was apologizing. But he couldn’t form the words in his head, much less make them come out correctly.

Aizawa shook his head again, “Doesn’t matter. Lunch will be there when I get back. You’re more important.”

Hitoshi looked down, where his hands were wound into tight fists in his lap. His palms ached from digging his nails into them and he just hoped that he hadn’t made himself bleed or anything, but the sting of his skin told him that was just wishful thinking. He tried to draw in another deep breath, trying to just breathe, and at the very least, he wasn’t panting anymore. That was an improvement, no matter how minor.

You’re more important.

He wondered if those words would stop ringing in his head once he fully came down from his panic attack. He doubted it. Being important to someone was a foreign concept and felt even more foreign, right now, as Hitoshi struggled to come back into himself. Undoubtedly, he’d had a panic attack and those had this horrible tendency to set him right back at his previous mindsets, making him feel like he was just a young kid in foster care again, alone and unimportant.

“I… got scared.”

His own voice was quiet, hushed, but to Hitoshi, it echoed through the room like he was screaming at the top of his lungs. The skin of his palms stung and a shiver coursed through his entire body, cold suddenly creeping up his spine and spreading into every limb. He dragged his bottom lip between his teeth and slowly unfurled his fingers, finding small spots of blood on his nails and in the ten half-moon indents on his palm.

He hissed as the cool air hit his already stinging skin.

“Hitoshi…” Even at Aizawa’s voice, Hitoshi couldn’t look up at him.

“I didn’t mean to.” His tone bordered on frantic.

It’s alright, he told himself. The worst thing in the world was when he could feel himself slipping into his old mindset, when he knew that the things he was thinking were irrational and out of character for the people surrounding him. Recent experience told him he wasn’t in trouble, that Aizawa and Yamada would understand, that they knew enough about Hitoshi’s nervous habits and behaviors to know how he acted during panic attacks—but recent experience had only existed for the last few months.

Hitoshi had only started living here after he’d turned sixteen. He’d been in foster care since he’d been four. That was over a decade of experiences that told him the exact opposite of his recent experience.

“I know.” He heard rummaging and Aizawa sounded a little further away, like he was no longer looking at Hitoshi. He stole a quick glance up, finding that Aizawa was looking through a desk drawer, and dropped his gaze down to his palms again.

There wasn’t a lot of blood—just a few little beads of it, outlining the marks his nails had left on his skin. It hurt, aching and stinging like a bad papercut. Hitoshi hissed quietly at it.

“Hold your hands out.”

Hitoshi’s head snapped up again, before he could stop himself, eyes blown wide. Fear boiled in his throat, his stomach dropping at the simple order. But Aizawa just had a first-aid box in his hands and waited for Hitoshi, until the rational gears in Hitoshi’s head turned enough to make him realize that Aizawa was trying to help him.

He held out his hands, palms up and limp at the wrists, angling his head away. It was too late, though—they both knew that Aizawa had seen the fear that had momentarily struck Hitoshi.

Aizawa chose not to comment on it. Instead, Hitoshi heard him scoot his chair forward and felt him gently take hold of his wrists. SIlence fell over them, heavy and deafening and Hitoshi wanted to say something, but there were a million things he wanted to say and none at all, all at once.

He didn’t have to say anything, because as soon as Aizawa wrapped a cotton bandage around one of Hitoshi’s palms, a short knock sounded at the door, followed by the door unlatching and then, Yamada’s voice.

“Oh, Hitoshi, what happened?” Full of concern, the worry weighing down his usually so enthusiastic tone. He was using the same quieter, more personal voice he used at home. While that definitely brought him comfort, Hitoshi felt another pang of guilt for forcing his parents to act like this while they were still at one of their jobs.

“He’s alright. Just scratched himself a little with his nails,” Aizawa answered for him, wrapping the bandage once around Hitoshi’s hand and pulling it snug before wrapping it around again. “It was an accident. I noticed it when he came to the teachers’ office. I’m just taking care of the scratches.”

