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Through the Floor, Above the Ceiling

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Ejiro had no clue how he’d gotten here. Not, like, physically here. He understood the events and consequences that had led up to him being here in the physical sense, he just couldn’t understand how he’d gotten here mentally. He’d never--he wasn’t an abuse apologist. He didn’t think this way about things. And yet, here he was, undeniably conflicted about something that should have been black and white…right?

It had started maybe the third month into a new apartment. New location, close to work, nice views out the east window and subway tile in the bathroom. There was just one part nobody had prepared him for: the upstairs neighbors.

Every night, it seemed, for the past six months there’d been shouting and screaming from one floor up, directly over Eijiro’s head. It was a simple formula, two voices, one sharp and gruff, the other weepy and feeble. Add a dash of shattering glass and the occasional thud as well as the obvious sounds of doors slamming and people crying and Eijiro had spent a good two and a half months wondering if he should do something, and another half wondering how.

And that was how he’d met Izuku. After what had sounded like a particularly bad argument that had ended in an angry door slam and the sound of someone making a very advertised exit down the hall towards the stairs, Ejiro had talked himself up and then somehow walked himself up to apartment number 315. He’d knocked, almost prepared to get no response or to be told to fuck off and eat shit, when the door had been swung open so fast he’d barely even finished knocking.

“Kacchan?”

That night had changed so much and in so many ways that Ejiro couldn’t have imagined. But, he wouldn’t have changed it for the world...or at least he thought he wouldn’t have. Izuku had looked so lost that night, just a weepy-eyed, chubby-cheeked guy with blood on his face and hurt etched into his eyes deeper than anyone could ever erase. He’d looked about what Eijiro might have expected in such a tragic situation, and he'd known from the moment his expectations had been so disappointingly met, that he wanted to help.

They’d hit it off. Izuku had been strangely open, friendly, and kind despite all he’d been through just moments before. He’d even let Eijiro help clean up his face a bit so the scratches would heal. HIs resilience had been admirable, and his willingness to speak well of this Kacchan of his despite the cruelty...well, Eijiro hadn’t been able to think of anything manlier.

And thus he had entered a strange relationship full of semi-secret meetings and patching up injuries. Sometimes it was every night that week, other times it was a few days in-between, but without fail, Izuku had come to lean on Eijiro, which was an honor he considered himself highly unworthy of. It was a heavy burden, there was no doubt about that, and planet of times Eijiro was very certain that the weight of it was far beyond what someone as clumsy as him should bear, but he bore it willingly.

Now though, he felt somehow dirty or selfish for taking on such a serious situation, inserting himself into Izuku’s life as some rock of support when he turned out to be so weak. What sort of fickle friend stopped believing the obvious truth? What sort of confidant doubted when all the evidence was right there? What sort of a person was Eiji if, after weeks and weeks of trying to put together the broken pieces of Izuku after fight after fight, he was now feeling conflicted? A better friend wouldn’t have even dared to think what he thought right now, and that left the worst kind of taste in Eijiro’s mouth. He couldn’t understand how he, someone who had always cared and stood for what was right, someone he might have even gone as far as to call a “good person”, could have thought something like this. How could he do something so wrong?

And maybe it was even worse, because it wasn’t necessarily a thought. It was…intuition—an instinct. And that meant it was in his very gut to do this—to not believe a clear and undeniable victim, someone who he considered to be a friend, who he would even have claimed to love like a brother; that was just how close this whole ordeal had brought them! But, even as he hemmed and hawed at himself for how disgusting—how evil--he was for feeling this way, Eijiro couldn’t shake it. He couldn’t get the twisted knot out of his gut, and he hated Izuku’s partner for it.

He hated this Kacchan for sitting on that bed and looking so small and alone all by himself. Because that was what he deserved, he deserved to be alone and to feel small and abandoned when he’d done what he had. And Izuku didn’t deserve to look somehow suspicious or wrong for being surrounded by family and friends as he tried to cope with the trauma of this night and so many others like it.

