and remember that bad times... are just times that are bad @cloudii
just relax, you're safe here hello! cross posting this from ao3 under the same username ^_^ have some eri and shinsou sibling bonding and me waxing poetic about animal crossing

Sleep had always given Hitoshi trouble, ever since he was little. He got by on a shockingly small amount of it. Some nights were worse than others, though he had to admit that things had gotten better over the past few months. Maybe it was the relaxing atmosphere or maybe it was the people who resided inside, but Hitoshi found that sleep came a little easier in the Aizawa-Yamada house compared to previous places he’d lived in.

A lot of things came easier there. His new parents were far from perfect but they were there —they were trying their best—and Hitoshi was finally starting to believe that they truly meant him well. His life was looking up, as of late. Everything felt new. A fresh, if a bit daunting, start. But a near decade of insomnia doesn’t go away overnight.

There were still those nights when trying to sleep seemed pointless. When you’ve been awake so long you can feel the tension behind your eyes; no amount of soothing music or white noise can lull you away and you think to yourself, “Why bother?”

There were still those nights when trying to sleep seemed pointless. When you’ve been awake so long you can feel the tension behind your eyes; no amount of soothing music or white noise can lull you away and you think to yourself, “Why bother?”

Tonight was one of those nights. It had been a moderately stressful day; the Yuuei curriculum was tough and Aizawa’s training was even tougher. More importantly, though, tonight was the first night with the new member of his family sleeping under their roof. Hitoshi found himself hyper aware of the fact that a six year old girl was in the house tonight, which probably didn’t help his efforts towards sleep. It wasn’t that he didn’t like her, not at all. Eri was sweet, even if he and her didn’t quite know how to interact with each other yet. He knew he’d have to get used to her sooner or later; the moment Aizawa had introduced him to the young girl, he knew it was only a matter of time before his parents adopted her. Yuuei may have only meant for Aizawa to be Eri’s temporary caretaker, but Hitoshi knew firsthand how that man got attached to strays. Despite knowing and being fine with that, it was still something that would take time to adjust to. No matter what he tried, sleep would not come.

Hitoshi’s eyes flicked up to check the time on his phone’s screen. 2:53 am. He sighed. He liked to be productive when he couldn’t sleep, but he was running out of things to keep him occupied. His homework was done, aside from part of a group project he couldn’t continue until his partner finished their portion of work. His room was as tidy as it was going to get. All his online friends had gone offline. He turned his phone screen off and laid the device on his chest. Hitoshi took a moment to look around his room, his eyes slowly adjusting to the dark. It was a nice bedroom, if a bit barren.

It was… tentatively decorated. His slowly accumulating possessions filled the space some, books and videogames and a houseplant he’d recently been gifted by Yamada. A framed photograph of him as a toddler with his birth mother sat atop his dresser and a few figurines were displayed in his bookshelf. But there wasn’t much clutter. His parents had told him he could do whatever he wanted with his room, but Hitoshi found that he was having trouble getting used to the idea of that. Of this space being a permanent belonging of his. Something that was his and he could change however he wanted. Maybe that idea wouldn’t feel so out of place someday.

His eyes landed on one of his newer possessions: a 3DS. (One of those newer, bigger ones with the purple galaxy design.) Saving up the money for it didn’t take long, now that he had an actual allowance. His old one, the cheapest 2DS he could find, had finally given up the ghost about a year ago. Thankfully game data was stored in the game cartridges and not the system itself, so once he got a new one, he didn’t lose much. It was just a long while of looking at his collection of games and not being able to play any of them.

He only had a handful of games, truth be told. Pokemon X, Mario Kart 7, a few Ace Attorney games, and his personal favorite: Animal Crossing: New Leaf. More than any other game, Animal Crossing brought him a warm feeling of nostalgia. On plenty of occasions he’d play it in the late hours of the night when he couldn’t sleep. No matter his living situation throughout the years, that game managed to bring him a few moments of solace and calm.

Hitoshi opened his 3DS and quickly started up his game, if he couldn’t be productive in real life then he may as well be productive in his Animal Crossing town.

The opening music he knew all too well began to play and he smiled softly to himself. No matter how much he played he never really got bored of it, he never tired of the soundtrack or talking to his fictional neighbors. He didn’t always play every single day—he didn’t feel like he needed to. It was a retreat, not a chore. He usually would play at least once a week to keep his flowers alive and make sure none of his beloved animal friends moved away without telling him.

He quickly got into his routine of looking for daily items and talking to villagers; well, the villagers that were awake. It was a bit past 3 am now, and it was too late to go to any shops, even with the feature he had that made shops close later. But places like the museum and the cafe were open 24/7 to visit. Even if there wasn’t much to do, just walking around the town and home he had decorated over the years was entertaining enough for him.

