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You Want it Darker

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“I’m looking for a woman with a mind control quirk,” Aizawa launches into his piece with the assumption that he has precious time left before the Warden comes barging in here raving about safety violations and dangerous use of quirks both on prisoners and visitors. “Engaged via writing on her victims. Possibly her name… which might be Shiyoko.” It’s a lot of guesswork, but if it were obvious they wouldn’t have to be here. “Have you ever encountered someone with that name or kind of quirk in your research?”

Dr. Shinsou’s thin smile snakes across his face once more. “My my, quite a predicament you have there. So tell me, Eraser, what’s little Shiyoko been up to out in the real world? They keep me quite separate from it.”

Aizawa activates his quirk, eyes gleaming an angry red as his hair lifts of its own accord. “She’s been doing something you’d know plenty about, Doctor.” Murder dressed as suicide.

Shinsou – Aizawa’s Shinsou – is quiet and sullen, avoiding the piercing gaze of his father as best he can. The guard has since skulked away from the viewing panel of Dr. Shinsou’s cell, and waits in his noise-cancelling earphones awfully close to the door. “Ah, I wonder what her trigger must have been.” As the threat of mind control abates like a wave rolling out, Aizawa lets his quirk fall.

“Trigger?” Aizawa dares to ask.

“There’s always a trigger, poor lost boys,” Dr. Shinsou relates in a harmonious, lilting voice. “I wonder what yours will be?” He targets Shinsou with another weighted tilt of his head like the swinging of a clock pendulum.

“Not gonna happen,” Shinsou mutters, and Aizawa activates his quirk just to be safe, staring this maniacal piece of shit down, half-regretting ever coming here – at least with Shinsou.

“She was passed over for a promotion,” Aizawa butts in before Shinsou can get dragged any further by the riptide of his father’s conversation. Maybe the promotion thing is true, maybe it isn’t, but it’s a way to start.

“Poor little girl, that would certainly be enough to do it,” Dr. Shinsou muses. Aizawa blinks, rubs his eyes and then looks back up without his quirk activated, hair dropping limply around his face.

Poor little. Why do you keep saying that?” Aizawa pins as his eyes itch.

The Professor answers, “She was when I met her.”

In a short window of time, Aizawa takes his finger off the intercom button and puts his head back to drip eyedrops into each eye. It’s exposure of his vulnerability, his limits, but what can Dr. Shinsou accomplish from behind a pane of reinforced security glass?

Shinsou reaches past Aizawa for the button this time. “So you knew her, she was part of your research?"

“Humour me, Eraser.” Every time he says it, Dr. Shinsou makes Aizawa’s title sound a little more like something nonexistent. Not eraser, but erased. “What’s your relationship to my son?”

“Not your concern.” Refreshed, Aizawa opens wide and activates his quirk yet again. “Who’s Shiyoko?”

The Professor’s statuesque form breaks into motion, and he begins to pace along the length of his glass-walled cell like a tiger in a cage. Maybe they’re starting to get to him after all. “Quid pro quo,” the Professor replies craftily as he passes directly past Aizawa and Shinsou next to the intercom, though his voice remains at the same volume coming from the speaker in the wall. “Give me answers and I’ll give them to you in return.”

“Only you use answers to brainwash people,” Shinsou points out crossly, still holding down the button to the intercom with an expression like he wished it did more than allow them to communicate with the prisoner. Fill the goldfish tank of his cell slowly with water, perhaps.

“Isn’t that what your escort is here to prevent?” Shinsou’s father suggests glibly, stopping his oscillation up and down the length of his cell to eye Aizawa like a carcass he’s waiting to butcher. Aizawa doesn’t let his quirk fall. “There’s something else though… you had to come across one another somehow. School, perhaps?”

“He’s teaching me to be a Hero.” Shinsou’s declaration causes a reactionary lurch in Aizawa’s gut. This is what he gets for bringing messy family ties into the mix. Pieces of information that were best left under the table, not thrown down on a hand that they might have to fold on.

Oh.” Dr. Shinsou mulls this over like a treat of unparalleled magnitude. “What a noble thought.” He pauses long enough to let the pity well up in his voice like waters in a fresh spring. “But that’s not for you, son.”

