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Aizawa is awoken by his phone singing a love ballad. Without moving any more than is absolutely necessary, he digs it from his pocket and jams the handset between his face and the mattress, which he appears to have drooled a sizable damp patch on. Hopefully it’s just saliva, in comparison to the blood he's smeared all over the sheets. Probably should have washed his arm and hands before passing out, though Recovery Girl's dealt with much worse before.

As always, Aizawa’s wake-up call is a sonorous, “Shotaaaaaaaa.”

“M'at school,” Aizawa mumbles into the rumpled sheets as much as the phone, knowing that it can't be much later than 6:00 a.m. if Hizashi is ringing him from bed, which means he’s got a solid hour's sleep working in his favour.

“You have fun last night?” Even freshly woken up: hell, especially then, Hizashi's bubbling with the energy of a good night's sleep. Bastard. It makes Aizawa think he should go home at some point and be structured, or at least get caught up on the slippery slope he's heading down to full-blown hallucinations. Can't fight crime when the real villains are indistinguishable from sleep deprivation-induced visions. Aizawa terrified a class once by not being able to make that particular distinction early on in his job-juggling days. A lesson learned for all of them.

“Sorta,” Aizawa answers with a creaky groan, rolling over and seeing Hitoshi opposite him in the next bed, still blissfully unaware of the waking world. “I got stabbed.”

“Oh good, I was starting to worry you were becoming a responsible person,” Hizashi riffs sarkily. “Was it worth it?”

“Kinda,” Aizawa hears himself croak and gives a tired sigh. “Something big is coming.”

“Yeah baby, you know it,” Hizashi's voice pours like whiskey on the rocks, a distinctive string of pants undercutting his tone that tells Aizawa of exactly what he's up to first thing in the morning. “It's gonna come everywhere.”

Aizawa has had just enough sleep to have energy for a tired laugh. “See you at school.”

“Wait! I'm almost there–” Hizashi's wheedling when Aizawa hangs up. Nice as the sentiment is, Aizawa would rather not listen to his partner orgasm in the company of an unconscious teenager in the next bed over.

Aizawa fumbles for a bottle of eye drops, letting his eyelids droop for just a second (in theory), then goes completely lights-out until the next rude awakening. This takes the form of a spray bottle squirting in his face an indeterminate amount of time later.

The water is so refreshing that Aizawa lets it continue for a while on purpose, before finally opening his eyes to lock gaze to tired gaze with Recovery Girl. Only she’s tired of Aizawa’s crap, and he’s just regular tired.

“Made a mess of my sheets as usual, Aizawa.” Recovery Girl squirts him again and Aizawa keeps his eyes open, meaning he doesn’t even really need the eye drops he finds balled in his fist from before he fell asleep. “It looks like you slaughtered a pig in here.” Wrong phrasing, but she’s not to know that.

“You’re a nurse, you can't complain about a little blood.” The bottle makes a distinctive shhhht sound as Recovery Girl sprays him another couple of times in the face. Who needs showers at this rate?

“A little? I should’ve made you sleep outside with the rest of the animals.”

“That’s your mistake, Old Lady.”

Recovery Girl keeps drenching Aizawa in a light mist, and he brings a hand to his face, remembering a little too late that last night – well, a couple of hours ago – his hands were mostly covered in blood. Dried on, but newly rehydrated with the misting Recovery Girl is giving him with a bottle he thinks she uses on the plants. Aizawa has probably turned himself into a scene from a horror film by the time he sits up. The sheets are clearly ruined already, so he uses them to mop up the worst of the leftover blood over his hands, arm and now face before turning to the next bed.

Hitoshi’s still asleep, turned over on his side with his back to Aizawa. He feels bad about what he’s going to have to do, but the kid signed up for this when he wanted to join Aizawa on an all-night stakeout in the first place.

“Rise and shine,” Aizawa delivers like he absolutely does not mean it. He lays a hand, perhaps a little too heavily, on Hitoshi’s shoulder, because he jumps awake like he’s been wired with a thousand volts. Hitoshi stalls, reorienting himself with his surroundings – what it means if he’s being woken up – then lets out a long, gurgling groan of self-loathing that Aizawa recognises all too well. “I know.” Aizawa’s hand remains in an absent-minded perch on Hitoshi’s shoulder, shifting as Hitoshi turns and levers himself upright, coming up to sit on the bed with a look like death warmed up.

