Recently, things don't really turn out the way Hitoshi expects them to be.

"Congrats, Shinsou-kun."

Hitoshi tears his eyes away from the paper in his hands to Togeike. She grins at him, something Hitoshi can't quite decipher in her eyes. "You got scouted, right?" her tone is half-impressed, and half that something.

It takes Hitoshi a dumb minute to realize that that something is most certainly jealousy. The realization is startling. Halfway to disturbing.

"Wait, really? Shinshou did?"

"Hey," Hitoshi protests feebly, as Agoyamato invades his personal space to look at his scout list more clearly over his shoulder. "Damn," Agoyamato whistles, and to Hitoshi's absolute surprise, he bumps Hitoshi's back in a friendly, almostproud sort of way. "Hell yeah! General studies represent, dude."

Hitoshi, inexplicably, feels his guts twist slightly under the attention and whatnot. Embarrassed, he realizes. He feels embarrassed. Is he fucking blushing? "Thanks," he says, attempting to be a normal and functioning person in society.

"I think you might be the only gen kid who got scouted in our year." Togeike's smile twists a little, the sour tinge of envy softening into something more genuine. "Seriously. It's pretty damn impressive. Tell those Hero kids what's what, yeah?"

"Right," Hitoshi says. "Yeah. Thanks."

Agoyamato punches his arm in that amiable way once more before returning to his seat along with Togeike, leaving him effectively alone once more in his privacy. Hitoshi blinks dumbly, not quite sure on how to feel. That was the first elaborate interaction he's ever had with his classmates—and he certainly didn't expect anyone to congratulate him. He isn't even sure if he's ever said hi to either of them.

The embarrassment shifts into something, uncomfortably, close to shame, or maybe guilt. It's an unpleasant taste in his mouth. The look in Togeike's eyes is a familiar one—too familiar for comfort. He sees that look whenever he looks into the mirror.

And having that look returned at him is a bit surreal. A bit nasty.

No, but more importantly—he swallows, looking back at his list. More importantly. He really got scouted. He really fucking did it, somehow. Somehow.

Got blown sky-high on national TV actually amounts to something. Who would've known?

"Whoa, congrats, dude."

"Thanks," Hitoshi says gingerly, and then he looks up to see Midoriya lounging in the seat in front of him. His chin is resting comfortably on his forearms—both placed lazily on Hitoshi's desk—while he peers down invasively at the list.

Midoriya whistles, low and good-natured, "Eraser Head scouted you?" Despite everything, he sounds genuinely impressed. "Damn. Congrats."

Hitoshi stares, speechless; for a moment he is genuinely, completely staggered. Some part of him, he finds, has convinced himself that last night was a fever dream, or that he somehow got high and imagined the whole … thing. That last night never happened and Midoriya Izuku is a fucking figment of his imagination.

Seeing Midoriya in front of him, crisp and weirdly prim in his Yuuei uniform—a starkly different appearance compared to not even twenty-four hours prior—it just feels like a rather rude awakening.

"What," Hitoshi hisses, finding his voice again, "are you doing."

Midoriya looks up at him, eyes big and annoyingly real. "Congratulating you."

"You," Hitoshi starts, and stops, because he finds that he has too many things to say to the point he has absolutely nothing to say.

"Good morning to you too. Long night?"

Hitoshi half-glares at him. "I don't know what you're talking about," he says through his teeth. Because he definitely did not do anything last night. Nothing incriminating, for sure.

Midoriya smiles slowly, that familiar mellowed grin plastered on that freckled face. "Good answer," he says pleasantly, and Hitoshi is struck with an unfathomable, mad urge to smile back.

Midoriya then stands up, his bag still slung across his shoulder, and goes to his usual seat. Which apparently, is located in the very corner of the class.

He sits at the last row, snagging the spot right beside the window; virtually the furthest, most obscure point in class. Maybe that's why Hitoshi never noticed him before.

Or maybe that's just the guy's Quirk. Some sort of invisibility or something, something that cloaks his presence. Because the thing is, it's not just Hitoshi; it's that he doesn't remember anyone else ever mentioning Midoriya's name.

It's like last night Midoriya just pinged into existence and Hitoshi's fucking life.

When the bell rings, Hitoshi folds the paper carefully under his desk, and talks himself to not to stare at Midoriya too much. When class starts and the teacher does roll call and calls Midoriya Izuku's name, Hitoshi has half the mind to write the name down. But then he decided that would look too much as if he has a crush on that guy.

Which, he isn't. Not that it isn't, like, plausible to have a crush on—ugh. It's just that Hitoshi doesn't, and shouldn't have a crush. On anyone.

