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Hitoshi hates morning patrols.

He hates them more than he hates the fact that he must drag himself out of his comfortable bed, away from the warmth of his husband, and slip into his hero gear. Villainy never sleeps, as Midoriya likes to say, mostly right before he plunges head-first into a 72-hour shift with little breaks until Iida has “had enough,” and drags the man back home, Uraraka half-jokingly threatening him if he tries to run, but damn does Hitoshi wish it sleeps sometimes, if only so he doesn’t have to wake up at four in the fucking morning.

It’s quiet when he steps into his agency, humming as the warmth of the ac heater crawls over his skin. Morning patrols during winter is something like a circle in hell. He’s not sure what deity he’s pissed off to get scheduled into this shift for majority of the week, but he hopes they like offerings of from the yakitori stand he is absolutely going to visit after he’s clocked in.

He bypasses few people, most of the staff back home and in their beds like Hitoshi yearns to be. He makes his way toward the floor where his office is, squished between Hagakure’s and Iida’s. He winds his capture scarf around his neck tighter as he clocks in, tired eyes roaming around the near deserted floor in the hopes of a coffee machine.

Or someone to have mercy and just knock him out.

“Good morning, Shinsou-kun,” Iida greets as he trudges toward the coffee machine. The Turbo Hero smiles at Hitoshi’s somewhat animalistic hiss, knowing that’s as good of a greeting he’s going to get right now. “I see you’ve been scheduled for a morning patrol as well.”

Hitoshi presses the buttons of the coffee machine a bit harder than necessary. “Unfortunately,” he grouses around a jaw-breaking yawn. “I’m going to commit arson.”

“Please do not,” says Iida. “The paperwork alone would make me kill you.”

“One can only dream,” Hitoshi responds, and Iida, begrudgingly used to his self-deprecative jokes only by years of proximity, sighs into his mug. “Are we splitting up the route or doing a joint-patrol?”

Iida hums in thought. His gaze drifts to where the TV plays the news, the anchor discussing the latest string of robberies in downtown Musutafu. “I’d prefer if we did a joint shift today,” Iida says after a moment, tearing his gaze away from the screen. “Same routine as usual.”

“As usual,” Hitoshi echoes, and the coffee machine sputters to life, delicious coffee pouring into his chipped mug he should probably throw away. “Thank you for your service, Jolene.”

Iida makes a noise that sounds more like a dying motor than a human being. Hitoshi smiles against the rim of his mug, taking a careful sip of the scalding liquid. His tongue burns at the heat, but it’s a pain he’s well-accustomed to.

“Must you call the coffee machine . . . Jolene?” Iida questions exasperatedly, looking very much done with Hitoshi’s . . . Hitoshi-ness.

“If you have a problem with Jolene,” Hitoshi says in response, smirking at the noise Iida makes, “take it up with Sero. He’s the one who named her.”

‘Her’ Iida mouths, incredulous. “It is a machine!”

A scandalized gasp interrupts them, and the man of the hour presses a hand atop the coffee machine, mock-hissing, “Watch your mouth, Emergency Exit! She can hear you!”

“Yeah, Iida,” Hitoshi says, always delighted to tease one of their most uptight members in what the media lovingly called ‘the nightmare class.’ “Have you no shame? No decency?”

Iida, hilariously, twitches.

“Don’t listen to him, Jolene,” Sero says, patting the coffee maker with one hand, rooting for a coffee pod with the other. “You’re perfect just the way you are~.”

Iida looks close to turning around and quitting. “I don’t know why I bother.”

“I don’t know, either,” Hitoshi says and then smiles at the glare Iida sends his way. “Anyway . . . I didn’t know you were given a morning patrol, too, Sero?”

“It was last minute,” Sero responds over the sputtering groans of the coffee machine. The scent of vanilla floats in the air. “Boss asked me to cover Uraraka’s shift, and I agreed.”

Hitoshi drains the rest of his coffee while Sero and Iida launch into a half-hearted squabble over the amount of sugar Sero pours into his coffee. He eyes the time, seeing he and Iida have a good ten minutes before they needed to leave their agency and head out. Iida sees the same, always one to be punctual, and hand-chops at Sero that they’d “discuss the matters of his sugar intake at a later time!”

Sero makes deliberate eye contact with Iida, adds two more spoonful’s of sugar, and says, cheerfully, “Lookin’ forward to it, Prez.!”

Hitoshi drags Iida to the elevator by the elbow. Let it be known that dragging a literal tank with an engine attached to their legs is not as easy as the many Ingenium movies might tell you. He’s pretty sure Iida only moved because he’s simply a nicer person than Hitoshi.

“Scold him later,” Hitoshi says as he fixes his voice modifier, keeping it better hidden by his capture weapon.

Iida sniffs. “I will.”

There is a simple routine to follow whenever Hitoshi is doing a joint patrol with anyone, but especially with someone considered aboveground and well-renowned by the public. He sticks to the shadows, blending in as a civilian going about his day, while his colleague drew in attention from others. It gives Hitoshi more room to act, considering no one pays attention to him.

Not when he looks like a tired college student, that is.

He taps at the earpiece to turn it on, wincing a bit at the brief static. Iida does the same. “Alright,” Hitoshi murmurs as they step out into the street. Not many people were around—again, barely five in the morning. “Have a route in mind?”

They probably should’ve figured that out before they’d left the agency, but—whatever. Better late than never or however that saying went.

“I’d like to observe the areas that have been hit by those robberies,” Iida responds like Hitoshi knew he would. “Having more of a pro hero presence may put the shop owners at ease.”

Hitoshi stretches and yawns. He can’t deny the truth in Iida’s statement. “Can’t argue with that logic,” he murmurs and double-checks his weapon belt is secure and hidden. “Let’s get this bread.”

Iida snorts.

 


 

Hitoshi’s hatred of morning patrols isn’t a hidden secret. He’s quite vocal about how he despises morning patrols, about how he prefers night patrols, even though he’s aware that sometimes it’s simply an inevitable part of scheduling. Hitoshi’s ability to blend into crowds and melt in the background of others’ peripheries is why he often gets scheduled whenever, though mostly at night.

Most people thought his hatred stems from having to wake up so early, and that’s partly correct. Most of the reason, however, is because something always, always happens to Hitoshi whenever he’s on a morning patrol. He’s used to Midoriya being the victim of quirk shenanigans and nefarious use, considering the man likely has some secret quirk that makes him a magnet to those situations, but Hitoshi’s been in a few.

(The less said about the Incident of ’62, the better.)

It’s just that there’s something about him on morning patrols that make villains go, ah, yes, the perfect target.

“Please do not worry, Shinsou-kun,” states Iida, rather calm for someone who has a villain in a chokehold. “I will have this matter wrapped up in moments!”

Hitoshi blinks stars out of his gaze. A part of him isn’t entirely certain where he is and what’s going on, but his memory returns in pieces. He had been on morning patrol with Iida, and things had been going well—until they had heard the sounding alarm of another robbery and rushed to the scene. Hitoshi’s memory becomes a bit hazy after that point, remembering confronting the robber and attempting to negotiate before launching into combat.

The knife pressed against his throat had deterred that line of action pretty quickly. Blood had been drawn—and ingested, which made Iida’s eyes flash and his spine draw taut. Hitoshi had uncomfortable memories about Toga Himiko and hoped it wouldn’t be that situation, and then—

He shrunk.

