“You will join us Persuasion, it’s only a matter of time!” The tall dark themed villain, henceforth to be referred to solely as Edgelord, spreads their arms wide. “Even as we speak, my minions are combing through your files for the names of your loved ones!”
“Is that so?” Hitoshi smirks inwardly before looking off into the distance. “I’ve always wanted to be a hero...”
He intones the words gravely relishing in how the villains hang on his every word. “And I knew this might happen someday...”
He looks up then and flashes his teeth. “Would you like to know where I’ve hidden their bodies?”
“How dare you!” A lackey from the back of the room shouts, making to step forward. Edgelord snaps out their arm to stop him and immediately strikes a new pose.
Hitoshi subtly takes control of his new puppet lackey.
“I’ll excuse your disrespect this time Persuasion but my patience will not last! Your only hope to get out of here is to agree to my demands!”
Edgelord dissolves into maniacal laughter and Hitoshi focuses on testing his chains. Hm. Not much give and the old-school padlock on the back is too far for him to pick. Damn. A whole day's salary on upgrading his gloves to the new lockpick nail-extensions - the patented LPNEG support gear for underground heroes - and he can’t even use it. Truly, a fate worse than death.
He’s just about to fuck subtlety and use Puppet Lackey to attack Edgelord when the door is suddenly kicked in, falling clean of the frame to crash onto the floor with a thud.
Smoke billows around the approaching figure and all Hitoshi can see is a shrouded form and a custom black medical mask with an eerie grin stitched on.
“You disappoint me Yashi. I thought we had a deal.”
Edgelord takes a step back. “S-Smiles! I-I can explain!”
“Can you?” The figure steps forward and the smoke moves with them, spreading and pooling to reveal more features.
A black dress shirt with a hooded sweater vest on top. Sunglasses over the eyes, hood covering most of the face, and that freaky face mask; it all combines to form a single picture.
Smiles, the info broker.
If there’s anyone that could have found something on Hitoshi’s family it would be Smiles.
“This isn’t what it looks like!” Edgelord shrieks, stepping in front of Hitoshi as if to hide his bruised face from view.
And that. Doesn’t make sense.
Hitoshi raises an eyebrow, ignoring the twinge of pain as it pulls on his swollen cheek. Edgelord actually looks more afraid of Smiles than Hitoshi is.
“Well, why don’t I tell you what it looks like and you can correct me if I’m wrong, hm? Because what it looks like, is that you signed my terms to gain access to the bank logs and then you tried to stab me in the back.” Smiles’ aura burns dark with a promise of violence. “And you know what I do to contract breakers…”
He lets the threat hang and Hitoshi can see Edgelord start to shake when Smiles claps his hands together suddenly. “Of course this might all just be a misunderstanding. You wouldn’t be the first to simply not read what you’d signed.”
Edgelord starts nodding energetically and Smiles holds up a hand. “That is of course no excuse for betrayal but I’m willing to let it slide so long as we go over it again and add some clauses for reparation purposes. Breaking into your hideout today was very stressful, you know so I’ll need to be compensated for wasting my time.”
“B-But what about-”
“Leave Persuasion as he is for now.” Smiles gestures vaguely at Puppet Lackey. “Dagger will be more than enough to guard him for you while we iron out the details…”
Edgelord and his other minions immediately head for the staircase in the back of the room and for a moment Smiles alone is left facing Hitoshi.
It’s impossible to tell for sure because the broker is wearing sunglasses but Hitoshi almost gets the feeling that the other has just winked at him.
Then Smiles turns to follow the rest and Hitoshi and Puppet Lackey are alone.
Hitoshi had always wanted to be a hero.
He’d never thought it would end up like this.
After his first sports festival where he was the underdog from gen ed that absolutely dominated, Aizawa-sensei - freaking Eraserhead!!! - had taken Hitoshi under his wing as a personal protege. And what that meant was that aside from the quirk training and capture weapon training and hand-to-hand combat training, the most important lesson Aizawa had imparted was this: ”Quirks like ours are rare and coveted by villains. That’s why it is important for heroes like us not to exist. We lead separate lives as hero and civilian. We wipe all traces of ourselves from the media, not only for our quirks to be more effective in the field, but to keep us from becoming targets. We do not form attachments, we do not dress like heroes, and we focus on saving from the shadows. That is what it means to be Underground.”
It had made sense to Hitoshi at the time. Aizawa-sensei was the only hero teaching at UA that went by their civilian name after all and the moniker Eraserhead was only known because of paperwork and signatures and not because of action footage or promo shots or merch. Hitoshi himself had only learnt the hero name when they had started training together since he couldn’t call him Aizawa while on patrol.
As far as Hitoshi knows there might still be some UA kids that don’t know what a badass the scruffy man is and just how cultivated his harmless and lazy air actually is.
