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nature, nurture, heaven and home

Chapter Text

Watching the sun slowly rise from the horizon, Aizawa steadily began to regret not wrapping it up whilst he still had the chance. Crouching on the rooftop, it was becoming increasingly clear that the promised drug transfer wouldn’t be happening anytime soon.

 

He sighed, leaning against the crumbling gargoyle and stretching his aching legs. His eyes stung from lack of sleep and his nose was numb from the cold. He rubbed them roughly, turning his face towards the horizon. The glum, ugly buildings of the neighbourhood weighed on his mood. The air smelt like decay and in the sky, heavy grey clouds were carried gently by the wind. Across the street, a car jumped on a dumpster, the only sign of activity he had seen in the past three hours.

 

He closed his eyes. The morning was still fresh and he had a long day ahead. Perhaps he could allow himself a little nap…

 

Crash

 

He opened his eyes to the noise, reflexes honed from years of fighting. The streets in his view seemed just as empty as they had before. Even the cat was gone.

 

He was up his feet instantly, moving swiftly and silently.

 

The sound had come from the alley behind him. Crouching behind a chimney, he observed as a short, dark-haired man cursed as he shook the snow from his head. On the rooftop, the cat he had noticed earlier scurried away, uncaring of the snow it set skidding towards the ground. However amusing that was, Aizawa was far more focused on the suitcase he was carrying.

 

Large and shining, this was not the kind of thing people used in this part of town, unless they were up to something.

 

He narrowed his eyes.

 

Was it possible that his informant had given him the wrong address? No way, he dismissed the thought, Yamada had checked it over. It had seemed legit.

 

He paused, trying to get a closer look at the man’s face. This proved to be rather hard, as the guy had his back turned against him.

 

Aizawa considered his options. Should he try to find a better observation spot? Eyeing the terrain, he spotted a chimney on the other rooftop that would give him great vantage point. He would need to move quickly to prevent being noticed but…

 

His experience told him to hold that thought. The man was obviously waiting for something or someone. If he was patient, he just might find out more than he would by acting hastily.

 

He’d been following the gang for weeks now. Their leader, a mutant-type named Obawa Eito, was an old acquaintance of Tokyo’s police department. He had been imprisoned two times, for illegal drug possession, violence, fraud and armed robbery but nothing seemed to stick.

 

Well, Aizawa thought with annoyance, this time I’ll make sure it will. Something was shifting in the underground. The criminals he caught during nighttime were on edge and there were whispers of a new quirk enhancing drug, which was supposed to strengthen a person’s ability for a considerable time with no drawbacks. Which, Kayama confirmed, was a bunch of bollocks. Quirk enhancers existed already but they were always risky business, with numerous side effects and the tendency to pop up every now and then before the consumers found out they really weren’t all they were chalked up to be. By then, it was usually already too late and the drug took its toll.

 

One thing was a constant in these scenarios though: they made a drug dealer very rich.

 

Aizawa shifted. If Obawa truly was the one behind this, it was essential they get their hands on him before the drug officially hits the market. The timer was kicking, he knew. It was only a few days away at most.

 

Turning his attention to the man in the alley, he could see him growing impatient. He was shifting his weight from leg to leg and checking his mobile. Aizawa still couldn’t see his face but he would bet it was just as tense as his body language promised it would be.

 

Until someone approached the alleyway and the man finally relaxed. Aizawa prepared his capture weapon, watching intently.

 

The newcomer was a gruff looking thug with a drawn, defeated face and a cruel edge to his mouth. Not Obawa.

 

He was looking over his shoulder, Aizawa noted. Was he afraid of being followed?

 

“You’re late.” The shorter man skipped the greeting. His voice was laced with annoyance.

 

The other moved in closer, looking tense. “I had to shake off this kid. The brat wouldn’t leave me alone.”

 

“And you’re sure you shook him off?” His companion didn’t appear too enthused over the news.

 

“Pretty sure I did.”

 

“You better. Remember, the boss is doing you a favor. If it turns out you brought a hero on our trail, it’ll be your head that’ll roll.” He moved in closer. “You should count yourself lucky the deal is still in.”

 

The larger man frowned. “Whatcha acting so paranoid for, Red? Just admit, you need the cash.”

 

“I need my head more. But speaking of cash, enough chit chat. I don’t have all day.”

 

Aizawa sneaked swiftly towards the edge of the roof, prepared to pounce. He had heard enough; he couldn’t allow the transaction to run through.

 

The large man cracked his knuckles. “I want to see the stuff first.”

 

The other tensed. “That’s not how this works.” His posture shifted. He showed the other his hand and Aizawa noted with disgust that his fingernails were long and pointy.

 

“You-”
A couple of things happened at once. The thug started to speak, Aizawa prepared to jump and a crash sounded in the back of the alley.

 

All three of them turned towards the noise. Half-hidden behind a dumpster, a child tensed.

 

Shit

 

Aizawa couldn’t afford to wait anymore. He leapt from the rooftop, his capture weapon swinging towards the taller man who had already begun to move towards the kid. It wrapped around him, stalling him successfully and Aizawa pulled it to stall his own jump, landing softly behind the fingernail man.

 

The man reacted faster than he expected and he had to jump backwards to avoid the claws swiping at him. Finding his footing against the stone, he kept his body low and lunged towards the other.

 

His foot made contact with the man’s stomach and he stumbled backwards with a grunt before he regained his balance and dodged Aizawa’s neck attack with surprising efficiency.

