When Aizawa was 7, his father lost a heart, his mother lost a love, and he lost a home. By 8 his hair grew out, shabby and tangled, his shoes became too worn, crusty and leaking depending on the day. His shirt soon followed, then the knees on his pants, and by 9 he had had 4 colds, no medicine, exhaustion, and a mother who tried her best. By 10, her best was not enough, and her worst was too much for him, so then, he was walking out of the broken alley with dry eyes cast down in the night.
By 12 he had gotten the hang of the streets. He had learned how to scavenge the dumpsters, barter with the others (and who to trust, like Old Lady Chikako), and, if he was quick enough, pockets would be cold before anyone realized. He had gotten the hang of surviving on his own. He knew the right alleys, the right roofs, and right restaurants. He knew which cats were the friendliest beacons, and which ones were scared enough to warn him away from that area. He knew where he lived, and he knew how to keep living.
By 13, with the exhaustion flaring up behind a fever but an aching stomach urging him to find something, anything, he got caught. It was late in the evening, he had been chased off his usual haunts (different shifts, different workers, different hearts, remember Shouta), and he didn’t want to, but he needed to. There on a step beside a trio of men was a takeout box. It sat towards the edge in a vulnerable state, it would be easy to snatch with a careful hand, if only they would keep talking and keep distracted then he could do it. He had snuck behind, and he was reaching, reaching and reaching, breath held.
And then the man closest turned. A smile frozen on his face and the conversation stilled. Aizawa’s hand didn’t. With a frantic lurch he grasped the takeout before skittering away, fevered breaths throbbing down the alley as he ran. Heavier footsteps followed, catching up, and with them came the memories of previous bruises from past mistakes. Bloodied noses, ringing ears, tense breaths easing into damp concrete. Tears ached in his eyes, they ached and they stayed because that’s how it was for him; the exhaustion, illness, and hunger, that’s how it was, and soon another beating would be.
The panic brought a twist to his step and he stumbled over his own footing, hands bracing against concrete, slipping and chafing as he lunged forward awkwardly, takeout crashing in front of him while steps crashed behind him. He brought his hands up, eyes blazing, hair tangling in air, ready to at least put up a struggle, he wouldn’t break, he didn’t then and he won’t now, that’s just how it was.
The hit didn’t come. Amidst the smell of teriyaki, the taste of dirt in his teeth, the feel of stinging on his palms, a gentle hand gripped his wrist, paper pressing into the blood, the rustle of a bag settling beside him, before the shadow looming before him with a sad smile retreated away. He stared at the man’s back, and in the dim light of the streetlamp, he saw a utility belt, a garish orange, and a theme to the clothes. Beneath the shock and relief at his sudden luck, Aizawa distantly realized the instinctive thought that the man was a hero. A hero.
At 15, after being unconventionally schooled by Old Lady Chikako, using a kind, old, oblivious man’s address, forging a signature, and praying his mother hadn’t been identified in the 5 years since her passing, he became apart of UA. Somehow he managed it, somehow he faked it enough to be accepted and though he was just a general studies student, at least it was something. Chikako had smiled when he told her over old soup from the place two blocks over, before tapping at the equations written in dirt and briskly reminding him that “he ought to keep studying if he wants to stay there”. He did.
At 15 he placed second in the Sports Festival. Body worn and eyes red, and impassive face hiding pride, cheer, and hope. He met the loud boy from 1-A who wouldn’t stop smiling from the third place podium, and he met the other boy from 1-A with engines in his arms, who handled his win with grace and calm pride. He would later know them better when he was transferred into the hero course.
At 18, with three new friends, some acquaintances, and dully bitter classmates, he graduated UA with a license, an internship, and with an excitement quelled behind a straight face. A face that, after he escaped the festivities of the school, cracked as he unlocked the door to an apartment for the first time. As he stood in the cramped space with nothing more than a bag of essentials for hero work, he allowed the crack to fissure into the rest of his body and he broke. At 18 he broke as he felt a roof that was his own over his head, as he saw a room that was his own, and a bed that was his own. He saw nothing of dirty alley ways and suspicious glares. He just saw security. He gathered himself up, smile tilting his face, and it stayed even as his loud roommate came in hours later.
At 22 he met the girl with green hair, green eyes, and a face that smiled almost too easily. His agency was working with her agency for the time, he was chosen to represent, and in consequence was working with her. Working with Emi Fukukado meant working with her exhaustive puns, snapping jokes, and loud grins. It meant working with a steely resolve as he kept from breaking, from letting her know that there was something other than the shell he had given the world to see since he was 10. It was hard to not find himself relaxing in her presence, even just the slightest bit; the orange bandana was familiar.
