Being a prestigious and rich educational institution certainly had its perks, and UA was a quintessential example. It was a large school, full of classrooms, workshops, gyms, and various simulated environments. It was organized chaos - at any given time there might be explosions, or a sparring match, or even just the normal noise of hundreds of teenagers. Teaching there required quick thinking and an acceptance of a certain amount of risk, which was good for the education of the students and somewhat anxiety-inducing for the adults meant to be supervising them, and, of course, the mammal supervising them.
“Risk in small doses,” Nedzu was fond of pontificating, “has been proven to increase educational outcomes in young children by giving them an awareness of their self and environment. What is heroics but a responsibility to respond to changes in the surrounding environment? What is heroics without knowledge of the self?”
But some things stayed the same, stayed calm and soothing. Every Wednesday in the principal’s office there were two mugs on the coffee table, a small plate of anpan laid next to them. Sometimes the tea got cold too fast, but Nedzu enjoyed making tea as much as he enjoyed drinking it and never minded brewing another pot. He never minded providing most of the conversation, either, although during these particular meetings he paused more often than was usual for him.
They hadn’t exactly planned for these to be weekly. But fifteen years prior, when Nedzu had yet to be promoted from heroics teacher to principal and Aizawa Shouta was a small, sullen, silent teenager, Nedzu had made it a point to check up on him. They’d both always valued routine and habit. Three years in school, and then they’d picked right back up where they’d left off when Shouta had started teaching.
He’d given Nedzu a kitschy pair of cat-face mugs with matching spoons when he’d graduated. It was probably the most sentimental present a man prone to socks and pencil sharpener style presents had ever gifted anyone. They’d been unlabeled and without a written card, the wrapping torn and crinkled. The paint had flaked and the rims chipped during their twelve years of service, but they used them every week.
Near the beginning of the year Nedzu had even bought a curly straw for easier use with bandaged or weak hands and Shouta, who had been unusually forgetful for a while, had sipped absentmindedly while staring at the grading he’d brought in to catch up on. Nedzu enjoyed reading the student’s essays and was glad to let him do it, or even read them aloud when Shouta’s eyes grew tired and his depth perception decreased. They were endearing, even the bad ones, and the progression from the first essay of year 1 to the last essay of year 3 reminded him of the difference an education could make.
He was also fond of catching a pair of falling reading glasses in the aftermath of every time Shouta spooked. Animal instincts led him to find great joy in capturing moving objects.
The majority of pro heroes went to therapy, Eraserhead and the rest of the UA staff included. Many had severe PTSD due to the nature of their job, and most had various comorbidities or past experiences that contributed to their decision to risk their lives on a daily (or hourly) basis. They were an accepted but silent part of the job.
This didn’t mean they were universally useful, however. Nedzu knew Aizawa's appointments tended to be stilted, uncomfortable, and frequently silent; therefore he was perfectly happy to be supportive in a non-medical role. Free, hero-focused therapists were limited and options were scarce. Much like childhood quirk counseling, while there was significant money to be made in heroic counseling, the education required usually sunk counselors into debt, and both heroes and children with supposedly difficult quirks were prone to anger and stubbornness. Counseling was dangerous, a great responsibility, and those who dealt with frequent quirk users felt this burden more than most. And even had there been wider resources and more support, Shouta’s body language was subtle and unusual; Nedzu didn’t want to brag, but his intelligence meant he noticed and understood more than even the most intelligent human.
Everyone reacts to trauma differently. Strange and off-kilter humans and mysterious mouse/bear/dog hybrids were especially unique.
They talked about what they wanted to talk about. Sometimes that included pain.
UA did its best to cram as much education into their student’s high school years as possible, and Nedzu thought they did an excellent job, if he did say so himself. He’d been denied an education for so long, his brain hungry for any stimulation he could wring out of the labs he’d been trapped in. His resentment towards humans would never extend to depriving any of them of the knowledge he’d sought so frantically, and his anger was directed most at those who kept knowledge from others, especially children, out of prejudice or misguided attempts to “mainstream.”
Mic agreed with him strongly on this, about the benefits of bimodal bilingualism and the prevention of language deprivation in the early years. As usual, though, he was not the best to speak to in-person about this. The sheer amount of energy he expended in a single sentence was exhausting to anyone just looking at him, and slightly dangerous to boot. It was a lucky thing heroes had good reflexes.
Nedzu did appreciate his ideas, though. Mic had rather a lot of them.
“Perhaps I’ll write a book,” Nedzu mused one day, about half an hour into their chat. He used dictation software for all his communications, as his paws were not meant for typing or holding a pencil, and he was certainly capable of talking while working. It would be simple, no bother. He could trap an employee into editing it when he’d finished to catch any words the computer might have misheard. “Lay out my educational philosophy. Every student has a right to education, but not all of them are getting a good education.”
