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truth be told, I'm a bit of a liar

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When Aizawa’s phone rang at three-thirty in the morning, startling him out of a rare good night’s sleep, he was tempted to let it keep ringing.

Years later, of course, he would be unfathomably glad he did pick up. But in that moment, he wanted to smash the device to bits. Tiny, tiny little bits.

Then put those bits in a blender and watch them swirl around for awhile. Maybe drink whatever was left, just to spite the universe.

Instead, he heaved a sigh and rolled over, snatching the phone up and pressing it to his ear. “What.”

O-oh,” the voice was light, decidedly feminine, and sounded entirely too chipper for the early morning hour. “Who is—is this Shouta Aizawa?

God, how he wished it wasn’t. “Yes.”

Oh, that’s perfect.” There was a rustle of paper followed by the faint, rhythmic sound of a train bumping over rails. “Our information states you have an emergency foster license with the district, correct?”

Aizawa pulled the phone away from his ear and squinted at the caller ID. The words Musutafu Child Services blinked balefully back at him.

Ah.

This was beginning to make a little more sense now.

When applying to his first Underground hero agency, the higher ups had offered a course that would grant him a Musutafu district fostering license. They’d also informed him that most pro-heroes said no.

Aizawa said yes.

He was contrary like that.

So far, there’d been a few kids to pass through his home. Mostly no longer than a week, a couple nights at the very least. His charges were almost always unruly teenagers on the brink of being too old for the system, the type no one else wanted because they were ‘rebellious’ and ‘beyond saving’.

He gave them food and safety and let them have their independence, then they were gone.

It wasn’t always easy, but at least none had run away yet. All-in-all, Aizawa didn’t think he was a half-bad caretaker.

Sighing, he pinched the bridge of his nose for a second—mourning the amount of sleep he was about to lose—then pushed himself out of bed. “Where do you need me?”

Musutafu General Station.” That wasn’t too far, maybe he could even catch a few more minutes of slee— “In ten minutes.” Right. Aizawa remembered the universe hated him.

He nodded, not particularly caring that she couldn’t see the action. “I’ll see you there.”

Relief was audible in the woman’s voice. Apparently she was a lot more tired than she’d been letting on. “Perfect. And Aizawa, uh, sir?

He shrugged on his coat, not bothering to change out of his black, cat-hair-covered fleece sweater or the faded pink joggers he wore around the house. “Yes?”

Just,” she hesitated, fingers tapping against the receiver, “keep an eye on this one, ‘kay?”

Aizawa frowned down at the boots meant for his hero costume. They were well worn and comfortable, and it’s not like anyone would recognize them as part of his hero outfit. Perks of being an Underground-pro. He slipped them on. “Why?”

There was a rush of brakes and a surge of voices from the other side of the phone, “Oh, we just arrived at the station.” He didn’t think he was imagining the nervous edge to her chuckle. Or the way she was dodging his question. “We’ll see you soon!”

He pulled the phone away from his ear as the dial tone sounded, narrowing his eyes at its too-bright screen. That had sounded very. . .ominous.

He scratched Mochi behind the ears. Not even her purring was enough to soften the confused edge of his frown.

Just who was this kid?



The train station was surprisingly full despite the early hour, hosting a few families tiredly draped over benches with sleeping children on their laps and a couple rumpled looking businesspeople carting briefcases.

Aizawa glanced down at his phone again, quickly realizing he had no idea who he was looking for, when a voice spoke out from behind him.

“Mr. Aizawa?”

He tensed, before recognizing it as the woman who’d been speaking with him earlier.

He turned. She was unassuming, with a pencil skirt and mid-length brown hair. Her gaze was kind, if not a little tired and stretched around the edges.

The pro-hero was already forgetting what her face looked like five seconds after seeing it. Was he really that tired? “Yes?”

The woman stared him up and down. Her eyes seemed to linger particularly long on the vertical ‘Juicy’ that emblazoned his thigh in sparkly neon thread.

He wore these pants for comfort, not style. Her opinion meant nothing to him.

Besides, this wasn’t the eighteen-hundreds. Men could wear pink juicy jogging pants if they wanted.

He frowned, and made a mental note to never think that same combination of words again in case there were any mind-readers around.

The last thing his colleagues at U.A. needed was more blackmail information.

The woman didn’t look reassured by his response, but she nodded all the same. The papers tucked under her right arm rumpled as she slid them out, “Here’s his file. I would recommend discretion while looking at it, the information inside is. . .sensitive.”

Aizawa took it, unfazed. He dealt with confidential documents on a regular basis and lived alone.

No one would be seeing this. Except perhaps his three cats but, last he checked, they couldn’t read.

It was then that he clued into the empty space at her side, a stray, scratched black suitcase resting there with its handle sticking straight up.

“And just where is the kid?”

She winced. “He went to the bathroom. He should be back any—”

If it weren’t for Aizawas’ hard-earned spatial awareness, he would’ve completely missed the presence behind him.

“Ah,” the woman’s voice shook, “there he is.”

Aizawa wasn’t entirely sure what he’d been expecting. In fact, he tried not to have expectations or build profiles of people—especially kids—before he met them.

Partially because he didn’t care enough to, but mostly because social workers or case managers might not always have the full story.

From the social workers tone, Aizawa had been expecting some kind of delinquent. Tall, a sneering face, illogically baggy pants.

Seriously, had some kids never heard of a ‘belt’?

That being said, this kid was not at all what he’d been expecting.

For starters, they were incredibly short. He had to crane his neck to look down at them.

Aizawa took in the small build, the mess of green hair, freckled cheeks, narrowed eyes, and got the feeling the kid was examining him right back.

The second thing he noticed was their age.

Most kids that got stuck with Aizawa were the absolute worst-of-the-worst. The kind of teens that were banned from group homes and not allowed to wear backpacks into corner stores.

Keyword there being teens.

The individual in front of him looked no more than eleven, thirteen at the most. Definitely not in high school yet.

Aizawa was a last-ditch fosterer. For this kid to get sent to him at such a young age meant nothing good, that’s for certain.

It was then that Aizawa realized he’d been staring at the kid long enough for it to get creepy. Curse his tired, sleep-deprived attention span.

And his regular, every-day attention span. It sucked just as bad.

He flipped the folder in his hands open, silently noting how the kid winced at the motion.

It was thick, almost as thick as a small novel. It would take him a good couple of hours to look through everything, but that would have to wait.

All the information he needed was on the first page. Izuku Midoriya, born July 15th. Gender, male.

The accompanying picture was of a much younger looking child. One with a wide, angelically beaming smile, a purple bruise high on his cheek, and criminally large, doe-like eyes.

Aizawa glanced at the kid in front of him, taking in his down-turned lips and cagey eyes, then back at the picture.

Then at the kid, then back at the picture, then at the social worker.

Were they sure this was even the same kid?

Resisting the urge to pinch at the bridge of his nose again (an oncoming stress headache was beginning to press uncomfortably at his temples), he slipped the folder shut and slid it under his arm.

“Alright. Midoriya? Let’s get moving.” He gestured at the kid’s suitcase, knowing better than to grab a foster child’s possessions.

Back then, he’d always hated it when social workers grabbed his stuff too.

The kid snorted, then snatched their suitcase by its wobbly handle before trotting after Aizawa’s retreating form.

Aizawa glanced back at the social worker, her hand raised in farewell, her eyes troubled. He waved back half-heartedly, already fantasizing about his sleeping bag back home.

 “What?” He said as Midoriya slid into step beside him, a calculated arm’s length away. Aizawa didn’t comment on the distance. That, unfortunately, he also understood. “No teary, heartfelt goodbyes?”

Midoriya snorted again. “Pardon me while I don’t give a shit.”

His voice was stilted, cracked. Puberty; Aizawa remembered it well.

Too well, sometimes.

Acne had been the worst. He still had nightmares about waking up pimpled and snot-nosed sometimes.

“Language,” Aizawa remarked casually, pushing the train station door open and squinting up at an offending streetlight. It would be a couple hours yet till dawn. Thankfully. “I already have a bed made up in my guest bedroom. Anything else you need?”

“A shot at Endeavour and no witnesses.”

Aizawa ducked his head to hide his amused smile only to remember, too late, that he wasn’t wearing his capture scarf. “You and me both, kid.”

Midoriya’s pace stuttered, like he hadn’t been expecting that a response. The suitcase’s rickety wheels screeched as he almost tripped.

Aizawa forged ahead, not bothering to help him get his balance back. He knew help, just like touch, wouldn’t be appreciated right now.

The car ride back to his place was heavy with silence, but it didn’t feel like the awkward kind.

The kid slouched in the passenger seat, his entire body pressed against the door and his fingers never straying too far from the handle, like he was ready to jump out at the first sign of danger from Aizawa.

At least he didn’t comment on the tiny Present Mic keychain attached to Aizawa’s lanyard—although his eyes did widen the tiniest bit—and he didn’t throw himself out of a moving vehicle.

Aizawa counted that as a win, at least.

Maybe this wouldn’t be too bad?



This was horrible. This was the absolute worst.

Aizawa would never send a kid back, but this one. . .this one was trying his patience.

Midoriya was crouched in the front hall, two fuzzy bodies pressed up against his thighs and purring under his fingers.

Not even three seconds after entering and the kid had already seduced Mochi and Ramen.

Aizawa narrowed his eyes at them as he closed the door, kicking his boots off with a little less grace than usual.

The cats blinked back at him with wide, innocent eyes. Aizawa didn’t buy it for a second.

The little traitors.

They were all but throwing themselves at Midoriya. Hussies, the both of them.

At least Sushi still had some class, her dark fur poking out from beneath the couch where she watched the newcomer with wary, luminescent yellow eyes.

“You like cats, I’m guessing,” Aizawa stated, shooting another glare at the offending furballs.

