Izuku’s phone rings in class. And again. A third time.
Then a series of texts come through, the screen lighting up and bathing Aizawa-sensei’s annoyed glare in high contrast as he stalks down the aisle to pick up the device with a curl of capture weapon.
“Midoriya, tell them to wait,” he chides, not wanting to read the messages and invade the kid's privacy to do so himself. And turning the phone off during work studies isn’t ideal, so hopefully this solution will work. But then Izuku takes the phone back and, even as he starts to type, another text comes through.
He throws his phone reflexively, shoulders hunching and expression oddly blank. Disturbingly so.
"Problem child, what the fuck." The hero tears his gaze from the shattered device that's literally embedded in the blackboard and instead looks down at the trembling student. There's anger in his expression, scarred fists clenched tight atop his desk. It's not a familiar look on him.
"He- I- why did he think he had any righ-" And there's anger here as well, the syllables trembling like an earthquake, nature taking its thoughtless revenge, and it's utterly furious. Unforgiving.
"No!" There are fountains of sparks pouring off the kid all of a sudden, a toxic supernova in the middle of the classroom, and Aizawa reflexively activates his own Quirk in return, shutting down the flaring power with a stern frown.
"Problem Child, no matter what has you so angry, you need to control your Quirk-"
"Sensei." The anger has evaporated within that single word, turning plaintive, shaky with something more like fear rather than rage, and it's just as wrong in all the different sort of ways.
Because Aizawa has seen this kid face villains and kidnappers and serial killers with a determined grin, has seen him protect a little girl with an uncontrolled power by literally breaking his bones over and over again, and during none of that has the hero seen actual fear from this kid. Not like this.
"Kid, let's go. You can tell me about whatever this is and we'll get it sorted, understood?" He isn't entirely sure where the offer comes from, because usually a student lashing out like this would warrant them being sent to Hound Dog or Recovery Girl to talk it through and calm down, before talking to him after school and likely arranging a detention. This, though... There's something different about it, and he wouldn't be an underground hero if he couldn't tell. Or at least not an alive one.
"Kid, you can at least explain why you felt so out of control, alright? Now get out, I'll join you in a second." He jerks his thumb over his shoulder to emphasise the point, and steps aside so that the greenette can slip out of his seat and scurry up the aisle, his classmates' gazes heavy on his back. Just as the teacher starts to follow, already mentally cataloguing where the lesson's been interrupted and who might be free to take over this period.
Of course, because this is a class of absolute hellspawn, the kid doesn't even get to the end of the aisle before he's stopped by a low question:
"Oi, D- nerd, is it him?" There's something in that, almost worried beneath the usual anger, which is more than a little bit concerning.
"What's it to you, Bakugou?" But the reply is venomous, vitriolic, and half the class flinch, because there's something very, very wrong here. The lack of nickname, the tone, and the outright dismissal, Midoriya not even turning around to look at the blond, are a vicious combination.
"I don't fuckin' like him either, shitty nerd, don't-"
"You only care because he hurt her. Don't pretend that it matters. That I matter." Aizawa is scowling furiously now, more than worried because none of the connotations behind this are the slightest bit positive, and sees fit to interrupt,
"Right, kid, out. I'll be with you in a second. Bakugou, leave him alone. If you need to talk to someone about anything then pass it on to a teacher or Hound Dog, rather than bothering a distressed classmate about it." There's a request hidden in that, tucked below the reprimand, because if Bakugou knows something about this that Problem Child won't want to share but that might be important all the same, then Aizawa wants the brat to tell someone responsible. Anything that might help Midoriya.
"Class, keep your gossip-mouths shut, and wait quietly for your cover. Do not go snooping. Got that, hellspawn?" He doesn't have to try to put the gravity into his tone, it comes more than naturally this time, and thankfully the kids nod and quietly agree, several gazes flicking to the smashed phone still stuck in the blackboard, or the door that has slid shut behind their friend.
Moments later, after carefully pulling the remains of the kid's mobile from the wall and floor, pooling them in a few loops of capture weapon, the hero also slips through the classroom door. He's more than a little relieved to spot Midoriya actually waiting for him. He's less relieved though, to find that the kid is curled halfway down the corridor, back pressed to an empty stretch of wall, and that his chest is moving too erratically. Dammit, looks like the beginning of a panic attack.
"Hey, Midori-" There's an uptick in the kid's breathing, too-wide eyes flickering up to the hero with a sick sort of terror, and recognising what had triggered the Quirk-activation in the classroom, Aizawa is quick to change tack,
"Kiddo, I need you to help me, okay? Can you see my chest moving? That's it, try to follow my breathing for yourself. There we go. In, two, three, four; hold, two, three, four; out, two..." He keeps his breathing exaggerated, his chest rising heavily but smoothly, and he holds out his hands, palms-up and steady, and waits to see if Midor- Izuku will take the unspoken offer.
It takes several minutes, but, thank Kami, it works.
Eventually, the kid's breathing calms down, settling into a far more reliable rhythm, and it's with a single, shaking hand that he reaches out in return. Fingertips brush against Aizawa's, slide down to the base of his fingers, then his palm, before finally letting their full weight, all scars and crooked bones, bitten nails and writer's bump, rest atop the hero's hand. Hesitantly, the man curls just his thumb, starting to brush a delicate touch along the side of Izuku's palm, soothing and repetitive and a simple sort of affection.
Good. Aizawa had very much not liked having to watch his Problem Child be so genuinely scared. Seeing the kid calmer again, if clearly not content, is a distinct relief.
"Whenever you feel up to it, we can go somewhere more private, alright kiddo?" His tone is probably only so gentle, coaxing and kitten-belly soft, because of said relief, but that's okay. The kid seems to be responding to it well, pressing his fingers against the hero's calluses before oh-so hesitantly shifting to move closer, coming away from the wall a little.
"C-can we g-g-g-" The words fall apart under the weight of the teen's lingering fears, and Aizawa doesn't falter before reaching up with his free hand to carefully brush away some of the curly fringe that has fallen into Izuku's eyes. Miraculously the kid doesn't flinch away.
Actually, he leans into the touch, eyes fluttering closed as he tilts into the brief almost-affection. (Okay, it definitely is affection, but neither of them will admit that just yet. Not right now.)
"Let's go then, kid. You want to walk, or I can carry you?" It's not an offer made out of pity, and luckily the kid seems to be able to tell because his eyes don't flood with that toxicity again. No, they soften even further, and it's with a trembling lip that he retracts his hand from Aizawa's and attempts to push to his feet. Key word being attempts, because within two shuddering breaths, Izuku's knees give way, and the hero awkwardly shifts out of his crouch to catch the kid, silently cursing how abruptly supporting the teen's weight has his own knees crashing to the floor. He's to old for this.
"Easy there, gentle on yourself." And without hesitation, Aizawa scoops up the kid entirely, cradling him to his chest as the man stands up himself, keeping Izuku close and secure, silently marvelling at how heavy the kid is for his actual size.
The hero doesn't miss how, after he turns the first corner, when his hold on the teen is still strong, still steady, some part of Izuku finally relaxes, head lolling to rest fully against Aizawa's shoulder. What he does miss though, hidden by shadowed fringe, is how a single tear escapes the greenette, how he bites his lip viciously, and how his mind is whirling with the thought that nobody - not one single person - has held him like this in years. Or really since he can remember. Sure, his Mum hugs him, but there's been a distance between them for a long time, widening with every instance where Izuku gets hurt, and it's not the same as someone completely supporting him. As an adult carrying him for practically no reason at all. The thought of it alone almost hurts, a vicious ache that claws between his ribs, because this- this care and attention and love (but not that, because he shouldn't think about his teacher like that, it's not fair, not right, his teacher deserves better-) shouldn't feel so warm and soft and calming (it should be burning, shouldn't it?) and he really shouldn't be letting himself revel in it so much.
Yet Izuku still can't help but relax into his teacher's hold.
The teen zones out as they walk, sinking into the quiet part of his mind that takes over sometimes, and finds a quiet, idle sort of contentment there. He can push away the awful real world (the idea of his father forcing a way back into his life, of having to burn every day again-) and simply float amongst clouds that smell of coffee and cats and... maybe citrus? It's pleasant, in a very normal person sort of way. It smells like what Izuku imagines a true home might do.
Eventually though, after what feels like an aeon of swaying through nothing, content and calm, the mental distance a blessing, his teacher comes to a stop, shifts, and then only goes on for another few paces. The sound of a familiar voice pierces the greenette's daze more than the pauses, and he blinks up at Aizawa, tilting his head back so that his fringe falls away and he can look at the man properly, trying to force away the static-clouds that have descended through him.
"-ey, kiddo, I-ku, you with me?" He hums, the affirming noise wavering a bit, to be rewarded with a distinct not-scowl from the man that's looking down at him, still keeping Izuku comfortably cradled to his chest.
"Good. Are you alright with me putting you down? The sofa in here is decently comfortable, speaking from experience. Doesn't even give me backpain." The teen snickers a little at that, slightly caught off-guard, yet he can't help but pause before agreeing, wanting to prolong this just a little bit longer. (Warmth like this is so very rare; normally he is stuck with the extremes, with the burn of fire or the chill of loneliness, and he can't begrudge either, however in comparison... in comparison, this feels safe and kind and oh-so warm. He doesn't want it to leave him.)
But he pulls himself away from that, because he knows that he doesn't deserve to steal his hero's warmth, not when he laments over burns, and instead Izuku forces himself to nod in delayed reply to Aizawa's question.
"Right then, let's get you settled. Are you feeling better in general, now?" The question isn't soft, per se, but it's low and coaxing, far from pushy or demanding, and that fact keeps Izuku more or less relaxed as he gets deposited onto the sofa in an almost-hidden corner of the faculty room, sinking into the cushions as the man's arms slip away. Losing their strength has something inside of Izuku wilting, shrinking away, but he pushes that away, forces it down, and instead manages to offer a shaky reply, twisting his scarred fingers into his uniform shirt, gaze focused on his knees because he can't look up at the man, not without something inside of him shattering.
"Y-yes, thann-ank you." Dammit, he didn't meant to stutter so much, he really should know better-
"Good." Aizawa doesn't even seem to think twice about his messy syllables, catching and tripping though they might have been,
"You've got a few options for what we do right now, though, and it's completely up to you, understood?" The hero waits for Izuku to nod, then he levers up from his crouch and pulls one of the desk chairs over from the main part of the room, sitting on it backwards, folding his arms across the back. His posture is relaxed, casual. And he waits patiently, not trying to push the conversation until he's sure that the kid is actually breathing steadily and paying enough attention.