 

Strong tugging on his scarf told him the stronger man was about to break free. He spared a glance towards the kid while he was dodging his opponent’s claws. To his utter terror, the brat was still there and didn’t look like he might be moving anytime soon. In fact, he seemed to be headed directly towards the larger thug with a determined look on his face.

 

Cursing, he pulled on his capture weapon, knowing he wouldn’t be able to hold the man for much longer but hoping to buy some time.

 

“Run!” He yelled at the boy. He could only hope the brat would listen because he couldn’t afford to take his eyes off the clawed criminal in front of him.

 

The second of distraction to shout the command was already too much. He knew he had messed up the second before his left shoulder erupted in pain. He grunted, shifting backwards abruptly. The desperate movement cost him his balance and he had to leap back in an attempt to get some distance from his opponent.

 

Breathing heavily, he brought a hand to his shoulder. It came back red.

 

“Tired already? Some hero you are.” The shorter man taunted. His wrinkled face was pulled in a vicious smile.

 

Aizawa didn’t grace him with a response. Releasing his capture weapon, he swung it upwards, wrapping it against a balcony railing. Using it as a support, he leapt into the air, making sure to keep the weight off his injured shoulder.

 

He saw the other man turn rapidly to follow his movement and quirked the corners of his lips despite himself. While his opponent was certainly good, he was clearly untrained. His skills laid in one on one street brawl. Against someone more flexible and with better range, he would struggle.

 

His suspicions proved right when his leg connected with the other’s jaw with a crack. The man stumbled backwards, blood running from his lip. In the winter cold, it streamed gently. Aizawa didn’t wait for him to react. Pulling his capture weapon, he used it to wrap against the other’s torso, binding his arms securely against his body. A tug sent the criminal flying forwards where a knee to the jaw effectively knocked him out.

 

He breathed deeply as the other collapsed. His shoulder was pulsing but he didn’t pay it any mind. The cold morning air numbed the pain and he had had worse in the past.

 

The sound of heavy footsteps running drew his attention towards the other criminal, finding him fleeing with the case. Cursing, Aizawa started after him, his body aching.

 

He needed to catch up quickly, that case-

 

- his thoughts didn’t have the time to form fully before the stronger man stopped and swerved suddenly, the kid from earlier blocking his way. Shit. Aizawa felt his blood pressure rise and he swore to never have children as he sped up. Did that brat have a death wish?

 

He wouldn’t make it in time, he realized. And he’d left his capture weapon tied up around the clawed man, a mistake that he should by now very well know not to make.

 

He could only watch as the muscular man swung his fist towards the boy, almost without thinking. His insides clenched painfully in anticipation. Aizawa wasn’t an emotional man by far, but he wasn’t heartless either. He was empathetic enough that violence towards the innocent weighed heavily on his mind.

 

The first sign was the air getting colder. It came on so suddenly, Aizawa didn’t even notice it at first, due to the adrenaline rushing through his veins and the already low temperatures that morning.

 

The second thing he noticed was that the kid’s stance was too good to be accidental. Aizawa’s company consisted out of heroes relying more on gadgets and hand to hand than on their quirks. He spent his fair time in the neighbourhood dojo, he could recognize someone who knew how to fight.

 

He didn’t have time to notice the third thing because the next thing he knew, there was ice on the floor and he was slipping. His heart skipped a beat in a moment of adrenaline and the only thought on his mind before his momentum threw him across the floor with enough force to knock the air out of his lungs was Yamada is never going to let me hear the end of it.

 

A few meters ahead of him, the same thing happened to the thug, though, Aizawa thought viciously, he had landed with far less grace than himself. The case skidded across the street loudly. In a span of seconds, he was already on his feet and swiftly lunged after it, mindful of the ice and willfully ignoring the protests of his bruised body..

 

He was so focused on reaching his prize, he didn’t hear the other man get up.

 

Rookie mistake.

 

A strong force suddenly knocked into him from the side, throwing him into the wall. His bones groaned at the impact and he wondered how many times today would he be thrown around like a ragdoll.

 

Taking a deep breath, he had to steady himself with a hand against the wall. His lungs ached as he hungrily took in the air that was knocked out of them. He willed his knees not to buckle.

 

Damn, the guy was strong…

 

But if he had a strength enhancing quirk, that meant his erasure would work on him. Activating his quirk, Aizawa was back on his feet and running towards the villain, who was currently so occupied with trying to catch the kid, he didn’t even notice his quirk stopped working.

 

The brat was agile, he’d give him that. He ducked under the man’s arms with the air of someone who knew what he was doing. Leaping backwards, he landed on his feet swiftly, letting the blow fly harmlessly at the spot he was previously standing.

 

Whatever he was doing, engaging a villain like that, it offered just enough distraction for Aizawa to fly in from behind and bury his knee in the other’s backside. Swifting swiftly, he used the man’s movement of turning around to kick his legs from underneath him.

 

The man landed heavily as befitting from size. His arms swung around wildly, hitting the brat and knocking him across the floor. It seemed that the would-be vigilante got a little sloppy after seeing the hero took control, a lesson Aizawa didn’t doubt he would learn with age.

 

He didn’t wait for the gruff man to get up, kicking him in the head with enough force to knock him out. His eyes bulged and then rolled back as he stilled.

 

Aizawa paused, heart pulsing from the adrenaline.

 

The case, he remembered.

