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Waking Nightmare

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Aizawa doesn’t sleep in class anymore.

 

He doesn’t sleep much of anywhere anymore. Not when every time he closes his eyes he sees blood and concrete and twenty broken bodies, and— And. He’s tired. Tired of aches and pains and itchy bandages, tired of his students sneaking concerned glances at him when they think he isn’t paying attention, tired of feeling like he failed them, and just… tired.

 

He rubs his aching eyes and wills the pile of tests in front of him back into focus. For a spiteful moment he considers just flunking them all. Instead he forces himself to keep going. He owes his students stability in the wake of the USJ attack. A normal routine. That was why he drags himself back to class just days after, crippled, half blind, in agony but still on time because he has to be. For the Sports Festival. For morale. For at least the illusion of stability. He barely remembers the past week through the haze of exhaustion and the potent cocktail painkillers Recovery Girl forced into him. He half-remembers her lecturing him about how she can’t heal him properly unless he gets some rest young man for goodness sake, but everything else is a red-tinted blur.

 

He’s been reading the same question for over a minute. He closes the answer guide and tucks it away in his desk, along with the pile of ungraded tests. He just needs a quick nap… not long enough to dream, just the same light doze he usually falls into in class, and can snap out of in an instant. Only to rest his eyes.

 

He crawls under his desk and into his sleeping bag. The students don’t seem to notice. They chatter softly amongst themselves and his eyes drift closed as their voices ebb and flow…

 

And suddenly they are screaming.

 

Screaming as the villains close in and tear them apart.

 

He struggles against the massive hand that pins him facedown to the pavement, blinking through the blood in his eyes, he can’t see but he can hear Asui’s shrill wail as the villain’s hand latches onto her face, hear the soft crackling, like dry earth falling to dust as her skull crumbles away—

 

And Midoriya is right there, gaping at Asui’s headless corpse, not even noticing the villain reaching for him next, and everything is red, the water, the villain’s eyes, the concrete under his cheek and he failed them, he failed them, he—

 

He rears up, and he’s suddenly free, his eyes prickle with the energy of his quirk, ready to protect them, ready to fight—

 

But he doesn’t see them dying or screaming or in pain, he sees them looking at him, worry, shock, fear painted on their faces, and he realizes then. He’s not there, pinned, helpless at the USJ. He’s in his classroom. They’re alive.

 

It wasn’t real.

 

But he still feels the phantom hand in his hair, tastes the blood in his teeth, hears the echo of screams. He deactivates his quirk. Stumbles against his desk. He’s breathing too fast, his hands are shaking, his forehead is sticky with sweat. He feels like he’s watching outside himself, deafened by his own heartbeat, he has to say something, he has to—

 

“Aizawa-sensei?” Midoriya, looking at him with the same wide, frightened eyes that watched flecks of his friend’s disintegrated body drift past his face. “Are… are you—?”

 

“Class dismissed,” he chokes out. His capture weapon clings to his neck like the villain’s hands and he just barely restrains himself from ripping it off right there. “I’ll give your tests back tomorrow.” Midoriya starts to say something else, but Aizawa is already out the door. His quick jerky stride carries him down the hall and into the courtyard, and he’s breathing even faster and he’s starting to see spots, and he half-collapses on a low wall, tears the scarf from his neck, and flings it aside and his eyes burn and he can’t breathe, there are hands around his throat, pressing on his chest, crushing him, he can’t breathe, he can’t—

 

Even in his disoriented state, he hears footsteps approaching. When his head snaps up, All Might takes a respectful step back.

 

“My apologies, Aizawa,” he says with one of his signature smiles. “I didn’t mean to disturb you—”

 

“Then leave.” It comes out harsh and raspy, and All Might actually recoils for a second before venturing,

 

“Young Midoriya mentioned you were… unwell,” he says in a low, gentle voice. “I was simply—”

 

“Drop it,” He snaps. “If you really want to do something, tell Midoriya to quit meddling… Although I expect he learned by following your example.” He expects All Might to retreat, but instead he smiles again, softer.