"If you feel comfortable and ready, then you can tell me what triggered all of that, and we can make a plan for dealing with it from there. You could tell me a little about it, then we can do something based off of that. If you're not ready to say anything, then you can stay here or go back to class, whatever you need more, and give yourself some time before we try and work something out." He pauses again, faltering but without anything like anger or frustration in it, before continuing,
"All of those options are completely fine and up to you. However, if anyone is in immediate danger, then I do need to know regardless."
Logically, Izuku can see the sense behind that, and he appreciates that his teacher is such a good hero even in the same moment that he tries to decide if he can say anything. If he can bear to utter even one word.
And maybe it makes him weak, or stupid or childish or useless, but he's genuinely unsure if he can scrape a single word out of his throat about this. Not when he's so exhausted, inside and out, his scars itching and tugging, worms under his skin that squirm and bite, and he- he just can't-
"Oi, hey, Izuku, kiddo, can you focus on me for a second? It's Aizawa-sensei, you-"
"'raser'ead?" The use of his hero name does surprise him some, but the man ignores that in favour of nodding, already replying,
"That's it. You're safe, nothing has to happen, you're at UA and nobody's hurt. Everything's alright, kid, understood? You're safe." It helps. Miraculously so, it genuinely does help, and Izuku buries his face in his hands, drawing in wounded, juddering breaths, deep and just enough to keep him present. A hero he trusts is here, an adult that has already protected him and his classmates time and again, so he must be alright. He must be.
"Don't be, kid, you're fine. It's all fine." There's a hand in his curls, scratching gently at his scalp, and none of it tugs or yanks, none of it hurts, and it helps just as much as the words themselves are.
"Of course. It's my job, kid, and I want to look after you hellions, understood? No matter the headaches." The emphasis of those two combined is inevitably reassuring, so Izuku leans into the touch as silent acknowledgement, tacit gratitude, and gets another soft expression in return, Aizawa leaning heavily over the back of his chair, arm outstretched.
It's a good while later when the man retracts the affection, looking Izuku over for a minute before quietly speaking,
"Kid, I need to go and get some papers, then drop your phone off with Nedzu. I won't be more than fifteen minutes, alright? Do you need anything?" The kid immediately tenses, something shadowing over his eyes, and he doesn't reach out, doesn't ask for anything, but the hero is more than aware that something has just gone wrong, that some part of what he's just said has distressed Izuku.
"Hey, wait, don't freak out, kiddo. What is it that's bothering you?" He gets off of his chair to crouch before the greenette once more, looking up to meet the kid's eyes, and when he tries to look away, Aizawa waits, content once Izuku oh-so briefly meets his gaze, those green eyes quickly finding his with a clear hesitance, yet the beginnings of something like trust there, and that half a second is enough for the hero to offer a pleased not-scowl.
"Thank you. I know that took a lot of courage. So, is there anything I can do to help you right now, kiddo? You can ask for absolutely anything, alright, and I won't judge, I swear." He carefully doesn't use the word promise because he knows from bitter experience, both personal and second-hand, that promises are all-too often made to be broken. Particularly from adults. Better to swear it, because that so rarely has the same negative connotations behind it.
"W-will you really come back? A-a-and not, a-and..." His voice wavers, creaking like rotten wood before giving way, even as Izuku curls back into himself, retreating from the hero. Defensive.
"Okay, how about I give you a little mission? It shouldn't take too much energy, but it's very much important, although if you're not happy to do it then it won't be an issue." The kid doesn't open his mouth to reply, but his eyes gleam with curiosity, tilting his head like a kitten, and damn, that's cute. Really cute. Plus, it's also a blatant invitation, so the hero obliges without hesitation,
"I'd like you to look after my capture weapon for me. I have a spare at home, but it's still very important to me." That hopefully gives the right combination of gravity and inconsequence that shouldn't pressure the kid too much.
Judging by how the line of Izuku's shoulders slumps some, eyes glimmering, it must have worked, and the hero couldn't really be more grateful for it. It's good to see some light to the teen again.
"Is that a yes?" Izuku nods, hesitant for a moment before it becomes more eager, fingers twitching, and Aizawa can't help the beginnings of a Cheshire grin that creeps in, slightly softer than usual, because he thought the kid might be interested in his support gear regardless of any comforting possibilities. Without further prompting, the hero quickly bunches up his capture weapon, shoving it over his own head before pausing, giving Izuku time to be fully aware of what the man is doing, before Aizawa starts to loop it around the kid's neck and shoulders. He's careful not to let any of it press right up against Izuku's neck because, at this point, he dreads triggering the kid physically on top of whatever stress he's clearly already under, and he doesn't know what might be a trigger, beyond, apparently, the kid's last name. And distressing him would be bad enough in a normal situation. Let alone now, when Izuku's clearly emotionally and physically drained already, a picture of trembling fingers and hazy eyes.
But then those fingers are burying themselves into fabric-alloy, uncertain breaths steadying in amongst off-white coils, and the greenette simply sinks back into the sofa, his whole demeanour changing, relaxing. It's an absolute relief for Aizawa, to say the least. The kid more than deserves to find comfort in something, and if that's his capture weapon then so be it. (It's adorable, not that he'd ever say it; the way the kid's messing with one end of the thing reminds the hero of a kitten with yarn, and damn if he isn't weak for kids and cats, let alone one that resembles the other.)
"Right, I need you to look after that for me, and I'll be back soon for you both. Is there anything you need or want?" The kid immediately shakes his head, tucking his nose even further into the wonderful soft-rough-worn safety, inhaling deeply even as Aizawa nods, briefly pats Izuku's head, then stands straight once again and walking calmly away. If, once he's out of the faculty room, he changes his long-strided amble to a rather hasty powerwalk, then it's only he and Nedzu's business.
The hero makes quick work of dropping off the remains of Izuku's phone with the principal, offering a clipped explanation of the little he already knows, and that he would ask for the other Heroics course teachers to restrict their time in the faculty room for now, to which Nedzu acquiesces, paws already rapidly typing out an email to warn the others away, if perhaps only up to a point. Whatever it takes to help the Problem Child. If that also includes collecting a pile of papers that might happen to heavily restrict Izuku's visitors and weekend leaving rights on a temporary, albeit undefined, basis, then it's only a logical response to an unknown issue and therefore a potential threat.
"Hey, kiddo, it's Aizawa-sensei. Eraserhead," he calls as he comes back into the faculty room, door slipping shut behind him, and he quickly approaches the sofa that the greenette is curled on. Izuku's knees have remained drawn loosely up to his chest, but he still looks fairly complacent, content, and what really catches the hero's attention is that Izuku is using his capture weapon.
Well, arguably 'use' is a fairly strong term, because there's a DNA-recognition component to the support gear which is what allows for the sheer flexibility and versatility of his capture weapon, that allows for his precise and fluid use of the fabric-alloy, but the kid is genuinely using it as best as could be possible without that DNA-recognition, flicking his wrist with his fingers angled and extended just right for a strand that he had looped around his forearm to shoot out, wrap loosely around an empty pencil pot, and then tighten when he jerks his arm back, bringing the pot flying into his hand. It's something that took a teenage Aizawa a good week or so to get the hang of, as one of the very first things he ever learned, so for his Problem Child to have seemingly perfected it within fifteen minutes... It's remarkable, to say the least. Or absolutely astounding, if someone were more inclined to be easily impressed than Aizawa is.
"Sensei!" he yelps, and his lapse in concentration, not to mention how he physically jerks in place, has the pencil pot clattering to the floor, and the full-body flinch is exactly that. A flinch. The sort that comes from fear as much as shock, if not more.
"That was pretty impressive, kiddo. Not bad at all." It's a serious compliment, one that he actually means, and he hopes that it comes across as such, because of course the kid deserves both to have something nice said to him, alongside the fact that it might relax the teen a bit. Or not, judging by how Izuku flushes bright red (which looks an awful lot like a strawberry - and, no, strawberries aren't his favourite fruit, shut up) and scrambles to wobbly feet. His eyes are wide and oversaturated, something glassy overlaying the green, and Aizawa is quick to bend his knees a bit, lowering his posture just enough to seem safer, less chance of being a threat, and pitches his voice even gentler.
"You can chill out, kid, it was a compliment. Remind me, when your class gets around to weapons training at the beginning of second year, to shove my old training capture weapon at you, if you're still interested then. You're decent with it. Even if it doesn't become a main part of your costume, or if you just want the back-up, it'll do you some good." Green eyebrows are high, even as he stays curled into himself,
"O-oh! Uhm, really, are y-you sure?"
"Lying would be illogical," is Aizawa's simple response, as much a dismissal as an acknowledgement, and the kid knows him well enough to see right through that, for better or worse.
"However, the choice will be up to you at the time. Don't fret over it now. Instead, I'd like you to look over this form for me, and see if you have any reason for me not to fill it out." With that, the hero shoves the papers at the kid, knowing that Izuku is at least a quick reader, so it'll only be any rising nerves that might delay the kid's response. Then he remembers something else.
"Oh, and good job on the mission. You can keep it on you for the time being though, it's too much effort to take it back right now." They both know that Aizawa is being absolutely transparent in that moment, yet it only earns a little crooked smile, very much grateful, from the kid, and that makes the offer, blatant or not, all the more worth it.
Just as expected, it doesn't take long for the kid to have read through the few pages of documents, and with every other paragraph he shifts on the sofa, inching along to be that tiny bit closer to the hero, who has brought over a short stack of essays to start marking, giving the kid some facsimile of privacy and thinking space.
"S-Sensei, you don't h-have to- This is-" The words are crumbling and caving, wary, despite the undertone of something bright, all gold found beneath lead and coal, and Aizawa latches onto that glinting edge beneath the fear, and presses on,
"Izuku, kid, can I be utterly frank with you? Even beyond what I would usually be?" The greenette falters, the edges of the papers crinkling in his scarred grip, but he nods all the same.
"You're scared, and that's alright because there's clearly a reason for it, and I want to keep you safe. If this might help, then it's going to happen." It's honest. Harsher and softer than intended, all at once, and the hero's relieved that whilst Izuku seems upset, he definitely isn't panicking again yet.
"I- Y-you're not wrong, b-b-but ss-still-"
"Kid, you deserve to both feel and actually be safe. Will this help?"