 

It was lying a few meters away, discarded carelessly. He let out a breath he didn’t know he was holding.
A cough brought his attention back to the people in front of him. The kid was sitting on the ground, rubbing the side of his head where the man hit him.

 

Aizawa felt the anger rise in him. He smothered it with the help of years of practise. He was friends with Yamada after all.

 

“What the hell were you thinking?” He rounded on, uncaring if his words came out as harsh instead of comforting. Steam rose from his mouth when he spoke and his shoulder ached fiercely. “Why didn’t you run when I told you too?”

 

The boy glared mutely, taking on his anger unflinchingly.

 

Aizawa held his gaze, taking a better look at him. He wasn’t a big expert on children, but if he had to put him in an approximate age range, he’d say he was about ten. His features seemed to be split down the middle, with dual coloured hair and heterochromia but what caught his attention was the large burn scar that seemed to take over the left side of his face. It seemed to be an old wound, but it was still odd to see on a child. On his chin was a yellowish aftermath of a bruise that he was pretty certain didn’t come from this fight.

 

He furrowed his brows. The anger in his stomach smothered into something else, a slightly unsettled feeling he couldn’t quite decipher.

 

Another thing that caught his eye was his insufficient clothing. It was a cold January morning and the boy was clad in a long sleeved shirt with no jacket of any kind. And yet there was no indication he felt cold.

 

Odd.

 

He sighed tiredly after getting no reply. Children were sensitive, he reminded himself, this was probably all very scary for him so he needed to be patient.

 

“You know vigilantism is illegal right? Don’t think I haven’t noticed your little ice trick. Unlicenced quirk use is prohibited by law. Where are your parents?”

 

The kid’s eyes were wide and guarded, taking in his appearance varily. His face was blank, giving Aizawa absolutely nothing to work with. It occurred to him now that perhaps his, admittedly rather haggard appearance wouldn’t immediately clue him on his occupation.

 

“I’m a hero.” He explained slowly. “My name is Eraserhead. I work in the underground and you probably haven’t heard of me-”

 

“-I know who you are.” The boy interrupted, speaking for the first time. “And I’m not a vigilante. I’m looking for my brother.” His voice carried the pout his face didn’t reveal.

 

“Right.” Aizawa raised an eyebrow, pushing aside his surprise at being recognized. “You’re looking for your brother, in an alleyway where a drug transaction just happened to go down. And you followed the other guy here because?”

 

The little vigilante bit his lip. “My brother had the time and address saved on his phone. I thought it might… that he might be…” He trailed off, irritated at his inability to put together the sentence.

 

A brother that had the informations about this deal on his phone… Aizawa narrowed his eyes, suddenly focused. This might prove to be important to the case yet.

 

“Start from the beginning.” He ordered. “You said you were looking for your brother?”

 

The boy tensed, not meeting his eyes. His gaze was focused strictly on the pavement under Aizawa’s feet. His fingers twitched. “He ran away a few weeks ago.”

 

“And your brother’s name is…?” Aizawa prompted, trying to sound gentle.

 

The kid was silent, staring into the ground. The taunt edge of his jaw spoke clearly in the absence of words though.

 

Not cooperating then.

 

“I am a hero. I work with the police. I can help you find your brother, but I need you to tell me his name.” He spoke slowly but forcefully, willing the other to look up.

 

Nothing.

 

He sighed. Dealing with children wasn’t his expertise. “At least tell me your name then.”

 

The boy bit his lip again, nervously. It was already bleeding from all the chewing he was doing, mixed with the cold air.

 

He frowned. If his clothes weren’t as nice and he didn’t move like he had professional schooling in hand to hand combat, he would had assumed the boy was a street urchin, explaining away his reluctance to answer the question. But that explanation didn’t feel right. Aizawa had met, saved and arrested enough street children to know how they generally act and the kid in front of him didn’t fit that profile. Frankly, the subdued demeanour worried him a little. Were kids supposed to act like that?

 

Then there was his uncooperativeness. From his experience, when people refused to give their name if was usually either because it was recognizable or they didn’t want anything going on their record.

 

He cast an eye towards the case. It was still lying in the same spot.

 

“You won’t get into trouble.” He reassured. “This is very important. A deal for a new, very dangerous drug went down and your brother might have information about it. A lot of people’s lives are depending on us stopping that thing,” He pointed at the case, “from getting on the market. So please, let us help you find your brother.”

 

A second passed. Aizawa wondered if he finally got through to him.

 

Of course, children tend to be pretty idealistic, make them thing that their actions are making a big positive change, hell, even throw in All Might and-

 

-The boy shook his head.

 

Brat.

 

He sighed heavily. He was tired, cold and his shoulder ached like crazy. He wished he could wrap this up quickly.

 

Drawing backwards he eyed the kid carefully. The hit he had taken didn’t seem to be that bad but children were fragile and head injuries could sometimes appear without much outward bruising. He considered the fading bruise on his jaw.

 

A runaway, it occurred to him. But from what? The way he had moved - he was definitely trained to fight, and the brother he was looking for was involved with the drug business.

 

Something didn’t fit in. A piece was missing and if Aizawa had learned anything in the years since finishing school, it was that the missing piece proved vital more often than not in these cases.

 

“Alright,” he grumbled heavily, holding on his burning shoulder, “Be stubborn. We’ll need to get that head of yours looked at so don’t go running off yet.”

 

Now the brat looked up, suddenly alarmed.