Midoriya’s body tensed, fingers freezing where they’d been scratching behind Mochi’s tortoiseshell ears. “No. I hate them.”

Aizawa blinked down at the hand that remained wrapped in the cat’s fur, like the kid couldn’t physically bring himself to remove it. “. . .Right. I’ll show you to your room.”

Perhaps if Aizawa had been a little less sleep deprived, he would’ve been able to prevent what happened next.

Maybe if he hadn’t been in a nearly catatonic state after finishing patrol earlier, he’d have remembered to put his hero costume away before leaving.

But he was sleep deprived, and he had been nearly catatonic early, and Midoriya was definitely staring at the rumpled jumpsuit and capture weapon hanging over Aizawa’s kitchen chair.

Technically, Aizawa didn’t have to keep his hero identity a secret from the foster children that went through his house. He saw it more as a safety issue, for both himself and the kids.

If a child knew he was Eraserhead, then they’d be in possession of top-secret information a lot of underground villains would kill and/or maim to have.

If a kid told people he was Eraserhead, then his career as an underground hero would be put at risk.

Hard to go undercover when a bunch of high schoolers knew what you looked like, especially when he was often in charge of busting up younger, newer gangs.

Then again, chances of Midoriya knowing who Eraserhead was were slim to none; he was probably making a big deal out of nothing. Aizawa sighed, pressing at his temples again.

Sure, the kid knew about Endeavour, but he was the No. 2 hero. Everyone and their grandma’s dog’s fleas knew about Endeavour. Aizawa’s secret was probably—

Midoriya’s suitcase hit the ground as the kid whirled on him. “Eraserhead?!”

—safe.

Shoot.

Midoriya’s face, which up until that point had been withdrawn, crinkled into a wide-eyed, starstruck expression. He looked like the boy in his file. “You—you’re—” he shook his head, staring at Aizawa. “How are you—how are you even. . .”

Aizawa wasn’t sure how All Might managed. Having fans was distinctly uncomfortable.

(A very, very small part of him—that was going to remain unacknowledged—puffed up at the kid’s attention, but, again, he was determined to ignore it).  

“Take your time, kid,” he said wryly, ducking his chin as the kid flushed crimson.

“It’s—I just can’t believe you’re him!” Midoriya’s voice came out as a squeak while his hands trembled. “I’ve been—you’re just—” He made a squiggly motion with his fingers, as if that would make things clearer.

It didn’t, but it was oddly endearing.

Aizawa had to duck his head again to hide a treacherous smile. “I take it you’re a fan?”

Midoriya nodded impossibly fast, voice quietening. “I’ve—I’ve been a fan of you since forever.”

“How?” He narrowed his eyes, trying to think of how a foster kid would’ve gotten their hands on that kind of information. “I’m not exactly mainstream.”

Midoriya quieted even further, seeming to shrink in on himself. “There was this really old video of you on the hero forum. You took down this villain who had a knife-quirk and you did it,” his hands twisted in his shirt, drawing Aizawa’s eye to how bent they looked. Almost as if they’d been broken at some point, “you did it without a—without using a flashy quirk.”

Aizawa got the sense Midoriya had been about to say something else, but now didn’t seem the time to push for the truth. Especially on his first night here.

“Heroes don’t need flashy quirks. I’m technically at a disadvantage when I fight mutant quirked criminals, but I’ve had that disadvantage all my life.” He shrugged. “I’ve learned to work around it.”

He glanced down to see Midoriya staring at him, mouth hanging slightly open. Aizawa was starting to see how he’d used to be the boy in the folder, the wide-eyed one with a beaming grin.

“I always wondered if you could cancel mutant quirks,” Midoriya breathed out, his wariness from before seemingly forgotten. “I—I have so many questions. Why did you want to become a hero? What quirks did your parents have? Were they a combination of yours? Did you. . .did you pass the UA entrance exam? And what about—”

Aizawa held up his hands, as if to physically hold off the flood of questions. “One at a time.”

Midoriya’s reaction was instantaneous. It was as if he’d forgotten Aizawa was there and been suddenly reminded of his presence.

The nervous excitement faded, instantly locked down and turned into something distant. He took a step back, once again hovering a little over an arm’s length away.

 “Sorry,” the boy breathed softly. The clenching hands at his side were the only indicator of his discomfort.

Aizawa tried not to be disappointed at the change. Progress didn’t happen like magic, he knew that, but it was still disheartening to see Midoriya tensing like he expected to get hit.

“How about I show you your room first. You might even be able to get a few hours of sleep. You can bury me in questions after breakfast.” His head throbbed. “And coffee. Lots of coffee.”

Midoriya nodded subduedly, trailing after him down the hallway with his suitcase thumping over the uneven floorboards.

The sudden silence was different than before, weightier. It felt wrong to see the kid shrink after he’d been so animated earlier.

Attempting to break the ice, Aizawa causally asked, “So you’re a hero fan, I take it?”

He’d expected an easy ‘yes’, something they could use to build the bones of a conversation off, but Midoriya’s face shuttered.

It was like someone had flipped an invisible switch, like Midoriya was expecting a physical attack.

Then, it was covered up by anger.

“No. I hate them.” The boy’s lips curled into a grimace, his hand trembling where it was clenching into a tight fist. Any harder, and Aizawa wouldn’t be surprised if his palm started dripping blood. “I hate heroes.”

The words were spat, venomous.  

“You like cats, I’m guessing.”

Midoriya’s hand curled in Mochi’s fur, like he couldn’t bear to let go of her. Of a dream. “No. I hate them.”

Interesting.

Aizawa stared, then pushed the door to Midoriya’s temporary room open, the boy trudging in after.

He watched as the boy took the room in, eyes lingering especially long at the lock on the doorhandle. Like he could hardly believe it was there, like it was a surprise to be able to lock his room from the inside.

Aizawa shooed the cats away as they tried to wriggle towards their newfound master. Usually, he’d let the creatures sleep wherever they liked, but he didn’t want them to overwhelm Midoriya on his first night here.

 He was also, maybe, a teeny bit jealous of how fast the kid had earned their affection.

(But he would take that fact to his grave).

With the cats retreating indignantly down the hallway, tails waving in surrender, Aizawa watched as Midoriya hunched over his suitcase, like he was worried someone was going to try and take it away from him.

The kid was proving to be surprisingly interesting.

“No. I hate them.”

“I’ve—I’ve been a fan of you since forever.”

“I hate heroes.”

Very, very interesting.

He lingered at the door, giving the unpacking boy one last long, investigatory look. Like the truth of the kid’s contradictions would somehow be written on his sun-pinkened skin.

Then he turned, closing the door gently behind him.

The first thing Aizawa learned about Midoriya Izuku is that he was a liar.

Chapter Text

Enrolling Midoriya in school had been just about the hardest thing Aizawa had ever done, his entire underground hero career included.

With previous kids, he’d simply enrolled them in the nearest public high school. The teachers and faculty there knew him and were familiar with his need for secrecy, as well as the kind of teens he fostered.

The elementary school Midoriya was zoned for, however, did not.

At first, the principal had been overjoyed to have a pro-hero in his building (although he’d also looked incredibly skeptical until he saw the official Hero license tucked in with Aizawa’s identification), but when he’d gotten an extensive look at Midoriya’s file, his expression had shuttered.

He’d glanced up at Aizawa, as if looking for the punchline of a joke. Maybe for the reality TV cameras to roll out from behind a screen, for Aizawa to laugh and say, ‘got you good didn’t I, Mr. Principal?’.

Aizawa did nothing of the sort.

He did threaten to call Nedzu, however, which’d had the balding principial sweating nervous buckets. Not even eight minutes later, Aizawa was walking out of Midoriya’s new school with a freshly printed letter of acceptance in hand.

The principal’s attitude hadn’t made sense to him.

Sure, Midoriya was a foster kid with a bit of a checkered record, but most schools leapt at the opportunity to have such a situationally ‘diverse’ student.

It was good for their public rep, so why had the principal look so. . .disgusted?

The answer might’ve been in Midoriya’s folder, but Aizawa did his best not to read past the necessary information: allergies, age, preferred pronouns, etc.

He didn’t want his perception getting tangled up with the biases past foster parents or social workers might’ve had.

Sighing, he tucked the letter into Midoriya’s folder and headed home. Although the kid had already been with him for a few days, Aizawa still didn’t want to risk leaving him alone for too long.

That, and he was tired, and his bed was soft. Sleep called.



It was three in the morning and a criminal offense that Aizawa wasn’t sleeping.

He was staring out his bedroom window at the green head of hair perched on the balcony below.

As that same green head of hair broke one of the only rules Aizawa had given him.

His charge had been leaning against the balcony rail for over half-an-hour now, wet snowflakes falling from the sky and clumping in his mussy hair.

Smoke curled through the chilled winter air, filtering up to Aizawa’s cracked open window and pulling him back into memories he’d much rather forget.

Slipping out the broken door of his uncle’s ramshackle house to steal a pack of cigarettes from the corner store down the street.

Getting caught smoking outside the school, the weight of a bruise against his cheek. Dark blood clogging his raspy throat. Bloody fists, a cut tearing them from knuckle to—

He tore himself out of it as the figure below shifted, wiping almost angrily at their eyes with the back of a thin sweater sleeve.

Aizawa didn’t encourage smoking.

Quite the contrary, he’d quit immediately after his uncle lost custody of him and he got into the General Education course at UA. He hadn’t wanted the smoke to affect his strength or stamina, and not even addiction could prevent him from his goal of becoming a hero.

Midoriya, on the other hand, clearly didn’t share such a sentiment.

The boy took another drag, his form noticeably shivering in the chilled air.

Aizawa had bought him a jacket, one of the best the store had to offer, but the kid seemed intent on proving he didn’t need Aizawa’s generosity.

