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copper on your tongue

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Denki Kaminari is having a bad day, and that is even before he feels his brain start to fuzz out on him. 

He’d turned in a math assignment he knows isn’t all correct, he was distracted all of Hero Ethics class, and his English homework, which is the one class he’s actually confident that he’s doing well in, is sitting, completed, on his desk in his dorm. To top it all off, he’s overtired today, and sluggish in his reaction times during physical training during the afternoon. 

It’s less than ideal. 

But the day is almost over, he just has to get through this last sparring match with Shoji. 

As Denki’s thinking that, one half of Shoji’s arms swing towards him, and Denki almost stumbles as he dodges, discharging some energy into the ground as he catches and rights himself. 

Distantly, he hears Aizawa call out a criticism, and he wishes he was paying enough attention to actually understand what he’d said, so that he can correct his form or technique or whatever the hell will end this thing without Shoji just absolutely wrecking him. 

Sure, Denki’s got the longer attack range, but Shoji has better fighting form, and he has a lot of arms. Like a lot of them. And he’s good at using them to hit things. And he’s trying to hit Denki with them right now. 

Shit. 

Denki leaps upward, but not quite fast enough, and Shoji’s leg sweeps Denki’s own out from underneath him. He squawks indignantly as he goes down, hand flying up in an attempt to protect the back of his head from colliding with the ground, the other thrown out in front of him. In the momentary panic that follows, Denki discharges, just trying to keep Shoji back so he has time to get his bearings.

It doesn’t go entirely to plan. 

It certainly keeps Shoji back, but it does so because Denki releases far more electricity than he means to, tiny Lichtenberg figures creeping up his fingers and over his palm and the back of his right hand. His vision goes grey at the edges and his chest tightens as he feels his mind go blank for a split second. 

Two breaths later, and his vision clears, and so does his mind. He breathes a sigh of relief. He hasn’t gone completely stupid, he hasn’t gone over his limit. But he sure has overdone it. Fuck, if he wasn’t exhausted already, he certainly is after that. 

Denki still attempts to clamber to his feet, but he feels like a newborn deer, all gangly and unstable. 

Shoji steps forward, and prods his shoulder with one hand. Denki lists to one side, and two more of Shoji’s arms catch him before he can move to stop himself. Or before he can crash to the ground again. That’s probably what was going to happen. Definitely what was going to happen. God, he’s wiped out. 

“Shoji takes this match,” Aizawa calls out, and Denki slumps a little in Shoji’s grasp. “Kaminari, your movements are too loose. You’re leaving too many openings for your opponent to get a hit in. And be more careful with your output. A real villain won’t be as kind as your classmate was if you wear yourself out. As for you--” Aizawa continues, giving Shoji feedback as well, and Denki tunes him out a bit. 

He needs to recharge a little bit, or at least just take a minute to relax. He’s tired. He still has homework to do tonight, and he promised Kirishima that he’d help him with their English assignment for the day. 

His head feels foggy, even though he knows he didn’t short circuit. 

Shoji’s asking him if he’s good to stand on his own now, though, and he has to focus on that, and any concern he had a second ago is pushed to the back of his mind as he puts all of his attention towards walking to the locker room with his classmates to get out of his sweaty uniform. 

~*~

It starts to thunderstorm the second 1-A collectively sets foot back in their dorm and Denki thanks whatever deities are looking out for him that he didn’t get caught in that storm. It’s not that they’re really that bad, but lightning and him don’t get along too well. It’s attracted to his hyper-conductive body, but he’s not a fan of the way it overcharges his system, and makes him feel like he’s going to vibrate out of his skin if he doesn’t discharge the excess quickly enough. 

With how drained he is from training today, the shock of being so charged up so fast would no doubt be unpleasant. He’s already feeling a little off as is. He doesn’t need to add anything to that. 

Changing out of his school uniform and into some worn sweatpants does wonders for his mood, at least, so he’s feeling a little better as he goes down to the common room to work on his English with Kirishima. His head’s still feeling a little weird, but he chalks it up to the weather and his tiredness and pushes it to the back of his mind. 

Or he tries to, but suddenly, he can taste copper on the back of his tongue, and his vision starts to fuzz on the edges. 

Oh , he realizes, with a creeping sense of dread, oh, this is an aura. 

That’s why he’s been feeling so wrong for the past few hours. Maybe he shouldn’t hav written that off so easily. Shit, he should probably lie down. 

“Kami, what are you doing?” a voice asks, as Denki drops his bag to the side, and lies down on the floor with no preamble. 

