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You Want it Darker

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“What did I miss?” Aizawa addresses Tsukauchi, whose eloquent offering in return is a puzzled shrug.

“He just… said he’d prove it to her,” Tsukauchi murmurs softly, like he’s in the audience at a theatre while Iwaya and Hitoshi are performing on the main stage, but the play’s in a language he doesn’t speak.

“I'm sorry.” Iwaya’s voice is breathy, tone shattered like an expensive plate dropped on the floor. Tears building up in her eyes streak down her cheeks when she blinks, taking her carefully applied makeup with them. Her hand is still sitting in Hitoshi’s like an afterthought, until she quickly withdraws it, turning in a rush for her office door. “There's something I have to give you.”

“Easy, Doctor I.” Hitoshi's voice is velvet and crushed silk. He says it Dr. Eye, which is apt given Iwaya’s ability to look into a person’s mind with the lightest touch. Aizawa wonders if there's anyone Hitoshi won't pin a nickname to like a badge of honour.

“Is everything alright?” Tsukauchi sounds rightly concerned as he follows them all back into Iwaya’s office, and Aizawa wonders if he's put the pieces together. Doesn't seem like he's got much of a clue, though the mystery of women remains beyond the abilities of many a man. Not Aizawa: it makes no difference to him. All people are equal parts easy to read and the rest defiantly, humanly unpredictable.

“It’s nothing, just–” Iwaya's still doing an impression of a leaky tap, stopping and starting again as her painted face cascades down her cheeks to reveal the human underneath.

Her gaze flies wildly around the office as she takes a few steps and stops in the middle of it, but she keeps coming back to Hitoshi, soon fixing on him inescapably as she blinks a fresh sheet of saltwater down the panes of her face. As if it’s the most important thing in the world, Iwaya reaches for Hitoshi’s hand again. She clasps it in a fairy-light touch that must relight the connection of her quirk to Hitoshi’s mind, evidenced by the powerful new wave of emotion in her voice as she tells him, “You're nothing like your father.”

Hitoshi's voice is soft, an actual walking cliche as he replies, “I know.” Their hands break again, but Hitoshi stays close to Iwaya, who drops into the empty guest chair in front of her desk while Hitoshi leans back against it, less than an arm away from her. “But I don't blame you for not being sure.”

“What has this got to do with the kid's whack-job father?” Tsukauchi asks jealously from the back of the pack, and Aizawa's certainly not filling him in at such a crucial juncture.

“If I were anything like that man, no one in their right mind would share information about his work with me,” Hitoshi explains calmly, glancing up at the detective for a moment before taking his purple mist gaze back to Iwaya. “We're on the same page now though, aren't we?”

Iwaya nods, eyes cast down. “I'm sorry to break down like this in front of you all,” Iwaya says into her lap. Then, in a remarkable show of confidence and intimacy, Hitoshi reaches over to gently blot the trails of tears down Iwaya’s cheeks with the back of his fingers. More surprising yet is that Iwaya actually lets him, even though – perhaps especially because – it gives her another dose of looking into Hitoshi’s mind when they make such a natural but unnecessary contact. Iwaya’s eyes even flutter shut for a moment, and it occurs to Aizawa that if he used his quirk on her right now it'd throw a bucket of water over this bushfire. He’s not going to, yet, but it remains an option.

Because, as a terminal boundary-pusher, Hitoshi just has to take it that little bit further. Hitoshi waits for Iwaya’s eyes to open and meet his before he says in a voice so smooth it could be spread on toast, “Cheer up, beautiful.” He turns away to pull a tissue from a box on the corner of Iwaya’s desk and holds it out to her. “No one's pretty when they cry.”

Tsukauchi looks gobsmacked, like he can't believe he's watching a kid half his age put the moves on the same woman he's got his eye on. It's a little audacious, Aizawa will give it that. But he's fully accepted the reality: for all his tender years, Hitoshi is a bit of a flirt.

Iwaya gives a strangled laugh-sob, which is hopefully Hitoshi’s intended effect, and takes the tissue like she can’t believe she’s being hit on by a(nother) Shinsou. Aizawa can acknowledge, if not appreciate, just what it is about Iwaya that makes her so irresistible. The lonely beauty who waits patiently for her one true companion to join her.

Aizawa’s of the opinion that anyone of Dr. Iwaya’s looks and position who is alone wants to be so – or certainly isn’t looking for anyone in a hurry. But try telling the scores of people who step into the ocean at a siren’s call.