Hitoshi had of course agreed with stars in his eyes and hope in his heart and even as he was barred from participating in future sports festivals - even as footage of his epic win was pulled- even as the name Shinsou Hitoshi was separated from the hero student Persuasion with a mind control quirk- Hitoshi had kept his eye on the prize.
Saving people would always be more important than respect and recognition.
And for the first few years everything had gone well. Persuasion was a rising star doing the work that mattered and making the streets safe.
But then, people had started to talk.
Hitoshi sighs and rubs the feeling back into his wrists. This whole thing strikes him as weird. Smiles showing up right then, Edgelord acting like he needed to hide the fact Persuasion was tied up from said info broker, the fact that Hitoshi knows Smiles would have the info Edgelord wanted from him and yet the villain hadn’t even asked… It’s strange.
Hitoshi stretches languidly and gets to his feet. That’s a problem for another time. For now Edgelord and Smiles both are out of Hitoshi’s reach but Puppet Lackey - apparently the villain known as Dagger - is ripe for the taking.
So Hitoshi does.
It’s a couple days later that he can finally arrange a meet with Aizawa no-longer-sensei for a chat about it all.
His mentor listens quietly before blowing out a harsh breath and glaring into his ever present coffee mug. “Smiles huh? It should be fine…”
Hitoshi starts to splutter at the man’s lackadaisical attitude but Aizawa holds up a hand. “Listen. You didn’t hear this from me. But most undergrounds tend to ignore Smiles and the man does the same to them. He’s got the most extensive network when it comes to anything heroes and that includes us. Weaknesses, aliases, real names, families, Smiles probably knows it all.” His mug hits the counter hard enough for coffee to slosh over the lip and onto Aizawa’s fingers. The man doesn’t blink. “The info he’s got, we should all be dead.”
He stares Hitoshi down, in the ‘this is a teaching moment’ way and Hitoshi startles.
“So why aren’t we?”
Silence falls as both heroes stare into the depths of their dark drinks as if searching for the secrets to the universe.
Aizawa is the one to break the silence. “No one knows exactly what his deal is or why he’s keeping what he knows to himself. Don't get me wrong, Smiles has sold out plenty of heroes and definitely plays both sides of the law. Nothing that’s resulted in deaths though or we’d never be able to write him off as harmless. He helps plan heists and coordinates them for gaps in patrols. He’ll sell a hero’s weakness if it suits him but then warn the hero that he did it. It’s all very... “ Aizawa waves his hand slightly. “iffy. People don’t like that he has the info but we can’t deny that pissing him off by trying to take him down would be too reckless. And then of course there’s the fact that it’s different with us Undergrounds… far as I know he’s only ever sold secrets about heroes that wound up being discovered as corrupt. Those of us that he deems ‘the good ones’ well…” Aizawa takes a deep swig of his coffee and Hitoshi knows it’s just a stall so he can sweep the break room for listening ears even though they’d both checked for bugs before this conversation began. Even so his voice lowers impossibly further. “I get info on cases that no one even knows I’m running. Packets just show up on my doorstep.”
Hitoshi's eyes widen. “That’s. That’s insane!”
Aizawa hums. “I prefer to think of it as a compliment.” and then the hero is leaning forward more serious than Hitoshi has ever seen him. “I’ll tell you what I’ve never heard of though. Smiles showing up on scene just because a ‘good’ hero was captured…”
Hitoshi freezes as Aizawa leans back once more. “...but just what that means for you, I guess only time will tell.”
It’s fucking raining.
Hitoshi hates patrolling in the rain.
No hero enjoys it - except maybe Ms. Joke if only for the fresh material for her god awful sense of humor - but Hitoshi especially finds it to be hell. His quirk doesn’t exactly help in a fast paced fight and while relying on his agility, sneak attacks and capture scarf usually work for him, in the rain that’s a whole other story. The scarf is slippery when wet meaning half of his most impressive stunts are out and while his shoes have special soles and tips for climbing walls they too are not as effective when wet.
All of that culminates in the situation Hitoshi finds himself in.
“Come come Persuasion I’m not a betting man but the odds are not in your favor.”
The man roars with laughter at his own joke and Hitoshi grimaces.
He doesn’t need to count and start categorizing his foes by threat level to know he’s fucked. His wet hair sticks to his face, and he quickly swipes it away with a gloved hand, hastily tying it back with his capture weapon. The thing is basically useless now anyway and his hair is longer than he’d realized when it isn’t defying gravity like usual. He can always cut the piece off with his knife if he needs to restrain anyone but he’s not going to shatter the current peace by drawing his secret weapon from its forearm sheath.
Speaking of the peace, the villains remain in the half-circle that keeps him trapped against the wall but they aren’t moving forward to attack and Hitoshi hisses a curse between his teeth.