Hitoshi shrunk.

He stares down at his hands, soft and small in the way all children’s hands are, and swallows down a scream. When he’s plucked from the ground, a shriek ripples from his throat from mere surprise and he twists, small, uncoordinated arm fumbling for his hidden knives, and then he’s squished against someone’s chest, a familiar voice cooing, “Toshi-chan, you’re such a cute kid! What happened?”

Not for the last time, Hitoshi regretted transferring into Class 1-A back in high school. Things like this wouldn’t happen if he had been a simple cat café owner.

“Oh, fuck off,” Hitoshi spits out, struggling to get Hagakure to drop him. No dice. His muscles are weak compared to a pro hero. “Put me down.”

“Nope,” says Hagakure, far too cheerful for the early morning. She sends Iida, who’s helping the robber into the police car, a thumbs-up, and then situates him on her hip. “Let’s get you back to the agency.”

“I’m not five,” Hitoshi says, disapprovingly, but Hagakure only chuckles again. If he clings to her, terrified to be suddenly young and out of control of his life, soaking up the comfort and safety in her embrace, well. That’s no one’s business except their own.

As they always are, their medical team is on standby when they enter their agency, already informed by the situation considering they don’t even blink twice at Hitoshi’s de-aged state. After a series of testing, it’s concluded that the quirk didn’t have any side effects save for the de-aging.

“At least, you have your memories,” Hagakure says, always one to look at the silver linings. Her fingers tap across her screen, and Hitoshi isn’t fool enough to think she wasn’t updating majority of their coworkers about the situation. “Wait—you, you do have your adult memories, right?”

Hitoshi rolls his eyes, and says, dryly, “You’d know if I didn’t have my adult memories, Hagakure.”

“True, true.”

“I’m sorry we don’t know much about their quirk,” one of the head doctors says, frowning in thought and worry. “I’d keep an eye on things. It might have a delayed side effect, considering most de-aging quirks have a memory onset to it.”

Hagakure sends her a thumbs up. “Got it, boss!”

Hitoshi only sighs. Knowing his luck, there’s absolutely a time-delayed memory loss involved with this quirk.

 


 

Hitoshi isn’t surprised when the agency is overrun by his asshole, though well-meaning and concerned, friends. “Don’t laugh,” Hitoshi almost snarls out when he sees their glinting expressions and curved mouths. “Don’t you dare laugh at me for this.”

On a typical day, his words would be respected. He’d be given tight smirks and smiles, mirth dancing in everyone’s eyes as they politely swallowed back words.

It’s not that day.

Uraraka almost bends in half with laughter, arms wrapped around her torso. “You’re so cute,” she partly cackles. Hagakure has wrapped him up into her arms, pinching his cheeks despite his struggles. “Itty bitty baby!”

“I’m going to kill you,” Hitoshi threatens. His squished cheeks make the threat soft. “I’m going to kill you and laugh at your funeral.”

“Sure, you are,” Uraraka teases, and then reaches to pinch the other cheek. She either doesn’t notice or doesn’t care about the fierce glower he levels in her direction. “How long are you like this, anyway?”

Hitoshi finds it difficult to speak with squished cheeks, but he makes do. “D’nno.”

“There’s not much known about the quirk,” Hagakure continues with a shrug, far too lighthearted for the situation. “We’ll be able to find out more once they’re in custody.”

A sigh from behind makes Hitoshi tense. He knows what that sigh means. “Unfortunately,” Iida informs as he steps out of the elevator, helmet tucked beneath his arm as if it’s for motorcycle riding. “There are unforeseen complications.”

“You lost him,” Hitoshi deadpans.

Iida grimaces. “I lost him.”

Hitoshi blows a raspberry. It’s a delightful way to show his frustration. “This is why I shouldn’t be allowed on morning patrols.”

No one argues this point.

By the time lunch rolls around, Hitoshi’s been cooed over, teased, and lovingly pinched by most of the agency. He’s twitchy when the elevator dings, revealing his husband, Bakugou, and Kirishima. Hitoshi counts his blessings that Kaminari and Ashido were on a mission in another prefecture. Sero had been bad enough.

Before Shouto can even open his mouth, Hitoshi jabs a finger in his direction and hisses, “If you make even one joke—one—about me being my own fucking illegitimate child, I am going to string you up by your intestines and choke you to death with them.”

Shouto blinks twice, and then, tone thoughtful, “I’d have said Bakugou’s, considering the colorful imagery.” Hitoshi wonders if nine-years-old is too early to pop a vein—or commit murder.

Bakugou explodes with a, “We don’t even fucking look the same, dumbass!” to which Hitoshi whirls around and barks, “That’s what you’re concerned about?”

Kirishima sniffs. “My man knows his priorities.”

Hitoshi throws his hands in the air, absolutely done with everyone and thing in the universe. “I’m leaving.”

Shouto raises an eyebrow. “And go where?”

“Anywhere but here,” Hitoshi mutters.

“Hate to break it to you, Eyebags,” Bakugou says, often the voice of reason and braincell of the so-called Bakusquad. “But you’re currently a fucking infant. Literally no one is gonna let you ride the train by yourself and leave you alone.”

Shouto gives him a particularly stubborn look. “I’m not going to let my—,” He stops himself, takes another look at Hitoshi, and grimaces, likely queasy at the thought of referring to Hitoshi as his husband when he was, you know, physically a child. “Let you,” he corrects smoothly, but Hitoshi snorts, nonetheless, “get kidnapped.”

Hitoshi only crosses his arms and huffs.

If anyone asks, he doesn’t pout.

 


 

If there is one thing Hitoshi has always been good at, it’s ignoring his problems. When he wakes, there are three glaring problems that he notices even when halfway in dreamland, still: 1) the bed he’s sleeping on is too soft and comfortable, 2) he’s wearing clothes that actually fit him, and 3) no one is screaming at him to wake up and do his morning chores.

He sits upright, blinking the sleep out of his eyes. There’s an alarm clock blinking on the bedside table—which, another problem. Hitoshi doesn’t have one of those at the Miyamura’s. He barely has a bed, let alone an entire bedside table. He doesn’t recognize the bedroom he’s in, filled with unfamiliar clothing and objects.

Adult clothes, Hitoshi’s mind points out almost immediately, gaze catching sight of the far too large sweater draped over the dresser. He notices the makeup on the old, though well-cared for, vanity dresser, and the photographs of frozen, smiling adults he doesn’t recognize. He sees an adult with wild purple hair and eyes, a similar facial structure to his own, and wonders, wonders. . .

(Have his parents returned?)

He squashes the hope deep, deep in his chest. It’s merely a coincidence. Many people have hair and eyes the same color as Hitoshi, but that doesn’t mean they’re related. Hitoshi knows his parents aren’t going to come back. No one even knows where they are, just that they dropped him off at daycare one morning and left for work.

Except they never made it to work.

No one notices until hours after they were supposed to pick Hitoshi up, exhausted daycare workers sending voicemails after voicemails until a sympathetic policewoman knocked on the front door. No one tells Hitoshi what happened, always citing that he’s too young, too traumatized, too something, until he’s learned it’s simply better to stop asking.