Although he certainly needed Aizawa’s food, nearly eating enough katsudon last night to stuff a large horse.

Another gust of freezing wind buffeted against the house, worming its way through the open window and trailing icy hands down Aizawa’s back.  

If Aizawa was cold cocooned in a blanket from the safety of his bedroom, then the kid was probably on the brink of hypothermia.

  Sighing, he pulled himself away from the window and grabbed the massive comforter from his bed. He’d been hoping Midoriya would eventually practice some common sense and come inside without prompting, but clearly the kid wasn’t ready for that yet.

The freezing tile of the kitchen floor was torture on his bare feet, and he cursed into the darkness as he made his way towards the balcony.

(The kid was outside and couldn’t hear him swearing. Aizawa intended to make full use of that while he still could).

He grimaced as his hand wrapped around the sliding door, the chill sinking into his hands and permeating up the rest of his arm. Extremely unpleasant, zero out of ten.

With one heave, he pulled the door back, its old rail squealing in protest. The sound was grating in the silence.

“What are you doing?” Aizawa had long since learned how to convey disappointment in a single phrase, and how to phrase a question like an obvious statement.

The kid jumped as he inhaled a particularly harsh mouthful of smoke, his legs twitching as if to run as he whipped around, eyes huge in the darkness.

Aizawa’s paranoid mind thought he was about to tip off the balcony, his body moving before he could think better of doing so.

Midoriya choked on a breath, stumbling back from Aizawa’s towering presence. His back hit the railing and Aizawa resisted the ingrained urge to whip his capture weapon out.

He wasn’t even wearing it; the contraption was slung over the foot of his bed upstairs.

Still, his hands twitched forward, like that would even do anything if the kid really was about to tumble over, and Midoriya misinterpreted the gesture.

The kid flinched, a cough wracking his frame as the smoke screwed up his breathing. “I didn’t—I didn’t mean to do this. I don’t even like doing this.” he managed to wheeze out between his lung-hacking fit, and Aizawa was having none of that. “I swear. I swear I’m not lying!”

“Breathe,” He bit out uselessly. The kid clearly needed help in that department. “Can I touch you?”

Panic flickered in the kid’s violent green eyes, like that sentence held another meaning entirely, but then he seemed to notice Aizawa’s lax posture. The way he was staying back, hands resting passively at his side.

Another gut-wrenching cough, then, “Y—please.”



Izuku Midoriya had been expecting a lot of things when he first heard he’d be staying with the mysterious ‘Shouta Aizawa’.

His new case worker, after the last one had quit barely a week into managing him, had said Aizawa was a final frontier; a “Last-ditch effort to keep you from running away, Midoriya. You can’t keep doing this, don’t you realize you’re hurting peo—” then he’d tuned her out.

When the man came to pick him up from the train station, Midoriya had honestly thought he was homeless.

That, or some kind of predator.

The man, with his deep-set eyes and scratchy beard, looked like he hadn’t slept in a week. Maybe even a month.

Possibly ever.

Aizawa was scary for the very brief amount of time Midoriya allowed himself to be scared. Then he was stuffing his emotions down again to a place where they couldn’t bother him, just like how he’d done when his mother died.

There was probably some kind of fancy, psychological term for detaching from yourself like that.

If there was, none of his social workers had ever bothered explaining it.

Back when his mother died, two weeks before the doctor would have diagnosed him quirkless in another world—two weeks before his father would’ve left for America in another life, disgusted with his son—Inko had deviated from her usual path home and went to help an inebriated man collapsed in an alley.

This changed everything, although no one knew it at the time.

The man had stabbed her. Twice. Right in between her second and third ribs.

Inko was dead within minutes. The killer went unaccounted for until they found his body three months later, pumped full of street-drugs in the ever-growing trash heap of Dagobah beach.

Izuku didn’t remember her funeral. Only that it had been sunny, and Auntie Mitsuki cried for the first time since ever.

Bakugou had been there, too. He’d hugged Midoriya, like he’d used to when they were younger kids, before the blond had gotten his ‘amazing’ quirk.

The other boy’s eyes had been red and slightly swollen from crying, while Izuku’s had remained dry. He didn’t have any energy left for crying.

He’d hugged tearful strangers and his mother’s many coworkers, all with dry, dry eyes, then gone home to take a nap.

And Izuku had been. . .not okay, exactly. But things kept happening. The world moved on.

He moved on, too, albeit a little unwillingly.

He went to school, Hisashi packed him a lunch. Sometimes. Most times he passed out on the couch after crying into a bottle of rice wine.

Midoriya got very good at making himself lunches.

And breakfasts and dinners and late-night snacks.

Then he was six, and his quirk still hadn’t come.

The first few doctors said it was a trauma response, that he was just repressing his powers from manifesting, but the last one they went to—the one with the bug-eyed glasses—had taken an X-ray of his foot.

Quirkless.

Izuku couldn’t find it within himself to be devastated. He hadn’t dreamed of being a hero since the nice nurse lady had pronounced his mother dead.

She’d tried to be a hero, and what had that gotten her?

An express, all-expenses paid one-way trip to the morgue.

Hisashi, on the other hand, was very devastated that his son didn’t have a quirk. He expressed this devastation by drunkenly burning three, perfectly circular holes into Izuku’s shoulder with the butt-end of a cigarette.

That night, the Midoriya’s’ neighbours called the police to report a hysterical child next door. That same night, Izuku was removed from his father’s custody and taken to a hospital.

The nice nurse lady who’d held him before as he cried over his mother’s still-warm body hadn’t recognized him as she bandaged his burned arm, a grimace on her face after she’d gotten a glimpse of his new ‘quirkless’ status. For some reason, that hurt almost as much as the burns did.

The next morning, the first of soon-to-be-many foster parents picked him up.

And life moved on from there.

Now he was standing on his most recent foster parent’s balcony, watching grey smoke curl up into greyer clouds.

Izuku hated smoking.

In one of the last homes he’d been placed in, the one he’d run away from to land himself in Shouta Aizawa’s ‘last-ditch-effort house’, the wife smoked. The fumes had crept their way into his lungs, had made him tremble when they were gone.

The woman noticed. One evening, when her husband was late home from work for the eighth night in a row (he always came home smelling of someone else’s perfume), she’d studied his trembling hands.

She’d offered him a cigarette, a knowing look in her bruised eyes.

Izuku had accepted.

The trembling stopped. He started stealing them after that. After he ran away when her husband got a little too heavy-handed.

He drew in another breath, ignoring how the cold was slowly starting to feel warm.

Izuku had honestly meant to keep Aizawa’s Golden Rules.

The man hadn’t asked for much, just that Izuku, treat the cats with respect, clean up after himself, ask for help, and keep any illegal substances out from under my roof.

Izuku’d been confused when there wasn’t more, nothing about chores or curfew or homework; Aizawa had just finished his spiel about ‘any and all illegal substances’ and gone right to bed.

It had been strange; Izuku was half still waiting for the other shoe to drop.

He went to inhale again, the cigarette poised against his lips, when the sound of the sliding door echoed out into the night.

His inhale turned into a startled gasp, the smoke cutting its way down his throat as if it were a blade. He coughed, feeling like one of his lungs was dislodging itself from his chest.

“What are you doing?”

The voice sent a jolt of sheer terror down Izuku’s spine as he spun, coming face-to-face with Aizawa. Horror balled itself up at the back of his throat, making the already difficult task of breathing a near impossibility.

The railing pressed into his back uncomfortably, but the pain suddenly didn’t matter as Aizawa took a step forward, one of his hands reaching out as if to grab.

Izuku winced, immediately cursing himself for the tell. He knew better than to reveal a weakness like that—a cough wracked his frame and, before he knew it, the fear-tinged words were spilling from his head and out of his mouth. “I didn’t—I didn’t mean to do this. I don’t even like doing this.”

He didn’t. He really didn’t. The smoke burned; his lungs ached. He just wanted to breathe again. Did Aizawa believe him? “I swear. I swear I’m not lying!”

At least Aizawa had stopped advancing, his hands carefully clenched at his sides. Weird.

“Breathe,” The man said uselessly. Why didn’t Izuku think of that? Oh, right, because he couldn’t. Izuku almost laughed, but Aizawa’s next words punched the amusement out of his empty chest. “Can I touch you?”

Sheer panic swamped Izuku’s brain. Like an avalanche. Hands, everywhere. Hands on him. Hands around his throat, hands ripping at his hair. . .but then he noticed the way Aizawa hung back.

The man was just standing there, watching. Like an idiot.

Izuku hated him in that moment.

Izuku hated himself a little, too. He could multitask.

The ‘no’, was on the tip of his tongue, but the spots in his vision were getting darker, the tremors in his hands more pronounced. “Y—please.”

Aizawa surged forward. The motion would’ve been startling if not for the calm, collected expression on the man’s face.

One wide hand pressed against Izuku’s chest, right above his heart. “Count after me, okay?”

“Okay,” Izuku managed to breath out between two ragged wheezes.

Time seemed to drag by, but eventually his heart stopped beating at the pace of a hummingbird on crack.

He shuddered, the hand on his chest adding a little more pressure, like Aizawa could sense that he needed to be grounded.

Then the hand was gone, and the man was stepping back again.

It was nice and all, having his personal space respected, but Izuku almost wished Aizawa would crowd him. The man’s hands had been warm, his eyes devoid of anything except worry and kindness.

Now Izuku stood there in the cold, a long-extinguished cigarette dangling limply from between two fingers and a head covered in snow, wishing for affection.

He shook his head scornfully. Since when was he so pathetically wishy-washy?

Wishing for affection. What was he, a Hallmark channel?

Izuku grimaced, squeezing his wrist to pull himself back into the moment.

See? He didn’t need Aizawa to ground him. Izuku was managing on his own just fine.

