He already knew it was going to be a long night when he spent three hours laying in bed without a wink of sleep. And the moment he hears the hesitant knock of a small fist on the other side of his door, Shinsō knows his night just got twice as long.
He sighs, running a hand down his face. His other hand reaches to close his laptop, but then he reconsiders, knowing Eri would probably appreciate the glowing light amidst the darkness. God only knows just how long she has been standing outside his door, internally debating whether or not asking for help will get her in trouble. She must be scared out of her mind if she actually went through with it.
When Shinsō had been adopted into Aizawa and Present Mic’s family, he had been told his new little sister had gone through difficult times before being rescued, thus resulting in disturbingly-conditioned and diffident behavior. Though he can draw his own conclusions, Shinsō hesitates to ask outright about what happened, because he knows he won’t like the answer.
Taking a sip of his water, Shinsō stands and creaks the door open. As expected, the tiny, trembling form of Eri, complete with a soft-pink portable night light clutched in one hand and stitched-up cat plush pulled tight to her chest with the other, stands with wide, tearstained eyes on the other side. She doesn’t speak at first, just sniffles and stares. Almost like she’s trying to gauge if she has made a mistake in coming to Shinsō’s room.
In response, Shinsō tries to soften his face as much as possible—he’s been told one too many times before about how he has a face that always makes him look angry, even when he is perfectly content—and opens his door a little wider. The illumination from his desk lamp and his computer screen bathe the hallway in a bit more light. If it helps, Shinsō can’t quite tell. Eri is hard to read.
“Bad dream?” Shinsō guesses. It seems like the obvious answer; why else would Eri be standing outside his door at 2:23 in the morning?
She gulps, but eventually gives a quick nod, clutching her plush cat so tight, Shinsō worries its head might pop off.
“Oh… Sorry about that…” Shinsō says, smoothly. He struggles to find a way to help her feel more at ease, and fast. “You wanna…. Sleep in my room?”
Might as well give his bed some use. He certainly isn’t gonna be resting in it anytime soon.
Red eyes shine with hope. And then fear. “Don’t wanna sleep…” Eri murmurs under her breath.
A really bad dream, then. Shinsō purses his lips. He suddenly wishes he wasn’t the only other person home. Aizawa or Mic would know how to help ease the girl’s anxieties. But Mic doesn’t get off his radio show until five, and depending on how many criminals decide to skulk the streets tonight, Aizawa could be home in two minutes or two hours.
Besides the cats, Shinsō really is the only one here to help.
“Okay…” he says, moreso to himself than to Eri. “Okay.”
Before being adopted, Shinsō had never had a younger sibling before. And because of his “villainous” quirk, he wasn’t considered a prime applicant for any babysitting jobs, either. His knowledge of taking care of kids is slim to none, derived solely from movies and watching people with baby siblings from afar.
He’s totally qualified for this job.
“Well… You can chill in here, anyway, if you want,” Shinsō suggests, hand raising to rub the back of his head. “I’m probably gonna stay up all night…”
Eri nods. Shinsō steps back into his room, keeping his door open for Eri to follow. After some prompting, Eri curls atop of Shinsō’s bed. Cradling her night light and stuffed cat close, she watches as Shinsō settles back in front of his laptop, gazing with curious eyes over his shoulder at whatever he’s looking at. She tries not to stare, but Shinsō can feel her constant presence, regardless of her attempts to hide it.
Not that he really minds; all he has open on his laptop is a chat window with Midoriya (who is also awake at this ridiculous hour, but actively chooses to, because of some T.V. show covering lesser-known heroes that airs at this time) and a browser page with listings for different brands of bicycle helmets. An English essay due in two days lies forgotten, forever minimized to the taskbar.
“You, uh… You wanna talk about your dream?” Shinsō tries. Supposedly, talking about your problems helps you overcome them. He wouldn’t really know.
Eri vehemently shakes her head. Shinsō presses his lips; it was worth a try, he supposes.
“Alright…” he says. “Aizawa should be home soon. You can tell him, if you want…”
Eri doesn’t say anything to that, not even to question why Shinsō still chooses to call Aizawa, “Aizawa,” despite his three months spent living in his family. But perhaps she’s aware of the fact that he’s not quite to the point of labeling his adoptive parents by familial terms. And if Shinsō is being honest with himself, he’s not sure he ever will.
Shinsō continues his browsing silently, once in a while glancing behind him to check if Eri has fallen asleep. To his dismay, she hasn’t, and she hardly even looks tired with how distressed she still appears. She has calmed down considerably, and has taken to playing with the loose thread of her cat plush instead of endlessly staring Shinsō down. And though it’s an improvement from ten minutes ago, Shinsō can’t help but think there is something more he can do to help.
