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Try, Try Again

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“We have to go pick up Shouta at the police station.”

It was enough to immediately get Hitoshi’s attention.

“Why? Is he hurt?”

The concern had been evident in his voice. It was the same concern that Hitoshi felt every time there was even the slightest bit of bad news related to Aizawa’s hero work. Less than a year ago, Hitoshi would’ve felt excitement at hearing that his childhood hero was going on some sort of mission or had taken on a job to take down some big criminal organization. Now, there was just dread and worry, even if Hitoshi still liked hearing the stories of his patrols.

Yamada had shaken his head, though, offering Hitoshi a smile, “No, no, it’s the end of his patrol. He just wants to be picked up. He said he’s a little sore from the chase the villain he captured gave and from using his quirk so much.”

That’d been enough to lay Hitoshi’s worries to rest. In fact, he’d felt a little excitement. Aizawa was still training him, and while he didn’t officially intern with Aizawa (yet), he’d been showing Hitoshi a little more of the business side of hero work. Hitoshi had always been curious about it, and getting to see what it was like at the precinct after a patrol for Aizawa was something that sounded like a good learning experience. Hitoshi was eager to learn everything he could from Aizawa, this being no exception. So he got up and followed Yamada out of their house, listening to Yamada talk about the villain Aizawa had been set out for tonight as they drove to the precinct.

That excitement turned out to be pretty short-lived.

The precinct was busy, and Hitoshi could see that before they even went inside. The parking lot was nearly full and Yamada had to park in a designated spot for pro heroes. It wasn’t far away, Aizawa having been contracted recently by a precinct and district nearby, and with being closer to the more populated areas of the city came more business, apparently. As Hitoshi walked in with Yamada, he could already see the way it was buzzing inside, with people moving around and the receptionist trying to deal with the influx of people. As they pushed through the doors, Hitoshi gave a silent look up at Yamada, raising an eyebrow, and Yamada returned it with a crooked smile, nonverbally telling Hitoshi that he didn’t know why it was so busy, either.

Inside was no better, and the onslaught of sound hit Hitoshi like a wall. Even in the entryway—it was really more of a waiting room, now—there were people sitting, talking, yelling, and even pacing. The receptionist, a man in uniform, was clearly overwhelmed and trying to deal with them all, though the moment he laid eyes on them, he seemed to brighten a little, turning away from the frantic woman he’d been talking to in order to give them a wave. Hitoshi recognized him as the same desk worker that had been around when Aizawa had taken him here previously, and the man appeared to recognize both of them, as well.

Hitoshi stood slightly behind Yamada as he made small talk with the desk worker officer, glancing around. There was more noise coming from the intake room that Hitoshi knew was down a small hallway behind the desk, and he assumed that was probably where Aizawa was waiting for them. It amused him a little—he knew for a fact that Aizawa didn’t like loud places and that he hated crowds even more. He couldn’t even begin to imagine how annoyed his teacher—and recent adoptive father—was at the busyness of the station.

“—Anyways, Eraser is in the next room. Seems pretty anxious to go home. Usually, we’d let him wait with the detectives but, as you can see, we’re pretty busy tonight,” The man laughed and stood from his desk, walking a few steps and opening the gate that separated the waiting room from the rest of the precinct. Yamada gave him a glance, still smiling, green eyes bright behind his glasses, and Hitoshi followed behind him.

He’d been right. The intake room was even busier than the waiting room had been, and Hitoshi immediately found Aizawa.

Even in a room full of criminals and small-time villains, Aizawa still somehow managed to stick out.

The intake room was huge, though it looked a lot smaller full of people. Benches lined the walls and opposite the door was heavy equipment—cameras for taking the photos of those who were arrested, metal detectors, bins of belongings, as well as quirk-dampening equipment. Bright fluorescent lights shone down on the room, and in the moment before his eyes adjusted, the brightness hurt. The room was full of people and noise, officers in uniform all clearly with their hands full handling criminals of every variety, some of them having full costumes and others in plain clothes—and every single one of the arrested criminals seemed to be in the middle of an argument with someone, whether it was an officer or a fellow criminal. It was loud.

Sitting on the end of one of the benches near the door was Aizawa, arms crossed over his chest and legs crossed as he tapped his foot impatiently, looking out into the room with a irritable, sour expression, clearly very unhappy with having to wait in here.

The room just grew louder as Hitoshi actually stepped inside it behind Yamada, closing the small distance between the two of them and Aizawa, who’d turned to look at them, some of the crankiness melting off of his face as he focused on the two of them, replaced by an expression that Hitoshi could only describe as relieved.

“Sensei—” Hitoshi didn’t wait for Yamada to greet his partner, calling out to Aizawa. “—It’s pretty busy today, isn’t it?”

It’d been a few months since moving in with Aizawa and Yamada and by now, Hitoshi had at least gotten used to speaking freely. It wasn’t hard for him to ask questions anymore, and he’d realized that neither of them seemed to care if he spoke his mind. It was nice to be able to speak his opinions and talk about whatever he wanted and because of that, he’d opened up to them a little and had gotten comfortable actually expressing his personality rather than shutting himself off with an air of cynicism and an unwillingness to trust those around him.

“It’s like every minor criminal in the city decided that tonight was the best time to make their debut…” Aizawa commented, voice low and quiet enough that Hitoshi had to focus to hear it. He stood, giving another look around the room and before Hitoshi or Yamada or even Aizawa could say anything, Hitoshi watched Aizawa’s expression harden again, gaze drifting to somewhere behind Hitoshi.

It didn’t take a lot to figure out what he was staring at, but Hitoshi followed his gaze anyways and immediately took a step back, letting out a breath when he bumped into Yamada. Yamada’s hand quickly found Hitoshi’s shoulder, holding onto him.

To his side was someone who was undeniably the villain Aizawa had tracked down tonight. Dressed from head to toe in childlike, whimsical clothing, hair dyed a multitude of rainbow colors, the sleeves of his multicolored jacket adorned with small bells, jingling with every step he took and giving him the appearance of some type of jester-like actor than anything. It wasn’t his clothing or the oddly childlike air he gave off that really got to Hitoshi, though—it was his grin.

Up until now, Hitoshi had truly thought that Yamada had the strangest smile he’d ever seen, but even his wide, showy grins were strange in a heartwarming way. This was just—creepy. It was a crooked smile, showing his sharp teeth, lips pulled back enough that it almost looked like a snarl. Hitoshi could only stare at him, a little relieved that it was Aizawa the criminal was looking at, rather than Hitoshi, though that didn’t make his grin any less unsettling.

The guy had his arms pulled behind him, wrists secured by a pair of handcuffs, a female officer following behind him, holding on tightly to his cuffed wrists. They’d stopped moving, though, the officer barking some order at him that got lost in the noise and Hitoshi glanced to the side, finding that they’d stopped because the rest of the crowd was just too thick to keep moving.

“What’s this, Eraser?” The man’s voice was even worse, high pitched and breaking into a cackle, cracking like a teenager’s would. He kept staring at Aizawa and Hitoshi didn’t move, backed up against Yamada, thankful that Yamada was holding onto him by his shoulder. The criminal cackled again and despite the rest of the noise, the sound seemed to fill the entirety of the room, “Didn’t know you had a kiddo! He looks just like you!”

Before anyone could do anything, he looked at Hitoshi, and Hitoshi just stared back, narrowing his eyes and forcing his expression to remain neutral. It wasn’t hard, his instincts from foster care kicking in and helping him not react. He only hoped that this guy couldn’t somehow smell the fear coming from him or hear the way his heart was pounding in his chest. He felt Yamada’s grip tighten on his shoulder and Hitoshi tensed, breathing out.

The man’s eyes were mismatched, one bright yellow and the other bright red, the red one looking a little unfocused as he turned his gaze and creepy, entirely unsettling smile to Hitoshi.

“Oh, man, you look tired! What a weary boy. Is Eraser not taking care of you right?” Another high giggle. Hitoshi managed to shrink back a little, refusing to react to him.

“Can you not shut him up?!” Aizawa had his voice raised, snapping at the female officer. Hitoshi didn’t look at him—couldn’t look at him. He couldn’t stop staring up at this guy, this criminal. He reached for his quirk, not quite ready to use it, but soothed slightly by the notion that he could if it came to that.

“It’s not like I can muzzle him!” The officer told Aizawa, sounding exasperated, as if she’d already had to listen to this guy for a while.

Still, though, the man focused on Hitoshi, “Weary, weary boy. I think Eraser needs to learn a little lesson about taking care of kids. He was awfully rough with me. Don’t you think it’d be fun to go back to—”

“Quiet!” It was the loudest Hitoshi had ever heard Aizawa yell, full of anger and annoyance. It was enough to make Hitoshi rip his gaze away, looking up to find Aizawa scowling at the criminal, looking more menacing and intimidating than Hitoshi had ever seen him before.

The man didn’t pay any attention to Aizawa, though, “You look like someone who’d like it. Don’t you want to go back to being little? It’s so much fun.”

Around them, the room seemed to grow quiet, the yelling and talking and arguing dying down just slightly, and Hitoshi couldn’t tell if it was actually quieter or if his voice was just so involving that it was making the room close in, making this entire place seem smaller and quieter and like it was only the four of them here—Hitoshi staring up at him, expression neutral; Aizawa, bristling with anger; Yamada, with his hand on Hitoshi’s shoulder, gripping him hard; and this childlike criminal, looking down at Hitoshi with mismatched eyes and crooked, creepy grin written across his face.

“I really don’t,” Hitoshi’s words were quiet and he could barely hear himself over the murmur of the crowd. He focused, narrowing his eyes slightly and reached for his quirk, exhaling a long breath as he searched and searched, readying himself for an opening just in case. It wasn’t like he thought that Aizawa or Yamada wouldn’t protect him. His quirk was a fallback, something that Hitoshi had had throughout most of his life, something that had always been there for him and something that he knew he could use if he got into trouble. He hadn’t often, despite being labelled as dangerous in foster care, but the fact that it was always there, always something he could reach for was in some way comforting.