 

“We’re heroes. Meddling is what we do.” He unbuttons his ridiculous yellow jacket and sits next to Aizawa. “And I believe he did the right thing by coming to me.”

 

“Of course you do.” Midoriya is his favorite after all. The kid can do no wrong in his eyes.

 

“I do,” All Might continues, “Because you—”

 

“Because what?” He spits, sharp and venomous, standing even though he feels like his knees might give out at any moment. “He’s a fucking kid, I am not his responsibility!” But he was. That kid had to carry him off the battlefield.

 

“He cares for you. They all do.” A warm rush of steam and All Might stands before him in his true form, skeletal, unassuming, and drowning in that hideous yellow suit. And he’s looking at him with an aching, pitying expression that fills Aizawa with hate. “You saved their lives.”

 

“You saved their lives.” The truth sits bitterly on Aizawa’s tongue, but it is true. The villains beat him. Their leader was right, his quirk isn’t suited to long fights against large groups, no matter how much he hones it. He was destined to get beaten to a pulp for someone else to save. A liability.

 

It’s exactly how he described Midoriya during the quirk assessment test.

 

“Aizawa…” All Might’s hand finds his shoulder, and he wrenches away on instinct— and pain zings down his arm like lightening just like the Nomu, it’s grabbing him, twisting, breaking—

 

And his quirk activates even though it feels like his skull is shattering all over again and All Might’s reaching arm slowly withdraws. Aizawa stifles his quirk, tries to catch his breath, but the damage has already been done. All Might looks like he dropped the weight of the world on his shoulders and then some.

 

“Oh, Aizawa…”

 

“Don’t.” His voice is rough and brittle glass. “It doesn’t matter. If not for you, we would all be dead.” He sees fragments of crumbling flesh, splatters of blood. He smells it, tastes it on the back of his tongue. “Thank you for saving us.” And he marches briskly away, ignoring All Might’s protest, his throbbing head, and the seething burning something in his chest that hurts worse than his broken bones.

 

His students saw him break. All Might saw him break.

 

He can’t let this happen again.

 


 

So he pushes it down, because that’s what he always does. He fills his days with classes, training, patrols until he can barely stand, so tired even the blaring alarm he sets in the morning can barely wake him. His sleeping bag sits, unused, under his desk. No matter how tired he gets in class, he knows better than to risk it again. He runs on energy jellies, caffeine pills, and determination, just like he always has, and he functions.

 

Except when he doesn’t.

 

One night on patrol, a villain grabs him by the arm, right at the elbow. His nerves sing with phantom pain, his vision fades to red, and the next thing he knows the hapless man is on the ground, face caved in, and Aizawa’s fists are covered with blood.

 

And every time something large moves in his peripheral vision, every time he feels breath on his neck in a crowded train, every time someone brushes past him in the hallway, he clutches his scarf so tight his fingers go numb, blinking static and phantom bits of concrete from his eyes until the feeling passes.

 

And the nightmares. No matter how hard he works, no matter what medication he takes, Aizawa still wakes in the night, sticky with sweat and choking on screams.

 

But he manages.

 

Through everything this shit-show year throws at him, he manages because he has to. Through Bakugo’s kidnapping and recovery, All Might’s retirement, all of it, right up until Nedzu announces they must make up their disaster relief training at the USJ.

 

“Technically your students never completed the disaster scenarios,” he explains as he pours Aizawa a cup of tea. “It is a crucial aspect of their training, one they simply cannot skip.”

 

“Wasn’t the whole villain attack enough of a disaster for you?” Aizawa’s fingers tighten around the mug. He should drink it, if not for politeness’s sake to get something in his empty stomach… but everything that has passed his lips recently tastes slightly of blood.