He doesn't know the kanji for Midoriya's name anyway.

Yet.


For the first time in his history as a Yuuei student, Shinsou Hitoshi enters the cafeteria and puts his tray down across from Midoriya Izuku's.

Midoriya looks perplexed, to Hitoshi's credit. "Huh," Midoriya blinks, once, and then he smiles amiably, "huh."

Hitoshi takes an onigiri and bites into it while maintaining full eye contact. An impressive show of dominance, he likes to think. "What," Hitoshi drily says with half-chewed rice in his mouth, "you think I'm gonna pretend like nothing happened after what happened ?"

They're sitting—or rather, Midoriya is sitting at the far part of the cafeteria—the one near the exit—when Hitoshi decides to join in. Not many kids are there with them, most choosing to sit nearer to the counters. Then again, Hitoshi does not really care about cafeteria-sitting-politics, or whatever.

"I guess not," concedes Midoriya. There is something in his voice that makes him sound strangely delighted, to a point where Hitoshi eyes him suspiciously. More suspiciously than before, that is. "So, this makes us friends, huh?" Eugh.

"Acquaintances," Hitoshi corrects him.

"Friends who eat lunch with each other."

"Acquaintances who eat lunch with each other."

"Friends who commit crimes together."

"Acquaintances who—" Hitoshi pauses, and squints. And then he says decidedly, in a very low voice, "Committed. Past tense. And crime. Singular."

Midoriya nods as if considering it, one spoonful of yoghurt waving in the air. "Breaking and entering and theft? Sounds pretty plural to me."

"Tell the whole school, why don't you."

Midoriya laughs again. His laugh is reserved, quiet. Just like everything else about him. "I'm not really interested in getting expelled," he says, and somehow, by the way he says it, gives Hitoshi a distinct impression that Midoriya doesn't really mean it. "And don't worry, I'm not interested in getting anyone expelled."

That one has more emphasis on it, like he does mean it. Hitoshi doesn't let himself relax yet, though.

"Well," Midoriya adds, after a moment of thought, "there is one guy.."

"What the fuck, Midoriya."

"Not you," says Midoriya like it's supposed to calm Hitoshi down. "No, seriously, not you. I'm rooting for you, you know."

Hitoshi pauses. "What?"

"You were awesome at the festival. You wanna go to Heroics, right?"

"What?"

"Oh yeah, you were really impressive. Your Quirk is really awesome," and then Midoriya puts his spoon down. And Hitoshi, as he will soon find out, really isn't prepared for the following onslaught of whatever this is:

"You were the only gen kid student who lasted beyond preliminary and I can tell that despite having such a powerful Quirk you use other strategies to get you last until the semifinals this is just a guess but your Quirk as all Quirks do require a certain condition right?" he does not wait for an answer. "It's amazing how you fare against Shiozaki-san despite her having a very strong Quirk you manage to incapacitate her in the matter of seconds! That's simply incredible I figured Todoroki-san manages to work out what your Quirk is though which is unfortunate I understand the element of surprise is necessary in a combat situation but you know what I think—"

"Midoriya."

"—and not to mention you got scouted by Eraser Head! He is a hard one to get by you know and with all due respect I think your Quirk is fit for underground work but of course if it isn't your preference I completely understand but the fact that he has his eyes on you alone is simply incredible did you know the last time he took an apprentice was—"

"Midoriya," Hitoshi hisses.

"—yes?" Midoriya blinks at him.

"People are looking."

For the first time ever, Hitoshi sees Midoriya look something close to sheepish. Good to know the guy still has some semblance of shame left. "Uh. Sorry. Bad habit. Old, bad habit. But. Yes," he has a slight blush on his cheeks, which makes Hitoshi blush for whatever godforsaken reason, so now Hitoshi is trying not to look at him in the eye. "Yeah. So. That's what I think. So no worries!"

"Right. No worries. For sure." Hitoshi stabs into a piece of salmon. Still not looking at him in the eye.

Midoriya smiles then, all traces of embarrassment just—poof. Gone. "For sure. And anyway, like I said, I'm rooting for you! I really think you deserve to get in the Hero Department. So I'm not trying to like, blackmail you into doing crime or giving up your seat or something like that."

Hitoshi contemplates this, chopsticks hanging in the air. "You're weird," Hitoshi tells him. Like he knows, but. He didn't know.

"So I've been told," Midoriya agrees mildly. "Anyway. Yesterday was … improvised. I really didn't expect you to show up like that."

"Why were you there?"

Midoriya considers this. "What do you mean?"