“You’re wrong.” Shinsou isn’t conflicted or compromised about this declaration. “I’ll be a Hero that stops people like you.” Aizawa wonders if Shinsou would be so sure if they hadn’t had some of the conversations they have in the past day. If Shinsou weren’t here with Aizawa, doing work that feels like being a real Hero…’s intern, or something like that.

Dr. Shinsou looks back at Aizawa as he drops his quirk to blink, and it's a tiny flicker but he feels the brush of something against the back of his mind, the push to be ensnared by a quirk that hits an internal wall. The greatest despair the Professor has with his quirk, by his own admission, is that he cannot surpass its limitations – something his son has proven capable of already. They all have limits. Even Aizawa has to blink, but he picks his moments to be vulnerable very carefully. So too will the Professor.

“Tsk tsk.” Aizawa can't be sure, but he thinks this is annoying Dr. Shinsou. “Getting the boy's hopes up like that.”

“I didn't set the bar for his hopes,” Aizawa counters, and this is a twisty way to get around to talking about a murder suspect. He doesn’t like it one bit. “I just gave him my view on whether he could achieve them.”

“And your professional opinion, Mr. Eraser?” Dr. Shinsou says it like that to mock, he must.

Aizawa knows this is no place to hold back the things he's told Shinsou in confidence. Even things he's thought beyond that and hasn't even said yet. If there's anywhere the boy needs to hear it, then it's in front of this demon of a father. And there's no reason Aizawa can't be obnoxious about it. Quirk flaring, he answers, “He'll be a better Hero than you ever were a villain.”

That micro-flicker of annoyance twitches in the corner of the doctor’s eye again, and Aizawa allows his mouth a slightly smug twist, crossing his arms as if nonchalant and not finding something to do with them that doesn’t betray his frustration. “Quid pro quo, Doctor. Tell us about Shiyoko.”

“What do you expect me to know?” Dr. Shinsou poses as if they’re at the height of presumptuous. “I encountered many mentalist quirk users through my research, why should I know this one?”

“Cut the bullshit, dad.” Shinsou leads this brigade knowingly. “You don’t forget anyone.”

Another sly smile works its way across Dr. Shinsou’s face. As if he likes to be known, and the reiteration of their familial connection still has currency in his sick mind. “Then what am I to tell you of one little girl who once sat in my office over ten years ago?”

“Her full name would be a start,” Aizawa suggests, but senses the wall has been hit again. His eyes itch and he feels the urge to blink, but he’s held on far longer than this before. It was a mistake not wearing his goggles – one he’s not likely to make again. If this happens again. Aizawa’s used to putting the goggles on for combat, he simply hadn’t realised he was about to walk into an all-out fight – not in the physical world, but mental. Stupid of him.

“Another question first,” the Professor reverts cannily. “How many?”

“How many what?” Aizawa replies with a tense jaw, eyes burning.

“Has little Shiyoko killed? You said victims.” After a short pause, Dr. Shinsou adds, “You may blink, Eraser. I shalln’t use my quirk on you.”

This is a cunning double-trick, because without ending in a question it is possible for Aizawa to blink. So he does, but not because Dr. Shinsou said so. Even if that’s what it looks like. “You can’t use it on me,” Aizawa mutters as he brings his fingers to his eyes, “it’s different.”

“As far as you know,” Dr. Shinsou reports slyly. “I haven’t been entirely idle during my incarceration.”

“I can see that,” Aizawa observes, letting his tired gaze swing over the papers tiling the walls. “Let me guess. Your next book?”

That deadly smile returns again. It occurs to Aizawa that things would be so much easier if the Doctor were a simple, murderous villain with no charisma. This is entirely different; the mental equivalent of sitting with his hand on the table while someone bangs an ice pick between his fingers. “Very good. So you aren’t completely without observational skills.”

“The next victim was a sexual molester who attacked her on a train,” Aizawa throws like a baseball he wants to pitch through this thick glass straight into the back of Dr. Shinsou’s skull. “Presumably.”

“Presumption leaves margin for error,” Dr. Shinsou points out aloofly, and leans forward very slightly as he poses his next threat – in the form of a question, of course. “Are you sure he attacked her?”

Aizawa doesn’t activate his quirk. Doesn’t need to. He’s not answering the doctor’s question. “The pattern is still developing, but the victims are men who have experienced or exploited a privilege against her as a woman. Except for the most recent, who seems to have been sought out at a hostess bar. She doesn’t appear to have known him.”

