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Aizawa Shouta arrives at the crime scene and the first sees is Officer Tamakawa Sansa puking up his guts on the other side of his squad car. That’s attractive.

He turns away and searches the crowd of law-enforcement personnel for Detective Tsukauchi, the one who called him here.

It’s not incredibly difficult to spot the trench coat and fedora, so he slips past officers and taps the man on the shoulder. Tsukauchi turns around and sighs in what seems to be relief.

“Eraserhead.”

“Detective.” He pauses. “Why am I here?”

The detective sighs again, noticeably heavier this time. Well fuck, this is going to be a fun playdate, isn’t it?

“I’m not going to lie.” Good. “It’s a bloodbath in there,” continues the detective, gesturing to the minka. Oops, not good then. “We have next to no clue what happened, other than that everyone who lived here is dead and someone ransacked the main lab.” Huh. “We need your expertise. You know the underground, you might be able to help us with this.”

Aizawa doesn’t hesitate much. In his field, a second is equal to a life, which means that hesitance kills.

He doesn’t hesitate now.

“Absolutely. Give me a second here to text my agency, and then I’m on the case.” He doesn’t wait for Tsukauchi to respond as he pulls out his phone, shooting off a text to his patrol coordinator. She’ll make sure his routes are covered and his schedule is cleared. He shoves his phone back in his pocket.

Aizawa Shouta looks back up at Detective Tsukauchi through his goggles and nods.

“Show me what we’ve got.”

-

Tsukauchi wasn’t fucking around when he said that it was a bloodbath. Shit, Sansa wasn’t even overreacting when he heaved up his last meal next to the squad car. But what really hits Aizawa, what really unnerves him, isn’t the blood. It’s the fatal blows.

One bullet per person, all kill shots. Guns are illegal in Japan, so they had connections to the underground. He told Tsukauchi as much.

One bullet per person, but two noticeable exceptions - Chisaki Kai and Kurono Hari, who both have puncture wounds through their right eyes that hit their brains.

Whoever did this had a serious fucking issues with these men, and they weren’t afraid to show it, up close and personal. What a fucking mess.

“Detective,” he calls. Tsukauchi looks over at him with curious eyes. “These are those Shie Hassaikai guys you were investigating, right?”

Tsukauchi purses his lips and turns away from him again.

“Yes,” he answers tersely. “That’s what they called themselves. The only reason we didn’t get them ourselves was because we couldn’t find a paper trail. Nothing on the books we could catch them with, and we can’t file for search warrants without proof.”

Aizawa scoffs. “I don’t think whoever did this was concerned with things like paper trails and proof.”

Tsukauchi hums his agreement. “I think that too.”

Aizawa looks over the room of Chisaki Kai with disdain. It’s near clinically sterile, with no pictures or personal affects in sight. It screams paranoia and that one personality disorder he can never remember the name of.

And then there’s the fact that there’s almost no sign of anyone but them entering the room, save for the smudge of blood on Chisaki’s cheek. Unfortunately for them, the perp has been wearing gloves (this news had been given to them by an officer with a minor cataloguing quirk, who had come up from the lab), so no fingerprints.

In fact, there’s almost no sign of anyone breaking and entering the minka, which was unusual. In cases like this, there’s almost always some sort of damage to the property, but there isn't so much as a broken lock or a window pane out of place.

Shit, there isn’t even any CCTV, because everything around the compound is low-security residential.

Well. Was low-security residential; any sane person is either gonna go doomsday or pack up their shit and scram. He knows Hizashi would be boxing up the apartment in a second if something like this happened near their apartment.

“Detective!”

The familiar voice from the hall startles them both.

“Sansa,” Tsukauchi calls, “what is it?”

Officer Tamakawa’s head pokes in, his ears up and his fur puffed in what’s probably irritation, if what Aizawa knows from his own cats holds true.

“The guy who called us called the vultures too, and they’re outside the line.” Tamakawa’s face twists up in displeasure. “They’re asking for a statement.” He looks over at him and visibly brightens. “Hey, Eraserhead! Didn’t know you were here! Glad to see you’re working with us!” His head disappears back through the door.

Aizawa looks over to Tsukauchi, who’s got his face in his hands. He hears a soft, “Fuck,” and snorts.

“Well, it seems the ‘vultures’ have arrived. You wanna hear what I’ve got before you go make a statement?”

Tsukauchi nods, not lifting his face from his hands.

Aizawa clears his throat.

“Alright. Well, I don't think they’ve got a transformation quirk, or a mutation. I think it’s most likely emitter. Based on the lack of residue, it might be a mental or physical quirk, but I’d say there’s a good chance of it being physical. Maybe a minor enhancer, solely on how many people were killed in our 45 minute window.

“There’s clearly some emotional connection, seeing as Chisaki and Kurono were paid special attention. A grudge, perhaps, or revenge for something. But this wasn’t blind anger. It wasn’t a rampage.” Aizawa pauses, trying to figure out a tactful way to say ‘yeah, this guy planned and executed the murder of upwards of 150 people; people who were criminals, sure, but were still people, and I’ve got no fucking clue why’.

“This was premeditated mass murder without an immediately visible motive. I can only confidently say that this person got exactly what they wanted, and that they covered their tracks incredibly well.”

Tsukauchi hisses through his teeth as he looks up at the ceiling.

“Dammit,” he whispers, loud enough for Aizawa to hear.

“Yeah,” Aizawa responds. “Dammit is right. I’ll start looking around tomorrow with the info brokers to see if they know anything. There’s a new guy in the area. I’ll call you if I find anything.”

Tsukauchi doesn’t look at him as he leaves the room, ready to head home for the night. Fuck.

He just hopes he can find something before this guy hits again.

-

Aizawa watches from his couch as Tsukauchi gives the statement to the media. Twisting his words about the perp’s quirk is a good idea, he notes. Make the killer feel confident that they won’t guess their quirk, make them slip up, leave behind some evidence, etc.

He looks over at Hizashi and sighs. His husband is sleeping on the cushion next to him, one leg in his lap and the other over the back of the couch. His arms are askew and his hair is down, half of it lying over his face and half of it spread behind his head.

He sighs and switches off the TV, standing up and stretching. His back pops and he huffs - he’s going to have to drag his dumbass husband all the way to their room, hope the cat hasn’t eaten his pillowcase again, and find some way to fall asleep.