"P-probably, b-but I'm not w-worth..." He trails off, words apparently failing him as he tucks further into himself, half his face disappearing in amongst the loops of capture weapon still gathered around his shoulders, and under almost any other circumstances it would be adorable. Instead, it's only worrying. Particularly as something else is sinking in for the hero. Maybe he should've expected this, given the kid's painfully low self-esteem, how prone he is to nervous habits and fading into the background regardless of his blatant strength and determination, but it doesn't stop the realisation aching in the man's chest.
"Kid, you know that you matter, right? You're important to a lot of people. And you deserve, both for your sake and theirs, to be safe." Oddly enough, the kid's spine straightens there, eyes steeling over with a silver light, cold and fierce and biting,
"I matter because of who I am now, n-not because of who I a-actually am. It's different." And Izuku knows that it's different. He knows it down to his static-chilled marrow and he knows it because what everyone at UA sees of him has been him since meeting All Might. Since finding a Quirk and a spine and a place in the world that isn't being a punching bag.
See, Izuku learnt, as a child, that love burns. His Papa loved him and Mama, and the flames that leapt from his mouth as readily as praise (even before the diagnosis, before the revelation of complete uselessness sunk in, before it scarred-) were surely good things, kind things, even if they singed at childhood-chubby hips and hands. The anger came from concern, the praise from pride. (Never from baseless rage nor insidious manipulation, no, of course not, Papa loved him, it was all good, all love-) And then Kaachan, his best friend and almost-brother, manifested his Quirk and it was just as fiery as Papa’s, even if they showed it off very differently. They even burnt in the same way. After all, Izuku bears the scars of both and only looking at some of them has char-bitter caramel hitting the back of his throat like bile. (The rest have his eyes stinging with smoke, tongue thick with unspoken pleas for Papa to stop, please, it bur-)
It's no wonder, from all this, that Izuku has lived and loved and learnt the bite of flames. He knows that clutching on to the love of your most precious people has your fingertips blackening, numb, red and pink twisting freckles until they melt, and he knows that letting go isn’t an option.
So Izuku has always held on, taken every breath and blast, and hoarded the hurt inside himself, behind smiles and rambles and nicknames because this is what it means to be loved. (He has begun to learn, at UA, with a mentor and friends and teachers that all care, that are present and aware and maybe they don't see all of him, but what they do see doesn't get burnt by their breaths or blasts or words, that there can be more to love, that maybe it doesn't truly have to hurt. But re-learning fifteen years of life takes more than mere months. Re-learning that maybe pain isn't the norm... well, that in itself hurts. Almost moreso than he can bear.)
"Izuku, kid, listen to me for a moment." The words pull Izuku back into himself again, and he glances up to find an incredibly serious expression on his hero's face, something that should perhaps be severe but instead is earnest, a distinct warmth to the planes of it. The greenette can't help but pay full attention.
"You have always been worthy of safety and care, understood? No matter what your life was like, what you were like or are like now, that won't have made you undeserving of such things." There's a few breaths of awful tension, of Izuku clearly hesitating, something in his eyes fracturing even as it stitches together, and Aizawa waits, giving him the time he needs,
"Even if I'm- if I was Quirkless?" And oh, damn, what a loaded question that is. Good thing the answer is so simple:
"No difference at all, kiddo. None. Even more so when I look at everything I know about you, because you are one amazing kid, understood? You shouldn't be scared or in danger. Never."
This meeting was never meant to get so soft, so open-hearted and loose-lipped, likely on either of their parts, but Aizawa can't help it. Not when his Problem Child has been falling apart in front of him in a dozen different ways over the last hour or two. The kid clearly needs something. And if it's the hero being genuine and heartfelt with him, then it's a sacrifice worth making.
Even more so when it has a compact teenager throwing themselves into his lap, strong arms curling around Aizawa's waist, a face burying in his shoulder, and shuddering breaths muffled in his jumpsuit. Poor kid.
It's a long time later, when there are some other teachers working silently at their desks in the main part of the room, and Aizawa has had the now-sleeping kid in his lap long enough for his legs to have very much died, when he gets a visitor in the form of Nedzu, the creature dropping down from one of the ceiling vents in his customary manner. Only Yagi jumps a bit, blood dribbling down his chin. It's enough to make Aizawa shove down the urge to snort, not wanting to disturb the boy plastered into his chest.
"Hello again, Shouta-kun. How is the child doing?" The quietly-spoken words are a simple politeness on the surface, as is typically the case with Nedzu, but there's an underlying edge to it, something that isn't concern per se, yet protective might just be appropriate. Aizawa can relate.
"Not the best. Cried himself to sleep when I told him that he was worth feeling safe. That he matters."
"Ah, yes, I see." White paws tap together briefly, not quite a clap, and he goes on,
"Perhaps the contents of his messages will be revealing. I've been able to recover the memory card and check its functionality, however I refrained from reading anything just yet. I thought your opinion on the matter might be appropriate?" The underground hero wouldn't deny being grateful for that option, because he'd rather get Izuku to speak of it first, or to at least get the kid's permission to look through his phone themselves, rather than taking liberties.
And, regardless, there is some measure of information that they can already share:
"The messages, or who sent them, were clearly the trigger for all of this. But it's revealed a lot of underlying issues, seemingly far worse than I'd previously theorised, and he agreed that the form might well help."
"So it's an off-campus issue." Those words, in and of themselves, should arguably have Aizawa bristling, but he knows Nedzu, and he knows that the creature is more than willing to interfere in matters beyond UA's great walls if it ensures even a single child's safety.
"Most likely. But, Bakugou knew something about it, and another girl - or woman - is or has been involved. It was implied, by Izuku, that both he and the girl have been hurt by someone previously."
"And it seems likely that the person messaging Midoriya-kun is the offending party?" The man shrugs carefully, trying not to wake the Problem Child up,
"Very well. We're probably looking at a teacher, neighbour or family member then." And it's that last point that reminds Aizawa of something, eyes narrowing as his arms subconsciously tighten around the kid somewhat,
"Calling him Midoriya triggered him."
"Ah." Neither of them say any more at that point, because they're both all too aware of the likely implications, so it's at that point that Nedzu takes the completed forms, nods to the underground hero, and takes his leave.
It's at this point that Yagi peers over, looking as though he wants to come and talk to Aizawa as well, but he's more than aware of how the blond's voice carries irrelevant of form, and that he is likely to try and at least pat the kid's hair, and any combination of the above will probably wake said kid up. So, instead, Aizawa glares fiercely at Yagi, eyes flaring red, and is viciously satisfied when the limelight hero re-takes his seat, cowed.
For now, he just wants Izuku to rest and recuperate. Everything else can be dealt with later.
"Se'sei?" The slurred murmur interrupts the quiet of the faculty room, and Aizawa immediately puts his phone down, uncaring of the half-written email he'd been busy with, and settles his now-free hand in amongst thick curls, gentle and grounding.
"Hey," he grunts, not quite gruff although definitely not soft either. The greenette doesn't even flinch though, only tilting his head back from where it's been buried in both his teacher's shoulder and capture weapon. There's a little bit of dried drool smeared on his chin, and his eyelashes are low and heavy with lingering fatigue, but it's honestly just kind of adorable.
After a few moments though, the kid blinking idly up at him, something seems to register with Izuku and he yelps, throwing himself backwards and off of the hero's lap.
"Oi, chill out Probl-" Aizawa cuts himself off, because he hasn't had a chance to ask if the kid is actually alright with the nickname, his hands caught around Izuku's elbows to stop the kid from landing painfully on the floor. It's easy, from there, to twist and carefully deposit the teen on the sofa beside him. The vivid blush on Izuku's face is honestly pretty sweet, but the hero doesn't call him out on looking like a strawberry right now. Instead, he makes sure that the kid doesn't look hurt or anything, and decides to focus on a small issue before moving onto anything bigger. Hopefully dealing with the little things together will help cement at least some trust and faith between them; it might make contending with possible abuse a bit easier.
"That's a point, kid, are you actually comfortable with being called Problem Child? It's not intended to be cruel, or to single you out in a negative way, but if it comes across like that then it's still an issue. I won't be offended either way." It's a bit more open, a bit more verbose, than he would usually want to be, but Aizawa is more than aware that he needs to be transparent right now. Reassuring. So if that means being more talkative than usual, then so be it.
"I-" The teen almost flinches, hesitating visibly, and Aizawa is happy enough to give him the time to put together his thoughts or work the words out or whatever it is.
"I think it's okay?" Well, not as definite an answer as would be ideal, but Aizawa can work with it,
"That's fine. If you end up uncomfortable with it, let me know, understood?" Izuku's nod is verging on confident, his posture loosening a bit, nose less firmly buried in the man's capture weapon, and Aizawa finds himself reassured by that. It's good to see the kid relaxing with him.
"Good. Before we do anything else, do you want anything to eat or drink? It's nearly lunchtime."
"N-no." The hero has to frown a bit then, because the kid's been exhausted and he should at least want a drink.
"Alright. I'm going to get some coffee quickly though." He doesn't miss that Izuku perks up a little at the mention of coffee. However he ignores it, instead focusing on giving the Problem Child some room to properly wake up and, for himself, inhaling the scent of fresh coffee. Thank Kami that Nedzu at least bothers to spend a decent amount on getting the faculty office proper coffee.
Of course, when he comes back to their little corner a few minutes later, it's cradling his coffee, admittedly full of sugar and milk because he likes the energy hit, alright? (He might just also like sweet things, which is probably why his favourite nutrient pouches are the fruit ones, or why his favourite snack is strawberry shortcake, but he doesn't let most people know that because it hardly fits his reputation, now does it?)
But then the kid, after Aizawa takes his first few sips, looks up at him with wide eyes and a slight pout. The glossy shine of said eyes, green like leaves under sunlight, a dew-speckled canopy, is endearing and very much pleading.
And by pleading, he means absolutely begging for, presumably, some of his coffee. And Aizawa is so very weak.
"Kid, you don't need coffee. Are you even old enough to drink coffee?"
"Sensei, I always drink coffee!" the teen protests, that pout lingering.
"Your mother lets you?" He almost regrets bringing up a member of the kid's family, but it's a 'he' that's been triggering Izuku, and it's too late now. Luckily though, he doesn't seem too bothered, only pouting a bit,
"She doesn't mind! Well, uhm, she doesn't actually know, but she n-never actually told me that I can't, and I drink it all the time anyway!" Sighing, Aizawa offers a small smile to the teen, rolling his eyes, and proffers his mug. Absolutely beaming in return, Izuku eagerly accepts the drink, curling his scarred fingers around it, and his eyelids flutter shut as he brings the mug up and starts to sip.