“One is so rarely enough, once you get a taste for killing,” Dr. Shinsou remarks in a voice of poisoned honey. “So her pattern is becoming less consistent?”

Now Aizawa reactivates his quirk. “If you give me her full name, we’ll catch her faster and I’ll let you know,” he replies caustically.

Dr. Shinsou tsks again. “Then I would be taking the thrill of the hunt away from you. Wouldn’t want that, would we?” Aizawa can hardly move for all these baited hooks. So he just stares through the unflagging wall of his quirk, and it makes the point well enough. “Even as a child, Shiyoko was acutely aware of the injustices that would beset her as a consequence of her quirk. One can only imagine what her experience as a woman would add to that.”

“If we know her given name and quirk, can’t we just check the registry?” Shinsou suggests to Aizawa, then scowls when his father tsks again.

“Oh no, Hitoshi. She wasn’t registered.”

“But you studied her,” Shinsou accuses.

“My research was anonymised,” Dr. Shinsou answers smugly. “If they chose to remain registered quirkless for fear of prejudice, that was merely incidental information, of little consequence to my work.”

“Right, far be it from you to do the right thing.” Shinsou's loathing pours our of him like water overflowing a drain.

“My decision not to report unregistered quirks to the authorities was also part of my oath to uphold doctor-patient confidentiality,” his father replies. “So don’t be so quick to think you know the whole world just yet, my dear boy.”

Shinsou’s hunching more and more over the intercom, finger pressed over the button until his knuckle blanches. Aizawa senses tension in those violin strings his father tunes to play. “Shinsou.” Without thinking of it, Aizawa reaches to set a hand on his shoulder. It’s easier than trying to fight his hand on the controls of the intercom, but enough to draw him out of another downward spiral.

In a flash Shinsou turns over his shoulder to glance up at Aizawa, a slightly darker ring of violet around the outside of his irises, which are almost lavender in the centre. Darkness and light blended together. His finger comes off the button, and he takes a visible breath. Without the intercom engaged, and with the guard still staring stoically into space with his headphones on, it’s just the two of them who hear Aizawa say, “It’s alright,” about nothing in particular and everything that matters.

This might be the most aggravating thing of all to the Professor, who when Aizawa looks warily back over isn’t smiling anymore. No, this is a definite scowl.

“Tell me,” Dr. Shinsou’s voice creaks like the lowest notes of a stringed instrument being bowed – badly. “Why the sudden interest in my son?”

Aizawa’s quirk rises up like a cobra and strikes, hair lifting and eyes a glaring red as he fixes on the Professor. He slips his hand off Shinsou’s shoulder to reach for the button to the intercom. “Because he helped me get access to you? Is that what you’d like me to say?” It’s better to admit these things up front than pretend it’s not the case, and this direct barrage seems to keep Dr. Shinsou on the back foot. “That part of it is true, but I wouldn’t have agreed to train your son if I didn’t see his potential. He’s been failed,” Aizawa injects like venom from a fanged bite: – an unconscious action, built into his very physiology, “by the school, by society, and by you.”

There’s no real order of importance there, but each makes up a distinct part of why it’s so unacceptable to Aizawa that Shinsou’s dreams are left to perish for being ‘too challenging’ or because his quirk seems more ‘naturally’ suited to villainy. Anyone who believes that is merely reflecting their own internal darkness. Otherwise they’d see the huge potential that Aizawa does. “So if I help him, it’s not out of pity or leverage or access to you, but because that’s the least he deserves.”

Aizawa wants to blink but can’t, feeling an intense weight on his mind as Dr. Shinsou tries to cave his mental state in like banging a sledgehammer against Aizawa’s skull. Just because it won’t break doesn’t mean there’s no strain.

“Bit late for you to bring back the overprotective father shit, ” Shinsou butts in rudely enough to draw Dr. Shinsou’s focus; Aizawa feels the weight of cancelling out the Doctor’s brainwashing quirk lighten. He's relieved that he didn’t come here without backup. “Quid pro quo, Dad: tell us about the girl.”

For all his calculating genius, Dr. Shinsou is still a creature of human emotions, albeit they’re fucking twisted ones. This appeal to whatever he perceives of a biological link between himself and his son is a good enough chum to draw the shark near.

