It felt strange to think about when he used to be called a hero. Those days felt like they were so long ago, and Aizawa has never felt farther from that title.
He lost so many people.
Civilians, coworkers, friends, family...
Aizawa will never forgive himself for the people he couldn’t save, but he needed to ignore his guilt. It would be utterly selfish to cave in to his shame, considering his new life’s goal.
He had to keep his remaining children alive.
(And they were his now, after most of them had lost their families. He was still, in some ways, their teacher and they still considered themselves his students, but now he was essentially their father figure.)
And he’d die for any one of them.
He’d die for Midoriya, who’s tears seemed nearly endless from the very beginning of this disaster.
He’d die for Bakugou, who ached to use his Quirk but knew it would attract too much attention.
He’d die for Kirishima, who’s survived too many bites because of his Quirk but also too many close calls.
He’d die for Shinsou, his former protege.
He’d die for any one of his other children. (Ashido, Asui, Shoji, Tokoyami, Hagakure, Kaminari, Yaoyorozu,
don’t think about the others-)
Aizawa blinked, willing the blur of faces out of his mind. He opened his eyes easily, his dry eye not bothering him as much as it once did.
He couldn’t remember the last time he needed to use his Quirk. In this world, Aizawa and Shinsou’s abilities were essentially useless unless they found other people. And they weren’t the only ones hindered.
Hizashi was very much in the same predicament as Bakugou; explosions and echoes were too loud and brought about too much danger. Asui couldn’t risk using her tongue and overusing his Quirk would mean near-certain death for Kaminari.
Aizawa tried not to think about it. He quickly scanned the area ahead of them; a dilapidated street full of abandoned cars and shattered buildings, but no monsters. Making a brief glance behind him, Aizawa rapidly counted heads.
Twelve, including his husband. Thirteen with him.
It was the same number of people as there were about twenty minutes ago, and the number would hopefully most likely be the same in another twenty minutes. Despite this, Aizawa knew he’d be checking again. It was a habit he developed early on, after losing Ji-
don’t think about her.
Aizawa did it because he’d feel sick and nervous otherwise. He wouldn’t let any of them fall behind again.
Turning back around, eyes fixed on the horizon, Aizawa continued to lead his little group.
He stopped and turned. Shoji, arms in a near-perpetual state of acting as extra eyes and ears, was staring at something in the distance.
“There’s a grocery store a few blocks away.”
There was an immediate ripple through the group. Eyes widened and excited whispers carried on the wind. Yaoyorozu was even clutching her stomach hopefully, but Aizawa couldn’t find it in himself to blame her. The past few weeks, she was thin and sluggish from making new clothes and weapons.
“Anything perishable would be long rotten by now, and there’s a slim chance that anything we could eat wouldn’t have been taken by other people.”
Before shoulders could slump or Yaoyorozu’s hope could shatter, Aizawa said, “But it would be foolish to pass up the opportunity.”
They looked so happy, like how they were before the world fell apart.
The grocery store turned out to be a massive supermarket. The front windows were shattered, some shelves inside knocked over. There were clear signs that many people had been there before, but Aizawa had already lead the group here.
Might as well check it out.
Leaving Hizashi with the other students, Aizawa and Shoji ventured inside.
“What do you hear?” He asked lowly.
“Footsteps. At least three from the far left and five from the back of the store.”
“Do they sound dead or alive?”
“Dead, I think. They move too slowly to be alive.”
Aizawa didn’t know which he’d prefer.
Living people were temperamental and hard to deal with. Many of them turned Aizawa and Hizashi away despite having children with them. (Some of them refused to help because they had so many.)
But the dead were also terrible in their own ways. They couldn’t use their Quirks like they had when they were alive, but the sheer number of them was the greatest danger.
“Let’s get back to the others.”
Once they returned, a plan was drawn out.
Hizashi would take one half of the students to dispose of the three, and Aizawa would take the other half to deal with the five. Afterwards, they’d sweep the store for any food and regroup outside.
Before they split up, Hizashi gently cupped Aizawa’s chin, now incredibly scruffy with a beard he didn’t have the luxury of shaving anymore. Hizashi pressed a quickly kiss to his cheek, a silent I love you.
