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The Way I Behaved

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EraserMic - The Way I Behaved

 

Chapter One

 

“But I say to myself when there’s time for a word,

As I gracefully grow more debauched and depraved:

Love may be strong, but a habit is stronger

And I knew when I loved by the way I behaved.”

- Peter S. Beagle, The Last Unicorn

 

Butterscotch Latte

 

Working at the coffeeshop had been a logical choice, if not an inspired one. To live he needed the three basics: food, shelter, coffee. Copious amounts of coffee, in fact – probably enough to kill a weaker man. However, his tight budget only allowed for two of those three necessities. Fortunately, the owner of the joint offered a hefty employee discount, meaning Shouta Aizawa could effectively continue his caffeine addiction without forgoing any other basic-human-needs.

As a kid, he’d never imagined this would be his life at thirty, but here he was and he seldom complained.

He didn’t hate working at the Extroverted Hermit: he could relate to most customers, especially those fellow workaholic zombies who arrived first thing in the morning. So long as the coffee was hot and caffeinated, they never gave him trouble. It was the perky customers who gave him trouble, especially the throngs of women who would ask far too many personal questions for his liking. He wasn’t one to bend over backwards at every customer’s request – unlike his co-workers - but he did the work courteously, casually, and professionally. The hours kept him busy and on a good day he could manage five hours of sleep before his real job began.

No, he didn’t hate working there, but he didn’t exactly like it either. He’d once worked at a cat café, but that had been four years ago, and he’d been fired for yelling at a customer who’d been improperly handling one of the younger felines.

Had he overreacted? Yes. Had the customer deserved it? Also yes. Had he deserved to lose his job over it? According to his old boss: Yes.

That hadn’t been a good day for him, although he supposed working with humans and solely humans was safer for his image, if not his sanity.

 “You really need to get more sleep,” said his younger co-worker. It was close to closing and they were the only two still in the small shop. She was busting out the old vacuum already, while Aizawa was drying up the waterglasses and storing them on the rack for tomorrow. “Your eyes are so bloodshot, people probably think you’re a druggie, and seriously, you don’t have bags under your eyes, you have-”

“Suitcases,” he answered in his distinctive monotone. He’d heard it a million times from her, other employees and even some (very rude) customers.

“You should really do something about your looks too. The company policy ponytail’s nice, but you need to shave. Either grow a beard or get rid of it – stubble makes you look like a hobo. I think you’re scaring away customers.” She sniffled and suddenly sneezed. A great burst of fire lit up the carpet, but a few quick stomps put it out.

“I think you scare them off without my help.”

“Right, pick on the fire Quirk.” She rubbed her nose. “I think I’m getting a cold. What’s your Quirk anyway? Don’t think I’ve ever asked, TBH.”

“Don’t have one,” he lied as he placed another few cups away.

“Really? I’m so jelly! Being Quirkless is better than having a busted Quirk like mine. What were we talking about? Oh, right, you also need to smile more.”

In answer, Aizawa stretched his mouth and forced himself to grin.

His co-worker looked mortified. “On second thought, forget it, just be a damn hobo. Ladies prefer a man they think they can help anyway, even if I know there’s no helping you.” He relaxed his mouth back into its usual line and finished drying up the last of the glasses. “You able to flip the sign, hobo?”

He grunted and went to comply, but was interrupted by the small bell above the door: a final customer. Aizawa was about to call out that they were closed, but one look at the man who entered made him stop.

The man could only be described, unfortunately, as an eyesore. His dyed blonde hair was wrangled into a messy bun, his glasses were framed so thickly they could’ve inspired crime scenes, and his clothes were so colourful they made Aizawa’s eyes literally sore. He had to look away, lest he end the shift with an insufferable migraine.

His co-worker jumped to do her job. “Hello sir,” she said in her too-happy customer-service voice. “Unfortunately we’re closing, but-”

The man walked past her and leaned against the counter like he was some sort of celebrity. “Hey,” he said casually as his vibrant green eyes peered through the thick glasses to size up Aizawa. “A drink. Takeaway. Large.”

“We’re closed,” he said bluntly, refusing to give in to the obnoxious smear.

“Well we haven’t cleaned the machine yet,” said his co-worker, unhelpfully. “If it’s just something for takeaway it should be okay.”

“Thanks, darling,” the blond said as he waved his hand at her, although he kept his body facing Aizawa. He had a very small moustache, blond like the rest of his unruly hair. Okay, maybe he was a natural blond, but that still didn’t give him the right to wear rainbow-vomit clothes. “Oi, if you could have any coffee in the world, what would it be?”

“Twenty shots of expresso in a single cup,” Shouta answered honestly. It was his usual.

That made the eyesore doubletake. He glanced Aizawa up and down, squinted at his name badge, and straightened up a little. “Okay, just give me anything you’d recommend for someone you don’t want to find dead in a dumpster.”

