Aizawa doesn’t know how it started. He thinks it was Kirishima or Kaminari but he can never be sure. It’s just as likely to be Ashido with her boisterousness or Asui with her bluntness. The crux of it is, lunch period has dissolved into his students reminiscing about their middle school days and telling stories regarding old friends. Jirou’s doing her best to embarrass Kaminari while Bakugou is yelling at them all to shut up and Midoriya is, seemingly, trying to become one with his desk.
“Oi Bakugou!” Kirishima calls, “What were your friends like?”
Kirishima doesn’t even blink. “Midoriya, what about you?”
Midoriya goes deathly still at the same time Bakugou scoffs. There’s something in Midoriya’s face that looks suspiciously like hurt when he rounds on Bakugou and Aizawa takes that as his moment to enter the room. He doesn’t really get a chance to speak though because the ensuring argument explodes.
Midoriya is suddenly scowling at Bakugou with far more anger and, to be honest, confidence than Aizawa has ever seen. He still looks hurt but he looks furious too and when Bakugou places a smouldering hand on his desk, he doesn’t back down for once.
“That may have worked on me when we were kids Kacchan, but not anymore.”
Midoriya’s voice is so cold it takes everyone back, except for Bakugou, who only seems more annoyed. “The fuck Deku?”
Midoriya knocks the hand off his desk, yelling even though his eyes are glistening with tears. “Tell them! Tell them why I didn’t have any friends!”
No friends? The parent-teacher interview suddenly comes back to Aizawa and he remembers Midoriya Inko’s sniffling when he’d mentioned how easily Midoriya made friends. Combined with Midoriya’s opening remark, a few red flags are starting to arise.
“Oi, don’t fucking blame your shittiness on me!” Bakugou screams back, on his feet now. “It wasn’t my fault you were a fucking quirkless-”
There are several sucked in breaths and even Aizawa takes a moment to let that sink in.
“What did that have to do with anything?!” Midoriya cries, launching out of his chair. “So what if I was quirkless! At least...You were still my friend Kacchan!” Bakugou scoffs but Midoriya barrels on, tears flowing freely now. “You want to be the number one hero Kacchan? What kind of hero tells someone to kill themself?!”
The entire room stops.
Bakugou freezes, sparks dispersing as he drops his quirk in shock. Uraraka goes white, Iida’s jaw drops open, Kirishima looks at Bakugou with something akin to betrayal and disappointment. Somewhere across the room, Todoroki looks ready to murder and the temperature is steadily dropping. Before anyone can compose themselves enough to act, Aizawa is using his capture weapon to snare both boys, launching them into the hallway. He rounds on the rest of 1-A with a severe look. “Study, now.”
For once, there isn’t a single complaint from anyone, anyone. That alone tells him how serious this is. Sliding the door shut behind him, he finds Midoriya and Bakugou very much not looking after each other, with Midoriya hastily wiping his eyes and trying to gain some semblance of composure. Aizawa jerks his head in the direction of the faculty’s offices and both boys follow along behind him. Choosing his own office rather than the staff room, Aizawa points to the couch and when Bakugou looks like he wants to complain about having to sit next to “Deku” Aizawa makes it obvious what a bad idea that would be. He does grudgingly sit down and Midoriya shuffles away so they’re as far apart as physically possible. Aizawa sighs and wonders how he had ever let it get this bad.
“Explain,” is all he says.
They both start at once, though Midoriya is meek where Bakugou is explosive. Aizawa pulls them up instantly because both their comments are stemming from Kirishima’s question.
“From the beginning,” he emphasises and suddenly they both get small. Huh, he didn’t know Bakugou could.
So he hears it, from day one. It’s not a nice story. They start as friends - Aizawa would go as far as to say best friends - and then Bakugou gets a quirk and Midoriya doesn’t. Odd. From there it gets worse and worse. Midoriya won’t say a lot at first and Bakugou tries to brush it off as “nothing serious” but with the right questions and proper poking, Aizawa manages to get Midoriya to admit far more than he meant to. He slaps his hands over his mouth a few times and even sends apologetic looks Bakugou’s way - is this boy a saint?! - but the words still stumble out.
(The part about Midoriya being quirkless is curious though and Aizawa is definitely going to get to that another time because he needs answers.)
But then they get to the last year of middle school and everything grinds to a halt. Midoriya absolutely refuses to open his mouth and Bakugou is suddenly finding the ceiling very interesting. If Aizawa didn’t know better, he’d say there was guilt in those eyes. That he can work with. Especially since he thinks he knows the subject they’re about to touch on.
“Bakugou,” Aizawa says firmly, forcing their gazes to meet. “Word for word, what did you say to Midoriya that could have instigated a suicide?”