 

“Oh certainly,” the principal squeaks, clambering back onto the sofa. “But it is a reminder that our students cannot afford to be anything less than prepared to face the world. They need this experience to do so. Besides…” He fixes Aizawa with his unsettlingly sharp stare. “It will do them good to reform their experience with the place into something positive. Don’t you agree?” Aizawa doesn’t agree, but he doesn’t say so. It would be pointless to try and dissuade the principal once he made up his mind.

 

He announces it in class the following day, voice so steady it surprises even him. There are some murmurs, but no outright complaints. The bus trip there is quiet, too quiet, but they make it there without incident. Aizawa counts heads, twenty living, fully-attached heads as they file into the building.

 

It looks the same as it did that day. A fresh layer of concrete. Not a single stain.

 

Cementoss and Thirteen did a remarkable job restoring the place.

 

He’s startled from his reverie by Thirteen finishing their introduction of the teams and where each will be dispatched. He has no idea where he is supposed to be in all of this. He finds himself on the shore of the shipwreck, watching as Asui, Shoji, and Midoriya scramble to rescue “victims.” Midoriya lifts wreckage off the yellow dummies so Asui can snake her tongue underneath and pull them to safety. They rush them to Shoji, who waits with a liferaft, so his powerful arms can swim them to shore.

 

For a brief bitter moment, Aizawa wishes heroes were only needed for rescues like these.

 

Suddenly a shrill burst of sound. A siren. The intruder alarm.

 

The blood in his veins turns to ice. Not again. Please not again.

 

“Everybody out!” he hears himself yell. “Now!” His students come, slowly, too slow for an emergency. If they don’t get out of here, they’ll be trapped, trapped just like before— He snags Midoriya by the arm as he hops ashore, half dragging him up the stairs. His other hand is tight around his scarf, ready to tug it free and attack at a moment’s notice. Nothing is going to harm these kids on his watch, not again.

 

A shadow in the corner of his eye and he shoves Midoriya behind him, lashes out with a clenched fist— And stops himself when he realizes All Might—Yagi—is standing in front of him. His expression is unreadable, but Aizawa doesn’t have time to decipher it, or to apologize.

 

“Take your problem child,” he says instead, pushing Midoriya his way. “Meet Thirteen at the main exit, do not engage on your own, you hear me?” He doesn’t wait for his response, already hurtling back down the stairs. Ojiro, Tokoyami, Asui, Shoji and Midoriya are already headed for the door. Mineta, Hakagure, Sato, Todoroki, and Iida pass him on their way. Ten out of Twenty. Yaoyorozu, Aoyama and Sero file out of the conflagration biome. Bakugo and Kaminari from the landslide. Fifteen. Five unaccounted for. He should’ve paid more attention to the assignments. He should’ve been expecting this. Kirishima emerges from the typhoon biome with Uraraka and Jiro. He waves them towards the stairs with shaking hands.

 

Eighteen. Ashido and Kouda. Were they in the mountains? He thinks he heard Thirteen say so. Or were they in the landslide? No, Bakugo and Kaminari were in the landslide. He flings himself toward the mountain biome, stumbling on non-existent cracks in the pavement.

 

He arrives just as Kouda emerges, slowly, still too slowly, and alone.

 

Alone.

 

Aizawa’s heart stills as flashes of opening warp gates and reaching hands cloud his vision.

 

“Get to the main entrance,” he chokes out, already halfway into the biome. He only hopes there are no attackers in the plaza, and if there are, that Thirteen and Yagi can take care of them. One of his students is still unaccounted for, and he’ll die before he leaves without all twenty.

 

Cold air stings his cheeks as he scrambles up the rocky slopes, scanning for a flash of pink. He can only hope that’s the color he finds instead of bloody, bloody red.

 

“Ashido!” His voice is ragged, desperate, echoing back to him around the stony peaks. “Ashido, answer me!”

 

“Sensei, I’m right here!” His head whips to the sound of her voice. She’s hunched over at the bottom of a small cliff. Her expression is taut. She’s clutching her knee.

 

He’s at her side in an instant.

 

“Can you walk?”