"Why were you there," Hitoshi repeats, studying his face intently. "What brought you there?"

"I was passing by," says Midoriya blandly, but there is something about the look in his eyes. Like it's sharper, somehow. Or perhaps duller. It's a little unclear.

"Lie," declares Hitoshi.

"No, really," Midoriya says, easy and slow, very convincingly. Not. "I do live around there, you know. I wasn't lying about that."

This again? Hitoshi shakes his head. "Bullshit. I've lived there since forever. I never saw you around."

"I just moved, actually."

Hitoshi can't help but scoff. "Yeah, right."

"You can stop by if you want."

Hitoshi pauses. Midoriya blinks at him innocently. "You're bluffing," Hitoshi accuses once more.

"No, for real. I mean, we live in the same area … and we are classmates, so might as well, don't you think?"

The bell rings. Hitoshi shakes his head, but it's not really directed at anything, he is just—a bit mindfucked. "What ?" He feels like he says that a lot around Midoriya Izuku. What? What? Hitoshi never knows that he is so fucking stupid before.

"Oh, I know," Midoriya says brightly as he gets up, cheery as all hell. "Let's walk home together, yeah?"

He doesn't wait for an answer, which starts to feel like a pattern. Hitoshi stares as Midoriya beams at his gobsmacked face and stands up to bring his lunch tray to the bin.

Recently, things don't really turn out to how Hitoshi expects them to be. They really don't.


Hitoshi isn't exactly a genius. He doesn't have an IQ of fucking, 200 or anything. He's well aware of it, but he also isn't stupid.

School ends without much of a note. But that's maybe because Hitoshi's mind is dangerously preoccupied with … this.

"Shall we?" Midoriya smiles at him, eyes bright too big for his face, both hands holding the straps of his bag in a blithely manner. He looks so young that it's almost misinforming. Hitoshi has an unshakeable feeling that he is befriending an overgrown elementary schooler masquerading as a Yuuei student.

Right. In hindsight, maybe Hitoshi brought whatever this is to himself, because he really can refuse. He should have. Instead, Hitoshi says, "yeah, sure. Whatever."

For the first time in his history as a Yuuei student, Shinsou Hitoshi walks home with a fellow student. And the student is none other than Midoriya Izuku.

It's really fucking weird.

"Where are we going?" because this isn't the way to the main entrance.

Midoriya looks back at him, and for a moment, his smile morphs into something more daring. Impish. "Support Department."

"What? Why would—" realization dawns on Hitoshi in full-blown horror. "Oh, no—"

"Hitoshi!" Hatsume Mei all but screams when she sees him, sprinting forward (at a very alarming speed) to jump him.

"Shit," Hitoshi manages to say before he gets a mouthful of pink dreadlocks and the sharp smell of oil and burning wires. Hitoshi is slightly in shock. No one has ever run-and-hug him before. Certainly not on that level of ferocity, and certainly not someone who he has just met yesterday.

Hitoshi also notes, helplessly, that Hatsume just completely bypasses the -kun suffix and just calls him by his first name. "Hello!" she smiles at him, and Hitoshi just stares at her with loss. She then jumps Midoriya, who looks resigned to his fate but with a smile. "Whatcha guys doing here? Oh, check this out," she says, and then she pulls out a gun and aims it at Hitoshi.

"What the fuck," Hitoshi says, moments before jelly that tastes like dried squid explodes all over his face. With the mercy of whatever god exists out there, none of it got to his uniform.

Hitoshi has never gone through the five stages of despair in a quicker succession in his life. "I'm leaving," he announces to the world, before Hatsume Fucking Mei pulls him back by the collar and says, "not before I introduce you to my new invention, Mrs. Clean! The Instant Cleaner inspired by Mr. Clean, but with a feminist and more competent twist—"

Despite her being how she is—or perhaps due to it—Hatsume Mei is a genius. The invention, Hitoshi notes bitterly as he is cleansed of whatever accursed thing shot on his forehead, does work.

"Exceptional as always," Midoriya smiles at her, "but let's stop traumatizing Shinshou before he decides to give us a restraining order."

Hatsume just laughs like it's a joke. It is not. "Whatcha guys doing here? Hey, wanna check out the Terfenol-D alloy I got?"

Hitoshi says with affront, "no," and Midoriya says with interest, "the magnetostrictive material?"

"Yeah, no idea how my mom got it pass the TSA and you know how they manufactured it exclusively in the States and—"

Hitoshi has half the mind to just slip to the door and go home and leaves—these two, but halfway to doing so he is a bit distracted by … by the everything that the Support Department is.