Life was easy for 8 years. A few wounds here or there, glimpses of green hair and orange, drinks with friends, working with Tsukauchi, and the endless stream of investigations and patrols to keep his mind busy. He worked at UA, expelling and forging a cold reputation, until a different 1-A broke into the mold. They nestled their way into his class, earning their places through sheer determination, luck, and ingenuity. At 30 he took a liking to them. He began to train them with quiet amusement and interest in their progress, seeing just how far they would go and how far he would be able to see them reach. It almost wasn’t very far. USJ happened in a flurry of broken bones, torn skin, shattered skull, and damaged - but not gone, thank God- eyes. At 30 he fought his hardest despite the his disadvantage, and he did well. The students lived, All Might was there, and the teachers soon followed.
He was broken, but he healed, and soon, bearing new scars, he was able to watch them at the licensing exams. He saw sparking green hair and eyes once again, and he was lulled into the familiarity. Call it near death, but something warmer hit him as he regarded the woman, cold words weaker in their biting. He found himself not stopping the tension steadily uncoiling around him.
At 31, while in the dorms with other teachers, grading and drinking coffee, the students already in bed, he got a call from a number he didn’t recognize. He almost ignored it, but with a quiet excuse decided to see what it was. Something tugged him to answer, and while he wasn’t sure what, he was glad he did. At 31, in the late evening, he made his way to the hospital, was guided through the wings into a quiet hall that was warmer than the others but weighed by a heavy atmosphere, and was soon sitting beside a bed with a street worn woman rasping beneath scratching sheets.
At 31, he watched his first teacher slip into a quiet embrace with a faint smile and pride in glazed eyes. She didn’t speak, but they were in an understanding that was privy to their hearts only. He gripped the calloused hand, remembering dirt beneath nails, and held his fingers against a fluttering pulse with quiet desperation choking him. The old lady rubbed her thumb over his knuckles, feeling his own rough hand, roughness from a dream he wouldn‘t have reached without her. She faded away, and the desperation wilted into resignation, and from there into a gratitude he wished he had found the words to tell her.
He attended the funeral with a few nurses and a doctor or two, with green hair bright beside him, a somber expression marring her face. As Aizawa walked away, a cool hand slipped into his and asked quietly, “Who was she?”
“Old Lady Chikako,” he whispered back, voice rough in the cool morning air.
“Was she family?”
“Close enough to it.”
They left the cemetery in silence, fingers laced tightly between them.
Later that night, in an apartment warmer than his own ever was, he talked of the last 24 years. He murmured of a frail body wasting away in an alley, cold by the time he had brought back scraps of food. He talked of the old lady in a dirty shawl that taught him everything he needed to know and was a pillar of peace in an otherwise tumultuous environment. He mentioned a frozen smile and spilled takeout, and kindness from a hero he still hadn’t learned the name of. She held him closer, and he fell into the comfort easily and together they slept in the warmth and security of each other.
At 32, towards of the end of the second year for class 2-A, he was lead to a door with a welcome mat and vibrant flowers. He was brought to a soft couch and warm tea, to a gentle smile that looked at him warmly as he sat stiffly beside Emi - she was Emi now, had been for nearly three years. They talked of small things; school, the cat, and of the softer sides of hero work, waiting for someone else before talking of the bigger things.
In the meantime, Emi laughed her tumbling laugh and was boisterous in her stories, softening the silence emanating from him with her light and joy and herself. Her mother laughed back, softer but no less colorful, and he relaxed as Emi fell into her usual teasing of him, secure in the familiarity and knowing that this wouldn’t go horribly, she had said so a week ago and then again as they approached the home.
Eventually the other person came, and instantly Aizawa was suddenly 13 again, facing a frozen smile with trepidation that furled into disbelief. He thought of orange and suddenly he realized why the color was so familiar when he first met Emi and couldn’t suppress the bark of laughter that escaped him. Her mother paused in confused surprise, and it only grew as her father let out his own humored scoff, and as he settled down across from Aizawa he said with smile much less sad than the last time they saw each other, “Do you like teriyaki?”
After their own private laugh, after the confusion eased away from Mrs. Fukukado, and after the soft knowing glance Emi shared with him, the weight of a ring brightened the room. There was the essential shovel talk before blessings were given, and soon rough plans were made. They didn’t have teriyaki for dinner, but Aizawa wasn’t 13 anymore, he was 32, in love, and was now Shouta to more than four people.
At 37, Shouta still had a heart, Emi still had a love, and they had a home. A home that at 34 was blessed with a daughter as vibrant as her mother, but still quiet like her father. She had dark hair, green eyes, and soft smile that slipped onto her face with an ease he never had. She was 3 and didn’t have her quirk yet, but she had goals and plans that centered around the horrible combination of yellow slated goggles and a garish orange bandana. She was the greatest treasure to her parents, the brightest jewel to Hizashi, Nemuri, and almost Tensei (Tenya would always be his pride) and she was the number 1 fan to all 20 of his students (though Mind Jack was her favorite, but that was a secret he had swore never to tell).
At 37, he had gotten a hang of life beyond the grimy alleys, worn shoes, and tangled hair. He had Emi, and together they had a daughter and friends that burst into the home they built in time.