Izuku doesn't process that the door has opened until it's already sliding shut, and a figure in black is crossing the room towards him. Something deep in his mind registers that this isn't normal because there's no pageantry, no introduction to whatever is coming next. It's this change that makes him finally start with alarm, flinching back, limbs heavy and aching with cold and disuse. The figure is crouching in front of him now, and the cold grey light reveals the lines of his face.
Izuku is clutching out at his arm before he can fully process yes, recognition, safe. Aizawa stares, letting him grip. He's warm and real; really here?
Aizawa lets out a breath, and pulls a strange, misshapen key from his pocket. Gently, he moves Izuku's hand back so that he can use the key on the handcuffs. It glows slightly before shifting to fit the shape of the lock. Some distant part of his brain lights up because whoa, that's a cool quirk that it can be used by people other than the creator! A flood of panic follows because no, he shouldn't do that here, not here. That part of him can't exist in this place.
A clink as Aizawa moves the chains aside brings him back to reality. "Does anything hurt?" Aizawa says, very quiet, and how can he be here? He's helping Izuku to his feet and Izuku shakes his head, because everything hurts but not - not out of the ordinary. Not something worth paying attention to.
He tries to take a step and buckles, pain lancing up through his leg. "Okay," Aizawa says, catching him by the shoulders. He lifts Izuku up with ease, an arm under his shoulders and another under his knees. "We're getting out."
The compound is quiet. He hears Aizawa's breathing, his soft footsteps, distant creaking of metal. Some part of him thinks: this can't work. It thinks: someone comes into the room, one of the many villains here, and Aizawa's just one person and he's carrying a kid, and how can he have been here for so long and his teacher can just come and lift him out?
But no one comes, and Aizawa moves them through the quiet cold hallways until Izuku loses the specifics: just quiet, cold, footsteps, fear.
When he comes back, it's to cold night air on one side and Aizawa on the other. If anything, this makes the fear louder. They can't be out. It can't be this easy. And he can't stand that soon hands are going to drag him away from this person who he knows and who wants to take him home and who has never caused him pain.
He realises he’s shivering. Aizawa's hand squeezes his shoulder. "Not much longer."
Izuku drifts. When he comes back, he's crouched on the ground and Aizawa is next to him, frowning. "Kid," he says, quietly. "Do you know who I am?"
He thinks he blinks out for a second as he looks into his teacher’s worried eyes, and the frown deepens. "Aizawa," Izuku rasps, realising this is the first time he's spoken in days.
Aizawa nods, expression softening - relief? It's dark and Izuku can't think.
"Do you know where you are?"
"Out," he says, without thinking. "Out - out of there. Are we going home?"
Aizawa nods again, hand on his shoulder. "Any minute now," he glances upwards, and Izuku lets his eyes shut for a moment. He comes back to to the sound of helicopter blades and Aizawa's hand gripped tight on his shoulder. Izuku stares into the sky, uncomprehending. He looks to Aizawa with a silent question in his eyes. "It's okay," he says, something like rage in his eyes. "It's over. I'm taking you home."
Izuku's vision blurs, and it takes him a moment to realise there are tears in his eyes. He needs to not remember the last time he cried. He needs to stay here, in the present, where he's getting out.
“Good morning, little hero.” Shigaraki says, sliding the door open. “What are we going to talk about today?”
The helicopter lands and Aizawa guides him inside. Headphones are slipped over his ears to protect him from the noise of the machine, a foil blanket is wrapped around him, and a paramedic seems to be trying to ask him questions. A tiny hint of shame cuts through the fog as he cringes back, not knowing what to do with this other person who he doesn’t know and so isn’t safe or unsafe, isn’t captor or rescuer.
“I’m okay,” he says, to try and make them stop, even as he shivers and shuffles a little closer to Aizawa’s steady presence. “I don’t need anything.”
The paramedic nods kindly and steps back, and Izuku doesn’t know what to do, how he is supposed to feel all this. He was there and now he’s not. He was there and there was all there was, and now – he drifts. It’s better to drift. Better, and awful. Shouldn’t he want to be here? It’s over, Aizawa said it’s over. He doesn’t need to sleep anymore just to make the day stop. He doesn’t need to be scared to sleep because of what might happen tomorrow. So, he drifts.