But that’s how it was. That was how seeing him made Eijiro feel. It sowed a seed of doubt that had no business being there, driving an unwanted wedge in between what he knew was true and what he was seeing.

Eijiro had arrived, at Izuku’s frantically phoned in request, to the hospital to find Izuku already surrounded by his friends and mother, all of whom were understandably worried and shaken by his calls and the bandages on his arm and bruise blossoming across his chin. They’d all listened, Eijiro included, in sheer fury as Izuku had tried to insist it was nothing, everything had happened in a flurry of emotion and he ought not to have said what he had and shouldn’t have called them. And in response, they’d all hugged and cried and begged him to leave…. And of course, because he was just that faithful, just that much of an optimist who saw the good in people, he had sworn he couldn’t abandon Kacchan, that there was good in him and Izuku loved it too much to go.

It had been a lot—too much for Eijiro, who had lived in independence and isolation for just a bit too long to stretch these sorts of emotional muscles without some repercussions. And since Izuku had had plenty of supporters around to try and get it through his thick skull that Kacchan was no good, he’d had stepped into the hallway for a breather.

He’d walked the hospital wing, smiling at passersby and trying to find the nearest vending machine to get something for Izuku, something to settle the shaking in the poor man’s hands. He’d had surprisingly little trouble tracking one down, and soon he’d been punching in the code for the fruitiest, most indulgent drink they’d had. And then he’d happened to look up and really take in where he was, and he’d realized with something between fury and dread that he’d found Izuku’s boyfriend..

If Eijiro were honest, he would have said he’d expected Kacchan to be there. He’d rather expected to find the asshole lurking close by, waiting to pounce the moment they were all gone and beg Izuku for forgiveness and his hundredth second chance. What he hadn’t really expected was to see him as another one of the patients.

The man had been in a room down the hall, perched on a bed and unmoving as nurses had shuffled in and out with papers and boxes of juice and all other sorts of things. He’d been hunched over, his face hidden behind the bushy, blond hair that Eijiro had always known him by. He’d looked small, frail even, just a little pathetic as he’d sat there, curled in on himself. But that hadn’t really changed anything until a nurse had come by with another ice pack, and he’d straightened up just enough for Eijiro to see his face.

Izuku had explained the story to them. He’d told them how Kacchan had rushed at him and he’d slammed the door on him to avoid being hurt further. But as the ice pack had been pulled away and another pressed to his face, Eijiro was ashamed to admit that his first thought was that nobody ran into a door like that.

Yes, Eijiro Kirishima had accused Izuku of lying in his head at that moment. His first instinct, his first reaction upon seeing the man’s partner, had been disbelief. He was truly the scum of the earth. Yet, even as he’d stood ther, telling himself how horrible it was to think that, how wrong he was and how unfair it was to Izuku, watching as Kacchan gingerly pressed the ice pack to his face, grimacing a little as the cold touched his face, Eijiro hadn’t been able to shake the thought that this, this was too much to have run into a door.

Try as he did, as he’d watched Kacchan nurse the mottled mess of bruises that had covered half his face, he hadn’t been able to see how Izuku’s story—how slamming a door shut just in time for his boyfriend to run into it, could have caused that. Unless Kacchan had decided to ram his own face into it over and over in some attempt at breaking through, and though Eijiro didn’t know him that well, he somehow doubted that even he was that insane. If anything, what made him hate the other man most of all was just how sane he did seem.

The first time Eiji had met Kacchan had been that night he’d first gone up to check on Izuku. It had been just as he was leaving, Izuku stumbling over an apologetic explanation that Kacchan wouldn’t like it if he found them alone together after their argument as Eijiro had assured him it would be alright. He hadn’t been sure he would even have wanted to meet Izuku’s boyfriend at the time, so furious had he been. And yet, the universe had sensed his anger and sent him a direct challenge, because no sooner had Eijiro stood to go than the very man they’d been speaking of had walked in, leaving him left face to face with the very man he’d wanted to avoid at all costs, or maybe fight—he hadn’t decided which at that point.