 

“No, I can’t- I have to go home.” He did a good job masking the panic he felt, but as it were, children’s faces are a lot more see-through about these matters. Aizawa heaved a sigh. He didn’t like this.

 

“Then let me accompany yo-”

 

“-No!” The boy stared, open-mouthed, seemingly surprised at his own outburst. His eyes were wide as he took a careful step backwards. “I really need to go-” Despite his best attempts, the illusion of composure was broken. Now he just sounded unsure.

 

Aizawa pinched the bridge of his nose. It was too damn early for this. His fingers dug into the wound on his shoulder. The blood felt warm on his frozen fingers.

 

“I can’t legally let you go without notifying the police about your involvement first.” He stressed. The boy seemingly hadn’t considered that before, judging by the horror in his mismatched eyes.

 

The dark-haired man lowered his tone slightly, letting his voice soften. “But I’m willing to let this occasion slip. You’re too young to be getting illegal quirk use written on your record. I will, however, need you to promise me you won’t do anything like that again and you will need to cooperate with me on this. I’m not comfortable with letting you walk off with a possible head injury so either you accompany me to a medical professional or you direct me to your legal guardian, because right now, I’m the one responsible for you. It’s your choice.”

 

He took a deep breath. The cold air burned his throat. In a leap of faith that surprised even him, he turned his back to the kid and walked towards the case. It’s sleek metal built felt freezing in his hand. He picked it up tentatively with his right hand. Despite its size it was deceptively light.

 

Pushing aside the pain in his shoulder, he fished the phone out of his pocket with his left and, sparing a glance towards the two still unconscious criminals, he quickly typed a heads up to his police contacts.

 

Having done his duty, he turned back to where the boy watched him carefully. Pleased to find that his faith hadn’t been misplaced, Aizawa nudged him with an eyebrow.

 

“Well,” he called gruffly, “Have you made up your mind yet?”

 

The kid considered him. He seemed calmer than before, more calculating. Whatever vulnerability he had let Aizawa witness earlier was gone again, his face calm as the surface of a lake. And yet, just like with a deep body of water, Aizawa could sense something dark still lying under the peaceful facade.

 

“I’ll go with you. To get a medical.” He shifted uncomfortably, as if he couldn’t had predicted the words falling out of his mouth.

 

Somewhere deep, Aizawa felt relieved by that decision. He was a man of reason rather than instinct but work had long since taught him to trust his gut and that gut was currently telling him he’d regret sending the boy home.

 

In the end, they had to walk. Aizawa couldn’t exactly jump across the rooftops with one injured shoulder, more bruises than he could count and a child, at least not without some major issues. And so, they were forced to take the open streets.

 

They certainly made an odd sight, he mused. A couple of pedestrians out at this ungodly hour of the morning offered them perplexed stares. Aizawa knew he didn’t look much like a hero but he didn’t look like a civilian either. His costume was plain but still most decidedly a costume and the metal case didn’t help. He was just grateful that the dark colours hid masked the blood. He didn’t need more attention. Walking next to him, the boy was obviously underdressed but he walked past the snow and people, bundled head to toe in warm clothes, as if he didn’t even register the cold.

 

They were headed towards a clinic a few streets away. It was a familiar one to Aizawa. The owner was a middle aged woman well-suited to her rough environment. Her healing quirk was strong but unlike some better known doctors such as her Recovery Girl, she operated quietly, providing help to those in the poorer, crime-run areas. That was how Aizawa came to be acquainted with her. She was kind, capable and most of all, she didn’t ask questions.

 

Sparing a glance at his companion, he debated telling him that but eventually decided not to. He didn’t think the boy would appreciate being babied.

 

Speaking of, he was getting really tired of addressing his thoughts as just the boy.

 

“At least give me something to call you.”

 

The only inclination the kid even heard him was the tension in his statue. At this point Aizawa grew to expect that from him.

 

He exhaled deeply, too tired to be annoyed. Inconvenient as it was for him, he couldn’t exactly fault the other for not being open with strangers. He knew that he himself had never been a particularly person either, it would be highly hypocritical of him to judge that kind of attitude now.

 

“Alright then. Brat.”

 

Thinking ahead, he wondered how much longer this day was going to drag. The gang situation was alarming and he needed to issue an official report to the police department in charge of this sector. With how high profile the case was, there was a good chance the higher-ups would want to get involved which would mean dealing with a bunch of legal proceedings Aizawa didn’t really care to deal with. He would also need to catch Yamada and Kayama in on the meeting he had interrupted. If the drug was already hitting the market, they would need to be extra careful around well known rendezvous’ for drug traffickers. He doubted the criminals would talk but-

 

-it looked like he wouldn’t be getting much rest after all. It was a grim thought, his eyes already aching from spending the whole night awake and prepared for action. Using his quirk earlier probably hadn’t helped either. But he was a pragmatic person. He signed into this profession, knowing that some sacrifices would be made, especially when it came to his personal comfort.

 

Yamada would no doubt scold him for it later, but Aizawa was a workaholic at heart. Sleep would come after.

 

The shabby, unsuspecting building holding the single doctors office turned around the corner. He hoped Shuuzenji wouldn’t be too busy but with the incredibly low temperatures this January and how understaffed the office was, he wouldn’t wagger on it. Lately it seemed like life never missed an opportunity to kick him in the balls.