I’m really sorry, I’m about to have a seizure, it might be bad, Denki thinks. 

“So,” is what he actually says, drawing out the vowel, “is bad.” 

“What?’” the redhead hovering over him says, and Denki blacks out.

~*~

Eijirou is waiting for Kaminari to meet him in the common room mostly so they can do their English homework, but also so he can check on him, because Kami’s been acting a little bit weird today, and he’s getting a little worried. So he’s expecting Kami to be a little off-kilter when he gets down there. 

What he isn’t expecting is Kami to walk into the room, stand in the door in silence for thirty seconds, and then lay down on the floor without saying a word. 

“Kami, what are you doing?” he asks, standing from his seat on the couch to crouch next to Kami. 

“So, is bad,” Kami half-slurs. 

“What?” 

And then Kami’s eye’s unfocus, and his arm jerks towards his chest. 

Eijirou almost panics, but then Kami’s seizing, so he forces that down because this is more important than him freaking out. They learned about this in class. They learned first aid for situations just like this, so they can help people, so they can help their friends. 

Eijirou takes one look at Kaminari, and pulls out his phone to call Aizawa. 

He puts the phone on speaker and tosses it to the side, moving to sit behind Kaminari so he can keep him on his side. Eijirou remembers that is very important for situations like this. 

“Kirishima?” Aizawa answers the phone gruffly, almost annoyed. They’d only left his immediate supervision an hour ago. Eijirou’s sure he’s just wondering how they fucked up so quickly. 

“Aizawa-sensei,” Eijirou responds, finally, hating how his voice breaks.

“What happened,” Aizawa shoots back. It’s not a question. Eijirou hears shuffling in the background, like he’s already moving. 

“Kaminari’s having a seizure. It’s been about a minute? I think. I don’t know exactly. He came down to the common room and was just standing around and then he just laid down and he was trying to say something I think, and then he just--”

“Get him on his side, remove anything he’s got on that could be constricting his neck. Talk to him, if you can. I’ll be there in less than two minutes. You’re doing good, kid. Just hang on.”

“Please stay on the phone,” Eijirou says, almost a whisper, before Aizawa can hang up. Kami’s still jerking erratically against him, his friend looks like he’s dying and for everything he’s already lived through Eijirou doesn’t think he’s ever been this scared

Everything else they’ve dealt with, there’s been a villain, there’s been a bad guy, there’d been someone in the wrong, someone to fight. 

There’s nothing to blame here except Kami’s own brain

Aizawa’s still talking to him, voice still harsh as ever, but concern clear in his tone nevertheless. Right, he should be paying more attention. Now is not the time to freak out. 

His shoulders have hardened where they’re drawn up around his ears. 

“--ing to be okay,” Aizawa’s saying when Eijirou finally tunes back into reality. “Kirishima, are you still with me?”

Eijirou nods, before he remembers he’s on the phone. “Yes, sensei.” 

Any confidence in his voice sounds fake even to him. 

The phone line goes dead as he watches the screen, and Eijirou nearly loses his mind. He hears someone approaching from behind before he can slip into complete panic, though, and the next thing he knows, Aizawa’s hand is on his shoulder, gently shifting him out of the way. 

Eijirou can barely feel Aizawa’s touch through the hardened surface of his skin. 

He moves. 

“You did well, Kirishima, I’ll take care of him from here. Head up to your room, and tell your classmates to steer clear of the area for a little while. Kaminari is going to be fine.”

“Aizawa-sensei--” Eijirou starts to protest. 

“Kirishima. Upstairs. I understand what you just saw was difficult, but right now, I need to focus on Kaminari. I’ll check in with you later, okay? Go.”

Eijirou goes. 

~*~

“--ere we go kid. Hey, there you are. You back with me yet?” someone is saying as Denki blinks sluggishly. 

Fuck, his head hurts, and his stomach, oh shit his stomach--

There’s a small trash can being shoved under his face as he lurches to the side to retch, and cough up the meager contents of his stomach. 

Where’d that come from?

Wait, who’s talking to him? Where is he?

“Kid,” the voice says again. Upon further examination, the voice is attached to the arm holding the trash can, and upon even further examination, the voice is--oh. 

It’s Aizawa.

“‘Zawa,” Denki manages, in between his stomach lurching a few more times. 

“You with me?”

Denki nods. 

“Do you know where you are?”

A shake of the head. 

“You’re in the common room in the dorms, at Yuuei.”

Denki looks around, as much as he can before his stomach rolls again. He’s on a couch. He wonders how that happened. 