Still behind Hitoshi, Aizawa mostly gets stuck on how perfectly flat the newly lifted plane of Hitoshi’s bed-head is. Lolling to one side like a badly fitted mop head, Hitoshi revels in sharing his opening remark on the morning. “I feel like crap.”

“I can tell,” Aizawa replies, which is a bit softer than ‘you also look like crap’, but Hitoshi shakes Aizawa’s hand off his shoulder resentfully all the same.

“I think I need a coffee,” Hitoshi mumbles mostly into his hands as he brings them up to his face. Aizawa doesn't usually recommend kids on coffee in first year, but he usually recommends they get more than three hours sleep too. It's going to reflect badly on both of them if Hitoshi shows up to class but can't stay awake. Is that worse than giving a teen coffee? Hell if Aizawa knows.

“I'll get you one,” Aizawa bribes as much as he concedes, using the hand Hitoshi shook off his shoulder to pull Hitoshi's feet off the end of the bed. Kid didn't even take his trainers off before falling asleep last night: still in stakeout mode. Even Aizawa finds the transition from Hero work back to school bumpy sometimes, so Hitoshi might benefit from a sliver of separation between those two worlds on this occasion. Hell, so will Aizawa. “Come on, there's a place just outside the school that does a good breakfast.” Food isn’t exactly compensation for sleep, but it certainly helps, especially with a growing teen in tow.

“Have we got time?” Hitoshi isn't exactly going to question extra time with Aizawa, but if there's time for coffee and breakfast, there’s surely time for extra sleep. There is, some half-hour-ish closing window until they need to flip back over into being a student and teacher who have nothing to do with each other. But the fresh air and walk will be good for both of them – put on at least some appearance of being fully conscious by the time homeroom kicks in.

“If you move your ass, yeah,” Aizawa replies unceremoniously, and that gets Hitoshi moving a bit quicker. He trails furtively after Aizawa as they head out of Recovery Girl's office and bounce off-campus just as the early birds are starting to trickle in. No one seems to recognise them, but then again, Hitoshi's got his hood pulled up on an all-black tracksuit, looking more like a harrowed old man than a teenager. Aizawa recognises the look all too well – he’d find it on his own face if he ever bothered looking in a mirror.

Hitoshi’s edgy appearance shifts after they arrive at the little cafe where Aizawa’s had many an early breakfast following a sleepless night. Hitoshi heads to the bathroom moments after they’re shown to a tiny booth in the frantic breakfast joint, while Aizawa orders his usual for both of them, which has been hurriedly set out even before Hitoshi returns in his school uniform.

Hitoshi has to dodge various wait-staff and busy tradesmen on the way back, and if the circles under Hitoshi’s eyes had already looked like he was missing out on rest, now he’s got a matching set of hair, irises and and eyebags like purple is the new black. Hitoshi’s dead on his feet, bumping a few people coming down the narrow aisle towards the booth Aizawa’s sat at. The air is full of the shouts of kitchen staff and clatter of crockery together, warm and humid from endless kettles of tea and coffee, complimented somehow by huge bubbling saucepans of soup and broth. A place you get hungry just sitting in.

The school uniform of this haggard student of the General Course is extra-crumpled from being stuffed in Hitoshi’s bag throughout the stakeout that is not part of his curriculum, and hell if it isn’t a little apt. Hitoshi slumps into the seat opposite Aizawa looking like a sack full of tired schoolkid again, dragging his fingers through his hair to comb out his lop-sided bed head.

The first thing Hitoshi does to his promised cup of coffee is add sugar, but not so much that Aizawa judges him to have butchered it with sweetness. (Not like Hizashi does.)

While most of the customers of this establishment wouldn’t blink twice at a schoolkid with what probably looks like his super-grotty uncle, there’s still a chance of someone from school popping in. Probably not a big one, but enough that Hitoshi’s given it thought too.