There’s only one reason they’d hold back in the pouring rain while he dealt with his bad hair day.
A sales pitch.
After all that trouble of wiping his records - most notably his kickass Sports Fest - he’d expected that his biggest struggle would be contending with people that had figured out his quirk. Not fucking sales pitches from every villain on the streets that thinks he’d be a quick sell.
Fucking no thank you.
The ‘charming’ talks are almost worse than the ones that threaten to find the people he cares about to force him into it.
They usually shut up when Hitoshi retaliates that he doesn’t have any. Though there was that one guy that got all emotional and offered a truce to go drinking on the weekends. So that was fun.
“...us by your side no one would dare to think of you as…”
Oh right. Sales pitch. Hitoshi should probably be using this time to either pay attention or plan a sneak attack but this goddam rain smacking repeatedly on the top of his head and dripping into his eyes is really starting to piss him off.
“Listen.” He interjects when the soggy feeling takes over his entire shirt and starts spreading to his pants. “Can we just. Cut to the chase? I know catching a fever immediately after being out in the rain is just a myth but let’s not take any chances, you know? You want me, I decline, you claim I’m playing hard to get, I punch you in the face - such much fun stuff on the agenda so let's get to it, yeah?”
“You-!” an enraged thug shouts before being cut off by the boss man lifting a hand.
Hitoshi keeps hold of the response but doesn’t snare him with his quirk quite yet. There’s a limit to how long he can delay it but considering he’s outnumbered and these crooks know his hero name, tipping his hand too early will just result in his control being broken immediately and then he’ll be back to square one.
He needs to be smart about this.
“Is that your final answer then?” Bossman asks, looking remarkably disappointed for someone who must have known this wasn’t going to work.
Hitoshi doesn’t answer. He grabs control of Enraged Thug and slowly lifts a hand. “Start throwing trash cans.”
The effect is immediate. Enraged Thug tosses the nearest can at the heavens, full trash bags falling towards the ground like black and smelly raindrops and bursting on impact.
Hitoshi draws his weapon in the confusion, slamming the hilt into the nearest villain to knock them out.
Enraged Thug heaves another can and is tackled to the ground before he can grab a third. Hitoshi feels the connection snap but doesn’t slow, swiping at the next with a controlled desperation. Three have been incapacitated leaving only six in his way, more than he can currently handle but he only needs to stall till backup arrives.
He moves like Aizawa taught him, leaping and ducking and relying on his weighted shoes to attack with more than his fsts and knife. The weapon is a deterrent, almost a bluff since heroes keep their cuts too shallow to do much and the hilt slam is mostly effective with the element of surprise but it’ll work to keep the villains from rushing him and he can take them down one at a time if he’s fast enough.
A levitation quirk grabs hold of one foot right as he was using it to pivot and Hitoshi hits the ground hard. His head knocks the pavement with enough force to make him see stars and his teeth clack together painfully on impact.
“Night night Hero.” A voice says as a boot looms into his spotty vision.
Hitoshi tries to move but the alley spins and his body slumps as darkness swirls behind his eyelids. At least he knows they won’t kill him... though he’ll probably be waking up tied to a chair again.
Serves him right for wanting an opportunity to test his LPNEG.
A commotion breaks out above him but the sound filters through as if from far away.
”Well well, what do we have here?”
“Shit no! We didn’t mean to-!”
When Hitoshi wakes it is slowly and to the feel of the cold ground pressing against one cheek while a gentle finger taps at the other one.
“Hey you ok?”
Hitoshi groans before finally managing to peel his eyes open. The sight that greets him is, in a word, green. Green hair in a neat French braid, green eyes sparkling brightly behind a pair of glasses, green umbrella held above them to combat the still pouring rain.
“Finally,” the man breathes, sounding immensely relieved. “You’ve been out for a while, I was about to call an ambulance…”
Hitoshi’s head aches as he sits up but he ignores it. He’s had worse getting pushed down the stairs in middle school, this is nothing. Though he’ll probably need to report and get checked out when his backup arrives.
He leans a hand against the wall to steady himself as he scans his surroundings and blinks. “This. Isn’t the alley I passed out in.”
His tone is bland as if he’s commenting on the weather and perhaps that’s why the man over him laughs.
The stranger then tilts his head to one side, rainwater sliding down his forehead at the motion. “Isn’t it?”
Hitoshi scrutinizes Midoriya closely. He hadn’t noticed before but now that those glasses are off there is something almost familiar about him. But he can’t place the resemblance and it’s driving him crazy.