 

“Y-yeah, I just slipped… I was trying something with my acid—” He doesn’t wait for her to finish, hauling her to her feet and sprinting for the exit. The ground is unstable, and Ashido stumbles, unable to keep up with his furious pace, so he hoists her over his shoulder, ignoring her squeal of protest. Every outcropping could hide hulking muscles, snapping beaks, reaching hands.

 

Ashido clings to him as he launches himself into the air, flicking his scarf around a support beam and swinging them up the stairs. He lands hard, knees nearly buckling, but forces himself to dive out the door and slam the emergency lockdown button on his way.

 

The doors shut and lock, but that won’t hold their attackers back for long. They could already be outside. He runs for the parking lot, where the others are waiting by the bus. Just waiting. Hell, Kaminari and Sero are sitting down chatting. He pauses, too shocked to move. It takes Ashido wriggling down from his shoulder to snap him out of it.

 

“What the hell are you doing?” He barks. “Everyone on the bus. Yagi, count heads. Thirteen, start the ignition while I scout the perimeter.”

 

“Aizawa.” Yagi steps forward, arms outstretched like he is calming a cornered animal. Aizawa ducks past him, pulls Kaminari and Sero to their feet.

 

“Get on the damn bus! If I’m not back in five minutes call in back up and get out of here.”

 

“Aizawa—”

 

“Actually, just leave now, I’ll catch up on foot—”

 

“Aizawa!” A hand on his shoulder spins him around and even though he knows its Yagi this time, Aizawa’s quirk still flares as he snarls,

 

“What!?”

 

“We’re all safe. It’s just a drill.” Aizawa blinks, uncomprehending. His hair drops back to his shoulders.

 

“A drill?” he repeats dully.

 

“Yes.” Both of Yagi’s hands are on his shoulders now, holding him in place. “Thirteen announced it at the beginning of the day, remember? After they chose teams?” Aizawa does not remember. He still feels the prickle of eyes on the back of his neck and hands on his elbow scorching, rotting, and concrete breaking under his skull in his eyes in his nose in his teeth—

 

“Aizawa?” He snaps back to himself. Yagi is looking at him worriedly, and so is Thirteen, so are his students, and it’s just like that day where everyone in his class looked at him like he was falling apart—

 

“Okay everyone!” Thirteen chirps, clapping their gloved hands together with strained enthusiasm. Well done on the drill, now back to your stations!” They usher the kids back towards the USJ with open arms, chancing a worried glance at Aizawa as the students turn away. Aizawa watches them go, still rooted in place.

 

It was a drill. Everyone is fine. It was just a drill.

 

But his skin still feels too tight, his lungs not big enough, his heart battering like a sledgehammer against his ribs. He takes a breath that doesn’t seem to hold air, then another, and forces himself to follow his students with legs made of concrete, shattered concrete—

 

“Aizawa, wait.” Yagi is somehow in front of him, blocking his way. “I don’t think you should go back in yet.”

 

“I’m their teacher. So are you. We have to monitor their lessons.” And protect them, he wants to add, protect them from whatever dangers could be lurking inside their former safe-haven.

 

“Midnight and Snipe are taking over for us. They should be here in less than ten minutes.”

 

“Since when?”

 

“I called them right after I ran into you on the stairs.” Yagi’s expression is grim, unyielding. “You… weren’t yourself.” Aizawa doesn’t reply. He has survived for this long, endured the sleepless nights, the grueling patrols, the aftermath of battles and raids that left him broken, aching, hollow. He won’t let this be what does him in. He can’t. His hands curl into fists to stop them from shaking, and when they don’t stop, he realizes his arms, no his whole body is shaking and he can’t stop, can’t breathe, just like before—

 

He can’t hear what else Yagi says over the shrill ringing in his ears, but his hands stay on his shoulders, guiding him onto the bus, and he follows. Sits on one of the bench seats. Tries and tries and tries to breathe. Yagi is with him the whole time.

 

“You can go back in,” he manages though the knot in his throat. “I’m fine.”