Aizawa cupped his hand over his husband’s, just for a moment, in his own way of saying it back. They did something like this whenever they split up. They both knew that every time they parted, it could potentially be the last time they’d ever see each other.
The thought wrecked him, but there was another, smaller comfort in the gesture.
They always did it in front of their students. To some, it was the smallest sign of something normal in their ruined world, and to others it helped them feel like they were still a part of a family.
And making them feel even the smallest bit better was worthwhile.
Aizawa lead a group consisting of Midoriya, Bakugou, Kaminari, Ashido, Shinsou, and Kirishima to the back of the store. It was poorly lit, but Aizawa had over a decade’s worth of experience fighting in the dark.
They eventually found what they were looking for in an employee-only room with it’s door blown off its hinges. There was the faint sound of groaning and the smack of jaws. Aizawa motioned for his students to stop as he peered inside.
The room had no windows, but he could still make out a huddle of figures crouched in the corner. They were pulling out the guts of a corpse and eating voraciously. That was good. If they were already preoccupied with a fresh meal, they’d be easier to ambush.
Aizawa turned back to his students. He motioned to Ashido, and she nodded. She went in, Aizawa close behind her. There was a sharp, acidic scent and an instant later, the smell of burning flesh.
But these zombies seemed fresher than most others, and they weren’t melting as fast as rotten flesh should. Aizawa shoved Ashido behind him and unsheathed the Yaoyorozu-made sword at his side.
One immediately lunged for him, and Aizawa swung in a wide arch. The softened skin gave way like butter and a head fell to the floor, followed by a body. Two others fell just as easily, but Aizawa grunted as something massive tackled him to the ground.
His sword clattered at his side, jarringly loud. Aizawa gasped at two arms gripped his shoulders and another two dug sharp nails into his neck.
He rammed his knee into the zombie’s chest, ripping it off of him.
Aizawa pushed himself backward, feeling his neck for any open wounds.
There were none. Aizawa’s eyes scanned the room. Ashido was a still safe distance away.
Aizawa saw a glint of silver to his right and dove for his blade. He turned to the four-armed zombie, finding that the acid was finally melting through bone. Aizawa took no pity of the mass of flesh as he ran his sword through its skull.
Again, he glanced quickly around the room, but found no one else. Shoji had said there were five on this side of the store. He could have been wrong, or more likely, the fifth one had wandered off.
Aizawa and Ashido emerged from the dark room, eyes adjusting to the better lighting.
“There might be one more somewhere else. Be careful.”
His students nodded, and branched out in groups of three to explore the nearby aisles. Aizawa stayed behind to check through the other back rooms.
In another employee-only room, there was a moderately large first aid kit lying open on a table. He looked over the contents, finding bandages and ointment. But what was most interesting was the small bottle of hydrogen peroxide.
It was open. Doubting it was still useful, Aizawa rolled up his sleeve to expose the small scrape on his forearm. He took the bottle and let a few drops spill onto his skin. The solution stung and fizzed a bit.
His eyes widened. It was opened recently. And the first aid kit wasn’t looted yet by whoever found it.
Someone else might still be here.
Aizawa sprinted from the room.
He ran past empty aisles, skidding to a stop as someone nearly ran into him. Kirishima gasped, startled. Aizawa looked quickly from him to Bakugou and Ashido. None of them were injured.
He spoke softly, “There’s someone else here. Where are the others?”
They didn’t know.
He sent Kirishima and Ashido to find and warn Hizashi. He and Bakugou ran from aisle to aisle, finding nothing and no one.
Aizawa struggled to push down the growing fear in his stomach. His students were highly-capable fighters. They were at one point going to be heroes.
(But that didn’t stop them from dying.)
There was the sound of footsteps, from more than one person. Aizawa threw an arm out to stop Bakugou.
Midoriya thundered out of an aisle, followed by Kaminari and Shinsou. They looked about wildly, before finding Aizawa.
“We saw someone! They were alive!”
Aizawa winced at how loud Kaminari’s voice was. “I know.”
They had to be somewhere nearby.
Midoriya pointed at the far end of the store, where a shadowy figure darted away. Without prompting, his students ran after them.