It's not even a class. Hell, it doesn't even look like a school—It's basically a high-tech elaborate chaotic garage with a distinct smell that says, Explosive! With an exclamation mark. There are several people—students Hitoshi realizes with slight alarm, students —walking around in hazmat suits. There are danger signs everywhere. Literally. Is that a radioactive sign?

Hatsume Mei looks just at home amidst all the chaos. There is a healthy sheen of sweat on her and the sleeveless shirt that she wears showcases what looks like very strong and very capable biceps under the expanse of her brown skin. Hitoshi has a mental flashback to how Hatsume had breezed through the preliminary at the Festival like it was nothing, and not just with the help of her inventions. Hitoshi wonders idly why some people are so blessed and yet he himself is like this.

But then again, Hatsume is like that.

"—anyone to test the prototype. It's completely safe," she says, and repeats with an ominously cheerful tone, "completely safe. So, would you do the honor to be the test subjects of my new babies? You just need to sign these liability contracts."

Hitoshi doesn't know what the hell she is on about, but, "no."

"Maybe next time," Midoriya assents. "Well, we should get going now."

"Aw, so soon? Well, whatever!" She sends them off with a cheerful farewell and the lingering smell of smoke and dried squid and something else unidentifiable but reminds Hitoshi, inexplicably, of city-wide electricity failure and the sensation of having burnt a toast in the morning. Somehow. "Goodbye!" The door is slammed to their faces.

"I thought that was a good idea," Midoriya says, contemplatively, like he is wondering why he had thought that. And then Midoriya tells him, "Sorry,"

Needless to say, Hitoshi has been regretting this whole thing. Since the moment he got dried squid jelly shot to his face, precisely. "No you're not."

"No more detour," Midoriya promises him as they walk across the yard from the entrance.

"Really."

"Really. I'm not exactly a social butterfly, you know," Midoriya says lightly. Hitoshi looks at him from the side.

That's true. Well, that's the thing, isn't it? Midoriya isn't exactly the social type.

Or at least that's what he appears to be, because there must be a reason as to why he just … missed Midoriya. Why he never noticed. Sure, Midoriya isn't the most eye-catching kid in class; some people would perhaps consider him to be a little plain, even. But how the hell is it that he didn't even remember Midoriya 's name? How is it that he barely remembered him being in the same class as he is?

He doesn't even think he's ever seen Midoriya talk to any of his classmates, or … or anyone, really.

Granted. That's not much different to Hitoshi's social life.

Hitoshi waits until they're halfway to the station before he decides to bite. "How did you know her, anyway?"

"Mei?" Midoriya seems to consider this. "It was a complete coincidence. She set me on fire."

Hitoshi doesn't even know where to begin with that.

"Not on purpose," Midoriya adds, after seeing the look on Hitoshi's face. "I mean, she did intend to set something on fire, but not me specifically. It was a whole ordeal with Powerloader-sensei and I had to get a new uniform and also an earful from Recovery Girl," he beams as he adds the touching ending of the story: "And then we became friends!"

Hitoshi distantly realizes that, considering his newfound position as Hatsume Mei's friend, he is very fortunate to just be shot in the face with questionably edible gelatine. This revelation does not make him feel better in the slightest, if not worse. Hitoshi isn't sure what to respond with, so he settles with a nice and polite, "the fuck?"

"Don't worry," says Midoriya. "Did you know our school's insurance policy covers second-degree burn injuries? No? Now you do."

Hitoshi wonders how he could've missed this. How any of them has missed this. He feels like he has never seen Midoriya before—before last night—but now he feels like he can't stop looking at him, because dude's so fucking bizarre. Hitoshi shakes his head, mostly to himself.

It's just so fucked up. Hitoshi isn't stupid. Is this —not for the first time, Hitoshi wonders, is this some sort of a trick? Or is Hitoshi just letting himself be roped into … into whatever this is? This crooked, off-kilter company? Did he just consensually accept an invitation to this dude's house ?

This dude, who, despite being in a hero school—fucking Yuuei, no less, please—despite it, he clearly has no regard for … or at the very least, he clearly has some sort of disclination to authority.

Hell—to the law.

The thing is, Hitoshi has a distinct inkling that he is currently being slowly and foolishly indoctrinated into a cult.

Which is so, so fucking funny, because Hitoshi literally has a brainwashing Quirk.

"Be straight with me," Hitoshi says, soberly, when they are in the train. "Am I joining a gang right now?"

Midoriya smiles. He does that a lot, Hitoshi has noticed. "No."

"Where is this going?"

An eyebrow raised delicately. "This?"