Hitoshi wasn’t sure if he should feel embarrassed that he was being talked about like this, but he didn’t. It was more relieving than anything, both because he couldn’t articulate it himself and because Aizawa clearly understood and didn’t think that Hitoshi had done something like this intentionally.

“Ah, I got it. Sorry about that, Hitoshi. Looks like that might sting a bit,” Yamada commented as he took the seat next to Hitoshi on the small couch. Hitoshi glanced at him, careful to not look him in the eyes, rather choosing to focus on the steaming mug of tea in his hands. Yamada immediately noticed, “I made you tea! It’ll help you feel a little better. Shouta always likes something warm to calm down.”

Hitoshi blinked. He wouldn’t look at Yamada or Aizawa, but he could see Yamada’s reflection in the tea and could see that he was smiling down at Hitoshi, his sunglasses pushed up onto his head, but he didn’t look like he was kidding at all. It distracted him enough that Hitoshi didn’t notice when Aizawa cut the bandage and secured it, only realizing it when he moved onto Hitoshi’s next hand.

Carefully, Hitoshi closed his fist and opened it again, the bandage staying secure and protecting his palms from Hitoshi digging his nails into his skin anymore. He let out a breath he didn’t know he was holding, wrapping his free arm around himself, barely suppressing another shiver.

Just a few moments ago, his mind had been moving at a mile a minute and even he hadn’t been able to keep up with his frantic thoughts. But now—now everything felt slow and Hitoshi’s mind was blank, his body heavy. He didn’t have any words left, though he knew that he owed his parents an explanation.

In front of him, Aizawa cut the last bandage, finishing securing it, and Hitoshi finally rocked back, leaning against the back of the couch, shakily taking the tea from Yamada and bringing it to his lips. The warm liquid helped a little, helped bring him back down and back into this room, but he still wasn’t back completely.

Even if he wasn’t looking at them, Hitoshi could feel both Aizawa and Yamada staring at him, waiting. And Hitoshi desperately wanted to talk, but none of the words were there.

“Hitoshi, can you tell us what happened?” Yamada was the first to speak, after Hitoshi had drained about half of the hot mug of tea.

He was tempted to shake his head. But he didn’t. He owed this to them.

“It… It sounds so stupid.” He didn’t want to say it out loud. They’d never been mean to him or even gotten angry at him, but he didn’t want to imagine what they’d think of the reason Hitoshi had gotten set off so badly. It sounded stupid—it felt stupid. What kid had a panic attack just because someone asked them to come over to their house.

“It’s not,” Aizawa said simply. “Whatever it is, you said it scared you, didn’t you? I know you. I know you don’t have panic attacks over nothing.”

“I… Uh…” Hitoshi fought the urge to wring his hands again. They were both looking at him, expectantly, waiting for an answer. Hitoshi would have to tell them sooner or later. “Uh… Midoriya… asked me to come over to his house. And it was—was really sudden and I didn’t know what to do and I didn’t plan for it or anything and it just… feels like everything is happening really, really fast ever since I started trying to make friends—”

He was babbling now, but he couldn’t stop. He wanted desperately to put his thoughts in order, but nothing would line up and he was left blurting out everything that came to mind.

“I don’t know what to do anymore and I kinda want to go back to not making friends because that was easier and I—I didn’t have to deal with this and I sort of still think he has some other motive for inviting me over but I know he doesn’t and I’m sorry. I just didn’t know what to do. It was too much. It sort of… um—still feels like too much. I don’t know what he wants from me. How was I supposed to… to react? What does he want me to say?”

Everything was just coming tumbling out now, over and over. Hitoshi felt worse and worse the longer he talked and the dread washed over him the moment he shut up. He couldn’t look at his parents again. The moment of silence that fell over them was deafening, leaving Hitoshi’s ears ringing.