Aizawa almost wanted to thank whoever this person was for rekindling such a fire in his students. If they were dangerous, a few former pro and nearly-pro heroes had excellent odds defeating them. But if they were injured or hungry, Aizawa knew how happy his students would be to help.
They still wanted to do good.
Aizawa eventually caught up to his group of students, finding them huddled a short distance away from a figure crouched in a corner.
Midoriya was speaking rapidly, speaking in a high-pitched whisper. “It’s okay, It’s okay! Don’t worry-”
“Do you not fucking recognize us?”
Aizawa narrowed his eyes. Who were they speaking to?
He pushed past Bakugou’s loud mouth and took a look at whoever they found.
His breath caught in his throat.
Curled in the corner of the abandoned supermarket was a teenager. The left sleeve of his jacket looked like it had been torn off, leaving the entire arm bare. (Or rather, it was burned off.) His hair was a grimy, matted mess. But his eyes-
One was gray and one was blue.
Aizawa slowly crouched before Todoroki and offered him a hand.
After regrouping, cheers rang out through the abandoned store- which Aizawa quickly shushed.
Some (Midoriya, mostly) burst into tears after finding one of their classmates alive. Hizashi’s group had found several bottles of expired sparkling water, and happily sacrificed half a bottle so Todoroki could wash his hair and face.
But Aizawa was concerned.
Before the world was absolutely, without a doubt, fucked, many of his students had tried to find their families. Some had no way of contacting their relatives, or couldn’t find them (Shinsou still regretted not trying harder to locate his parents). Others discovered that their families had already succumbed to the global disaster. Aizawa did his best to track down those he could, but his class was too widespread to find them all.
He knew Todoroki left to find his mother and siblings, but the boy was alone now. More than once, he was caught staring off into space.
Aizawa wondered exactly what happened to him.
Besides the water they found, there were still several dozen viable cans of food left on the shelves. Enough for everyone, and then some.
But before they could feast, they needed to be safe. By a near-unanimous vote (Todoroki being the only one abstaining), they decided to spend the night in the supermarket. They went to work barricading the doors and broken windows with anything heavy.
Todoroki watched his classmates and teachers move from where he sat. Aizawa didn’t think anything of it, willing to be lenient for now, when he heard Bakugou snap at him.
“You gonna get off your ass any time soon?”
Aizawa opened his mouth, but it was Midoriya who spoke up.
“Leave him alone.”
There was something unspoken in the air.
You don’t know what he’s been through.
Bakugou clenched his fists, but looked like he was about to pout and walk away. Aizawa sighed tiredly and turned away before quickly doing a double-take.
Todoroki had quietly gotten up and was walking toward the front of the store.
He stopped a few feet from the barricade. A sheet of ice rapidly spread across the floor and hit the nearest wall. The air inside the building dropped several degrees as pillars of ice spread out to cover the entirety of the storefront.
He turned slowly, looking at Bakugou.
It was the first time Aizawa heard him speak.
With the temperature dropping as the sun went down, it was safe to guess that Todoroki’s wall would last all night. It was one of the many factors that lead to the current atmosphere at dinner.
Usually, a camp for Aizawa’s class involved pitching a circle of tents somewhere at least semi-safe, or sleeping in some derelict building. Usually, dinner involved just barely having enough food for everyone (and Aizawa and Hizashi purposely giving themselves smaller portions than the children).
And usually, the sense of misery or fear hung heavy over them. The students would talk quietly among themselves, or eat in silence. There wasn’t much to be hopeful for as of late.
But tonight, there was laughter. High up on the roof of the supermarket, out of sight and protected by a wall of ice, Aizawa’s students felt safer than they had in weeks.
Bakugou and Kirishima were ribbing each other, egged on their friends. Midoriya welcomed Todoroki to sit with him, Shinsou, and Asui. Tokoyami and Hagakure sat blanketed by Shoji’s arms. And Aizawa could finally give Yaoyorozu second helpings.
Aizawa finished his meal and simply sat back to watch them interact. He was so transfixed on the scene before him, he was almost startled by the bowl of canned soup suddenly pressed to his face. He looked up, seeing Hizashi smiling at him.
“I already ate.”
His husband sat beside him.
“I know, but I think you deserve a little more.”
Hizashi threw an arm around his shoulders and Aizawa didn’t bother shrugging him off.