 

He steeled himself. He was far too old to be scared of doctors, he knew, but the eight year old in him had never forgotten all the irksome examinations he had to go through before getting diagnosed with dry eye. Looking back at it now, it wasn’t really painful or even that scary but the child in him remembered the feeling of lacking any control over what would happen and even years later the sterile smell made him uncomfortable, similar to a small, persistent itch under his skin.

 

Brat followed him obediently, seemingly as eager to get rid of Aizawa as Aizawa was to get this over with.

 

The receptionist, a young man with the most obnoxious hair colour Aizawa ever had the misfortune to witness, greeted him with a friendly smile.

 

“Hello, Eraserhead, sir. You caught any bad guys lately?”

 

Aizawa levelled him with a blank gaze.

 

“That is my job.”

 

The younger man’s smile didn’t waver. “I see you are still as receptive to small talk as ever. How can I help you?”

 

Aizawa let the insult slide off unruffled. He pointed to his shoulder. “I’d like to schedule an appointment.”

 

The receptionist sighed dramatically, taking in the bleeding wound like one would look at a mess their misbehaving dog made. “That’s not what an appointment is.” He complained. “You’re supposed to book them in advance.”

 

Aizawa waited patiently as he dialed a number into his phone. A few moments lately, he put it down and turned back towards the newcomers.

 

“You’re lucky someone cancelled. How many times does the boss need to tell you that there exist institutions specifically for heroes and that you don’t need to mooch off public healthcare?” He spared a glance at Brat, just now noticing him. The boy stared right back at him, seemingly without blinking. “And I suppose the kid is with you?”

 

“Yes. Can we go in now?” Aizawa wasn’t in the mood to humor sassy interns. He was exhausted, cold, aching all over and had a drug dealing crime lord to stop in the next few days and most importantly, they were standing in front of doctor’s office.

 

The receptionist shook his head and muttered something to himself. “Be my guest.” He gestured towards the door, dragging one hand through his unbearably pink hair.

 

Aizawa narrowed his eyes at him as he turned towards the office. He didn’t bother knocking. If Shuuzenji said she had time, she had time. Faux politeness served no purpose here.

 

The office was small but bright. It looked very out of place compared to the state of the building it resided in, all clean and modern.

 

The small, grey-haired woman looked up from her notes calmly.

 

“Eraserhead.” Her greeting was curt and precise as her eyes moved critically from his face towards his shoulder and then to Brat trailing behind him. He could practically hear the wheels moving in her head.

 

“Shuuzenji.”

 

Her eyebrows arched. “You sound tense. You aren’t scared, are you?” She winked conspiratorially at Brat. “You know, back when we first met and I told him I was going to need to operate, he nearly passed out.”

 

Aizawa grit his teeth defensively.The last thing he needed was the kid getting the wrong idea. “I was stabbed. I passed out from blood loss.”

 

“Sure you did.”

 

He did not appreciate that tone.

 

“Alright you, sit down and let me look at that shoulder.”

 

He tensed despite himself. “It’s just a scratch. You should check out the kid first.”

 

He could see her considering his words. On one hand, Brat didn’t appear to be bleeding which would make Aizawa priority but she could no doubt see the bruises beginning to show on his temple. As a doctor, she knew the dangers of hidden head injuries pretty well. And like he had said, the injury on his shoulder, while bleeding and painful, was hardly life threatening.

 

It wasn’t much of a choice in the end. She led the boy to a seperate room to give him privacy, giving Aizawa a stern look. He shifted in his chair. He had no idea what he did to warrant it.

 

Waiting in silence proved to be hard. While at first he had relished in some peace and quiet, it quickly turned out that he could give his tired body an inch and it would demand a mile. His eyes grew heavy and the tension bled out of his frame.

 

The case, set near his feet, shone metallically in the bring light of the office and caught his eye. Curiosity grew inside him and his fingers itched to crack it open and take a look inside.

 

He squashed that desire mercilessly, choosing instead to fish out his phone. Yamada’s number was on the top of his contact list, which Aizawa found handy considering he shamelessly used the man to do the human interaction part of their jobs for him.

 

True to his reputation of being a completely technology-reliant nomophobe, he picked up on the second ring.

 

“How’s it go-”

 

“-You gave me wrong info.” Aizawa cut in mercilessly. “I nearly missed the deal because of it.”

 

The man hesitated. “I… see…” There was some shuffling on the other end. “Uhh-Yeah, he guy who told me about this, wrote the address down for me, and now that you mention it, that 5 really looks a lot like a 2.” He sounded sheepish.

 

Aizawa was going to murder him.

 

“I missed at least four hours of sleep because of you.” He seethed.

 

“...heh. Sorry. But you said you nearly missed the deal so that means you still caught it?”

 

He doesn’t sound sorry, Aizawa thought apathetically.

 

“Yes, I intercepted it. Got a text that the department picked up the dealers ten minutes ago and I got the case they were dealing over.”

 

“See, no big d- wait, why didn’t you hand them to the police yourself?” Aizawa was silent. He could feel the other’s disappointment rolling through the phone. “Shouta. Don’t tell me you got hurt again.”

 

He squeezed his eyes shut and rubbed them hard enough stars exploded across his vision. He was too tired for this.

 

“Just a scratch.” He mumbled. “Could take care of it myself. There were complications, I’ll tell you later.”

 

“Alright, but you better show up early because I’m not wasting out movie night time for work.”

 

Aizawa groaned audibly. “For the last time, there is no movie night. I’d rather sleep than watch anything with you, ever again.” Somehow he knew the other man was pouting.

 

The door opened.