“Little Shiyoko was always running away, because she knew what would become of her when she was found,” Dr. Shinsou narrates like a nursery rhyme, and breaking into such lyricism allows Aizawa to drop his quirk. “You won’t get anywhere by looking for miss hide-and-go-seek in the places she’s meant to be. Clever girl knows how to stay hidden, even in plain sight.”

“Drop the fucking riddles,” Shinsou bites. “People are dying.”

His father has regained composure, taking a deep breath that lifts and resettles his narrow shoulders. It’s with a peculiar curiosity that he remarks, “And that bothers you.”

Shinsou begins to rant, “Of course! Even if you don’t care about them, if you gave a shit about me like you pretend to do then you’d want to help.”

“On the contrary, my boy,” Dr. Shinsou interjects. “It is because I care for you that I offer no more help than that which I’ve already given.”

“Bullshit,” Shinsou spits in a tone that would flash-freeze Hell.

His father tuts and the clicking sounds carry over the audio system like a kind of morse code. “You have to learn how do to things for yourself, Hitoshi. But never fear, I believe this will be a…” He pauses like a hangman finishing the final knot on a noose before stringing it up, and shifts his gaze from Shinsou over to Aizawa, “bonding experience for you both.” Like the flight of a bird, one pale hand shoots out from behind his back and the fingers flutter. “Ta-ta, do be sure to visit again.”

‘We’re finished when I say we’re finished,’ Aizawa wants to growl – Shinsou too, by the looks of it – but they can’t compel the mad doctor to cooperate without being just as bad as him. And as loath as he is to admit it, this has been helpful – in the way a root canal is. Something beneficial doesn’t mean it’s not agonising, or to be dreaded if it must be repeated.

“Fine,” Aizawa declares stiffly, taking his finger off the button and sliding the intercom switch back across. He glances sideways at Shinsou with dry, itching eyes that he’ll irrigate like dry fields when they’re out of this room. “Let’s get the fuck out of here.”

Yamaguichi isn’t waiting for them outside the prison, but that’s fine and wasn’t part of the arrangement he made with her: poor woman deserves an evening off. Aizawa prefers to walk anyway, falling into step alongside Shinsou after they sit through an unbearably tedious lecture from the Warden about violating the safety protocols put in place to prevent accidents involving Dr. Shinsou. Turns out the only reason no one interrupted them is because they’re all too fucking afraid of going in there when the intercom is on – there’s an accident history behind such caution that Aizawa can only guess at the messy outcomes of.

Shinsou announces with an air of cheerful vitriol, “Well. That was fucking terrible.”

Aizawa almost wants to police him on his language, but then they’re not in a classroom where that shit matters, and Aizawa’s been just as bad today. Shinsou is only reading the cues.

“Unfortunately, I think it went quite well,” Aizawa counters morosely, fiddling with a bottle of eyedrops in his pocket, turning it over and over even though he’s rinsed his eyes out enough. Recentering habits die hard.

“I guess you’re right,” Shinsou admits begrudgingly, and then tacks on. “Thanks.” There’s a heaviness to his tone that wrenches Aizawa’s gut. He almost asks, “What for?” until Shinsou expands into the pensive silence, “You didn’t have to say what you did, and I’m not dumb enough I’d think you’d say anything you don’t mean, but… thanks anyway.”

“It deserved to be said.” If and when Aizawa has ever been seen as harsh, it’s only because his bleeding heart has a wicked saw-edge that turns his protective instincts into a powerful weapon. The strongest, most intense urges Aizawa experiences – some of them – are to protect others. He would and almost has died for it. Repeatedly.

With a whole class of students, it takes a little time to get to know them, and longer still for the handful each year that become really special. By contrast, Aizawa’s only spent about a day with Shinsou, one-on-one pearl diving in the belly of the beast. But he’s already imprinted like a broody hen that’ll sit on anything helpless enough to let him. Not that Shinsou is helpless, but he still needs help; Aizawa wants to give it to him. He can’t even pretend to deny it anymore.

With all the signs of a great Hero-in-the-making, Shinsou simply pushes on. “So now what?”