He slides his arms under Hizashi and gently lifts him princess style, trying not to wake him up. He grunts over the not insignificant weight of his husband as he makes his way to their room - though he’s lanky, Hizashi is mostly muscle and muscle is heavy.

He nudges the door open with his foot and god fucking dammit, Yutanpo’s shredded his pillowcase again.

“Fucking asshole cat,” he grumbles, laying Hizashi down on the sheets. He’s already in his pyjamas - has been since around noon - so Aizawa doesn’t have to worry about changing him, and just throws the duvet over him.

Aizawa himself is still in his work clothes, so he strips - shirt, socks, pants, etc. - and heads into the master bathroom to shower. He needs to get a handle on how he’s going to approach this. A mass murder withh only one clue - whatever was taken from the compound.

If they can find what’s missing, they’ll have their killer behind bars.

If they can’t find what’s missing, they’ll have their killer out on the streets.

Aizawa stands under the hot water of the shower, still as it beats down on him.

Fuck. What a mess.

Chapter Text

 

Midoriya Izuku’s heart broke when Kacchan told him to take a dive off the school roof.

Wait, no. That’s not right. It was earlier than that.

Much earlier.

Oh, his heart didn’t break when everyone told him he couldn’t be a hero. His heart didn’t break when Kacchan turned on him. His heart didn’t even break when Dr. Tsubasa told him he was quirkless.

No, his heart broke when Midoriya Inko told him she was sorry . Like it was somehow her fault that he wasn’t powerful, like it was her fault that he was weak.

Like it was her fault he was useless.

It was hard to come to terms with. A dream so incredibly ingrained in a child isn’t easily choked out, which is why when he saw the white-haired child for the first time, his heart burned . Its shattered pieces shuddered and twitched, snarling at the injustice. They found a focus.

A focus named Eri.

After her, the title ‘Vigilante’ suited him just as well as ‘Hero’.

Chapter Text

The café Aizawa frequents is in a really shitty spot, but it’s a damn good café. And because he’s good at his job (go figure) he notices when the owner - a slip of a kid named Midoriya - starts closing up early. It doesn’t bother him - really, it doesn’t. But he gets a little irked when the shop starts closing on Sundays, too, and he gets a little more irked as it continues for an entire fucking month. The whole Shie Hassaikai clusterfuck is really getting on his nerves, and it doesn’t help that he’s gotten next to fucking nowhere in catching whatever deranged maniac’s slaughtered the yakuza. Honestly, all he wants is coffee on a chilly February Sunday. Fuck.

And then he walks in one Monday afternoon (he gets afternoons off right now because he works the night shift), and out comes the reason the coffee house has been cutting back on hours.

God, he’s really an asshole, isn’t he? He very suddenly feels a need to apologize to Midoriya, even though an apology wouldn’t make sense to the kid.

Because the reason the shop’s been closing early is probably the shoeless little girl sitting in one of those plush, god-awful maroon chairs that does wonders for his back.

She’s a tiny little thing, with a shock of long white hair and a sizable horn on the side of her head. She’s in a blue tank top dress with a mint green skirt, and her arms and legs are covered in bandages.

Dammit.

She looks up at the sound of him walking in, and her eyes have that deer-in-the-headlights look that he only really gets when he’s found his students doing something wrong. She locks eyes with him and goes completely still. He doesn’t even think she’s breathing. The fear in her eyes is primal and her pupils have blown wide, almost eclipsing the red iris.

He knows this look. It’s the look he gave his father when-

“Eri,” calls Midoriya from the kitchen, and the spell is broken. Her eyes leave him and wander to where Midoriya’s voice came from. “The muffins are ready!” Aizawa’s eyes stay on her, and he doesn’t move from the entrance.

The boy walks into the shop proper, and completely ignores him. The beatific smile he usually carries around is calmer, gentler for the girl - Eri, he knows now. He makes his way around the counter and walks over to where she’s sitting in the chair.

“I know you were disappointed about not getting to put them in the oven, but now they’re cooled and we can eat them! You get the first one, though, because you helped the most.” Midoriya slowly stretches out his hand, and just as slowly, Eri takes it.

Aizawa feels like he’s intruding.

Midoriya helps her out the chair, and finally glances back at Aizawa.

One second please, he mouths, and takes Eri into the kitchen. Aizawa slowly breathes out and makes his way over to the bookshelf, slumping down into a blue chair that’s so overstuffed it swallows him.

Well, fuck. That was… a lot. He’s never seen Midoriya like that, and he’s been coming to this coffee shop for five years now.

He closes his eyes and goes over what he just saw.

Little girl named Eri, bandaged all over. She looks at him and he knows that look, hates it. Midoriya comes in, banishes her fear, and rescues her from a situation in which she’s uncomfortable. Midoriya then silently promises to explain.

The café’s been closing early for about a month now.

And he’s been complaining about it.

(Only in his head, of course. He’d never say anything to little Midoriya. He’s a foul mouthed bastard, but he’s not needlessly cruel.)

Midoriya comes back into the room, sans Eri, and begins making Aizawa’s drink as usual; easy, seeing as he orders the same thing every time he comes: raspberry mocha, triple espresso shot with heavy cream. It gets him through school days in the morning, and it gets him through his night shifts. Thinking about it now, it seems like every time he has it, it gets better. Huh. Must be a Midoriya thing.

The espresso machine beeps and it's always been a calming thing to watch drinks being made. Midoriya mixes and stirs, and the resulting drink arrives to him in a mug that’s more of a bowl being set on the little table next to his chair.

“She’s upstairs now,” says Midoriya. He hums, curling his fingers around the warm cup and taking a sip.

Perfect fucking coffee.

“Who is she?”

Midoriya sighs and fixes his eyes on the doorway. Aizawa stares at the boy over the rim of his cup, observing.

“She’s my cousin, Akatani Eri.”

It’s either the truth or Midoriya is an exceptionally good liar, and he’s seen the boy try to lie. Aizawa accepts the name and doesn’t bother picking at it.