He almost chokes, nearly spitting it out, within a mouthful.
Aizawa hurriedly reaches out, taking back the mug so that the greenette doesn't spill it all over himself, and patting the kid's shoulder as he tries not to choke, caught between worry and amusement. Maybe he should have expected that.
"I thought you said you drink coffee, Problem Child."
"I- I do! B-but not with all that stuff in it!" Oh. Well now the hero is trying not to flush in his own embarrassment, because of course his class' cinnamon roll drinks black coffee and nearly dies when it has a bunch of sugar and milk in it.
"I would apologise, but you literally asked for some." His tone is more bemused than teasing, and he gets a cute little frown in return.
"Ss-still..." It trails off into a little moue of disappointment, and Aizawa ruffles his hair.
"Maybe we'll get you a cup when I have my second," he bargains, and is pleased to find the near-pout morph into something far more cheerful.
He hates that he has to ruin it with a more serious topic. It's a damn shame, really, but at least the kid's had a happier, more relaxed moment first, just as he'd hoped.
"Not to dampen the mood, kid, but can I ask you a loaded question? Or two, rather." After a few seconds, Izuku blinks slowly at him, hints of his throat working beneath the safety of his borrowed capture weapon and fingers twitching in a nervous staccato beat before he stutters a quiet affirmative.
"Who messaged you, and why did it upset you?" He tries to keep his tone... not light, but something as far from accusing or annoyed as possible, instead more in the realm of coaxing. It has the same sense as when he offers food to a stray cat, trying to make himself seem safe and unobtrusive.
Something in it must work, because the teen takes several deep breaths, wounded and jagged, before hesitantly reaching a trembling hand out, palm-up. Aizawa doesn't even think before he reaches out in return, clasping the freckled hand between his own, one thumb circling over Izuku's knuckles, steady and soothing. If it also happens to mimic a breathing pattern, then that's only a bonus.
"H-he... his name's His-Hisashi and his Quirk is-is fire breathing. I h-have... eight s-scars from h-him." The teacher can't help but tense up at that, shoving his boiling anger down into a molten ball in his gut, leaden and sickening, because scaring Izuku is not what he wants to do right now, and instead keeps up his thumb-circling, trying to keep his expression blank and non-committal. Being deadpan, much like being silent, can work wonders to encourage other people to talk.
"He... he's a-also my fath- my fa-" Izuku's voice cracks and creaks, wavers with something like abject fear, the utter terror that belongs to days of childhood hurt, of not knowing what he's done wrong but surely he must have done something to earn whatever pain he's gone through, and hearing that distress in his kid's voice is more than awful.
That's probably why Aizawa leans forward, unlacing their hands to instead open his arms in clear invitation, and after a long painful moment of those petrified eyes staring at him, so very hesitant and unsure, waiting for some sign of intentions, finally Izuku tips forward, sinking into the hero's hold.
The kid doesn't cry, not even dry sobs or silent tears, and instead ends up eerily still in Aizawa's embrace, breathing heavily into a capture weapon-muffled shoulder, not a single word or noise made. Unsure quite how to approach a suddenly barely-emotional Problem Child, the man instead keeps him close, making sure his grip isn't too tight or restrictive, and transfers his earlier breathing pattern circles to a large sweeping rub over the kid's back, rocking them both slightly from side to side in time with the movement. Hopefully the rhythmic sensations are helping to ground the teen, because Aizawa frankly has no idea what else to do. Not when Izuku's like this.
It takes a long time, but the kid comes out of it. Admittedly, it's an incremental process, one found first in the occasional whimper and then a returning grip, scarred fingers twisting and twitching into the back of Aizawa's jumpsuit, but it's a return to awareness all the same, and the hero couldn't be more grateful for it. Having the kid so mentally gone, and almost completely limp and reactionless against him, had been scary in a way that he wasn't expecting.
However, now that he does have the teen back with him, the hero takes the chance to speak to him once more,
"Thank you for telling me that, kid. Genuinely. We'll be able to keep you safer now, and that's important. You're important," the hero pauses, makes sure that the kid has registered his words, only indicated by a tensing of his shoulders, before Aizawa goes on,
"Is there anything else we need to know right now?" Izuku almost visibly pauses, still in the teacher's embrace, and ends up tucking his face even further into Aizawa's neck, dry eyes pressed against his pulse point, and heaves in several shuddering breaths, noisy and awkward but not the beginnings of a panic attack at least. The teacher will take it right now.
"Ink- My m-mother, h-he used to h-h-hurt both-" The words are messy and muffled, but the hero understands every single one, and he takes over when the kid falters,
"Both of you?" There's a nod against his neck, and he keeps up the soothing circles he's been working over the kid's spine.
"Alright. And do you want us to bring her to UA? She could stay in the teacher's dorms or something." And contrary to what Aizawa was expecting, there isn't an immediate response, nor even an involuntary one. No, the kid stays still and silent. Stiff.
"Problem Child?" He doesn't intend for his voice to be so very soft, but it is all the same, and he can't begrudge it. Not when it has the teen seeming to rouse once more, and shrugging after a long pause.
"Is that a no, or you don't know?"
"Dunno. She- she needs to be s-s-safe, but..." And oh, he does not like the connotations of this.
"But you don't want her here specifically?" That, at least, gets a nod, and the hero is beginning to put a picture together here, he thinks. Or maybe the impression of one.
"Nedzu has access to lots of safehouses, some police-affiliated, some not. He'll know where best to get her away and safe." The combination of relief and something almost bitter isn't exactly typical, but it is more-or-less expected, so Aizawa disregards it and instead goes on,
"Anything else, kiddo? No... Alright then, one last question before you can rest some more or have some coffee or whatever, understood?"
He gets a nod, and he wishes that he could see Izuku's eyes and expression, get a better assessment of where the teen's really at, of how he's doing, because this is some ridiculously heavy stuff they're digging up just from some stupid text messages. But, well, they're not stupid, not at all. Not when they have his Problem Child so upset and scared.
"Nedzu has your phone; the memory is intact. We wanted your permission to look over the messages he sent you, see if we can trace the number and such. Deal with him before he has any chance to be a risk to anyone, although you don't have to agree." He tries to keep his question balanced, not wanting to push the kid to a point of discomfort, but also, having access to the exact messages really would help.
"S'fine. But... but only his?" Kami above, that shouldn't be the kid's concern in all of this; does he really have no trust in teachers at all?
"That's not even a question, kid. Nedzu might be a cryptic bastard, but he's not invasi- Well, no, he is, I take that back, but not in situations like this at least." The rather disjointed reassurance still earns him a hesitant curl of the lips against his neck, even the barest hints of a giggle. It's good to hear. Even more so than the actual affirmative answer itself, although that's a comfort as well. The more evidence they have against this Hisashi bastard, the better.
"Right then: coffee, scrap paper or sleep?" Aizawa offers. If it's as much a distraction as the fulfilment of a promise, then that hardly matters.
"Coffee please. A-and some paper?" And well, after all this, the hero can only smile a bit, ruffle the kid's hair, and get up to collect exactly those, plus a pen. Hopefully all of this will be resolved without any more input from the kid; he deserves a break.
Halfway back to the dorms a few hours later, still a good while before classes are going to let out, Aizawa briefly brings them both to a stop, and beckons Izuku over to one of the benches punctuating the tree line on UA's grounds, assessing that the spot to be, whilst out in the open, actually all the more private for it.
"Come talk with me a second. There's something I forgot to ask you earlier." Without thinking, the kid reaches up to snag a hand in the trailing end of the underground hero's capture weapon and he follows the man, only a small hint of nerves to his expression.
Fortunately, those hints don't increase too much as they both sit on the bench, Aizawa not even questioning just how close the teen sits to him, the side of their knees pressed together, that end of the man's capture weapon still caught in Izuku's grip. He doesn't begrudge the kid taking that minor comfort though, even if the question hopefully won't be too bad:
"Kid, would you be willing to talk to a detective brought in by Nedzu? I believe you already know him; he's a friend of All Might's."
"I... I guess? When?"
"It can wait until this weekend, if that would help, or it could be as soon as a few hours' time. Whatever's easiest for you." Izuku frowns down at his hands then, twisting the fabric-alloy between his scarred fingers, clearly thinking, and Aizawa leans back, giving the kid room and time to do so.
"Maybe... maybe tomorrow? W-would that be- be a-a-alright?" The sheer level of hesitation there is almost painful, so Aizawa doesn't hesitate before replying,
"I don't see why not. I'll pass it on to Nedzu so that he can arrange an exact meeting time. You can afford to miss some classes if need be." The teen frowns for a moment, eyes shadowing over with storm clouds, thoughts sparking like distant lightning, until the sunlight spears back through again, and Izuku is smiling shyly up at him, apparently accepting the teacher's confidence and adopting some part of it as his own. Good. Kami knows that the kid could afford to bolster his self-esteem some.
"Any questions or concerns ahead of time, Problem Child?" There's a good few minutes of low murmuring then, fingers tugging at that strand of capture weapon still, seeming to subconsciously be testing the tensile strength and flexibility, judging by how the kid occasionally interrupts his own thought process with comments about the support gear. The idle intelligence is both amusing and astonishing for Aizawa. And most certainly something that he mentally notes down for later because if he already wanted to have the kid trained with his capture weapon than he's even more intent on that now.
"W-would it be Tsukauchi-san?"
"It would, yes, given his connections to both UA and All Might. I work with him fairly often as well." The kid's shoulders visibly slacken a little at that confirmation, undoubtedly glad to have his theory proven correct.
"Anything else?" Aizawa keeps his tone almost blank, just idly curious rather than dismissive or pushy. The patience to the words is rewarded by a genuine smile, all the prettiness of sunshine and sakura, plus a headshake.
Content with that answer, wordless though it might have been, the man very briefly ruffles the kid's hair prior to shoving back to his feet.
"Right, then, come on, let's get you back to the dorms." Izuku doesn't hesitate to follow him again, and after a few moments the hero crooks a finger, expression a distinct not-scowl, with an invitation that's clear as day as far as he's concerned. After a beat of blatant confusion, the teen gasps under his breath and scampers forward to actually walk alongside his teacher. Sure, he has to walk a little bit too fast to keep up with Aizawa's longer stride, but that's alright. Particularly when Aizawa notices this, smirks a tad, and instead puts half a breath more into each pace so that they take that tiny bit longer, giving the teen beside him that chance to not have to hurry. Even if it had been cute. (He doesn't know it, because how could he, but there's something warm blossoming in Izuku's chest, gentle petals of columbines and hydrangea unfurling, that press carefully against his heart.)
