Aizawa knows something’s wrong as soon as he gets the call. It’s not like it’s unusual for him to get a call from Yamada during the day, but Yamada is patrolling as Present Mic right now. He eyes his phone for a second longer before making a quick grab for it, answering it with a serious voice.
“Mic? What’s wrong?” he asks, listening carefully to the other end. There’s a weird, muffled sound, almost like a scuffle, before a breathless voice comes on the line.
“Nothing! It’s nothing, Shouta, just misdialed! Uh, let me call you back!”
The line goes dead, cutting off whatever noises were going on in the background. Aizawa grips his phone nearly hard enough to break it.
That was Yamada’s voice, he knows that for sure. He’s known Yamada for going on fifteen years.
But that wasn’t Yamada speaking.
Aizawa doesn’t find out just what happened until two hours later. He’d tried calling Yamada’s phone a few times since the first call, but it immediately went to voicemail after every try. He calls Yamada’s hero agency next, but they haven’t heard anything from him either. He ends up pulling on his hero gear and running to the precinct, pushing back at the mounting anxiety growing in his chest.
It’s a mess when he arrives, but he eventually gets someone to tell him what’s happening. Apparently there were a few strategic attacks on active heroes, implemented simultaneously, to varying degrees of success. Present Mic was one of the heroes targeted. Aizawa has to question a few more officers before he finds someone who knows where Yamada is- Musutafu General Hospital.
He leaves before anyone can rope him into anything, running instead of trying to catch a cab or rely on a bus. He feels slightly less like he’s about to shatter from anxiety once he arrives, but now he’s sweaty and out of breath.
A quick flash of his hero license grants him access to the floor the injured heroes are being kept on, a bewildering crowd of officers,detectives, nurses, and doctors moving in and out of rooms. He flags down a passing officer, asking for information on Present Mic and gets pointed in the right direction. He hesitates in front of the door, wondering why it’s the only one with the door closed, two officers standing guard outside. The officers standing watch check his hero license before even letting him near the door. He doesn't bother knocking, though he does open the door slowly. It’s a relief to see Yamada sitting up, only a few minor injuries visible upon first inspection. He’s facing away from the door, still in his hero costume, though his jacket, headphones and speaker system have been removed and set to the side.
“Hiz- Present Mic.” he says, stopping himself from saying Yamada’s name when he notices the other person in the room. They’re off to the side, writing in a large notebook. He ignores them for a moment when Yamada finally turns around, and Aizawa sees Yamada is sporting a broken-looking nose, two black eyes and an uncharacteristically serious look on his face.
"Hizashi?" he signs out, immediately feeling like something is wrong. The other person finally speaks up when they see him signing.
“Oh, thank god. You know sign language? The person they have on staff here isn’t in right now, and I couldn’t get in touch with the precinct’s interpreter-”
Aizawa tunes them out after that, just looking at Yamada with growing dread in his stomach.
“Hizashi? What happened?” he signs in question, stepping closer until he’s next to the bed. Yamada just grimaces, finally raising shaking, bruised hands to answer.
"They took it."
"They took my voice."
They end up kicking the officer writing Yamada’s statement down out of the room and just sitting on the bed together while Yamada slowly tells Aizawa what happened. The silence in the room is oppressive as he watches Yamada’s hands, the buzzing of the fluorescent lights grating on his nerves.
Yamada’s story goes like this: he’s out on patrol like normal, showing a new sidekick around. He takes the usual route when acclimating newbies to the work, trying to avoid the places where more violent crimes tend to happen. Yamada tells him it must have been their plan to wait until he was with a partner so he’d be distracted protecting them- everyone else attacked that night had general injuries, but his condition was too specific to be a coincidence. One of the villains was able to steal his voice after Yamada punched him in the face.
"I’m not convinced it was activated by touch, though," he theorizes, hands cutting through the air in sharp movements. Aizawa pays close attention, knowing Yamada is almost always right once he puts his mind to something. "A voice-stealing quirk like that could also be activated just by hearing someone’s voice, and I had incapacitated them with a shout right before I went in. Upfront physical attacks aren’t my usual M.O., so if they’d planned to steal my quirk this way they wouldn’t have put their bet on someone who needed to touch me to do it. The officer- they were in here, with my written statement-didn’t seem to believe me. Kept asking stupid questions before realizing they needed to hand the paper back for me to answer."