"Yes, this," Hitoshi says, a bit impatiently. "This. Where is this going? I go to your place, then what?"

Midoriya considers this. Hitoshi starts to understand that Midoriya is the kind of person who takes his time before answering a question, like he is actually thinking about it. Hitoshi has never met this sort of person before. "Whatever classmates do whenever they visit each other's places? We do have that algebra test coming up."

Fucking yeah, right.

"Yeah, right," Hitoshi says.

"You can bail out, if you want," Midoriya offers.

"No," Hitoshi says resolutely.

"Okay."

Hitoshi hasn't been to a friend's house in a long time, because he has issues. But Midoriya … isn't a friend.

Probably.

Hitoshi's place is a five minute walk away from the station—one of the more neglected stations in Musutafu—he knows this area like the back of his hand. Midoriya's place, as it turns out, is a small run-down apartment just a few blocks away. Hitoshi used to pass it going to his middle school every morning, the dwarfed building with chipped green paint and its rusty pipes and leaky ceilings. Every rainstorm, the bottom floors get flooded.

He stares at it for a while, his gut twisting with something. "The cheapest rent I could get," Midoriya says conversationally, as he climbs up the stairs. Hitoshi follows. Under their feet, the iron boards creak menacingly. "It's close to the station and just a few stops away from school, so I thought, eh."

Hitoshi recognizes the feeling in his gut as that uncomfortable mish-mash of shame and guilt he had felt this morning. So Midoriya was telling the truth.

One truth, he reminds himself. Just the one.

Midoriya stops suddenly in front of his door, his face somewhat blank for a second. He blinks at Hitoshi, and the smile is back like a flip of a switch. "It's a bit messy," he says apologetically. "And cramped, sorry. Please make yourself at home, though."

"Sorry for intruding," Hitoshi murmurs, as he opens his shoes and puts them beside Midoriya's red ones on the small space at the porch before hesitantly walking in, passing the bathroom at the narrow entryway.

Midoriya takes off his blazer and lays it on a rack. It didn't show that well last night, and the lighting in school washed him out; but underneath the unbridled light from the window, Midoriya's freckles are even more prominent above his tan. And his arms, though lithe, are lined with corded muscles. Hitoshi thinks about how he had pulled Nana's leash with a surprising strength. He thinks he sees some discolored lines that look like scars on them, but Hitoshi catches himself and looks away.

It's a small one-room studio apartment. The ceiling is low, only a few spaces above Hitoshi's head. At the corner of the room is a minimalist kitchen-sink set with a small fridge underneath. There is a modest-sized fan on the floor, near the single futon at the end of the room, which takes almost half the room size. It's right under the window.

The window has a simple white semi-transparent curtain, letting sunlight flow into the room freely which helps with making it feel less claustrophobic than it should be. No air-con. The apartment is clearly built to house only a single occupant.

It's not messy, per se. It's less messy, and more lived-in: a stack of books neat against the walls, next to an All Might headlamp on the floor, the series of post-it notes and posters pinned ( neatly, Hitoshi notes, in order by size) on one side the wall, the unopened ramen cups lining visibly in the wardrobe with the biggest duffel bag Hitoshi has ever seen leaning against it, on the other side.

The only clutter in the room is the mess of papers and markers on the small, foldable table right beside the fan, as though left by haste. The rest of the room is clean, tidy. Even the clothes hung to dry on the ramp by the window are neatly placed.

Hitoshi eyes a series of glass bottles set in orderly fashion under the window, reflecting the sunlight into green and yellow gleaming across the laminate flooring. Recycled bottles, judging from the familiar shapes, housing plants and greenery inside of them. Some are grown hydroponically, some with what looks like dirt and charcoal. They're probably the reason why the apartment smells a little like fresh earth. Fresh earth and instant coffee, with a hint of cheap air freshener.

It's definitely a very modest room, but it looks comfortable and almost immaculately clean. Somehow Hitoshi feels like ... it has a mature feel to it. Save from the All Might cut-outs adorning that one cluster on the wall, Hitoshi wouldn't have guessed a teenage boy lives here.

Hitoshi doesn't really know what he expected, but probably not this.

"Feel free to sit anywhere," Midoriya tells him as he puts down his bag and pulls out a laptop out of it and sets it aside on the futon. Hitoshi glances at it. It's an old model and it has tiny All Might stickers on it. The All Might thing is obviously … a thing. Hitoshi didn't expect that either. "Coffee? I only have the instant kind, though."

"Sure," Hitoshi says, feeling awkward and very out of place. "Thanks."

"Milk, sugar?"

"Uh, no thanks."