He peers at one of the photos, of the man-who-looks-like-him smiling, eyes crinkling with warmth, cheeks squished against another adult, this one blond and with a lightning bolt in their hair. Hitoshi wonders why. Maybe it has something to do with their quirk?

He slips out of the large (and tall) bed with only a minute of struggle. He has to clamp a steadying grip around the edge because of its’ height, finding himself grumbling a bit over his small limbs. He couldn’t wait to grow. He pads toward the in-suite bathroom, eyebrow raising to his hairline. Didn’t rich people have bathrooms attached to their bedrooms or something?

Once he’s finished with his morning business, he stares at his reflection. Nothing seems out of place, except for the eyebags beneath his eyes. Those are normal, though. His primary doctor his fosters are required to take him to kindly explained it was a side-effect of his quirk. Insomnia or something like that. Hitoshi can’t remember the exact words, brain scattered by the too-tight grip his then-foster parent had on his shoulder.

His hair falls over his eyes and ears in a mess of curls. He grimaces at the sight, knowing one of the Miyamura’s is going to tut and hiss over his appearance, and how his lack of self-care is going to make them look criminal. Hitoshi knows his unkempt hair isn’t going to do anything like that. His fosters don’t need help in looking criminal.

He takes a moment to observe his pajamas, wide eyes marveling at the soft fabric. It’s purple and cat-patterned, which makes him smile. Two of his favorite things. Something Eraserhead or Present Mic-themed would make it perfect. As an afterthought, he peels back the arms and hikes up the hem of his shirt mid-chest, nose crinkling at the sight of the mottled green-yellow bruises on his skin.

He lets the shirt fall back in place a moment later, sighing. Wherever he is . . . whoever is with him . . . he hopes they practice their cruelty with words and mind games instead of their hands. Hitoshi is tired of moving from place to place, ending up in homes worse than the last.

He wonders, distantly, if he’s going to get muzzled in this new placement. Given the fancy setup of their apartment, Hitoshi knows they can afford it—and afford to make others keep quiet about the illegality of said muzzle.

Hitoshi pads out of the bedroom, slow and quiet. A foster sibling once remarked that Hitoshi walks like a predator, quiet as they hunted out their prey. There are more photos littering the walls—and plants. Many, many plants in colorful pots. He isn’t entirely certain, but they look well-cared for. Their pots even have names scribbled on them.

He follows the stream of noise, finding himself pausing in the threshold of the kitchen. A man with dual-toned hair and a scar wrapped around one side of his face stands near the stove, carefully stirring what smells like miso soup. Music plays softly from what Hitoshi assumes to be the man’s phone, and it’s an unfamiliar song to Hitoshi. That’s normal, since Hitoshi isn’t often allowed to listen to music.

“Oh, you’re awake,” the man says and, strangely enough, smiles at Hitoshi. “I’m almost done with breakfast—and no, I didn’t burn down the building,” he adds, as if Hitoshi were going to say something, a wry twist to his mouth. “Sit. Do you need help getting on the chair?”

Hitoshi crinkles his nose at the question. He’s almost nine, not five. The man snickers at his expression, and Hitoshi almost grows ice-cold. He hasn’t had breakfast, and already, he’s making a nuisance and—

“My bad,” says the man, and Hitoshi just. He doesn’t get it. Why does the man sound so soft, and fond, and warm? No one’s supposed to talk to Hitoshi like that. He’s positive it’s an actual law at this point. “Anyway . . . given how stressful everything’s been, I made your favorites.”

Stressful? Hitoshi isn’t sure what the man is talking about. Maybe he knows about the Miyamura’s? Maybe he knows Hitoshi had been locked in the closet a few days ago, denied everything except three glasses of water and sparse bathroom trips for the entire weekend? It’s not like Hitoshi hadn’t deserved the punishment.

He knows better than to ask questions.

He can’t help it sometimes, though. He just . . . he just wanted to know why they hated him so much, why they often spat out they wanted Hitoshi bleeding and dead whenever he pissed them off by merely existing in their space.

(He just wanted to know about his parents.)

Hitoshi takes careful steps toward the table. He keeps an eye on the man, tense and waiting to sprint out of the danger zone. Cooking utensils weren’t a joke, especially when they were hot from the stove. Hitoshi may not be a stranger to treating burns, but he doesn’t know where his bag is. He hopes it hasn’t been thrown away.

The man sets down a bowl of miso in front of him a few minutes later. Hitoshi tears his gaze away from the generous spread before him. “Eat up,” he says, though Hitoshi knows that’s an order. Which, good. He’s good with instructions. He knows what’s expected of him. “Eat whatever you want.”

For the first time since—well, ever, breakfast is quiet. It’s peaceful. Hitoshi isn’t glared at or prompted to hurry up. He isn’t scolded for ‘wasting food and resources,’ and he isn’t shoved toward the sink to wash the dishes despite not being tall enough to properly reach all of the sink.

He gives the man with dual-toned hair a tired blink once he’s scraped through a considerable amount of food, in his opinion. Now or never, Hitoshi tells himself. Where’s that hero courage? “Um . . . are you my new foster parent?” When the man just stares, mug dangerously close to slipping out of his grasp, Hitoshi chews on his bottom lip and prompts a quiet, “. . . Sir?”

He’s careful to keep his tone flat; never threatening, never lilted.

“Don’t—,” the man starts, and then pauses. Emotions flutter across his expression, but Hitoshi can’t really explain. “I’m sorry; this must be scary for you, huh?” When Hitoshi gives a hesitant nod, the man softens further. “I’m—I’m not your foster parent. You . . . there was an incident you were a part of,” the man explains carefully. Too carefully, Hitoshi’s mind points out. He wonders if he’s been kidnapped. Oh, well. It wouldn’t be the first time. “I’m a Pro Hero . . . I’ll be looking after you while the villains’ at large.” Hitoshi brightens at the knowledge, at being in a Pro Hero’s home. “Wanna see my license?”

Hitoshi nods, almost breaking his neck, and the man chuckles at the sight. His cheeks warm, but he doesn’t feel mocked. He’s given the license to hold and awe over, the laminated plastic a promise in his little fingers. Hitoshi’s touching a hero license. He’s in the presence of an actual pro hero.

[A photo of the pro hero in question, wearing their hero gear. It resembled a dark blue jumpsuit with a white utility belt. Said belt held a first-aid kit and had hidden pockets of weapons and support gear. They wore white gloves and white shoes to complete the match.]

THE PERSEVERING HERO: MERCURY | Rescue Hero at the Twisting Fate Agency.

Please contact Hori Asuka, PR Assistant, at XX-XXXX-XXXX with any official inquiries.

“You’re a Rescue Hero?” Hitoshi asks before he could swallow back the question, and then he stills, shrinking back and into himself. Stupid, he scolds himself, tense and waiting for the scorn, for the shouting, for the vitriol over the power in his voice, in his quirk. Mercury is a pro hero, sure, but he’s an adult—and adults don’t like it when—

“I am a Rescue Hero,” Mercury replies, and there’s something heavy in his voice that makes Hitoshi look up. They lock gazes and Hitoshi blinks to find empathy and understanding and . . . rage (?) . . . in the heroes’ eyes. “You don’t have to be afraid to ask questions, alright, Hitoshi? I want you to ask questions and speak freely,” Mercury continues, thankfully ignoring the way Hitoshi’s limbs have locked tight once more. “And . . . call me, uh, Shouto, please. My hero name isn’t necessary unless I’m in gear.”