Aizawa frowns, wondering if he should have a talk with someone. Yamada just waves him off, as if he can read Aizawa’s thoughts.
"It’s fine, I’ll handle it later. Anyways, we actually subdued the guy at first. It’s why I was calling you- so you could erase his erasing?" They both snort at that, and even though Yamada’s makes no sound, the mood lightens up just a little. "But that’s when the rest of his group got the drop on us. I was careless. At least Jammer was alright."
"I knew it wasn’t you when I picked up the phone." Aizawa states, his signs slow and matter-of-fact to match his expression. He knows Yamada still has his hearing aids in, but if Yamada is going to sign then he is too.
"You did? But they were using my voice." Yamada gestures to his throat, his face questioning.
"Yeah, but you don’t talk to me like that. If you were working you would have called me Eraserhead, but you have me in your phone as Shouta, which is what they called me. I’ve known you for how long? I don’t think anyone could fool me when it comes to you." Aizawa punctuates his statement with a poke to Yamada’s chest, above his heart.
Yamada gets a sappy look on his face at that comment, leaning in to nuzzle against Aizawa’s shoulder for just a moment.
"You’re such a sap sometimes. Sorry if I worried you."
"I’d rather worry than not care. You know this. How bad is it?"
"Well, it’s all pretty minor, past me not having a quirk right now. The broken nose was the worst of it, but they had Doctor Bone-setter in here earlier to take care of it."
Aizawa laughs at the name Yamada has given to Doctor Takeshi, whose quirk involves healing bones somehow. He never looked into the specifics.
"Honestly, I just want to go home and sleep and use you as my pillow. But I’m supposed to meet with Detective Kusanagi to try and find this guy and see how deep this thing goes. And get my quirk back, obviously."
"I’ll tag along, then."
Yamada sits up to give Aizawa a grateful look, leaning in for a careful kiss.
"A team up, just like old times, huh?" Yamada grins and signs with happy gestures, grabbing his leather jacket and pulling it on slowly. Aizawa can only guess there must be more bruises under his shirt with how slowly he moves, but at least there’s no blood on the white fabric.
They’re tailed by the two officers when they leave the room, Yamada heading straight for the nurse’s station where a large man in a trenchcoat is talking on the phone. Aizawa pings him as Detective Kusanagi before even speaking to him, though he doesn’t recognize the man personally.
"That’s the detective they’ve given lead on this case. We’ll cooperate with him and see if anyone has any leads to go on." Yamada signs quickly as they make their way over.
Aizawa nods, stepping in closer so Detective Kusanagi can see them. Kusanagi holds up a finger, finishing his phone conversation with a snapped “Just do it.” before hanging up and addressing them both.
“Present Mic, I got your statement, and we’re comparing it to some of the others now. Though what we have so far just seems to be confirming you were the main target. I’ve got someone looking through your old cases so far, to see if there’s anyone with a grudge we should be looking for. In any case, I’m guessing this is your interpreter?”
Yamada shakes his head, turning to Aizawa and gesturing for him to introduce himself.
“Actually, I’m his partner. You can call me Eraserhead,” is all he says, holding out his hero license for Kusanagi to read. The man looks at it and snorts.
“Ah, my apologies. I’ve heard of you, but you’re a bit of an enigma, aren’t you? You certainly don’t look like much of a hero.”
Yamada is bristling with anger once Kusanagi stops speaking, signing out some impolite words with sharp hands. Aizawa hides a grin behind his scarf and signs back.
"It’s not worth it, Hizashi. Let’s find out what we need and head out to find these guys."
"Tell him he’s an asshole first! Tell him to meet me outside!" Yamada gestures widely.
Aizawa actually laughs at that, ignoring a now-irate Kusanagi. Seems he doesn’t like to be ignored. That suits Aizawa just fine.
"I’m going to get what we need, so why don’t you go get yourself cleared to leave? Meet you at the west entrance?" he points down the hall at the other nurse’s station, where the actual nurses have gathered, presumably to avoid Detective Hissyfit.