His answer comes to him in the form of a stomach growl. Shinsō glances back, and despite the dim lighting, he can spot Eri’s reddening face even as she buries it into her stuffed cat. It’s understandable that she’d be hungry: they did have a bit of an early dinner. And frankly, Shinsō could go for some food, too.
“You hungry?” he asks as he tips his chair back against his bed. Eri purses her lips, but eventually nods. Shinsō then pushes himself off of his chair, and holds out his hand for Eri to take. “C’mon. I’ll make us some crepes.”
Eri hops down and joins him, still carrying her plush friend but choosing to abandon the night light. With a small, relieved smile, Shinsō leads her to the kitchen. He flips on the light and makes his way to the fridge, allowing Eri to make herself comfortable at the counter.
As he is searching up the recipe on his phone and compiling all the ingredients into a pile by the stove, Shinsō can’t help but note just how quiet the house is. Crickets are still chirping away, and the outside creatures that skulk around in their backyard are making bumps in the night, but otherwise: silence. Shinsō spares a glance back to Eri to gauge her reaction.
Her face shows no outward signs of fear—at least none that weren’t already there before. Her eyes are glued to her plush friend, one hand picking at the matted clumps of fur, the other with a death grip on its arm. Shinsō frowns.
Either helpfully or unhelpfully, Shinsō’s mind wanders to what his biological father would do to help him overcome night terrors, back when he was still alive. The memories seem so distant now, despite him not even being gone for half a year. Shinsō can hardly recall the late nights back when he was Eri’s age, his father working into the early hours of the morning on mountains of paperwork, yet still finding time to comfort his terrified son. Often times, his own nightmares exposed him to the dangerous “what-if” scenarios, where despite how hard he tried and how much he believed in himself, he still ended up being pulled to the dark side because of his quirk.
At times like that, Shinsō can suddenly recall, his father would put something on for him to listen to: music, television, the radio. But always something featuring heroes. Something the young hero-hopeful could listen and latch on to, something revitalizing the distant dream and reminding him that even people with the most dangerous and scary of quirks can become heroes.
Because despite all the negativity spewed about Shinsō Hitoshi, his dad still believed in him.
Shinsō shakes his head, blinking the moisture out of his eyes. He’s only just recently gotten to the point where he doesn’t spend every other night crying over his death. Eri doesn’t need that kind of extra stress right now.
But the memory does give him an idea. Even though Shinsō isn’t sure if Eri is at all interested in becoming invested in the world of heroes, the idea of giving her some distraction via positive hero talk isn’t a bad one.
After all, tuning into one of his favorite radio stations always helped him as a kid. Why not her, too?
“Hang on a sec,” he murmurs under his breath. His sudden move out of the kitchen elicits a small gasp from Eri, but Shinsō doesn’t worry himself much since he’s not going very far. He reaches the den and swipes Mic’s analog radio from the kotatsu, fiddling with the different settings as he returns.
It’s an old radio—old in age and in style. The sound is grainy and crackly, and the volume has to be cranked up exponentially for it to be heard anywhere other than right next to it. The thing has obviously been well-used: the dings in the metal and plastic from being carried and dropped a testament to just how long it has survived. Even in Shinsō’s three months of living with his teachers— dads , now, he reminds himself—he knows this crummy old piece of garbage is one of Present Mic’s most treasured belongings. Why, Shinsō will never know. But if the thing can serve his purpose now, it doesn’t really matter.
He places the radio onto the counter in front of Eri, who perks up upon Shinsō’s return. He fiddles a bit more with the dials, trying to tune into the correct station. Years of listening to the radio show in the past has ingrained the frequency forever into his memory; even without the preset available, Shinsō finds it easily. Moments later, an overly-peppy pop song filters through the crackly speakers, eventually fading into a familiar and welcomed voice. Shinsō smiles at Eri’s soft gasp.
“—And that was the Rocketeers’ new hit single, ‘Catch Me in the Stars,’ my listeners! What a rockin’ duo those two are, huh? A pair of kickass crime fighters by the day, boppin’ pop artists by night!” Present Mic commentates from the other end of the radio. Eri pipes up immediately upon his enthusiastic voice, her tiny fists finally letting their vice grip around the stuffed cat loose in order to clench in excitement. “And I have just been reminded once again by my crew that I’m not supposed to say ‘kickass’ on live radio. But you know what, Listeners? It’s my radio show, so I’ll say ‘kickass’ as many times as I damn well please!”
Eri giggles, and Shinsō can’t help a grin, too. He half debates on covering her ears to shield her from the language, but he refrains, knowing she’s probably heard worse from whatever past living situation she came from. Shinsō settles on ruffling her hair instead, chiding a lighthearted, “Language…” at the radio, then returns to his task.
Shinsō works silently with songs just as energetic and upbeat as Present Mic himself playing over the radio as his background noise. It takes a bit to let the batter for the crepes settle, so he absentmindedly checks his phone as he waits. Every now and then, he’ll turn back to glance at Eri to make sure she is still doing alright.