That’s gotta be why Hitoshi takes a noisy slurp of his coffee, pulls a face and then not-so innocently announces, “I wonder what someone from school would think if they saw us here.”

“Doesn’t matter what they think,” Aizawa grunts as he takes a hearty slug of his own coffee, breaking apart his chopsticks and beginning to fuel up on his hearty breakfast. He’s got a lot of blood to replenish, and there’s still a killer on the loose who might want more.

“Maybe that we’re related.” Hitoshi makes the observation as naturally as it’d surely seem to the right spectator. Perhaps that’s what the businessmen in here would think if they ever paid attention enough to have such a thought.

“Might do,” Aizawa offers without too much thought, more invested in clearing his rice bowl and waving in a top-up with his chopsticks – along with a refill on his coffee. Hitoshi is mostly mooning over his food and letting the coffee go cold, but Aizawa’s not parent enough to maintain interest in nagging the boy to eat. Aizawa barely gets himself to eat; he’s not going further than putting food in front of Hitoshi. If Hitoshi just wants to stare it down then good luck to him.

Hitoshi’s mulling something over, which finally comes out with the prognosis, “Fuck knows, I could do a lot worse.”

Aizawa gives a chesty laugh as a server refills his coffee cup, taking a scalding hot swig to wash down a mouthful of greens (if he makes it home tonight maybe he'll raid Hizashi's medicine cabinet for lost nutrients). Hitoshi could certainly do much better than Aizawa, sitting here feeding a teenager coffee to keep him up through class after dragging him through another messy crime scene at fuck ‘o clock in the morning. But when the comparison is Dr. Shinsou, anyone looks good.

“Yeah,” Aizawa concedes between bites, then caveats with a more morose, “Says a lot if I'm the best you've got.” At least for some kinda male role model.

“I've got Ma,” Hitoshi fairly points out in turn; perhaps reconnecting with the concept of his mother’s worry, he finally starts taking an interest in his food. Slightly more into his coffee, but Aizawa can't begrudge him that.

There's probably a large part of Hitoshi's astonishing normality in the face of his extraordinary circumstances that's entirely down to his mother, who managed to raise a devilishly smart boy with the makings of a Hero while she is a single, working parent – and supporting the two of them while also fending off the maniacal claws of the pre-massacre Doc would have been no small task. Aizawa’s sure Hitoshi’s Ma is entitled to vastly more recognition than she's ever likely to receive.

“Being a parent is a tough job to do alone,” Aizawa observes somewhere over his third cup of coffee – Hitoshi sneaks in a refill too, but he's started eating so Aizawa’s not going to worry about over-caffeinating him just yet.

Hitoshi scoffs, “You can say that again,” as he resugars his coffee and takes a thirsty slurp. He still looks tired, but the colour's coming back to his cheeks – what little there is to begin with.

The conversation flows a little more naturally while they both eat, running like the turn of a stream widening out. “You help out much at home?” Aizawa asks as he takes a glug of soup.

Hitoshi looses a ‘how dare you’ scoff, like he can’t believe Aizawa’s audacity to ask such a ridiculous question. “Oh yeah, I’m a regular homemaker.”

Aizawa casts a look of some scepticism across the table at Hitoshi, his eyebrow lifting behind the curtain of his hair. “Really?”

“I cook, do laundry, I even iron,” Hitoshi rattles off like he’s a disenchanted housewife’s gadget – the helpful son – rather than a teenage boy. Not his own clothes, going by the creased shirt visible inside his even more crumpled blazer, but maybe his mother’s.

If the intended effect of this tirade is to make Aizawa laugh then it works, a rusty chuckle that slips out over his next slug of coffee. “That’s more than most kids your age.” The boys, at least.

Hitoshi returns as smoothly as a letter with return to sender stamped on it, “I think we’ve managed to establish I’m not like most kids my age.”

Aizawa makes a noncommittal noise over his cup before setting it back down, pointing at one of Hitoshi’s untouched bowls of greens. “You gonna eat that?”

Hitoshi lifts an eyebrow at him, figuring out if it’s a nag, probably. The issue settles when Aizawa reaches over the table to take it for himself. They don’t have much longer before they need to be back on-campus for the start of school. Aizawa needs the vitamins.