Hitoshi doesn’t understand. He doesn’t understand. He doesn’t voice his confusion nor the questions bundling up beneath his tongue, despite what Mer—what Shouto has said. It’s probably a trick. Always a trick, his mind hisses. “Um.” Hitoshi swallows and stares down at the glossy laminate of the license. It’s easier to look at that instead of the living, breathing adult in front of him. “Y-yes, sir.”

From the corner of his eye, he sees Shouto grimace and sigh. Hitoshi tenses again, but nothing happens. Shouto doesn’t even try and take his license back, content to keep it in Hitoshi’s dirty, germy hands. They don’t look dirty and germ-ridden, of course, but it’s a common theme with his fosters, always snarling at Hitoshi and his other siblings to keep their hands and germs to themselves. 

When they’ve finished the dishes (Hitoshi had looked extremely uncomfortable when Shouto had insisted he didn’t have to do them, and it made Shouto relent, only letting him dry the utensils, cups, and bowls), Shouto pauses and says, hesitant, “Um . . . do you . . . you don’t need help, like, showering, do you?”

Hitoshi snorts, despite himself. “You don’t know how to take care of kids, do you?”

Instead of getting mad, Shouto only looks sheepish, curling fingers through his hair. “That obvious, hmm?”

Hitoshi thinks he’s used up his free passes, and nods, voice locking tight in the middle of his throat. Shouto shows him where the towels and soaps are, and then points him to where clothes his size wait for him, most still in shopping bags. Hitoshi blinks at the small mountain of clothes. He tries not to think about the way his eyes burn, and the way it’s difficult to swallow. It’s a different story when he’s in the shower, though.

Once he’s squeaky clean and dressed in his new clothes (his mind can’t stop obsessing over that, a mantra of his, his, his), he makes his way toward the common area. Shouto’s talking to someone over the phone, and it looks serious, given the mans’ expression, but it softens when Hitoshi pads into view. “Hitoshi,” Shouto says after another minute or so, tilting his head. “How do you feel about going on a trip?”

Hitoshi blinks, and then shrugs. It’s not like anything he says would deter Shouto. Hitoshi is a child, and if there’s anything his fosters have taught him, it’s that children shut up and do as adults say because they know best, even if said best leaves him scattered and distant in the aftermath, pressing small against the hurts marking his skin.

“We’ll be heading to my agency,” Shouto explains to his unasked question, somehow translating it from one of his slow blinks. “It’s a short walk, okay? But, uh, let me know if you get tired along the way.”

Hitoshi won’t, but he nods, nonetheless, and slips his hand inside Shouto’s once they’re out of the apartment complex. Shouto surprises him once more by not yanking away from his hand, only gently squeezing it and then—for some reason, swinging their hands between them. Hitoshi feels the edges of his lips quirk, regardless.

People stare when Hitoshi steps inside of Shouto’s agency. He shrinks once more, pressing against Shouto’s leg as they walk. Shouto doesn’t seem to mind, and he doesn’t reprimand Hitoshi on his childish behavior when they’re alone in the elevator.

Shouto takes him to the medical floor where he’s prodded and questioned by a team of medical professionals. They’re kind and understanding, which is strange for Hitoshi, given his less than stellar track record with any type of adults. They all tsk and narrow their eyes when they find the bruises one of the Miyamura’s left on his skin, but he remains tightlipped over how it happened.

Shouto gets a weird, sad look in his eyes at Hitoshi’s quiet. He isn’t sure he wants to know what that means.

Once Hitoshi’s cleared by the doctors’, Shouto takes him to what the pro calls ‘the hero floor.’ When they exit the elevator, the first thing Hitoshi sees is a floating mass of clothes.

“Oh, my, god,” gasps the floating clothes. Hitoshi blinks thrice, and then concludes its’ likely a hero with an invisibility quirk. “Oh, my god! Toshi-chan, you’re adorable!” A phone whips out of nowhere, pointed toward him, and Hitoshi, bewildered, realizes he’s being photographed. He doesn’t understand why. There’s nothing about him worth photographing. “I’m literally in tears!”

Someone—is that Ingenium?—sighs into a mug. “Please don’t take photos of non-consenting minors, Hagakure-kun!”

“But he’s so cute,” the clothes—Hagakure, apparently—responds, but tucks away the phone without further complaint. Hitoshi’s a bit surprised at how relieved he feels, no longer pinned beneath the gaze of a camera. “A cutie-patootie~!”

A pro with elongated earlobes snorts. “The ‘90s called, and they want their nicknames back.” Hagakure sputters at that, crying foul.

“Good morning, Shouto-kun, Hitoshi-kun,” greets Maybe-Ingenium, sending Hitoshi a warm and kind smile. Hitoshi has never been so surrounded by adults before, but . . . he doesn’t feel unsafe or like he’s being locked in place beneath a microscope meant to strip him down to the white of his bone, piece by piece. “I hope you slept well?”

Hitoshi nods, blinking.

Maybe-Ingenium blinks at his quiet, and then quirks an eyebrow toward Shouto, who shrugs. “He’s been quiet all morning,” Shouto replies.

Hagakure pauses her squabble with Lady Earlobes to coo. “Aww, s’that so?” Hagakure’s sleeve waves in the air when she adds, “Maybe he’s shy?”

Lady Earlobes snorts again, muttering, “Shinsou? Shy? I don’t think so.”

It makes Hitoshi blink, eyebrows pinching together in slight frustration. These Pro’s seemed to know who he was, but Hitoshi doesn’t know them. He doesn’t recognize them, except for Maybe-Ingenium, but it’s probably not Ingenium because Ingenium has engines on his arms, not his legs.

The elevator dings.

Hitoshi turns, curious, and almost stops breathing.

“Problem children,” says the man Hitoshi never fails to dream of swooping into his foster homes and rescuing him. His heart pounds against his skull. He’s positive everyone in the prefecture could hear it. “What have you gotten yourselves into now?”

 


 

Hitoshi is used to not being told things. He’s used to being kept out of the loop. Used to adults keeping secrets close, and Hitoshi a far, far distance away from the truth. It doesn’t make it any less frustrating when he sees adults huddled around a conference table, yet he’s on the other side of the room, shunted off with a teen girl who keeps—staring.

At him.

Hitoshi swallows down his paranoia, blocks out the instinctive thoughts of she knows your quirk, she’s going to hurt you—, and stares down at the blank paper. One of the heroes—Lady Earlobes, whose name was actually Yaoyorozu-Jirou Kyouka, and her pro hero name was Earphone Jack—had handed him a stack and some markers, warmly telling him to “go wild.”

Hitoshi isn’t sure how “wild” he could be with markers, but—whatever. Questioning adults—pro heroes—never ends well for Hitoshi.

“I’m, I’m Eri! Yamada-Aizawa Eri,” the girl introduces herself, stumbling a bit. Nervous, most likely, but Hitoshi doesn’t understand why she’d be nervous about him. He swallows once more. Maybe she does know about his quirk, and— “You’re Hitoshi-chan, right? Can I call you that?”