“I’m sorry—” Hitoshi murmured, wishing he’d just stayed quiet. “—I didn’t mean to say… all that…”

“It’s alright. You’re okay, Hitoshi.” Aizawa’s voice had gotten softer. Hitoshi still couldn’t look up at him, though. Shame burned at him, hot and overbearing. “What you’re saying makes sense. It’s logical. You’re learning. You can’t do this all at once. If you try to, you’re going to overwhelm yourself.”

“I’ve been trying not to do it all at once,” Hitoshi sighed. “I had a plan and everything. But I wasn’t expecting this, and I guess I just realized too late that it was too much.”

“Oh, Hitoshi—” Yamada said from beside him. A moment later, Hitoshi felt his hand at his shoulder. “Like Shouta said, you’re learning. You’ve never done this before. You and Shouta both like to plan everything out, you know? I can see why it’d push you over the edge if something like this suddenly came up. We didn’t exactly warn you about the possibility of this and that Midoriya kid is rather… enthusiastic. It’s understandable that something like this would overwhelm you.”

“I hate it,” Hitoshi muttered, staring down at his bandaged hands. “I hate it. I wish I could just be normal.”

There was a beat of silence. Hitoshi kept his eyes down. He unfurled his hands and closed them again into fists, feeling the soft bandages under his fingertips, reminders of how worked up he’d gotten himself.

“Listen to me.” He almost looked up, just because hearing that from Aizawa sounded like a command. He raised his head a little, freezing up, and listened. “You don’t know how to make friends yet. It’s something you’re learning. And you’re doing great, but obviously, someone tried to push you a little too far a little too soon. Midoriya didn’t do it maliciously or anything, but it was too much for you.”

“Look at it this way...” Yamada said from beside him, gently rubbing at Hitoshi’s shoulder. Hitoshi turned his head towards him, eyes still angled down. “It’s like… training. Like what you and Shouta do after school. You had to learn to do that stuff, right? You didn’t just know right away. It’s the same—some of the other kids in your class might’ve known stuff about fighting before, but things were different for you. You had to learn from scratch. And now you’re just as good as the rest of them—or better, even! But if Shouta and you were to spar like you do now back when you just entered school? That would’ve been totally overwhelming. You would’ve gotten hurt.”

Hitoshi hesitated, but picked his head up enough to look straight at Yamada. He could see him more clearer now than before, when he’d been staring at his reflection in the tea mug. His orange-tinted sunglasses were pushed onto his head, letting Hitoshi see his actual eyes. He gave Hitoshi a small, quiet smile when he saw that Hitoshi had finally looked at him, and he gave his shoulder another reassuring squeeze. Even with his hair up and his costume still on—directional speaker and all—Yamada looked far more like the man Hitoshi saw at home than the loud man who taught English class.

Not only was he reassuring, but he knew exactly what to say, too. He made Hitoshi’s panic make sense, putting it into a context he could actually understand. He was right—he’d had to learn everything about combat from scratch. He’d known how to throw a few punches and how to stand up for himself if any kid was bothering him, but he didn’t know anything about actual combat. Every technique, every fighting style, every throw and block… he’d had to learn it all, and if Aizawa had sparred with him like he did now back when he was just starting out, Hitoshi would’ve ended up pretty badly bruised, defeated, and discouraged. It’d been a learning process.

“I guess that’s true,” Hitoshi let out a breath, trying to force himself to relax more. His body felt limp and jelly-like, as if he still didn’t quite have complete control back.

“Yeah! It’s like if you tried sparring with a third year back when you were starting out training. Or I guess… like your fight in the sports festival—” Yamada paused a moment, as if realizing that Hitoshi had been against Midoriya, the exact kid they were talking about. “Midoriya just thought that you guys were on the same level with the whole friend-making business. He didn’t realize that you’re learning from scratch. That’s fine, but it pushed you too much. It’s alright if you’re not there yet.”

“Just tell him your parents wouldn’t let you go,” Aizawa spoke up, raising an eyebrow when Hitoshi turned to look at him. Aizawa seemed almost amused at his own idea. “Tell him one of your dads is too strict and needs to meet his parents first.”