Almost all of her focus is on the little radio in front of her, a barely-noticeable but ever-present smile pulling at her lips. He misses it at first, but Shinsō is almost sure he catches Eri’s head bobbing the slightest bit in turn with the music.
“You having fun over there?” he can’t help but ask.
Eri shies away at having her movements caught; she dips her chin into her chest and blushes. “I like the song…”
“You wanna dance to it?”
Curious eyes meet tired ones. Shinsō hadn’t meant to halt her moves; it’s all he can do to encourage Eri to go all out.
“It’s still got two minutes until it finishes,” he continues. He waves a hand, ushering her into the kitchen with him. “C’mon, I’ll dance with you.”
As Eri hops off her chair, Shinsō begins to rock back and forth on his heels, matching the rhythm of the song. Eri joins in, a little subdued and shy at first, but once Shinsō goes into more exaggerated movements, she lets herself be a bit more loose. Soon, they’re both prancing in a circle around the kitchen, singing the lyrics as they go. Neither of them are very good at dancing; Eri has the excuse of being young, while Shinsō simply tries (and fails) to match the graceful movements he’s seen performed in stage plays and musicals.
But they’re having fun, and it’s taking Eri’s mind off of her previous troubles. Shinsō will allow himself to look like a fool in order to make her smile.
He still keeps himself moving, even as he pours the batter into the pan, just a little less mobile. The song has changed by now, but Eri still keeps the enthusiasm she had with the first one. Shinsō smiles to himself, and ruffles her hair again. The contact elicits a giggle out of her.
By the time he has all the crepes made up and divided between the two of them, Present Mic has come back onto the radio. “The clock’s just struck three, my dear listeners! You know what that means! For the next two hours, this cool cat will be taking your calls! So grab that cell and call in, if you have a question for little ol’ me, or you just wanna say ‘HEY!’ Calling starts now!”
The two chow down on their food, both half-listening to what the callers have to say. Shinsō tries to read Eri’s facial expressions to see if she likes her meal, and as usual, she is a blank slate. “Like it?”
She looks up with comically wide eyes, and for a moment Shinsō begins to doubt his cooking abilities. But then her face splits into one of the widest grins he’s ever seen on her, and something warm and fuzzy fills Shinsō’s heart.
The blissful moment shatters when a noise from their front door sounds. Eri instantly startles, ducks her head so it hides behind the crest of her chair. Chances are, it’s nothing to worry about, but Shinsō keeps himself alert anyway, trying to listen for confirmation.
The locks unlatch and the door creaks open, and soon after, clicks closed. The thuds of heavy boots at the genkan echo through the house, followed soon by erratic footfalls.
The two watch in silence as Aizawa limps into the room, one hand curled around a first aid kit and the other to his side, hardly sparing his kids a glance as he slumps face-first into the couch.
It’s not rare to see Aizawa coming to the house, injured. Within his time living with him and Present Mic, Shinsō has learned and relearned Aizawa’s distaste for doctors who don’t go by the name of Recovery Girl. Even if he is bleeding out, Aizawa would rather take care of his wounds himself than have them fixed up at a hospital. ‘It’s not that big a deal,’ he always says, nevermind how big a deal it actually is. ‘I’m not dying,’ he always says.
And though it’s worrisome and definitely not a good practice of self care, as long as Aizawa is still conscious and breathing by the time he makes it home, Shinsō knows he’ll be able to pull through easily. If not, then… Mic will usually throw a fit.
Tonight doesn’t seem to be any different. Though Aizawa hasn’t moved since hitting the couch, Shinsō knows he’s still very much alive when he hears the muffled inquiry of, “Why are you two still awake…”
Shinsō takes another bite of his crepe before answering. “I couldn’t sleep and she had a nightmare.” He readjusts his seat to get a better view. Eri also perks up curiously. “I’d offer you crepes, but you look like you have bigger things to worry about right now.”
Aizawa groans, and Shinsō cracks a smirk. He finishes the rest of his meal before heading over to the living room and picking the discarded first aid kit from off the floor. When Aizawa still makes no attempt to move, Shinsō nudges his leg with his foot.
“You gonna fix yourself, old man?” he asks. “I don’t think Mic’s gonna be too happy about you bleeding out on his couch.”
“‘S our couch…” Aizawa mumbles. “I’m allowed to bleed on it...”
A sigh and a shake of his head. Shinsō catches Eri’s gaze. “Well that’s not very responsible, is it, Eri?”
She stares for a moment, like she wasn’t expecting to be brought into this conversation, then she unsurely shakes her head.
Shinsō turns back. “She gets it.”
“Don’t use my daughter against me.”
“Then fix yourself up. Or do you want me to call a cab to take you to a hospital?”