As if in acknowledgement of that looming fact, Aizawa’s phone buzzes in his pocket. He slips it out and is checking the message from Hizashi, which just reads ‘Breakfast?’ and to which he simply replies ‘Cafe’. If Hizashi’s already arrived at UA, then he might not be far out, though Aizawa has no certainty his best friend-lover will come to find him. But he might. Nothing wrong with an air of mystery to keep things fresh.

Barely a moment after Aizawa’s put his phone back down, Hitoshi pops the question, “Does your old lady mind you being out all night?” like he’s being clever, which he probably thinks he is. All his couldn’t-be-wrong assumptions that’ll come out sooner or later.

“Wouldn’t have lasted if that kind of stuff mattered,” Aizawa replies with careful concealment of anything slightly too informative, like gendered pronouns for a start. Not because he gives a flying fuck about what Hitoshi or anyone else thinks about same-sex relationships, but because it’s Aizawa’s relationship and he’s entitled to keep it private. Even if it’s just a matter of time with Hitoshi and there’s be a point where it’ll become inescapable, until that moment Aizawa’s keeping his cards good and close to his chest.

Hitoshi gives this some consideration as he puts more of a dent in his breakfast, then makes the ill-timed observation, “Not sure I can picture you with a girlfriend.” Hitoshi is trying to be scathing, but obviously has no idea how right he actually is.

Because right on time, in fulfilment of his hunch about Hizashi texting when he’s already on the way, Aizawa catches the canary-yellow plumage of a ridiculous bird strutting through the doorway of the cafe. With an amused smirk that Hizashi calls Aizawa’s ‘scaryface', Aizawa answers, “Me neither,” and watches Hitoshi's curious expression shift to outright puzzled. A piece of the story that’s not fitting – and how long until he realises what assumption he’s been making without questioning it?

“Hey!” Mic’s shout rips across the restaurant like a labrador whose owner has come home for the hundredth day in a row, in possession of all the information to know what’s coming, yet still reacting like it’s the surprise of the century. Hizashi gets a little closer and drops a few decibels before following up, “Well if it isn’t the Gruesome Twosome.”

Radiant in his freshly blow-dried morning glory, Hizashi raises a boot on the end a pipecleaner leg and plonks it square on Aizawa’s side, dropping into a lunge to shove him closer to the wall in the booth and make a sliver of space for Hizashi’s to wedge his ass into.

Hizashi’s no sooner got his butt on the seat than he’s in fully engaged scavenger mode, picking over the food Aizawa’s yet to finish like a vulture stripping a carcass. Unwraps his own set of chopsticks and just starts stealing Aizawa’s food as if it’s the most ordinary thing in the world.

Hitoshi looks… a little suspicious. Aizawa and Hizashi have always been friends and colleagues at UA. It’s just the estimation of how much further it goes that people tend to vary on. Hitoshi’s probably still trying to get a fix on it.

Hizashi’s naturally not bothered by anything; Aizawa would have more success trying to reason with a parrot not to eat birdseed than for Hizashi to behave any other way than whats comes naturally to him. It’s while munching on the rest of Aizawa’s veggies that Hizashi takes stock of Hitoshi’s half-empty cup after he puts it down from drinking, and voices an all-channels DJ Mic out-loud thought, “Should you be drinking coffee?” This turns into a follow-up that overrides Aizawa and Hitoshi’s mutual lack of enthusiasm for this line of questioning. “Should you be buying him coffee?”

“Go easy on Aizawa,” Hitoshi cuts into the fabric of the conversation like a pair of smooth-moving scissors. “He’s had a tough morning.”

“Oh I bet.” Hizashi directs this at Hitoshi, peering over the top of his mirrored shades with those piercing green eyes, eyebrows raised and his top lip lowered so he’s got a kind of over-groomed set of brackets framing his face. “But I thought I asked you to keep him out of trouble?”

“Don’t look at me,” Hitoshi replies pretty easily for a kid chatting case details with one of his teachers – part showcasing, and the rest parading his claim on Aizawa as he tries to get a grip on just how Hizashi factors into that equation. Hitoshi hasn’t quite got it yet – no telling what it’ll take to flip his current thinking into considering Aizawa and Hizashi as anything other than friends. It’d taken them seven years, so Aizawa’s not in a place to judge anyone. “Trouble just finds him.”