That was the only interaction Eijiro had ever had with Kacchan, and the man hadn’t even said a word, although his actions had been quite communicative enough. He’d just stood there, stiff as a statue, face grim and wary. He’d looked like a vicious animal waiting to strike, suspicious, cruel, and proud. It had taken a lot out of Eiji not to walk up and deck him—wipe that look of contempt right off his face-- but he’d somehow found it in himself to hold back, just try to smile and nod politely, although he’d gone to no great lengths to extend any warmth or happiness to see and meet him.

After that, Eijiro had wanted to stay, convinced that the moment he’d leave Kacchan would do something. But, Izuku had insisted he go, and not wanting to make a fuss and possibly get him in further trouble, Eiji had allowed himself to be ushered out the door, taking great pleasure in the way Kacchan had so quickly sidestepped out of his way, backing into his apartment like he was putting distance between himself and an opponent. He’d ;eft that night wishing Izuku a very wonderful, very peaceful and quiet evening, enjoying the way Kacchan’s features—fine, sharp and deceptively nice—had twitched and pulled at his words, like he was sucking on a lemon and trying to pretend it wasn’t sour.

From his first glimpse of him, Eijiro had known all he’d needed about Kacchan. He was an entitled piece of shit, someone who was so used to getting their way that they threw a tantrum whenever they didn’t, whether it was skim milk in his latte instead of oat, or his boyfriend letting him walk all over him or be his own human being. He’d probably been waited on hand and foot, had thousands of girls and guys at his feet, fawning over him for his good looks and bad-boy aloofness. He was selfish and cruel, that was obvious, but more than that, Eijiro had seen no shame in his face that night and that had said everything. Kacchan hadn’t been upset with someone knowing because it was wrong, he’d been upset that someone was now in his way.

Or…at least that had been the impression left on Eijiro. Now, he wasn’t so sure.

Kacchan was making that same expression now, his body just as stiff and his face just as sour. But in this context, with one eye swollen shut and some of the deepest, ugliest bruises Eijiro had ever seen mottling his perfect skin, it didn’t look so proud and entitled at it once had. It now looked—felt—like more. Like maybe that was how it was supposed to look, like someone who didn’t care besides the inconvenience being caused, but underneath…. There was something more to it now, something that just by seeing it made Eijiro feel lost, and maybe just a little scared to be,

And logically Eijiro knew it was because of where they were and the bruises. He knew it was the crazy night and the high emotions and the grief and empathy for hurting people that came with places like this that made everything all wonky. It was just the situation crossing the wires in his head, making everything warp into things it wasn’t. But despite telling himself that, he could feel his memories of that meeting shifting—changing axis as he watched Kacchan tenderly poke at a bruise.

Suddenly, He wasn’t so sure if the man he was watching now had curtly stepped out of his way, or dodged a punch he’d assumed was coming. He couldn’t recall if the hatred radiating between them had been mutual, or if it had simply been Eiji. He couldn’t recall if the way Kacchan had been nursing his wrist had been a warning to Izuku that he’d throw a punch if his boyfriend made a fuss, or if he’d seen bruises there that the man’s jacket sleeves had been too long to fully hide.

The truth was that Eijiro was second guessing himself, all for the sight of an abuser in his hospital room, shaking his head when the nurse’s question, “Is anybody coming for you?” as it echoed down the hall. It was pitiful, as it should be, and yet the toxic black goo of doubt was creeping in and Eiji was doing an absolutely pathetic job of fighting it off.