 This was a space he felt comfortable making his own. He had a simple sense of freedom there inside the game, and now he had something similar in his real life. Well, without the decorating with dinosaur bones and the actual moon. But he hoped he’d be as comfortable here in his new home as he was in his Animal Crossing one eventually.

Hitoshi grabbed his water bottle to take a swig, eyes still on the screen, only to find it empty. The teenager grumbled and stumbled out of his bed and into the hallway to go refill the bottle, taking his 3DS with him.

It was a short walk to the kitchen, he passed his parent’s room and Eri’s room, both doors half open. It was mainly dark, except for a lamp in the living room that was kept on, Hitoshi assumed for their youngest family member. He didn’t pay much attention to the room and filled his bottle at the sink, continuing to play his game as he leaned against the counter. He lazily tapped the touch screen with his finger, too lazy to get the stylus from it’s compartment. He had to donate this painting to the museum. Walt the kangaroo had sold it to him out of nowhere, which was kind of sketchy now that he- Ah. It was a fake painting. What the heck, Walt, don’t sell fine art forgeries to your literal mayor.

A soft meow interrupted his train of thought. He looked down to see one of the cats, a tan and brown tabby named Kova, looking up at him. Her tail swished behind her. She was a very small cat, but deceivingly fat; she had a round face and her hazel eyes looked a little too big for her head. She was getting up there in years, and looked very unhappy to be awake. Still, she whined at the teen.

Hitoshi bent down to give her a pat, but Kova avoided his hand and walked away towards the living room, apparently unimpressed. But then he watched her stop in her tracks, and looked up.

Were this a horror movie, the picture before him would look kind of ominous. A six year old girl with stark, white hair and wide, red eyes staring at him blankly in his silent and dimly lit house. But after the initial shock, it was just two kids who barely knew each other having an awkward, unplanned staring contest with a cat for a referee. 

Hitoshi prided himself on being able to strike up conversation with practically anyone, despite his otherwise reserved personality. It was necessary for his quirk to really work. But that didn’t make him exactly… friendly. He just knew how to rile people up, how to get them talking and keep them distracted. The point being: He didn’t know how to interact with little kids. He didn’t particularly dislike them, he just hadn’t really talked to any since he was one. He was never allowed to, in most settings. Adults would become afraid that he’d use his “villainous” quirk against them.

But his parents encouraged him to get to know Eri. He wanted to, but he had trouble making friends with kids his age, let alone a six year old. Eri didn’t seem to know what to make of him, either.

Eri didn’t smile much—for a while she didn’t know how to—and she didn’t talk a lot, but neither did he or Aizawa. Her eyes flicked nervously from him, to Kova, to the floor and back. Kova, apparently unhappy to sit in silence, turned away from them to hop up onto the arm of the couch and chirped. Eri watched her closely but made no move to approach the cat. Something clicked in his head.

Hitoshi gestured towards the cat with his hand, which still held his 3DS that softly emanated game music, “You wanna pet her.” A statement, not a question.

His voice startled her, but she recovered quickly and gave his words some thought before slowly nodding. 

“That... might be hard, she doesn’t always let people pet her.” He said. Kova was cuddly; on her own terms, that is. She was far from their friendliest cat. “She’s kind of high maintenance.” He concluded. Eri’s features scrunched up in confusion.

Hitoshi thought of the best way to explain it to her, and walked in front of the couch. “It’s like,” he sat down, opposite to Kova, “she doesn’t like it when you come over to her. She wants to come to you herself. Then she’ll be affectionate, if she’s the one who starts it.”

Eri nodded in understanding, swaying in place for a moment before sitting next to Hitoshi, her eyes still flicking from him to the cat. With her sitting next to him, he could really marvel at just how small she was. Her size was somewhat owed to being malnourished in the past, which he unfortunately understood all too well. He never thought himself to be all that big and strong; he was an average height and pretty lanky, but she looked so delicate in comparison. He felt a flare of anger towards her past abusers, then a wave of relief that she’d undoubtedly be well taken care of from now on.

Her eyes were trained on Kova directly, equally curious and determined. He laughed slightly, which didn’t startle her this time around.

“You probably shouldn’t stare right at her; it might scare her off. She wants you to ignore her.” He supplied.

Eri’s shoulders slumped a little, and she turned her head towards the ground in front of her instead. Her small hands pat her lap lightly, and finally, she spoke. “Are all cats this confusing?” 

Hitoshi laughed in earnest at her defeated tone, “A lot of them are, I guess. We have two other cats, but they’re pretty different from Kova. One’s super friendly with everyone and the other is scared of practically everything. Your best bet would be to just wait her out, I think.”

“I see…” She responded quietly.