It’s with a soft sigh that Iwaya pulls a compact mirror out of her bag, beginning the cleanup operation after stemming the downpour on her face. It’s into an almost comfortable never fully realised silence that Tsukuachi offers, “So would anyone care to fill me in on what just happened?” The Detective is caught somewhere between bitter and butthurt, which isn't the best of looks on him.

“The Doctor’s had a change of heart about sharing those notes with us,” Hitoshi answers with all the composure Tsukauchi is lacking right now. He tilts his head back to meet Iwaya’s gaze. “Isn't that right?”

“I’ll get them now,” Iwaya says with shaky breath that's just starting to settle, reaching for her bag to withdraw a bundle of keys to unlock her desk.

“Wh– you had them here this whole time?” Tsukauchi comes off a touch conflicted. Serves him right for thinking he could take a Psych at face value: one hard-learned lesson for the naive detective. “What about the warrant, the protection?”

“I trust him.” Iwaya is looking at Hitoshi first, but turns over her shoulder to tar Aizawa and Tsukauchi with the same brush. “All of you.” For perhaps the first time, Aizawa thinks he's looking at Iwaya's true face, tear-streaked and divested of the many walls she's built to keep herself safe all this time. “Please find a way to stop her, to stop all of this.”

“We will,” Hitoshi assures before anyone else can get a word in. “I give you my word.” That's equivalent to a contract in blood, the way his family go. Whether Heroic or Villainous, it’s sure enough that a Shinsou achieves what they set out to do, or gets sentenced to consecutive life sentences for trying. And if it is a blood pact, Hitoshi's got an incredible propensity for spreading the stuff all over himself, though Aizawa's solution is to wear black at all times, so he's not one to talk.

“Or you could leave it to the police, you know. Not put us out of a job and all.” It's hard to tell if Tsukauchi is joking or not, but the feeling Aizawa gets is he's probably not.

Iwaya composes herself and gets up, circling her desk and unlocking the drawers, from which she produces a locked file. From another drawer she takes out a combination-locked capsule, and from that produces an intricate key that unlocks the file. Anyone would think she’s paranoid about the security of her information. The drawer is neatly organised with dividers, which Iwaya walks her fingers along until finding the section she wants.

She withdraws a wedge of papers and holds them out to Hitoshi of all people. “These are just copies. The originals are in my safe at home, but I trust this will be sufficient for now.”

It’s like a bad joke: A Police Detective, a Licensed Pro Hero, and a Qualified Psych are in an office together – and the Psych hands her critical evidence to a first-year General Studies Student with a brainwashing quirk.

“You're awfully prepared for this,” Aizawa observes without trying to make it accusatory.

“Not for this, but I have prepared.” Iwaya is marbled and cold, but Aizawa has learned enough of her to know this is no reflection on the people she's with, just the subject she's handling. No one shuts down emotion without a reason, and with the shadow of Dr. Shinsou looming in the past, Iwaya’s got plenty to be afraid of.

“Prepared for what?” Tsukauchi asks, only to get a pitying look from everyone in the room.

“To give evidence against Professor Shinsou,” Iwaya answers solemnly. Aizawa catches a look on Tsukauchi’s face that seems to envy the very tissues that have touched her cheeks. She does cut a compelling picture, and Aizawa acknowledges how it might affect some people – not him of course. He's just interested in the evidence.

“You’ve been waiting a long time, huh?” Hitoshi puts to Iwaya, sliding a little further back to go from leaning on her desk to actually sitting on it. He starts to flick through the notes, but his face quickly falls, followed moments after by his hands as he lets them down. Not ready for what they contain, perhaps.

“I had thought it might not be necessary, after—” Iwaya trails off. They all know: he’s already in prison, the finite point in the Shinsou Family timeline, post-massacre.

“Doesn’t feel much safer knowing he’s behind bars, does it?” Hitoshi isn’t feeding Iwaya a question for a certain response – like some admission to prove she’s afraid. It’s a hand of empathy, Aizawa thinks, probing to see if she feels the same way he does. Iwaya shakes her head, an agreement in this context, and sniffs as the waterworks start up again. She reaches for another tissue that’s just beyond her grasp – they’re not usually meant for the person on her side of the desk.