 

“Got to go, tell Kayama to prepare the lab team for sample analysis.” He could hear the noise of protest on the other side before he hung up.

 

He would never admit, but talking with the other man was strangely relaxing. It was both easy and extremely amusing to mess with him but as far as relationships with people go, this one was very low risk and low maintenance.

 

A glance at Shuuzenji found her smiling tightly and his stomach coiled again. She had one hand on Brat’s shoulder, leading him gently to the other chair.

 

“Alright, you wait here and we’ll be right back.”

 

She tipped her head at Aizawa and reluctantly he followed her inside, the case firmly in his hand. He didn’t trust the kid alone with it.

 

Settling down on the cot, he began taking off his shirt and waited for her to speak.

 

“There were no signs of a head injury.” She began, picking up gloves and disinfectant, eyeing his shoulder. “But his blood pressure was too high for my liking so I did some further testing.”

 

Aizawa grimaced as she wiped his wound.

 

“Was that really necessary?” He asked “I just brought him here for a check up to confirm he didn’t get hurt during the fight. I’m sure his personal doctor-”

 

“-We both know that’s not why you brought him to me.” She interrupted and he stilled, caught red handed. “He wouldn’t tell me his name so I couldn’t access his medical files. I had to be throughout.”

 

She picked up the sewing needle. “This might sting.” She warned, somewhat unnecessarily. He grit his teeth in preparation.

 

For a while, she worked silently, and he watched, knowing that she would speak up in time.

 

“You were right to bring him here.” She admitted quietly. “The blood test showed his levels of cortisol are abnormally high.” Aizawa frowned, trying to remember his biology classes.

 

“..that’s the-”

 

“-stress hormone, yes. Based on the levels of lactate in his muscles, I’d say it’s due to overtraining.” There was a tired crease between her brows as she worked on his shoulder. “And then there were the injuries. A lot of bruises and scrapes, normal stuff for a kid his age but too much of them. His right wrist had been broken recently and I’m cautious of his left collarbone. I didn’t have time to do an x-ray so I can’t tell if it’s cracked or just bruised. On top of that, he has an exceptional collection of burns, some of which are pretty old.”

 

Aizawa frowned, processing this. His gut had warned him, yes, but he hadn’t been quite expecting that. He winced as Shuuzenji pulled on his stitches.

 

“So someone has been training him.” He muttered quietly, thinking back on the way Brat had dodged during the fight earlier. That pose had been too balanced to be natural, he recalled thinking.

 

“Training him pretty hard I’d say.” Shuuzenji sighed lightly, moving her hands away, having finished her stitching. “Seriously, Eraser, just what did you get me into? These are hard times, you know. I know you lot like to think you’re invincible, but working where I do, I hear a lot.” She shuddered. “Something is changing. My patients are scared. People have been vanishing off streets and nobody seems too notice.There are rumors about villains banding together into a league. And now this. I don’t like it.”

 

Aizawa barely heard her. He was looking backwards and raking his brain for clues. There had to be something he was missing, a detail he had overlooked or maybe not paid attention to at the time, a piece that would make the picture seem clearer, something-

 

-there was nothing. This was irrational, he knew. This sick feeling in the pit of his stomach should be noted but not acted upon. It wasn’t the first child abuse case he had stumbled upon and it wouldn’t be the last. Life was rarely kind in these parts of the city.

 

But this… Something about this felt different and his gut told him that this going to drag behind itself more than just the fate of a single child. A very real chance was that there was someone out there making child soldiers, and Aizawa didn’t know if it was connected to the drug investigation or not but it was alarming nonetheless.

 

Shuuzenji continued wrapping his shoulder with steady hands.

 

“I gave the kid some painkillers.” She admitted. “He didn’t say, but muscle pain and headaches are a very common symptom of overtraining. It happens because the body is stuck in a permanent anaerobic glycolysis. With how exhausted his body is, I’d wager he’s going to be out cold by the time we wrap this up.”

 

Aizawa frowned. He didn’t follow.

 

She couldn’t mean…?

 

She gave him an exasperated stare.

 

“You can’t possibly send him home. Not only is his well-being at stake but public safety as well. Whether he wants to talk or not, he’s a witness. If someone is out there, training children-”

 

“-I know. But I can’t just kidnap a child, Shuuzenji. That’s not how that works.” Aizawa shifted on the cot. He had the urge to rub the bridge of his nose but the aged woman in front of him had an iron grip on his arm.

 

“I’m not telling you to kidnap him. I’ll call the department and get in contact with a social worker. If he’s tied to the case, he’s going to go into witness protection which would make him a ward of the state and he’d be remanded in police custody anyway.” She tightened the bandage and he had to stifle a wince. He could tell she was displeased. “I’m not asking you to do anything illegal. I’ll call it in, just give him a couple of days to rest and to get to know you. I guarantee you’re going to have much better results during questioning.”

 

It’s not that, he wanted to tell her. I’m busy, I work a lot, I’m no good at comforting and he won’t like this one bit. This is a bad idea.

 

Shuuzenji gave him a hard look, as if she somehow picked up on all his thoughts.

 

“There’s something else.” She admitted. “I have no idea what his quirk is, but I don’t think his trainer would have bothered if it wasn’t strong. Your Erasure…” She trailed off suggestively.

 

“He has an ice quirk.” Aizawa wasn’t sure about the strength of it, but her words did ring true. In this quirk-dominated society, only the strong were given the opportunity for improvement. Nobody would care to spend time on someone without potential.