“Let’s head inside, yeah?” Aizawa’s voice was gruff, blank. Izuku almost wished he sounded angry; he knew how to handle anger.

But Aizawa just stared at him, looking incredibly bored with the entire situation.

Izuku hesitated for a moment, the drop behind him calling. He turned, snow swirling, the cold eating into his bones and causing his mind to feel a bit like a fish in a bowl.

If he stayed there any longer, he might fall asleep. Fall asleep and see his mom, hold her hand. Feel warm.

Aizawa cleared his throat softly, raising a brow in such a no-nonsense, what-the-hell-are-you-waiting-for type of gesture that Izuku almost laughed at.

Squashing his smile behind a scarred hand, Izuku dropped the unfinished cigarette into the snow behind him and didn’t once look back.



Aizawa watched as the kid turned towards the city skyline, as the wind ruffled his dark hair and yanked it around in messy curls.

His figure looked especially small against the towering buildings. Aizawa swallowed, feeling some dark, unidentifiable emotion.

(Protective. It was not unidentifiable, just unwanted; for statistics showed that Aizawa was no good at protecting people).

A shiver seemed to wrack Midoriya’s frame and Aizawa wondered, not for the last time, what the kid was thinking. What had he been through to make him like this?

Then Midoriya swivelled toward him, eyes boring holes into Aizawa’s, clearly weighing something. Calculating it. Absently, Aizawa wondered if the kid knew the limits of his own determination, knew how his silhouette stood out against an entire skyline.

Knew how much he already looked like a hero.

The cigarette dropped from the kid’s fingers, plopping into the snow.

Aizawa felt himself twitch in surprise.

Midoriya’s hand created a shadow against his mouth, but Aizawa still caught the barest hint of a smile there. “Okay. Let’s go.”

The second thing Aizawa learned about Izuku Midoriya was that he, somehow, inexplicably, inspired.

Inspired Aizawa to care.

Chapter Text

He followed Aizawa inside, the cold wind doing its best to tug him backwards. Izuku shivered, purposefully ignoring the look Aizawa shot him over his shoulder.

Izuku had a feeling this new ‘parental concern’ thing was going to get very old very fast.

Once they were both inside, the sliding door shut firmly behind them, Izuku immediately had a massive fluffy comforter foisted upon him.

It was warmed from Aizawa’s grip, settling around Izuku’s shoulders like a cloud. His body relaxed against his will, sinking into the blanket’s downy comfort.

This was far from the worst thing in the world, but the sheer expanse of the thing almost caused Izuku to drown in the cheap polyester.

“Put that on,” Aizawa said, quickly stepping out of his personal space again. “You should probably shower; your lips are blue.”

Izuku prodded carefully at them with his tongue.

Aizawa moved in the corner of his vision, hand pulling back, and Izuku felt his body lock up in response.

Usually it took longer than this, at least a couple weeks, for them to get physical. Maybe Izuku had sped the process along by breaking Aizawa’s rules?

Some vague, distant part of him felt disappointed. He’d thought Aizawa might be different, that the man really was as caring as he pretended to be.

He was Eraserhead, after all. A pro-hero. Heroes were supposed to be good.

He didn’t realize he’d been squeezing his eyes shut till the older man’s voice interrupted his racing thoughts. “What are you doing?”

His jaw clenched where he’d been purposefully relaxing it (it hurt his teeth less when he was relaxed), one eye flying open. “What?”

Aizawa was staring down at him. “What are you doing. Your clothes are soaked. The shower’s right up—”

He couldn’t take the suspense anymore.

“Aren’t you going to give me a consequence?” Izuku interjected. “Or are you the more extreme parenting type? You going to take away my ‘screen time’? Ground me?” He laughed, and it sounded a little hysterical, even to him. “Or are you going to—gonna hit me?”

He coughed, wincing at the fearful lilt the words had carried.

Aizawa just leaned back against the counter, his knuckles white where they clenched the marble edge. “I do believe in consequences.”

Even though it’d been Izuku who’d suggested the idea, he still felt a chill run down his spine.

This was it. Aizawa was going to hit him or kick him out for the night or. . .

Or worse.

A gust of wind buffeted against the window and Izuku shivered despite the comforter dwarfing him. It would be freezing outside. There’s no way he’d survive a night on the streets. “I’m—I d-didn’t—” He cut himself off, cursing how his tongue stumbled over the words.

Why couldn’t he just be normal?

And through it all Aizawa was still watching him, eyes never leaving his face. “Let me clarify. I do believe in natural, correlative consequences. You broke a rule, because of that you almost hacked up a lung.” He shrugged. “Natural correlative consequence.”

Izuku studied his feet, the worn red shoes that had a hole in the toe.

“So . . . you’re not going to kick me out?”

Aizawa stilled.

Sushi hopped up onto the counter, not paying either person any mind as she began licking at her toe beans.

“I’m not going to kick you out, no. I’m not going to hit you either.” Aizawa finally said, apparently recovering from whatever had shocked him silent. “I said correlative consequences and I meant it.”

Izuku didn’t bother pointing out that a lot of foster parents said a lot of things; few meant them.

Some did.

He’d had a few good houses in the past, kind couples and sweet foster-siblings. Home-baked birthday cakes and second-hand bicycles.

That was before he got older though, before he got labelled as a ‘problem’.

“How do I know,” he choked out. “How do I know you’re not just going to change your mind and—” He made a vague hand motion, hoping the man understood what he couldn’t say.

Aizawa was still watching him. It was unnerving, his gaze uncannily similar to that of his cat’s.

If Izuku hadn’t already been aware of the man’s Erasure quirk, he would’ve thought he had some kind of cat-mutation.

“I guess you can’t know for sure,” the man said. It sounded like he was genuinely considering the dilemma. A contemplative pause, then, “How about a deal?”

Izuku frowned. “A deal?”

“Yes. I trust you not to smoke, you trust me not to hit you. Trust is a two-lane street; I wouldn’t ask it of you unless I was also giving it.”

“That’s—that’s stupid!”

The man slanted an eyebrow at him. “How so.”

Aizawa wouldn’t like his answer to that question, so Izuku just stayed silent. He’d said too much already.

“Do you want me to hit you?” Aizawa asked, tilting his head. To his left, Sushi mimicked him, ears flopping as she fixed a feline grin on Izuku.

“No, but—”

Aizawa clicked his tongue. “Then I fail to see what the problem is. You don’t want me to hit you, I don’t want you to smoke. It’s only logical that we come to an agreement.”

Izuku, for lack of anything better to say, muttered, “You sound like a lawyer.”

The man scoffed, tucking his chin into the blanket still wrapped around his shoulders. “You and Hizashi would get along like a house on fire.”

Hizashi? Izuku frowned. The name was oddly familiar.

“Fine,” he spat, “I agree to your deal. Let’s shake hands or whatever.” He stuck his hand out, trying to stop the trembling of his frozen fingers.

Aizawa glanced at the proffered limb, entirely unimpressed. “Go shower, kid. You look like a popsicle. You’re first day of school’s tomorrow and I have work, can’t have you catching a cold.”

Izuku couldn’t tell if he nodded or if his neck just tremored, but then, “Work?” He frowned. The words slipped out before he could stop them. “I thought you were an underground hero.”

His guardian didn’t look annoyed by the question. If anything, his eyes seemed to twitch into a sort of smile. “I patrol at night. During the day, I’m in charge of U.A.’s hero course.”

Izuku felt his heart stutter.

Abruptly, that familiar longing blossomed in his chest again. The one that’d had him writing in his Hero Analysis for the Future notebooks and playing heroes in the backyard with Kacchan.

Aizawa was studying him with an odd look on his face, one Izuku couldn’t even begin to decipher. “Have you ever considered U.A., Midoriya?”

If his heart had stuttered before, it almost stopped now.

His mind blanked, a blizzard roared behind his ears.

The worst thing about it was that he had considered U.A., back when his mom was still alive.

She’d helped him write out his ‘Ten Year Hero Plan!’ before he had the coordination to even hold a pencil.

His father would pick him up, zooming Izuku around the house on his shoulders while Inko pretended to be a civilian, trapped under the crushing weight of a few throw pillows.

Izuku would pull the fake-debris off her and get smothered in kisses as a reward. Hisashi would smile, maybe even ruffle Izuku’s cowlicked toddler hair.

Afterwards, they’d feast on homemade cookies in front of the TV, watching one of All Might’s latest interviews.

Izuku rubbed at the faded cigarette burns on his shoulder, dropping his gaze to the floor. A pit yawned open in his stomach, filled with something he was determinedly going to label as anger. “No,” he lied. “I have no interest in UA.”

Aizawa leaned forward. His gaze felt heavy. “No? Not even the General Education course? Statistically, UA graduates have a higher chance of getting into their chosen university. You’re really not interested?”

“I said no! Why can’t you just—” Izuku finally lifted his head only to be met with an intense grey stare.

The man was studying him, eyes never leaving his face. Like he was waiting for something.

Like he was watching something important.

He cleared his throat, settling his gaze on Aizawa’s nose. That way he could see the man’s face (track his movements) without having to look into those laser-focused eyes. “I can’t be a hero, and I can’t go to UA. I don’t get why you keep—”

“You said can’t that time.” Aizawa pushed off the counter. “Which is it?”

Izuku sputtered. “Does it matter? Can’t go or don’t want to go, it’s the same thing.”

“It’s not, though.” Aizawa finally stopped approaching, just short of two arm lengths away. Izuku relaxed at the man’s distance without even realizing it. “If something is preventing you from going, then I can do my best to fix it. If you don’t want to go, then you don’t have to. They’re two very separate issues, Midoriya.”

Izuku swallowed the lump in his throat. Why was Aizawa pressing this so much? Had he not read his file? Had he not seen the damning X-ray on the second page? “I’m quirkless,” he finally said into the silence of the kitchen.