Izuku doesn't realise they've landed at the hospital until someone pulls the headphones off. His ears ring a little as he's moved onto a gurney, across the helipad, into an elevator. Then he notices Aizawa isn't inside and he reaches out in senseless, wordless panic, an ache lancing out across his ribs and shoulders as he does so.
A second later, his teacher sweeps into the elevator. "My job for the night is to recover and guard him," he hears Aizawa say, bland but with a fierce undercurrent. "Anyone who wants to interfere with that can take it up with the police."
Izuku feels another small bloom of shame, but he looks around to where Aizawa is standing just to check, just to try and make it a little more real. Aizawa gives him a nod; in the harsh overhead light, Izuku can see that he looks unharmed and utterly exhausted. Izuku nods back, even as he ignores the doctors' questions.
“Morning, little hero,” Shigaraki says. He always says morning. Izuku doesn’t know what time it is. He doesn’t know how long he’s been here, how long it is between visits.
“Good morning, little hero,” Shigaraki says, and Izuku is so cold and so hungry he’s almost glad, for a second, that there’s something here to distract him.
“Good morning,” Shigaraki whispers, so close, as Izuku jerks awake. His hand lifts Izuku’s chin with four fingers, one hovering in the air. “I really think you’re going to understand soon.”
Grey light drifts in through the hospital window. The doctors have left. Aizawa hasn’t. He’s slumped in a chair in the corner a little way from Izuku’s bed, eyes shut but Izuku isn’t sure if he’s awake. Izuku isn’t sure if either of them are awake. It can’t be this easy-
He stretches his wrists, and the little flashes of pain don’t quite bring back a sense of reality, but they at least bring a sense of time. It occurs to him that he hasn’t used his quirk in – however long it’s been since he woke up in that room wearing those handcuffs. Too many fears swarm in his head, so many they form a kind of blanket of white noise, but one manages to rise to the surface: that One For All might just be gone now, shrivelled up inside its ninth, last holder.
Izuku takes a deep breath, and his ribs sting at him for it. “Full cowling,” he murmurs to himself, almost a prayer, and tries to activate his quirk.
He knows it’s worked because of the pain; the thrumming, rattling energy of One For All is a kind of movement even when he’s sitting still, and all movement comes with a cost now. He opens his eyes, gaze unsteady, to see bright static lacing up his scarred arms.
“Midoriya,” says a voice from the corner, half question and half warning. Not sleeping then. Izuku lets his quirk drop.
“Sorry,” he says. Aizawa’s gaze is level and, as ever, tired. Izuku hopes he slept at least a little. “I was just…checking I still could.”
Aizawa gives an almost imperceptible nod. Izuku is afraid of those eyes sliding shut again, more than he can really understand or admit to, so he searches for something else to say. “How long has it been?” he finds himself asking. “How long was I gone?”
Aizawa lets out a long, heavy breath before answering. “Twenty-seven days.” His voice is dark and carefully expressionless.
Izuku tries and fails to comprehend this. It seems simultaneously impossibly short and impossibly long. He thinks: twenty-eight days ago, none of this had happened to me.
“How – uh, how did you get me out?”
Aizawa shifts in his chair, sitting up. He recites the facts mechnically: “There were two teams involved. A distraction and an extraction team. The former kept most of the villains busy at another location. Midnight and several underground heroes with infiltration and stealth quirks swept the compound ahead of me, neutralizing any guards that remained. All I had to do was walk in and out.”
Izuku can’t quite process that many heroes, all focused on trying to help him. “Thank you,” he says quietly. His eyes and throat burn, but no tears fall.
Aizawa tenses, rubbing a hand across his forehead. “That plan came together in under 24 hours,” he says, quiet and bitter, and Izuku wonders if he meant to say it at all. “The rest…it was finding you. Finding where they were holding you. That’s what took so much time.”
Izuku doesn’t know why he keeps asking questions, because the answers just float in his head, refusing to connect to anything. He can barely seem to touch the world he’s in now, let alone one where he was rescued after only days or hours kept captive. So much time.
“Is everyone okay?” he asks instead. “The – the distraction team, and everyone at UA?”
If anything, this seems to make Aizawa more sombre, and Izuku feels a tiny flash of panic cut through the malaise. “No casualties. No injuries,” he answers gravely. “Just you.”