“Here you go!” Midoriya says, placing a cup of steaming hot coffee before him and sliding his now dry glasses back on. “I-I’m pretty good at guessing preferences but if you don’t like it I can-“
Hitoshi tunes him out and reaches for the holy grail before him, ignoring the part of his brain yelling about it being sunrise and Hitoshi needing to sleep soon. The stuttering and air of nervousness hadn’t been present in the alley outside but that’s just making Midoriya seem even more familiar which is freaking weird.
He takes a careful sip and his eyes widen. Black. Extra coffee grounds. Half a sugar packet. Piping hot. If he didn’t know better he’d think he made this cup himself.
“-and n-now you’re just staring at me, I knew it, it’s terrible, I’ll m-make you a n-new one!”
“Marry me.” Hitoshi murmurs, cradling the gift of life between his hands and inhaling deeply.
Midoriya’s face turns bright red and the stuttering worsens while now accompanied by wildly waving arms. “Th-That’s not. Y-You’re just. I-I’m”
He covers his face with his hands and Hitoshi can’t stop the small smile that pulls at his lips. He feels weird dressed in the man’s backup sweater and spare pants that he keeps on hand for ‘clumsy moments’ but honestly he’s not in a rush to leave either. There’s something about this small library cafe that feels warm, inviting almost, and Hitoshi slowly sips his coffee. He could get used to this.
Midoriya finally calms down, enough to go open the front door, and immediately tired and shabby looking adults and some teens start wandering in.
Midoriya busies himself behind the counter, making various drinks and pastries before heading to the computer banks.
“How’s the job search going?” he asks a teenager in a rumpled suit as he hands over a coffee.
“Much better now that I’m only applying for remote work. You were right that it was the disparity between my face and actual age holding me back. I just have to finalize my portfolio and I should land something soon.” He takes a noisy sip from the coffee before startling. “Midoriya no. you’ve gotta stop giving me freebies, I’ll be on my feet soon.”
“Don’t worry about it Mogami-san. I’ll be more than happy to accept a donation once you’re rich and famous.”
The baby-faced Mogami laughs and Midoriya heads towards the next in line of what Hitoshi quickly grasps as regulars.
“Good morning Yukina," he greets a girl in a stained sweatshirt as he hands over a sweet bun. It isn’t chilly in the library, or even outside, but she keeps her hood up even as it drips rainwater into her eyes. “Having any trouble with the homeschooling site?”
Yukina takes the food with a thin hand that trembles slightly and cradles the bun to her chest. “Um. It’s ok.” she says softly. “I need to read some books from the list and write an essay but I don’t…”
“Well you’re in the right place for that,” Midoriya replies kindly. “Why don’t you focus on math and biology for now and I’ll prepare some recs for you to take out when you leave.“
Her thin fingers draw circles on the table as she ducks her head low. “Thank you Midoriya.”
“It’s my pleasure Yukina, I'm really proud of you.”
Midoriya places a water bottle down and moves on.
Hitoshi finally tears his eyes away and focuses on returning the concerned messages from his colleagues. It’s starting to feel a little like he’s intruding.
Midoriya eventually returns from the rounds and informs Hitoshi that his clothes will be dry soon which is just as well since he’s being ordered to head back to the agency “right the fuck now and get checked for a concussion like a normal person you absolute moron”
Hitoshi taps out a quick “Love you too, waiting for my clothes to dry” with a winking cat face and then a winking kiss face just to piss Phantom Thief off.
When he looks up again Midoriya is at the library counter helping a boy with a library card application. He’s wearing a sweatshirt over what is obviously a UA uniform as if to hide it and his subdued posture reminds Hitoshi of himself back then in the worst possible way.
“Um I can’t find the place for quirks?" he fiddles with his gloves, eyes firmly at his feet, "I- my quirk is-“
Midoriya wags a finger at the kid playfully, ignoring how the overly dramatic motion sends his glasses sliding down his nose. “None of that. This is a library, not a bank. We don’t discriminate here.”
The kid blinks at him dumbfounded as if disbelieving and Midoriya waves a hand at the wall where a painted slogan hangs prominently.
~~Libraries Commit to Keeping Information Free for EVERYONE~~
Each letter of ‘EVERYONE’ is a different color and size and the kid swallows hard, staring Midoriya down as if looking for the catch.
Hitoshi drinks the last of his coffee thoughtfully as the kid’s shoulders finally ease. He’d thought it strange that Midoriya hadn’t asked about his quirk yet but had rationalized it as being because he’d found him in his hero costume and somehow recognized him. But maybe... Maybe Midoriya didn’t ask because it just doesn’t matter.
The kid hands over the forms and Midoriya adjusts his glasses as he starts typing things in.
Hitoshi can’t hold back a soft smile from tugging at his lips.
It’s a refreshing change from the rest of society.
And as he finally changes back into his clothes and heads out he turns back one last time to memorize the look of the building.
He’ll definitely be back again soon.