“My mom’s sister - Miku - had a one night stand, got pregnant, and had her. She left Eri with the guy and ditched, and the he was… awful. He was in a work accident and died, and so Eri had to come to somebody. The people in charge of finding her a home couldn't find Miku, so they called Mom because they’re sisters. So she came here, but since Mom’s in America with Dad, she lives with me now.” Midoriya’s face has been getting progressively more clouded, and his eyes suddenly fill with tears as he looks at Aizawa. He almost doesn’t want to hear the rest of this story.

“That man,” Midoriya’s voice breaks as tears start to dribble down his cheeks, “he was awful to her. She’s four now, this last December, and he would cut her with his quirk. He’d cut her and then patch her up, and then do it over and over and over again. She wouldn’t talk to me for two weeks, Mr. Aizawa! She only told me her name, and she thought I was gonna treat her like he did, and I think she still thinks like that… I don’t know what to do.”

Aizawa doesn’t speak for a bit. Tears continue to dribble down Midoriya’s cheeks, and he doesn’t move his eyes from the doorway.

“The man, you said he’s dead?”

Midoriya nods. “Yeah. I think it was a head injury, but he’s definitely gone now.” Midoriya shivers and curls in on himself a bit. “We don’t know where Miku is, and we don’t want to know. She abandoned Eri, so we don’t want to talk to her.”

Aizawa nods. People are awful, and he wouldn’t want to talk to her either. “Eri will be cautious around you for a good while, but what you did just now… that was perfect.”

Midoriya perks up, looks at him. “R-really?”

“Yeah. I’ve seen cases like Eri’s before, and I’ve read up on how to deal with the aftermath of abuse. Shit, Midoriya, I’m a foster dad myself, and I’ve got a kid who’s in a similar situation to Eri, although not to that extent.” Midoriya’s eyes are wide and he’s listening intently. Aizawa almost feels uncomfortable with the amount of focus on him, but he needs to reassure the kid.

“Midoriya, you have to be gentle with kids like her. You have to be patient. Give her time to feel comfortable with you.” Aizawa keeps his voice low and even. “She’s been hurt very badly, and she’s probably waiting for it to happen again. Don’t give her a reason to think it would.”

Midoriya nods slowly, looking down to the table. “Okay,” he whispers. “I can do that.”

Aizawa grins and narrows his eyes at the boy. “And Midoriya…”

“Yes?”

“That shirt is awful.”

Midoriya snorts in his surprise, and the mock offense that crosses his face immediately drains the tension from the room. He places a hand over his chest, right on top of the text that reads ‘Business Casual,’ and huffs, sniffling.

“My shirt is absolutely fine, thank you very much,” he pouts. “Mr. Aizawa, I’ll have you know that my very own mother bought me this shirt. By insulting me, you are insulting her, and if you don’t want me to tell on you, I suggest you apologize.” Aizawa barks out a laugh as Midoriya sniffles again and wipes at his eyes. “But thank you. I really appreciate your advice, sir. It helps a lot.”

Aizawa clears his throat and looks away.

“Any time, kid. It’s kinda my job to help someone in need, you know that.”

He turns back in time to see Midoriya give him his trademark sunshine smile, and takes a sip of his coffee. Perfect coffee, perfect chair, good kids; for where he’s at in the investigation, today has been unusually bright.

“Yeah, I know. Thank you anyways, Mr. Aizawa.”

-

Izuku looks at the phone he’s holding in his hand. Eri is in her room, hopefully asleep, and he’s in the office/lab.

His thumb hovers over the call button, and he looks at the contact name, trying to decide how he needs to do this.

Midoriya Izuku presses call, and Midoriya Inko picks up on the second ring.

“Hey sweetie, what’s up?”

“... Mom?”

“Yes?”

“I need to talk to you about something.”

Chapter Text

A week after their talk, the café starts opening back up on Sundays.

Two weeks after that, the café stops closing early - but it only goes to 10, instead of the 11 it used to. (Aizawa doesn’t actually mind as much thinks he does. The kids need to sleep, and his coffee dependence doesn’t need any more encouragement.)

About a week after that, Aizawa finds himself the recipient of a beaming grin that nearly blinds him. Apparently the night before, Eri had finally looked Midoriya in the eye. Aizawa accepts his coffee and thinks about Hizashi and Hitoshi. He should… bring them over. It would do Hitoshi good to see another child recovering, and it’d do Midoriya some good to connect to another kid his age. Hizashi would adore them. He decides to wait a bit - let Eri become more comfortable around people. She’s still not completely accustomed to Midoriya, and formally introducing a near-stranger and his family wouldn’t do her any good. He pays for his drink and sets off again, mind up in space.

May arrives before Aizawa gets his first maybe-break in the case. He’s been scouring the underground for any scraps of information, but it seems that everyone is afraid to talk about it. Then he hears a whisper, a rumor, an utterance from one of his sources that tells him that the Shie Hassaikai were working on quirk suppressants, and there’s a stash just outside of Musutafu.

His informant doesn’t show up to their next meeting.

Instead, a new ‘face’ starts making the rounds. Aizawa calls in a few low-level favors and has them feel out the new guy (he’s been told that the new face presents male), who’s been given the tentative name of “Harbinger.”

As it turns out, Harbinger has info. Lots of it.

In fact, Harbinger has so much information, on literally everything - from in-depth quirk analysis to the  - that when he calls Tsukauchi, he’s told to hold back on arranging a meeting.

“Aizawa, we don’t know anything about him. We’ll follow the Musutafu lead, but we need to have literally nowhere else to go before we involve another loose cannon.” Tsukauchi sighs, and the sound is distorted over the line. “Just… focus on looking for information on Overhaul. When there's nothing else you can do, then you can look into this ‘Harbinger’ character, okay?”

Aizawa doesn’t respond. He kinda wants to curse at Tsukauchi for not letting him do his job, but he won’t, because that’s not professional.

Tsukauchi sighs again, and he’s quieter when he says, “Eraser, I honestly just don’t want you to die.”

“Hey-”

“Listen, please.”

Aizawa purses his lips and scowls at the sidewalk, quietly fuming at the implication that he can’t do his job. He knows what he’s doing - he’s been doing it for 12 fucking years now.

“I’m not insulting you.” Bullshit, asshole. “Please, we just can't rush into this. We’re already all on edge with this case. If Harbinger comes in and feeds us bad information, or if he gets something that we don't want him to have, we’re risking lives.” Tsukauchi falls silent over the line, and Aizawa takes a deep breath, then let's it out. He fucking hates that the detective is right, but it is what it is.