“Shouta,” Yamada pulled at the material of Hitoshi’s jacket, clearly urging both Hitoshi and Aizawa to move. “Let’s go. This isn’t worth it.”

There was no hesitation. Aizawa snapped out of it immediately, the scowl falling off of his face as he stepped away, moving so he was next to Hitoshi, putting a hand on his back, Hitoshi letting out a breath of relief as he did. He forced himself to relax, realizing that they were about to leave, about to turn from the criminal and prepare to go home, thinking of all the questions he was going to ask Aizawa about this guy on the way home, wanting to learn about his capture and quirk and everything Aizawa would tell him.

That was, until Hitoshi made the mistake of making eye contact with him again.

On the way here, Yamada had talked to him about the criminal Aizawa had been sent out to capture.Yamada hadn’t known his moniker or his name, but he had known that the guy was creepy and oddly childlike, despite being middle-aged. He’d also known about his quirk. Age regression. Yamada hadn’t known how it was activated or how he used it, but he’d known what it did, and that the guy had been terrorizing this district by using it on people he found alone on the street with seemingly no rhyme or reason as to why other than causing a lot of chaos. He was interesting, especially to Hitoshi, who’d always had an interest in quirks, but that didn’t mean he wasn’t terrified of this guy.

He’d kept a distance between them, though. Hitoshi knew from years of research that quirks, especially transformation quirks, were more often than not activated by touch in some way or another, and that was what he’d expected.

What he hadn’t expected, though, was when the man’s lazy red eye suddenly focused on him, his smile growing so that Hitoshi could see every one of his impossibly sharp teeth, that one lazy eye brightening, pupil growing in size.

He knew it was happening, and he reached for his quirk.

At the same time, he heard a yell that he quickly identified as Aizawa, followed by a shout from Yamada. It wasn’t enough, though, and nobody was quick enough. Yamada wasn’t quick enough to yell, even if he could in a room full of people. Aizawa had reached for his capture weapon and had activated his Erasure, but the effect had already started. And Hitoshi wasn’t quick enough to find an opening in the guy’s psyche, even if there was one.

They were all too slow, and while Aizawa had the guy on the ground in a second, the damage was already done.

 

 

“What did you do?!”

Following his yell, the rest of the room fell quiet. Utterly, almost deadly quiet, officers and criminals alike turning to look at them as Aizawa slammed the villain to the ground, listening to the satisfying crack his head made on the ground as he followed him, bands of his capture weapon wrapping and winding around the other man, holding him tight as Aizawa immediately pinned him, breathing hard and eyes burning with the use of his quirk.

The other man couldn’t move, not with how tightly Aizawa had him wrapped with his weapon, but that didn’t stop him from pinning him down, raising a fist with every intention in the world to punch him and break his nose or his eye socket or whatever part of his face was the most fragile.

Something stopped him, though.

“Shouta, don’t!”

Aizawa froze, fist in the air, arm drawn back, a moment away from hitting the guy with every bit of strength he had, and glanced behind him, the thing he saw making him stop completely.

The crowd of police officers, detectives, and criminals had scattered, leaving a small clearing. Aizawa had tackled the villain, knocking him out of the grasp of the female officer who’d been holding onto him. There were five of them in the little space that had been cleared—Aizawa being on the floor on top of the regression villain he’d attacked, the female officer staring down at the two of them with a shocked gaze, Hizashi, with a worried look on his face, looking down at the toddler at his feet, and… Shinsou Hitoshi, Aizawa’s son and the toddler who was currently clinging onto Hizashi’s pants.

Aizawa lowered his fist, and the shock of seeing his newly adopted kid like this was enough to get him to drop his quirk, blinking his dry, burning eyes shut and feeling his long hair fall back around his shoulders. He kept his eyes shut for a moment, still straddling the criminal he’d attacked the instant he’d hit Hitoshi with his quirk, and forced himself to try to think rationally about this.

He should’ve been quicker. He shouldn’t have turned away to leave with the other two while Hitoshi had been holding eye contact with this guy. He’d known how he activated his quirk and yet, he’d still let Hitoshi hold eye contact with him. He’d thought that he was still unable to use it, that the hour he had between successful uses of his quirk had still been ticking, and it was his fault that Hitoshi was like this now.

He couldn’t look away from the small child clinging to Hizashi.

Hitoshi had been living with them for a few months, now. While he’d eased up enough to finally start showing his personality and speaking freely, Aizawa had never seen him display this much emotion. It was something that he’d been working on with Hitoshi—while keeping a neutral face was good for hero work and Hitoshi had that down, it wasn’t good at all in someone’s personal life, and Aizawa knew that from personal experience. This, though, had been something he’d never wanted to see, because Hitoshi was staring at Aizawa with wide, terrified violet eyes, and the last thing Aizawa had ever wanted was to see Hitoshi looking at him in fear.

It was enough to knock him out of his panicked, violent mindset. Even though the guy under him had just attacked his kid, Aizawa no longer felt any desire to beat his face in, like he’d been so inclined to do just moments ago. There were more important things and as Aizawa pulled his capture weapon tight enough to snap the part of it that was wrapped around the regression criminal, he decided that he was done with this guy. He’d let the officers take care of him from here. There were much more pressing matters.

There was really nothing more important than the tiny child, whose head didn’t even reach Aizawa’s waist, following him with his scared violet eyes, watching his every movement with puffy cheeks and trembling lips.

Silently, Aizawa got up off of the captured criminal, stepping over him and ignoring the cackle that followed his actions. The room was near-silent and Aizawa knew that everyone else in the room was watching them closely, and in the silence, Aizawa heard a voice that he barely even recognized as Hitoshi’s speak up.

“Scary…”

It was a single world, murmured in a child’s high-pitched, shaking voice, but it brought Aizawa the rest of the way down, grounding him in the horrible reality that Hitoshi had just been attacked and was suddenly a child, most likely without any idea what was going on. It was one of the first times that Aizawa was actually fighting to control himself and just not break apart. He usually had no issues controlling his emotions, but now, looking at his son…

He crouched down to Hitoshi’s height, doing everything he could to look as non-threatening as possible.

Hitoshi still looked like himself, to an extent. He was a lot smaller, his cheeks puffed out with baby fat, his eyes a little wider, his lips a little fuller. The hands that were balled in Hizashi’s pants looked impossibly tiny and for a long moment, Aizawa just stared at them, trying to figure out how fingers could actually be that small and delicate-looking. Hitoshi was also drowning in his clothes, having come here wearing his usual shirt and jacket and jeans, his shirt now looking more like a dress on him than anything. His pants were a different story, having fallen off of him completely, though with how small Hitoshi was, his shirt reached his knees.

“I’m scary?” Aizawa asked quietly, keeping his voice down.

Hitoshi’s eye flickered to him, and slowly, he shook his head, unballing a hand from Hizashi’s pant leg and pointing, hand shaking, at the still-cackling criminal behind him. Aizawa tried not to let it show, but the fact that Hitoshi was afraid of the almost clown-like man behind him rather than Aizawa himself was more than a little relieving.

“Shouta,” Aizawa raised his head at Hizashi’s murmur of his name, finding his partner looking down at him with a worried gaze, his voice an uncharacteristic near-whisper. “We need to get him out of here. Too many people…”

“—I’ll get an office for you three,” The female officer finally spoke up, but Aizawa didn’t turn to look at her.

“I’ll—I’ll have a detective come in and figure out what’s going on. Or… I guess I could call someone from the hero specialist division. Come with me, please.”

At that, Hitoshi finally unwrapped himself from Hizashi’s leg. Aizawa wasn’t sure what he was expecting—maybe for him to want to hold one of their hands as they walked—but it definitely wasn’t for Hitoshi to look pointedly at him and raise his arms in what was a clear request to be picked up. Aizawa just stared at him, trying to decide what was going on. Hitoshi wasn’t one to trust people quickly at all, and he only trusted Aizawa and Hizashi so much because they’d spent months building trust with him. Aizawa had no idea how much he remembered—or if he even remembered anything at all—but Hitoshi immediately wanting Aizawa to hold him told him that he, at the very least, recognized Aizawa.

“You want me to carry you?” He questioned, not making a move towards Hitoshi, just wanting to make sure before he suddenly picked the kid up.

Hitoshi only nodded, though, and raised his arms a little higher.

Aizawa gave a glance behind him, finding the criminal still on the ground, another officer having taken the other’s place. The guy was still grinning at him, in that same ugly, crooked way that he’d had all night. Aizawa shook his head, taking a breath as he reached forward, hands under Hitoshi’s arms, and lifted him up into his hold, kicking the remainder of Hitoshi’s clothes to the side.

It wasn’t like he hadn’t carried Hitoshi around before. He had, mostly when the kid fell asleep on the couch—Aizawa would lift him up and take him to his bed. While he was tall, Hitoshi had always been so light and he was still recovering from being underfed in foster care for so long. This, though was completely different. It felt like this kid, this toddler, weighed nothing against him. Nothing at all, like he was as light as the cats back at home.

Logically, Aizawa knew he was at least a little heavier, but lifting him up was so easy.

Hitoshi didn’t even hesitate to cling onto him, either. Immediately, he wrapped his thin arms around Aizawa’s neck, leaning into his capture weapon as his little fingers tangled in Aizawa’s long hair, clinging onto him hard enough that Aizawa was sure that if he let go of Hitoshi, Hitoshi would hold himself just by the sheer grip he had on Aizawa. He supported the boy, holding him close, feeling Hitoshi bury his face in Aizawa’s weapon.  

He had to force himself to tear his gaze away from the toddler holding onto him like his little life depended on it and look back at Hizashi, the other man’s gaze having softened, though his face still held more concern and worry than Aizawa was comfortable with seeing on him. He gaze Hizashi a small nod, the officer waiting for them in the doorway. Around them, the murmur of the room had picked up a little, still quiet and much more subdued than before. He took Hizashi’s lead when he turned and walked out the doorway, following closely behind him, nearly at his side, with Hitoshi in his arms.