Bakugou’s eyes go wide and Midoriya looks like he’s about to defend him - goddammit Midoriya! - but the blond answers before he can, “...if you wanna be a hero that badly, there’s a quick way to do it: believe that you’ll be born with a quirk in the next life and...take a last chance dive off the roof.”
Midoriya flinches like he’s been slapped and Aizawa carefully moulds himself so that his face is blank. He levels Bakugou with a look. “Removing yourself from the situation, if you’d heard someone at UA say that to another student, what do you think their punishment would have been?”
The boy almost looks panicked but he doesn’t start shouting, which is an improvement. “...they’d be expelled.”
Aizawa nods. “Now, let’s go back to something Midoriya said.” Said boy squeaks in surprise but that’s about all he does. “What kind of hero tells someone to kill themself?”
“H-he was pissing me off!” Bakugou splutters.
“As do most of you on a daily basis,” Aizawa cuts in, voice cold enough to have Bakugou falling back onto the couch. “And even so, what should it matter? From what I’ve heard, Midoriya’s only crime was trying to be your friend. I’d award him with persistence and a heart of gold before anything else. Leave Midoriya out of this,” he warns. “This is about you, Katsuki.”
Bakugou goes even quieter at that.
“Is that the kind of attitude you see in All Might?” A shake of the head. “In any of your teachers here at UA?” Another shake. “And in any of your classmates?” Bakugou bows his head but doesn’t reply. Aizawa sighs and turns to Midoriya. “Midoriya, why do you think Bakugou bullied you?”
He goes to say something like “he didn’t!” Aizawa can tell, before seeing his teacher’s face and backing down. “B-because I was...quirkless and...weak and I-I...I was...Kacchan was above me.”
“So you were beneath him?” Aizawa prompts, earning a nod. His attention turns back to Bakugou. “You’ve often said you want to be the number one hero, am I right?”
Bakugou hesitates before nodding.
“Then, as number one, isn’t everyone beneath you?” Bakugou frowns. “If you ever reached the top, would you treat everyone the way you treat Midoriya? Would you bully them into place, punish them for being weak? When, Bakugou, would you use your quirk to actually help people?”
Bakugou’s eyes burn with tears. He looks uncertain and rattled and is, for once, speechless. Aizawa counts that as a success and all but ignores him, rounding the coffee table between them. He then crouches down in front of Midoriya and takes his face in his hands. “Midoriya Izuku,” he says calmly, firmly. “You are not weak or below anyone. You have friends, Midoriya, and people who would miss you very much.” He doesn’t say “All Might” but he’s the first person that pops in his head. “For what it’s worth, I’m glad you made it to UA.”
Midoriya shatters under his hands, backing out of his hold and pulling his knees to his chest as he sobs. His shoulders are shaking and he sounds in so much pain. Aizawa shoots a look to Bakugou, who looks very uncomfortable. His bottom lip is pulled between his teeth and his hands shake, eyes still red. Under Aizawa’s gaze he hardens up again and gets to his feet, hands stuffed deep in his pocket. He then swallows thickly, voice choked.
Midoriya looks up, face flushed with embarrassment. “K-Kacchan?”
Bakugou swallows once more before, “Sorry.” It isn’t much, but the way Midoriya’s eyes widen says it is. He then turns, holding a palm out and tracing something onto it. Midoriya goes dead stiff, only to jerk back when Bakugou makes an impatient sound. When Midoriya writes on his hand, Aizawa sees it clearly, “person”. They write it three times before “swallowing” the kanji. Bakugou leaves then, grumbling to himself as though that was the lamest thing he’s ever done while Midoriya’s eyes shine. He’s too excited to even be embarrassed when he turns to Aizawa.
“We used to do that as kids!” he exclaims. “Even before Kacchan got his quirk! It-”
“-means you won’t be dominated or scared,” Aizawa finishes in a drawl. “I know the superstition Midoriya.” Ignoring his student’s blush he says, “Now get back to class before Todoroki and Bakugou blow my classroom apart.”
Midoriya laughs - it isn’t a beautiful sound, it isn’t! - and takes off down the hallway. Of course, Aizawa isn't done. He sits 1-A down and tells them he’s working through things with Bakugou and Midoriya and that the situation is out of the student’s hands. He pulls Bakugou aside at the end of the day and finally takes the step he should have taken months ago: anger management. There’s a difference between temper tantrums and uncontrollable rage and he thinks Bakugou’s reached the point where he needs help, that he won’t get better without it, no matter how much discipline is used on him - it’s obvious his mother’s heavy-handed approach never got her any success.
Aizawa maybe also repeats everything to Hizashi when Toshinori is the staff room at just the right volume for him to hear. The way Toshinori hastily knocks over his chair and gathers his coat has Aizawa biting back a smile and he’s sure Midoriya will find himself in the company of the past number one hero very soon.
And with that, his job may finally be done. For today, at least.