Unfortunately though, something in the kid's demeanour sours as they get within sight of Heights Alliance, and Aizawa doesn't miss that fact.
"You comfortable being here tonight?" Izuku visibly startles, jumping in place and nearly tripping for it,
"Oh! I, uhm, I g-guess so?"
"That doesn't sound very sure to me, kid. There's an empty flat or two in the teacher's dorms, or I have a sofa, if one of those would suit you better. Even if I tell the hellspawn not to get nosy, I can't guarantee they won't," he huffs. And it's true. The kid's phone not currently being functional, let alone with him, will at least give him some measure of privacy regardless of where he spends the night, however Aizawa can definitely relate to not wanting to be around people, particularly rowdy ones with too much curiosity for anyone's good.
"I... W-would it really be a-alright to be somewh-somewhere else?" The hesitance would be sweet under any other circumstances; it's more worrying right now.
"Sure. Want to collect some stuff first as we're already here?" The hero offers, perfectly neutral about it. Apparently it's enough to have another one of those small smiles creeping over the kid's face, freckles catching the sunlight as his cheeks puff up with the expression, eyes crinkling.
Aizawa ruffles Izuku's hair, carefully shoving the teen's head down a little with the gruff affection so that he can't see the faint smile that has grown amongst dark stubble.
Luckily, getting into the dorms and collecting the kid's stuff doesn't take too much time or effort. Aizawa follows Izuku up to his room - via the stairs, apparently as in the teen's habit because "I can't skip leg day, sensei" - and offers his arms for ferrying some of the kid's things. It takes a few moments of clear hesitation, the greenette standing with his pillow and one particular blanket bundled up in his arms, before he nibbles his lip for half a second and then deposits them in the hero's hold. Aizawa resists the urge to smirk at him. Doing so would probably only scare the kid off, or make him nervous again, and the man would rather avoid that right now. Instead, he swaddles it all up together and tucks it under one arm, leaning against the doorframe as the kid bustles around the room. Izuku puts two notebooks, what looks like a small pile of homework, his phone charger, and then some miscellaneous bits and pieces into a spare bag. Ah, right, his main school bag is still in the classroom. Damn.
By the time Aizawa has finished texting Hizashi to pick the kid's bag up for him, Izuku is padding back over to him, eyes a bit brighter.
"You remember pyjamas and bathroom shi- stuff?" A little affirmative hum meets his question, so the hero nods and turns to leave. Hopefully this way the kid can at least have a calmer night.
It's not to be, of course. Partially for the sake of Aizawa's own sanity and paranoia, they get Izuku settled on his sofa at the teachers' dorms for the night, and the hero is actually a bit reluctant to take his capture weapon back. Still though, they eat the simple dinner of gyudon that gets delivered to the door by Hizashi - ordered via text by the underground hero - alongside the kid's bag. Izuku seems to appreciate the privacy though, as well as the quietude of eating without much conversation, within reach of Aizawa where they're both on the sofa with the news on. It's calm without much of the anger or anxiety or earlier, and the reprieve is welcome for both of them.
There's less of a reprieve later that night. Dinner gets eaten, teeth brushed, and Aizawa can't help but ruffle the kid's hair before he goes back to his own room, very much glad he doesn't have a patrol tonight. And Izuku, despite everything, wraps up in his blanket and the thin duvet his teacher had shoved at him, curling on his side on the dark blue sofa, and manages to fall asleep.
The problem with this is that it doesn't last. In amongst the grip of dark, flame-flaring dreams, Izuku whimpers, shifting. ("Papa, why does it hurt? Do you not love me anymore?" A smile, all teeth and smoke and forked tongue. "I love you a lot, Izuku. Now be a good boy." But it hurts and Izuku doesn't like the pain or the burns or the scars and he doesn't understand why-) It devolves from there. The blankets get kicked from his legs, hair dishevelled as he tosses over once, then twice, and the near-silent whimpers escalate to wordless cries. They're still muted, muffled by a bitten lip and clenched teeth, but they're there. And no matter how deep into sleep he might be, Aizawa is very much an underground hero all the same, and within minutes of the louder noises, he is staggering out of bed, capture weapon in hand and a scowl marring his face.
It takes him a long, long moment to register, blinking into the near-darkness of his own living area, before the exact noise repeats and he clocks exactly what it is.
"Izuku, kid, Problem Child, you're safe right now. I'm the only one here, Aizawa-sensei is the only one here, we're both safe, I swear. He isn't here. It's just Eraserhead. You're alright, Izuku, you're alright. Got that, Problem Child? I need you to wake up for me, kiddo." He keeps on talking, all near-meaningless platitudes as he crouches down beside his sofa, wadding up his capture weapon and tucking it next to the green curls, almost ready to be a pillow should Izuku turn over even a little bit further. Luckily, it seems to help, because the teen turns his face towards the fabric-alloy, dragging in several messy breaths, and the near-screams die back down to whimpers.
Knowing that Izuku is closer to awake and therefore, hopefully, less likely to be triggered by something, the hero dares to reach forwards and carefully starts to run callused fingers through the curls, delicately pulling apart some of the tangles. He keeps up his low talking, something caught between reassurances and genuine rambles, and he watches with rapt attention as the greenette gradually comes up from the depths of whatever nightmare had him, whines dying down and eyelashes beginning to flutter.
"There you go, kiddo. You with me now?" He doesn't get a verbal reply, nor even a groan or hum, but those green eyes do snap open properly, and then there are hands rising to cover Izuku's face, the teen jerking back into the sofa, away from the figure crouched next to him. Aizawa takes the reaction for the instinctive fear it is, and he shuffles backwards, pressing his spine to his coffee table, and slowly retracts his hand.
Despite it taking far longer than the hero would ideally like, Izuku does calm down further, the haze leaving his dim eyes as he stares at Aizawa.
"Hey, Problem Child. Fancy seeing you here." The attempt at humour, deadpan though it might have been, earns him a snort, and a tad more light in the kid's eyes. Thank Kami.
"Do you want contact, proximity or space, kiddo?" The question - or perhaps having the choice - clearly startles the greenette, and Aizawa pushes down his recurrent anger at how many signs of abuse this kid has, and in lieu of getting lost in his own thoughts, the hero waits patiently, focusing on Izuku. Said patience is rewarded when he focuses fully on his teacher again.
"Sure." It's a simple answer to a simple request, as far as Aizawa's concerned, and he shuffles back to have his arms folded on the edge of the sofa cushions and gets on from there. No point to standing straight and risking that looming over the kid will put him right back into some kind of panic or flashback.
After a brief moment, the hero reaches to get the telly remote, and quickly finds some kids' education channel, not really caring that half of it is animated rather than "proper" documentaries, to watch with the volume on low. There shouldn't be anything overly violent or triggering in a programme for children. Hopefully at least.
It's like that, sat on the hero's sofa together, Izuku curled up perpendicularly against the arm of the sofa, feet and body pointed towards the hero, Aizawa slunk low in his own seat, limbs slack, that the two eventually fall asleep again. If, by the time they do, the teen has tucked his toes beneath the man's thighs, just the smallest, sweetest bit of contact, then neither of them are going to comment on it. Nor on how the hero smiles, just a little, when he does.
Aizawa wakes up to find himself with an aching neck and several emails from Nedzu, the most prominent one being a time and place for the interview with Tsukuachi.
Glancing up from his phone, or rather to the side, where the kid is still sleeping, the hero feels a pang of remorse for what talking through this will probably do to the kid, judging by how difficult he's already found talking about these issues. But, talking about it is what therapy is meant to be about, right? And if it can get this Hisashi bastard in prison, or at least permanently away from the kid, then it will be worth every pained word. (Particularly as he's here to comfort Izuku as needed and has zero intentions of that changing. Never.)
Regardless, Aizawa takes the time to reply to most of his work emails, and, after a moment, decides to email his agency as well, requesting tonight's shift off for UA-related reasons. It won't be the first time, and certainly not the last either.
"...zawa-se'sei?" He signs off the email, presses send, and turns to look at the kid. There are still toes tucked under the edge of Aizawa's thighs, not-so tangled curls hanging low to the teen's eyes, and the hero gently pats the kid's calf, letting his hand rest there afterwards. Not that he'd ever admit to it.
"Morning, kid. You feeling alright?"
"Mmhm. Kin'a tired."
"Fair. Want some food and shit?" He doesn't bother censoring himself this time, particularly when it gets a shocked little giggle from the kid. He's not just acting as a teacher right now, so whatever. It's probably fine.
"I guess'o?" Aizawa resists the urge to roll his eyes at this,
"Kid, you didn't eat lunch yesterday and, given your Quirk, missing more than a meal every so often really isn't sustainable." The kid manages a wavering hum to go with the small smile that he offers.
"Right. You like scrambled eggs?" The jerky nod is answer enough, and the hero carefully gets to his feet without squashing Izuku's toes or twisting his ankles anything.
Once their food is eaten and they're changed for the day, Aizawa sits down next to the kid again, double-checking his emails from Nedzu.
"The meeting with Tsukauchi should be at ten, so we've got an hour or so until we need to leave. Want a distraction?" It's a simple offer, yet Izuku's eyes light up, a soft sort of brightness there that needs coaxing to full flare, but is more than promising all the same.
"C-can you tell me a-anything a-about any of the villains you've fought? Then I could a-analyse them?" And a reasonable request too. Good.
"Don't see why not. Let's see... Right, two years ago, give or take, there was this one raid where half of the villains were related and all had reptilian-based Quirks."
"Were they primarily mutation Quirks?"
"They were. Some had emitter-based elements as well, however most of them were pure mutations." From there, it's easy to talk through both the villains' Quirks, and then to go on to discuss the respective strategies employed for the raid. Aizawa is pleasantly surprised by the kid's analysis of the tactics as well. Sure, he'd known Izuku was good with Quirks, and he can strategise well mid-exercise, but this is far more in-depth. Far more remarkable.
Still though, it can't last forever, and they have to leave for the interview. At this point, the kid's nerves visibly pick up, and if they weren't going off-campus then the hero would have simply shoved his capture weapon over Izuku's shoulders; as it is though, he rather makes do with leaning down to meet the teen's eyes, trying not to threaten or loom.