“I moved you there after you settled a bit. Do you remember what happened?”

Denki shakes his head automatically, but then his brow furrows and he actually thinks for a second. Or several. Or a minute or two. God, his head hurts. 

Oh. 

Oh no. 

“Oh fuck,” is what comes out of his mouth. 

He winces. 

“I’ll take that as a yes, you remember?”

“I was going to study with Kiri. I… I don’t remember coming down here though. I remember walking back from classes with Mina and Sero. And I sort of remember heading back to my room, and changing. I… I felt an aura, for this one, I remember that. But I don’t remember being in my room really, or getting down here. Did anything else happen?”

“I’m not sure on the details, Problem Child, but Kirishima said you came down here seeming a little confused, and you tried to say something to him before you started seizing. You at least had the sense about you to lay down before it started, apparently, so you didn’t hit your head on the way down.”

Oh fuck. Kirishima saw him. He had to see Denki going through… he had to deal with… oh no, oh god, this is what he was trying to avoid, this is exactly what he didn’t want to happen, shit, shit, shit--

“Stop.” Aizawa’s voice cuts through his blossoming panic like a hot knife through butter. “No use panicking over what’s happened. You can’t change it.”

“I’m sorry you had come out in the rain, sensei,” Kaminari settles on, after a moment of considering what to say. He’s just now processed that Aizawa is soaking wet. 

“You have no reason to be. This isn’t something you can help.”

Denki definitely feels like he does have a reason to be. He should have been more careful about getting a good night’s sleep. Being overtired is never good for anyone, but especially him. He should have been more careful with his quirk during training, he knew he was going overboard. He should have checked the weather, and known to be even more careful than normal, with the added stress present. There are lots of reasons he should be sorry, but his brain is still half in a fog and he doesn’t feel like trying to fish the thoughts out enough to voice them to his teacher. 

He goes with, “Still. I wish this hadn’t happened. It’s been so long. I thought these meds would have it under control by now.”

“Kid, this is the first time this has happened in your time at Yuuei, even with your intensive quirk use, and an abnormally high number of stressors present in your life. It sucks, but you’ve been doing well. This doesn’t set you back, or erase that all.”

“Sets me back for time.”

“What do you mean?” 

Denki shrugs and looks away from Aizawa, a little petulant. He’s tired, sue him. “I was at sixteen months seizure free. I’m back to square one again now.”

“You’ll get there again.” 

“You don’t understand! Now I have to wait even longer to get a chance at being normal!”

Aizawa just raises a brow in response.

“If I can go for two years without having a seizure they can try to start taking me off my meds. Now I have to start over from the beginning. I was so close this time!” 

“Even if you never get there, that doesn’t make you abnormal, Kaminari,” Aizawa says, and his tone leaves no room for argument. Denki almost considers it, but the glare he receives when he opens his mouth, and the pounding in his head shuts him right up. He doesn’t have it in him to fight right now, and the way Aizawa says it, with such an air of finality, Denki almost believes him. 

“Now,” Aizawa starts again, shifting so that Denki has to look at him. “You need to rest. I’m not comfortable leaving you alone so soon after this. You can get some sleep down here while I keep an eye on you, or you can go up to your room and have one of your classmates do it. I’m not going to have you getting hurt even more.”

“Could you help me upstairs, in a minute? I’ll call Kirishima, he’s probably real worried anyway, after seeing me like that.” 

“Good. I’ll contact your parents as well, to let them know what happened.” Denki winced, he was not looking forward to that conversation, convincing his mom he was fine, when she couldn’t check to see for herself. “And I’ll excuse you from classes tomorrow. Kirishima as well, just to be on the safe side. Iida and Yaoyorozu will gather notes and assignments for the day for you to complete when you feel better.”

Denki ducks his head and nods, and then immediately regrets that when the world tilts a bit to the left. 

“Can I go to sleep now please?” 

“You’ve got it kid, let’s get you up to your room.”

~*~

It takes longer than Denki would care to admit to get back up to his room. He’d forgotten how much the aftereffects of a seizure just suck ass. The throbbing headache, the nausea, the soreness in his muscles from all the jerking around, the sheer exhaustion. His mouth still tastes like blood and vomit. He thinks he might’ve bitten the inside of his cheek. 

He’s so focused on not throwing up again that he barely notices Aizawa fetch Kirishima. Did he leave to get him, or did he call him? Aizawa has all of their numbers, he definitely could’ve done that. Or maybe he left and Denki just didn’t notice. Is he really that out of it?

His head hurts. 