The two lapsed into silence again, not quite comfortable in it yet. Hitoshi probably could’ve come up with some kind of conversation, or even just went back to his room and left her with the cat, but decided against both options. He turned up the volume on his DS and turned his attention back to his game. He wouldn’t push her into talking to him, but leaving might just make her think he was avoiding her. This was a compromise. He continued to walk through his town, looking for holes to dig up. It’d been a few days since he’d played so there were bound to be both fossils and gyroids hidden in the ground. He had lots of plants in his town, trees and bushes and flowers, so the marks for the holes were harder to find sometimes. 

He felt the couch cushion next to him shift some and looked over to see Eri craning her neck to look at the game. Their eyes met for a moment and Eri instantly looked away, clearly under the impression that he didn’t want her to watch. He slumped down in his seat and angled the DS so she could see it better, “You can watch, if you want.”

The six year old spared another glance towards Kova, who had laid down on the arm of the couch and looked their way now and then, and scooted closer to Hitoshi—close but not touching. She looked at the game curiously, like she wanted to ask questions about it but didn’t know how. He could understand that all too well. With his quirk being activated through asking questions, previous caregivers had never trusted Hitoshi enough to answer him — afraid that he’d brainwash them into doing something terrible. So, at some point, he just stopped asking anything of them. 

His parents and teachers still had to remind now and then that he was allowed, and encouraged, to ask them questions. ‘Maybe she needs the same thing.’

“Is that you?” Her timid voice asked, snapping him out of his thoughts. ‘Or maybe I should give her more credit.’

Hitoshi looked down and realized that she meant his character in the game. With a flick of his finger on the circle pad, he made the avatar do a little spin, “Yeah, I tried making him look like me.” He had spiky purple hair and tired looking eyes, but also came with a permanent smile. “He has cooler clothes than I do, though. Did I, uh,” ‘You can ask questions, she’s not afraid of your quirk.’ he reminded himself, “Did I do a good job?”

Eri gave him a small nod, and he thanked her.

For a while, they continued just like that, the cat momentarily forgotten. Hitoshi would play and Eri would periodically ask questions about what he was doing. (“Why is everyone an animal?” “I think the people who made it thought it was just cuter that way.”)  At some point she asked what the characters were saying, and Hitoshi realized that she still didn’t know how to read. (“I could read it to you.” “You don’t have to.” “I want to.”) So, when he talked to a villager, he’d quietly read the dialogue aloud for her, which she seemed to appreciate. Animals would ask him random questions, and he’d read the response options for her and let her pick what he said. A couple times they stumbled upon two villagers already in conversation, and Eri would give a small, amused smile at the character’s funny arguments. He considered that a win.

Talking to her was a lot easier than Hitoshi had been expecting. This was the first time they were actually alone together. Aizawa or Yamada were always with them, before. But now, in the peace of their living room, soft game sound effects and the calming rumble of Kova’s purring filling the air, he found that he actually liked this. He liked hanging out with her, and he only hoped she liked him too. She didn’t have a lot to say, all her questions were short and simple. She’d listen intently to his responses, you could see her think over the words carefully, and acknowledge him with a short hum or nod. 

“It’s my favorite game, y’know, it’s really important to me.” Hitoshi told her. It was easy to be honest with her, there was no judgement in her eyes, only curiosity.

“Why?” A simple question, but it gave him pause.He let his character stand idle for a moment, and after a few seconds the game’s clock popped up on screen. He took his phone out of his pajama pants pocket with his unoccupied hand and clicked it to life, so she could see the two clocks side by side. “You see how the time in the game is the same as real life?” A nod. “ Most games aren’t like that. They’re usually pretty fast paced, and if you try hard enough you can finish a lot of games in a single day. With games like that, the way you think about time changes and it’s easy to lose track of it.” Hitoshi paused to look at Eri, who seemed to sort of understand. He continued, “Animal Crossing, on the other hand, was made to be played slowly. It’s like the game wants you to take your time, to not try to do too much at once. There’s a hundred different ways to spend one day and however much time you need to enjoy it. I think that’s comforting, I guess.”

Hitoshi flushed, not having meant to ramble so much. He looked to see if Eri was still listening and when he saw that she was, he went on, “A while ago, my life was kinda... Well, sad. There were a lot of people who were, uh, mean to me because they didn’t like my quirk. People who hurt me.”

“Like me.” She stated, simply and quietly.

“Yeah, like you.” Their eyes met, and neither of them smiled, but there was a quiet understanding in it. “But somewhere along the line, I found this game. It helped me a lot, when people were especially mean to me. I didn’t always feel safe back then—remembering that I’m safe now is still hard, sometimes—but playing this always helped. It was like getting a hug, or taking a deep breath of fresh air. It made me feel like everything would be okay, someday. Even if that took awhile, I had all the time I needed.”

Eri might’ve been young, but he hoped that she understood. “You…” She had an introspective expression on her face, an odd look for a six year old. “You didn’t have to share it with me.”