He waited for the rejection, the scoff. Maybe even the disgust.

His hand tightened on the railing behind him, body preparing for a hasty retreat in case the man got violent.

Sure, he was a pro-hero, but that didn’t necessarily mean he would react well to Izuku basically lying to him this whole time. Just look at Endeavour, he was a pro-hero and he acted like—

“So?”

Izuku whipped around so fast he was surprised his spine didn’t snap. “What?”

Aizawa was still staring at him, Sushi mirroring the man’s level gaze. “I said, so? It would be hard, sure, and chances are you’d never receive the same limelight status as All Might, but it could be done. Quirks have very little to do with heroics.”

“That’s not true,” Izuku interjected, his caution dropping in favour of dismissing such a ridiculous argument. Quirk analysis was his thing, even if he didn’t write about it in his Hero Analysis books anymore. “You’re saying any random person the on the street could become a hero? That doesn’t make sense, without quirks there wouldn’t even be any heroes in the first place.”

Aizawa tilted his head at him. “Wouldn’t there be?”

Wouldn’t there be?

Had the man lost his mind?

Izuku blinked at him, wondering what Aizawa could possible be talking about, when the past words of a well-meaning foster parent surfaced in his mind.

“I know lots of quirkless people that become cops or doctors, heroes of a different sort.”

Izuku had only stayed at that house for about a week before getting moved into a temporary group home, but it’d still been one of the kindest homes he’d stayed at to date.

Except, maybe, for Aizawa’s.

The verdict was still out, hinging on if this conversation ended with Izuku tossed into the streets.

But is that what Aizawa was saying? That doctors were technically heroes too?

“It’s not the same, though.” Izuku argued. “Hero society today was designed to counteract villains. Are you saying the average police officer could fight off Chainsaw Man? Or stop a villain from robbing a bank?”

Aizawa smiled slowly. The expression was terrifying; Izuku was beginning to understand why the man usually hid it behind his capture weapon. “If there weren’t any quirks, there wouldn’t be any superpowered villains. Your average police officer would be able to stop a bank robbery. Is that not the definition of ‘heroic’?”

Izuku scowled. “Fine, you don’t necessarily need a good quirk to be a hero, but that still doesn’t mean everyone nowadays can be a pro. Some people aren’t cut out for it, or they’re too weak, or they cry too much, or—”

“I never said everyone can be a hero, Midoriya.” Aizawa’s voice was slow, like he was talking to a child. It made Izuku want to hit something, preferably the man himself.

It didn’t matter that Izuku was, technically, a child. He’d stopped thinking about himself like that a long time ago.

“I said that quirks have very little to do with heroics.” Aizawa corrected, still smirking insufferably. “Not everyone can be a hero, just like not everyone is ‘cut out’, as you say, to become an officer or get their medical degree.”

“Then how do you know,” Izuku said frustratedly. This wasn’t making any sense! Strong quirks like All Might’s lead to heroics, weak quirks meant living an average life. Right? Right. “How do you know who can become a hero and who can’t?”

“Do you want to save people, Midoriya?”

“What?”

Aizawa huffed, like he knew Izuku was being purposefully obtuse. Izuku was, but still. “Do you want to save people?”

Izuku thought of pulling the pillows away from his mom’s smiling face, of helping Kacchan off a fence he’d once climbed too high on, of standing between a crying foster-sibling and their angry, snarling foster-parent. Of the way Izuku’s lip had split under the man’s fist.

Of the starstruck, grateful grin the foster-sibling had shot Izuku afterwards.

“Yes,” he whispered.

When he looked up, Aizawa wasn’t smiling but his expression was oddly soft. It made him look younger than he usually did. “That’s how you know, Midoriya. A person with the potential to be a hero gives that answer and means it.”

Izuku’s eyes widened, something shifting inside him. It felt like a shattering, or maybe a reconstruction. He wasn’t sure yet.

All he knew is that if he stayed here any longer, he was going to cry. And he was a Midoriya, meaning his crying was loud and wet and messy.

The last thing he needed was for Aizawa to see him getting all weepy after the man had just announced Izuku could become a hero.

“Shut up,” he snarled, trying to ignore how his voice hiccupped after. “Just shut—shut up.”

He staggered toward the stairs, bobbing a quick bow before spinning on his heel and making his way towards the bathroom.

He was angry. Really, really angry.

Anger was easy. Kids who cried got hit, but kids who were angry got left alone. So he was angry, not sad.

Angry.

He was almost at the top of the stairs—almost to the safety of the bathroom—when Aizawa spoke again.

It was quiet, barely audible over the pounding blood in Izuku’s ears. “You can be a hero, Midoriya. There’s nothing stopping you.”

And there they were, the words he’d always wanted to hear.

The words he never had.

Any self-control he’d been excising immediately collapsed, the dam’s walls shattering as he almost tripped over the blanket still wrapped around his shoulders and trailing behind him.

He swiped at his eyes, ignoring the wetness staining his sleeve afterward. He managed to squeeze out a quick, “G’night, Aizawa”, before he was making his way up the rest of the stairs and closing the bathroom door behind him.

As soon as he was safely out of sight, and as soon as he’d yanked the lock into place, he sagged onto the floor in a crying, heaving mess.

Later, he’ll think of how his mom would’ve been proud of the absolute river he managed to cry onto Aizawa’s bathroom floor, but for now he just pulls the blanket around his shoulders and sobs even harder.



Aizawa felt himself sag against the counter as soon as the kid was out of sight, energy rushing out of his body as soon as the bathroom door slammed shut behind Midoriya’s frantic form.

Sushi rubbed against his palm, like she could sense he needed the friendly contact. She probably could; Hizashi had an ongoing theory that all Aizawa’s cats were secretly psychic.

Sighing, he passed a hand over his weary face as he heard the kid start to cry. Loud, echoing sobs that sounded barely concealed by a fist or loose sleeve.

He’d seen it coming, obviously. Seen the wide-eyed, almost dazed look Midoriya had shot him before scampering clumsily up the stairs.

Distantly, Aizawa knew that approaching Midoriya right now would do more harm than good, but a part of him still ached at the thought of leaving the kid alone.

Sushi bopped against his hand where it’d started clenching the counter, knuckles white and bloodless.

“You’re right,” he said to her. “He doesn’t trust me enough yet.”

The cat blinked slowly at him, as if to say That’s not what I meant, you freaking idiot, but Aizawa just gave her one last scratch under the chin before collecting himself.

(Should he stop projecting onto his cats? Probably).

Just because the kid didn’t need him close right now doesn’t mean Aizawa couldn’t wait for him.

When Midoriya was ready, Aizawa would be there.

Until then, he would stay silent and make sure the kid didn’t hurt himself in his hysterics.

The sound of Midoriya’s heaving gasps eventually subsided to sniffles, then to silence as the shower turned on and covered up any further sounds.

Heaving one last sigh, Aizawa made his way towards the boy’s room. He’d give Midoriya space, but first he was going to make sure the kid had a fresh pair of pyjamas waiting for him outside the bathroom door and a clean towel.

As he gathered everything together, throwing in the brand-new pair of slippers he’d gotten the kid for good measure, Aizawa caught sight of the notebooks stacked under the kid’s bed.

Hero Analysis for the Future.

A small smile pulled at his lips as he quickly averted his eyes, pretending not to have seen.

The kid probably hid the books for a reason; Aizawa wouldn’t bring them up unless Midoriya did.

He dropped the little bundle of clean clothes and towels off in front of the bathroom door, turning away again when he heard the shower cutting off.

“Goodnight, kid,” he whispered under his breath, taking up vigil on the slightly less lumpy side of his apartment’s only couch.

He wouldn’t be getting any sleep tonight, thoughts too full of watery green eyes and winces.

As he stared at his apartment’s clock and watched the minutes trickle by, Sushi systematically shredding a pillow apart to his left, Aizawa added a new fact to the mental list he was compiling:

The third thing he learned about Izuku Midoriya is that, at some point, society had told him he was incapable.

And Midoriya, painstakingly, believed it.

Chapter Text

Time passed surprisingly quickly after the night they made their little ‘deal’.

(Aizawa didn’t really consider it a proper deal, as he’d never had any actual intention of hurting Midoriya. But whatever).

Sure enough, Midoriya seemed to have eliminated his smoking habit. Aizawa had walked into his room, once, just to see if the putrid smell of nicotine was in the air. There’d been nothing.

Only the faint scent of teenage angst and old ramen.

Squashing the faint smile that’d tried to surface on his lips, Aizawa had picked up the abandoned container of half-eaten noodles and closed the door behind him.

After that, he did his best to respect the kid’s privacy. Trust was a two-way street; he knew that better than anyone.

Midoriya started school and Aizawa went back to UA, shaking his head over the three students he’d immediately recognized as troublemakers. Nejire, Mirio, and Tamaki Amajiki.

It was only their first year at U.A., but their wild antics had already caused him several headaches.

He’d lost a criminal amount of sleep keeping an eye on the three in class. And sure, technically he wasn’t supposed to be sleeping during class in the first place, but he’d come to rely on his in-class naps.

Swallowing back a yawn, he stuck his keys in the door and jerked them to the left. He’d instructed Midoriya to lock the door when he was home alone, just in case.

His apartment was in a pretty good neighborhood, but Aizawa had still given him a lecture on not letting strangers in.

(He was pretty sure the kid had been silently mocking him the whole time, those green eyes crinkling with unspoken amusement and something that looked a little like confusion).

Midoriya was technically old enough to be alone in the apartment—and he was only alone for an hour before Aizawa got back—but the man still stressed about that single hour more than he’d ever stressed about anything in his entire life.

What if a villain from one of Aizawa’s past cases found him? What if someone broke in while the kid was home alone? What if—

Sushi mewed plaintively at his feet, her claws catching in his pantleg and jerking Aizawa out of his paranoid spiral.