It made sense that there was no one for Kacchan. It made absolute sense that his shit personality had scared everyone off. Izuku had said as much during one of their nights--

“He doesn’t really have any friends. He’s not good at making them and they don’t usually stay around with how he treats them. He used to have some friends back when we first started dating, but they weren’t good for him. They constantly justified his behavior and they didn’t like me being around him because it changed him. Eventually they had falling-outs and he hasn’t ever really replaced them.”

And yet, weren’t abusers supposed to have friends?

God! It was such a sinful, ugly thing to be asking—a disgusting line of questioning. So what if Izuku’s boyfriend couldn’t keep a friend around? So what if he couldn’t keep Izuku from keeping them around? What did that prove? Nothing! It proved nothing, except that Izuku was so brave and manly that no matter what Kacchan did, he couldn’t strip him of everything!

But then…why did he stay? If Izuku had resources, friends, family, somewhere to go, why did he stay with Kacchan?

Again, it was such an ugly, evil thing to ask and Eijiro hated himself for it, scolding himself for such a horrible question as he grabbed his drink and turned back the way he’d come as fast as he could without seeming suspicious. So what if Izuku never left! So what if every time they fought it was Kacchan who went storming off, with nowhere to go and no one to come and get him from the hospital, while Izuku had friends and family and hell, a neighbor just one floor down ready and waiting if he needed help? Why, it was the first rule of abusers to know that they always manipulated their victims into staying! Hell, even tonight, after everything that had happened, Izuku had been insisting he wouldn’t leave Kacchan. He’d outright refused to press charges!

Still—still, the knot in Eijiro’s stomach wouldn’t let up, not even at the grateful smile Izuku gave him as he handed over the drink. He felt sick the entire time he was at the hospital, reluctant to leave and yet so relieved when Izuku insisted he go home because the hospital had to be doing strange things to Eijiro’s head. The entire way home he poured over his state of thought, twisted into a ball of guilt and frustration over how he could think such things, or allow for such doubts! It seemed to taint every thought he had, until he couldn’t even worry over Izuku insisting he needed to walk home with Kacchan in order to “talk things out” without that evil seed of doubt whispering how strange it was that after everything that had happened, Izuku would want to walk his partner home.

And what place did Eijiro have to ask a question like that? No matter how much it niggled in his ear, making him wonder, making him question. Why would Izuku want to walk Kacchan home? Because that was his boyfriend! And sure he had places he could stay, resources for distance, space, a chance at escape, a chance to leave, but so what if he’d rather go back to his boyfriend! That was part of the game, wasn’t it? Part of the way they twisted you and kept you there! Why should he think so critically! If Izuku wanted to walk with his boyfriend, he should!

But…what if Kacchan didn’t want to walk with Izuku?

Kacchan left frequently after their fights. In fact, he was always the one who left, storming around who knew where for a few hours before returning, stomping back up the stairs and down the hall, announcing to everyone that he was back almost as loudly as he’d informed them all he was leaving. Where was there for him to go if nobody was going to come and get him? Where were the people insisting he leave, taking him back to their apartments and offering to let him sleep on their couches with all the misguided fury of people too stupidly believing in their own kin and friendships over the obvious truth that Kacchan was a monster? If Eijiro met them, he’d rip them a new one right along with Kacchan, but they weren’t there and he’d never met them, so where did Kacchan go and what did he do when Izuku never left? Because Izuku had places, he had friends—one right below him! But Eiji always went to him. Izuku didn’t go away, and Eijiro would never insinuate that this meant that Izuku deserved it—he most certainly did not—but…

Eijiro shook his head, snapping himself out of that train of thought, unwilling to indulge it and dig himself further into this grave. It was ugly and wrong, he wouldn’t allow it—he couldn’t. He couldn’t betray Izuku like this. It was none of his business to be concerned about what Kacchan needed or wanted, he’d forfeited that right long ago.

Instead, he simply rolled over, pulled the covers up and tucked them under his chin, and then tried to fall asleep.