Yamada huffs but relents, shrugging in an exaggerated motion. "Yeah. Fine. I’ll meet you outside."
Aizawa keeps his impromptu meeting with Detective Kusanagi as brief as he can before rushing out to meet Yamada, his thoughts jumbling together as he tries to figure out what to do next. He doesn’t feel like they can help out that much, considering Yamada would know more about anyone holding a grudge against him than some old case files.
He’s the first one outside, but he doesn’t have to wait long. Yamada comes out sporting an uncharacteristic frown, stalking over with quick steps.
"Honestly, it’s just temporary quirk loss, yet they were acting like I was going to be helpless or something! I can still do everything else just fine! Can you believe they were trying to arrange a police escort?" Yamada starts venting as he walks, punctuating his frustrations with a grimace. Aizawa just follows and watches for now, figuring he should let Yamada get it out of his system. He’s bound to be frustrated about everything. It’s understandable.
They somehow end up heading back to their shared apartment, but Aizawa is pretty sure it's because Yamada is on autopilot. He takes off his shoes but keeps the rest of his hero uniform on while Yamada goes through his usual after-work routine.
“Hizashi.” Aizawa finally speaks up, reaching out to touch Yamada’s shoulder. Yamada freezes for a moment, looking at Aizawa in the bathroom’s mirror. The shower is starting to steam up the room as the water heats up, and Yamada carefully removes his hearing aids before turning to look at Aizawa properly.
"Can we talk once I'm done?" he signs slowly, expression tired.
Aizawa just nods, and Yamada leans in for a kiss before undressing the rest of the way. Aizawa silently helps out with the few small bandages Yamada needs to remove, being especially careful with the one on Yamada’s face. He busies himself with grabbing their first aid kit and some fresh towels while Yamada showers and removes all the product from his hair.
Normally the silence they share when helping each other clean up from a mission is relaxing and intimate, but now it feels sour. Yamada keeps staring into the mirror with a frustrated expression as Aizawa rubs balm on his bruises and antiseptic on his, thankfully, small cuts. Yamada’s fingers tap an erratic rhythm on the countertop until Aizawa finishes, and he turns to start signing once Aizawa pulls away.
"Alright, I’ve thought it over, and I think our best bet is to get out there tonight and see if we can find any leads."
"I agree. Detective Kusanagi didn’t have much to go on, so we might as well not rely on him. We have the authority to conduct our own investigation. I'm assuming you have a plan?"
"Of course. You know I get all my best ideas in the shower," Yamada signs with a flourish and a grin, wrapping a towel around his waist before continuing. "We can go in disguise- I'm already pretty unrecognizable without my usual hairstyle, and with this bruising on my face? Easy to escape notice this way."
"You fit the role of battered villain pretty well."
"Yeah. I'll just add some color to my roots to make it look like I got a bad blonde dye job, too. Which costume do you want to go with?"
Aizawa shrugs, stepping out of the way as Yamada pulls out his makeup box.
"I'll go have a look while you work your magic. Do you want food before we go?"
Aizawa goes through their closet and finds a suitable outfit for their impromptu undercover idea. It’s all black, loose clothing, though he grabs a large blue scarf that he can hide his capture weapon underneath. He chooses some hidden arm pouches for his caltrops and stuffs everything else into the large baggy pants before heading into the kitchen, reheating some leftovers so they could eat before heading out.
Yamada eventually joins him, his roots and mustache now black from whatever makeup magic Yamada used. It definitely looks like Yamada got a bad dye job, and Aizawa can’t help but snort at the sight. Yamada grins and winks before stepping in to help with plating up the reheated leftovers. There’s also a new bandage on Yamada’s throat, and Aizawa stares at it, prompting Yamada to peel it back just a little, revealing a fake throat wound.
“Oh- makes sense.” Aizawa says, his hands too full with the food to sign. Yamada just nods, grinning mischievously.
The silence at dinner doesn’t feel so bad, but it still leaves Aizawa uneasy as they hash out a plan and head out to implement it. They hit up a few bars in the rundown part of town as the hours pass, trying to sniff out clues as to who planned the attack. They get some luck at the third bar they head to, the both of them nursing their drinks and keeping their ears open when someone approaches Yamada.