Another low groan rumbles from the bottom of Aizawa’s throat. He sighs before begrudgingly shifting around until he’s laying on his back. He motions for something with his outstretched hand; it must be from muscle fatigue, but his arm trembles as he holds it out. “Fine. Gimme the kit.”
Shinsō is about to hand it over, when a thought suddenly springs up in his mind. “Hey, uh, actually.... You want me to do it instead?”
Aizawa blinks, something akin to surprise in his tired eyes. “Why?”
“Well…” Shinsō responds. “For one thing, you’re busy dying.”
Shinsō ignores him. “And for another, well… It’d be good live practice, wouldn’t it?”
Learning to treat and suture wounds with limited supplies was one of their most recent training lessons in the hero course. Of course, instead of live patients, Shinsō and his classmates all practiced on practical dummies, complete with fake blood gushing from their bodies and voice boxes set off to let out a cry of agony every time they are submitted to something even slightly discomforting. It was… an experience. Especially to those squeamish around all things gorey.
For a moment, nothing but the distant sound of Present Mic’s filtered voice from the radio plays in the background. Shinsō watches Aizawa’s face for tells of an answer, but he is as unreadable as usual. But to go this long without outright denying the suggestion must mean that he is at least considering it.
Shinsō grins. He’s learning.
He goes to quickly wash his hands, then takes a seat on the nearby coffee table and flips open the first aid kit on his lap. “Alright,” he says. “Lemme see the damage.”
With a sigh, Aizawa shucks off his scarf, letting it drop unceremoniously to the floor. He pays it no mind, and works to unzip his jumpsuit. Just from the stains on his undershirt, Shinsō can see just how much blood his wounds are gushing. He grimaces, hoping like hell the injuries won’t be so severe that he won’t be able to treat them.
Aizawa peels his undershirt up to his chest, revealing a dark gash on his abdomen. Though the wound is long and obviously deep, the blood makes it look worse than it actually is—probably a slice from a claw or a knife—and Shinsō can’t help but breathe a sigh of relief. Minor cuts and bruises dot the rest of Aizawa’s midsection, and when he pulls his goggles off his face, Shinsō sees the purple discoloration underneath the crest of his left eye, right where the rim of the metal lays on his face.
“Gross,” Shinsō says jokingly. Aizawa only responds with a disinterested hum.
Shinsō plucks a couple of wipes and a bottle of disinfectant from the kit, prepping his materials to begin clearing away some of the blood. Before he sets to work, though, he unscrews a bottle of painkillers and dumps a couple into Aizawa’s hand. With not a shred of hesitance, Aizawa pops the pills into his mouth without anything to wash them down. It’s all Shinsō can do not to frown.
“So what kinda low-life scum is out skulking around on our streets tonight?” he asks, instead.
“Handful of guys. Robbed a line of convenience stores before trying for a jewelry store,” Aizawa grunts out. “One had a long-claws quirk.”
“I take it you couldn’t cancel it out?”
“The guy got lucky.”
Shinsō laughs. “Looks like it.”
He’s in the middle of pouring a generous swig of disinfectant onto a folded wipe when Eri decides to meander over. Her steps are hesitant, like she’s not sure if she is allowed in the vicinity. But Aizawa’s face softens just the slightest bit at the sight of her.
“Hey, kid,” he greets. Eri kneels on the other side of the kotatsu, blinking curiously at his wounds. Shinsō watches with concerned eyes, a little worried about her watching a rather grotesque process. But as usual, her eyes never change.
“Hi,” she replies, gripping her plush cat tight.
“You doing okay?”
“Are the nightmares still bothering you?”
A pause for thought. Then Eri shakes her head. Shinsō smiles to himself. Aizawa blinks slowly, then turns to glance at Shinsō.
“Not bad,” he says in his usual monotone. But Shinsō supposes that’s about as heartfelt a compliment as he’s going to receive from his teacher, so he nods his thanks.
He pats the wound with the disinfected cloth.
The sudden exclamation causes both kids to jump. Shinsō pulls his hand away the moment Aizawa’s body curls from the pain, his back arching about a foot off the couch in its recoil. He eventually settles back down, teeth grit and breaths strained, stray hair strands dangling in the air from the impromptu activation of his quirk. Shinsō gulps: either the painkillers haven’t quite kicked in yet, or there is a slight chance he poured a little too much disinfectant onto the cloth.
“Language,” he chides to try to steer attention away from his potential mistake. “We have a child here.”
Aizawa rests his forearm over his eyes that are probably burning from overuse. He hisses out a sigh. “She’s heard worse,” is all he says. Shinsō chuckles and shakes his head.
Eri makes a small sound of acknowledgment, almost like she’s agreeing with him. Shinsō turns, and Aizawa glances over at her from below his arm. The little girl’s face is half-buried in her stuffed animal again, crimson eyes hesitantly peeking over it.