He shared another glance with Hizashi, not speaking to him. Aizawa wanted to wait to talk to him,  at least until they were somewhere a little more private. He’d worked at this precinct for the last couple months and he knew the way almost by heart, following the officer down the hallway towards what he knew was the large room where the detectives all worked on cases, as well as the place where they could get into a more private office.

An investigation was going to happen.

Unfortunately, there wasn’t a lot of information on the quirk Hitoshi had been hit with. Aizawa had been provided with rudimentary information—the man was trying to make a name for himself, and had called himself ‘Golden Age’ today, had an age regression quirk, and his quirk was activated by holding eye contact with him, though it could only successfully be used once an hour. He had a tendency to dress in a bright, technicolor coat, usually had clown-like makeup on—though Aizawa had wound up dumping a bucket of water on him before taking him down just because he couldn’t stand how ridiculous he’d looked—and also usually had bright, multicolor hair. Not much else had been known about his quirk, since he’d targeted people who were out by themselves and his quirk turned them into toddlers.

Aizawa had no idea how old Hitoshi was or what he remembered or how long he’d be like this. There was no telling unless they got a detective to investigate and from the sounds of it, the officer taking care of them now wanted to open an investigation. Aizawa didn’t object to that—wanted to know what had happened to his kid—but part of him just wanted to take Hitoshi home. He couldn’t imagine what it was like for him, suddenly being small and in a crowded, unfamiliar place.

The walk felt too quiet, even for Aizawa. He gave Hizashi another glance and then, without letting himself hesitate, he decided to ask the first thing on his mind, moving a hand to Hitoshi’s shoulder as he spoke, “Hitoshi, do you know who I am?”

Hitoshi pulled away from him, and Aizawa let out a breath at seeing that most of the fear had cleared off of his face. The boy definitely looked nervous, still shaking a little, but at least he was comfortable enough to pull away a little. He still kept his arms around Aizawa’s neck, but he sat back in Aizawa’s arms and wordlessly, he looked from Hizashi to Aizawa.

Slowly, he focused on Aizawa and again, he said one word and one word only, “Dad.”

Aizawa stopped walking entirely. Hizashi did, too, and there was a moment of quiet where none of them said anything, the officer keeping the silence, as well. Then, quietly, the sound creeping into the corners of the short hallway, Hizashi let out a low laugh as Aizawa stared at his adoptive son.

He couldn’t say anything.

Hitoshi had never been comfortable calling him anything other than ‘Sensei’. He’d, on rare occasions, get just ‘Aizawa’, but never his first name or ‘Dad’. That was fine. He really didn’t mind; he didn’t need a title to know what he was to Hitoshi, and he was fine letting Hitoshi call him whatever he felt comfortable with. But hearing it now—despite everything and despite the situation and what had just happened and the fact that Hitoshi was still probably scared and nervous out of his mind—it made him feel strangely warm, creating an odd, warming feeling deep in his chest.

“How about me, Hitoshi?” He didn’t have to talk, because Hizashi did in his place, drawing Hitoshi’s attention away from him. “Do you know who I am?”

The boy looked at Hizashi, expression unchanging, though he untangled a hand from Aizawa’s long hair and pointed again, this time at Hizashi, “Different Dad.”

The coo that Hizashi made momentarily made everything okay, and Aizawa dared to draw his hand through Hitoshi’s wild violet hair, raising an eyebrow when he saw the tears welling in Hizashi’s green eyes. Hizashi was smiling, grinning a little, lips trembling and all Aizawa could do was let out a fake-sigh of exasperation as he watched a couple tears fall down Hizashi’s face.

“No,” Hitoshi spoke before he did, face falling into a heavy frown, sadness dripping into his small voice. “I’m sorry.”

Aizawa brushed his hand through Hitoshi’s hair again, feeling the kid grasp his scarf tightly, clearly a little upset by Hizashi’s crying. He tried soothing him, keeping his voice low and using the comforting, soft tone he usually used with Hitoshi, “It’s alright. He’s happy. He’s just… really emotional, aren’t you, Hizashi?”

“Yes!” Hizashi immediately insisted, still smiling as the three of them and the officer stood in the dim, empty hallway together. “I’m really happy. Um, but we should get you someplace safe, right? Let’s go somewhere better, Hitoshi, and we can all talk more! You must be really confused…”

Hizashi wiped at his eyes, brushing the tears away from his cheeks, and gave Aizawa another nod. Aizawa took the lead this time, the officer getting the hint and leading them further down the hallway, unlocking the door to the next room with her keycard, revealing a large room filled with noise, detectives, desks, and mountains of paperwork.

Hitoshi didn’t stay sitting up for long, throwing himself back against Aizawa’s chest, wrapping both arms tightly around his neck, and it was easy enough to figure out that Hitoshi really didn’t like noise and being around a lot of people. Aizawa could sympathize with that—it was definitely overwhelming and he didn’t want to be here, either, but they had to figure out what had happened to Hitoshi before anything else. All Aizawa could do was hold Hitoshi closely against him as they walked, following the officer through the large, open room, drawing the gazes of many of the detectives as a small hush fell over the room. Aizawa kept his eyes forward, not wanting to look at any of the detectives he’d been working with for the past month or so, let alone talk to them and try to explain why he suddenly had a toddler in his arms and his partner walking at his side when Aizawa had been working a normal patrol today.

The walk felt like it took forever, but they eventually reached an office, the officer leading them unlocking the door and letting them through. Aizawa didn’t hesitate, and Hizashi followed him. It was a small room, looking more like someone’s personal office than the conference room Aizawa had expected to be put in. There was a desk, piled with files and with a computer resting on it, a bookcase full of more files, and an extra chair in the room. It was big enough for the three of them, even if Hitoshi wouldn’t be able to move around too much in here, not that he looked like he wanted to, anyways.

Without a word, Aizawa picked his way over some of the casework resting on the ground, taking the seat behind the desk. He was still sore from the chase the criminal had put up, his muscles aching with the strain he’d put on himself while chasing the guy down and simultaneously trying to avoid his quirk. He ignored the burning in his limbs, though, watching as Hizashi thanked the officer, as she assured him that she’d contact the hero specialist division of the police, people both Hizashi and Aizawa had experience with. Hizashi asked her to see if she could find Hitoshi some clothes, and she had immediately agreed.

With that, she was gone, the door latching shut behind her, drowning out the rest of the noise from the large room and leaving Aizawa in the silence with Hitoshi and Hizashi.

Hizashi was staring at him, a slight frown on his face, and as Aizawa met his gaze, Hizashi let out a sigh, “Shouta, I’m sorry. I should’ve pulled him back or… I don’t know—done something.”

“No,” Aizawa told him, shaking his head slightly. Hizashi was apparently feeling the same guilt he was, and Aizawa was realizing now that sitting here and feeling guilty or trying to figure out what they could’ve done differently wasn’t actually helping any. It wasn’t rational. Hitoshi was like this now, and in this moment, there wasn’t anything they could do about it. He felt a little tremble against him and Hitoshi shifted, somehow managing to climb further up on Aizawa and wrap his small arms tighter around him. “I shouldn’t have let Hitoshi look at him. His quirk takes effect only if someone’s holding eye contact with him. I should’ve been more careful. But it doesn’t matter now.”

“You’re right,” Hizashi breathed, Aizawa watching him as he tilted his head back, looking up at the ceiling. He let him, not saying anything, letting Hizashi have a moment to process this. It was fast—all of the sudden, their fifteen year-old kid, the boy they’d taken in a few months ago and who’d slowly been finding his place in their small family, was a small toddler who clearly had no idea what was going on. Aizawa was still processing it, too.

He pet Hitoshi’s hair again, a little amused, despite himself, that even at this age, his hair was still every bit as wild as it was on him as a teenager. Hitoshi squirmed again, making a little choked noise, and it just reminded Aizawa of how scared he probably still was. He still couldn’t get that expression out of his face, the one of total, complete fear he’d given Aizawa when he’d first looked back at him and saw how tiny Hitoshi was.

“Can I hold him?”

Hizashi’s voice startled him a bit, drawing Aizawa’s attention back to him. Hizashi had sat up again and was leaning forward slightly, looking from Hitoshi to Aizawa.

Aizawa didn’t answer Hizashi. Instead, he tapped Hitoshi’s shoulder, trying to get the boy to look at him, or at least pull back a little. It took a moment, a long moment of waiting to see whether or not Hitoshi actually felt comfortable enough to interact, but slowly, Hitoshi pulled back a little, sitting back in Aizawa’s arms in the same way he had before, peering at Aizawa with big, violet eyes.

“Do you want to go sit with Hizashi?” He asked Hitoshi softly, forcing his voice into what he could only hope was some sort of a soothing tone. He pushed Hitoshi’s hair back, given that part of it was falling into his eyes, and Hitoshi didn’t make much of an expression, continuing to stare at him with those impossibly huge eyes.

Hitoshi said nothing, but he pulled, giving Aizawa the answer he needed. He did his best to help Hitoshi down, letting the boy climb off of his lap and stand on the ground, tiny fingers balling in the pant leg of Aizawa’s jumpsuit. He paused, and Aizawa got a good look at him, able to look him over a little more clearly now that they weren’t in a crowded place and some of Aizawa’s panic had subsided enough to give him clarity.

He couldn’t stop focusing on how small Hitoshi was. He had no idea how old the kid was. He was tiny, but to some extent, he seemed to be able to understand the things Aizawa had asked him so far and had been able to tell Aizawa and Hizashi what had scared him and who they were. He’d also been able to communicate that he’d wanted to be carried. But he was so small that Aizawa genuinely had no clue whether the kid was two at the least or five at the most. It surprised him a little—Hitoshi was tall for a high schooler, only a little shorter than Hizashi and Aizawa. He’d assumed that Hitoshi’s birth parents had been tall and that the kid had been tall for his age his entire life, so seeing him so tiny was a little shocking.