“Well, you look like shit,” the man comments, gesturing for a refill from the bartender. He gives Yamada a slow once-over, his eyes lingering on the obvious bandages. “Where’d you get those?”
Yamada shrugs, prompting Aizawa to lean over. “What do you think? Just another hotshot throwing his weight around,” Aizawa growls out, his voice scratchy from the cheap beers he orders to keep himself from getting inebriated. The man whistles, leaning in to get a closer look.
“Well, sounds like a shitty situation for your friend here. I’m actually looking for guys like you- who need a little, shall we say, old-fashioned justice? What do you say?”
Aizawa breathes slowly to keep his heart rate from going up- he can’t be sure if this guy is connected to anything, but it sounds like a lead to him. He looks to Yamada for an answer, acting like he’s the boss. Yamada makes a show of thinking it over before nodding, pushing his unfinished drink away with a grimace.
“I’d offer to buy you a drink, but it looks like you’re having some difficulty there.” the man says in a greasy voice dripping with false sympathy. Yamada just sneers, making an impatient gesture with his hand. The man snorts and grabs his drink from the bartender before motioning for them to follow him into a back room. It sets off alarm bells in Aizawa’s head, but they aren’t attacked as they file into one of the private back rooms, a group of rough-looking people scattered around on dingy furniture.
“Hey there- Tetsuo, found you some more candidates.” he says flippantly, flopping down on one of the open chairs. The man addressed as Tetsuo stands up, stepping forward to look them over. Aizawa can see Hizashi tense up, watching as he uses a shorthand sign for danger behind his back. Aizawa prepares himself for the worst, but it seems that while Hizashi recognizes the man, the man doesn’t recognize him.
“Who did your hair? Looks as shitty as your face,” Tetsuo jokes, and Aizawa forces himself to laugh. Yamada just scowls at the both of them, playing the wounded party. Tetsuo seems like the sort of man who takes enjoyment from bullying everyone around him, so Aizawa slips into his role of simpering lackey, covering up his laugh with a cough when Yamada glares at him.
“So boys, what’s your story?” Tetsuo asks, leaning in close to inspect Yamada’s injuries. Aizawa steps up to explain, keeping his voice as gravelly as he can.
“Me and my friend here were just minding our business, making sales, you know, doing honest work. When one of those hero types comes along and busts one of our customers for some bullshit- we get caught in the crossfire, of course, not like they care. Look what happened to my friend here! Can’t even drink properly now.”
“A shame, a real shame. So you’d be interested in… repaying this hero? For all their hard work?”
Yamada nods, hitting Aizawa’s shoulder with the back of his hand as if to get him to agree. Aizawa nods too.
“Yeah, yeah. We want some, uh, repayment,” he stumbles over his words, trying to appear harmless and uncertain, even hiding his face behind his scarf for extra effect. “But, uh, how would we get it? Sort of a serious thing to get into- the repayment business, I mean. Are you guys in… that business?”
Tetsuo laughs at him, the other guys joining in. One of them mocks the way Aizawa was stuttering, shutting up when one of the other guys elbows him.
“Yeah, you could say we’re in the business. You heard the news today?”
“You mean- with the heros that got a-attacked?” Aizawa says, the alarm bells coming back. He’s itching to grab his phone to get the police here for some arrests, but it’s too soon, and too dangerous. They need a clear admission of guilt first.
“Yeah- yeah, we heard about that. Sounded like a huge deal. Were you thinking of copying them?”
“Copying..?” Tetsuo laughs loudly, clapping Aizawa on the back forcefully. Aizawa lets himself stumble, though he’s seething on the inside. “Boy, we orchestrated that! Lots of my pals here were unrightfully prosecuted by those so-called heroes- especially that loud one, Present Mic!”
Most of the men jeer once Tetsuo says Yamada’s hero name, and Aizawa is struck by just how unrecognizable Yamada must be to them, standing in the middle of a group of thugs with none of them any the wiser. Tetsuo sneers and waits for the jeering to quiet down.
“Yeah, we got that bitch good. Found myself this guy who could steal voices- it was almost too easy at that point! The press haven’t released any information on it, but he must be fuming right now. Can’t use a voice quirk without a damn voice!”