“Eri, you don’t have to watch this,” Aizawa tells her.
“Yeah, it’s pretty gross,” Shinsō agrees to try to make her feel better. “If I wasn’t the only available doctor around, I’d probably wouldn’t wanna look, either.”
Eri’s voice is barely a whisper, but yet they can both make out the miniscule, “It’s fine…” from her. Then, a moment later, she raises her head just the tiniest bit. “...Can I help?”
Shinsō looks to Aizawa, partly for an answer from the teacher, and partly to see if he can identify any ways she can offer her assistance. Shinsō finds his answer in all the dark spots dotting Aizawa’s body. “Sure,” he says. “Could ya get me some chunks of ice from the freezer? Wrap it up in a towel first.”
Eri nods, and Shinsō can’t help but admire the determined look that sets upon her face as she goes about her task. Not only is it endearing, but it’s also kind of adorable. Soon, she’s back with the requested item, and she holds it out for Shinsō, who takes it and hands it to Aizawa. Aizawa mutters a thanks, then slaps the ice pack over his black eye.
“Anything else?” Shinsō asks for Eri, who is standing poised to help in any way she can.
Aizawa throws her a bone. “I ran out of eye drops earlier. There should be a new bottle in the medicine cabinet.”
And away she goes again. Once Eri is out of the room, Shinsō reapplies the disinfectant to the wound. Aizawa hisses in agony, but keeps his vulgar reactions to himself this time. By the time Eri returns with the eyedrops, Shinsō has successfully cleaned up the gash. He allows Aizawa a moment to take the tiny bottle and plop a drop into each eye before turning his attention to the next step.
Now comes the hard part.
“Alright…” Shinsō says. He plucks the suturing tools from the first aid kit. “You ready?”
“I should be asking you that,” Aizawa replies. Shinsō swears he spots him cracking the smallest hint of a grin.
“I paid attention in class, I should be fine. I think.” Shinsō utters the last part under his breath. “You want running stitches or interrupted?”
“Running’s quicker. Plus your hands aren’t dexterous enough to do interrupted yet.”
Shinsō’s about to argue with him, when he recalls his disastrous attempts at the sewing method. His only saving grace during the lesson was that half the class seemed to have trouble, too—even Midoriya (though, with how screwed up his hands are, Shinsō isn’t surprised).
“That’s blunt,” he replies instead. Before he sets himself to work, Shinsō turns to his little helper, who stands at attention just behind him. “Eri, could you go get the old man some water? And then go find Hime? He’s gonna need some emotional support.”
He doesn’t miss the way Aizawa’s eyes leer at him, but Shinsō ignores him to focus on Eri. “Okay,” she mumbles before making her way to the kitchen. While she’s gone, Shinsō prepares the needle to make the first stitch.
Aizawa hardly flinches as the needle pierces his skin. Either the painkillers are working their magic, Shinsō debates, or the prick of such a small needle is nowhere near as bad as the other things Aizawa has experienced tonight. Shinsō pulls the needle back out through the other side with his forceps, pulling the suture through. He pauses, debating what his next step is.
“How do you instrument tie again?” he asks sheepishly, biting his lip.
“Start away, wrap around twice, and continue toward yourself, then back and forth three more times,” Aizawa answers.
Shinsō nods, focusing on the knot. His hands stumble countless times, and he unconsciously sticks his tongue out the side of his mouth as he works to successfully tie the knot. By the end, it doesn’t look pretty, but he supposes it will hold.
“That good?” Shinsō can’t help but grimace at his own handywork.
Aizawa studies the knot as best he can. Then he lays his head back on the couch’s armrest. “No point in fixing it now.”
Shinsō heaves a sigh. He’s sure this mess-up will result more suture training sessions in his future classes. But he continues on. No point in giving up now just because of a messy start.
Eri returns with a glass of water, which she hands over to Aizawa before disappearing again. The next time she comes by, she has Aizawa and Mic’s oldest cat held against her shoulder. Hime, mellow from both personality and old age, takes kindly to being carted around, and keeps in a state between sleep and alertness as she rests comfortably in the child’s hold. The cat’s almost as big as Eri is, Shinsō notices. If he hadn’t been trying his damnedest to focus on not ripping Aizawa’s skin apart, he would probably laugh. Eri drops Hime off by Aizawa’s feet, where there is still some open couch cushion left. And the cat doesn’t hesitate to fall asleep curled up against Aizawa’s feet.
After what feels like hours, Shinsō finishes the stitches off with another messy instrument tie. He breathes a sigh of relief, finally allowing himself to rest against the kotatsu behind him.
“How’d I do, Teach?” he asks, knowing the answer’s going to be bad. Still, he can’t help but grin at the potential answer.