Hitoshi pulls the tissue out and holds it out to her, another quick brush between their fingertips that Aizawa catches with sharp eyes. Tsukauchi might notice too, because he looks crossly bemused by the reality that he’s been ousted by a teenager—which, if anything, reflects Tsukauchi’s  underestimation of this particular teenager.

Aizawa crosses the room and stops about an arm’s reach away from Hitoshi, holding a hand out expectantly. He expects Hitoshi to know that he sure as shit doesn’t want to hold Hitoshi’s hand. Dr. Iwaya’s world might light up when she touches Hitoshi, suddenly positioned in the centre of all floodlit “hundred percent” of Hitoshi’s mind. But Aizawa's been a teacher long enough to have seen all manner of flourishing adolescent romance, and he’s much more interested in the notes than Hitoshi and Iwaya's newfound love of skinship.

“Extra homework for you,” Hitoshi remarks as he offers up the wad of papers, which Aizawa takes and quickly starts to flip through. Dr. Iwaya has neat handwriting, dated entries of a meticulous student getting a big chance to work for the most famous professor in the field. An opportunity that turned so sour she kept the tear-stained evidence against him for years in a triple-locked safe.

“And you,” Aizawa replies without looking up. The notes cover more children than just Shiyoko who underwent the Doc’s ‘assessment’, but with a careful eye it’s easy to pick out which numbered subject is Shiyoko. Named 44 by a cruel twist of fate, the number and nature of the different assessments dwarf any others in Iwaya’s notes, amended with frantic scribbling in the margins and less neatly kept than the earlier ones. There are more scanned coffee stains on these pages, copied and printed on office paper that’s become perfectly flat the way only long-settled sheets can get. This file could be anywhere from six to sixteen years old – however long it’s been since Iwaya assisted the Doc with his ‘research’, long before the man went to prison.

Aizawa scans a line or two, and the findings are as unsavory as he expects. It’s mostly requests of equipment from the Doc, along with instructions on how to set up the room and documents for recording the results. But the experiments sound… strange.

For example, 1 jar of cockroaches (live), chopsticks and soy sauce (optional); or the one requiring marker pens (3), scalpel (1) and first aid kit (1) to plot information in a table mapping length and depth of incision; and of course the classic time until quirk stoppage against minutes until unconsciousness, with an additional note on the margins of that one reads scale for time too short, and another one that reads 5+ mins = and then there’s a little skull and crossbones drawing, but it’s amazing how such a trivial detail can jar so much. Like biting into a ball-bearing in a mouthful of food.

Aizawa stops reading, and when he lifts his eyes from the page his gaze falls straight into Hitoshi’s; he’s looking right at Aizawa, waiting to be seen. Aizawa glances back down and sees hammers (1) and mice (live) written on one of the setup lists, and like a static shock, Aizawa reminds himself these are the same experiments Hitoshi was made to participate in too. There’s something in Hitoshi’s intense stare that knows it. A ‘look what he made me do’ call for… something. Not pity, but certainly understanding. Compassion, maybe. Why Hitoshi is the way he is. Even if he’s got nothing to be sorry for.

“Did you notice the date?” Hitoshi asks Aizawa carelessly, though it’s a cover and they both know it.

Aizawa glances again and sees nothing that clicks for him. “So?”

Then Shinsou says, “The first test is from about a month before I was born.”

It hits Aizawa like a fist to the gut, something he didn’t know before and had no need to think about until now. The next realisation that falls out of this information is that Hitoshi must have turned sixteen recently. Maybe even since he and Aizawa started… training. He didn’t say anything about it being his birthday, but then, Hitoshi wouldn’t.

Somehow, the first response from the jostling crowd of thoughts that makes it out of Aizawa's mouth is, “Guess I owe you a happy birthday.”

Hitoshi settles for a gobsmacked, “Thanks?”

Things get a little awkward after that, which Aizawa takes as a cue to return to examining the notes. Iwaya recomposes herself and then puts her secure file back in her locked desk, while Tsukauchi just loiters, waiting until he can get an explanation that makes some kind of sense to the poor detective.

They’re on their way out of the police station, Aizawa and Hitoshi at the front followed by Tsukauchi and Iwaya at the back – swaddled in her great big coat again – when Tamakawa finally catches up. Maybe he decided to finish that nap, or maybe he just couldn't find them fast enough. A few paces behind Tama comes Yamaguichi, bounding like a puppy and almost skidding into Tama’s back with how quickly she has to stop.