Midoriya hums noncommittally and opens the window—letting the breeze in—before busying himself with a thermos at the kitchen. Hitoshi carefully picks a corner to sit down, taking off his own bag. He notices a 9x9 rubik's cube under the foldable table. It's solved. On top of it is a pack of playing cards, bound by a rubber band.

Hitoshi then, not for the first time in the last twenty-four hours, wonders what the fuck is he doing right now.

He thinks: what now?

Midoriya turns around, holding two mugs. He hands Hitoshi the one with a faded All Might bunny printed on it.

Hitoshi takes it with a muttered thanks, and watches as Midoriya takes a sip and puts his own steaming mug down on the floor. And then Midoriya looks at him, and says, "okay. Go on."

Hitoshi stares at him questioningly.

"Go on," Midorya says again, patiently. "You didn't come here to do math homework, did you?"

"No," Hitoshi says, putting his own mug down, untouched. He scrutinizes Midoriya carefully, watching the ghost of a smile imprinted on the corner of Midoriya's mouth.

Midoriya watches him right back. Silent. He is waiting, Hitoshi realizes. Waiting for Hitoshi. This is probably why he invited—no, why he took Hitoshi here. To his place, where he can monitor and control the situation without any outside influences. Hitoshi isn't stupid. Reckless, he admits. But not stupid. He saw this coming.

So Hitoshi asked him the question that has festered in his head ever since the moment he saw Midoriya in his neighbour's front yard. It doesn't seem like your neighbour is a very good neighbour, Midoriya had said.

"How did you know?" Hitoshi asks him. "How did you know about Mr. Nakamura?"

Midoriya looks at him for a silent beat, his face carefully bereft. "What do you mean?" he says, mildly.

It irks. Hitoshi scowls. "You know what I mean. How did you know no one would stop you from taking the dog? How did you know the dog was abandoned ?" Hitoshi knows, because he lives next to them. And more importantly, "How did you know that Nakamura is convicted?"

They didn't cover that on the news. They did, but Nakamura's name was not revealed. And certainly not his address. "Living around doesn't explain any of that," says Hitoshi.

There is a charged silence, so thick and stark Hitoshi could feel it. He knows this isn't a good idea, this whole thing. He may be a first year student in a hero institute, practically still on a wannabe level of a hero—or precisely because he is still on that level—he knows that this is a rash move: he has completely no idea what Midoriya is capable of. Hell, he doesn't even know what Midoriya's Quirk is. And yet.

What really, really bothered Hitoshi wasn't the fact that he caught Midoriya breaking and entering. Hell, it wasn't even the lockpicking.

That's your name, isn't it?

"And living around sure as fuck doesn't explain how you could possibly know," Hitoshi presses on, trying to find anything, a semblance of any emotion at all on Midoriya's big, blank eyes, "that the dog's name is Nana."

Those eyes blink. Green and wide and empty.

And then Midoriya laughs. It's neither reserved or quiet; it's a loud, full-blown belly laugh.

"You—" Hitoshi starts, furiously, but Midoriya laughs harder like Hitoshi just said the funniest shit ever.

"Sorry," he chokes out, and Hitoshi has an incredible urge to deck him in the face. "Sorry, sorry," he wipes tears— actual tears, off the corner of his eyes. "It's just—hold on. Okay. I just didn't expect.." he takes a giant breath and sighs, mirth still visible on his face. And then he says, blithely and blatantly, "sorry. I'm just trying to look for a good excuse right now."

Hitoshi doesn't even know where to begin with that. That's also starting to become a pattern. "What."

"Would you believe me if I tell you I'm your stalker, or something, and that's how I know?"

Midoriya phrases that like a genuine question, like what is the powerhouse of the cell and Hitoshi is supposed to answer like mitochondria. Hitoshi starts to feel his ears and face heat alarmingly. "What—no!"

"I thought not," Midoriya agrees, like it's a fucking group discussion. And then, not even giving Hitoshi a chance to recover, he says, "his daughter asked me."

A pause. Hitoshi feels like someone just threw cold water on him. "His daughter?" he repeats.

"She asked me to take care of the dog."

Hitoshi's brain short-circuits, for a second. He stares at Midoriya, caught off guard. Midoriya stares at him right back. Unflinching. Unreadable.

His daughter. Nakamura's daughter. Nakamura, convicted, no less than a week ago. The news. The fucking news, the details of it, the—

And then it clicks.

"It's you," says Hitoshi. "It was you."

Midoriya smiles. All teeth, and no good.

"I don't know what you're talking about," says Midoriya.