“I didn’t,” muttered the teacher across from him.
“Not until you came here!” Nedzu corrected cheerfully. It had been a challenge, yes. Children like Shouta did not often end up in heroics programs. In many ways, those children were trapped between the circumstances they’d been born into and a society that valued strength, popularity, beauty. Nedzu knew that as an underground hero Eraserhead interacted with more people on the fringes of society in a week than most popular heroes did in their career.
He also knew that most of the money Shouta made from heroics went into nonperishable food, hygiene items, utilitarian clothing, and over-the-counter health remedies. His gifts to those in need were significant and also stemmed partially from the painful knowledge that had a few things been different he might very well have been in their place. He knew poverty intimately, and his ideas for change were much more practical than idealistic.
“Until I came here,” he agreed, half-whispering.
“You were quite educational to educate,” Nedzu continued, chuckling slightly to himself about his phrasing.
A hum was his only response. Clearly, the two- way conversation was over. That was fine; he’d read some fascinating articles recently and would have no trouble discussing them.
When they’d finished their tea Nedzu wished him a cheerful goodbye.
Near the end of the spring semester Shouta had fallen in the USJ pond while mediating a terrain based sparring session. He’d switched out his jumpsuit for baggy joggers, a ragged yellow sweatshirt, and a chunky knit scarf, which would likely provide 1-A at least a week’s worth of gossip fodder. It was better than the time he’d knocked himself out falling off the table, but he did appear rather blue around the edges of his lips, his fingers a mottled purple and visibly stiff. Nedzu scootched the tabby mug a little closer and topped up his own tortoiseshell.
He had something to say. Nedzu waited expectantly for him to say it.
“They’re too reckless,” came the comment after ten minutes of silence.
“It’s saved their lives.” Nedzu put in calmly. There was no question who “they” were. As strict as Shouta tended to be there was nothing more important than his students, current and former.
“It could end them too,” came the response. “They shouldn’t have been put in a situation
“I should be worrying about my students’ grades and hoping the usual adolescent quarrels don't interrupt class, not whether or not they'll die in front of me. Again.”
He buried his face in his scarf and closed his eyes, stiff and silent. Nedzu clambered down off his chair and shuffled himself over to the couch, curling up in his employee/mentee's lap. He’d be the first to admit that getting petted was a way to show off his fur, but he also knew his solid weight and warmth was soothing. Not quite a heat pack or weighted lap pad but close. He was clearly superior to either, of course, in that he spoke and made excellent tea. He was proud to be both educational and soothing.
Shouta shook himself mobile and scratched behind Nedzu’s ears, bitten nails and half-healed scrapes pulling slightly on his precious fur. Really , he thought, his fur was superior to humans’ in so many ways. He never showered, and yet could keep himself clean, while Shouta’s hygiene routine was visible based on the oscillating fluffiness of his hair.
Nedzu knew bathing was a bother ( he certainly didn’t like water or soap), but this was too much . Sketchy restaurants could probably fry a whole plate of karaage in the grease from Shouta's hair if they were particularly devoted to ignoring health and safety regulations.
He stuck his chin out invitingly and the scratches moved to under his jaw.
“You thought expelling incompetent students would keep them safe,” he commented thickly through the pressure on his throat.
“I thought I’d learned from my mistakes,” muttered a voice from the depths of fabric. “I thought doing everything right would prevent another student’s death if nothing else.”
“There’s no-one else I’d trust quite as much with a problem class,” Nedzu slurred. “No-one else is quite as good at admitting their mistakes.”
Shouta’s face, or what was visible of it, flushed with the compliment. He burrowed deeper into the yarn, a rather impressive feat. In fact, Nedzu would have said it was impossible if he hadn’t seen it for himself.
“Do you resent your youth?” Nedzu asked over sakura daifuku, treat for a special occasion neither of them could quite define.
“What part?” Nedzu knew he did; could see it in the shape of his mouth with every offered tidbit of memory, rare as they were. He was being deliberately difficult. Nedzu let him; it was one of Shouta’s greatest sources of joy beyond the attention of stray cats.
“Any. Your Quirk, your family, your school…”
Shouta hummed like he was thinking, but offered no further comment. Nedzu let him be for a few minutes, and then the need to talk won out.
“More tea?” he asked, offering the pot.
There was no answer. Although no eyes were visible, the soft even breathing (Nedzu had very sharp ears, which he was quite proud of unless conversing with a certain head of English) and nodding head revealed it was the silence of sleep, not of reticence. He toed off his sneakers and curled up on the soft flame-resistant terrycloth of Shouta’s thighs and let himself drift off into a dream of cherry blossoms and libraries. They neither of them had anywhere to be just yet.