Aizawa itches for a cigarette, but resists the urge – normally, he never goes through them at this rate. It’s not a good habit to indulge in front of Shinsou, not least because the boy will probably smartmouth him about it. Aizawa understands that smoking is bad for him, just like sleeping too little, eating irregularly and putting himself between homicidal villains and their innocent would-be victims is dangerous. And he does all of those things with great regularity. So he'll just have to find another reckless habit to indulge.

Catching sight of a mostly-abandoned building that has all the signs of a hideout for gangs running contraband operations in and out of the conveniently-located prison. Aizawa settles on his vice. “We keep working.” He jerks his head at the building, now shaded in twilight as the evening falls.

The darker shadows of Shinsou’s face lighten as he tips his head back a little and casts his gaze at the rundown building. Boarded-up windows are mixed in with intact panes that have just been painted over from the inside. Not that well, going by the hints of light visible from within here and there.

Shinsou takes Aizawa’s inference effortlessly. “Guess we better check it out.” It can’t always be this easy having an intern, not that Aizawa would know from experience. Maybe just the right one. Aizawa can work well with certain people; even so, he prefers working alone when and where he can. It’s less complicated that way.

But even for being complicated (in his own way), Shinsou makes it awfully easy sometimes.

There’s an old fire escape on the outside of the building, which Shinsou starts to scale while Aizawa throws a roll of his weapon up to the top and free-climbs it, using the structure in a way that it’s surely not intended. But it gets him up there much quicker than Shinsou manages.

When the boy finally catches up with him at the top of the warehouse, Aizawa thoughtlessly remarks, “You should think about some support gear.”

“General Studies don’t get support gear,” Shinsou replies with a sharp edge that’s not really directed at Aizawa. After all, it’s not like he did anything to stop Shinsou getting into the Hero Course.

“Think about it anyway,” Aizawa says defiantly. “All you need to do is approach the right individual in Support and see what they’d have to offer.”

“Won’t I get in trouble?” Shinsou clearly isn’t a boy terribly preoccupied with sticking exactly to the rules, but he obviously doesn’t want to risk getting expelled.

“No.” That is, as far as Aizawa’s concerned, the end of the discussion. He wouldn’t allow it.

“You sure about that?” Shinsou doesn’t sound sure, but Aizawa is.

Perhaps he’s just a simple faculty member, but Aizawa likes to think he has enough sway to make sure no repercussions would fall on Shinsou for testing out support gear to use in his extra-curricular activities. “I’ll take responsibility,” he says firmly. “If it ever comes to that.”

Shinsou is bolstered by this sentiment, but still not entirely sold. It’s understandable he might still feel a little rattled after the prison. “Will it?”

“Probably not.” Aizawa lets his voice hush even more as he paces across the roof to a dirtied skylight that hasn’t been painted out and drops to a crouch, beckoning Shinsou after him.

It’s unusual he’d have to talk through something like this, but Aizawa made a deal with himself to do something useful for Shinsou after how much of a help the kid was engaging his monster of a father. o it’s with cautious, raspy tones that Aizawa quietly lays out the basis of his operations. “Watch, listen, and stay out of sight until you’ve confirmed criminal activity and determined the best way to engage.”

The inside of the warehouse is split over a few levels visible from the rooftop-view, and at first glance there isn’t anything immediately culpable out in open view – but there never is. One of the panes in the pitched-roof skylight has broken and been replaced with a board, presenting as good an opportunity as ever to get in. Aizawa digs a multi-tool out of his belt and starts prying up the nails holding it down.

Shinsou notices this apparent break between Aizawa’s actions and words. “We’re going in? What happened to watch and listen?”

“Sometimes you have to get a little closer.” Aizawa pulls out the last nail and then throws it over his shoulder, lifting the board up carefully and setting it down without making too much noise. “As long as you see them before they see you.” He reaches to his neck and lifts a coil of his capture weapon free, then flings it at a bit of exposed pipework nearby that seems sturdy enough to hold his weight, testing with a few firm tugs and then deciding it’ll do, even with Shinsou in tow. On which note, Aizawa glances over to deliver his instructions to Shinsou with full eye contact and all the ‘I mean it’ foreboding he can muster. “Stay close to me, stay alert, and don’t use your quirk.”