 

 


 

 

“He’s out?” Kirishima asked, surprised at Izuku’s news. He glanced around his cubicle for a moment before ducking just a little lower.

“Yeah. He doesn’t have a concussion so I can’t really keep him in. Besides, he lost so many jobs because of all the bruising that he’s desperate to make them up as soon as he can,” Izuku replied, voice sounding much less wet and wobbly than before.

He’d called just a few moments earlier, snuffling and sad because of another argument, one that Eijiro hadn’t been home to hear this time.

“H-he’s angry at me for slamming the door on him,” Izuku had sobbed, trying to sound put together and failing. “I-I lost him all those gigs and he blames me. He just said all these horrible things about h-how I always do this to him, a-and I’m trying to control him by taking away the only thing h-he has left.”

Eijiro had been eight minutes from his lunch break, so he’d crammed himself into his cubicle as small and unnoticeable as possible to insist that Kacchan was wrong and comfort the poor guy, trying to fight through the other man’s sobs as he swore up and down that Izuku was good and he hadn’t done anything to be ashamed of. After all, self-defense wasn’t wrong, even someone like Eijiro knew that.

“Are you sure you’re okay? I can try and come back if you want.”

“No, no it’s okay,” Izuku hiccupped.

“Oh, okay,” he replied skeptically, pausing for a moment as he weighed the merit of the question that had been burning a hole in his head since that night. He’d been trying to bury it, along with all the other horrible things he’d been thinking that night, but it kept rooting it’s way up above ground, refusing to die, insisting it was innocent and the question justified. Taking a deep breath, he indulged the undead question, breathing it out in one nervous go. “Hey Izuku, Do you know where he goes? When he leaves?”

“Huh?” Izuku responded, sounding a little caught off guard. He always sounded that way when people asked him questions like that—confused or surprised, but never upset. He was good like that, never offended at the questions. Eijiro liked that about him, it took a great deal to be the bigger person and see the best in people when they asked such personal and even accusing questions. He wouldn’t have judged him for taking offense honestly, who was Eijiro to ask him about his abusive partner like this was an investigation or something?

“Sorry, I don’t mean you need to keep track of him or anything, or to insinuate something! It’s just that he’s always storms out on you and I just…uh…wondered,” Eijiro explained, feeling chagrined despite Izuku’s friendliness.

“Oh. Uh, no, I don’t know,” the other man replied. “H-he doesn’t really talk to me about that stuff. I guess I just assumed to his parents’?

“Huh, I thought you said he’s on bad terms with his parents?” Eijiro asked, biting his tongue and inwardly cursing as the thought slipped out.

What on earth had gotten into him? What was he thinking, nitpicking everything Izuku said like he was some sort of witness being cross-examined? He had nothing to prove! Why couldn’t Eijiro just keep his mouth shut?

“Oh, I told you that?” Izuku said, sounding a little strained. “Sorry, I probably shouldn’t have, Kacchan wouldn’t like anyone knowing. I don’t even remember telling anyone, it must’ve been when I was freaking out or something, wasn’t it?”

“I wouldn’t say you were ‘freaking out’,” Eijiro argued. He hated the way Izuku always undermined his feelings like that—probably Kacchan’s doing. Nothing Izuku did was “freaking out”, he’d been realistically upset that night, just like every other night. “But I won't say a word, I promise.”

“Thanks Kiri, you’re the best,” Izuku said, his smile so warm it made it through the telephone wires. Eijiro smiled back, forgetting for a moment his friend couldn’t see him.

“It’s nothing, I’m just glad I can be here for you,” he replied bashfully, wincing as his cubicle neighbor stood up, glancing down over into Eijiro’s and frowning judgmentally before walking off for lunch.

“I really appreciate it, Ei,” Izuku insisted. “I honestly don’t know what I’d do without you here to help me. You're a loyal friend...”

And if that didn’t just leave a burning ball of guilt in Eijiro’s stomach. He spent the rest of his day feeling sick.