I don't know what you're talking about, Hitoshi had said. Good answer, Midoriya had replied.

Hitoshi does not smile back. "Holy fucking shit. Fucking hell. Fucking fuck." He stands up, for no reason but to pace across the small room. He stares outside the window. There is nothing to see but more declining neighbourhoods slums. The walls are thin; the noises from outside trickle down the room. Someone playing piano. A TV. A baby crying. Husbands shouting. A dog barking.

He doesn't know how long he stands there, staring at the skyline. Dusk is coming. Hitoshi's head is in pain. The news. Nakamura. Convicted, convicted. Nakamura's daughter, a skinny little thing, sometimes Hitoshi sees her playing marbles at the corner of the street. He never talked to her. And now he never will.

Hitoshi turns around to look at Midoriya, still sitting calmly in place. Legs crossed underneath him, steaming mug by his side. Scars all over his arms. Watching Hitoshi with big, mild, inscrutable eyes. "You," Hitoshi says to him. "You're a fucking vigilante."

The word drops not quite like a bomb. Less like a mentos in a bottle of coke, and more like a thunderclap. The sudden stillness that comes after it. The hitched breath, the anxious anticipation.

A vigilante. In Yuuei. A vigilante in the most prestigious Hero Institute in all of Japan—hell, the world. No, no, the question is—"What do you want?"

For the first time in this conversation, Midoriya shows an expression other than whatever that bland smile is supposed to mean. "Sorry?"

"What do you want from me?" Hitoshi has always been one to cut to the chase. "Blackmail?" He did commit a crime. It doesn't matter on what basis. He's a fucking Yuuei student himself and he just got himself implicated with an honest-to-fuck vigilante . "What, you wanna—sabotage me, or, or you want a seat in the Hero Department —"

"Hey."

Midoriya's word is a sharp cut, the closest thing to a snap out of his soft-spoken mouth. It surprises Hitoshi enough to startle him out of his near manic rambling.

"Calm down," Midoriya says, in a much more subdued tone, though he sounds more serious than Hitoshi has ever heard him. "I'm not trying to do anything like that. I meant what I said, Shinsou-kun. I am rooting for you."

"Yeah?" Hitoshi wills his voice not to shake in his anger, anxiety, confusion. "Pretty hard to believe now that I know you're a criminal."

Something indecipherable flits quickly across Midoriya's face, like a shadow. And then his face is carefully blank again, a sort of unreadable, artificial bereftness. "You don't trust me."

"No shit," Hitoshi snaps. And then, surprising even himself, "are they—in this too? Hatsume, and, and Todoroki—"

The bereftness disappears. "Todoroki ?" honest confusion, and then, "oh, you mean ... Natsuo. And Mei. No, they're not."

Hitoshi is about to say he doesn't have any reason to believe that, anyway, when Midoriya adds after a short consideration, "well, not this one, anyway.."

"You're fucking unbelievable," Hitoshi tells him, angrily and despairingly. Angry at Midoriya for roping him into this. Angry at himself because technically he roped himself into this. Despaired by just the general state of his life.

"Listen, Shinsou-kun," Midoriya says, and the nerve of this guy, Hitoshi swears, to sound so apologetic. "I meant it. I didn't expect you to be in the picture—you sort of, well. Threw a wrench in my plan, actually. But you're cool and we had fun, so all's well that ends well, right? And—"

"Of course not," Hitoshi seethes. "What is wrong with you."

"—I'm not trying to incriminate you," Midoriya finishes, almost gently. "Or drag you into this. I promise."

Hitoshi doesn't know what … Hitoshi doesn't know what this guy is capable of, now that Hitoshi has put a name on it. Vigilante. Midoriya is not just a weird guy, or a quirky guy, or whatever the fuck Hitoshi assumed he was. Midoriya Izuku is a straight up vigilante. "Yeah?" Hitoshi snaps, biting. "And why the hell would I believe that?"

"Because I don't want a seat in the Hero Department," Midoriya says, with the same subdued affect. "I'm not interested in going to Heroics."

And despite it all—despite the bigger questions, the bigger issues, the fact that Hitoshi's future is on the line—that one revelation stops Hitoshi short.

"What?" he says, incredulous.

"I don't want to be a hero," says Midoriya, matter-of-factly, even though it doesn't make any fucking sense.

"You're a fucking vigilante," Hitoshi points this out severely. Midoriya doesn't reply.

Hitoshi looks at him, not for the last time, like Midoriya is a box of puzzles to be deciphered. A fucked up box of puzzles with wild green hair and eyes too big for his face. A vigilante in Yuuei , of all places, and now he tells him he doesn't even want to be a hero?