There’s a slight sigh from Shinsou at this last order – of exasperation, or maybe resignation. “Understood.” This isn’t a game, and when Aizawa sets such rules down (or reiterates them) it’s not because he wants to ruin Shinsou’s fun, but for his safety and the legality of what they’re doing.

The boy can help, just not by using his extremely potent quirk extra-judicially. Even if Aizawa wouldn’t turn him in at this point, that doesn’t mean Shinsou couldn’t be caught, and a blot like that on his record would only make the path to being a Hero even harder than it already is. More than anyone else, especially in competition with kids who have been given all the chances Shinsou hasn’t, he needs to do things the right way.

Dropping the rest of his capture weapon down into the darkness, Aizawa glances over at Shinsou one last time before putting his goggles on. He looks calm, but Aizawa knows still waters are often the product of opposing currents crashing against one another. Peace on the surface is no indicator of the struggle that could be taking place underneath.

Yet speculation is lost to the flow of real-time, so all Aizawa does is pull up his goggles, securing them against his face and then taking a firm handful of the means to their descent. There are more ways to learn than being talked at in a classroom. And Shinsou is proving to be a receptive student. “After me.”

This, Aizawa thinks as the two-by-four breaks across his back, is not at all how he intended for things to play out.

It’d started well enough.

Surveillance and stealth are Aizawa’s bread and butter… usually. Because in spite of being the rookie, Shinsou isn’t the cause of this situation derailing. At least, not directly. It was supposed to be a quiet, covert operation to establish if this place is indeed a contraband trafficking base of operations, followed by a swift lockdown of any complicit criminals. That’s what the plan was. And when creeping quietly around the warehouse, much to Aizawa’s (pleasant) surprise, Shinsou’s as quiet as a mouse. A natural, dare-Aizawa-say-it, which he doesn’t. Not out loud.

So the manic escalation that takes place a short while after is all on Aizawa. In the first instance, his instincts are right and there are a few men to-and-froing across the main warehouse space packing boxes with smaller packages made up to look like food. After creeping along badly lit walkways and getting up close to the shipping container-esque building-within-a-building, through the dirty, not-blacked out windows Aizawa spots a couple more guys filling the packages with everything from cigarettes to drugs. That’s enough proof to justify action.

Shinsou does as he’s been told and stays out of it, while Aizawa uses handfuls of his capture weapon as he springs from the blind spots of the two packers crossing the warehouse floor. Binding their arms and mouths, Aizawa drags them into the shadows and knocks each out with a careful thump to the head. Next he sets to the guys inside the prefab building, using his multi-tool to pry open one of the windows while Shinsou bangs on the single door to the room as a lure. Aizawa has to admit: it’s quite useful having him here – at least initially.

Aizawa gets the window open and sneaks in while the criminals react to the diversion, then sees to them in much the same way as the first – snatching each with a strip of his capture weapon and pulling them backwards crash into the table, knocking themselves out on it without a single one ever seeing Eraserhead coming.

And that’s when Aizawa makes his first mistake.

He lets his guard down for a critical moment, when Shinsou opens the door and strolls into the interior of the building with his eyes on the two newly unconscious criminals on the floor. “Well,” he says with a funny balance of admiration and frustration – after all, he’s been on the sidelines spectating, which isn’t quite what Heroes or their not-quite-interns sign up for. “That was eas–”

Why Aizawa doesn’t sense it coming is the biggest failing. His gut feeling of just-beforeness doesn’t kick in, maybe too drawn into the words Shinsou doesn’t finish. Because that’s the point at which a knife flies through the air and cuts Shinsou’s arm. He lurches out of the way, but not fast enough to escape the blade in its entirety. One of them still has some semblance of wits about them: it’s just not Aizawa.

Instinct kicks in a moment later. “Get down!” Aizawa barks, vaulting over the table. The flying dagger that cut Shinsou comes back around, carving through the air with a billowing strip of something like fabric wrapped around the handle controlling it. Aizawa flings one of his own wraps to snatch the blade out of the air before it slashes for Shinsou again. There’s obviously more opponents here than he’d thought, and Aizawa can’t help considering that if he’d been alone, or even if Shinsou had been closer rather than forced to the sidelines, this might not have happened.

Shinsou drops into a crouch, one hand clamped tightly around his upper arm and the dark fabric of his hoodie concealing any blood as he puts his back to the wall and crab-walks into cover. It’s never more evident than at a moment like this that they’re playing for keeps. The danger is wholly and undeniably real. That means if Aizawa says get down, Shinsou fucking gets down and stays there.