Hitoshi doesn’t care. He shrugs, and she takes that as consent, beaming wide. Her red eyes—same color as Eraserhead, Hitoshi notes in the back of his mind—sparkle with warmth. Everyone is warm here, and it’s . . . kind of surreal. He wonders if he’s hallucinating.

“What’re you drawing, Hitoshi-chan?” Eri questions, leaning against the desk. Her gaze lands on his blank paper, and she chuckles. “Can’t think of anything?”

Hitoshi shrugs again.

Eri presses a finger against her chin, and then makes a triumphant nose. “I know~ . . . how about we draw our favorite heroes! Do you want to know mine?” She takes his slow blink as yes. “It’s Deku!”

Who is Deku? Hitoshi thinks, baffled that there’s a hero who, well, named themselves that. He glances toward the adults once again, concerned at the sea of pinched and worried expressions. He doesn’t know what they’re talking about since they’re speaking in low tones. Hitoshi hopes no one is reprimanding Shouto for his lax behavior toward him.

“. . . Hitoshi-chan?” Eri’s voice pulls him out of his thoughts. He blinks at her, noticing her smile is a little sad. He doesn’t know why. “Come on . . . who’s your favorite hero?”

Hitoshi shifts and glances back at the adults. He catches the gaze of the space-themed hero, Uravity (“But call me Ochako-nee-chan, okay?”), who smiles at him. Hitoshi looks back down at the paper, remembers Eri’s question (and her patience; he knows a lot of his older siblings would’ve snapped at him by now), and mumbles, “. . .Eraserhead.”

 He waits for the inevitable, “Huh? Who’s that?” since literally no one knows who Eraserhead is and isn’t interested in a hero who shrouds themselves in the shadows, but it doesn’t happen. Eri only smiles wider. “I like him, too,” she says, and then, lower, more conspiratorial, adds, “He’s my second favorite pro hero. Is yours Present Mic?”

Hitoshi stares, wide-eyed. How does she know that? He nods, nonetheless, and reaches for one of the markers. “Yeah,” he manages to say, but Eri doesn’t seem put off by his quiet. If anything, she’s almost expecting it.

They draw in comfortable quiet while the adults murmur up a storm. Although Eri had suggested they draw their favorite pro heroes, Hitoshi is a little shy to draw Eraserhead when the man is in the same vicinity. He decides to color a field of flowers; the safest option for someone like Hitoshi.

“Those’re pretty flowers,” Eri coos out. “Are they your favorite?”

Hitoshi shrugs after a moment. He doesn’t know what his favorite flower is, since no one’s ever really asked him that before. He’d like to think it’d be a purple flower, since that’s also his favorite color. Eri shows him her drawing of Deku, a curly, green-haired, freckled pro hero with a smile brighter than All Might.

His costume has a bit of a rabbit-theme, which Hitoshi likes. It reminds him of Miruko.

“This is Deku,” Eri tells him despite the obviousness. As she reaches over to show him the drawing better, her sleeves shifts and reveals scattered scars and healed hurts. He can see it lines most of her arms, disappearing beneath the rest of her sleeve. It makes Hitoshi think oh, she’s just like me. “When I was younger . . . he saved me from a bad man with Lemillion, Eraserhead, and a few other Pros . . . he’s been my favorite ever since.”

Hitoshi can’t help but wonder.

Is this what happened to me? Did someone save him—?

“Pretty flowers~!” Hagakure’s sudden voice makes him flinch. Hitoshi hadn’t even realized the adults stopped talking. “You’re a really good drawer, Toshi-chan!”

Hitoshi plays with the marker, mumbling a soft, “Thanks,” to the drawing than to the Pro Hero. He glances toward Shouto and notices his expression is twisting with emotions. His stomach curdles as the man crouches in front of him, keeping his body language open and nonthreatening.  

“Shouto . . .?” Hitoshi chews on his bottom lip, heart thudding against his ribcage at the slight inflection of his voice.

“Hitoshi,” Shouto sighs out, and—Hitoshi knows that tone. He knows. His shoulders rise to his ears, and he curls smaller, waiting for those inevitable words to drip from Shouto’s mouth. Not even a pro hero wants him. He’s cursed just like Keiko, an older foster sibling in another home, often told him he was. Shouto’s lips thin into a worried line at the sight, but it smooths out quickly. “It’s alright, okay? Would you . . . would you feel comfortable staying with, er, Eraserhead-sensei instead?” When Hitoshi just stares, Shouto adds, “It’s your choice, and there won’t be any hard feelings involved. Eraserhead-sensei simply has more experience with children.”

Hitoshi . . . has a choice? They want him to choose. It’s a simple choice, realty, in Hitoshi’s opinion. Eraserhead is his favorite hero, and he’s always dreamed of the man barging into his most violent of homes and taking him to safety, but . . .

Shouto is the one who made him his favorite breakfast foods, and gave him clothes that fit, and that are his, and gets concerned when Hitoshi tried to do his typical chores, and is so, so awkward about children and raising them, and . . . he understands. Hitoshi knows that Shouto knows what it’s like to live in a home where shadows and raised voices are to be feared.

He feels safe with Shouto, and in that fancy apartment. “I . . .,” Hitoshi starts, twisting his fingers in his lap, “I want to, to stay w-with you, Shouto-san. . ..”

Shouto blinks at that, clearly surprised with Hitoshi’s decision, but smiles, nonetheless, his features softening around the tilt. “Alright,” Shouto murmurs and reaches out to gently squeeze Hitoshi’s hand. He does that a lot, Hitoshi notices. “Thank you for trusting me enough to stay.”

Hitoshi blinks at the statement. Adults are weird.

A gloved hand presses against Hagakure’s cheek. “How cute,” she coos out. “You know what this calls for? A photo op!” Hagakure bursts out, phone already in hand. “Commemorative photo with the baby!” A part of Hitoshi thinks he should protest at being called a baby, but words die in his throat. Hagakure positions the camera as everyone squeezes into the frame, even Eraserhead, for all that he looks exasperated and tired. “Say cheese!”

There’s a chorus of “cheese,” and Hitoshi stares, wide-eyed, into the camera. He likely resembles a deer in headlights, but Hagakure and a few others, Eri included, coo over the results. Shouto makes the photo the background of his home screen on his phone. Hitoshi reels a bit, nonetheless, mind scrambling to figure out just what had happened.

“See you around, kid,” Eraserhead says a few moments later, palm warm and grounding against his head. He gently ruffles Hitoshi’s hair. A part of Hitoshi melts at the action, the other part screeching that Eraserhead was ruffling his hair. “Don’t be a stranger, okay?”

Shouto smiles. “We won’t, sensei.”

 


 

A week crawls by.

Hitoshi wonders why he isn’t in school. He wonders why his social worker has yet to make an appearance. He wonders about the tight, worried look in Shouto’s expression when he thinks Hitoshi isn’t looking. He wonders about the other heroes, who always look at Hitoshi carefully, worriedly, as if he’d slip away and shatter if they were too rough.

He wonders about the villain who’d targeted him. There are questions that pool in his mouth and press against his lips, but he swallows down the words, tucks them deep in his veins, and stays quiet. Stays small. Stays as inobtrusive a presence to not be a bother to Shouto.