 

“Really? You aren’t sleeping in the classroom anymore.” That gives him pause. He thought he was hiding it well. Apparently his deception wasn’t thorough as he hoped.

 

“I owe it to my students to be present.”

 

“Or in the staffroom.”

 

“Too loud.”

 

“Or at home, I bet.” Yagi is studying him intensely, no doubt mapping the worrylines on his forehead and the dark shadows under his eyes. “This has been weighing on you a long time.”

 

“What do you mean?” Aizawa knows damn well what he means. Yagi doesn’t even dignify his sloppy misdirect with a response.

 

“You don’t have to fight alone. No one will think any differently of you if you just let us help you. Let me help you.”

 

“Right,” Aizawa bites out. “You wouldn’t even help yourself before the rest of us talked some sense into you.” Yagi’s concern turns into a wince of a smile.

 

“You’re right. I didn’t think I deserved it. It wasn’t until you thanked me for fighting at Kamino Ward that I even considered I was worthy of happiness again. It’s… kind of silly, but hearing that I inspired you to do your part to protect the students meant a lot to me.”

 

“I said that?” Aizawa squints, tired mind struggling to remember when. “At the bar?” he finally manages. Yagi cracks a smile.

 

“You said you probably wouldn’t remember. But hearing it from you… you, who would never say something like that unless you meant it, even drunk… It made me believe I could keep living.” Aizawa blinks, floored.

 

“You shouldn’t base your self-worth off the opinion of one person,” he says numbly. “Especially…” Someone like me, hangs in the air between them, like a cloud of dark smoke wafting over the sun. Yagi brushes it away with a wave of his hand.

 

“I understand… But it was the first step. You helped me realize that even though my time as All Might is over, I still have a purpose. And I deserve the help I need to fulfill it. Life is easier to get through when you aren’t alone. And I want you to understand that too. You aren’t alone, Aizawa.” Aizawa turns away. It feels like a heavy quilt swaddling him, too warm, too soft, too much.

 

It terrifies him, and he doesn’t know why.

 

He stands, tries to brush past Yagi and out the door, back to the students who need guidance, protection, but the former hero blocks his way.

 

“Please,” he says, gently placing his hands back on Aizawa’s shoulders. “If you won’t accept help for your sake… accept it for mine.”

 

Aizawa tries to speak, but nothing comes out. Even if he could, he doesn’t know what he’d say. He closes his eyes. Tries to get his breathing under control. He feels light-headed and sick, almost feverish. He isn’t sure if it’s the last vestiges of panic or his body finally rebelling against everything he’s put it through. He hadn’t eaten this morning, too choked with nerves to get anything down, just like the night before— Negligent, irresponsible, can’t protect his students like this, can’t—

 

He doesn’t realize he’s swaying until Yagi’s warm hands still him.

 

“Please don’t,” he murmurs, nearly begs, and he isn’t sure why. He’s tired. So tired. But he can’t give in, not yet.

 

“Just let me try,” Yagi says softly, and in this moment he doesn’t sound like All Might, the brash and boisterous symbol of peace, nor his withered husk. He sounds like a person. And that familiarity, that last little push, is all it takes.

 

Aizawa folds like wet paper, and Yagi gently lowers him down, guides him to lean against his bony chest as his breath starts to shake.

 

“I see them every night,” he whispers into Yagi’s shirtfront, “In the morning I think I’m going to see empty seats in class and I can’t— I can’t—”

 

“I know,” Yagi murmurs, even though Aizawa knows distantly that he isn’t making any sense. “I know.”

 

“I can’t protect them… Every night—”

 

“Shhh…” Wiry arms hold him close. He struggles to steady his breathing, but his careful exhale turns into a sob and he hates himself even more for it. Yagi seems to sense this, because his grip tightens, stopping him before he can break free. “They’re alive. They’re all alive thanks to you.” Aizawa makes a bitter, choked-off sound before he can stop himself. No. He failed them. He failed them just barely after he managed to spare Asui, from Shigaraki, unable to stay conscious through another brutal blow to the head, and he has been failing them ever since.