Aizawa looks down at his side again, the eye uncovered by ice unblinking in its scrutiny, until it finally trails back up to stare a hole through Shinsō. The teacher’s lips curl into an unimpressed sneer. “I’ll live. ”
Shinsō finally lets himself laugh. “That’s cold, man. Not even a ‘thank you for saving my life?’”
“Do better next time, and maybe I’ll consider it.”
Shinsō supposes that’s the best he can do for now. For his first time officially suturing, ‘I’ll live’ is a decently positive response.
He finishes up by placing bandaids (Cat-themed, of course. Because why wouldn’t Aizawa have cat-themed bandaids?) over the more minor scratches. Once he’s finished his task, Shinsō washes his hands again to rid of the bloodstains.
It’s only when he heads back over to the den when Aizawa finally mutters a quiet, “...Thank you,” under his breath.
Shinsō blinks, having not expected the gratitude. He had been joking about the hurt of not receiving praise for his handiwork, but the thank-you makes him feel oddly proud and accomplished. “Of course,” he replies.
Eri steps closer to Aizawa, or more specifically, his wounds. The stitches, the bandaids, the dark bruises. Her eyes focus, her brows scrunch, her fists ball. Shinsō wonders what’s going through her head right now.
“You’re still hurt,” she says, a sadness to her tone that suggests that she had something to do with Aizawa’s injuries. Of course, both Aizawa and Shinsō know this not to be even remotely true.
“I’ll be fine,” Aizawa tells her. “Don’t worry about me.”
Eri continues to stare, hardly blinking. Shinsō is about to add onto Aizawa’s statement when he notices something odd about the little horn atop of Eri’s head.
It’s shifting in size.
Just barely, growing a millimeter longer and then shrinking back down, but enough change that it’s noticeable. Shinsō watches in fascination and confusion, but behind him, Aizawa shifts so he’s sitting straighter. A glance back reveals Aizawa to be poised for action, the lids over his tired eyes opened a fraction wider as he watches for some sort of change, a potential reason for worry.
“Eri...?” He begins to question.
The child brings one of her balled fists to hesitantly touch at her horn. She gulps, before uttering under her breath again: “I want to help…”
It must be her quirk. Shinsō only knows the barest minimum about what her quirk entails. He knows she can rewind a person, he knows she can make wounds and ailments and all sorts of accumulated things disappear, and he knows she can’t control it. Like her past, her quirk is another sore spot, a topic to avoid in conversation—but less so. Talk about her quirk doesn’t seem to be as taboo of a subject as her previous living environment is, but it’s still a touchy subject for her.
He looks to Aizawa, knowing his own input is useless in this situation. “You’re saying you wanna try using your quirk to heal me?” Aizawa asks delicately.
Aizawa doesn’t seem hesitant to the idea—odd, considering the dangers that accompany it. In an strange, underlying sort of way, he seems to want to encourage her.
Eri swallows again, stares at the floor for a good long minute. She gives the barest hint of a nod.
“Okay,” Aizawa says. Then he holds out his hand for her to take. “Go ahead. I’m here if you feel like you can’t do it.”
Her hand trembles as she reaches for Aizawa’s. And when Eri’s hand lands in his, her fingers barely brush against his palm. She tries to steady her breathing, steady her focus. As Eri screws her mouth into a thin line, Shinsō can see her horn begin to grow and spark.
Eri grunts under her breath, and Shinsō can feel the repeated phrase of ‘Make the pain go away’ playing in an endless loop through her head even without her vocalizing it. For the longest time, it looks like there’s nothing happening at all. The light from Eri’s horn continues to spark, but the bruises on Aizawa’s chest have yet to change.
Then suddenly, out of either a second-long burst of courage or just the tremor of Eri’s hand, her palm comes to rest completely in Aizawa’s. And her horn flashes bright and grows. A bright red zap of light courses through her, traveling to Aizawa through their joined hands.
Aizawa’s startled gasp, minuscule as it may be, that accompanies the energy flowing through him is what makes Eri tear her hand away. With a yelp, she stumbles back, falling to her behind with her hands clutched to her horn.
Aizawa springs to action immediately and activates his quirk, erasing her power even as she no longer holds physical contact with him. He keeps his crimson gaze held on her until the last spark is put out and Eri’s horn shrinks down to the barely-noticeable bump it was, before.
He only blinks when he hears her sniffles.
Shinsō shuffles over to her, placing a comforting hand on her back. Eri’s eyes are welled up with tears, though fearful or mournful ones, Shinsō can’t quite tell. Aizawa, too, scoots closer to the edge of the couch, finally pulling his undershirt back down to hide his wounds.
“Are you okay?” Aizawa asks. Eri only responds by wiping the moisture from her eyes with her sleeves.
There’s one more thing Shinsō knows about Eri’s quirk:
She hates it.