“I’m fine, really. You can have it.”
Still, Hizashi batted his eyelashes. “Please?”
Aizawa gently pressed the warm bowl into his husband’s arms.
“I’m fine, Zashi. I promise.”
He didn’t expect Hizashi’s smile to wane and fade.
“Can you just have a little bit? For me?”
Aizawa was going to refuse again, but Hizashi pressed a bit closer to his side. His voice lowered.
“Please, Shouta? I’m worried about you.”
Ah, there were the dreaded words. The ones that made guilt curl in Aizawa’s gut.
He looked carefully at Hizashi. His eyes were draped with shallow bags, nowhere nearly as bad as Aizawa’s but present nonetheless. His husband’s clothes were hanging a little looser around his frame than they used to.
Aizawa knew he lost weight too. The apocalypse wasn’t kind to any of them, but it was a minor concern for him. He could still fight, and he could still protect their students.
But he couldn’t bear the thought of contributing to his husband’s stress.
“I’ll eat half if you share it with me.”
Hizashi blinked once, then smiled. He left to retrieve another spoon and when he returned, they started eating. (It reminded Aizawa of when they were teenagers, eating ice cream straight from the container together.)
As they ate, Aizawa noticed they were being stared at. Ashido in particular was incredibly blatant about it, and Aizawa got the impression that Hagakure was equally enraptured.
“What are you all staring at?”
They quickly turned their heads away, even though there was no real bite to Aizawa’s words.
By his side, Hizashi snickered softly.
Later that night, sleeping bags and blankets were laid out in a shapeless array on the supermarket floor. The kids even claimed which aisles they wanted to sleep in. It was like a giant slumber party, even if none of them wanted to call it that.
“Tokoyami, Shoji. You’re first on lookout.”
Neither looked very upset. They nodded dutifully and went back up to the roof.
Aizawa circled the interior of the store, making certain that there weren’t any gaps in the ice, or than any of the backdoors were left opened. Once he was satisfied, he sat at a makeshift table made out of a checkout counter and stool. A portable lantern (kept powered by Kaminari) sat next to him. Spread out on the conveyor belt was a map of Japan. Zombie-heavy cities and towns occupied by hostile residents were crossed off.
Aizawa rubbed his eyes, looking at the stained and battered map. In the near-two years since the world fell apart, Aizawa couldn’t find a single permanent home.
(The longest they ever spent in one place were a mere two months in an abandoned apartment complex. They had to leave after the building was overtaken by a horde and they lost Nemuri.)
But now, by pure chance, they were less than two weeks out from Musutafu.
The idea of Yuuei, and by extension it’s barricade, still being intact was possible.
Aizawa felt a gentle touch on his shoulder and tensed briefly. His hand instinctively reached for his capture weapon before realizing that it was Hizashi leaning over his shoulder. He was biting his lip nervously, eyes trained on the circle around Musutafu.
He asked slowly, “What are you thinking, Shouta?”
“That if we can make it back to Yuuei, we can use Kaminari’s Quirk long enough to power the security system and get the barrier up.”
The touch on his shoulder grew a little firmer.
“Babe…we left Musutafu for a reason. It’s going to be like every other city, they’ll be everywhere.”
“You don’t know that.”
But they both already knew. Everyone in their rag-tag group knew deep down that going into any city would be hell.
“Shouta, I know you want to find them a home, but what if we can’t get to Yuuei?”
Hizashi looked back at the map again, fingers running over the city that used to be theirs.
“What if it’s already taken by other people? What if they won’t let us in?”
“That won’t be a problem.”
They both startled. Aizawa turned, finding Todoroki standing nearby. He had gotten good at stealth.
Aizawa asked, “Why is that?”
Todoroki was staring at the map.
“There’s no one in Musutafu. Yuuei’s been abandoned.”
His voice was hollow. Aizawa stood slowly.
“How do you know that?”
Even someone with Todoroki’s Quirk would have difficulties navigating a city alone.
“After I-” He swallowed, face pinched, “-I found my family, we didn’t know where to go... I thought that if any place was still functioning, it’d be Yuuei.”
His eyes lifted from the map to meet Aizawa’s. There was the barest trace of remorse in his eyes.
“But no one was there.”