The men start jeering again, though Tetsuo just speaks over them this time.
“Had to rough him up a little to get him to agree to it ‘cuz he said no when I offered to pay him. I mean, hey, his loss, right? He coulda used the money for his family, but now he’s gotta worry about their safety instead. What a little shit.”
Aizawa can feel his stomach drop when he hears that, mind whirling. So the man didn’t even work for them? Initially he’d been quite angry at the mystery man, nursing an urge to get a good punch in on him, but now the thought felt sour. Aizawa forces himself to laugh again, palming a knife and twirling it in his hand.
“Sounds like an idiot to me. Though at this point, I wouldn’t take the money either. I’d just do it for the satisfaction.”
Tetsuo grins, clapping Aizawa on the shoulder. “You’re my kind of guy. You and your friend got names?”
“Yeah, you can call me Knife for now. And my pal here is Shitface.”
Aizawa sneers while Tetsuo laughs, Yamada giving them an unimpressed look.
“Ah, I kid, bro. Call him Honey.”
“Honey? Should I ask?”
“Maybe we’ll tell you later.”
Tetsuo snorts. “Fair enough. But I think I can guess. Real ladies man, am I right?”
Aizawa laughs at that, and it’s the most genuine thing he’s done since he stepped into this bar. Oh, if only he knew how wrong he was.
“Sure, when his hair doesn’t look like shit. Anyways, we want in. We can join with you guys, right?” Aizawa asks, trying his best to sound hopeful. His simpering act is back in full force, and he brings his knife up, wiggling it in front of his face. “I want to get a little practice in. You still need some help convincing the guy not to squeal? I can totally help with that.”
“Sure, why don’t you show me what you and Honey here can do? We can discuss the specifics once you’ve proved your worth.” Tetsuo grins then, all teeth and no sincerity. He leads them to a door in the back, and Aizawa shoots Yamada a look. Yamada just nods and winks once they’re through the door- so the signal has been sent. Good. He didn’t see Yamada touch his phone at all, but it must of been when he was distracting everyone else.
They’re led into a quiet basement, junk piled to the side of the walls. There’s a man sitting outside a closed door at one end, though he stands when Tetsuo approaches.
“The guy stopped crying a few hours ago. Tell me again why we can’t just dump him?”
“Like I told you idiots the first time, if he dies his quirk wears off and that bastard will just get his voice back! Go get a drink or something, you’re on break until our new friend here has shown me what he can do.”
Aizawa feels a little surprised at the lack of caution Tetsuo is showing by having two strangers just follow him into a room holding a prisoner. He can only figure the man isn’t expecting anyone to try and infiltrate their group this soon after their first big attack- or even suspects anyone would infiltrate at all. Either that or their disguises are just that convincing. For all his thuggish charisma, Tetsuo doesn’t seem to be the best at thinking things through. Better for them, at least.
He risks a look at Yamada while Tetsuo unlocks the door, and the other man runs up the stairs, signing to him.
“Yeah. Let’s make it quick,” Yamada signs back, tapping the pocket with his phone in it. Of course. They can subdue the leader then have the police come in for the rest. “Careful. Don’t know if he has a quirk.”
The locked room is just as cluttered as the rest of the basement, but it’s all been pushed to the walls, a lonely chair sitting in the middle of the room with a man tied to it. Yamada gestures to him, confirming Aizawa’s suspicions.
“Well, here he is, Knife. So why don’t you show me why you have that name?” Tetsuo grins, stepping around the bound and gagged man to grip his shoulders tightly from behind. Aizawa looks at Yamada before stepping forward, twirling his knife. The man whimpers loudly, and it sounds like Yamada. He almost activates Erasure, his every instinct screaming at the sound, but he has to remind himself it’s not Yamada whimpering.
He approaches the man with a predatory look, going as far as licking his knife as he gets closer. Tetsuo grins at the sight, finally letting go of the gagged man and stepping back. Aizawa takes that as his cue, using Erasure on Tetsuo while Yamada rushes forward, knocking him back with a mean right hook. Aizawa gets Tetsuo with the capture tape once Yamada slips out of the way, making sure to cover his mouth too.
He turns and uses Erasure on the gagged man after a moment, and Yamada immediately grabs his phone, speed dialing someone.