“Let him rest, but keep an eye on him. If anything happens again, call me. He should be fine, but this is a safety precaution,” Denki hears Aizawa instructing as he slips into blessed unconsciousness. “Don’t bombard him with questions when he wakes up, either. He’s alright now, but that took a lot out of him. I’ll have Recovery Girl come out here to check up on him as soo--” 

Denki falls asleep.

~*~

He’s woken gently for just long enough for Recovery Girl to look him over, make sure he’s actually as alright as he seems. Kirishima hovers nervously until Aizawa tugs him out into the hallway to let Recovery Girl finish her check-up in peace. 

Denki’s asleep again before he comes back into the room. 

~*~ 

By the time Denki wakes up for real, it’s well into the next morning, and Kirishima is still there. He’s sitting on the bean bag shoved into the corner of the room, arms crossed over his chest, and somewhere between sleep and waking himself. He still jerks upright the second he sees Denki stirring. 

“Dude, did you get any sleep last night?” 

“I told Aizawa I’d keep an eye on you.”

Denki’s heart does something kinda complicated in his chest. They are both silent for a long, long moment.

“I’m fine, Kiri,” Denki starts finally, but he’s cut off by Kirishima forcing words out of his mouth in a desperate sounding rush. 

“I’m so sorry I didn’t do more! I knew there was something wrong with you all day yesterday and I didn’t even ask, and then... that happened and I couldn’t even do anything besides call Aizawa! It’s so unmanly of me! My friend needed help and I was right there and couldn’t do anything!”

Denki blinks. Oh. Shit. 

“Kirishima. Kiri, there’s nothing anyone could have done. I’m not… I mean. Shit, Kiri, I have epilepsy. Drawback of my quirk. Sometimes the electricity just… fries my brain. It disrupts the electrical stuff going on in there, and my body freaks out in response. There’s no way to just fix something like that. It’s gotten better since I was a kid, and I’m better at being careful so I don’t lower my seizure threshold even more, but I screwed up yesterday. I overdid it and I was overtired and then the storm outside… No one could’ve done anything. Not even Recovery Girl, dude.”

Kirishima looks at him with something like pity in his gaze, and Denki’s resolve crumbles right then and there, bracing for some comment about how he shouldn’t be a hero because of this, how he’ll be putting his coworkers and civilians and himself in danger, trying to be a disabled hero. Sure that’s not like Kirishima at all, but some part of Denki, always preparing for the worst, always on guard, tells him his friend is going to hate this part of him. 

Denki traces the Lichtenberg scars on the back of his left hand with the fingers on his right to distract himself. 

“Why didn’t you tell me?” Kirishima asks instead, and Denki almost hates that question as much as all the nonsense he was preparing to hear. He takes a deep breath, ready to snap back, but Kirishima beats him to it. “Wait, no, god that sounded bad. I’m not entitled to that, I just… I meant did we do something to make you think you wouldn’t be safe telling us or something? Any of us?” 

Kirishima just sounds very sad, and when Denki finally glances up at him, he’s rubbing his thumb over the scar that cuts across one of his eyelids. 

“No,” Denki says, after a beat. “None of you did anything. But growing up I heard one too many ‘you’ll never be a hero like that’, and I just thought this was a fresh start. No one here knew about this, I could just be… normal.”

He knows he shouldn’t use that word. There’s nothing actually wrong with him. He’s not abnormal for having epilepsy. But there’s still some scared little kid inside of him who has to be extra careful with everything and always has to get enough sleep, and has to wear a medical ID bracelet and everyone knows about because he had a seizure in grade school that cleared a classroom for an hour. And that scared little kid hates that he’s different

“You are normal,” Kirishima says softly, and the child shaking inside of Denki’s psyche freezes. “This doesn’t make you not normal, Kami. Present Mic being deaf doesn’t make him not normal, and it doesn’t make him any less of a hero, right? Why are you any different? If anything, it makes you even more manly, cause people told you that you couldn’t, and you still did it anyway!”

Well that’s not what Denki was strictly expecting, but he supposes he shouldn’t be surprised, what with the everything about Kirishima. 

“Do you really think that?” 

Kirishima doesn’t miss a beat. “Of course! Bro I’ve known you’re gonna be a great hero! Learning this doesn’t change that!”

He’s smiling as he says it, and Denki realizes that it’s the first time someone besides his parents has known about his epilepsy, and still told him they thought he could be a great hero.

It’s also the first time he hears it and almost believes it himself, the traitorous voice in his head telling him otherwise no more than a whisper he can tune out.