“Yeah,” he mutters into the receiver. “Yeah, you’re right. I overreacted. Sorry.” He runs a hand through his hair, sweeping it up and out of his face. “I just really want to close this case.”

“I’m with you there, Eraser. Look, I’ve got to go, but don’t do anything overly dangerous. We don’t want to spook the perp into doing anything rash. If they catch wind of us finding something they don’t want us to find, we’re gonna have a big problem. Goodbye.” Aizawa’s phone beeps as the call ends. He shoves it in his pocket and starts walking down the sidewalk, heading to the café. Heaving in as big a breath as he can, he looks to the sky.

“Shit!” he yells, scrunching his eyes closed. “Dammit! Fuck!”

-

Aizawa steps into the café and the first thing he notices is Eri, sitting in the maroon chair by the fireplace and reading a children’s book. The second thing he notices is Midoriya, sitting in the chair next to her, curled up and asleep.

The third thing he notices is the deep purple bruise marring Midoriya’s face.

The jingle of a bell alters Eri of his arrival, and she looks up at him with doe eyes before tapping Midoriya on the hand. He startles awake and wow, the kid’s a mess.

The right half of his hair is flattened against his face on one side from leaning against the back of the chair, and the left is sticking straight out. His eyes are bleary, and he blinks one slow blink before looking at Eri.

“Bug?” He yawns. “What’s up?”

“Mr. Aizawa is here,” she whispers, voice so soft that from the doorway he almost can’t hear it.

“Oh!” Midoriya’s probably still half asleep, based on the way he hoists himself out of the chair and stumbles over to the counter. “Okay. Hi, Mr. Aizawa!”

“Hello, Midoriya.” He makes his way over to the chair the kid just vacated and sits down slowly, leaning back and closing his eyes. And then he opens his eyes, because the room is café is too quiet.

No matter what, there’s always some sort of ambient sound that fills the room. Sometimes it’s the coffee makers. Sometimes it’s a radio. Sometimes it’s a fire in the fireplace. Sometimes it’s the turning of pages from the books that line the walls. Usually, though, it’s Midoriya - humming, muttering, even just chattering from the kid. No matter what, there’s always noise.

But there isn’t today. And it probably has something to do with the black eye Midoriya’s got.

He looks over to the counter, where Midoriya is still blinking sleep from his eyes, a slight frown on his face. Tired as he is, though, his hands don’t falter from the process of making the coffee. With the way the afternoon light hits him, it almost erases the bruise from his face. Of course, it doesn’t change the fact that it’s still there, and the fact that Aizawa still isn’t quite over the phone call he just had, and the fact that someone would hit Midoriya, who has never done a single bad thing in his entire life, what the fuck-

“Mr. Aizawa, do you want a scone?”

Aizawa blinks and mulls over the question. Midoriya is looking at him expectantly, a cup of coffee in one hand and a scone in a napkin in the other.

“Sure, kid.”

Midoriya beams, looking far more awake. He makes his way around the counter and gives Aizawa the goods, and as he takes a bite into the scone, it’s like he’s fallen into heaven. Soft and warm, just the right amount of heavyness and as he chews he notices that holy fuck there’s chocolate chips in this thing, and the kids made these? Shit, if Aizawa wasn’t a greedy bastard, he’d start recommending this place to his coworkers.

Well. He might do it anyways, greedy bastard or not, because these kids probably need the money. It’s not like the people he works with can’t afford it.

His gaze shifts from the scone of heaven back to Midoriya, who’s situated himself so that Eri is sitting on his lap, and he’s holding her book while she leans against his chest. He’s fixed his hair a bit, so that now instead of half of a mess, it’s all one big together mess.

For a moment, Aizawa marvels at how amazing Midoriya is. That this ball of anxiety has come out of his shell so much just to help one little girl. That he’s managed to help her so completely that she feels safe enough to relax around him. That he’s created a completely new world for her, all by himself. Shit, the kid restructured his entire life for her when she got here. Only an honest-to-god hero would do what Midoriya is doing.

Midoriya would immolate himself for her. It’s a sudden and terrifying realization, and he knows it’s true the second the thought crosses his mind.

He studies the bruise on Midoriya’s face.

“Kid,” he grunts. Both he and Eri look up at the same time, with almost identical expressions of curiosity. Well, Eri doesn’t look him in the eye, but her gaze falls at his nose, so he counts it as a win. He resists the urge to roll his eyes at them.

“Midoriya,” he revises. Eri goes back to reading her book, seemingly content to read in Midoriya’s lap and ignore them.

“Yes?”

"Where’d you get that bruise?”

Immediately, both children stiffen. Eri goes still, her lips pursing as she leans back a bit more into Midoriya. The boy flushes and looks to the side. He sets the book onto the table and maneuvers his hands to wrap around Eri, fingers fidgeting as he very obviously tries to think up a lie.

“Um-”

“The truth, please.”

Midoriya flushes at the interruption, and looks down at Eri.

“I saw Kacchan yesterday. He, um, he saw me, too.”

Aizawa hums and tilts his head to the side. Kacchan has been an issue since forever, and he needs to step off Midoriya’s shit before he gets waffle-stomped into some humility. “You can call him by his real name, you know. I don’t make a habit of hunting down kids, and I don’t think I’d start now.”

Midoriya shakes his head. “No,” he sighs. “It’s fine. He’s trying to get into UA, and if he does, I don’t want it to color your opinion of him.” Aizawa snorts and Midoriya shoots him a frown. “Anyways, I’m taking self-defense classes, so I’m not going to worry about it. It’s not like he knows where I live, anyways, so I don’t have any reason to out him.”

Aizawa shakes his head. Midoriya, the little shit, hasn’t and still won’t tell him who Kacchan is. Oh, he’s asked, because bullying is fucking awful, but no, Kacchan wants to be a hero, and it’s not too bad, Mr. Aizawa, I can deal with him. And that’s bullshit, because Midoriya’s way of ‘dealing’ with things is avoidance until death does he part. He doesn’t press, though. When he needs to know, he’ll know. Eri’s relaxed now, and the tension in Midoriya’s shoulders has loosened. God, he wants to share this place with his husband. And his kid. He’s said it before, Hitoshi would love it here. Later, though. Once he’s not so stressed about the case.