“What the hell, Eraser.” Tama’s voice is low, sort of growling but without an air of intimidation to back it up. It just comes out like a husky purr, “You drag a guy out of bed and just run off like that?”

Tsukauchi and Iwaya stop whatever conversation they were having in secretive murmurs and look over at Aizawa. A second into the questionable pause, Hitoshi and Yamaguichi both burst into laughter that defuses the moment entirely.

“C’mon.” Tama tugs on Aizawa’s arm, which isn’t going to budge him one bit, but that doesn’t mean the attempt isn’t appreciated. “Don’t I owe you a cigarette?”

“Sounds right to me,” Aizawa replies with a shrug, letting Tama move him, peeling away from Tsukauchi and Iwaya only to find Hitoshi stall in the middle. “You coming?” Aizawa asks simply, and Hitoshi’s glance leaps from the Detective and Iwaya back to Aizawa, before finally coming to a stop on Yamaguichi.

In profile to Aizawa’s line of sight, just one corner of Hitoshi’s mouth lifts, curling open as he tells Aizawa, “I’ll catch you later.”

“So.” Tamakawa takes the filter of the cigarette from his muzzle with long-nailed fingers and blows a puff of smoke up into the alleyway that just about constitutes Aizawa and Tama’s informal office. “You’ve been busy.”

Aizawa lets out a long sigh and drags on his cigarette. “Where do you want me to start?”

Tama’s a smart cat so doesn't disappoint Aizawa with the inquiry, “How does Dr. Iwaya factor into all this?”

“Have you ever heard of Dr. Shinsou Masaru?” is Aizawa’s response, which Tama can’t figure out as a logical counterpoint to his question, going by the disgruntled shake of his whiskers.

“It rings a bell, but I can’t remember why.” Tama takes another lazy pull and waits for Aizawa to carry on.

“He’s a famous Professor of mentalist quirks. Firstly for his groundbreaking research, and then for all the people he killed using his brainwashing quirk.”

Tama stops dead with his cigarette midway from his mouth. “Wait, that’s the cop-killer?”

“His original plan was just to kill his students,” Aizawa replies dryly. “But he also murdered the officers who tried to arrest him.” And an unpublished, closely guarded number of individuals since then, Aizawa reckons. The Warden doesn’t have the security controls he does for the Doc without a good reason.

Tama’s putting the pieces together, puffing thoughtfully, and it’s interesting to watch. “By making people kill themselves?”

“Exactly,” Aizawa congratulates. “Before he committed the massacre, Dr. Iwaya used to work for him.” After a quick break to drag on his cigarette, Aizawa adds, “It’s around that time he first met our killer.”

If Tama’s got the right instincts – which Aizawa thinks he does – the questions he asks will follow a chain of logic, narrowing down the options like whittling a stick into a fine point. “What for?”

“The Doc conducted research on children with mentalist quirks,” Aizawa replies. “The killer was one of his subjects.”

Tamakawa looks about as impressed with that as any sensible person should be. “And Dr. Iwaya was complicit?”

“Yes, although it happened long before he killed anyone,” Aizawa sets down carefully. Iwaya’s clearly been troubled by her experience with the Doc, if her incredible defences and crying jag are any indication, and there’s no need to go undermining a good lead with a poor telling of her backstory. “It means she’s a valuable contact to Dr. Shinsou and the killer.” And has the human equivalent of Caution: Fragile Goods stickers plastered all over her.

“For you, at least.” Tama gives a more spiteful puff. “I’m going to end up on report if the Chief finds out I’m still following this case.”

Aizawa doesn’t like that, so he just says what he’s been thinking this whole time at long last. “I’d prefer if you were a Detective on it.” Especially because Tama’s the one who found this damn case in the first place. Without Tama’s call to Aizawa slightly less than a week ago, Aizawa would still be none the wiser, and the police would be chasing their tails over this newly sprung killer.

“So would I, but that’s not really a surprise, is it?” Tama replies bitterly.

“Why hasn’t it happened?” Aizawa asks. He’s not great at sensitivity, but he can do direct and honest, which often counts for more.

“There’s no ‘openings’ for a detective, Chief says,” Tama replies tersely, flicking ash off the end of his cigarette.

“Ah, because there’s clearly not enough crime to go round,” Aizawa mutters. It’s hard not to let it grate on him – good people denied the advancement they deserve, unrecognised for their ability because of some petty canine-feline bias. He’s a real sucker for that.