Shigaraki’s nails slide down his arm, sharp and savouringly slow. “Little hero, I just don’t understand you. I don’t understand why you won’t say it.”
“Why does it matter?” Izuku says, and he’s crying without even really noticing, misery a quiet and constant background noise. “Why do you care? Why can’t you just leave me alone?”
Shigaraki gives a chuckle, as though Izuku has made a feeble joke and Shigaraki is kind enough to humour him. “You know I can’t do that, little hero. I care about you. This world’s going to chew you up, you know? It’s going to turn you into little screaming pieces.”
His nails shear back up, zigzagging playfully this time. It’s nowhere near the most pain Izuku’s been in since he got here, since everything that made sense stopped being true, but he hates that he can’t make it stop. He hates that Shigaraki just keeps touching.
“This heroic dream of yours is going to crush you. But dreams can change, hm? If only you’d listen to me.” He sounds sad and mocking all at once.
“You’re wrong. You’re the one hurting me,” Izuku says, eyes flickering shut, knowing it won’t do any good.
“Well,” Shigaraki says, voice almost fond, with a perpetual undercurrent of amusement, “no one ever said change would be painless.”
All Might comes next, and Aizawa nods once to Izuku before leaving the room. Izuku can’t move. It’s – it’s really – there’s something in his throat, and it’s only when All Might’s gentle hand lands on Izuku’s shoulder that he realises he’s crying. He collapses, head in hands, and hates that it’s partly better as soon as he can’t see All Might, because – “Who is he? The guy’s already saved a hundred people at least and it hasn’t even been ten minutes!” “This is a good one, isn’t it, little hero? Did you think he would keep you safe?”
“-so glad you’re here. That you’re safe,” All Might’s voice rumbles, and Izuku just cries harder because he isn’t, he isn’t – god, what is he now? Not here, not anywhere. The scars on his arms itch.
All Might lays a gentle arm over his shoulder. “It’s all right,” he says. “Let it out. Just try to breathe.”
Izuku chokes, and when he comes back to the present All Might’s murmured comforts have an edge of panic to them, and the heart monitor is racing its alarm.
“My boy, what can I do?” his hero asks.
Izuku stutters a weak few syllables, tries again, again: “C-could…could you g-get-” He’s crying with his whole body and it hurts. “G-get Mr Aizawa to come back?”
All Might pauses, and Izuku hears him fumbling with his phone. A minute later, the door bursts open. “What happened? What’s wrong?”
Finally, Izuku looks up. His mentor pats his shoulder and leaves his side. “He’s upset. He’s asking for you. I think – I think I should go and speak with his doctors.”
Izuku hates his own relief. So many times he’d thought of All Might in that place, trying to kindle some tiny spark of hope within himself, as he did for so many quirkless, miserable years. How can it all be ruined? What kind of successor is he if villains have that much power over him?
The door clicks shut, and Izuku wipes tears from his face, breathing hard. Aizawa crosses the room slowly and sits on the end of his bed.
“S-sorry,” Izuku manages to choke out, because who is he to Aizawa, really? One kid out of twenty. One civilian to a pro hero who must have saved dozens, hundreds, even if he’s never been on the news because of it.
Aizawa sighs softly. “Kid, it’s been less than six hours. No one’s expecting you to be okay.”
Izuku breathes as deep as he can manage, determined to stop crying. He should at least be able to stop crying. “I want to be okay,” he says. “I want – nothing’s like it was before.”
“I know,” Aizawa says, so quiet it comes across as gentle. “I don’t want to tell you to wait – you waited enough already. But it’s going to take time.”
Izuku buries his face in his knees. His leg still hurts from where he tried to walk on it hours ago. Shigaraki didn’t even do anything to his legs – just locked him up and left him there, for twenty-seven days, and now he lives in a broken thing that aches and cries for all the wrong reasons. He’d cried his own hero out of the room.
“What can I do?” Aizawa asks. Izuku just shakes his head, because he already did it. He’s already been saved, so why does it still hurt so much? What did they bring back with him?
“Do you want to be alone?” Aizawa asks.
“N-never,” Izuku cries, raising his head and meeting Aizawa’s patient, worried frown. “Never again.”