It’s a bit weird, not having to go to school, but it’s not as if he’s left to stare at the wall in boredom. They settle into the barebones of a routine: Hitoshi wakes in what he’s certain is actually Shouto’s bedroom, but as the man hasn’t brought it up yet, neither has he, and then he goes through his typical morning routine while Shouto cooks breakfast, they eat in quiet, and then Hitoshi dries the dishes Shouto hands him. He showers and prepares for the day, which varies depending on the activities Shouto has planned.

Shouto introduces him to a few boardgames the day after he met Eraserhead—and video games, too, like Animal Crossing. Hitoshi finds he likes being on an island with talking animals. His favorite villagers are the cats, of course, but the Nook family has a special place in his heart. On Wednesday, they returned to the agency where Hitoshi had another check-up from the medical team, and, afterwards, he was cooed over by the other Pros in the agency. It had been a bit weird for Hitoshi, unused to such positive attention, but more because everyone seemed to know Hitoshi, whereas he only really knew Shouto.

Thursday finds them tucked on the couch, watching pre-quirk movies his fosters never let him watch in case he got ‘ideas.’ It’s mostly things from Studio Ghibli; his favorite being My Neighbor Totoro. Totoro’s smile reminds him of Eraserhead’s, which is a double plus, in his opinion. They bake blueberry muffins, Shouto carefully reading from a handwritten recipe book.

It tastes sweet and warm in his mouth, melting against his tongue as he chews. Shouto promises to make cookies and other sweets when Hitoshi hesitantly asks, still waiting, still wondering, if the Pro would get annoyed and kick him out if he speaks too much.

(That’s one thing Hitoshi’s quickly learned: Shouto never fails to answer and respond to him. It’s like he doesn’t even care of the power in Hitoshi’s voice.)

They go to the park with Ochako and Ochako’s wife, the Rainy Season Hero: Froppy, as the weekend dawns bright. “Call me Tsu-chan, kero,” says the Pro, tone soft and kind, her hair in a complicated braid. Ochako swings their clasped hands, bouncing on her heels. “Can I call you Toshi-chan?”

Hitoshi pauses at the question, surprised and a little perplexed, but nods. Ochako beams wide, and Hitoshi’s pretty sure she’s taking photos. Hitoshi doesn’t understand why so many heroes have been photographing him or wanting to take selfies with him. Maybe it’s because Hitoshi’s wardrobe consists of cat-patterned sweaters?

“Onward—to the swings!” Ochako says, pointing her and Tsuyu’s clasped hand toward the swing set. Hitoshi brightens at the sight. He loves the swings, but he doesn’t often to get to go on them. Most of his classmates don’t like it when he tries to play with them, deeming him too weird and quiet as the only foster child in the classroom. “Whoever swings the highest gets an extra scoop of ice cream!”

Tsuyu rolls her eyes and deadpans, “You just want ice cream.”

Ochako clutches her free hand to her chest, gasping, “Tsu-chan! How could my lovely wife accuse me of such things? Toshi-chan!” Ochako turns to him, pouting. “Can you believe that?”

Hitoshi, very carefully, doesn’t respond. Shouto presses a hand against his mouth to smother his laughter.

Ochako makes a strangled noise in the back of her throat. “Betrayed,” she rasps out, somehow sounding as if she hasn’t drank water in days. “I can’t believe you’ve done this to me.”

Tsuyu pats Ochako’s cheek. “Rest in pieces.”

Hitoshi bites his bottom lip, but a few giggles escape. Ochako overhears, but instead of being mad, her smile only brightens. No one bothers them as they make their way toward the swing set, mostly because most of the kids on the playground are involved in a rather intense game of Heroes and Villains. Hitoshi isn’t a fan of the game, since everyone always makes him be the Villain, and thus is content to have a swing contest with a rather determined Ochako.

“No quirks, kero,” says Tsuyu. Hitoshi bobs his head in agreement, but then notices that Tsuyu isn’t even staring at him as she says it. She’s staring at Ochako.

Ochako sniffs. “I’m not feeling the love in this chili’s tonight.”

Tsuyu rolls her eyes. Hitoshi hides his giggling behind his hand. Shouto helps him swing with gentle pushes to help build momentum. Hitoshi doesn’t have it in him to tell the man that it isn’t really necessary, since he likes the contact. Shouto’s palm is warm and comforting against his back. A part of him wonders, and wonders . . .

An unexpected voice pulls him out of his thoughts. He removes his gaze from a flock of birds, blinking at the newest addition. “Mind if I join the party?”

Ochako bursts into laughter, having to lean on Tsuyu for support. Hitoshi gives the newcomer—gives Deku—a few blinks, uncertain on how to react. He glances toward Shouto, finding the man isn’t tense or reserved.

Shouto gives Deku an unimpressed stare. “What is that?”

Deku, dressed in a beanie and a hoodie labeled CHARGEBOLT, only smiles disarmingly. “My disguise,” the Pro chirps.

It makes Ochako laugh even more. Enough that she falls off the swing and into the sand. “You’re walking home, kero,” states Tsuyu, side-stepping the handful of sand Ochako throws in her direction. “Sand is a b—,” Tsuyu stops, abruptly, and continues with a, “handful to get out of the seats.”

“I think we can safely say that Hitoshi wins the contest,” Shouto says next, considering Hitoshi’s the only one swinging at this point. The rush of air feels amazing. He wonders how far he’d fly if he jumped off. “I think I saw an ice cream truck down the street.”

“Let’s go,” cheers Ochako, drawling out the ‘o’. She dusts most of the sand off her, but a few clumps matte her hair, still. She doesn’t seem to be bothered. “I’d die for a scoop of brownie fudge chocolate right now.”

Deku gives her a look, muttering, “Aren’t you lactose intolerant?” right as Tsuyu reminds her, blandly, “Ochako-chan, you are lactose intolerant.”

“You say that as if it means something.”

“It does.”

Hitoshi drags his feet into the sand to halt his momentum. He blinks a bit, vision swimming slightly, but he’s steady when he rises to his feet, one hand reaching out for Shouto’s on instinct. Shouto grasps hold of it without hesitation. It’s then that Hitoshi notices that Deku is staring at him. It makes Hitoshi think there’s something on his face or wrong with his clothes.

Why else would every Pro Hero he meets stare at him like that?

Like he’s something fragile, and breakable, like he’ll disappear if they blink too quickly, and—

“Hi, there,” Deku greets brightly, smile just as wide as Eri had pictured. It’s even warmer in person and sets Hitoshi at ease. “I’m Midoriya Izuku, but you can call me Izuku, if you’d like!”

Hitoshi nods and half-hides behind Shouto, a sudden feeling of shyness washing over him. Izuku doesn’t seem bothered by it, smile growing softer around the edges. Hitoshi wonders if that’s just a Pro Hero thing, smiling so kind and warm at children. “H-hi.”

“It’s nice to meet you,” Izuku continues warmly. “Let’s go get some ice cream!”

Ochako whoops and cheers, loud enough to make some parents glance over toward them. Hitoshi shrinks against Shouto further at the stares. He hates it when others stare at him, especially adults who have children of their own. Hitoshi finds they’re often the most judgmental when faced with his quirk and supposed delinquency, though how a nearly nine-year-old can be a delinquent escapes Hitoshi.

“How’ve you been, Izuku?” Ochako questions as they walk out of the family park and toward where Hitoshi can see the ice cream truck in the distance, the rotating ice cream cone on top a beacon for the entire world. “I haven’t seen you since—that case.”

