Kouji tries not to think about it, just like he tries to not think about a lot of things.
Aizawa-sensei tells him to close his eyes and scream and so he screams until he tastes blood at the back of his throat, unused to more than low whispers to his animal friends. He screams and screams and screams and then, at the end of the day, he curls up with his classmates and tries to feel like he’s accomplished something when he feels so far behind.
He tries to not feel so alone but it’s hard.
His rabbits and foxes and birds are too large and unwelcome in the small cabin that is their temporary stay and Kouji tries not to not let it get to him when he’s sternly told off for accidentally waking the rest of the class by calling for his friends in the sky in the morning.
Birds are never silent, their beaks formed for song high up in the trees and he loves to listen to them.
Kouji tries not to think about it but it’s like an itch he can’t scratch, the feeling of so many eyes upon him no matter how much he tries to curb the low, silent call that comes with longing.
Jirou tells him he makes strange noises in his sleep and he flushes red, denying it with frantic waves of his hands.
Their final against Present Mic is not his first interaction with bugs but it’s the first time he’s been thankful for their understanding and the reach of his quirk and he makes an effort to be kinder.
Takes care of where he steps and catching flies and bees to let them out, once getting his shoulder badly burnt after intervening between Bakugou who’d been intent on exploding a small raggedy moth.
The forest is alive with insects and Kouji feels them.
The scratch scratch of tiny legs beneath the earth, over earth, on trees, on grass, beneath rocks, in the water, on the water, soaring through the air, a nest built and carefully hidden beneath the wooden porch of the head cabin and-
Kouji tries not to think about it.
But there’s a spider on his pillow when he goes to bed and he swallows before hurriedly crawling into his sleeping bag, catching the spider in the palm of his hands and drawing it towards his chest, so very thankful that he’d gotten the corner of the room as eight tiny legs tap against his skin, calm and unresisting, almost curious as it lifts a front leg to tap against him, like a knock.
He opens his hands carefully once the light has been turned out and most are out cold in seconds after their intensive training. Even Tokoyami is sleeping, Dark Shadow quiet.
The light of the moon allows him just enough to crack open his hands and see the eight eyes looking back – four larger than the others, set on the lower row of eyes in the middle.
Kouji feels a tremble run through his body as it steps out onto his arm, the large black rump easily manoeuvred by the many legs covered in soft fur.
This closer Kouji can see its feet, two almost claw like appendages at the very end in a fuzzy paw like shape.
Like a small cats.
It moves up his shoulder where it settles, curled close to his throat.
Kouji draws a shuddering breath but he can’t deny he feels less alone as he closes his eyes.
He knows things have changed when Tooru peers over his shoulder, a squeak of surprise and then a soft brush of fingers as she reaches out to stroke a finger down the fuzzy back of the spider that remains still and calm.
“I thought you didn’t like insects, Kouda.”
He flushes but instead of hiding behind his hands and hurried gestures he seeks his voice, just like Aizawa-sensei wants him too.
“I used them against Present Mic in the final exam,” it comes out halting and Tooru make a noise, the way she does knowing that her facial expressions can’t be read, compensating for it by noise and gestures with her glove-clad hands.
“A change of mind then?” she suggests and he nods, peering down at the spider that has become his companion who is almost large enough to span the entirety of his palm.
His spider often sleeps under the flaps near his neck, hitching a ride there during the day, and he takes care to keep the space dry when they get a break in the hot springs.
“That thing again?” Kirishima sits down beside him, blinking at the creature. “You planning on keeping it? Give it a home?”
Kouji glances at the spider currently seated on the back of his hand and-
“So manly,” Kirishima sighs. “I want a gecko but my parents keep denying me.”
“A gecko?” Kaminari slides in place. “I want a gecko –those are awesome!”
“Not as awesome as snakes,” Ashido protests, slamming a hand against the table.
Kouji’s spider companion scuttles up his arm and backs into the flap of his skin, wary.
He lifts a hand, clicking his tongue softly to reassure it, crooning safety.
Kouji wakes up with his skin aflame with itches, a myriad of tiny voices calling for food and a scream.
He jerks up but almost immediately fangs sink into his neck and he freezes in place, breath forgotten as he lifts a hand and gently plucks his spidery friend from his shoulder, removing her fangs with a small wiggle of her body, whispering softly even as her children spill and clings all over him, their small legs carrying them towards his classmates who are scrambling away from him in horror.