“What?” He asked, closing the door behind him before she had a chance to realize he’d left it open. She was a great cat, sure, but she was also evil and would run away just to spite him. “Got something to say?”

She blinked at him before retracting her paw, turning tail and putting her back to him as she licked her hindquarters.

Which was basically the feline version of I don’t care about you and I hope you die.

Aizawa huffed, slipping the bag of 1-A essays he had to grade that weekend over his shoulder. He poked at her gently with a socked toe. “Don’t be rude. You like living here? Then keep your opinions to yourself.”

There was a soft sound from down the hall and Aizawa tensed, head snapping towards it as he subtly shifted his weight to the balls of his feet, readying for combat—

It was the kid.

Midoriya was standing at the end of the hall, a blanket draped over his shoulders and a mug with an oversized spoon sticking out of it cradled in his left hand.

The other hand was clapped over his mouth, which had clearly been the source of the sound.

“Did you just,” Aizawa narrowed his eyes at him, “laugh at me.”

Midoriya lowered his hand, mouth open to respond, only to laugh again when Sushi swatted Aizawa’s foot.

Aizawa ducked his chin into the capture weapon still slung around his neck. A grin was twisting his lips, but the kid didn’t need to know that.

Secretly—and he really did mean secretly, no one would ever know this—he was grateful for the kid’s amusement. It was truly a testament to how comfortable Midoriya had gotten with them all since he’d arrived.

Midoriya, as he’d been when he first came, would’ve stuttered out an apology by now.

This Midoriya still winced at loud noises and avoided being too close to Aizawa, but he was starting to smile more. Laugh slowly.

“Sorry,” the kid said, though it sounded anything but genuine. “Does the media know you threaten your cats with homelessness?”

Aizawa pointed a finger at him in what was supposed to be a threatening gesture. Midoriya only smiled wider. “The media doesn’t know I exist, and I intend to keep it that way.”

“How?” Midoriya blinked innocently at him. Aizawa didn’t buy it for a minute. “By threatening your pets into silence?” He directed his next question at the blob of black fur curled by Aizawa’s feet, holding his hand out like there was a microphone in it. “Do you feel coerced, Sushi? Care to make a statement on the ethics of Underground hero fear-tactics?”

The treacherous feline chose that moment to let out another yowl.

“She lies, your Honour.” Aizawa said. If he said it for the sole purpose of drawing another laugh from Midoriya, no one needed to know that.

(He had an image to uphold, after all).

And the kid did laugh, although he quickly hid it behind his palm.

Aizawa had to duck his head again, burying his grin in the soft grey folds of his hero gear.

As he headed towards the kitchen, a still-chuckling Midoriya and complaintive Sushi following at an arm’s length behind him, he had a feeling the kid was going to be okay.

They both would be. Together.



Midoriya, despite being one of the youngest kids he’d ever fostered, was freakishly perceptive.

If Aizawa hadn’t been told the kid was quirkless, he would’ve thought Midoriya had some kind of analysis quirk. That, or an intelligence booster.

Which is what’d led them to this—Midoriya curled up on the other end of the couch, a cat beneath each hand, muttering about the plot twist of the movie they were watching.

Before the plot twist happened.

The kid was an unapologetic spoiler.

The first time it’d happened, Aizawa had almost rejoiced.

The kid was making headway; finally becoming comfortable enough to take up space. Aizawa could handle a little bit of mumbling if it meant the kid was opening up.

That was last week. Since then, the kid had started doing the same thing Every. Single. Movie night.

Now, this week, Midoriya was guessing possible endings to the movie, hands twitching like they were trying to write in the air.

Aizawa clenched his jaw, torn between annoyance and amusement. He squinted at the too-bright screen. Amused-annoyance? Amuyance?

Was that a thing?

If Hizashi, his downstairs neighbour, best friend (possibly something more, but they hadn’t discussed that yet) and co-worker were here, he would’ve laughed himself unconscious.

Sighing, he shifted in his chair, startling Sushi awake. The cat glared at him like he’d just pulled her tail, or registered her for one of those pet-hotel-shelters where she’d be forced to eat dry kibble and socialize like all the other peasant felines.

He huffed at her. Drama queen.

The couch fabric rustled, drawing his attention to the boy on the other end.

Was it just him, or had Midoriya moved?

The kid scooched forward again, eyes never leaving the TV screen as he mumbled.

Definitely not just Aizawa then; Midoriya was moving across the couch towards him. Like a slow, crawling crustacean making its way across the seabed to its target.

Question was, why? And was Aizawa the target? Because he didn’t like the sound of that.

Midoriya moved again, shooting Aizawa a quick glance out of the corner of his eye before staring at the screen again, cheeks red with embarrassment at being caught looking.

Aizawa blinked, glancing beside him. There was nothing the kid might want on the table next to him, no leftover snacks or juice boxes.

Sushi watched them both with wide, knowing eyes before sauntering off to her automatic feeder in the kitchen.

Again, Midoriya moved closer. Again, Aizawa felt incredibly confused.

Then there was a familiar, fluffy head of green hair being hesitantly rested against his shoulder, a body settling next to him, and—

Oh.

Aizawa was really, really stupid.

Hizashi would definitely be laughing at him now, those full belly laughs he did when he got especially tired.

He stayed perfectly still as the kid got comfortable, shuffling into the groove of Aizawa’s side like it’d been made for him.

There was a relaxed, easeful exhale before Midoriya’s breathing settled into a staccato rhythm.

Aizawa squashed back a smile as the movie played on, the characters on screen doing some seriously inaccurate espionage. One of them hopped across a rooftop, landing in a pose that definitely would’ve shattered both their ankles.

Midoriya’s breath fanned against his arm, the silence a blessing. Maybe, if he could get the kid to fall asleep every movie night, he wouldn’t spoil anymore movies with his insane plot guessing.

He sighed, tearing his eyes back towards the screen and frowning at what he saw.

Aizawa hated this kind of movie. He wasn’t sure how anyone could ever—

Midoriya rustled against him, letting out a quiet snore as one of the fakest explosions Aizawa had ever seen sent the protagonist (were they even the protagonist? Aizawa had stopped paying attention somewhere between the opening credits and first 40 seconds of the movie) flying into a brick wall.

Usually, Aizawa hated this kind of movie. Right now, he found himself perfectly content to stare at the screen, Midoriya’s sleeping head pillowed against him.

He smiled and didn’t bother hiding it this time.

Yeah, they were going to be just fine.



Aizawa did not feel fine an hour-and-a-half later when he snorted awake on the couch, back aching from the weird angle he’d positioned himself in to support Midoriya’s weight.

He blinked blearily at the credits rolling across the screen, trying to determine what realm of existence he was in again. He hadn’t slept that deeply in . . .a long time.

Possibly ever.

He reached across the table for his phone, doing his best not to jostle Midoriya’s head. A cruel 12:41 AM stared back at him and he frowned, flipping through his notifications only to remember he didn’t care about any of the people trying to text him.

He turned the device off and slid it back onto the coffee table, almost popping his arm out of his socket when he tried to do so without waking Midoriya.

Even though, judging from the dark circles beneath the kid’s eyes, All Might himself smashing down the apartment door wouldn’t stir Midoriya.

“Kid?” Aizawa muttered, gently shaking his charge’s shoulder. “Kid, you with me?”

Midoriya grunted something before rolling over onto his other side, pressing his face into the couch cushion. “’Zawa. Mmmbr, eggroll.”

He stared down at the kid’s head. “Excuse me?”

No response, only the slow rise and fall of the boy’s chest beneath his pilly-from-too-many washes pyjama shirt.

Sighing, Aizawa slowly maneuvered himself out from beneath Midoriya’s surprisingly substantial weight.

When he’d first arrived, the kid had looked like a wraith beneath his baggy sweaters and jeans. Now he looked healthy, muscle cording his arms and legs and a faint glow on his cheeks.

Aizawa debated just leaving Midoriya there on the couch, tossing a blanket over him and calling it a night, but then he took his own aching joints into consideration.

His couch was old and saggy, barely providing enough support to sit in, let alone sleep on.

The kid would probably wake up in the morning ninety-years older with chronic back pain and a mortgage if he didn’t move now.

Aizawa sighed. Next time Nemuri said he was heartless, he was going to throw something at her. Preferably something sharp. Like a knife, or a chainsaw.

Shifting Midoriya into his arms proved to be surprisingly difficult, especially when he started flopping around like a small, beached whale, but Aizawa eventually managed to wrestle him upwards.

“Now that was unnecessary,” Aizawa remarked when one of the kid’s elbows almost took his eye out.

He pushed Midoriya’s head against his shoulder, scooped the kid off the couch, and started making his way towards the back bedrooms.

Sushi watched him from the kitchen counter as they passed, looking incredibly judgemental. If she had eyebrows, they would be arched incredulously at him.

“I’m moving him, not kidnapping.” Aizawa muttered. “Calm down.”

Getting Midoriya’s door open turned out to be a challenge when his arms were full of child, but he eventually managed to contort his wrist at such an angle that he could get his fingers around the handle.

He almost bit the dust over the various tripping hazards on Midoriya’s floor—likely another testament to how comfortable the kid had gotten, if he was leaving his stuff out all willy-nilly.

Aizawa froze in the middle of the kid’s floor, almost dropping Midoriya in surprise. Willy-nilly? What was he, twenty-six going on sixty? Was he turning into a dad?

The thought wasn’t half as horrifying as it would’ve been a month ago. He didn’t know if this was a good or really, really bad thing.

Shaking his head, he started moving again only to immediately trip over a stack of clean laundry he’d asked the kid to put away earlier.

Midoriya was definitely getting more comfortable, but Aizawa could still do without all the mess.