“Alright, Midoriya,” he sighs. “But whenever you need me, I’m here.”

Midoriya smiles, soft and sunshine. “Thank you, Mr. Aizawa. I’ll remember that.”

“You’d better, kid.”

Chapter Text

August hits and the lead in Musutafu has gone nowhere. Tsukauchi is working his ass off, but there just aren’t any leads, and if he didn’t know any better, Aizawa would say that the murders didn’t really happen. There just isn’t a single fucking trace.

On the bright side, Hitoshi has started calling him ‘Dad’ and Hizashi ‘Pop’. His husband hasn’t cried that much since their wedding. Not only that, but he walked in on Eri calling Midoriya ‘Papa’, so it seems that family is this months theme. It also seems that Kacchan hasn’t tried to beat the shit out of Midoriya again - to his knowledge, at least - so that's good.

It’d be even better if there was a fucking break in the case.

It’s almost September when he gets the call, and he’s just starting his patrol. His phone buzzes and he glances at the contact name for a second, then presses the green button.

“Aizawa.” Immediately, Aizawa is on edge. Tsukauchi’s tone isn’t… unhappy, per say, but it definitely isn’t ideal.

“Detective.”

“We need to talk about Harbinger.” Oh?

“What about him?”

“He’s been sending me texts.”

Aizawa chokes.

“What?”

“He’s been sending me texts. It’s been happening for the past two weeks. Mostly location pins and pictures of beat-up villains, along with the odd comment or two. I don’t respond to them, of course, but Tamakawa has been picking up the victims and we’ve been questioning them and… well, I think I’d like to revisit what I asked you a couple months ago.” Fuck, Tsukauchi just sounds exhausted. He’s been working his ass off for this case, and they’ve gotten nowhere. (Privately, at this point, Eraserhead wonders if they shouldn’t just move on. The perp hasn’t made any further moves, and the chance that they’ll strike again seems to be getting smaller and smaller.)

“What are we revisiting?”

“I want you to initiate a meeting with Harbinger.”

Five minutes ago, Aizawa would’ve been pleased. Now, he’s just wary. Tsukauchi continues.

“At this point, we need anything we can get. If you can’t get anything from him, I think that we’ll have to put this case on the back burner, because it’s been nine months.” He can't help but be relieved. He’s been losing sleep over this case, and he’ll be happy to set aside until he can focus more effort into it.

“There’s a new group of villains running around, calling themselves the League of Villains. If the villains are unionizing,” Aizawa swallows a bark of laughter as a sudden image of the local villains picketing in front of All Might’s agency pops up in his head, jarring him out of his concern for a moment, “we need to know about it.”

“Will do,” he mutters, hitting the end call button. This is a serious matter, he reminds himself. And serious matters require serious thoughts, not potshots at villains who aren’t even around to appreciate how stupid they look in his head.

He sighs deeply, squats down, and closes his eyes as he rests his chin on his knees. What the fuck. Harbinger sending Tsukauchi texts is almost as surreal as All Might’s irrational fear of short elderly people. And now he’s going to talk to the person who’s been doing his job for him, and he’s supposed to press him for information? Aizawa wants to meet the guy, sure, and set up a working professional relationship, but everything comes in exchanges. Aizawa takes a bit of cash with him on every patrol for emergencies, but nothing near the amount usually involved with info brokering.

Oh well. He’ll have to make do.

He opens one eye to squint at the phone still in his hand, and opens his messenger app.

Sloth

I’ll be home late

Paryeet

OKAY!!!!!!!! I’ll leave your dinner in the fridge just reheat it whenever you get back!!

Cat Son

K, be safe

He clicks his phone off and stuffs it in his pocket. Time to go, then.

-

He steps into the bar and recognizes quite a few faces. Most are low-level criminals and local business owners, but he spots a low ranking hero and the head of a small crime syndicate talking over drinks, smiling and laughing quietly. Alas, as much as he’d like to bust some shit, this bar is a well-known neutral zone. He, like everyone else, knows the neutral zone motto by heart. No lies, no snitches, no consequences, no issues, end of story.

He approaches the bartender, not sitting down just yet. The heavily scarred man looks up at him from where he’s shining a glass, and raises one pierced eyebrow.

“What can I getcha?” His voice is rough and Aizawa can fucking feel the unimpressed disinterest radiating from the man. He decides to get to the point.

“I’m looking for Harbinger.”

The guy snorts and rolls his eyes, looking away. If Aizawa was expecting a reaction, that… really wasn’t it. A bit more respect, maybe? A little fear, even some derision? But yeah, not whatever the hell that guy was doing.

“Yeah, you and half of Musutafu.” Wow, fuck this guy. “He’ll be here when he gets here, so take a seat ‘cause he might be a while. Oh, and please don't sit in the corner booth, ‘cause I don’t want to pick the pieces of your broken heart up when you get disassembled.” Fucking what? Is this guy high? The chances of Aizawa getting disassembled tonight are miniscule, he’s not unused to getting into fights, but this guy just went damn near poetic with his warning.

Of course, Aizawa is far more used to immediately aggressive situations, but he’s completed his fair share of diplomatic assignments like this. This guy is, as Hitoshi would say, ‘chaotic’.

“Whose booth is it?”

The man looks, if possible, even more unimpressed.

“It’s his. Now, if you’d kindly fuck off, I’m waiting on someone, just like you.”

Fucking shit, this guy needs a serious attitude check. Aizawa scowls behind his goggles, and pointedly makes his way to sit in the corner booth. It’s not like there are any other open seats, anyways. If waiting for Harbinger means sitting in his seat, bartender guy will have to deal.

Bartender guy deals for about two hours. Aizawa spends the time going back and forth with Tsukauchi over what to ask Harbinger, and only puts his phone away when a tall, slender figure pops in through the window on the right side of the bar. Aizawa seems to be the only one who notices right away, and he wonders if the regulars are just used to it or if this person is just really good at what they do. They stretch, and Aizawa thinks that they take a good, long look at everyone in the bar, but he can’t be sure because they’re wearing backlit goggles. In fact, Aizawa can’t see any skin. It’s a fashion choice if Aizawa’s ever seen one, but he muses that they could just have shittastically sensitive skin, or that it could be a quirk thing.

And then they approach the bar.