“You should have said,” he whispers to black eyes. “I could have-“ but the world blurs and he breathes in, trying to steady himself.
One of the spiderlings have gotten into his ear and then his nose and his spider sits in his palm, expectant, waiting, watching as her children digs into his ear canals with a scratchscratchscratch.
Someone is yelling and as his mouth opens to answer spiderlings spill into him and the world tilts and-
He’s on his back and – he thinks he sees Aizawa-sensei, hands frantically brushing over his skin, fire licking too close, tiny bodies popping with sobs and screams.
He sees Todoroki, brows furrowed and Bakugou has a palm slammed over his mouth, another moving carefully controlled burst of explosions. Someone is sobbing – he can’t make out who but his spider is dead, her children dying.
Kouji tried not to think about it but he did and he forgot that alone is sometimes better than those who demand by nature and who knows no better than to survive.
+ 1 thing class 1-A gives him.
Many weeks later, when they’ve moved into their new dorms, Kouji gets a knock on his door after bidding goodbye to his rabbit companions and slinking upstairs before anyone could stop him.
He hesitates for a long moment before wrapping his blanket tighter around his shoulders and carefully prying it open, just enough to peer out.
Outside is a hovering basket and it takes him a moment to see the bright blue gloves holding it.
Tooru had recently recovered her new Hero suit- the fabric allowing her to blend in without actually having to strip, and she’d taken every moment to show it off outside class hours.
After her fourth time scaring Bakugou into nearly blowing up the kitchen she’d been forced to at least wear her gloves inside the dorms.
His dips, wavers, shame heating his neck.
“Hello, Kouji-kun.” He glances up at her, unsure at the sound of his first name, and he imagines she might be smiling as she holds up the basket for him to see. “This is for you.”
His hand clenches against the door before slowly, hesitantly opening it and she slinks inside, kicking it shut behind her before he has time to react.
“It’s a present from all of us,” she says, depositing it gently on his desk. “You’ve looked all miserable since training camp – which no-one blames you for,” she adds when he winces, hand waving. “And we knew Aizawa-sensei forbid you from bringing any of your wild animals inside. So. We went and talked to him – Bakugou actually joined in, can you imagine?” A low noise of amusement. “Anyway, he decided to make an exception for this one and this one only.” She holds up a finger, a little wag in playful warning.
Kouji swallows, swaying unsurely before steeling himself and taking a step forward, and then another, half-expecting a gummi spider to mock him as he reaches to pull off the checked blanket, Tooru very obviously stepping out of the way behind him.
A duck stares up at him, absolutely tiny, its feathers yellow and little beak such a pale orange it nearly matches the downy feathers and Kouji hears a whisper, softer, gentler than the spiders, identifying him as mother.
“She’s supposed to lock onto the first thing she sees, right?” Tooru hovers out of sight. “It’s why we decided I would be the best one to bring it – no face to focus on even if it accidentally saw me.” It comes out a bit wry and his mouth twitches even as he reaches out and gently, very gently, scoops her into the palm of his hands where she chirps an inquiry of mom? food? hungry.
“It’s okay if you don’t like her!” Tooru says to his silence. “We just thought-“
“N-No!” he interrupts her, feeling immediately bad for it but- “she’s perfect,” he reassures her and Tooru visibly breathes out and plops down on his bed, relief oozing of her.
“I’m glad,” she says. “We got some food and stuff for her too but it’s all downstairs and you don’t get any of it until after dinner! No more missing out, alright?” Her tone gentles. “We miss you.”
He lowers his face, shame heating his skin and tears prickling his ears.
Tooru watches him silently for a long moment, before apparently pleased her message had sunk in and bounding up from his bed, leaning in just close enough to plant a kiss on his cheek and he squeaks, drawing the small downy creature in his palm close, eyes wide.
“There’s the Kouji I know and love.” Tooru claps her hands together, pleased. “You should give her a name,” she urges, glancing towards his wall clock. “Anyway, Sato is the one cooking and you know that means dessert so think it over and-“
“Kumo-chan.” He doesn’t look at her, his eyes on the small duck. “Your name is Kumo-chan.”