Izuku grimaces at the reminder. Hitoshi wonders about the case but knows that they’d never tell him. “I’ve been good,” he chirps out. “I think Tenya and I are planning a short vacation soon! I’m pretty sure Yaomomo is going to force us both on mandatory leave soon.”

Shouto snorts at that. “I’m surprised she hasn’t already.”

Izuku squawks at the quip, but it’s good-natured, given the eye-crinkling beam.

“Don’t do anything I wouldn’t do~,” says Ochako, steering the conversation back to Izuku’s future vacation, and playfully winks at the other Pro.

It’s Tsuyu who responds with a dry, “That doesn’t leave a lot of things left, Ochako-chan.” It sends Ochako into another spiel about ‘betrayal,’ but she’s all smiles and bright eyes, showing how little she’s affected by her wife’s words.

They reach the truck within a few minutes, and the owner recognizes Tsuyu, Izuku, and Shouto, but doesn’t make a scene out of it. Except for asking for an autograph. She tries to refuse payment for their ice creams, but Ochako insists on paying. They end up situated on a bench a few feet away, Hitoshi perched between Ochako and Tsuyu as Izuku had pulled Shouto aside for a brief chat.  

“Let’s play a game~,” Ochako suggests once she’s a good third way through her ice cream. Hitoshi tilts his head in an obvious question, and she adds, “I spy! Have you played that game?” When Hitoshi shakes his head, she takes a moment to explain the rules. “Sound like fun, Toshi-chan?”

Hitoshi takes another bite out of his ice cream, rolling the idea around in his mind. “Y-yeah,” he says after a moment, and Ochako makes a triumphant noise. Whether that noise is because of his agreement to playing the game or because he spoke. “Um. Y-you first?”

“Okay~!” Ochako scans the area, humming. “I spy with my little eye . . . something red!”

“That car over there, kero.”

“Nope~! Your turn, Toshi-chan!”

Hitoshi licks his lips. “Um. The, the m-mailbox . . .?”

Ochako almost spills her ice cream when she claps. “Correct!”

“You haven’t told him?” Hitoshi overhears. He pretends he doesn’t, more preoccupied with the strawberry ice cream cone melting on his fingers. “. . . He needs to know, Shouto.”

“I know that,” Shouto replies, sigh dragging in the air. “I just . . . I don’t want to stress him out, Midoriya. He’s just—look at him, he’s tiny.”

“Yeah,” Izuku responds, just as soft and awed. “He really is.”

Hitoshi’s next bite of ice cream makes his teeth throb. He crinkles his nose while Ochako teases and jokes about brain freeze. He doesn’t think he’s that small, but he knows he’s tinier than most of his peers. A few teachers have told him he’d grow more when he’s older, but it’s taking forever. Hitoshi’s going to be an old man by the time he gets taller.

As he finishes his ice cream, his mind wanders with questions. He wonders if he’ll ever be told what’s going on.  

 


 

Peace shatters on a Sunday evening.

Their morning was spent baking cookies—chocolate chip and sugar cookies—and listening to one of Present Mic’s shows. They pile into the living room with the plate of cookies, and Shouto channel surfs until he finds a kid-friendly station. Hitoshi doesn’t recognize the show, but that’s pretty normal for him. He gets invested, nonetheless, with the storyline.

He’s chewing through his fourth sugar cookie when Shouto shifts beside him, tensing in a way that makes him tense from anticipation. He swallows the rest of the cookies, not wanting to choke, and wipes the crumbs on his shirt. He probably shouldn’t, but he hasn’t been scolded for it yet.

He wonders if he’s going to get scolded now.

That’s fine.

He’s used to adults losing their patience with him. Why would Shouto be any different?

“Hitoshi,” Shouto says when a commercial begins. Hitoshi bites down on his bottom lip, thinking, this is it, this is— “There’s something I need to talk to you about, okay?” It’s . . . it’s about the incident.”

His world goes on pause.

Hitoshi laughs when Shouto explains, very carefully, that ‘the incident’ was that he’d been struck with a de-aging quirk on morning patrol, that he was actually twenty-five, and married, and was thinking of adopting three cats. He laughs, and he laughs, and then—

He cries.

“That’s not funny,” Hitoshi says through his tears, hot and burning as they spill from his eyes, through Shouto’s mostly desperate, though soothing, hums and back rubbing. “That’s not—that’s not fu-funny!”

“I know,” says Shouto, infallible in his kindness, in his warmth. “I know, sweetheart, but I’m not joking. I’m telling the truth.”

Hitoshi doesn’t hear it. He doesn’t want to. He shakes his head, the hurt unbearable as it sharpens in his chest and lungs, shattered glass dipped in poison. Mercury poisoning. Hitoshi read once that he can die from that. He wonders if he’ll die from this. “That’s not funny,” he chokes out once more, pulling away from the safety and comfort in Shouto’s arms. “That’s not funny!”

“Hito—.”

Leave me alone,” Hitoshi commands, his grasp shaky and trembling, but true as he holds the connection, as Shouto’s eyes go pale and milky white beneath his control. “Go – go read a, a book, and, and leave me alone!”

Shouto trudges to the bookshelf, limbs stiff and stilted. Hitoshi locks himself in the hallway closet, brings his knees close to his chest, and sobs, weeping against his knees. He cries through his bitten lip, sour, copper blood pooling into his mouth.

(He knew it was too good to be true. People like Hitoshi never get a happy ending.)

An opening door makes Hitoshi tense, the footsteps more so. He doesn’t know how long it’s been, given he’s in a closet, but Shouto’s been under his quirk for a while. His connection frays, and then snaps, following the muffled sound of someone flicking Shouto. “Wake the hell up, icy hot,” barks out someone Hitoshi doesn’t know. “Fuck happened here?”

Shouto sputters, disoriented from being beneath Hitoshi’s quirk for so long. “Wha--? Bakugou, when did--? What—?” Shouto stops, falling into a tense, lung breaking quiet, and then—“Fuck. Hitoshi? Where—sweetie, I’m not mad at you, okay?”

The stranger—Bakugou, apparently, snorts in disgust. “The actual fuck did you do?”

Hitoshi clamped his hands over his ears, muffling the rest of the world. He doesn’t want to listen, to hear Shouto condemn him and his quirk, to tell that person that Hitoshi needs to leave, needs to be locked up and muzzled to keep everyone safe. Footsteps pads toward the closet. He squeezes his arms around him tighter, making himself smaller in the corner, and hopes they don’t open the door.

Hope is for fools—or, at least, not for people like Hitoshi.

Light from the hallway spills into the closet. It doesn’t blind him much, considering his face is tucked against his knees, but it makes him aware that there are currently two adults standing before him. One of which had been held by Hitoshi’s power just a few moments ago. Hitoshi waits for the judgement, for the inevitable scorn and disappointment.

It doesn’t come.

Fabric rustles from movement. It makes him curious enough to take a quick peek—and he almost wheezes when he notices Shouto kneeling in front of him, palms open on his lap. Not a threat, the posture says. Please don’t be afraid of me. Hitoshi swallows back another sob, but it wracks his spine beneath it’s weight.