 

She finished off his bandaging.

 

“Are you sure?”

 

He moved his arm experimentally, satisfied with the mobility the wrapping offered him.

 

“I’m pretty sure, considering I slipped on it.”

 

She winced in sympathy, but her eyes were smiling. “I see. That’s where all the bruising comes from I suppose?”

 

His face hardened. “This is a bad idea, Shuuzenji.”

 

The woman exhaled deeply, exhaustion lining her aged features. “I know.” She admitted quietly. “But trust me on this. Whatever is happening on the streets right now needs to be resolved fast.”

 

Aizawa sat still.

 

“You’re being awfully pushy about this.” But her insistence was sombering just as much as it was odd. She never advocated that strongly for something unnecessary. “And you truly believe he’s somehow involved in that?”

 

Shuuzenji’s expression was calm and cold. “Does it matter? You heroes always make these big speeches about helping other but here you have the chance to-”

 

“Alright.” He sighed in defeat. “You win. But if he doesn’t tell me anything in three days, I’m handing him over to the department. Which, you know, has a specialist for dealing with these kind of things.”

 

She nodded, please. “I’ll prepare you the instructions regarding his care.”

 

Aizawa frowned. He didn’t like that sentence. “His care?” He repeated, dreading the clarification. Weren’t kids that age supposed to be able to take care of themselves?

 

“A specific diet and some vitamin supplements. It helps with the overtraining syndrome. And a lot of rest. His immune system is compromised so he needs to stay away from any sources of germs.” Her mouth twitched “That includes your friends.”

 

That didn’t sound too troublesome. He supposed he could handle that much and he was grateful for any reason not to socialize.

 

“Speaking of, tell me how are your friends doing? Is Midnight still dating that poor boy?”

 

He cleared his throat. “I’m not going to serve you gossip. But if you need to know, she and Tensei broke up a few months ago.”

 

Shuuzenji tutted thoughtfully as she cleaned up her equipment. “She was always a bit too much for him, I think.” She give him a curious look over her shoulder. “While we’re talking about that, Chiyo tells me someone is being considered for a teaching position at UA. Are you thinking about accepting?”
Aizawa sat up straight, guarded.

 

“That’s personal information.” He muttered dismissively. Internally, he kicked himself. He should had known Shuuzenji would talk to her aunt.

 

Thankfully, she didn’t pry, sensing his defensiveness.

 

“I think it would be good for you. I can’t imagine you as a teacher though.” She looked as if she was trying to visualize it and came up with a spectacularly ridiculous image.

 

He leaned with his elbows on his thighs, resting his eyes. He didn’t like people telling him what would or wouldn’t be good for him and she knew that. Why did all the people he knew insist on tormenting him with their prodding?

 

When her eyes met his, they sparkled with something like glee. Shuuzenji Yui was a very perspective woman. He had no doubt she was aware of each of his internal conflicts.

 

“Of course, you don’t like people telling you about that. You’ll figure it out, I’m sure. As far as the staff is concerned, they’ll be more than happy to see you and Midnight back. Yamada is driving them crazy on his own.”

 

The use of his friend’s family name didn’t escape him. Figures the loud man would manage to befriend even the acquaintances Aizawa wasn’t aware he knew. The thought of him and Shuuzenji hanging out was hard to imagine but apparently that was just one more thing he had overlooked. He really needed to be more observant.

 

Outwards he sighed. “Of course he is.” The way Yamada spoke of working at UA, it was a wonder he was still employed. Yet the freedom teachers there had appealed to Aizawa. The hero society had its problems, he knew. That’s why he was working in the underground in the first place, besides the sole simplicity of those parts of society. It was only logical to help where help was needed most, not where it was noticed the most, and yet he was the outlier in his former class with his way of thinking.

 

Heroism as a profession was decaying. There was something rotten in its politics and machinations, something invisible in the shine of upper and middle class streets but clear as day in areas like this. The ideals that were supposed to drive a hero somehow got lost through the years. And the best way to fight this infection was at its source.

 

Aizawa had known since young age he wouldn’t be able to magically fix society but, as Yamada pointed out for him, he could at least lower the influx of unworthy heroes, streaming into their ranks in greater and greater numbers with every generation.

 

But such thoughts weren’t to be spoken. People didn’t like it when you pointed the flaws in something they condoned.

 

Shuuzenji watched him quietly, lost in thought. Her arms we clasped firmly in her lap. Sometimes Aizawa had the feeling that her opinion regarding heroes was even more radical than his, but that was the charm of their friendship; neither of them asked questions they didn’t want answered.

 

They said goodbye soon after. Brat was out cold, just as she had promised, curled on his chair like a cat. Aizawa had picked him up gently, doing his best not to wake him up.

 

The doctor paused at the door, for a moment looking impossibly old, backlit by the light streaming from the window.

 

“Take care of yourself.” She squeezed his free arm friendly but her eyes were serious, something like a worry shining through them.

 

Aizawa felt the muscles on his own face relax slightly in the face of the sentiment.

 

“You too.”

 


 

Setting Brat on the couch and covering him with a colourful blanket that had once been a joke gift, Aizawa didn’t linger in his apartment for much longer. The boy hadn’t stirred once on the way there; he doubted that would change for the next few hours.

 

Picking up the case, he had headed to the agency headquarters. He needed to write up the report and he had already wasted enough time. While dragged himself towards his office, the case went directly into the laboratory where the techs were going to analyse it’s content.