“Sure does,” Aizawa jumps back in before Hizashi’s got a word to get in edgeways. “You’re here.”

Hitoshi’s grinning with a pretty manic edge, but maybe that’s the scarce amount of sleep talking. “As I recall it, you came looking for me.” He takes a defiant sip of coffee, a glance he flicks at Hizashi like marbles in a playground before centering back on Aizawa. “That still makes you the trouble.”

Hizashi laughs like the crow of a rooster. It was Hizashi's class that Aizawa pulled Hitoshi from in the first place, so Aizawa’s got no deniability. “Kid’s got you there.” He elbows Aizawa and simultaneously goes for the rest of his soup, at which point Aizawa moves just fast enough get there before Hizashi. Aborting his swipe at the last moment, Hizashi takes a conciliatory pinch of Aizawa’s rice.

“How long do we have before school?” Aizawa has a clock on his phone, but when Hizashi’s a talking one, who needs the tech interaction?

Hizashi’s head gives a perplexed quirk. “Oh no, you’re both already like, ten minutes late.”

Aizawa starts to move first and hears Hizashi snort second. Hitoshi’s looking a little concerned, but hasn’t actually moved as of yet, making Aizawa the person who cares the most about being at school on time by default. Likely because he’s the one most likely to lose his job over it. And Hizashi is just winding him up.

Aizawa levels a narrow a glare at Hizashi, then sinks back into his seat with a low murmur that chugs like an engine, “You don’t mean that.” Hizashi’s been yanking Aizawa’s chain for fifteen years, he’s gotten pretty good at sniffing out his bullshit.

“Okay, it’s not for ten minutes, but that gotcha moving.” Aizawa shoves Hizashi, but it’s mostly to push him out of the booth and get up after him. They’re basically done here anyway.

“Mic said we’ve got time, what’re you in such a rush for?” Hitoshi cajoles from the seat he’s yet to vacate, hand still wrapped around his coffee cup like he wants to hang onto this moment just a little bit longer. But they’ll have lots of time.

“Students should get to the classroom before their teachers,” Aizawa drones as he plucks Hitoshi out of his seat like a fresh radish from the ground, depositing him on his feet with a tired friend helping a tired friend kind of resignation. “We’re making this sacrifice on your behalf.”

“Gee, thanks a lot.” Hitoshi reaches up to push Aizawa’s hand off his shoulder, but that act in itself merits a moment of contact. One that takes a moment of sitting before moving on, Hitoshi’s too-big-for-him teen hands tangling fingers with Aizawa’s to flick them off his shoulder. “You shouldn’t have.”

“Believe me, I really should,” Aizawa replies with all the authority he’s been slowly jettisoning with Hitoshi as they sail down this river. A still moment in the stream before it all turns back to white water.


Hitoshi finally breaks away just before the gates onto the UA campus. He might not have minded being seen walking around with Aizawa, but chumming up with Aizawa and Hizashi might be too suspicious a story for even Hitoshi to explain if he runs into any of his classmates. Keeping a low profile isn’t exactly compatible with being buddy-buddy with any of the teachers here. Especially the school’s most famous sports commentary double-act, or so Hizashi insists on referring to them at the staff meetings. It gets them paid by the TV companies in any case; Aizawa doesn’t mind that.

When they’re almost at the gates, Hitoshi delivers a record-breakingly low-energy “Bye,” and slumps off looking about as awake as most teens first thing in the morning – which is an achievement, given he was up most of the night.

Hitoshi is no sooner out of view than Aizawa hooks Hizashi by an elbow and yanks him close enough to press a scratchy, mostly-stubble kiss on the cheek. It’s a rare show of affection, but he misses Hizashi plenty when they’re apart, so he takes his opportunities when he can get them: any time where they’re truly alone, no intimacy-cancelling presence of someone they’re (but mostly Aizawa’s) unfamiliar with in that way. Like Hitoshi.

It takes Hizashi about three seconds to work the rest out thereafter.