“’M sorry,” Hitoshi croaks out before Shouto could speak. His mind hisses at him to be quiet, to shut up, stop talking, that’s what got us here in the first place— “I . . . I’ll p-pack my b-bags, Sh . . . M-Mercury-san . . ..”

“Pack?” Shouto echoes. “Hitoshi . . . Hitoshi, could you look at me?” When Hitoshi trembles, shaking his head, Shouto doesn’t force the issue. “That’s alright,” the man soothes. Warmth exists there. It hasn’t left, even after what Hitoshi’s done. “You’re not—You’re not going anywhere, Hitoshi . . . not unless you want to. Do you want to stay with Eraserhead-sensei for a while? I’d understand if you wanted to.” After a pause, Shouto adds, almost bitterly, “I know I’ve given you a lot of reasons to distrust me, and that’s okay. I . . . I don’t want you to feel like you have to stay in a place where you don’t feel safe, okay? I know what that’s like, and I know you know what that’s like, so, please . . . don’t force yourself to stay here if you aren’t comfortable.”

Hitoshi raises his head, sniffling, staring at Shouto with an incredulous expression. “Wh-what . . .?” Hitoshi stumbles out, eyebrows pinched from mere confusion. “I . . . y-you didn’t . . . it’s me who . . . I brainwashed you,” Hitoshi reminds the man, voice jumping in pitch. It crackles beneath the weight of his emotions. “I . . . it’s you who shouldn’t . . . you shouldn’t f-feel safe with-with me.”

Shouto softens. His hands reach out, and then falters, the man pausing to say, “Can I hold you, sweetheart? You can say no if you aren’t comfortable.”

A well of emotions press and shatter against Hitoshi’s ribcage. He thinks he nods because Shouto pulls him close, scooping him in a way that feels strangely familiar. Maybe his parents had done this to him once? Shouto wipes his tears with a careful thumb.

“I’m not scared of you, Hitoshi,” Shouto informs him softly, chest rumbling beneath Hitoshi’s ears. “I’ve never been scared of you—or your quirk. I’m sorry I made you feel unsafe enough to use your quirk. Using your quirk . . . it’s normal, okay? You have nothing to be afraid of. Not here. Not from me.”

Hitoshi can’t breathe. He shakes his head, words sticking to the roof of his mouth like taffy candy. He doesn’t understand. He doesn’t understand. Why are these adults so nice and kind to him? Why don’t they yell or order Hitoshi to be quiet? Why do they get sad whenever he skirts around a question?

It doesn’t make sense.

“You don’t make sense,” Hitoshi warbles, fingers grasping the front of Shouto’s sweater as if it were a lifeline. Perhaps, it was. “Why don’t you make sense?”

Shouto chuckles, warm and soft and watery against the crown of his forehead. “I get asked that question a lot.”

They end up back in the living room. Bakugou rummages through the kitchen, muttering grumpily under his breath. At Hitoshi’s concerned look, Shouto assures him that it’s “just the way Bakugou is,” and that there’s nothing to worry about. Shouto puts on My Neighbor Totoro as the scent of food floats in the air, Bakugou seemingly pulling out ingredients Hitoshi hadn’t known was in Shouto’s fridge.

Hitoshi isn’t paying attention to the movie. He doesn’t think Shouto is, either. He nibbles at another cookie, gathering his thoughts and his courage, and hesitantly glances at Shouto. “Um . . . about what you told me,” Hitoshi starts, quiet beneath the weight of Shouto’s attention. “Is . . . It’s really true . . .?”

“It is,” Shouto says with a nod, and then his gaze drifts toward the bookshelf. “Would you like to see one of our photo albums?”

Hitoshi agrees.

By the time Bakugou finishes making food—okonomiyaki, which is Hitoshi’s favorite food in the world—Hitoshi has watched himself grow from a first year in high school to a second year to a graduating Pro Hero. He sees the other Pro’s he’s met, lines young and soft from childhood. Shouto explains the story behind each photo carefully, eyes shining from the memories.

Bakugou adds a few quips as well, endearing his blunt nature to Hitoshi with ease. Hitoshi leans against Shouto’s shoulder, bowl warm in his lap, feeling fuller than he’s ever felt in his entire life, and drifts to the story of how he helped Tsuyu propose.

 


 

If there’s one thing Hitoshi hates about waking up, it’s to the foul sensation of cotton mouth and bad breath. He hates the lack of warmth at his side as well, blindly patting beside him in search of a body that isn’t there. He scowls as he blinks the sleep out of his eyes, a part of him wondering if Shouto had an early patrol or meeting to attend.

He slips out of bed, yawning. He gives the pile of shopping bags a curious look, seeing there are child-sized clothes in there. He checks the time, humming to see that a few days have passed. His mind is blank when he thinks back to what’s happened. The last thing he remembers is leaving his agency for a morning patrol.

A part of him thinks he should be more concerned about his lapse in memory but considering he’s in the safety and warmth of his home, he knows that whatever happened, he had been safe and protected and cared for. He has over a thousand unread messages, most of them from Hagakure. It’s photos of—well, him.

A younger him, but still him, nonetheless. Brighter, and less exhausted, but still tired in a way he’d always been before Aizawa and Yamada adopted him, passing through abusive home to abusive home with little respite. There’s far too many photos to scroll through, and Hitoshi has the amusing thought of Hagakure using up all of her storage with photos of baby him.

His mind prickles with knowledge. He vaguely remembers learning about a criminal with a de-aging quirk that, also, had the fun side effect of memory loss during the de-aging duration and afterwards. Hitoshi catches sight of his reflection and grimaces at the realization of lost time. He hates de-aging quirks, but at least his younger self was able to live in a safe environment for a time, however short it might’ve been.

(He hopes his younger self knew what it was like to be loved, to feel safe, to fall asleep on a full stomach, blankets pulled up to his chin.)

He pads down the hallway to the sounds of breakfast. Most of Shouto’s attention is on the fried eggs he’s carefully flipping, spatula clenched between tight fingers. Hitoshi blinks at the sight, mouth curving at the bright green apron Jirou had bought them as a gag gift when they’d first moved into their apartment.

He raises an eyebrow at the table. It’s a considerable breakfast spread—natto, miso soup, bacon, toast. He whistles as he pads further into the room, spying the tea pot. “We celebratin’ something?” Hitoshi questions, eyebrows pinched as he wracks his brain for important dates and anniversaries. “Did I, like, miss a date when I was an infant or . . .?”

Shouto whirls around, almost spilling the pan onto the floor. His eyes are wide, disbelieving that Hitoshi is there, breathing, flesh and blood between his fingers. Hitoshi waves a hand in front of his husbands’ gob-smacked expression.

“Uh, Shouto? Hello~?” Hitoshi’s eyebrows climb higher. “Anyone home—?”

He’s interrupted with a surprised squeak, almost yanked into Shouto’s arms. Not that Hitoshi’s complaining, of course, always down for hugs and cuddling. Before he could ask what happened, Shouto pulls him into a kiss. His skin melts as Shouto’s fingers press into his skin. He hums light in the back of his throat, smiling as they break apart.

“Well,” he says once he’s caught his breath, smiling at the way Shouto looks in the morning light. “That’s one way to say good morning.”

Shouto snorts, and then draws him into another kiss, softer and drawling. They aren’t surprised when the fried eggs burn.