After navigating the maze of clothes, textbooks, and random notebooks, Aizawa was finally able to lay the kid down and tuck him beneath the covers.

Midoriya was still in his after-school clothes, but they were loose fitting sweats and a sweater. If he got uncomfortable, he could wake up and change them himself.

Nodding to himself in satisfaction of a job well done, Aizawa smoothed the kid’s hair out of his eyes before turning to leave.

Before he could take a single step, the kid’s hand shot out and wrapped around his wrist, scarred fingers barely meeting each other around the limb.

His eyes were half-open, squinting against the faint light pouring in from the hallway. It took him a couple tries to get his jaw working. “’zawa?”

If not for his open eyes, Aizawa would’ve thought the kid was just talking in his sleep. “Yes.”

“You’re not getting rid of me, right? You’re not—” A massive yawn seized the boy, his eyelids flickering shut for a moment before he managed to pry them up again. “You’re not gonna send me away?”

Aizawa’s heart did something distinctly uncomfortable in his chest, like it was getting squeezed or set on fire or stabbed.

Or all the above at the same time, that sounded fun.

He rustled Midoriya’s wild mop of hair again. Midnight would mock him forever if she found out about this, but he found himself not particularly caring. “No, kid. I’m not.”

“What?” Midoriya blinked, pupils clearly unfocused. Then he smiled sleepily and whatever was left of Aizawa’s cold, dead heart melted into a puddle of goo. “That’s good.”

“Yes,” Aizawa echoed tonelessly. “Good.”

“I lied to you,” the kid said suddenly, sitting up as much as his sleepy limbs would allow. “Will you lemme stay even though I lied?”

Aizawa frowned. What could the kid possibly be hiding from him?

Was he still smoking? Or was he doing something even worse? Aizawa didn’t want to take advantage of his half-awake state, but what if Midoriya was hurting himself?

He’d had a few foster kids in the past that’d self-harmed. There’d been some close calls and tense, fearful trips to the hospital in the back of an ambulance.

Was Midoriya going to be another case like that?

“I always wanted to be a hero,” Midoriya said, causing Aizawa to stare at him in confusion. “And I lied to you.” He sniffled, tears welling up in the kid’s eyes as his fingers twisted at the blanket covering him.

Aizawa almost huffed a sigh of relief. This, he could handle. “I know.”

“Oh.” Midoriya looked a few seconds away from physically pinning his eyelids open, and Aizawa would have none of that.

He gently pushed the kid’s head into the pillow, ruffling his hair once more before stepping back toward the door. “Go to sleep. We’ll talk in the morning.” If Midoriya even remembered this when he woke up.

“G’night,” Midoriya muttered against his pillow, eyes already slipping closed as his mouth parted around a wheezy snore.

Aizawa didn’t bother trying to squash his smile this time. “Goodnight, kid.” Then he was closing the door behind him, easing the handle softly back into place.

As he fell into bed himself, not bothering to change out of his rumpled clothes, arms aching slightly from the kid’s phantom weight, he felt. . . content.

It was weird. It was also really, really nice.

He’d started to lose count of all the things he’d learned about Midoriya, but his favourite, by far, had to be the kid’s sleepy smile.

Chapter Text

It’d been approximately five-and-a-half months since Midoriya had first moved in and things were going suspiciously well.

Shouta was a realist (not a pessimist, despite Hizashi’s insistence). In his experience, if things were going well for awhile, they were about to go wrong.

Horribly wrong, in some cases. Most cases.

But no, Hizashi, that did not make him a pessimist.

Just a realist.

Which is why he was currently trying not to psych himself up too much. He knew better than to harbour any false hope.

The phone rang in his hands again, sending faint vibrations down his aching wrist. He’d landed wrong on a roof last night, almost face planting as he narrowly avoided getting tangled in his own capture weapon and becoming a greasespot on the sidewalk below.

It was an amateur mistake—one a rookie hero might make. Not a seasoned pro. He hadn’t gotten tangled up in his capture weapon since his student days.

He’d been distracted for weeks now, and if he didn’t get this call over with it was only going to get worse.

Sighing, he was about to hang up and try again when there was the audible click of the receiver being picked up. “Hello, you’ve reached Kamiko Anayamo. How may I help you?”

“I need adoption forms.”

There was the sound of something being dropped on the other end of the line followed by a quiet curse. “E-excuse me? Who is this?”

“Shouta Aizawa. Midoriya’s current legal guardian. You called me using this number four months ago.”

“O-oh. Right.” A long, uncomfortable silence followed where she was probably pulling up his foster license and file. “Of course, Mr. Aizawa, I remember you now. You were looking after Midoriya. How may I help you?

He rubbed at the bridge of his nose, pushing his palm against Sushi’s face when she tried to investigate his sticky rice with her mouth. “That’s not for you.”

“Pardon?”

“I wasn’t talking to you. I need adoption forms.”

She muttered a soft “So I did hear him right” that Aizawa probably wasn’t supposed to hear. “I can get that process started for you. What kind of child are you looking for?”

What kind of child was he looking for.

Like they were pets that he could just pick and choose from, like he could just ‘put in an order’ for the perfect kid.

Aizawa grit his teeth, quietly wrestling his temper back into submission. The last thing he needed was to blow up at—whatever she said her name was. He may have already forgotten.

“I’m not looking, I already found them.” Aizawa said. “Izuku Midoriya.”

The line went dead, like he’d managed to shock her into total silence. “I’m sorry, can you repeat that? It sounded like you said—”

“That I wanted to adopt Izuku Midoriya? Yes.”

Silence again, then, “Sir, Mr. Aizawa, I think there’s been some kind of administration mistake on our end. You see, Midoriya actually has—”

Aizawa’s heart clenched in his chest, nerves almost eating him alive. Was there some kind of issue that prevented him from adopting Midoriya? Some relative or previous guardian vying for custody?

“—a bit of a . . .er, shall we say, disability that excludes him from getting adopted by a pro-hero. Even an underground one such as yourself, I’m afraid the Musfatsu agency can’t be held responsible for any—”

He frowned, brows cinching as he stared down at Sushi’s soft head. The cat blinked back at him, oblivious as always to his human problems. “What disability? I didn’t see any disability listed on his medical history page.”

There’d been. . .awful things on his medical history page. A history of hurt, but nothing about a disability that would make Aizawa unqualified to care for him.

“Ah, maybe it was excluded from the file. Let me contact our secretary and see if she can send you an updated copy.”

“Thank you,” he said, doing his best to sound somewhat genuine, “but I think it would be quicker if you could just tell me over the phone.”

“Midoriya is,” Anayamo lowered her voice, whispering the diagnosis across the line like it was a foul curse, “quirkless. He was professionally diagnosed at a younger age and has the extra toe joint.”

“Oh,” Aizawa felt like a weight had been lifted off his chest. “Is that all?”

“Is that—” She stuttered, “is that all? With all due respect, a hero of your standing would be ill-suited with a quirkless child. Just imagine if the media got wind of it.”

“Then it’s a good thing I don’t care about the media,” Aizawa said, anger leaking into his voice. “Now can I adopt him or not, Anayamo?”

Clearly picking up on his fraying mood, Anayamo tried to back-peddle. “It’s not that we harbour any prejudices against the quirkless, Mr. Aizawa, please don’t misunderstand. But we would hate for you to suffer any dissatisfaction or backlash from making this. . . decision.”

Aizawa was about to tell her where, explicitly, she could shove her dissatisfaction and backlash when the front door swung open on its hinges, a head of green hair popping into view.

“He just walked in the door, I’ll talk to you later,” he said. Then he hung up, not bothering to wait through her plaintive good-byes. “How was school, kid?”

The kid kicked off his new shoes, not bothering to see where they landed as he bent to greet his pack of furry admirers.

They mewed for his attention, rubbing against his knees like they’d never known true affection in all their nine lives until that very moment.

“Traitors,” Aizawa muttered under his breath.

“School was fine,” Midoriya answered, stretching back up to his feet. He stared at Aizawa, a strange tension pulling at his shoulders. “Who was that?”

Aizawa blinked, trying to come up with a plausible story that wasn’t I’m actually trying to adopt you right now and was speaking to your social worker over the phone, but it seems like she and the agency have some seriously old-fashioned ideologies about quirkless people that’re making the whole process a hell of a lot harder and I think I want to set them on fire.

Didn’t exactly roll of the tongue.

It’s not that he wanted to keep it a secret from Midoriya, but what if he couldn’t adopt the kid?

What if the agency said no? What if he got Midoriya’s hopes up for nothing?

He would sooner throw himself off a roof than set his charge up for disappointment, not after everything the kid had already been through.

So, no. He wouldn’t be telling the kid until he knew for sure the adoption could pull through.

“Hizashi,” Aizawa blurted after trying and failing to come up with anyone better. That was one of the downsides to having no social life; less alibies.

Midoriya just nodded, hands clenching around his backpack straps. “Okay. Didn’t you just see him at UA though?”

Shit—er, shoot. He was trying to lower his internal cursing after he’d accidentally f-bombed in front of the kid last week.

Midoriya had thought it was hilarious, but still. Something about cursing near the traumatized foster-child didn’t sit right with him. “Yes. But we had to talk about. . .stuff.”

“Okay,” Midoriya said again. “I’ll be in my room.”

And then he turned and walked away, closing his door behind him with a firm click.

Aizawa stared at the door’s wood panelling, suddenly feeling off-kilter. Like someone had moved everything in the room slightly to the left.

They didn’t have any after school traditions, per-se, but usually Aizawa would linger in the kitchen as Midoriya fixed himself an after-school snack, decompressing while he questioned Aizawa about what happened in the Hero Course that day.

For him to deviate from their routine wasn’t necessarily bad, but it was alarming.

Had Aizawa said something wrong? There was no way Midoriya could’ve overheard the details of his conversation, right?

Maybe the kid had seen through his lie?