The way everyone gets quiet as they pass by, Aizawa thinks that there’s a good chance this might be Harbinger. There's a power in their steps, and the way they move is like raindrops through leaves. Easy, gliding, natural.

Look who’s getting poetic now, Shouta.

They pull themself up and… talk with bartender guy. He can't hear it over the general chatter of the other patrons, but it seems like bartender guy is far more relaxed. He sets down a drink in front of them and then leans in, and Aizawa can’t see if they kiss or not, but he gets the feeling that this is who the man was waiting for. A minute passes and then they turn back around, glass in hand, and make their way over to the table he’s sitting at.

They slide into the seat opposite him, and take a moment. This is Harbinger, he thinks, letting his quirk slip a bit. This is who he needs right now, to get the Shie Hassaikai mess out of his head. Well, that or give him info on the new League of Villains group, but it’s a step forward either way. His eyes are red now, he knows, because his quirk is working on nullifying whatever Harbinger can do.

It’s odd, though, because he can’t feel anything to erase. That only happens with people who have extremely subtle quirks and the quirkless, like Midoriya. It’s not like it matters, however, because it’s better to be safe than sorry. Anyways, it doesn’t make a difference whether or not Harbinger has a quirk, because good information doesn’t sprout up from a power. It comes from a person, and the difference that separates a person from their quirk is astronomical.

“Well,” a soft, sultry tenor breaks him from his reverie. “Won’t you come into my parlor?” Said the spider to the fly. Yeah, he knows this rhyme. “Please, when you leave, think about tying up your hair.” Harbinger sounds like he’s smiling now, even under the surgical mask and goggles. “It’s an awfully obvious tell.”

Aizawa gets what bartender guy said about being disassembled now.

-

He doesn’t think he’s been this unsettled for a long while. He’s also more than a bit uncomfortable, and he should probably just go home and cuddle his husband. The quiet theory he’d formed a while ago, the one where he wholeheartedly believes that the entire underground community is being blackmailed into keeping mum over the Shie Hassaikai massacre, has just been proven, and he now knows who’s doing the blackmailing.

And he can’t do jack shit about it. He has to make do with what he now has on the League of Villains.

He looks at the paper in his hand, the one with way too many notes on how he can improve his shit, and the one that lies on the table, blank-side up. He almost doesn’t want to touch it, but he definitely needs to talk with Tsukauchi immediately and leaving entails getting all the information he can. He picks up the paper and turns it over, keeping it angled so any wandering eyes won’t catch the words written in oddly bubbly script.

And he’s glad nobody else can see it, because the words don’t really process.

That’s Midoriya’s place. The one he goes to often.

The one run by a fucking child. A child that he cares about, who’s taking care of another child who’s quickly worming her way into his heart.

The implication of these words hit him like a knife to the stomach, carefully and slowly gutting him.

This kind of power play, this kind of threat, this show of information that Aizawa keeps close to his chest, ices his blood and he wants to throw up.

Bartender guy slides into where Harbinger was just sitting. Aizawa quickly and forcefully crumples the paper in his fist, wishing the damage would change the kanji.

“You don’t look too hot, buddy.” No fucking shit, bartender guy. “Tell you what, I’ll give you one truth about him. Anything I know is up for grabs, but make your question good.”

Bullshit. Bartender guy works for Harbinger, and any question he asks will be immediately reported back.

He can’t afford to not know.

Fuck.

“Does-” Aizawa has to clear his throat to keep his voice from breaking. “Does he go after kids?”

Bartender guy looks like he pities him. Aizawa will take it, if it means he gets the answer he needs.

“Nah, man. He’d kill himself before he hurt a kid, purposeful or not. You don’t have to worry ‘bout that.”

His eyes burn. He turns away and shoves both papers in his pocket, his stomach roiling and his mouth dry.

“Thanks,” he mutters, shoving himself out of the booth. He needs to get out, to clear his head, to get to Tsukauchi and figure out what the fuck he’s going to tell Midoriya.

Hey, yeah, sorry but the nature of my work has put you and Eri in mortal danger, and there’s not a single thing I can do about it, not a single thing I can do to keep you both safe. Sorry about that, can I get a coffee now?

He goes out through the club, easily falling into the route that leads back to the station.

Bartender guy still sits in the booth, looking to the doorway from which Eraserhead fled.

“Told you so, thorn.”

Chapter Text

Tsukauchi tells him to calm down, and to wait.

He can go back to the café like he usually does, though, and in two days he’ll pick up the information packet. He shouldn’t tell Midoriya, because telling him could put him in danger.

Not telling him could put him in danger too, but he doesn’t say that.

In the meantime, he’s decided to sit Hizashi and Hitoshi down and tell them what’s happening. He needs support right now, and his family is the best support system he has.

“Hizashi, Hitoshi, can we talk?”

Hitoshi looks up from his phone and hums, shifting over from where he’s curled up on the couch to make room for him.

“What’s up, Dad?”

Hizashi comes around the kitchen island, having just finished the dishes. He plops down on the couch on the other side of Hitoshi, a curious smile pulling his lips up.

“What’s happenin’, babe?”

Shouta sighs and closes his eyes, leaning his head back to rest on the couch.

“Work is stressing me out and I’d like a couple of second opinions.”

Hitoshi snorts, and he feels the couch shift. Somebody’s legs - Hitoshi’s, most likely - fall onto his lap. Hitoshi’s more comfortable showing physical reassurance than using his words, so it makes sense. It's grounding, and Shouta appreciates it.

“Well alright,” Hizashi says, “what’s bothering you?”

And so Shouta spills, telling it like a story. Hizashi oohs and ahs at all the right times, and falls quiet when appropriate. Hitoshi stays silent, but he pays attention.

“-and you know that café I won’t let you go to?”

“HEY! YEAH! I’m still kinda irked about that, because I wanna know who supplies your coffee!”

Hitoshi raises his eyebrows. “Oh? You been skimping out on me, Dad?”

Hizashi nods solemnly, and Shouta sighs.

“I have a café I go to when I can, because the kid who owns the shop makes the best fucking coffee I’ve ever had. Seeing as I am a greedy and jealous bastard, I don’t tell people where it is. Hizashi’s been nagging on me for the entire five years I’ve been going, begging to go with me, and I think that with the new threat, it’s a good time. I can introduce you-”

Hitoshi groans as Hizashi cheers, and he rolls his eyes. Dorks.