Shinsō rubs his hand in circles along Eri’s back in what he hopes is a comforting gesture. It’s all he can think to do to make her feel better.
“It’s fine, you didn’t hurt me,” Aizawa tells her. “There’s no need to apologize.”
Eri chokes out a sob. “I wanted to help… If I didn’t have such a cursed quirk—”
Eri looks up at Aizawa, tears still rolling down her cheeks.
“It’s okay,” he implores. “I’m still here.”
There’s a softness to Aizawa’s eyes that Shinsō has never seen before. A different kind of softness than what he sees when Aizawa is with Present Mic. One that solidifies his identity as a hero: the kind that comforts those who are suffering.
It melts away the tension in Eri’s face, pulls apart her scrunched brows, loosens the tight line her mouth is pursed into. After wiping her face clean of tears, she places her palms on either side of her on the floor, like she’s about to push herself to her feet. She doesn’t immediately, and when she hesitates, Shinsō decides sling his arm around her shoulders to pull her into a hug.
He realizes a common trait between the two of them. Those tears aren’t just from messing up. They’re tears of grief—having lived through his own emotional breakdowns so recently, Shinsō would recognize that amount of pain and misery in a heartbeat.
Eri has lost people before, too. People important to her.
She’s terrified of it happening again.
“You did all you could do,” Aizawa tells her. “No one’s expecting you to get it right on the first go.”
Eri hugs Shinsō back, then finally gets up to give a hug to Aizawa. He lets it happen without complaint, gently patting her back to soothe any worries she may have left.
“We’ll try again another time,” he murmurs down to her. “Okay? Don’t worry about me. I’ll be fine. It’s nothing I haven’t gone through before.”
“Yeah,” Shinsō agrees. “Aizawa’s strong; he can handle anything.”
Eri looks up at Aizawa curiously at the statement, wondering if it’s true. Aizawa just hums and allows himself a small smirk. “Something like that.”
They stay up for a while longer. Shinsō divides up the leftover crepes between the three of them (and leaves a few leftover for Mic), and after they devour their late-night snacks, Aizawa takes to braiding Eri’s hair. Apparently she likes it; not much of a surprise, when you consider Eri is, at heart, just a six-year-old girl. And once he’s done fixing her hair up, Eri asks to try braiding his. Aizawa allows it, and soon he’s sporting not only the jagged stitches of an inexperienced surgeon on his body, but the rat’s nest of an inexperienced hair stylist. He doesn’t seem to mind, though.
Some time later, Eri trails back to the kitchen and brings the radio—still alive and vocal with Present Mic’s voice—back into the family room. For a while, they just settle in on the couch and listen, laughing at Present Mic’s jokes and relishing in the song breaks in between each set of calls.
“Last call, Listeners!” the radio host announces. “Our night’s wrapping up fast, so if you’re still eager to chat with your favorite pro-slash-teacher-slash-radio-personali-tay, then start dialing that number!”
Shinsō is in the middle of sending Midoriya a text and simultaneously wondering just what kind of people will end up claiming the last call slots, when Aizawa suddenly speaks up.
“I have a special number that skips the queue and connects with Mic directly, on my phone.”
Eri perks up, clearly interested in what is potentially being suggested. Shinsō glances up, a smirk pulling at his lips.
“That sounds vaguely illegal,” he jokes. In truth, he knows nothing about radio, but giving priority to one caller over millions of others sounds the slightest bit sketchy to him.
Aizawa snorts. “That’s what I said when he gave it to me. I’ve only ever called in three times.”
“Recently, or ever?”
“Ever. I’m not a fan of being broadcasted on live radio.”
Shinsō’s smirk grows. “Guess that means you wouldn’t wanna call in now, huh?”
The look on Eri’s face is nothing short of pure devastation. Shinsō almost feels bad for putting it on her.
He would feel bad, if he didn’t know Aizawa was secretly the biggest softie to ever exist.
“I’ll make an exception.”
Shinsō smirks in triumph while Eri dons another ecstatic grin. If Aizawa is at all miffed about his weak spot of making his kids happy being manipulated, he doesn’t let it show. Then again, Aizawa was the one to bring up his special call line: he probably wanted to share it.
He fishes out his phone from his pocket and spends a minute scrolling through his contacts to locate the number. All the while, other calls play over the radio, the latest ones to get a hold of Present Mic’s show from within the queue. Aizawa waits until the last call is wrapping up to dial the number.
“We’ll have one more caller to wrap the night up, folks! Call in now—” Present Mic interrupts himself over the radio with an elated gasp. Unbeknownst to the others, Aizawa cracks a grin. “Looks like we’ve got a special caller to end off with! Good evening or good morning, Listener—whichever floats your boat! You! Are! Live!”