He was so small that the shirt Hitoshi had been wearing hung all the way down to his knees, the bottom of his jacket reaching almost his bare feet. The sleeves of it were impossibly long on him, though he’d pushed them up, presumably to grasp at Aizawa’s hair in the way he had just moments before. Even now, Hitoshi raised a hand to his mouth, sucking at his fingers as he almost hesitantly let go of Aizawa, casting a small glance up at him before shuffling forward, holding onto the desk as he tried to avoid stepping on anything, before he padded over to Hizashi.

Aizawa watched, watching Hizashi give Hitoshi a small, gentle smile, the same smile he’d seen Hizashi give the kid a thousand times before. While Hitoshi never trusted anyone immediately, Hizashi had a knack for getting kids to like him and it really hadn’t taken long for Hitoshi to start to get comfortable with him. Hizashi’s method then had been making conversation with Hitoshi and making him feel like part of the family by telling him stories and conversing with him, but now he was taking a different approach, because Hizashi was silent as he held his arms out, offering his affection to Hitoshi without speaking.

Hitoshi hesitated still, but only for a moment more. Hizashi was patient—had always been patient, especially with kids, as long as Aizawa had known him—and just as Aizawa expected, Hitoshi went to him, putting his hands on Hizashi’s knees, trying to climb up onto him. Hizashi gave him a little laugh, the sound of it filling the room and easing the tension, just as he had in the hallway, and he helped Hitoshi, wrapping his arms around him and lifting him up onto him.

Hitoshi calmed down, then, sitting quietly on Hizashi’s lap. He couldn’t see his eyes, but Aizawa was willing to bet that as Hitoshi stared up at Hizashi, still with his fingers stuck in his mouth, he was probably giving Hizashi the same doe-eyed stare that he’d given Aizawa. Hizashi kept his arms slung around the boy, smiling down at him, and Aizawa let himself relax, thankful that he had Hizashi around. Aizawa didn’t have a lot of experience with younger kids, but Hizashi had had tons of adopted siblings as a kid and had a lot of experience with toddlers and young children.

Something about the fact that he wasn’t going at this alone was comforting.

“Aw, Hitoshi, isn’t it better in here?” Hizashi was using the same tone that Aizawa had heard him use with his baby siblings and nieces and nephews. It was soft and happy, a little higher pitched than it usually was. He continued on, smiling brightly, and Aizawa relaxed further, stretching out his aching legs and slouching forward, listening to Hizashi talk to Hitoshi, “It’s not so loud, right? It’s really overwhelming out there! Must be scary for you. You did good, though. We’re gonna get you some clothes and talk to the detectives a little bit and then we can all go home.”

Hitoshi didn’t respond, but he did throw himself forward and wrap his thin arms around Hizashi’s stomach, and Aizawa smiled, raising an eyebrow at the trembling, happy look Hizashi gave him.

“Don’t cry again,” He teased his partner, and Hizashi shot him a small pout, green eyes a little glassy. Aizawa made a show of rolling his eyes, enough at ease that he could at least  poke fun at Hizashi’s tendency to cry easily during emotional times. “Hitoshi was upset when you did it out in the hallway, remember?”

“I’m not gonna cry,” Hizashi gave him one last heavy pout before looking back down at Hitoshi. The boy had wrapped himself around Hizashi as much as he could, even if his small arms couldn’t get all the way around him. His fingers were clutching at Hizashi’s shirt and his head was resting on his chest, letting Aizawa see his face and the way Hitoshi had his eyes shut.

“Hitoshi,” Aizawa prompted, his curiosity getting the best of him. He’d been prepared to wait until whoever was investigating this case to come and talk to them, but there were things he wanted to know now, and Aizawa didn’t want to wait anymore. Hitoshi opened his eyes, gaze finding him, and he raised his head off of Hizashi’s chest. Aizawa just leaned forward further, trying to make himself look nonthreatening, “How old are you?”

He wasn’t even sure that Hitoshi would know. If he was on the younger end of Aizawa’s estimate, there was a good chance that he wouldn’t. If he was on the higher end, he probably would. He was fully prepared to wait for Hitoshi to answer. He was patient, too, and knew that it might take Hitoshi a little to figure out what he was asking, but Hitoshi hardly hesitated, murmuring quietly in the same voice he’d been using all night.

“Four.”

Ah, so he’d been in the middle of Aizawa’s estimate. Hitoshi was a little small for a four year old but—

It took a second, but the realization of what that age meant for Hitoshi hit Aizawa like being punched in the gut.

When Aizawa had first heard of Hitoshi at the school festival, his first reaction had been to find every bit of information on the kid that was available to him. Being a teacher, that was a lot, and Aizawa had very quickly discovered the joint foster care and school file Hitoshi’s had, a file that took up a good amount of space when it was fully printed and put together. He’d read it all and though he’d made the decision to judge Hitoshi only on his experiences with him, Aizawa knew about his history.

Hitoshi had developed his quirk two months before turning four and had subsequently been kicked out of preschool. He’d lost his father a week before his birthday, rendering him an orphan due to his mother’s passing when he’d been an infant, and his aunt had signed him over to the system two days later. Hitoshi had gotten his quirk, lost his only birth parent, been given up by his family, and had entered foster care at this age.

It suddenly made sense why Hitoshi was so quiet, why he was so hesitant and clingy, and why he only responded with one word answers.

“Do you remember coming to live with us?” Aizawa pressed further, his voice betraying some of the worry that had slammed into him the moment he’d made the connection between Hitoshi’s age and his history. He ran a hand through his messy hair, brushing it back from his eyes, tangling his fingers in the back of it, a nervous habit he’d picked up long ago.

Hitoshi shook his head.

“But you know who we are?” Aizawa asked, needing clarification, even though Hitoshi had correctly identified who they were to him.

Hitoshi nodded.

“Shouta, what’s going on?” Hizashi sounded concerned, and Aizawa looked up from Hitoshi to his partner, not trying to hide the worry he was feeling and the dread that had opened a dark pit in his stomach.

Aizawa exhaled hard, trying to think of a way to put it, a way to tell Hizashi exactly why he was worried when Hitoshi was right there and could hear everything they said. Even though he hadn’t been around toddlers much, the last thing Aizawa wanted to do was upset Hitoshi, and he knew without being told that talking about Hitoshi’s father’s death and the events that put him into foster care would probably cause some tears.

“This is… Right around the time Hitoshi was put into foster care,” Aizawa tried, hoping that would be enough. It was, judging from the way Hizashi’s face fell as he immediately dropped his gaze to the boy in his lap. Aizawa turned his attention back to Hitoshi, easily remembering the contents of that file and recalling the placement he’d been given as soon as he entered the system, “Hitoshi, do you remember the group home you lived in before you came here? It was a place with a lot of kids.”

Hitoshi sat up on Hizashi’s lap, fingers pressed into his mouth again. That was a habit that Aizawa didn’t know Hitoshi had ever had, but if it was comforting him now, Aizawa wasn’t about to stop it. He kept his other hand clutching onto Hizashi’s shirt, and softly, he muttered the first full sentence Aizawa had heard from him since getting hit with the quirk, “I don’t like it.”

Hitoshi was frowning, eyes big and almost far-away looking, as if he was remembering the short time he’d spent in that group home. He looked sad, like even though Aizawa had tried to choose his words carefully, he’d still upset Hitoshi. A pang of guilt hit him hard, and Aizawa wished he’d thought over what he’d said more rather than risking upsetting a four year-old child who was scared and even more confused by this situation than Aizawa and Hizashi were.

Aizawa got up, ignoring the aching in his limbs as he did, and carefully walked to where Hitoshi sat with Hizashi, the small child’s eyes following him every step of the way. Hizashi kept up his happy face, smiling down at Hitoshi again and as Hitoshi made a small noise of worry as Aizawa got closer, Hizashi took to bouncing his knees, moving Hitoshi up and down on his lap. That seemed to distract him a little, and Hitoshi gave a gasp in surprise, turning his head up to look at Hizashi, letting Aizawa crouch down in front of them to better talk to Hitoshi.

“You’re not going back there,” Aizawa told him simply when Hitoshi looked back at him, having to look down at Aizawa a little. It was better this way, he thought, since the kid was more on his level now. Aizawa was perfectly aware that he could be intimidating sometimes, that his stare and demeanor could be scary, especially to a small child. He used it to his advantage in school, since he could use his sternness to make the students listen to him a little better, but there was no advantage here. “Do you remember anything else?”

Again, Hitoshi just shook his head.

Aizawa gave Hizashi another glance, “It looks like his memory was regressed, too. I think he only remembers us because we’ve been close to him for the past few months.”

It made sense. Hitoshi’s memory seemed like it was regressed but it was as if he still had small fragments of memory from his more recent life—at least, there was enough to tell him that Hizashi and Aizawa were his parents and safe to cling to. For the most part, though, Hitoshi was four years old in every way, and that included his memory, to the point where he vividly remembered being in his first group home and, more likely than not, the events leading up to his placement, but he didn’t remember coming to live with Aizawa and Hizashi.

With everything that had happened in this kid’s recent memory, it was no mystery why he was so quiet. From his father’s death, to the fact that he’d been surrendered because his birth family hadn’t wanted to deal with his quirk, to the way people in the system had handled a toddler’s inability to control that quirk… it was scarily logical that Hitoshi didn’t want to speak, and there was no doubt in Aizawa’s mind that he’d been conditioned into silence.

Hitoshi had been similar when Aizawa had first met him. Quiet, reserved, and incredibly hesitant to trust anyone around him. It hadn’t taken too long to get Hitoshi to speak more freely around him and part of that, Aizawa thought, was due to Aizawa having the advantage of being Hitoshi’s respected childhood hero, but for the first week or so, Hitoshi had hardly said anything unless it was completely necessary.

“Poor kid,” Hizashi kept bouncing Hitoshi in his lap. Hitoshi turned away from Aizawa, looking back at Hizashi. Hizashi was much better at acting happy and excited than Aizawa was, because Hizashi grinned again without much of a problem, “You don’t have to worry, Hitoshi! You were right earlier—we’re your dads now. It might be confusing, but you’re gonna come home with us. We’ll all have fun for the next few days! Or, until things are back to normal. We’ll take good care of you.”