“It’s fine,” Tamakawa says like it isn’t and he knows that. Aizawa would be wise to let it alone, and probably won’t. He can simmer a grudge like no one else – at least according to Hizashi. “So what’s so special about Dr. Iwaya that’s worth your kid bolting like that?” So Tama did have his feline ears pricked from on top of the vending machines.

“She’s kept notes from the experiments Dr. Shinsou conducted on the killer,” Aizawa replies without addressing the ‘your kid’ bit just now. Especially when it’s slightly more true every time Tama says it – which is when it first occurs to Aizawa that maybe Tamakawa had it right all along. If so, he’s too good a Detective to pass over: Chief Tsuragamae must be out of his doggone mind.

“That creepy mentalist shit?” Tama makes a face, clearly still put off by the whole mentalist angle. He’s a little too squeamish about that aspect to be as useful as he could be on this case, and the instant counter-thought that occurs to Aizawa is that Tama should experience Hitoshi’s quirk – because then he’d understand there’s nothing bad or creepy about it. Not when the person who holds your mind in his hands hands is worth calling a Hero.

And Hitoshi might not be a hundred percent there yet, but Aizawa will admit he’s respectably good for his age.

“The sort of thing that’d deeply traumatise a young child, sure,” Aizawa only confirms as much to Tama as he needs to know. Even if Hitoshi took Dr. Shinsou’s worst and still came up roses, not every plant grown from that particular training ground smells quite so sweet. “And we found out from another source that the Doc and Shiyoko started to correspond again at some point after that.”

“Correspond how?” Tama queries like Aizawa’s choice of words puzzles him. “You mean they wrote each other letters?”

“Seems that way,” Aizawa confirms.

“Huh, retro.” Tamakawa shrugs and finishes his cigarette, stubbing it against the wall and then binning it in the ashtray that’s been bolted to the wall sometime in the past week. Maintenance must have finally got the hint. “So what happens next?”

Tamakawa smokes faster than Aizawa, so Aizawa is still pulling the last gasps from his cigarette, the pungent cloud on his breath when he finally speaks again. It’s not to directly reply, because for now there’s nothing they can do, except keep looking for a lead hot enough to follow to the killer. Which inevitably means one thing.

“It's just a matter of time,” Aizawa says before he finally chokes out the cigarette, sucking it right to the filter and stubbing out with attentive purpose. “She could be murdering her next victim right now.”

It comes out a little morbid, but Aizawa’s point stands true. Fresh bodies give hot leads, while obscure experiments from sixteen years ago are colder than Dr. Iwaya herself. Nights and mornings are Shiyoko’s prime windows, too, though Aizawa knows – as much as he wants to – he can’t try to patrol the whole city for one girl with a murderous marker pen. Onwards goes the game of cat and mouse.

All they can really hope for, Aizawa thinks morosely, is that the next one will be the last.

Somehow he’s not convinced.

Their party reunites back at the entrance of the police station, where they first found Iwaya waiting for them. She's waiting again, but now so is Detective Tsukauchi, sitting patiently in the chair next to her. On the other side of the corridor, Yamaguichi and Hitoshi are huddled around a phone – Hitoshi’s, Aizawa thinks. He wonders if Hitoshi and Yamaguichi traded information. Hitoshi could surely get the digits, though what he’d use them for is beyond Aizawa.

“You all coupled off nicely, huh?” Tamakawa teases primarily to get a rise out of Yamaguichi – at least, she’s the one who reacts most. This is by going bright red almost immediately, while Hitoshi sniggers like he’s proud of it. He probably did get her info, Aizawa reckons. That… should be useful?

“You’re one to talk,” Hitoshi rips right back with an oh-so-amused scoff on his lips; he pushes himself onto his feet, swaying for a moment like a rod of bamboo in the wind. Strong but still flexible. His glance flits around the room with playful accusation, still good-humoured as he suggests, “So, who’s giving me a ride home?”

“I guess that’s… me.” Yamaguichi’s just going even redder in the face, even if there’s nothing strange about it – she’s been giving them lifts since the start, before Hitoshi was even involved in this case. It’s just the context that’s making her flustered, which Hitoshi (and Tamakawa) both seem to find delightful.

“You can drop me on the way then,” Aizawa offers like it’s a convenience. It isn’t really, but he’d like a ride too.

“Not so fast,” Tsukauchi intercedes, standing while Iwaya remains seated – her gaze lingering thoughtfully on Hitoshi. “We aren’t waiting for a bus, you know.”