“Don’t groan, Hitoshi, you’re not going. And Hizashi, tone it down. You can’t shout in the café, and if you even try then I’m never taking you anywhere in public ever again.”

His husband and son both protest, loudly, and Shouta scowls.

“Knock it off. The little girl, Eri, is like Hitoshi, and she can’t handle sudden loud noises.”

Hizashi looks down, sufficiently cowed, but Hitoshi raises his chin. He pulls his legs back and sits up, starting to scowl.

“First, what do you mean ‘like’ me, and second, what the fuck? Why can't I go?”

“First, that’s not my story to tell, and second, you can’t go because I’ve apparently got someone watching me, and Hizashi can handle himself as Mic. You are underage and you don’t have your provisional license, so if someone attacks you, you’re shit outta luck. I don’t want you in danger, Hitoshi.” Aizawa reaches over and pokes his son's arm, meeting his eyes. “You’re my son. I don’t want you getting hurt.”

Hitoshi narrows his eyes.

“How old is this guy?”

“He’s your age.”

“I want to meet him.”

“I literally just told you why I don’t want you there.”

“He sounds like he could use someone his age as a friend.”

“Hitoshi, you hate everyone your age.”

“Doesn’t matter. If you like him, I’ll like him.”

“I dislike that argument, but only because it’s true.”

Hitoshi smirks, probably because he’s almost won the argument. His expression turns serious, and he pokes Shouta back.

“Dad, I’d never put myself in needless danger. You know that. Just let me tag along. I probably need to socialize before I get into UA, and this kid sounds like he could use a friendly face.”

Shouta scowls. “You’ve made a convincing argument, but I’m not letting you out of my sight.”

Hitoshi leans back, a self-satisfied grin on his face.

“Anyways, as I was saying, there’s been a threat against him and the girl. I want other people - people I trust - to know about the situation and try to look out for him. Now that Hitoshi is participating, I guess I have a better reason to stop by with you guys.” Hizashi whoops, and Shouta shoots him a glare. “You will be polite, and you won’t shout, and you will be nice. His mom is in America, but she won’t hesitate to come over here and kick all of our asses if we make him cry. And he cries easily.”

Shouta huffs out a breath, rubbing at his eyes.

“Okay. Here’s how this is going to go down.”

-

Contrary to popular belief, Bakugou Katsuki doesn’t hate Deku. He just doesn’t fucking understand him.

The little shit is constantly standing up for people who should be able to defend themselves. He’s always going on about being a hero, even though he doesn’t have a fucking quirk, even though he’s functionally useless, and even though if he somehow made it into the world as a hero, he’d fucking die because the world isn’t fair and then Katsuki would feel like a fucking tool because who else could tell Auntie that her precious baby had died? And what the fuck would he do if Deku died? Accept it? Fuck no.

Katsuki doesn’t just let shit happen. He makes it happen, his way, and his way doesn’t involve some C-rank villain taking Deku out.

(What Katsuki doesn’t realize is that he’s never stopped seeing Izuku as a rival, even as ‘useless’ as he says Izuku is. He knows it, deep down; he just doesn’t want to deal with the moral ramifications of knowing that how he’s treated Izuku is the product of his inability to properly convey emotion.)

It doesn’t fucking help that the shitnerd finished middle school early because Auntie wanted to go live with her shitty husband in the fucking United States, of all places. And now he never sees Deku, doesn’t know what the fuck that little shit is up to, doesn’t know if he’s stil trying to be a hero. Knowing him, he probably is, but Katsuki knows that he won't be able to get into a hero school without a quirk. It’s a good fucking thing, too, because this year, Katsuki’s going to get into UA and become number one.

(Katsuki actually has seen Deku recently, he just doesn’t count it because all he did was get angry and punch the shitnerd in the face. Seeing Deku would mean talking to him. And it’s not like he could stop being angry and ask him where the fuck he’s been, what he’s doing.)

He doesn’t need Deku getting in his way.

-

She loves Papa more than anything in the whole entire world. He’s so very good to her, and he’s never yelled at her or been mean to her or anything that Father or Mr. Kurono used to do.

Eri doesn’t think that Papa could ever touch someone in a cruel way. Not truly. It’s just not how he is.

They’re going back home from the store, because there’s something wrong with one of the coffee makers and Papa needed a new part - and he can fix a coffee maker, which is amazing - and they’re passing under a footbridge when she hears it.

There’s a scary noise coming from the sewer cover, and she sees the second Papa hears it too because he pushes her behind him and it’s not a second too soon because there's something bursting up from the sewers and it smells awful and then it says something that she can't hear because there's thunder in her ears and then it has Papa and she can’t do anything-

She’s frozen as she takes in, eyes wide, the sight of a monster surrounding her Papa. He’s clawing at it and her feet are lead and his eyes are panicked and her legs won’t work and he’s face is red and she can’t move and then it’s over.

A super-strong wind comes and blasts the monster away, freeing her Papa and he falls. Her legs unstick and she sprints the short distance, falling to her knees beside him as tears finally come, spilling out onto her cheeks. Her hands hover over him, because she doesn’t trust herself to touch him because what if he disappears? What if she touches him and her quirk activates and he disappears and leaves her all alone and then there's a shadow over her, and a big man that she recognizes from the TV - All Might.

Papa’s second favorite hero.

He’ll help.

“Please,” she sobs. “Please.”

All Might kneels down, and his smile does little to reassure her because it’s too bright. It’s not like Papa’s smile, which is real and good and lets her know that everything is okay.

“Everything will be fine, little one. You know why?”

She doesn’t know, and she can’t until Papa wakes up and explains it to her.

“Because I am here!”

She wants Papa.

-

Time is an odd and awful thing. His time with Eri, just a few months shy of a year, has flown by. It feels like days, but just last night he was planning on how to help Eri with her quirk. Just last night, he was talking to Mr. Aizawa. Just last night he was writing the analysis.

Just a few minutes ago… 

Izuku wakes up to the sound of Eri sobbing and the muted light of a shadow. And then he remembers and he shoots up, turning away from her and throwing up because there's something in his throat and he can’t breathe and everything feels disgusting and wrong. He shivers, blood like ice, and looks up, wiping his mouth on his sleeve.