Hitoshi fixed Hizashi with a long stare, Aizawa waiting and waiting for his response, not expecting what Hitoshi had to say when he finally did talk, “I know.”

If anything, that just confirmed that Hitoshi had some sort of idea as to who they were.

Hitoshi apparently knew to trust them to take care of him. He didn’t ask any questions, and Aizawa didn’t know if it was because he couldn’t or because he didn’t have any. He didn’t press any further, not going back to his seat behind the desk, instead giving a groan as he moved to sit against the wall next to Hizashi. Hitoshi kept quiet, going back to wrapping himself around Hizashi’s chest, Hizashi bouncing him as they sat.

 

 

They talked, Aizawa and Hizashi. There was never any question about what to do with Hitoshi. It was just an unspoken agreement that Hitoshi would come home with them. Hitoshi was, after all, their son, no matter what age he was, and Aizawa was more than happy to take care of him, even if he didn’t exactly know what to do with a toddler. He’d learn, figure it out, or just copy whatever Hizashi did. Regardless, he felt the same way about this kid as he felt about normal, teenage Hitoshi—he still loved him as his child, and Aizawa was committed to taking care of him, the two of them deciding to try to make the next few days—or week, or however long Hitoshi would be like this—as stress-free as possible. Hitoshi already had had a bad early childhood. If anything, this was a chance to let him be more of a kid again before he entered adulthood.

Over the next hour or so, they laid out a plan. They’d both come to the conclusion that other detectives were being called in to deal with this, and Aizawa expected to see some familiar faces, given that it had been an attack on the son—and hero in training—of two pros, giving the jurisdiction over to the unit who dealt with more hero-related and bigger villain cases. That was both a relief and a bother—a relief thanks to talking to familiar people, people Aizawa had worked with to help with the incidents at UA, and a bother because it took them longer to get here and that was longer that Hitoshi wasn’t at home. Given the way the kid seemed to be dozing off on Hizashi’s chest, getting him home felt like the priority right now.

It was nearing ten at night. Hitoshi had good discipline and would usually go to bed between ten and eleven on school nights. They’d never given him an official bedtime, given that Hitoshi was a teenager and had trouble sleeping due to nightmares, but Hitoshi reacted well to routine. Usually, teenage Hitoshi would be getting sleepy around this time. He imagined that that tiredness with it being this late at night was ten times worse for a toddler.

It’d be best to get Hitoshi home as quickly as possible. The problem was though, that they had nothing for a toddler. Hitoshi had his own room and everything, but it was fit for a teenager and not a small child. They wouldn’t have any clothes for him or any other necessities. Aizawa had next to no idea what a toddler needed. His personal experiences in his childhood couldn’t count, given that they hadn’t been good and he hadn’t been well provided for. With that out of the question, Aizawa had no idea what they needed. Hizashi, on the other hand, did, listing off a few things until Aizawa suggested that he be the one to do the shopping for them. The plan became, then, that Hizashi would stick around long enough to get a general briefing of the situation, and then would leave. Aizawa would take notes and get a more in-depth idea of what was going on, get someone to escort him and Hitoshi home, and would meet back up with Hizashi.

It was the best way to minimize the amount of time Hitoshi had to wait before going home. As much as Aizawa wanted to stick with Hizashi, them splitting up was best in this situation.

At some point, Hitoshi crawled off of Hizashi’s lap, only to climb onto Aizawa. It’d made Aizawa stop in the middle of his conversation and Hitoshi sat himself down between Aizawa’s legs, not even hesitating before laying down against his chest. Aizawa pulled Hitoshi’s jacket around him like a blanket, trying to make sure that the kid was covered, despite the ill-fitting clothing, before he’d resumed his conversation with Hizashi.

After almost an hour and a half of waiting, there was a knock at the door, and it didn’t surprise Aizawa in the least when it was Detective Tsukauchi Naomasa who walked in.

They’d both been expecting this. The man was someone they’d worked with a lot at UA and it made sense that he was the one who was called. He stepped in with them, a gentle smile on his face, the female officer from before following him. It was after ten and Hitoshi was no doubt fast asleep, lying against Aizawa’s chest as he sat on the floor next to Hizashi. Aizawa was growing tired himself, especially after that criminal had put up such a fight and worn him out a bit, as well as from the panic from having Hitoshi attacked.

“This is little Shinsou?” Detective Tsukauchi asked them, nodding down at Hitoshi. He approached them slowly, leaning against the messy desk, an open file in his hands.

“He’s asleep,” Hizashi told him, voice hushed, and even he sounded a little tired. They’d all benefit from going home. “If you just want to give me the basics and how long Hitoshi’s gonna be stuck like this, I’m going to head out to grab a few things for him. We didn’t really expect to have a toddler at home so we’re… unprepared.”

“Sounds like you two have a good plan. I can give you a rundown, Mic-san,” The detective looked down at the file, looking it over. Aizawa stayed quiet, putting his trust in this guy. He was someone they’d worked with and someone who’d proved himself to be good at his job and someone who clearly cared about his cases. If anyone was going to handle their case, Aizawa would honestly rather it be him than anyone else. “So, we interviewed the villain who did this to Shinsou-san—he’s calling himself Golden Age, I believe—and while he was unwilling, we were able to work out the specifics of his quirk a bit. He’ll obviously be charged with attacking Shinsou-san and everything, but from what we can tell, Shinsou-san is functionally a toddler in every aspect, including mentally, and will be in this state anywhere from two to four days. The villain wasn’t on Trigger, thankfully, so there’s not going to be any more effects and Shinsou-san won’t be like this for a prolonged amount of time.

“In the meantime, we can attempt to help you in any way possible. I know Mic-san is going to pick up a few things for him, but I was able to dig up some spare clothes for Shinsou-san and we can let you borrow a car seat and everything. The precinct here has agreed to take responsibility for what happened, given that, from what I understand, procedure wasn’t being followed due to the influx of arrests tonight, which is why a criminal was able to get to a civilian. Shinsou-san will be alright. He might be a little shaken up when the quirk wears off, but he’ll be fine.”

Aizawa lowered his head, looking at the small boy lying on his chest. Hitoshi was curled up against him, small fingers bunched up in the material of his jumpsuit, his eyes shut and his mouth partially open as he slept. Aizawa could feel every breath he took, every push of his tiny chest as he breathed in and out. For the first time tonight, he looked peaceful, and until now, he hadn’t seen toddler Hitoshi looking relaxed.

He felt bad, remembering the way Hitoshi had greeted him upon coming into the intake room and seeing him. He’d immediately called out to him, asking him why it was so busy, looking interested in what was happening around him and like he was bursting with questions he wanted to ask Aizawa. He would’ve answered anything Hitoshi wanted to know, having gotten into the habit of telling him about his patrols, and it hurt a little that Hitoshi had come into the precinct with genuine interest and had wound up getting attacked because Aizawa hadn’t realized that the refractory period on the villain’s quirk had worn off.

“Thanks,” Aizawa murmured, still looking down at Hitoshi. He heard Hizashi get up from his chair, heard him get down to Aizawa and Hitoshi’s height, and raised his head to see Hizashi reach out and brush a hand through Hitoshi’s wild hair. Hitoshi didn’t stir or startle, remaining fast asleep.

“I’m gonna get going, then, Shouta,” Hizashi told him, still speaking quietly and whether it was in an attempt to comfort Aizawa or not wake Hitoshi, Aizawa didn’t know. He looked Aizawa in the eyes, his gaze warm, “Are you going to be alright with Hitoshi for a little bit? I can always come back if you need me.”

“I’ll be fine,” Aizawa assured him, talking in a similarly low tone. “He’s asleep, anyways. I’ll meet you back at home.”

“Call me if you need me, though,” Hizashi insisted. There was a pause, and then his voice dropped even lower, “I love you. I’ll see you soon.”

Before Aizawa could respond or assure him that he’d be alright, Hizashi was already up, thanking Detective Tsukauchi, and then he was gone, leaving Aizawa with a sleeping toddler on his lap and a detective to talk to.

Aizawa took a deep breath in, closing his eyes for a moment and rubbing at the bridge of his nose, his eyes still burning a little from how much he’d used his quirk today. He let himself breathe, telling himself that he just had to get through whatever else the detective had to say. He had to take this one hour at a time. Otherwise, it felt too overwhelming, and Aizawa couldn’t let himself get overwhelmed right now, not when there was a four year-old—his four year-old son—relying on him.

Slowly, he opened his eyes again, focusing on Detective Tsukauchi, “Do you have a notepad so I can write things down?”

 

 

“Hizashi? It’s awfully late for you to be calling. Did something happen?”

Hizashi sat on the ground outside the large department store, running a hand through his long hair as he sat on the curb by the road, watching as the cars drove by, parking and pulling out of the store. People were going home to their families and more than anything, that was where Hizashi wanted to be. He was just prolonging it by sitting out here, holding his cellphone to his ear, trying to think of the words to explain himself to the person on the other line. The cold nipped at him, biting at his exposed skin, a dark, moonless sky hanging overhead, and Hizashi pulled his leather jacket tighter around him.

“No—well, yes, something happened, but I’m alright, Mom.”

“Shouta-kun isn’t hurt, is he?”

“No, no, something else.”

He hadn’t even gone into the store, clutching the list that he and Aizawa had made in his hand as he sat on the pavement, trying to get his thoughts to stop racing so much. He wanted desperately to stay calm because really, this wasn’t that big of a deal. It was an effect of a quirk. But Hizashi knew it wasn’t just that. This was his kid. His and Aizawa’s kid. The kid he loved and cared for and would do anything for, and Hizashi couldn’t get the image of that scared, confused toddler out of his head. He knew it was the same kid and he knew it was Hitoshi and he loved that toddler every bit as much as he loved Hitoshi when he was his normal self, but there was something that got to him about how quiet and nervous Hitoshi had been.