 

The paper was dull and his eyes were growing heavy. Even his thoughts felt sluggish and slow and each word typed was a nightmare. He couldn’t tell how long it took for him to finish, but it felt like hours.

 

He had described the events in details, only carefully omitting mentions of Brat’s involvement in places where he knew he could get away with it. In order for the boy to be considered a witness, he needed to leave some parts as they were, but if he had neglected to mention the ice that sent him flying then that was for him to know and for the others to never find out. He had meant what he said to the kid earlier. He would hate to write up illegal quirk use on his report for something as small as making the floor slippy.

 

He glanced at the clock and sighed. As much as he wanted to sleep, he didn’t have the time. He needed to consult with his fellow heroes about their next move and probably get some clothes for Brat.

 

Maybe if he just took a short nap… just a few minutes…

 

Luck was not on his side however, because the banes of his sleep schedule chose that moment to burst into his office.

 

He lives!” The windows shook with the volume.

 

Aizawa stilled. He was going to kill that man.

 

What’s with the sour face?!”

 

“Yamada, volume.” Kayama’s face was scrunched up in pain and she was holding her ears but Aizawa had never been happier to see her, for the sake of his eardrums.

 

“Sorry, sorry.” The blonde waved energetically, not repentant in the slightest. He plopped himself down on the spare chair, leaning forwards on the desk until his face almost touched Aizawa’s.

 

“So, what’s the news?”

 

The man in question stared back at him apathetically. He was too tired to deal with this. Sighing, he pushed him back with a hand on his face. Waiting for Kayama to come nearer, a deceivingly interested look on her face, he wearily retold the tale of his very eventful and tiresome day, this time keeping the story complete.

 

By the time he had finished, both of his friends carried somber expressions.

 

“This is bad. Even if we ignore the kid and his involvement completely, the fact that they’re already selling it to dealers is concerning.” Yamada twirled his moustache anxiously.

 

Kayama appeared a bit more composed, but Aizawa knew her well enough to be able to tell she too was deeply disturbed by the news.

 

“The early lab results are in. We’re still waiting for some, but from what the guys have gathered, it’s no good.” She paused. “It’s meant to enhance quirks but it looks like they haven’t quite figured it out yet. The enhancement is way too strong and it seems they still haven’t found a way to enhance the body’s tolerance for it’s quirk.”

 

Aizawa took her words grimly. Based on his previous experiences with drugs like that, he had expected as much.

 

“If this hits the market, it’s going to kill a lot of people.”

 

Yamada grimaced. “Yeah, about that- one of the guys you fought is in intensive care. His heart is failing. The drug is already in his system, there’s nothing they can do.”

 

Aizawa blinked. “The claws guy?” It was the only option, there’s no way the other guy could had ingested it.

 

His shoulder throbbed slightly in remembrance of the man’s claws. Each life had value and Aizawa wasn’t happy to hear about his passing, shoulder wound aside.

 

“Obawa’s hitman.” His friend confirmed. “That’s the odd thing here. They have to know the enhancement doesn’t work, there’s no way they haven’t tested it out. So why are they feeding it to their own henchmen?”

 

Kayama jumped in before Aizawa could open his mouth. “Then there’s the tip. The guy who supplied it used to be an associate of Obawa’s rival. And you said one of the guys claimed Obawa needed money, which shouldn’t be true considering the drug sale on their territory had gone up in the past few months. Unless that money is being used for something, they should be stacked.”

 

Aizawa frowned. “So, there’s a chance our involvement in this thing is used as an instrument in a gang war.”

 

Yamada leaned back in his chair. His leg jumped up and down as he tapped it energetically.

 

“We’ll need to be careful about how we proceed from now on. We don’t have the whole picture but we need to make a move quickly.”

 

Aizawa shot him an annoyed look. He was just stating the obvious without providing any solutions.

 

“Anybody got any ideas?” Kayama suggested dryly, reading his impatience.

 

Silence.

 

She sighed. “Alright, so we wait until we get the full lab results back. Detective Tsukauchi promised to get us information on Obawa and his past activity so we can try to gauge his next move. Aizawa, you go home, you look like shit and you have a kid to look after. Meeting over.”

 

He glared at her without any bite. He really did feel like shit.

 

But he couldn’t go home yet. There was something else he had to do.

 

“Do -” he cleared his throat awkwardly, embarrassed. Both his friends looked at him expectantly and he wanted to sink into the ground and vanish. “-do you know any stores with children’s clothes in the area?”

 

Midnight started to positively glow.

 

“Oh, Shouta” She breathed dramatically “You’re going to have the finest dressed kid on the block.”

 

“I am not keeping him.”

 

Yamada grinned at him mischievously, leaning so far back in his chair he was in serious danger of falling over. “That’s what you say now. You know, I always knew that out of us three, you would be the first one to become a parent.”

 

Aizawa grit his teeth.

 

He would not be provoked. He would not-

 

“-and hey, if you find the kid’s brother, you can adopt him too!”

 

That did it.

 

“I am never talking to you again.” He seethed.

 

“C’mon Yamada, let a man live in denial in peace.” Midnight snickered. “He has a reputation of being an emotionless asshat to protect.”

 

Aizawa took offence to that. “I’m not coming to the movie night.” He warned, waving his last piece of leverage.

 

His so-called friends didn’t even blink.

“Yeah, that’s understandable. You have to take care of your new offspring.”

 

He wanted to scream.