"You'll be alright, kid, understood? I'm going to be with you, your mother is at one of Nedzu's safehouses, and we're building a case against him already. You can be nervous, or scared, or angry, but don't let any of it overwhelm you." Thank Kami, his words genuinely seem to have an effect. A positive one. Or judging by how something steadies in Izuku's stance, his chin raising a little, at least.
"Right then, let's go. The sooner we get there, the sooner we can leave again."
"Mmkay," Izuku murmurs. If Aizawa happens to gently bump their shoulders together a few steps later, then at least it earns him a wobbly giggle.
There's no sign of such giggles half an hour later, when Aizawa telegraphs slinging a grounding arm around the greenette's shoulders, glad when it has Izuku relaxing a tiny bit rather than tensing up even further.
"We've got an appointment with Detective Tsukauchi for ten. Eraserhead," he offers, terse, flashing his hero license. He instinctively angles his body so that Izuku is slightly tucked behind him, or at least not directly at the front, and doesn't even realise that he's done it until the receptionist raises his eyebrow a little.
"That's fine. His office is through-"
"Through the main room, second to the left." He probably shouldn't cut the other man off, but the less time they spend on this, the less time the kid has to wait before getting this over with. And then the less time Aizawa will have to feel his kid trembling in his hold.
"C'mon, Problem Child," the hero murmurs, guiding the teen forward. They walk through the main bullpen-style office, green eyes focused on the floor, dark eyes glaring at any of the police officers that give them a second glance. They recognise him, for the most part, because this is his local police station and he works with them a lot, Tsukauchi included. Which means that they've seen him occasionally bring a kid in, always with too soft of an expression for his general persona, but this is the only time he's been affectionate with them, let alone blatantly familiar.
But then they're into the corridor beyond the main office space, and Aizawa pauses, gently squeezing the kid closer to him for a second.
"Mmhm," comes the slightly jagged hum, yet Izuku looks up at him with a set to his jaw and something flaring in his eyes, the beginnings of a blaze. And then the teen is the first one to step forwards once more, reaching up with a too-tight fist to knock on the door.
"Come in!" The sound of someone else, even if they are vaguely familiar, seems to have the nerves instantly rattling back through Izuku, shoulders shuddering for a beat.
The hero takes over again at this point, finally slipping his arm away from Izuku's shoulders, ruffling his hair on the way.
"Tsukauchi." The man stands from his desk, rounding it as they both step in and push the door shut behind them.
"Aizawa. And hello again - can I call you Izuku-kun?" The offer has Izuku visibly startling, and he nearly stumbles, eyes wide, but nods quickly enough that some of his curls flop and bounce.
"H-hello Detective Ts-Tsukauchi-san." He shakes both of their hands, even as the teen stutters out his immediate response.
"Just Tsukauchi will do, Izuku-kun, no worries," he dismisses, kind rather than condescending, before they all sit down. The visitors take the small, rather tattered sofa that's pushed against one wall, whilst the detective himself drags over a chair to sit opposite them, a small notepad and voice recorder in his lap, flipping the former open before checking something on the recorder briefly, giving them both time to get settled.
"Right then, Izuku-kun. You know my Quirk is Lie Detector, but I still want to check that you're comfortable with me being the one to conduct this investigation with that knowledge?" He waits just long enough for the greenette to nod before going on,
"Thank you. Do you also consent for my use of a voice recorder? It can help prevent any call for a witness to be pulled into any court proceedings, though unfortunately it's no guarantee." If he'd had any uncertainties, that information spurs Izuku to nod again. And, well, at least it's not a full camera recorder or anything, nor an interview room where anyone could be watching him.
"Wonderful. Saves us from bringing anyone else in, yes?" The slight jest seems to have Izuku calming down a little, his bouncing knee stilling again,
"Do you have any questions before we proceed?"
"N-no, Tsukuachi-san." Aizawa shakes his head as well, so the detective offers them a brief smile before clicking the recording on.
"This is Detective Tsukauchi of the Sixth Musutafu Precinct, at ten-oh-eight, Friday the eleventh of November. I'm here with underground hero Eraserhead, a teacher at UA High School, alongside his student Midoriya Izuku, referred to as Izuku for the purposes of this interview..." He briefly describes the intentions of the interview, reaffirms Izuku's awareness of his Quirk, and then settles them into the questions.
"What's your full name?" Tsukauchi's apologetic grimace is enough for Izuku to simply get the words out, even if they feel oil-spill putrid on his tongue,
"M-Midoriya Izuku. I- I don't really feel like a Midoriya though."
"True. The names of your biological mother and father?"
"Midoriya H-H-Hisashi a-and Inko."
"True. When did you last see Inko in person?" With each 'true', something in Izuku unwinds, tension-binding ivy unlacing from its stranglehold down his spine, letting him relax even just a tiny bit. Aizawa's sharp eyes pick up on it, offering him a nod. That helps even more.
"Almost a month ago, for the school h-holidays. I haven't been visiting at weekends." The expression on his teacher's face at that is a little surprised, shown in the tiniest of raised eyebrows and looser jaw, and Izuku forces himself not to focus on it. That doesn't matter right now.
"True. And Hisashi?" Well, at least that's easy to answer:
"When I w-was six."
"Also true. When was your last contact, be it verbal, email, text or otherwise, with each of them?"
"Ink- Mum t-texted me two w-weeks a-ago, and I replied. H-Hisashi tried to contact me y-yesterday, but I h-haven't replied." The teen doesn't miss how Aizawa almost snorts at his last statement, and the blatant dry humour has him wanting to smile, despite the situation. He's here with allies after all, people that understand, want to protect him. It's a good thought.
And so on the questions go. Most of them, for now, are focused on establishing the background information, letting Izuku fall into the rhythm of answering Tsukuachi without overthinking anything too much, and nothing goes wrong, or gets particularly challenging, until they get to the heavier questions.
"Has Inko ever neglected you?" There's a beat too long of hesitation, of actually having to think that through, and the frown already growing on the kid's face tells of it,
"She feeds me a-and stuff, but she mostly leaves me a-alone. I- I remined her of Hisashi, she said." Tsukauchi and Aizawa exchange a glance at the pain to that last statement, of the low heat of simmering, down-trodden anger, of the sorrow of a mother not loving him like she once did. It hurts just to hear.
"True, thank you. Has Inko ever abused you physically?" The hero has to force himself not to tense up here, because he can't bear the thought of having being sending his Problem Child back into a not-only toxic but also physically damaging house-
"N-no? She's locked me in a- a few times as a kid, but she never h-hit me or a-anything. I think she'd h-have a panic a-attack if she did." Well, it's not good, but it could have been an awful lot worse. Aizawa still doesn't like it though.
"True. Has she ever abused you verbally?"
"I... Maybe? She t-tells me not to do things, that I can't, things that other kids my a-age can do, in case I get h-hurt, and she threatens to pull me from UA, but she's w-worried? A-although the way she w-words things isn't... isn't a-always very nice." Izuku's voice is shaking to match his hands, his fingers twisting and tumbling over each other in his lap, squeezing and twitching, and it's far from pleasant to watch the skin being bleached white with pressure, a match to the scars branching along the digits and backs.
"All true. Has she ever abused you sexually?"
"No! N-no, n-never that." The genuine shock to the kid is actually reassuring, as though he'd never even considered it. The detective's affirmations are even more so:
"True. Do you want to take a break, Izuku-kun?" Tsukauchi waits, no judgement or expectation to his posture or expression, so Izuku glances over at his teacher again. And the hero is just as neutral. Not unwelcoming, just open and deadpan. Willing to go with whatever Izuku wants.
"N-no, thank you." There's no judgement or frowns at his answer, and that gives the greenette the strength to focus on the next question. To put together his response into something vaguely coherent.
"Alright then. I'm going to ask about Hisashi next. Has he ever abused you verbally?" It's stupid, Izuku knows, that he finds these so difficult to answer. Because logically he knows the definition of abuse, can list historical examples where it's related to Quirkless people or to public cases related to any of the many heroes that he's researched in-depth, but when he has to apply those definitions and examples to himself, it's suddenly impossible to read the signs either way.
"I- I don't know if it was proper abuse, but he would call me stupid and w-worthless a-and useless. That I w-wasn't worthy of being h-his son. Of being at all. That I w-was a mistake. A- a waste." Izuku doesn't know it, because Aizawa squashes it and squeezes it until it gives way to heavy metal that lodges in his ribs, but a raw-edged, screaming sort of fury rears within the hero at those words, because he knows every bit of this golden-hearted boy's low self-esteem, and he can trace so much of it back to this one man. This one bastard that he would very much like to stab. Several times. Preferably in the joints, then perhaps the stomach, and maybe-
"True, on all parts. Would he say such things often?" Izuku shrugs, almost brazen if not for the renewed tangling of his fingers,
"Y-yeh. Whenever I w-wasn't w-what he wanted me to be. Which w-was all the time, I guess. But- But he told me h-he loved me too! I- I don't know." His confusion is almost beseeching, something that is childish but far from immature. Tsukauchi latches onto it, and finds the chance to try and soothe it, if only a little,
"That's fine, Izuku-kun. Ah, and true. Do you understand how emotional manipulation works, or what it looks like?"
"Kind of?" There's uncertainty there, wavering and fracturing.
"True. With your knowledge, stated as incomplete, would you say he emotionally manipulated you?"
And there's clearly so much aching confusion in the kid's reply, such long-seated conflict that it has become weary and aching:
"I... I don't know."
"True. And that's fine, thank you, Izuku-kun, you didn't need to. There's no right or wrong answer here."
Aizawa takes this chance to twist the smallest bit in his spot, bumping the side of his knees against Izuku's, and, once he's sure that the teen is fully cognisant of him and his movements, he curls his arm around the barely-shuddering shoulders once more. Green curls settle against his chest with a slight impact, the kid slumping the tiniest bit into him, and the hero takes every ounce of gratification he can from that. With any luck, Izuku will continue to trust him, to lean on him.
"Did Hisashi ever abuse you physically?" There's a flinch from within the curve of Aizawa's arm, one that he couldn't miss if he tried. He starts soothing his thumb in circles over Izuku's bicep in response, trying to reassure him, keep him present.
"I mean, I h-have scars from his Quirk."
"From fire-breathing?" Tsukauchi clarifies, shooting a wincing glance towards Aizawa, who is only looking graver with every question, with every time Izuku bites his lip or twists his scarred fingers.