“You allergic to anything?”

“Phone numbers of cute baristas,” he said out of the blue with an audacious wink. “So definitely don’t give me yours.”

“If you insist,” he murmured and very clearly didn’t write down his number as he went to make the eyesore a drink. He was used to women trying to flirt with him – emphasis on trying - but in all his years working in coffeeshops, this was the first time a man had made the effort. While his gender alone put him ahead of the ‘competition’, his blatant disregard for their trading hours immediately crushed what miniscule interest Aizawa might’ve had.

“You aren’t gonna ask for my name?” questioned the blond. “You know, to put on the cup. What if someone else thinks my order’s theirs?” The blonde gestured vaguely to the empty room, as if it were crowded with other impolite customers who didn’t know the meaning of the word ‘closed’.

Aizawa glanced around the café, but was too tired to bother arguing – it was the end of his shift and he hadn’t slept for eighteen hours. “Name?”

“The name is Hizashi, baby!” He winked. Again.

The darkhaired man picked up the marker and scribbled something on the takeaway cup before he continued brewing.

For a time, the only noise was from the machine. His co-worker took it upon herself to flip the closing sign and wipe down the tables, postponing her vacuuming while there was a customer around. The man in question just leaned against the counter and watched him work, not that Aizawa had the energy to care.

He finished making the drink and purposely moved to the pick-up area, even though the blond was still at the register. “Order for ‘Baby’,” Aizawa called dryly. “Is there a ‘Baby’ here?”

His co-worker, upon hearing him, snorted out another burst of flame. Hizashi jumped at the unexpected Quirk and when he turned, Aizawa noticed he was wearing hearing-aids, although his glasses partially hid them. The blond made a clicking sound with his mouth and traipsed to the pick-up station. However, much to the insomniac’s surprise, the man was clearly holding back a laugh.

“You’re funnier than you look.” He took the coffee – a butterscotch latte - and sipped it, despite how hot it must’ve been. “Good guess, Aizawa,” the blonde said while glancing again at his nametag. He pulled out some cash and smacked it down, “Keep the change.”

Aizawa put the money in the register and slipped the remainder into the tip jar for all the employees to divide. “Got a loyalty card?”

“Nope and, as nice as this is, I won’t be needing one.”

“Good, because we’re closed,” he said coldly. “If you come back again, do so during business hours.”

Hizashi sipped the coffee again and smiled. “If I come back, I’ll make sure of it, baby.” They watched as he left without further provocation required, and his co-worker physically slumped once he was out of sight.

“Oh man, we got visited by him!

“’Him’?”

“Yeah, it’s like a rite of passage for baristas,” she claimed as she plugged the vacuum in at long last.

“He a critic?”

“More like an urban legend. Don’t you have barista friends?”

“Are you asking if I specifically have barista friends, or if I have friends in general? The answer to both is no.”

She groaned. “He comes in, gets a drink the barista recommends, and then leaves. I’ve heard he’s never visited the same place twice!”

That sounded horrific and illogical. “Good riddance,” he murmured as he started cleaning the coffee machine. “I hope I never see him again.”

 

-x-

 

Aizawa hadn’t planned to stay at the Capsule Hotel for longer than a month, but that had been ten years ago and his decision had changed. Staying there was cheaper than owning an apartment, and it had a laundromat, communal bathroom, a personal locker, wi-fi, charging points, hot water and a vending machine that exclusively dispensed instant noodles.

His ‘room’ was literally a human crawlspace with a pillow and his personal yellow sleeping bag, but when you only spent five hours of every day sleeping, having anything more was unnecessary. All he did all day, every day, was work.

His phone buzzed, the silent alarm waking him instantly to tell him it was now midnight. It was time for his real job to begin.

Aizawa climbed down from his pod, sealed it, and headed for the elevator. He was now dressed in complete black, with a ‘scarf’ tied around his neck. Goggles covered his face and hid his identity, while his hair was now free of his ‘company policy ponytail’.

His schedule was strict. He’d start work at the Extroverted Hermit at 6am, finish at 6pm, have dinner and relax for an hour, sleep until midnight, patrol the streets for villains until 5am, get back and shower and then be at the café before opening.

By day he was a tired barista, but by night he was an equally tired hero.

Specifically, he was the underground hero known as Eraserhead, and it was his duty to stop all criminals in the area, whether they were Quirk users or just plain dickbags.

He followed his typical route through back alleys and rooftops, but that night was proving to be rather uneventful. When he’d been younger, he might’ve described it as annoyingly uneventful, although nowadays he was more thankful for quiet nights. If things were uneventful it meant no one was in danger.

Nevertheless, as soon as Aizawa settled on the idea it would be an uneventful night, the universe decided to change his mind.

He heard a man scream for help.