“Shouta!” Yamada scolded. “I mean… that’s not a bad idea, but still—”

Hitoshi frowned, “I should… lie to him?”

“It’s not a lie. It’s a rational deception. You’re just stretching the truth a little. Besides, it helps me preserve my image, too,” Aizawa snorted, definitely enjoying Hitoshi’s shock at being told to lie a little too much. “I can’t have those kids thinking I’m all nice and soft, can I?”

“Shouta, I’m pretty sure they already think that.”

Aizawa waved Yamada’s contribution off dismissively. “It’ll be fine. Once you’re ready you can just say that your ‘strict dad’ decided to go soft on you and let you go over to his house. Though… I still haven’t met Midoriya’s mother…”

Hitoshi managed a slight smile at that, though he was a little surprised that he’d never actually met Midoriya’s parent. “If it’s really fine, I’ll just tell him that. I guess a little white lie like that can’t hurt. I’ll tell him before our next class starts.”

Silence. Aizawa glanced away, his dark eyes flickering towards Yamada as the two of them looked at each other.

Oh. Hitoshi had almost forgotten. He’d been hoping Aizawa and Yamada had, too, or that he’d done a good enough job of pretending like he was back to normal that they’d let him stay at school.

“Hitoshi… we think you should actually go home for the day,” Yamada was the one to break the news to him, but his gentle tone didn’t make it any better. Hitoshi’s stomach fell and immediately, he wanted—needed—to protest and prove that he was alright, that it’d just been stupid fluke and he’d be fine going back to class, but when he opened his mouth, nothing came out. He frantically looked from Yamada to Aizawa, wishing that there was something he could do to convince them.

“Look, I have a free period right after lunch,” Yamada continued on quietly, his voice picking up a little, as if he was trying to make this out to be better than it was. “I’ll take you home and get you settled. You need some rest after what happened, and you didn’t even get to eat. It’s for the best.”

Hitoshi couldn’t say anything. Instead, he tried looking to Aizawa for help, but only got a soft sigh and a worried look from him.

“Sorry, Hitoshi. I know you want to stay,” He told him. “But your health comes first. Hizashi’s going to take you home. There’s no training exercises or anything today. I’ll bring you any homework once I’m home. These last few days have been hard on you. I wouldn’t have wanted to go home, either, but I know it’s best for you.”

The unfortunate thing was that Hitoshi knew they were right. He knew it was best and they were doing it because they wanted to make sure he felt better and was actually alright and not just acting like he was for the sake of going back to class. This entire thing was caused by a social situation Hitoshi hadn’t known how to navigate and he was still high-stress after it. Past experiences told him that if anything else stressed him out or made him anxious—no matter how minor—it would probably send him into another panic attack.

While he’d definitely had less panic attacks since his adoption, Aizawa and Yamada had been around him enough to have seen that more than once. They obviously didn’t want it happening again, for his sake.

So, in theory, Hitoshi understood. He couldn’t protest because he understood, because it just made too much sense, because it was logical. But that still didn’t change the fact that he wished it wasn’t logical. He wanted to go back to class. He wanted to be actually alright. He didn’t want to miss school.

Hitoshi gave in, though, because his parents knew best and all they wanted was for Hitoshi to feel better.

“Okay,” He agreed after a long moment of silence. “But—if Midoriya asks, will you just tell him I’m sick? I sort of ran off and I don’t want him to think that I’m avoiding him.”

Yamada laughed quietly from beside him, “I’m sure that’ll be fine. Though, he’ll probably be pretty worried…”

Hitoshi wasn’t sure if worrying Midoriya was any better. For a moment, he considered taking it back and asking Aizawa to not say anything to him, but part of him didn’t want Midoriya wondering about where he’d gone and what had happened. It made him feel strangely guilty, something that was definitely a little odd given that he’d never felt guilty about avoiding anyone in the past.

It did bring him some hope, though. At least he wasn’t back at square one with making friends. He just needed to rest through the weekend and gather his thoughts and he could go back to school better prepared.