 

“It never should’ve been that close!” he snarls, fingers twisting in Yagi’s shirt. “I should’ve… I should’ve—” He’s gasping now, hysterical, he can’t get the words out, but he can’t stop them either. “I fucked up, I can’t do this, I—”

 

“No,” Yagi says firmly, pulling away and holding him at arms length. “Don’t. I’ve dreamt about the USJ too, and you know what? Sometimes I’m too late to save the students … but more often, I’m too late to save you. Because I know you’d fight until your dying breath before you’d let a villain touch them.” Aizawa looks up. Yagi’s piercing blue eyes meet his, filled with such fierce reverence, like he, Aizawa Shouta, is something precious, something worth fighting for. “Through everything you’ve given your all, so please… please let me help you.”

 

A soft shattered noise escapes him, and he swore he would never break in front of All Might, but his breaths have become sobs, and he can’t, can’t, can’t make them stop. And when he reaches for Yagi, desperate and half-blinded by his dry eyes’ attempt at tears, Yagi gathers Aizawa into his arms and holds him.

 

And holds him and holds him until the wracking sobs finally stop.

 

Aizawa hasn’t cried like that in years. Maybe ever. It’s like he was bound in too-tight shackles, rubbed-raw and cramped up, and this experience unlocked them. It sent blood rushing back into his numbed fingers, prickling and stinging, and it feels awful, but still, somehow, it’s a relief.

 

“I’m tired,” he murmurs as Yagi’s hand cards through his hair. He sounds pathetic, like a worn-out little kid.

 

“Then sleep.” Yagi carefully disentangles himself and stands, pulling Aizawa with him. “Did you bring your sleeping bag?” Aizawa shakes his head. It’s pointless to bring it anymore. Even if he could sleep, he doesn’t want to. Not when he has to see his students dying over and over and over—

 

“I can’t… especially here—” He presses his lips tightly together to hold back the frustration, the weakness, the pain. “I can’t.”

 

“You won’t know until you try. Come now.” Aizawa goes with the gentle tug on his wrists, sitting next to Yagi on the narrow bench.

 

“Yagi—”

 

“I’ll be right here. If you start dreaming, I’ll wake you.” Aizawa bites back another protest about the act itself, instead pointing out,

 

“This bench isn’t very big.”

 

“I can move over if that would be more comfortable for you. I just…” For the first time, his calm demeanor rumples like a sheet of paper in anxious hands. “I’ve heard… experienced rather… physical contact helps.”

 

“Oh.” He isn’t sure what to say. His tired mind runs in circles a moment before he settles on, “Okay.”

 

“Okay.” Haltingly, like Aizawa will bolt like a skittish animal if he goes too fast, Yagi guides him to lean against his shoulder. “There. Alright?”

 

“Hmm.” Yagi is made of nothing but sharp angles and harsh planes, but he is warm and he is here. And he loops his arm over Aizawa’s chest, holding him, anchoring him to his side. “S’ fine.”

 

“Good.” Yagi pulls him closer, brushing the hair back from his forehead with his free hand. “Now sleep.” Aizawa heaves a sigh. It’s stupid, but it’s worth a try. Anything is worth a try at this point because his head is full of fuzzy cotton and his eyes are burning, and he can’t, can’t keep them open anymore. So he closes them. Focuses on breathing, on the heat of Yagi propping him up, on the strong sure heartbeat in his ear, and counting back from twenty, twenty children, twenty living children…

 

He is asleep before he makes it to ten.

 


 

He wakes to the sun on his face and gentle hands in his hair. He cracks his eyes open, grumbling incoherently when warm afternoon light floods into them. A rumbling laugh, and Yagi leans over him, blocking it out.

 

“You slept,” he says, voice honey-soft with pride. “Nearly three hours!”