Eraser rushed to investigate, quickly finding himself in a derelict two-story warehouse. It was long since abandoned, the furniture cleared and left to stand the test of time. Eraser moved stealthily through dark corridors, his eyes hidden by his goggles and his ears tuned for the sound of danger. Everything was dark inside, but he was certain the scream had come from there. The door he approached gave way to a large room, but what he hadn’t expected was for the floor to suddenly not be there.

Eraser was falling. If he did nothing, he’d surely die upon hitting the bottom of the dark pit. The scarf around his neck sprung out and dug into the cement sides - someone must’ve carved the deep hole through the very foundation of the dilapidated building. His descent slowed and he managed to land neatly, if not gracefully, on the ground below.

The darkness instantly vanished as a towering spotlight lit up overhead, temporarily blinding him with the sudden shift. The hole was deep and the ground was packed with fragments of pulverised concrete. He wouldn’t be able to climb out the sides, but there was a metal beam in the roof where someone had hung the spotlight. It was tall, but he could reach it with his capture weapon if he launched himself high enough.

The main unsettling detail, of course, was that he wasn’t alone down there.

Picking himself off the ground was a large, bulky man with reptilian skin, demonic horns and more muscles than your average appearance Quirk. Had he carved out the hole? Small eyes landed on him and Eraser instantly knew there was no way he was going to get out without a fight.

“Welcome, dear listeners!” called an exuberant voice from above. Both Eraser and reptile-man looked up to see a dark shape leering over the side of the cavern. “Welcome to the show!”

 

-o-

 

This was his big debut, the moment Hizashi Yamada had been waiting on for years and years. This was the introduction of the soon-to-be-feared Voice Villain known succinctly as: Present Mic.

The hole had taken far too long to carve out, even with his vocal powers, but it would all be worth it for this moment. “Welcome to the show! In the left corner, we have the feared villain, Crocodile Dundee!” He paused to allow for imaginary cheers, before he turned to eye the other half of his captive audience. The man below had black, unruly hair, a scarf and golden goggles that covered half his face.

Mic was taken by surprise. He’d never heard of a hero who matched such a description, but only a hero would’ve jumped into action at his screams.

“And in the right corner, our fabulous hero…” Ah… “Black Hair!”

He was hoping for some sort of reaction from the hero, an offended shout clarifying what his actual title was, but there was nothing like that. In fact, ‘Black Hair’ didn’t say anything at all.

Crocodile Dundee snapped his maws in Present Mic’s direction, “Why’re we here?”

“Well, my scaly listener, you’re going to fight to the death!” Yes, this was going to be fun. The two would fight, and then just as the winner thought they’d live to see another day, Mic would break them to pieces! The bodies would be found in a few days with his calling card at the scene. He’d see his name across the news and his reign of terror would begin! His only annoyance was that his first hero target wasn’t someone well known, so the press coverage would undoubtedly be lower than expected, but-

As he watched, Black Hair lunged at the villain. Mic’s heart skipped a beat with excitement. He thought he’d need to convince a hero to kill a villain more thoroughly, but this guy hadn’t needed any convincing!

However, his stomach dropped as he continued to watch.

The hero landed on the villain’s shoulder and used the kneejerk reaction of the villain grabbing at him to leap even higher into the air. His scarf shot skyward and Mic watched in horror as it flew past him and wrapped around the beam high above, pulling the hero free of the pit.

The blond filled his lungs and tried to scream with his Quirk, but his voice refused to work. Shit, what was this? Why wasn’t his quirk-

The hero was watching him through his goggles, his hair flying around him even as he shot upwards. Shit, was this his quirk?

He’d stopped his Voice Quirk somehow and he imagined it had something to do with his covered eyes. Not only that, but the hero was headed straight for him!

His mind raced as he tried to figure out how to escape, knowing he’d never be able to escape if-

Hizashi spun on his heel and bolted for the door. It was a gamble, but if he just had to break eye contact, then…

He reached the door moments before the hero reached him. His lungs swelled with oxygen. He spun on his heel. The door slammed shut. As soon as the hero was out of sight, Present Mic screamed. YEAH!

The speaker around his neck thrummed with his voice. The door flew away from him, along with the crumbling walls around it and even the metal frame. There was no way the hero could’ve predicted the sudden barrage, but Mic wasn’t one to take chances as he turned tail and fled before the commotion attracted more heroes. The entire building shook and, to his surprise, began to collapse around him. Shit!

The blond leapt through a broken window and escaped being crushed by mere seconds. He tumbled to the ground, his breath coming out in ragged exhales as he promptly assessed the situation. Well, although things hadn’t gone exactly to plan, there was no way the hero and villain would’ve survived that catastrophe!

Hizashi picked himself off the sidewalk but had no time to even dust himself down as he fled, his mouth already salivating as he dreamt of the news reports that would come out tomorrow about his victory. After everything, he hadn’t even realised he’d forgotten to leave his calling card at the scene.