"Y-yes. Eight of them." The hero is glad that he's heard this before because otherwise he's not sure he would've been able to tamp down on his resurgent fury.
"True. Were these treated?" Izuku kind of shrugs a little, tilting further into Aizawa,
"By In- my Mum, a-at first. Not the last two though."
Oh, and how frustrating this is to hear. The teacher was so sure that Midoriya Inko was, if not a perfect mother by any stretch, at least a decent one, albeit just as anxious as her son. Which, arguably, should have actually been a warning sign in an of itself. Dammit. But to not look after her son's injuries...
"True. Do you know why she didn't treat those last two?"
"She w-was scared. H-he was hurting h-her too." And that, perhaps, makes it more reasonable, but it still burns to hear. His Problem Child deserved so much better.
"True. Last of the standard questions, Izuku-kun: did Hisashi ever abuse you sexually?"
"No." There's zero hesitation, no wavering thanks to the lack of shock this time, and it helps to force some of Aizawa's rage back away, where there's no chance of it scaring the kid.
"True. Again, would you like a break before we move on to yesterday's events?"
"N-no, thank you." The fact that he's pushing himself, trying to get this over with as quickly as possible, doesn't surprise either man, yet they still wish it wasn't the case.
"Very well. Could you tell me about what the aforementioned contact from Hisashi was yesterday?" Izuku ducks his head, a facsimile of a nod, releasing his bitten lip to answer again,
"I g-got phone calls during Ethics - ah, it was first lesson - and my phone w-was on because we're doing a-another work placement and I could get called in. But I ignored them, a-and Ai- Eraserhead-sensei told me to text them to call me later. A-and I w-was going to, but then a-another text came in a-and it was him and he was saying he w-was back in Japan a-and wanted to see me and I just couldn't so I... I threw my phone." Izuku drags in a deep breath, but it catches, forcing him to breathe shallow and desperate for a few seconds, words still teetering on his tongue, undoubtedly char-bitter and astringent. Painful.
"And- and it pisses me off because he w-wants me to be h-his son again, a-as though h-he's w-w-worthy of a-anything like that a-a-and-" Izuku's voice fails, cracking straight down the middle as he hunches down, hands coming up to bury in his hair, tugging at his curls viciously. Kami, no, the twisting hands had been bad enough-
"Izuku, Problem Child, careful with yourself." The hero is leaning forwards, trying to catch the teen's eye, but it isn't working. The kid's falling apart. Tsukauchi, at this point, is quick to turn off the recording, not wanting to make any further parties privy to Izuku's breakdown.
Meanwhile, Aizawa is already getting up from his seat to crouch in front of the kid. He settles his hands on Izuku's knees, one bouncing maniacally and the other still beneath his touch, and digs his fingertips in the tiniest bit, nowhere close to painful but definitely insistent, grounding. It's enough to calm his Problem Child to a degree, sufficient to get the kid meeting his eyes for a few moments. The teary haze there overlays something wild, as much anger as panic, all of it dazed, and yet it's nowhere near the absolute roar of fury in Aizawa's own chest. He needs Izuku to know that he's safe and important and cared for, needs the boy to understand that he's worth decency and praise and so much more. And this is one of the easiest ways to offer it right now.
"I need you to breathe fully for me kid, and to focus on me, understood? That's it. Keep it up, that's good breathing. You're safe right now, nobody can hurt you..." He keeps up the reassurances until some of that awful haze retreats, Izuku's chest rising more-or-less smoothly. Izuku's coherent.
"Kid, I can and will murder for you. Do you want him dead?" It's said in genuine, full seriousness, no hint of teasing or logical ruses in sight, and Izuku knows his hero even better now than ever before. He wouldn't miss it if it was a lie.
"No. Or- or a-at least, n-not deliberately? N-not on y-your shoulders."
"Alright then. I'll pull myself off of the apprehension team that will doubtless be put together should he turn up. Now, do you want some water or a hug or anything?" He doesn't even get a verbal reply. No, Aizawa gets a very compact teenager reaching up to carefully tug at the hero's sleeve. It's delicate, uncertain, and Aizawa doesn't need any more permission or request to tug the kid forward into a hug.
The hero doesn't count the minutes, too caught up in holding Izuku close, letting the kid bury his face in his capture weapon and shoulder, trembling fingers latching over the back of his shoulder blades, twisting into his jumpsuit with a strength far more akin to being used for rescue missions than a simple embrace. But maybe, for a kid lost in his emotions and trauma, clinging on to a trusted adult is a rescue of sorts.
Eventually he must calm down a fair bit more because he slumps further against Aizawa, something in him seeming to give way. Not break, per se. Just... give in, slackening, not half so tense and coiled-tight as he had been before. And when the hero pulls away a tiny bit, it's to find Izuku dim-eyed and apparently half asleep. It has him sighing. Poor kid, he's been handling all of this fairly well, but it's blatantly and understandably exhausting for him. Seems typical of Problem Child's luck.
"Is he awake?"
"Not really," Aizawa replies, and there's no physical reaction at all, only affirming his thoughts,
"No. Or at least not fully."
"Probably a good thing. Well, Nedzu has also passed on to me that we've received an unofficial testimony from Bakugou Katsuki. It seems to corroborate what Izuku's just said, although with a lack of detail. The message records also match."
"Right, thank you. Anything else?" He sees the headshake out of the corner of his eye and is rather glad for it,
"Then I'd best get this one awake and home." Tsukauchi smiles at that, somewhere between fond and teasing, and Aizawa can only roll his eyes in return.
All the same, the detective leaves the room, interview records in tow, his expression fairly telling. It gives Aizawa the time and space to gently prop Izuku back up on the sofa, and the moment that he lets go of the teen, those green eyes snap open again, hyperaware. It shocks a snort out of the man.
"Oi, Problem Child, you're fine. We're the only ones here." At the sound of his voice, the kid visibly relaxes some, sinking back into the sofa with a near-silent sigh. Aizawa very much doesn't like the despondent look to the teen, all wrung-out and distant, so he makes a split-second decision. After all, neither of them are really in a state to be going to class, and Nedzu has signed them both out for the entire day. And nobody can resist the lure of a cat café, surely.
"Hey, kid, you want to get lunch at a cat café? It'll be good for both of our nerves, I think." The initial response is a startled look, edged with confusion, but then a tiny, gorgeous smile begins to grow amongst the pale skin and freckles, and it lights up the kid's entire face.
"I'd like that."
The trip out was a good idea, as it happens.
They get two steps into the shop, this one perhaps halfway between UA and the police precinct, and Izuku falls happily to his knees, arms wide to accept the three cats that are already pressing themselves against his chest, one stretching up to butt the underside of his jaw. His giggles are a balm on Aizawa's frayed nerves, even as he discretely pulls out his wallet and pays for a few hours for them both, not wanting the teen to really register the fact that this is costing the teacher anything. Logically, it's obvious, but he expects the greenette would freak out a bit if he truly thought about it, and this is meant to be a chance for them both to relax, not stress over things that don't actually matter.
"I see you've met Bow-tie in particular," Aizawa comments, leaning over a little to ruffle the kid's hair. Those green eyes flick up to him, and there's so much more light gleaming there already that the hero nearly sags in place. Thank Kami the kid's happier.
"Do you come here a lot then?" And of course Izuku has immediately picked up on that. Clever little hellion.
"Suppose so. The other two are Blanket and Melanie. This one," he adds on as a ginger tabby curls around his ankles,
"Is Sir Crumb-a-lot." The hairs will be awful to get out of his jumpsuit, but Aizawa really can't care about it at the moment. Not when he has fluffy purring creatures to pet. Even better, the kid seems to agree, judging by how he's delicately scooping up all three of the cats in his lap, and Bow-tie shifts up from his hold to instead curl himself over Izuku's shoulders, chirping and rumbling against the back of his neck.
From there, they both head further into the cafe, settling at right angles to each other at one of the low tables, each taking a beanbag in the corner. It's relatively safe, in the dimmest part of the large room, with the staff door providing an exit within a moment's run, so they can relax here. Particularly when another four cats end up coming over to them.
"Do you know these ones too, Sensei?" The hero only nods in reply, stroking along the back of a tortoiseshell that's stretching beside him,
"This one is Library. That black one is called Kiki." Izuku smiles down at the black, slinky thing that is sniffing delicately at his knee, although he still pays good attention when the man explains their last two visitors.
"Steven Archibald the third is this one, and he's Subterfuge."
"I love their names."
"They're illogical but the chaos is acceptable," Aizawa deadpans, perfectly neutral. The cheeky smile Izuku shoots at him tells of how the kid has probably picked up on just how soft he really is for his current company. Izuku included, although he might not admit that. Not to anyone but the kid, at least.
Regardless, they spend the first half-hour peacefully. The cats purr at their attention and affection, and they both relax incrementally, minute by minute.
They don't talk. And whilst on the surface, that might be something that could have upset or unsettled Izuku, the kid only seems to be glad for it, slumping further and further back into his beanbag, curls squashed against the wall. It's cute. Particularly when a kitten comes up to Izuku, mewling, and manages to clamber all the way up his chest, paws patting at his freckled cheeks.
Giggling madly, Izuku stops petting one cat - Kiki - for a few moments to instead scoop the kitten up, holding it in front of his face, as it seems to be so very interested in him. It promptly leaps off of his palm and pounces atop his curls, nearly bashing its pretty little face into the wall before re-balancing and trotting in two little circles on top of his head. Then it lies down, half-disappearing in the mass of his curls. And Kami, that's far too cute. Aizawa might just perish.
But no, he doesn't perish. Instead, he pulls his phone out and shamelessly takes a few pictures. After the last twenty four hours, professionalism is blatantly irrelevant, and the blush that the kid develops only makes it even cuter. It would be illegal not to document it.
Still, they have to eat sooner or later, and Aizawa's earlier point about the kid not really being able to afford missing meals given his Quirk is still very much true, so the hero pushes carefully to his feet, losing several cats and possibly a few kilos of shed fur as he does.
"You know what you want to eat, kid?"
Izuku startles, prompting one particularly skittish cat to flee under the table, tail swishing.
"Oh! Uhm, don't worry Sensei, you don't have to-"
"You're my student, Problem Child. And I can always charge it to Nedzu if I'm actually bothered," he tacks on, fairly sure that the greenette will need some extra level of reassurance. Luckily it seems to do its job.
"O-oh. Then maybe just something simple?" Well, that's a compromise that Aizawa can work with,
"They've got cheese and ham toasties, if that works?"