 

“Hmm.” The sun illuminates Yagi’s hair like a halo, and for a moment Aizawa can only stare. He is beautiful like this. Even wasted and skeletal, his heroic spirit still shines through his eyes like sun through stained glass, and he is radiant.

 

Then Aizawa realizes something.

 

They’re still on the bus. The bus is moving, swaying gently along the road back to school. So that means…

 

He sits up so quickly he nearly head-butts Yagi and looks around.

 

The kids are all there. Five, ten, fifteen, twenty kids, and Aizawa’s blood goes cold because no, no, no, they can’t see him like this, they can’t… Then he looks closer.

 

They’re sleeping too.

 

Midorya, Iida, and Uraraka are huddled together, the two smaller students propped against Iida’s shoulders. Shoji’s arms are flopped every-which-way, and Asui is snuggled under one set like a blanket. Yaoyorozu has made blankets for her and Jiro that look suspiciously like the one that has appeared on Aizawa. Kaminari, Sero and Kirishima are tangled up near Bakugo, who slumps standoffishly against the far wall. The rest are arranged much the same.

 

And they’re all asleep.

 

“What the hell…?”

 

“They were tuckered out from training,” Yagi says, eyes lingering fondly on Midoriya and his friends. “And they figured you had the right idea.” Aizawa glowers at the floor, and tries not to think about the events that lead to this. Twenty young faces, twenty pairs of eyes watching him with sickening concern. “Don’t worry,” Yagi soothes, almost as if he read his mind. “I told them you had a touch of heat sickness. Running around in all that black can’t be comfortable, especially on such a sunny day. I was monitoring your temperature.”

 

“That’s worse than your excuses,” Aizawa grunts, but he doesn’t rise. Doesn’t scoot away. And neither does Yagi.

 

“They wouldn’t have cared regardless. They knew you needed rest.” Aizawa takes a breath to protest, and holds it. Lets it out long and slow as he remembers the pinched looks on their faces when he pelted out of the USJ, Ashido slung over his shoulder. Almost without thinking, he scans the huddle of students until he finds her. Aside from the purple bandaids plastered on her knee she is fine and here and whole, sprawled on the seats across from Bakugo.

 

“Thanks,” The word sits strange and slippery on his tongue, and he winces through his distaste. “You didn’t have to… It helped.” Yagi waves him off with another dazzling smile.

 

“Oh, please, don’t worry about it! It’s the least I can do.” His gaze turns distant then, grin fading like old film. Something dark and uncomfortable sinks in Aizawa’s gut, worse than anger, worse than fear. He wore that same look when he discovered Aizawa after his near-meltdown in the classroom. Like he carried the weight of the world.

 

“If you were there, they would’ve killed you. You know that.”

 

“And maybe you wouldn’t have been hurt. You wouldn’t be—”

 

“I don’t blame you,” Aizawa says, and it tumbles from his mouth before he realizes he spoke. The words hang awkwardly in the air for a long moment before he can bring himself to clarify. “For the USJ. I never told you that.” He rubs the back of his neck, a nervous tic from his teens he can’t seem to kick. “But I don’t. Didn’t. Ever.” He takes a steadying breath, and forces himself to look Yagi in the eye. “I’m sorry.”

 

“I know,” Yagi says, staring out the window into the blazing sun. “I know you never blamed me, even though you were well within your rights to do so. I’m not sure if that will make it easier or harder to forgive myself… if I ever can.”

 

“You haven’t done anything that needs forgiving.”

 

“How does that sound coming from you, Aizawa?” Yagi says, a touch of bitterness coloring his tone. “You know how hard it can be.”

 

“Then we’ll work on it.” Before Aizawa quite realizes what he’s doing, he reaches for Yagi’s hand and grasps it tight. No going back now. “Together.”

 

For a moment, Yagi just looks at him. Then like a flower blooms, a tender smile unfolds across his face. It fills Aizawa with light.

 

“Yeah,” he agrees, with a gentle squeeze of his hand. “Together.”