Hitoshi doesn't fucking get it. The more things get revealed, the more questions are raised. Too many missing puzzle pieces. "If that's not what you—then what the hell are you doing in Yuuei?"

The bereftness returns. The empty look, mollifying Midoriya's expression to smooth, freckled stone. Like a closed door, or a put out light.

Hitoshi has about enough of this, but his head is now in full overdrive. There is something, something that should be obvious. What would a vigilante be doing in Yuuei, if he doesn't want to be a hero? There is absolutely no reason, unless … unless ..

Nakamura. The Hero Department. Nakamura. Yuuei. Vigilantism. Nakamura's daughter.

The Hero Department.

USJ.

Nakamura.

Unless. Unless the vigilante has a goal. Unless there is a Villain to take down by means of entering Yuuei.

Hitoshi's throat is suddenly, achingly dry.

"You're in Yuuei because of the League of Villains," says Hitoshi hoarsely. "Aren't you?"

"Wow," Midoriya says softly, after a bout of silence. The empty look is still there; somewhere in the eyes, Hitoshi thinks. Like the green are a little more dead.

But Midoriya smiles at him, a slow bloom across his face, and eyes a little dead.

"You really are cool," Midoriya says, sounding inexplicably admiring. Admiring of Hitoshi. "You really do deserve to get into Heroics, Shinsou-kun."

And then he gets up, takes his mug to the sink, turns his back against Hitoshi, and starts washing.

Hitoshi stares at him dumbly as the sound of water running fills the apartment. "You.." Hitoshi doesn't even. He can't even fucking. They were in the middle of a life or death conversation, and he just—the fuck? "Do you not. Have anything at all. To fucking say for yourself?"

"Not really," Midoriya answers lightly, his mug clinking as he takes down a drying rag by the cabinet.

Hitoshi gapes at him. He is standing in the middle of this guy's apartment, this guy, who—whose secrets, whose agenda Hitoshi just unearthed. Agenda that could not only get him prosecuted—now with the goddamn League of Villains in the picture, it's an agenda that could get Midoriya killed.

And yet.

"Not really?" Hitoshi repeats. He doesn't know whether to feel angry (again) or in awe (sort of). "What, do you think I wouldn't … do you think I wouldn't fucking tattle on you?"

Midoriya's shoulders shrug. "You could tell people, if you want."

Hitoshi can't help but scoff in disbelief. Offended, really, by how easily Midoriya is taking this in stride. "Do you think I don't want to?"

Midoriya puts the mug on the drying shelf, and turns to look at Hitoshi, leaning against the sink. "I don't know, Shinsou-kun. Do you?"

And then Hitoshi finds, amazingly, that he is stunned silent. Tongue-tied.

Traitorous, awful voice that he has so resolutely suppressed slips out from the trenches of his mind: Nakamura deserves it, the voice says. Deserves worse.

And then Hitoshi thinks of Midoriya, under the streetlight, cupping the underside of a dog's jaw like it could break. It's okay, girl, it's okay.

And he thinks about about Nakamura on trial for acts of terrorism, property damage, homicide, and child abuse.

There are so many things wrong in the past fifteen minutes on so many fucking level. Do you? Does he want to?

Like it's so fucking easy. Fucking yes no answer. It's not.

Instead, Hitoshi says quietly, "you know what my Quirk is."

Midoriya doesn't reply. Hitoshi continues, "you know what my Quirk does. And even putting my Quirk aside—I can do a lot of damage to you with this—with this information. I could get you into serious trouble. What are you going to do about that?"

The smile fades, but the eyes—maybe it's a trick of light. They look more alive, if a little. He shrugs, a corner of his mouth quiriking into something not really a grin. "What information?" he says. Casual, like it's the fucking weather. "I never admitted to anything."

And he didn't, Hitoshi realizes, with something akin to astonishment or dread. The whole fucking conversation and he didn't say it even once. He didn't admit to anything, it was just ... Hitoshi, grasping at straws, running in circles.

"Of fucking course," Hitoshi says, shaking his head. Feeling defeated, but also somehow lighter, clearer. And a bit unhinged. "So now what?"

Midoriya considers this. "Not sure," he says contemplatively. "I never really had anyone over before. We do have that algebra thing."

"You're insane," Hitoshi tells him. And then he says, off-handedly, "what's your Quirk anyway?"

Midoriya grins, then, a genuine thing—nothing like the empty, vacant smiles from before. "My Quirk..?" he mulls, amused. And then Midoriya tells him.

"Oh, fuck off," Hitoshi says.