“Does the nosey detective route not stop here anymore?” Aizawa returns dryly, but Tsukauchi ain’t fooled.

The detective holds his hand out, fingers curling in invitation. “Remember that talk we had about police evidence?” Aizawa releases a deep sigh and tugs the zip of his jumpsuit down a little, reaching inside to fumble with an interior pocket and pull out a wad of paper. He place it in Tsukauchi’s hand and a moment passes. “Eraser,” the Detective remarks politely. “This is a camping equipment catalogue.”

Aizawa takes a second look. “So it is.” He fumbles in the same pocket again, and this time withdraws Iwaya’s notes. But these Aizawa hangs onto, keeping them clasped in his fingers just out of reach of Tsukauchi’s. “I haven’t had a chance to read them yet.”

“Neither have I,” Tsukauchi points out. “You see our dilemma?” Iwaya’s looking a little impatient, and Aizawa has the sudden realisation that she’s waiting for Tsukauchi. Maybe he’s going to make it up to her sooner than expected.

Aizawa contemplates the situation a moment, settling on the only logical solution. He keeps hold of the notes and slumps into one of the deliberately uncomfortable waiting room chairs. “I’ll stay here and read, then,” he suggests. “I’ll leave them on your desk when I’m done.”

Tsukauchi’s face twists like there’s a joint hidden somewhere behind his ear that tightens every line of his expression. This technically doesn’t inconvenience him at all – police evidence stays in the police station, and the Detective clearly wasn’t about to dive into the notes anyway. Dive into Iwaya, perhaps, and who knows what information a clever detective might be able to drag up that way. Tsukauchi is better at his job than Aizawa usually gives him credit for – he doesn’t need it, guy knows his own value.

“Fine, fine,” Tsukauchi begrudges in the end. “Use my office if you like.” He waves the camping catalogue at Aizawa, who quickly snatches it back.

“Not necessary,” Aizawa says with a quick glance at Tamakawa. After a moment’s consideration, he offers the magazine to Tama. “I’ve got a spot sorted out.”

“Then I guess this is goodbye.” Tama takes the catalogue with a critical eye but sticks it in a pocket and pats Aizawa on the back fondly before he walks over to join Yamaguichi and Hitoshi. They’re probably back on duty soon, getting ready for the night shift as the afternoon ticks over into evening. “See ya later, Eraser.”

“Later, Tama,” Aizawa returns, swiveling around to hang his legs over the armrest and flopping flat on his back against the unforgiving row of plastic seats. He holds Iwaya’s notes up above his head and flips to where he left off – it’s about to be another long night.

“Guess I’ll catch you tomorrow too.” Hitoshi’s tone is a little more distant this time, even though he still wants a goodbye from Aizawa; maybe it’s being in front of all these people, disguising the intimacy he’s usually keen to flaunt. Maybe Hitoshi’s feeling a little exposed, knowing Aizawa’s about to scour the details of what Dr. Shinsou did to children just like him.

Hitoshi might be Aizawa’s intern, but that doesn’t mean they have to do everything together. The kid’s presumably still got homework to do. Aizawa gives a lax wave, tilting his head far enough to catch sight of Hitoshi, towering over Aizawa from this position. With a wry grin, Aizawa offers, “Try to stay out of trouble.”

Hitoshi manages a tentative smile back, passing as softly as an owl flaps between the trees. “You know me.”

“Yeah.” Aizawa puts his attention back to the pages over his head, a smile of his own that’s there for all to see. “That’s half the problem.”

Everyone else finally leaves, and Aizawa reads in the waiting area awhile before going  to check out Tama’s spot on top of the vending machines – he’s right, it’s pleasantly warm, and the low humming even lulls Aizawa into a short sleep for an indeterminate number of hours as the evening turns into night. Aizawa’s awoken by the impassioned ballad of his phone, and he sits up too fast in a startled state and knocks his head on the ceiling.

Rubbing his forehead as he flops back down and answers, Aizawa’s already sighing when Hizashi’s dulcet tones come bellowing down the line. “And where the fuck are you?”

“You wouldn’t believe me if I told you,” Aizawa replies coarsely.

Hizashi gives a whinny like a horse that’s had enough of its tiresome day-job. “You sound like you just woke up.”

“Thanks to you.” Aizawa rubs his face; it is a good thing Hizashi woke him, really. He didn’t come here for a nap. “I’m working on something.”