Aizawa leaps through the open door, pulling hard on his capture weapon to reel in the assailant. It’s a woman who stumbles on the end of his fishing line, two long tendrils coming from each of her hands that whip through the air like scarves with exceptional control. The daggers give her dangerous range, coiled as they are at the end of each quirk-sponsored extension to her body. It’s when he’s facing in her direction – confronting a very real threat – that Aizawa gets hit by the two-by-four from behind. Aizawa’s second mistake: fixating on the person who attacked Shinsou, overlooking whether there could be more still.

Stumbling forward from the force of the timber smashing across the back of his shoulders, Aizawa catches sight of a new dagger shooting straight for his belly. He grabs the knife just before it plunges into his gut and feels the edges bite into his palm. Activating his quirk as he stares at the woman who wields the blades, the controlling tentacles – if that’s what they are – fall limp and Aizawa is able to rip one dagger away and throw it down. He takes two fresh handfuls of his capture weapon and throws one forwards as he stomps on the dropped tendril and the woman lets out a shriek. The other handful he casts behind him, spreading like a net to catch whoever was stupid enough to get this close to Aizawa and break their own weapon on him. Because Aizawa can take a beating like a pro, and now the idiot’s unarmed.

Both captures land, and with a strong tug in either direction, Aizawa drags each immobilised attacker off their feet. He knocks out the one behind him on the sole of his boot, lifting it as a surface for the man to unwillingly headbutt as he falls to the ground. The woman he gets coiled up like a caterpillar and knocks down with an elbow to the chin.

This is when the third, fourth and fifth criminals come charging out of the back room they were all playing cards in or something, and Aizawa finally comes to the conclusion that he might have bitten off more than he was wise to try and chew on this occasion.

Aizawa will freely admit that it took many long years – and still happens semi-regularly – of getting his ass kicked to become proficient at multi-person fights. This isn’t one of those times, thankfully. However, the three who rush him are enough of a handful to keep him too busy to have an eye on Shinsou in the interim.

One of the criminals has a speed-enhancing quirk, so Aizawa needs to keep him the focus of his gaze if he’s to keep up with his movement. The other keeps bending when Aizawa punches him and needs to be stared at for any strikes to land in an incapacitating fashion, and the last just hits like a fucking truck, even when Aizawa’s using his quirk. Even he has limitations, but being able to take three experienced fighters in hand-to-hand and come out on top is as essential a part of Aizawa’s ability as a hero as his quirk is. It’s over about as quickly as it starts, but not without a battering in the meantime.

After Aizawa’s taken care of the three he looks urgently back at the doorway where Shinsou first ducked into cover, spotting the outline of a large figure moving past the windows of the building-within-a-building; his gut drops accordingly. A few running paces and Aizawa’s leaping through the door after the last (hopefully) of the criminals, only to almost charge into the guy’s back as he stands dead still in the middle of the floor.

Shinsou is still bunched up against the wall as he was when Aizawa left, but there’s a new streak of blood that runs from his forehead up through the peaks of his hair, another smear that looks to wrap around the back of his neck. Must have forgot his hand was bloodied and reverted to nervous habits, most likely. Shinsou looks a little pale, but still in control as his gaze draws to Aizawa with caged worry.

The attacker is a huge man, a head-and-a-half above Aizawa at least, and the crowbar on the floor by his feet suggests he came in armed and ready to cause serious damage. Now he simply stands like a statue, eyes vacantly staring forward with just a hint of conscious panic in them as Aizawa paces around to the front.

With a single strike from his own bloodied fist, Aizawa throws an uppercut at the man’s chin and knocks him out, dropping like a sack of bricks tied to an anvil. From behind him, Aizawa hears a simple statement. Not justification, but the facts as they are. “It was self-defence.”

Aizawa pulls a couple of first aid packs from his belt and throws one at Shinsou; no more than dressing pads with adhesive straps, but they’ll do in the short term. It’s all anyone does – what they can, or need to, in the heat of the moment. Aizawa can’t deny or penalise someone for that. Especially not Shinsou.

So it’s with clear understanding, even compassion, that Aizawa replies, “I know.”