“You can’t be serious!” Hizashi gasps excitedly as he links his arm around Aizawa’s neck and grins, hanging back for a second as their amble drags to a stop. “You’re keeping us a secret?

“Not a secret,” Aizawa replies aloofly. “He just hasn’t figured it out yet.”

Hizashi’s laugh is as bright as a rising sun, and he uses the arms he’s placed around Aizawa’s neck like a garland to swing them into changing places, pressing Aizawa’s back to UA’s exterior wall. Anyone could see them, but Aizawa doesn’t care about anyone.

“So we can’t be together in front of the kid?” Hizashi poses with a wiggle of his quaffed-poodle moustache. Aizawa once shaved half of it off for a laugh when Hizashi was passed. Hizashi was outraged and got him back by shaving off Aizawa’s eyebrows the next time Aizawa was the one passed out beyond reviving (later that week). The joke ended up being on Hizashi in the end, because far more people noticed he’d shaved off his beloved ‘stache than they noticed Aizawa’s having no eyebrows underneath the unruly mop of his hair.

“I never said that,” Aizawa replies carefully, still figuring out which way Hizashi’s going to fall on this particular discretion. His reactions are still a lottery Aizawa plays for fun, even knowing he won’t always win.

It doesn’t take long. Hizashi plants a kiss square on Aizawa’s mouth, grins with his full set of pearly whites and declares, “It’s just like a drama! I love it!”

Aizawa grins, straining around his and Hizashi’s respective neck-gear to steal another smooch. “Of course you do.” Finally, Aizawa pushes him away, backing the leather monstrosity off him. “Come on, idiot, I can’t afford to be late.”

Hizashi falls into step beside Aizawa obligingly but doesn’t let off too easy now that Hitoshi’s gone. Hizashi’s a certifiable lunatic most of the time, but he’s also an adult and can filter the things into an appropriate time and place.

“So this hard morning of yours,” Hizashi offers like an invitation to a party Aizawa doesn’t want to go to. “Anything you wanna tell me about?”

“We don’t have time for that.” Aizawa dodges like someone making the barest adjustment to not smack their head on a low doorway, just chipping the top of their scalp instead.

“Because you won’t make time for it,” Hizashi replies with a tighter-wound tension in his voice. “ Shota–”

“I know,” Aizawa interjects before Hizashi says the things he’s obviously going to say; they’ve been through all this before, too many times to count. He knows the drill, what he’s supposed to do, it’s just actually sticking to it that’s the problem. “I’m trying.”

Hizashi turns to one side to catch Aizawa in his mirrored ‘I see you but you don’t see me’ gaze. “Are you?”

Aizawa puts a hand to his face, realising as he brings it back down that his fingernails are particularly filthy – it’s the blood, always gets into those hard-to-budge crevices. “Trying isn’t synonymous with succeeding.” Fuck knows that’s a lesson he’s learned plenty of hard ways.

“It shouldn’t be that hard for you to talk to me.”

“It isn’t– just…” Aizawa sighs, knowing that Hizashi is being reasonable, and he’s the one sitting in his box unable to explain what it’s made of. So he tries a different approach. “What do you want to know?”

That’s easier – give the impetus to Hizashi, let him direct Aizawa to the things he wants to know. Even if Aizawa can anticipate those questions in his sleep, it’s easier responding to the external query than trying to grab each live snake by the head as they writhe around in the chaotic pit of his head right now.

Hizashi breaks Aizawa’s heart with a few simple words, but then, he’s gotten used to it being smashed of recent. “Are you in danger?”

“No.”

“Yet you got stabbed last night,” Hizashi points out neutrally. “Where was that, by the way?”

“Here.” Aizawa thrusts out an arm, dragging the sleeve up. It was handled so professionally that there’s only the barest mark where the incision was healed back up by Recovery Girl, but Hizashi fingers it like he wants to be sure all the same. “I was just in the way of a lunatic with a knife, it wasn’t personal.”

“Just because they’re not out to kill you specifically doesn’t make it safe.” Hizashi drops Aizawa’s arm, pushing it away to swing back by his side. “What about the kid?”

Aizawa feels Hizashi’s razor intuition cut slightly closer to the bone. “What about him?”