Or he’d just had a bad day at school and Aizawa was reading into things too much.

He sighed, shaking his head as he slid Midoriya’s usual choice of snack back into the cupboard.

Midoriya didn’t leave his room for the rest of the night.

He’d poked his head out at around eight, grabbed the plate of dinner Aizawa had been keeping warm for him, and said something about, “—so much homework due tomorrow, sorry.”

And then the door was closing again, the kid’s shaggy head disappearing from view.

He tried not to be disturbed by Midoriya’s behaviour. The kid had mentioned a big project a couple weeks back, something to do with how hero ethics shaped society.

Midoriya was probably just overeager about the report, losing himself in a storm of chicken-scratch notes and muttering.

(He tried not to think about how Midoriya usually worked at the dining room table, bouncing ideas off Aizawa as he graded 1-A’s pitiful papers).

Running a hand down his face, he forwent marking that night and went straight to bed, burying himself in his familiar sleeping bag as he tried not to think about how weird it felt not to say goodnight to Midoriya.

It was strange, but maybe the kid just needed space.

They had been around each other a lot the past few weeks, and weren’t most kids differentiating from their parents at his age?

He froze, hand pausing where it’d been blindly grappling around for his phone’s charging cord.

Parents.

Him. A parent.

He shook his head. That was a terrifying thought.

(A distant part of him loved everything about it).

Either way, he was probably just blowing all of this out of proportion, which meant he should sleep before he got anymore paranoid.

Sighing, he managed to connect his phone before closing his eyes, trying to find his usual sense of relief at being able to finally get some sleep.

Aizawa’s dreams that night were full of Midoriya’s bruised face, rejected adoption papers, and old, old villains.



Breakfast the next morning was. . .weird.

Aizawa was no top chef, but he liked to think his cooking was edible. When he bothered to cook, that is.

Which was rarely, but whatever.

Since Midoriya had arrived he’d been cooking routine meals, suddenly having to make consistent trips to the grocery store for things like proteins and carbohydrates.

Gone were the days of juice-packet lunches (although Aizawa still kept a stash of them in one of the drawers of his bedside table).

Usually, Midoriya snapped down the food like he was worried Aizawa would take it away, arms wrapped around his plate and fork clenched between his fingers.

This morning, he was quiet. Sliding the semi-burned eggs around his plate and poking at the bacon like he thought it was going to explode.

Which, given the current state of the apartment microwave, was entirely possible. There was probably a colony of bacteria in there, and who was he to say it wouldn’t eventually gain sentience.

Aizawa watched silently, trying not to let his worry show.

A couple minutes before the time he usually left for school—Midoriya generally tried to stay as long as possible, so the fact that he was leaving early was. . .odd—the boy pushed away from the table and set his plate down by the sink.

“Thanks,” he murmured, sliding his backpack up over his shoulders.

Aizawa blinked at him, the barely touched breakfast, and back again. “You’re welcome.”

He waited for Midoriya’s usual goodbye (no, it wasn’t the highlight of his mornings, shut up) and almost fell out of his chair when the kid left without so much as a backward glance.

The door closed behind him, green curls getting tossed around in the brewing storm outside.

The pro-hero sat in stunned silence, not so much as twitching when Sushi hopped up on the counter and started making short work of Midoriya’s leftover bacon.

Was he getting bullied? Had Aizawa said something in the past twenty-four hours that could’ve triggered him?

He tried to think back, but his mind was a tired mess of jumbled patrols, 1-A essays, and the stress of trying to file for adoption.

Sighing, he checked his phone, winced at the time, then pulled himself away from the table.

He’d talk to Midoriya when he got home. They could sit down and get to the bottom of whatever was clearly troubling him.

For now, he had to go make sure all his other problem children—and problem co-workers—didn’t get themselves killed at UA.

The door shut with a foreboding click as he left.

Like he’d said, breakfast was weird.



“I got this over the weekend.” Hizashi said after he’d wheeled over to Aizawa’s desk in his office chair, the UA staff room devoid of life except for the two pros.

Being a teacher at a hero school was exhausting—both physically and mentally—so few staff members stuck around after the final bell.

Which is why Aizawa was currently squinting down at Hizashi, his hand resting on the doorhandle where he’d been about to make his escape.

“Got what,” he asked flatly.

“This!” The blond shoved a bag into his arms, wiggling like a gleeful slug in his chair.

Heaving an internal sigh—that maybe came out a little external, too—Aizawa pulled the bag open and peered inside.

When nothing exploded or pelted him with glitter, he deemed the bag safe and stuck his hand in.

It contained a soft, dark purple sweater.

He unraveled it, eyes catching on the little fabric cat ears stitched to the hood. Then he slanted an eyebrow at Hizashi. “This is too small for me.”

The other man flushed. “It’s not for you! It’s for the kid.”

Oh. Aizawa glanced at it again, mind immediately picturing Midoriya in the dark fabric. It was. . .perfect. Precious.

He’d fit right in with Sushi and the other fur-demons.

“Thanks.”

He pulled it closer to his chest, pretending not to see the smug, satisfied look Hizashi sent him.

“I knew you’d like it.”

“Shut up.”

“It’s a gift, for when the adoption goes through. I know you’re secretly a sentimental sap, so I figured you’d want something to commemorate the occasion.”

Hizashi really did know him well. Aizawa narrowed his eyes, some might even say too well.

Having people close to you was annoying.

“The adoption hasn’t even gone through yet. Don’t get your hopes up.”

“Oh, please.” Hizashi waved his hand like he could physically brush aside Aizawa’s words. “They’d be stupid not to. You’re a great dad.”

Aizawa’s face was doing something distinctly un-stoic, so he ducked it into his capture weapon.

“So,” Hizashi said after a moment of silence. “When can I meet him? We live in the same apartment building and I’ve never even seen the kid, c’mon Sho’!”

And that was the end of Aizawa’s feel-good moment.

He opened the door, sweater still pressed against his chest. “Never.” The purple gift in his arms weighed on his conscience. It was annoying. He poked his head around, fixing the blond with one last glare. “Thank you. Goodbye.”

Hizashi’s laughing protests faded behind him as Aizawa marched towards Nedzu’s office, ignoring the few timid first-year students that were still milling around.

The door to the quirked creature’s office swung inward before Aizawa had even wrapped his hand around the handle.

The rodent (mammal?) sat behind his desk, paws steepled in front of him as he eyed Aizawa with his beady peepers.

Aizawa would rather be caught dead then ever admit it, but Nedzu was one of the few things on this earth that terrified him.

“Hello.” He started, slipping into one of the child-sized plastic chairs Nedzu kept in front of his desk. Aizawa had always suspected that their smaller size was intentional, so whichever unlucky adult sat in them would feel like a wad of gum beneath the principal’s boot.

Like a rat caught in a trap.

“Greetings,” Nedzu replied pleasantly. Or at least, Aizawa hoped it was pleasantly. It was hard to tell sometimes.

He cleared his throat. “I assume you already know what I’m here for.”

The creature chuckled, the sound sending a chill racing up and down Aizawa’s spine. “You assume correctly, but how about you enlighten me anyway? I do so enjoy the sound of your voice.”

Well. Aizawa was not a fan of that.

Not a fan of that at all.

He grumbled a curse under his breath, one that Nedzu no doubt heard with his heightened hearing. “I’m trying to adopt, but the case worker I’ve been assigned is under the impression the child is a ‘special case’ requiring ‘special attention’.”

He made little air quotes around the words with his fingers, realized that was exactly what most of his students did as a nervous tic when they were talking to him, and grimaced.

Nedzu’s eyes gleamed. “And what makes this child a special case?”

You already know. “He’s quirkless, sir.”

The rodent flipped one of the files on his desk open. “Yes, that is what is seems to say here, although I suspect they gave you a much more. . .toned down version.”

Aizawa’s head snapped up, eyes narrowing at the stack of papers. “What?”

“The language they used here is quite, for lack of a better word, quirkist.”

“Let me see that.”

Nedzu studied him for a moment, then promptly snapped the folder shut and slid it back into one of his desk drawers. “No. You’re already emotionally compromised when it comes to this case, I wouldn’t want you lashing out in—albeit perfectly justified—anger at Midoriya’s caseworker.”

“So you want me to do nothing?” Aizawa tried to keep the biting tone out of his voice, but it was hard. He wanted to tear the whole department apart. “Just sit back and let the quirkless kids who come after Midoriya face the same treatment?”

“Yes.”

Aizawa sputtered, but before he could interrupt the rodent continued speaking,

“Yes, I want you to do nothing. But me,” he rubbed his paws together gleefully. “I am not emotionally connected with this case. I shall tear them apart from the outside-in.”

Not for the last time, Aizawa was reminded why Nedzu would make a truly horrifying enemy. “Thank you,” he breathed. “And about the adoption?”

“Oh, I have no doubt that I’ll be able to, shall we say, speed the process along.”

A smile almost slipped onto Aizawa’s face, but he managed to squash it at the last moment. “Thank you. This means—this means a lot.”

For the barest trace of a second, so quickly that he almost thought he imagined it, the rodent’s face softened into a genuine smile. “I know. I would have been had-pressed myself to find a better guardian for the boy.”

There was a very stubborn lump stuck in his throat that he refused to acknowledge. He turned to leave, scooping his bag up off the floor as he went.

Before he got too far, Nedzu spoke up again, “I look forward to meeting him, someday. I do so hope you’ll bring him around to UA in the future. I think me and him would get along swimmingly.”

With one last nod, Aizawa disappeared out the door, Nedzu’s maniacal laughter following him out into the hallway. It was eerily reminiscent of his interaction with Hizashi earlier.

What was it with everyone wanting to meet his kid?

The kid, the reminded himself as he drove back to the apartment. Midoriya wasn’t his kid.

Yet.