“Yeah, you there Midnight?” Yamada says, and Aizawa can’t remember the last time he was so happy to hear Yamada speak. “You got the signal call? Yeah, head in to the back rooms and knock everyone out. There should be about fifteen guys in there. We’ll keep anyone from escaping through the basement. Let the cops know we have a hostage here, safe, but possibly injured and dehydrated- paramedics are on standby? That’s great, thanks.”
Aizawa turns his attention back to Tetsuo, putting a knee to his back to keep him from wiggling around too much. Tetsuo tries to scream from behind the capture tape, but it comes out too muffled to be effective. Aizawa just pats the back of his head.
It takes at least twenty minutes before Aizawa and Yamada are free from the basement and all the suspects are in custody- ten of those minutes is just waiting for Midnight’s gas to dissipate enough so they can come up without getting knocked out. Yamada rides ahead with the paddy wagon to identify the people on the record while Aizawa stays behind to make sure the hostage gets taken care of.
One of the officers waits with Aizawa while the paramedics give the man water and question him gently about his injuries. The worst is just some bruises, but the paramedics want to take him in for x-rays to make sure there are no fractures. As the officer clambers into the ambulance to get a statement from him at the hospital, the man thanks Aizawa. Aizawa just nods, watching silently as the doors close and they drive off.
Aizawa catches a ride with one of the straggling officers to the precinct, heading down to booking in hopes of finding Yamada. He needn’t have worried about looking for long, with the loud sound of Yamada’s voice guiding him in the right direction.
“And then he- Oh hey, Eraser! I was just telling these guys about how we found the perps so quickly!” Yamada says loudly, throwing his hands up in the air. There’s a small crowd of officers and paper pushers surrounding him, though the rest of the room seems very busy with how many people just got brought in. Yamada throws his arm around Aizawa’s shoulders once he’s close enough.
“This guy here was my support- and a pretty good actor if I say so myself! Though he must have been so disappointed once I got my voice back, with how much he enjoys the quiet!” That gets a few laughs from the crowd.
“Alright- enough chit-chat!” Detective Kusanagi roars from down a hallway, and the crowd scatters back to their desks or into adjoining rooms, leaving the two heroes relatively alone.
“Please tell me you gave your statement already,” Aizawa says in a flat voice, glaring down the hallway where Kusanagi’s voice had come from.
“Yep!” Yamada says happily, popping the p sound. He keeps his arm around Aizawa’s shoulders as they turn to leave, ducking past a group of people coming in. “I’ll probably have to go back in tomorrow- well, it’s 3am, so I guess later today- and clear some things up once everyone has been processed, but I’m not sticking around here until they need me again, that’s for sure!”
Aizawa hasn’t given his statement, but he figures he can go back in with Yamada to give it, not wanting to deal with Kusanagi unless he absolutely has to. Hopefully he can just write it out and give it to one of the paper pushers to process.
They make it outside without anyone demanding their attention, but Aizawa gets the feeling Kusanagi will be angry they left without telling him first. Aizawa can’t bring himself to give a fuck. They head home for the second time that night- or for the first time that morning, if you want to be pedantic- Yamada humming to himself as he hugs Aizawa close.
“Hey, Hizashi?” Aizawa says after a few blocks, prompting Yamada to stop walking. Aizawa pulls away a little, lifting his hands to speak.
"I would never be happy you were quiet if it meant you were upset." Aizawa signs, looking Yamada in the eyes. Yamada’s smile falls from his face, a contemplative look taking its place.
"You know I don’t blame you for asking me to be quiet-" Yamada starts to reply, but Aizawa holds up his hands to cut him off.
"I know. We both know I just need it to be quiet sometimes. But I don’t want it at the expense of your happiness. I know you were joking earlier, but I want you to know."
Yamada stays still after that, just looking at Aizawa with a soft expression. Aizawa waits patiently for Yamada to finish thinking it all through.
"Thank you. That means a lot to me," Yamada is finally smiling again, the faintest hint of tears in his eyes. "I love you!" he signs next, exuberantly, multiple times in a row. Eventually it just turns into excited flailing with signing thrown in at random. Aizawa smiles.
"I love you too."