That wasn’t the response he was expecting. Granted, he was half expecting to not get one at all. “I wanted to share, it’s okay.”

“But,” The girl shifted in her seat, playing with her hands anxiously, “it’s yours, and it’s special, and you’re already giving lots to me. Like- like your house, and your cats, and Mr. Aizawa and his husband.”

“I-” Hitoshi looked for the right words to say, but came up empty handed. Eri felt out of place in her new home, it seemed. Who wouldn’t? Hell, he still felt out of place sometimes. It was easy to make yourself believe that you didn’t deserve to be there, or that the kindness of those around you would run out soon enough. Eri felt like she was imposing, even though that wasn’t the case. He took a deep breath.

“We want to share with you, we want to share everything. We’re happy you’re here, Eri.” He said, and he meant it. Her being around, them being a family; that was always gonna take time to get used to. Aizawa and Yamada knew that, Hitoshi knew that, but maybe they forgot that Eri didn’t. Hitoshi remembered Aizawa telling him that Eri didn’t like gifts. Her previous caretakers would apparently give her toys and things like that before doing terrible things to her. Maybe, in her brain, she counted them sharing their life with her as a gift. He tried meeting the girl’s eyes, but they were still firmly focused on her lap.

“I don’t have anything to give back.” She mumbled.

If his heart wasn’t already breaking for this kid, it did right then. Part of him wanted to hold her, but he didn’t know if that would be too much. He settled for placing a hand on hers, which effectively stopped her wringing. “That’s okay. I’m not doing any of this to get something back, or because I feel like I have to. I just have things that make me happy, and I want you to be happy too. That’s why you share things with people.” He said, testing out a small smile that he hoped looked reassuring. He didn’t have the friendliest face but god, he was trying. She finally looked up, and he fought to not let his smile fall when he saw the tears welling in her eyes.

He thought back to some things Aizawa had told him when he first moved in, things that helped him. “You don’t have to be used to all of this right away, and if something’s too much then you just have to say so. If we do something you don’t like you can tell us. Just... take things at your own pace. We’ll still be here. We’ll still be happy to have you here. It doesn’t matter if it takes a little while for you to get used to everything. Or a long while. You’ve got all the time you need, I promise.”

Kova chose then to butt her head into Eri’s back gently, chirping for attention. Eri gasped, and turned to look at the cat. Kova purred as she sat upright next to the girl, kneading the couch cushions. She was clearly waiting for affection, and Hitoshi knew that she would get vocal about it if it didn’t come soon.

“A cat might take a minute to warm up to you, but it’s always worth the wait.” He said.

Kova meowed, she sounded a little whiny. Eri slowly, apprehensively, lifted a hand towards the tabby. She looked back over to Hitoshi, who nodded silently as to say “Go ahead.” The cat, impatient, met her hand halfway and pushed into Eri's touch. Her purring got louder. Eri patted her awkwardly, this was most likely her first time touching a cat. (Maybe her first time touching any animal. Details on her home life before she got her quirk were limited.) Kova took the stilted pats and rubs with enthusiasm, rubbing her back into the girl’s hand.

“She’s soft.” Eri sniffed. She brought her other hand up to pet the cat more, gentle and slow. Hitoshi watched as she carefully stroked the tabby’s back, gasping softly when Kova stretched her backside upwards as she did.

“She is.” He agreed, not being able to help the smile that found its way to his face as he watched her be so entranced by this cat. “She really likes it when you rub in between her eyes.” Hitoshi offered, touching the space in between his own eyes in demonstration.

Eri took this very seriously—as if it was some hidden knowledge—and nodded before cautiously testing it out. Kova crooned at the touch, and Eri seemed pleased with herself. She continued to pet the cat for a while, her tears soon forgotten as a small smile made its way to her lips. She might’ve still felt out of place in her new home, but her then, so content, made him hopeful that this was the right place for her. He still didn’t know her, not really. And she didn’t know him either. But Hitoshi could see that they were gonna be a family, that maybe they already were. Maybe “family” started on a sleepless night, sharing games and giving reassuring words.

He could feel himself getting attached to her already. He hoped he could be a good older brother for her. He’d had younger foster siblings before, but he was never able to really talk to them. He wasn’t sure how he was gonna go about this whole “sibling” thing. 

Kova took careful steps onto Eri’s lap, the little girl’s eyes lit up. She looked over to Hitoshi with a shocked smile, like she was making sure he was seeing it too. Hitoshi gave the cat a rub behind the ears as she perched on Eri’s legs, who continued to gently pet the tabby’s back with both of her little hands. The two not-quite-siblings sat in companionable silence, the only noise that could be heard was the purr of a happy cat and the soft music from a video game.

thanks for reading! i hope you enjoyed, comments are greatly appreciated <3
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