“Don’t play dumb with me,” Hizashi scolds, tapping a finger on his cheek: the spot of Aizawa’s newest scar following the USJ incident. “We both know what you’re like.”

“I was supposed to watch a kid die instead?” Aizawa knows he’s being prickly, but if Hizashi’s about to get up his ass over the fact that Aizawa will risk his own life to save a child’s they’re only going to head into choppy waters.

“You’re supposed to keep them out of a situation where anyone has to die,” Hizashi comes back.

Aizawa’s head is certainly spinning. “I didn’t have a choice at USJ.”

“I’m not talking about USJ!” Hizashi snaps this time, and Aizawa stops in the almost-deserted schoolyard before they enter the main building. “I’m talking about you taking Shinsou into environments he’s not ready for and paying the price for it yourself.”

“It’s not like that.” Aizawa doesn’t rise to Hizashi’s flaring temper: a screaming match is a terrible way to start the day.

“I don’t know what it’s like if you won’t fucking talk to me about it.” Hizashi’s black-gloved hands flutter like agitated crows, so Aizawa snags the closest to him and gives it a squeeze.

“It’s… hard to talk about just one piece in isolation,” Aizawa tries to placate. “But having him around, if anything, it’s safer.”

This is harder for Hizashi to process, but oh, he’s still trying to get it. Still believes in Aizawa. “Why?” The snare is set very gently, but it’s there all the same. “He’s not allowed to use his quirk.”

When Aizawa caveats, “Except in emergencies,” Hizashi slips his grip to punch him lightly in the arm.

“I knew it,” Hizashi triumphs. “I knew you were getting mixed up in that–”

“Don’t call it creepy,” Aizawa jumps in urgently.

“Creepy?” Hizashi’s head quirks, fully cockatiel. “I was gonna say shady, but if you say so.”

“It’s not. Creepy, I mean,” Aizawa stutters like a train that keeps getting the power shut off before it can leave the station. “That’s just a perception brought about by his father. Hitoshi’s quirk is powerful, a lot more powerful than anyone’s realised, I think, but it’s not like that.”

“How would you know?” Hizashi skips any rigging and full-on throws the next bear trap. “I thought you weren’t gonna let him use it on you.”

The revelation – that Hizashi hasn’t even got this level of knowledge – makes Aizawa understand just how much he’s truly been keeping Hizashi in the dark. And how smart Hizashi really is, for being able to work out everything he has – all the nuances of how Aizawa feels about Hitoshi in ways he can’t even explain himself, based on the limited information Hizashi’s been given. Aizawa would fall for him all over again.

“I… changed my position,” Aizawa phrases carefully, conscious of what he’s saying in a place where rat-bear-mice could be running through the walls for all he knows. “Further exposure leads me to believe the experience someone has under a brainwashing quirk is a reflection of the user’s mentality.”

“What’s that supposed to mean, Professor?” Hizashi jests, but doesn’t realise what he’s dancing over. Or maybe he does, which is even worse.

“Don’t call me that,” Aizawa growls, but it’s more playful than real resistance. “It means being controlled aligns with the kind of person the brainwasher is.”

“So a creep feels creepy? Makes sense,” Hizashi remarks thoughtfully, and then with a much more canny air, practically bristling his moustache like he’s taken up detective work himself, “So, what does Hitoshi feel like?” The phrasing is super not good language to be said literally on school property, but Nezu can’t be everywhere all at once.

Hizashi packs neat layers of implication into his remark like a meticulously made bento. The suggestion that Aizawa has relaxed his ‘no brainwashing’ policy and has allowed Hitoshi to use his quirk on Aizawa – not to mention the echo of Aizawa using Hitoshi’s given name, instead of referring to the family curse. Being a Shinsou certainly didn’t do Hitoshi’s mother much good either.

But Aizawa is immune to any feelings of doubt or even guilt over his choices or opinions about them. He’s only done and said what he feels to be right, and there’s no shame in that.

It’s for this reason that he shifts his tired gaze a few degrees around to meet Hizashi’s, and without the slightest reservation, lays his cards flat on the table; Aizawa keeps a lot hidden from a lot of people, but not Hizashi. Never Hizashi. “A Hero.”