His reaction upon being alone had been to call his parents—two women who’d raised Hizashi from the time he was a couple months old until Hizashi had moved out a few months after graduating. They were some of the best people Hizashi knew and even Aizawa liked them a lot, and they were who he trusted for advice and reassurance right now. There were others he could call—Nemuri, Yagi, Emi, to name a few—but Hizashi didn’t want to talk to them. He wanted to talk to his moms.

He’d called Aina, thinking that due to her recent projects, she’d be the most likely to still be awake. He’d been right.

“And Hitoshi-kun…?”

There it was. There were really only three reasons Hizashi would risk waking his busy parents up, and there were really only three reasons why something would worry him enough that he’d want to talk to them. Those reasons were something happening to Aizawa, something happening to Hitoshi, or if Hizashi himself had taken an injury during work. Aina had worked her way through two reasons and hit the third one on the head.

“Yeah,” Hizashi ran a hand through his long hair, shivering a little in the cold. “It’s… Yeah, something happened to him. He’ll be alright, but…”

“What happened?”

Hizashi hesitated, but after a moment, he found the words, “Shouta was out working today. It was… you know, really normal. He called me and asked me to pick him up since he wasn’t feeling like walking home and I took Hitoshi with me. He was really interested in stuff—I thought it might be good to see the inner workings of the station, right? Well, it was really busy and Shouta… he’d captured this guy. He had… this regression quirk. It turns people into little kids again. And this guy—he acted like a kid. Really creepy. Looked like a clown—”

“You were always afraid of those as a baby, Hizashi,” Aina’s voice interjected gently, and Hizashi gave her a small laugh. She returned it, “What a scary villain.”

“Right? I guess he was mad that Shouta took him down. It was busy, so Shouta was waiting for us in the intake room and… that guy showed up. He was handcuffed and everything.  He started trying to rile up Shouta and he—he noticed Hitoshi and Hitoshi didn’t really say anything to him or anything. He was good! He acted like he was supposed to and didn’t talk to the guy or provoke him or anything but he… he targeting Hitoshi.”

“Ah,” His mother hummed on the other line. “What I’m gathering from this is that you have a baby version of your son now, don’t you?”

“Not a baby,” Hizashi corrected. When he said it like this, for some reason, it felt far less damning, like it wasn’t as much of his fault as he’d been thinking it was. “He’s four.”

“I see,” There was another laugh on Aina’s end. “He can’t be like that for too long, can he? That boy’s a good kid, Hizashi, and you know how to deal with kids that age. You and Shouta-kun are going to be fine, okay? If you’re having trouble, just let him come over here for a few hours. Hitoshi-kun is always nice to have around and I’m sure he’d get along well with the other kids.”

“Yeah…” They’d be fine. Even Aina had said it, and she was one of the people Hizashi trusted the most in his life. If she had faith in him, then they’d be alright. She was right, anyways. Their family had been a big one, with a bunch of adopted kids. It was the opposite of Hitoshi’s experience—Hizashi had always been well cared for, paid attention to, and given all the love and affection he’d ever asked for. He’d liked growing up with so many other kids, and his mothers still fostered.

“Do you have everything you need?” Aina went on, sounding a little less worried than she had been initially. “He’s going to need a lot, even if he’s just like this for a couple days. Outfits, a couple toys, child cups and silverware. Make sure you get a guard for his bed so he doesn’t accidentally roll out. I’m sure you two don’t want a hospital trip on your hands. I would say to get him some toddler food, but your husband already eats like a child with all those jelly packets he carries around. You’re probably fine on that end.”

“That’s all on my list,” He was a bit proud to be able to tell her that, and she hummed approvingly, and a certain warmth swelled in him. “We’re taking the next few days off. I figured that, you know, Hitoshi didn’t have a great time when he was this age in the first place, so we could maybe let him feel a little better about his early childhood and have some fun with him. We could both use a little break, anyways.”

“Good. You two are always working so hard,” Another short pause. “Hizashi, you can call us any time, or if things get too overwhelming, I’m serious about bringing Hitoshi-kun over. We’d be happy to help you out. This must be very sudden for you and I know the two of you are used to having a teenager around instead of a toddler, but I have confidence in you. If you need anything, we’re just a phone call or a short drive away.”

That, more than anything, made him feel better.

It was easier, after that. Hizashi stood from where he’d been sitting on the curb, said a genuine thanks and a goodbye to his mother, and hung up. It felt less impossible to do what he’d come here to do, and Hizashi pushed down his remaining nerves, took a deep breath, and looked at his shopping list before going into the store and starting to pick out what they needed, only hoping that Aizawa and Hitoshi would be at home when he returned.

 

 

Above anything else—above all the schooling and all the hero work and all the teaching Aizawa had ever done—trying to figure out how a car seat worked was by far the hardest thing Aizawa had ever had to do.

In reality, it wasn’t, but as Aizawa tried to remember the way the straps went and how Detective Tsukauchi had showed him, it certainly felt like the hardest thing he’d ever had to do. He struggled, Hitoshi half-awake in the seat and Aizawa trying to do everything he could to not further disturb him. The kid had stayed asleep when Aizawa had carried him out here and had woken up a little when the detective had started showing Aizawa how the car seat worked. He hadn’t fussed at all, yawning and letting the two of them pull the straps and buckles over him.

Somehow, Hitoshi looked even smaller in the car seat, riding in the back of the police car that the detective was going to escort them home in. Finally, after what felt like forever, Aizawa finally got the straps onto Hitoshi in a way that resembled the way Detective Tsukauchi had done it and stood back, watching Hitoshi yawn again, still not fussing or making any noise. Aizawa wondered if he was just too tired or if he was still too nervous to put up any sort of a fight.

“Looks good, Eraser,” The detective told him, giving Hitoshi a pat on the head. “I assume we’ll be meeting Mic back at your house?”

“He said he’s on his way back,” Aizawa told the man, not taking his eyes off of Hitoshi. The boy was still gazing at him through half-open eyes, looking like he was about to fall asleep at any second. Aizawa tucked the notes he’d taken under his arm, wanting to go through them with Hizashi later. “I’ll ride in the back with him.”

The detective nodded, giving him a smile. Aizawa gave him his address again, before getting in the back seat, sitting beside the car seat Hitoshi was in, looking over the straps on it again, hoping that he hadn’t gotten anything wrong. The last thing he wanted was to put Hitoshi in any more danger.

Detective Tsukauchi seemed to know better than to talk to Aizawa much, staying quiet as he started the car.

Beside Aizawa, Hitoshi was still awake and still looking at him.

“Hey,” Aizawa tried, talking softly to the tired boy. “We’re going home. You can sleep there.”

The detective had brought Hitoshi some clothing that they’d managed to find, but even it didn’t fit Hitoshi quite right. The shirt was tight on him and the overalls were big and Hitoshi hadn’t seemed to like the material of them, though he hadn’t complained vocally.

“Hizashi got you some better clothes, too,” He went on. Aizawa was usually a quiet person, but part of him knew that even as a teenager, Hitoshi didn’t like the silence. He imagined it was the same now, and it was the least he could do to talk to Hitoshi and try to give him some comfort. “One of us can sleep with you if you want tonight.”

For a moment, it was quiet, aside from the engine in the car and the wind from outside.

“Dad.”

Aizawa realized, then, that he’d taken to looking out the window in the small moment of quiet, and Hitoshi’s voice was soft, but it made Aizawa snap his gaze back to the boy. Hitoshi had his eyes open now, and he was holding out his hand to him, frowning, his bottom lip trembling a little. Aizawa stared at him, at that small hand stretched out to him, at those impossibly tiny fingers, at the boy who’d gotten attacked tonight and had to relive the trauma of being a newly orphaned four year-old again.

He realized what Hitoshi wanted and let the boy wrap his tiny fingers around Aizawa’s hand, another silence falling between them.

This time, though, when Hitoshi broke it, his voice was a little stronger, and he said more than Aizawa had heard him say all night, “That clown man was scary.”

Even with everything else, Aizawa gave a snort of amusement, “He was a little scary, wasn’t he? You won’t have to see him again.”

“Okay,” Hitoshi seemed satisfied with that, sitting back in his car seat, closing his eyes again. “Sleepy.”

“You’ll be able to sleep at home,” Aizawa assured him. “You’ll like it there, I promise.”

With that, Hitoshi either fell back asleep or didn’t want to talk anymore. Aizawa didn’t say anything more either, feeling Hitoshi’s grip relax on him and watching his breathing even out again, no doubt falling back asleep. Aizawa kept watching him, looking at the small kid who’d been a teenager just earlier today.

His only hope was that he could give Hitoshi a better piece of his childhood, something that he hadn’t gotten when he’d actually been four, and he hoped that he wouldn’t let him down.

 

 

Chapter Text

Hitoshi was fast asleep by the time they pulled up to Aizawa and Hizashi’s house.

It was nearing eleven at night and Aizawa never took his eyes off of the sleeping toddler in the car seat beside him. Hitoshi looked peaceful, his eyes closed, messy violet hair having fallen all over his forehead, and it was easy to see the small, childlike details of his face even in the darkness. He held onto Aizawa’s hand during the entire drive, though he could only grab onto a couple of his fingers given how small he was. Aizawa let him, not daring to pull away, even when Hitoshi’s grip relaxed and he fell asleep.

“Eraser, is this the place?”

It was Detective Tsukauchi Naomasa who made him finally look up from Hitoshi, and Aizawa had to take a long moment to right himself again. He was a logical, rational person, but his head was never this quiet. Watching Hitoshi sleep—Aizawa had barely thought about anything during the entire drive here. Now, he raised his head, looking out the windows in the back seat of the car, finding that they’d pulled to a stop outside of his own house, a duplex that was connected to the house next to theirs with a shared wall. It was already lit-up, bright and welcoming, as were a couple other houses on the street. In the driveway was Hizashi’s car and as the detective shut the car off, Aizawa silently watched as Hizashi bounded out the front door and approached them.

From the looks of it, Hizashi couldn’t have been home for long. He still had his leather jacket and street clothes on and he usually changed into more comfortable clothing when staying at home. Aizawa followed him with his gaze, and Hizashi glanced at him and gave him a small, private smile as he approached the car.