"Thank you. And- and black coffee?" The hero is probably happier than he should be that the teen is willing to ask for something extra, and there's no way he could even consider denying the kid, even if he doesn't show it.
"Sure. Back in a minute."
The food is simple, as promised, but it's tasty, and Aizawa may or may not order some strawberry shortcake for them each to have afterwards, knowing that both of them like it and that really, after the day Izuku's had, a sweet treat is more than deserved. Just like the cat cuddles.
Aizawa wants it to be known that he is not happy about Izuku being exposed to his so-called father. Sure, the kid needs closure and the man turning up is an opportunity for that, but the hero really doesn't have to like that it involves actual contact with the bastard.
It had started, because of course it had, when they returned to campus after visiting the cat café. The visit had been a reward, or maybe a congratulations, for getting through the interview with Tsukauchi that morning, not to mention a distraction from the general stress of their current situation, so the afternoon had been both calm and fun, with Aizawa's phone now featuring perhaps a few dozen photos of the kid with various cats, and at this point Izuku is chattering happily about a new hero that they'd happened to pass on the streets, bouncing as he walks. If he also happens to be swinging his hand with an end of Aizawa's capture weapon clutched in it, then nobody is here to call them out on it.
But just as they get to UA's gates, a figure steps out of a car against the opposite pavement, and Izuku flinches so heavily at the sight of them that he nearly stumbles. Aizawa, already carding them both through, supports the kid without a thought, head whipping around to locate whatever potential threat is here.
The initial reaction is that it's just a man on the opposite side of the road, but no. This is a tall man, broad, with dark curls and yellow eyes, a smattering of freckles across the bridge of his nose and a somewhat wrinkled business suit cutting close to his figure. It's the thin trail of smoke escaping his lips that really tips Aizawa off though.
"Problem Child, run ahead of me."
"Sensei-!" The kid has frozen in place, even as the first layer of the school gates swing shut behind them, Hisashi still visible through the bars.
"I can't! A-and I... I think I w-want to talk to him."
Aizawa wants to argue, wants to push the kid away, further into the safety of UA, or to turn around and knock the man out with his capture weapon through the bars, but he knows that he's only just truly earned Izuku's trust. He can't afford to break it now. And he wants to trust the teen in return, because he's mature and intelligent, even if he might still be young and vulnerable all the same, so the hero pauses, every one of these thoughts rushing through his head, and finally nods, already scrutinising the combined terror and determination in Izuku's face.
That determination is supernova-bright though, alight with something akin to the lightning-potential of the kid's Quirk, all celestial and beyond comprehension. It's enough to have Aizawa sure in his agreement, if still concerned, and he briefly ruffles the kid's hair, shifting the touch into a few moments of holding the teen's cheek, callused thumb brushing over freckles.
"Just remember that he's toxic, Problem Child, alright? He doesn't know you, not any version or part of you, and you only have to give him whatever time you want to, nothing more. You owe him nothing." There's a shaky hum in reply. It takes a beat, something in those green eyes still blatantly terrified, before Izuku distinctly gathers himself, and the line of his shoulders and tilt of his chin are the sort of thing that belongs to facing down Overhaul, a little girl clasped to his back. This is a young hero, ready to protect.
And this time, he's ready to protect himself. Aizawa couldn't be prouder.
Which is probably most of the reason that he lets the kid step in front of him, almost right up to the gate, and to speak up.
"I don't want you in my life." It's a strong start, Aizawa acknowledges to himself, and doesn't hesitate to stay behind the teen, ready to whisk him away if needed.
"Look, kid, you're my son. I've just come back to Japan, figured we could reconnect and all that jazz, you know?" The tone is cajoling, not at all soft or kind, and the snide edge cuts.
"No, I- I don't know." The hero nearly snorts at that because it's honestly kind of funny. And fair play to Izuku, he's holding up well so far.
"C'mon now, don't be dumb, son. You're my kid." And oh, how that has the hero tensing, ready to lash out. It's unnecessary though, because the greenette has tensed up as well, something like a growl rippling into his tone,
"Hey now, don't say that. Who's this, anyway? I guess he's not an actual hobo, given that he's in this bloody school." The attempt at distracting the attention from their already-failing conversation is flimsy at best. Aizawa takes the chance to step in anyway, both physically and verbally, hoping that the ever-tenser teen that's now beside him might be able to gather himself a bit again.
"I'm his homeroom teacher, if you must know." Somehow, he keeps his tone cool, dismissive, and presses a hand low to Izuku's back where the bastard can't see. He gets a grateful glance for the reassurance.
"Huh. Weird. Anyway, kid, want to come off-campus with me for a chat? We can reminisce about old times and stuff."
"No. J-just no. Why did you really come back?" Hisashi gives some kind of affronted huff at that, smoke pluming into the air. The acrid smell of it stings at Aizawa's nose, and judging by the repressed flinch, it's even worse for Izuku.
"I told you. Damn, you're still not very good at listening, are you, kid?"
"Not to you, n-no." The man shakes his head, tutting,
"No respect for your elders either. Oi, so-called sensei, you might want to start disciplining the kid better. Clearly nobody's been doing it since I've been gone." Aizawa bites back the absolutely feral snarl that's rattling through his chest at that, instead focusing on keeping that calm, steady hand subtly at the base of Izuku's back, trying to reassure the kid that he's here, present and ready to protect or support him as wanted or needed. That every word out of this man's mouth is an awful lie.
"I think you would find that UA is perfectly capable of both looking after and keeping our students in check. Are you a registered contact for any of our students?"
"You- What the fuck? This is clearly my son, what kind of registering do I fucking need-"
"It was part of the enrolment process nearly a year ago now. I expect if you weren't registered, there might have been a good reason for it." It's a passive-aggressive jab, undeniably, and it has Hisashi's eyes flashing in a way that should be threatening, yet it also has Izuku relaxing a little, the planes of muscle beneath his hoodie untensing a tiny bit. It's just enough to reassure the hero.
"Just, why- why a-are you even here?" There's pain in the kid's tone, something raw like exposed nerve ends, and it has Aizawa's chest aching in return, something splintering along his spine into jagged shards that dig in further with each word.
"Well, now that you're not a Quirkless, I thought you might actually make a good son-"
"Has it occurred to you that you might need to be a good Dad first? Because what you've done, what you did- You- You were the fucking furthest thing from it." Izuku turns away then, tucking himself into Aizawa's side without another glance, and the hero is quite happy to walk away with the kid even without getting any parting shots of his own in. This is his Problem Child's moment and he more than deserves to have it.
If he also happens to curl his arm oddly around the kid's shoulders so that his hearing will be very much muffled, then it's only an extra precaution because one of them listening to the absolute shit being yelled at them is enough; Izuku doesn't need to hear it. The bastard's already been in the kid's head for well over a decade, whether directly or not. He doesn't deserve a single second more.
As they walk away, the hero keeping Izuku tucked in safe and close to his side, Aizawa pulls his phone out, already flicking to the messaging app, and texts Tsukauchi one-handed, a short and simple warning that Hisashi had just turned up at UA. Nedzu's many cameras will have picked up on every single word and action from the last five minutes, so they at least shouldn't need to worry about even giving an interview or anything. The one from this morning had been painful enough. And with it sent, he's quick to bunch up one side of his capture weapon, shoving it up and over his own head and dropping it over Izuku's curls instead, letting it drape around his face and shoulders to go with the hero's arm. Given that they're mostly out of earshot now, and that half of Hisashi's yells are just incoherent at this point anyway, the hero retracts his arm from the kid's ears, slackening it down to be loose and careful around Izuku's shoulders rather than tighter and muffling.
"Sorry for that, Problem Child. Didn't particularly want you hearing more of his shit." The apology is genuine, albeit not remorseful per se. The teen seems to get it.
"S'okay," comes the quiet murmur from amongst the coils of fabric-alloy, and he watches as trembling fingers come up to latch in the support gear, the kid burying his face in amongst it all, his shuddering breaths visible as much as audible.
"You handled that well, kid. Genuinely." For a moment he wants to curse himself for calling Izuku a kid, like Hisashi had, but there's no distress or tension or distrust as a result, so he forgives himself just as quickly.
However, he doesn't get a reply either, so the hero pulls them both to a stop, coming round to crouch in front of Izuku, hands slipping down to gently hold the greenette's elbows, the contact barely there but warm all the same.
Looking up, he meets those green eyes, relieved to find there to be no haze, only the faintest of teary films, and that makes it look more like dew upon curled ferns than anything panicked or angry. There's exhaustion and melancholy, of course, but it's so much better than it could have been. And on top of that, the teen is actually meeting his gaze, even if he does keep his chin ducked, thick curls shadowing his face and freckles.
"You're strong, Izuku. Stronger than he will ever know, understood?" He pushes every part of his own conviction and assurance into the words, because he knows this with every ounce of his being. Izuku is the sort of kid that will grow into a beacon, a pillar, but will also be surrounded by people that want to support him and fight by his side, so he will never have to shoulder every burden alone. And Aizawa will be proud to be there every step of the way.
"I... I think so." There's a soft, sweet sort of shy edge to the words, and Aizawa nods firmly.
"Good. Want to go the cat café again next weekend?" And he can't help but smile a little, not even a hint of Cheshire grin to it, shifting his hold off of the kid's elbows and instead offering his hands, palms-up in between them.
"Definitely." And Izuku rests his scarred hands atop Aizawa's callused, and the hero squeezes them, just once.
"Then it's a plan, Problem Child."
(Things go on from there. There are regular weekend trips to cat cafes, sometimes with Eri and sometimes not, and eventually that turns into training sessions with a capture weapon, sometimes with Hitoshi and sometimes not. The rest of the class try to listen when Aizawa tells them not to poke their noses in and whilst the matter doesn't get forgotten, it does get ignored, if only for their sunshine's sake.
Aizawa is there for the kid when, three days later, the announcement comes in via Nedzu that Midoriya Hisashi has been charged with child abuse, spousal abuse and child neglect. The fact that he's missed a fair few years of child support payments also adds to the list of charges.
The so-called Dekusquad get told the bare bones fairly quickly, and Hitoshi and Shouto even more, judging by the strengthened solidarity between the three, which their teacher may or may not be sure will be growing into something more along the line.
The rest of the class get an impression of the truth, but only truly when Izuku walks deliberately late into homeroom one day not long into second year, and Aizawa asks him to re-introduce himself to the class. Aizawa Izuku gets quite the outcry, but even more smiles and support. Most of all, he's happy.)