He looks up at All Might, who is crouching above him and smiling like nothing is wrong when everything is wrong-

Had he been a year younger, Izuku would have jumped at the opportunity to talk with the man-

Eri takes his hand and holds it up to her face, as if reassuring herself that he’s still here, still alive.

As he is now, the only thing he feels is dread, because he’s got a pressing question and he knows the answer All Might will give him.

He squeezes her hand.

“Ah, young man-”

“All Might,” he interrupts. “Can I be a hero like you even if I’m quirkless? Can I save people like you do?”

All Might’s smile falters for a second, and Izuku sees it.

“My boy,” he starts. Izuku can feel what he’s about to say; it’s run through his head countless times, but it doesn’t make it hurt any less. “There are plenty of people who are heroes who don’t get the same kind of recognition I do. Doctors, police officers, even agency managers. For any of those jobs, I’d say go for it. But… to be a hero like me… without a quirk, you’d get yourself killed.” Izuku would like him to stop talking now, but he needs to hear his childhood hero say this.

“Dreams are good, but you need to be realistic.”

There’s blood on the lips of the man Izuku has always idolized, and it hurts to know that his childhood well and truly is a farce.

“Okay,” he murmurs, looking directly into All Might’s eyes. Whatever this emotion is, Izuku hates it. “Please take care of yourself, sir.” All Might chokes a bit, and Izuku turns away to gather himself and Eri up. His hand snakes around her waist and he pulls her into a hug that they both need. Her crying gets louder, and she cries with great, heaving sobs. His heart breaks a bit, because he’s made her cry and he said he’d never do that.

“Papa-” a gasp, “-please don't-” another sob, “do that a-again!” She’s sobbing so hard that he worries she’ll hurt herself. He rubs her back up and down, listening to All Might pointedly ignore them as he gathers the sludge into an empty soda bottle. A lick of fire scorches the inside of his stomach, and fills his lungs with smoke. He’s going to be sick again.

“I won’t, bug,” he whispers. “Do I look like the kind of Papa who gets beaten by a villain?”

Her head shakes, and he hears a muffled, “no,” as she buries her face in the crook of his neck. He laughs a bit, and sweeps his arm under her, grabbing the bag with the coffee maker part they needed. He scoops her up and settles her onto his hip as he stands. He glances one last time at All Might before turning and heading home.

It doesn’t matter. He knows he’s not a conventional hero by any standards, but he’s doing just fine as he is. It’s okay, because he has Eri. He saved her, and she’s here now, and not in the hands of Kai because of him.

He needs to get home. He’s got a coffee maker to fix, a report to write, a bug to reassure, and a day to unpack.

-

It turns out fucking Deku’s been lording it over him.

That’s the only way he can rationalize it. The little fuck decided to save Katsuki from some disgusting sewer villain, as if he wasn’t perfectly fucking capable of saving himself.

(Katsuki knows that if Deku didn’t show up, he probably would have died. Fucking useless heroes, making the shitnerd do their job for them. They even had the fucking gall to scold him, as if he hadn’t done something they couldn’t.)

He runs after the green shithead and yells out to him.

"HEY DEKU, WHERE THE FUCK HAVE YOU BEEN?”

Deku whips around, looking fucking suprised that Katsuki has found him. And then the nerds face turns to irritation, and what the fuck?

“Kacchan, please watch your language.”

The fucking audacity-

“Fucking excuse me? Who the fuck do you think you are, you fucking-”

“Bakugou Katsuki!” And doesn’t that shut him up; Deku’s voice has never been sharp before, and he hasn’t called him by his full name, like, ever, what the fuck is going on? “You will watch your language, and you will speak politely around children.”

Children? Is Deku high? There aren’t any fucking children-

And then there’s a fucking waif of a kiddo standing behind Deku, peeking out from behind his legs with red-rimmed eyes.

Wait.

Red-rimmed eyes like she’d been crying, has he made her cry? Yeah, he’s fine with Deku’s tears, because Deku’s a punk ass shithead, but he’s not fine with making a little kid cry; he’s a bastard, not a fucking monster. Little kids have never done a single thing to him, so he stays off their shit.

He must look about as stricken as he feels, because Deku’s eyes soften with something that looks like pity is that nerd still looking down on-

“Hello, Kacchan. It’s nice to see you.”

Liar.

“Where the he-heck have you been, Deku?” Katsuki hates having to censor himself for this fucking nerd, but he gets that kids don’t need to hear most of shit he says.

“I’ve been working, Kacchan. Mom went to America, so I took over the shop.”

“What about school? You better not be planning to go to UA, because if you say you are I’ll put your a-butt in the ground!”

Deku, the shit, has the fucking gall to look unimpressed. Katsuki fumes, because who the hell does this nerd think he is? Nobody gets to look at him like that, like he’s lesser-

“Kacchan, I’m not seeking higher education. I graduated middle school, and I’m happy in the shop. And I have Eri to look after now,” Deku’s hand finds the little girls, “so I don’t need anything else. Thanks for saying hi, Kacchan. See you around.”

And then he turns around and walks away. And what the fuck can Katsuki do? Call out to him? No, because that would sound desperate. Punch him? He can’t do that in front of a kid. There's. Nothing that he can do.

Katsuki feels helpless for the second time this evening, and he hates it.

He watches Deku walk away, and he feels left behind, again.

(The only reason he wants to be a hero is because Deku was so excited about his quirk when it first manifested. The way Deku looked at him, like he was the best thing in the world, made him feel so good, made him feel like he could protect everyone and beat all the evil. Made him feel like he could be number one.)

“Fuck,” he whispers as angry, helpless tears form in his eyes. Ashamed, he rubs them away, but they don’t stop. And they don’t stop.

(“Kacchan,” Deku calls out. They’re kids still, and Deku is his best friend. They’re going to be heroes together.

“Yeah, Deku?” he calls back, grin spreading across his face at the idea of being a hero with his friend. His best friend.

“Let’s never fight, okay?”

Katsuki laughs. “Why would we ever fight? We can’t be partners if we fight, silly!”

Deku looks relieved, and he doesn’t really know why, but it makes him worried. “Okay. I have something to tell you, though. See, Mommy and I went to the doctor and-”

The grin slips off his face and Katsuki’s dreams crack, right down the middle.)