Aizawa never responded to the detective. Instead, he just pushed open his door, careful to not make too much noise, and unbuckled himself, ducking out to meet Hizashi before quietly shutting the door.

“You beat me home,” He said, looking up at his partner, rubbing at his tired, dry eyes. Usually, in the comfort of privacy, Aizawa would at least greet Hizashi with a hug or some type of physical affection but right now, he was tired and sore and his eyes were stinging. It’d been a long day, a day that was supposed to be normal but had turned out so horribly abnormal that Aizawa was ready to crawl into bed and sleep. He’d taught at school today, come home for a bit, and gone out for a patrol. He was supposed to come home and eat dinner with his family and then grade and probably do something small and relaxing with Hitoshi and Hizashi before going to bed, but his plans had been interrupted.

—Interrupted by some villain who’d attacked Aizawa’s son.

He closed his eyes, letting Hizashi put a hand on his shoulder and pull him a bit closer. Even if he was tired, the physical reassurance was decidedly nice. Hizashi guided him against his side, Aizawa leaning against him, letting Hizashi support him, as he heard the detective getting out of the car. He drew in a breath, breathing out slowly in an attempt to fully pull himself back down to the ground, and opened his eyes, resting a hand on the small of Hizashi’s back.

“You two live in a nice neighborhood,” The detective commented, smiling and clearly trying to make some sort of comforting small talk. The man was still in uniform, a heavy regulation jacket over his shoulders, and he was writing on a notepad—presumably recording when he’d dropped Aizawa and Hitoshi off and met up with Hizashi. He looked up at the two of them, pausing, “Shinsou-san should be alright, aside from being regressed to four years old again. He’ll be back to normal in a few days. In the meantime, please don’t hesitate to call if you need anything. This is the fault of the precinct, but even if it weren’t, we’d still be willing to help you in any way we can.”

Luckily, Hizashi spoke up before Aizawa had to. Aizawa wasn’t particularly feeling like talking more with the detective or anyone not in his family. He didn’t want to expend his little remaining energy on being polite and formal with people and while he appreciated the detective and was grateful that he was the one to take on their case, Aizawa was more than willing to just let Hizashi talk for him.

“Thank you,” Hizashi kept on with his happy, polite tone, and Aizawa didn’t have to look at him to know that he was giving the detective an appreciative, confident grin. “We’ll be fine, I think. I picked up the stuff we needed and we’re taking a few days off from work to care for Hitoshi. Shouta, why don’t you go get him out of the car so he can go to bed? Oh, I can put the car seat in my car. I have lots of siblings, so I know…”

Aizawa let Hizashi involve the detective in a conversation, pulling away from him as his partner launched into telling Detective Tsukauchi about his experiences with small children. Aizawa stepped away quietly, making his way over to where Hitoshi was fast asleep in his car seat. He was near-silent about opening the door and he stared down at the boy and at the mess of straps and buckles involved in the car seat, before breathing a sigh and trying to remember how to take them off.

Despite Aizawa’s messing with the straps and making a few mistakes, Hitoshi never woke up, even as Aizawa had to move him around a little. He was still asleep by the time Aizawa had everything off of him, and Aizawa hesitated, staring down at him, before slipping his hands under Hitoshi’s small arms and lifting him up, holding him close. It was then that Hitoshi finally seemed to relax a little, because Aizawa felt him shift a little against him and before he knew it, tiny hands found their way into his hair and around his neck, holding onto him tightly.

In his arms, Hitoshi shivered a little in the cold, reminding Aizawa that he had to get him inside soon. He only hoped that Hizashi had been able to get him better clothes, given that the shirt the precinct had given them was tight on Hitoshi and admittedly, the overalls on him felt itchy even against Aizawa’s skin as he held him. He didn’t hesitate long, making eye contact with Hizashi as he brushed past him, walking up to their house. The air around them was cold, and even with Aizawa’s warm jumpsuit on, he could still feel the cold.

Getting inside was better and the moment Aizawa opened the door, he was hit with a wall of comfortable heat, warming the skin on his face and his fingers, the tips of which had grown cold and slightly numb in the falling temperature of the night. He left Hizashi outside, still talking to the detective, and closed the front door behind him.

“We’re home,” He murmured quietly to Hitoshi, glancing around the house.                   

It was almost exactly how he’d left it. Aizawa kept their house organized and clean, given that Aizawa being the person who decided how it was organized was his compromise to Hizashi when they’d first moved in together almost a decade before and Aizawa hadn’t wanted to have a normal amount of furniture. It was something he’d kept with for the past ten years. Hitoshi had commented a couple times, during his first few days here, how he wasn’t used to living in such a clean place, and he wondered if it was the same for the toddler in his arms. Teenage Hitoshi seemed to like their house and had gotten used to it fairly quickly, but Aizawa considered that it might almost feel too big and too open for a toddler.

The only thing that was different that when he’d left for his patrol were the multitude of plastic bags on the floor just outside of the entryway and the small nest somebody had left on the couch—consisting of a couple blankets and a book Hitoshi had been reading recently, telling him that this is probably what Hitoshi had been doing before coming to the police station with Hizashi. And now he’d been regressed to four years old and was clinging onto Aizawa like his small life depended on it.

“How about we find you some better clothes…?” He wasn’t sure if Hitoshi was listening to him, but on the off chance that he was and was still awake, Aizawa was going to keep talking. Teenage Hitoshi didn’t like the silence, and he assumed that toddler Hitoshi would like it even less .

He bent over, keeping one arm supporting Hitoshi, doing his best to look through the other bags with the kid clinging onto him like he was. The first one he looked in was full of eatery, with plastic cups and silverware and plates, and Aizawa didn’t look through it much, determined to get Hitoshi into clothes that actually fit. He moved along, frowning a little, opening the next bag to find it full of various art supplies, including pads of paper, markers, and pencils. That didn’t surprise him much—Hizashi was a creative person and it wasn’t like Aizawa hadn’t seen Hitoshi idly doodling on his papers more than once. Part of him wished that Hitoshi was curious enough to look and see everything in the bags, if only to prove to the toddler that he was going to be well taken care of.

The next two bags were big ones and full of various toys. Building blocks, stuffed animals, a couple games, some books—Hizashi had really gone all out. Aizawa didn’t mind, even if it meant more things in the house. Hitoshi was a little kid and he wanted Hitoshi to not be miserable over the next few days and maybe even make a few better memories of being small, rather than only having the memories of losing his father and his entire family and then being pushed from foster home to foster home. Having a toddler was unexpected and Aizawa was a little upset at himself for the circumstances that surrounded having a toddler, but he definitely wanted Hitoshi here and he wanted to spend time with him, even though Aizawa had only rarely been around small children.

There was a bag full of food and then, as Aizawa moved a little further into the house, he finally found it. There were two smaller bags of clothes, and he let out a sigh of relief that Hizashi had over-prepared, meaning that they’d definitely have enough for Hitoshi to be comfortable and probably wouldn’t have to run back to the store and get him more clothes. It didn’t surprise him, either, because Hizashi had a tendency to over-prepare for things, something that Aizawa truthfully liked.

What he wasn’t prepared for , though, was the first thing he pulled out of the bag to be a fleece, zippered cat onesie that was obviously meant to be pajamas.

“Hizashi really went overboard, didn’t he…?” Aizawa stared at the piece of clothing he’d pulled out of the bag, raising an eyebrow at it. It was soft, warm, and comfortable-looking, black colored with a white stomach, including a hood with big cat ears and a stuffed tail behind it. It even had feet, the onesie ending in little paws.

It didn’t help that Hitoshi chose that moment, as Aizawa held up the ridiculous pajamas, to pull away from him enough to sit up in his hold, curiosity clearly having gotten the best of him. He stared at Aizawa with tired, bleary eyes, untangling one hand from Aizawa’s hair and rubbing at his eyes with a tiny fist. He looked down, then, and immediately saw the onesie Aizawa was holding.

“Ahh—” The sound Hitoshi made was really more of a coo that was cut off, as if Hitoshi hadn’t even meant to make the noise. Aizawa couldn’t help but to notice how excited it sounded, and he instantly gave in, standing back up straight, still holding onto the cat pajamas in one hand.

“You want to wear this to bed?” He asked, looking down at Hitoshi and tucking the pajamas under his arm. Hitoshi turned his sleepy gaze back to him and after a moment of hesitation, he nodded, hooking his free hand into his mouth like he had back at the police station. That was all it took for Aizawa and he secured his hold on Hitoshi and started stepping around the bags, making his way to Hitoshi’s room. “Those clothes you’re in look pretty uncomfortable.”

“Itchy,” Hitoshi murmured, giving him another one-word answer. Aizawa was well aware that Hitoshi was capable of more—physically. With the age he was and the way he acted, it was obvious to Aizawa that he’d been trained to keep quiet and not speak. He supposed that was because Hitoshi most likely couldn’t control the activation of his quirk, much like every other four year-old in the world with a quirk, and forcing him to not speak was a sure-fire way to make sure he wouldn’t use his it.

Aizawa wasn’t sure what a four year-old could possibly do to justify doing this to someone. A child couldn’t be a villain. Hitoshi had a quirk that took control away from a person, but he was a toddler . There was absolutely no way he could use it for anything criminal. And Aizawa knew he hadn’t , because he’d read his files, and he knew for a fact that Hitoshi had never done anything nefarious with his quirk. But people had still been afraid of him.

He couldn’t imagine being afraid of a toddler. A toddler who’d just lost his father and his family and been thrown into an unfamiliar place. It was the height of irrationality.

As Aizawa brought Hitoshi into his room, he heard the front door open and then shut, signifying that Hizashi was back inside. Aizawa didn’t say anything, flipping on the lights to Hitoshi’s room and finding that Hizashi had already set up a bed guard on Hitoshi’s bed, much to Aizawa’s relief. He’d already dealt with one overly complicated child contraption today and he wasn’t really up for setting up another one. Instead, he sat down on the bed, brining Hitoshi down onto his lap, the boy still sitting up and looking around.