Aizawa reaches over to turn the volume on the radio down, and lets his phone go to speaker mode so they can all listen in. “Hey Mic,” he says in his usual monotone. He looks over to his kids, and stares expectantly for them to exchange greetings, too.
“Hi Mister Mic!!” Eri exclaims, hardly containing her excitement.
Shinsō smiles and tacks on his casual, “Hey,” as well. He swallows, feeling nerves of excitement bubbling up in his stomach. Throughout all of his years of listening to Present Mic’s radio show on nights where sleep just couldn’t claim him, he had only ever made the queue list once. It’s a bit weird, getting excited to talk to the radio host on his show, despite having him for both an English teacher and an adoptive father now.
Of course, the rest of the world doesn’t know that. Perhaps that’s where the nerves come from.
“Woah, woah, woah! The whole family’s here!! Gotta say, this is one bangin’ surprise! But what are you lot doing up so late?! And on a school night?!” Mic cries dramatically. Shinsō can perfectly imagine Mic’s flailing limbs flying every which way as he talks, just narrowly avoiding his equipment.
“The kids couldn’t sleep,” Aizawa answers for them. “I had a late night.”
“We had crepes!” Eri adds on. Her little tongue sticks out the side of her mouth at the memory of the late night snack.
“Crepes?! Aw man, now you’re making me hungry!”
Shinsō is tempted to let Mic know about the leftovers they saved for him, but he supposes it would breach Aizawa and Mic’s privacy to publicly announce that the people who are calling in actually live with the DJ. That, and there’s something satisfying about the idea of the food being left as a surprise.
“We’ve had your show playing all night,” Shinsō says. Then he stifles a yawn. “It helped make the night not seem so long.”
“We danced!” Eri adds.
Out of the corner of his eye, Shinsō can spot Aizawa shooting him an amused glance. He chooses not to acknowledge it.
Regardless, he can hear the smile in Mic’s voice. “Well, I’m glad my tunes could help your restless night ease by without an awkward silence. That’s what I’m here for, Listeners! But I certainly hope you’re all hitting the snooze button once this segment’s over! Kids your age should be catching Z’s like an old cat!”
“We will,” Aizawa says. Then, after a pause, he adds, “We’re just waiting for someone to come home.”
The statement puts both Mic and the two kids at pause. Such sappy statements from such a serious man will never fail to surprise Shinsō, and from the sound of it, neither will it fail to surprise Mic. He’s pretty sure he hears the man squealing on the other end of the radio.
“Well, I hope, for your sake, that whoever that wonderful person is shows up soon!”
They all share a lighthearted, tired chuckle.
“Until then, It’s about time to sign off, Listeners,” Mic announces, their call coming to a close as Eri shouts a “Good night!”
The radio show wraps up, and it’s not even a minute later that Shinsō’s phone lights up with flabbergasted messages from Midoriya about him hearing the three of them on Present Mic’s show. Shinsō laughs to himself but doesn’t let Midoriya in on Aizawa’s little call line secret. It’s enough for people to know about Shinsō being a part of Aizawa and Eri’s family—they’ll keep silent about the part where Present Mic is also married to Aizawa, and that he also helped adopt Shinsō and Eri.
Aizawa’s own phone is blowing up with a rapid succession of messages, and it’s no mystery as to who is sending them. The teacher ignores them, and lets his phone vibrate off the hook against the table. Letting his eyes slip closed, Aizawa slumps back onto the couch, apparently settling here for the night. “Alright. Go to sleep,” he commands.
Shinsō snorts. “Yes, Dad…” He replies sarcastically.
At the name, jokingly called or not, Aizawa cracks an eye open. He stares Shinsō down in what he can only assume is bewilderment. Shinsō drops his smirk and averts eye contact, the implications of his words only now catching up to him.
Something in his heart pangs. It’s not quite painful like he had imagined it would be, but it jolts him nonetheless.
Eri’s additional, not-sarcastic response of “Yes dad!” breaks Shinsō out of his stupor.
When Hizashi arrives home, he’s not surprised to find his family all sprawled out in the living room. Shōta is collapsed over the length of the couch, Hime snoozing peacefully on his chest. Shinsō is curled up on the other side, Aizawa’s feet slung over his legs. Eri rests against her new brother’s side in the tiny space left between the two bodies.
They’re all out like lights.
Hizashi smiles to himself as he grabs a couple of blankets from the cupboard. No point in waking them up to move them all back to their rooms when they’ve obviously made themselves comfortable here. He spreads a plush blanket over each of them, then takes the time to clean up the mess left behind. Only once the first aid kit is put back into its rightful place and the plush cat that’s dangling over the edge of the couch has been rescued and tucked securely into the crook of Eri’s arm does Hizashi finally allow himself to turn in.
He plants a kiss on each of his family members’ foreheads before collapsing upon the chair next to the couch, all too ready for a good night’s sleep.