“Napping doesn’t count as work,” Hizashi scolds. “We’ve been over this.”

Aizawa smiles, wondering what time it is and what point Hizashi’s reached in his evening routine. “Are you at home?”

“Not yet, but if you’re not gonna be there maybe I’ll sack off domestic bliss and go for a drink with Kayama after all.” After the weekend’s drinkathon, Aizawa’s got no desire to get back into that rotten stuff anytime soon. How Hizashi manages it is a feat to Aizawa – something about being a rockstar, Hizashi would surely claim.

“Have fun.” The coded implication behind this, a subtle language built up over fifteen years of friendship, is that Aizawa’s got no interest in joining Hizashi for this pursuit, and moreover wants to be left to whatever it is he’s doing. A shriekathon with Kayama and Hizashi is alright for people who like being stuck in a cage with two equally loud canaries for a few hours, but Aizawa’s got things to focus on, and he knows what those two do to his attention span.

“I’m always fun!” Hizashi caws; that’s mostly true. “Love you.”

“Love you too.” Aizawa hears a couple of people in the break room who aren’t visible from this top-tier napping spot. He wonders if they’re confused by the vending machines making random declarations of love, but Aizawa can’t tell so it effectively doesn’t matter. Hizashi’s still making kissy noises as Aizawa says “See you later,” and hangs up.

Much later.

In a bid to actually stay awake, Aizawa leaves the soothing mechanical womb of the vending machines – to a few weird stares from the night-shift workers, but no actual questions – and retreats to Tsukauchi’s office. The shared room is blessedly empty and far less comfortable in a way that allows Aizawa to actually concentrate on reading Iwaya’s notes. As well as a few of Tsukauchi’s that he’s left lying around.

There might be nothing in these notes, but if there’s just one thing that gets them closer to catching the killer then it’s worth the whole night. After a while Aizawa starts to build up a rhythm for reading the experiments, following Iwaya’s format and able to digest the purpose of the Doc’s ‘research’ with Shiyoko more easily. There’s a series of requests for chemicals in doses that have been scribbled out and written in larger quantities several times – they could be for anyone in the room with Dr. Shinsou. Hopefully not for him, though there’s more than enough uppers in there to hotwire a man of Dr. Shinsou’s stature, if he’d be so inclined. Aizawa can’t picture it, but that might just be because he really doesn’t want to.

Looking over the notes from other subjects mixed in at intervals, Aizawa can immediately see why the Doc would have become obsessed with Shiyoko. Most of the subjects, if they have a brainwashing quirk at all, don’t have the strength at that age to make someone hold their breath longer than ten to twenty seconds, much less hurt themselves – no dangerous tools on the equipment list for their ‘assessments’. But with #44 – Shiyoko – from start-to-finish Aizawa can determine the escalation, even the point when what the Doc wanted to do with her stopped being about careful measurements and devolved to pure violence. The experiment in which the Doc requested a box of live frogs and a large vat of acid is a wonderful highlight in that division. So are the ones with the knives, hammers, and in one case a set of pliers to be recorded against teeth.

There’s a well-worn page among the notes that has a phone number underlined several times, dogeared as if Iwaya referred back to it frequently. Scattered around it a bullet point list of questions that just say things like, Treating acid burns, cauterising wounds and on one occasion how much blood with the skull drawing again. Aizawa checks the number and finds the answering machine of a Private Doctor. He doesn’t leave a message but saves it in his phone as ‘The Doc’s Quack’ and keeps going.

The last experiment Aizawa can find in Dr. Iwaya’s notes for #44 is far milder than any of the previous, requesting simple children’s toys, coloured blocks and other mundane things that could be used to demonstrate a person’s faculty under the most basic form of mind control through a brainwashing quirk. Aizawa has the thought of it being a session the Doc wasn’t alone for – a spectator invading the intimacy that he clearly liked to preserve when he was making subjects torture animals and sometimes themselves.

When Aizawa’s finished, there’s no bolt of lightning, no illuminating strike in the darkness that makes all the pieces jump together. That’s not really how this work goes most of the time. It’s just grubbing around in the darkness looking for something that isn’t a handful of dirt. Aizawa’s crawled through a lot if it here, and maybe he hasn’t got any one thing that’s more important than all others.

But what Aizawa does have, like it or not, is a chillingly accurate picture of exactly what Dr. Shinsou and Shiyoko are capable of.