Hitoshi’s room was still pretty simple. He didn’t spend much time in here other than sleeping. Hitoshi was a social person, Aizawa had learned, even if he wasn’t an extrovert. He just liked being around people, liked being talked to occasionally, and really just liked being in the same room as others. He didn’t spend a lot of time in his own room, as he spent most of his time out in the main room with Aizawa and Hizashi, so his room wasn’t personalized much. His bed had been made this morning, with the cat plush Hizashi had given him on his first day staying here on his pillow.

There was a shelf above his bedside table, something Hizashi had helped him put up, with a couple framed photos and what Aizawa had discovered was a replica of his goggles that Hitoshi had made in grade school. There was a desk in the room with a few school books on top of it and on the table next to Hitoshi’s bed were two photos—one of Hitoshi as a baby with his mother and father, a photo that was yellowing at the edges in its frame, and a larger photo of Hitoshi with Aizawa and Hizashi, newly framed and placed on the table. Besides that, Hitoshi didn’t have much, though they’d made it clear that he was allowed to decorate his room however he wanted.

Right now, though, Hitoshi was looking around the room with wide eyes, and Aizawa knew, just from watching him, that Hitoshi didn’t recognize this place in the least. He was sucking at his fingers, still holding onto Aizawa with his other arm, and he didn’t seem to have any desire to get down off of Aizawa’s lap. In the main room, Aizawa could hear Hizashi moving around and the rustling of him going through the plastic bags he’d brought in from the store.

“This is your room, Hitoshi,” Aizawa said, again trying to fill the space between them with words. “I know you don’t understand right now, but you live here with us and this is your room. Hizashi and I sleep in the bedroom right next door. We have three cats, too. Maybe you can play with them in the morning.”

Hitoshi turned that wide, violet gaze on him, eyes huge and full of sleepiness. Aizawa didn’t blame him for not understanding—they hadn’t really done anything to explain why Hitoshi didn’t remember coming to live with them and Aizawa didn’t know how to explain it to a four year-old. Telling Hitoshi that he’d gotten attacked by someone would probably scare him and he didn’t know if a kid this young could understand that he was really a fifteen year-old who was only like this for a few days. Aizawa didn’t remember what it was like to be four, but he doubted that any kid that young could understand that.

“Hitoshi, look,” Instead of trying to explain it, Aizawa leaned over, finding the picture frame of him, Hizashi, and Hitoshi that Hitoshi had on his bedside table. He held it out to Hitoshi, letting the boy look at for a moment, the picture immediately drawing his attention, before Hitoshi finally let go of Aizawa and took the picture frame from him, holding it delicately in his small hand. Aizawa leaned forward, pointing at the photo in the frame, “That’s all of us. You’re just smaller now because…”

Aizawa sighed. It was too late and he was too tired for this. Hitoshi was staring intently at the photo, not saying anything.

“…Why don’t I get you dressed so you can go back to sleep? Can you stand up for me?”

It really was too hard to explain to him and even though Aizawa felt like he owed Hitoshi an explanation, there wasn’t a simple way to put it. It was too late, Aizawa was too tired, and Hitoshi was too young. Besides, Hitoshi seemed to be focusing more on the photo than on Aizawa’s words and he had to give Hitoshi a small nudge before he got his attention. Hitoshi hesitated, still holding onto the photo, before slowly climbing off of Aizawa’s lap, standing and looking up at him almost expectantly.

Dressing Hitoshi was as easy as it had been the first time. Hitoshi didn’t fight, though he didn’t want to let go of the picture when Aizawa needed him to, a problem that was quickly rectified by Aizawa promising that it’d only take a second. Hitoshi was more helpful than Aizawa expected him to be, even zipping up the cat pajamas by himself and when Aizawa stood back and looked at him, even he had to admit that the pajamas were cute, and it was easy to see how much more comfortable Hitoshi was in them. They were soft and fleece, not too tight and not too loose, and Hitoshi looked much more relaxed in them. Aizawa had pulled the hood up and the decorative cat ears stood up on his head, making Aizawa want to take a photo of him.

Hitoshi was distracted now, twisting to look behind him, holding the stuffed tail on the back of his pajamas, looking at it and running his fingers over it in a curious way. Aizawa was starting to learn that despite his quietness, Hitoshi was a curious kid. He wasn’t paying any attention to Aizawa, so involved with his cat-like pajamas that he wouldn’t notice if Aizawa were to take a picture.

Now that he thought about it, Hitoshi didn’t have many photos of himself as a child. He knew why—Hitoshi had been passed from house to house and hadn’t been treated well in most of them, let alone treated like someone’s biological child. With so many different caretakers, it made sense that Hitoshi didn’t have photos of himself.  Aizawa wasn’t sure if Hitoshi would want photos of himself from back then, either, given that those memories probably weren’t the best for him.

If anything, that made the urge to take a photo stronger. Even if Hitoshi didn’t want the photos when the quirk wore off, at least Aizawa and Hizashi would have photos of him at a younger age.

Aizawa leaned to the side, looking out in the main room, finding Hizashi putting things away in the kitchen. Quickly, so as not to embarrass himself  in front of his husband, Aizawa reached for his phone,  pulling up his camera and before Hitoshi or Hizashi could see, Aizawa snapped a photo of Hitoshi, the boy still involved with looking at the tail behind him.

Aizawa tucked his phone away again and sure enough, moments later, he heard unmistakable footsteps and then Hizashi was in the doorway, blocking some of the light from the main room. He’d finally stripped off his street clothes and had changed into a plain shirt and sweatpants, reminding Aizawa that he was still in his uniform. Hizashi had his hair pulled up into a bun and he lingered in the doorway, giving the two of them a smile.

“Hitoshi looks awfully cute in that.”

At his words, Hitoshi looked up, stuffed tail still in his hand, and stared across the room at Hizashi. Hizashi didn’t miss a beat, crouching down and opening his arms to Hitoshi with a soft, “Come here, kid.”

Hitoshi glanced back at Aizawa, saying nothing, and the next thing Aizawa knew, Hitoshi was darting to Hizashi and Hizashi was wrapping him up in his arms, lifting him high up, above his head, and Aizawa had to resist the urge to take another photo. Hizashi cooed at Hitoshi, laughing happily, and Hitoshi let him hold him, small, paw-covered feet dangling in the air. Hizashi’s grip on him was firm and Aizawa wasn’t worried about him dropping their kid, and it was a little amusing, even with everything else that’d happened today, to see Hizashi holding Hitoshi over his head, cooing and fawning over him.

“Aw, was Shouta showing you pictures of all of us?” After a few long moments, Hizashi lowered Hitoshi, holding the boy against his chest. Hitoshi still had the framed photo Aizawa had given him gripped in his hand and didn’t seem to want to let go of it. Hitoshi looked down at the photo and then back to Hizashi, only giving a yawn in response. Hizashi picked up on that immediately, “I think it’s time for bed, Hitoshi. We’re going to do lots of things tomorrow, but you have to get some sleep tonight.”

Hitoshi nodded, and Aizawa was a little relieved that he was so willing to go to bed. He knew that getting small kids to sleep could be a nightmare, even if he’d never done it himself, and teenage Hitoshi had problems with insomnia on top of that. But right now, he was rubbing his eyes, eyelids drooping enough for Aizawa to notice that he was struggling.

He caught Hizashi’s gaze as his husband stepped inside the room and Hizashi looked back at Hitoshi, brushing back the boy’s messy hair from his eyes.

“I’ll put you to bed and read you a story and Shouta can go get changed, okay, Hitoshi?”

Aizawa knew that Hizashi’s words were more for him than they were for Hitoshi and he let out a breath of relief. As much as he loved Hitoshi, he really just needed a few moments. He needed to think. He needed to be alone, even if it was only for a few short moments, and Hizashi knew that probably better than Aizawa himself did. He gave Hizashi a nod, nonverbally thanking him, and Hizashi only gave him a gentle smile. Aizawa got up from Hitoshi’s bed, brushing past Hizashi as they traded places, relieved to have a breather and a little while to process things.

 

 

It was rare that Hizashi woke up to something and Aizawa didn’t.

He wasn’t sure what it was that woke him up. He knew it was a little sniffle and a cut off sob, but neither sound was loud , and with Hizashi’s inability to hear most noise without the help of his hearing aids, the fact that such a little, quiet thing had woken him up was more than surprising. But it had, and Hizashi gave a groan, trying to roll over, meeting resistance the second he did and instantly, it reminded him of where he was.

Right. He wasn’t in his own bed. He wasn’t in any bed at all. He was on the floor. In Aizawa’s sleeping bag.

Hitoshi’s bed wasn’t big enough for the three of them. They hadn’t wanted to leave Hitoshi alone in an unfamiliar place and both of them had been admittedly worried about him, so the solution had been that they both sleep in here. With the bed only being big enough for two people, even with one of those two people being a small four year-old, only one of them could actually sleep with him. Given that Aizawa was the one with chronic pain and joint problems, Hizashi had been more than happy to give up the bed to him. Aizawa had a plush, comfortable sleeping bag, anyways, and that was what Hizashi had fallen asleep in.

Getting Hitoshi to sleep had been much easier than Hizashi was used to with kids his age. Hitoshi had been completely willing to lay down, and had relaxed the moment Hizashi had handed him the cat stuffed animal that he’d given Hitoshi on his first night here. The kid had been asleep before Hizashi was even halfway done reading one of the books he’d gotten for him and Aizawa had come back in later, looking significantly more at ease than he had been when Hizashi had taken over for him.

They hadn’t talked much. Aizawa had been exhausted and honestly, Hizashi was, too. Aizawa had been asleep before Hizashi could say much and Hizashi had given into his own exhaustion soon after.

He had no idea how long he’d been asleep, but following his groggy, half-awake attempt to roll over, Hizashi heard a sound that was definitely another sniffle and a small whimper, and that drew him the rest of the way out of his rest and back into reality.

He tried to be quiet about it, managing to partially pull himself out of the sleeping bag, enough that he could sit up, patting the ground and quickly finding his glasses and hearing aids, slipping both on and rubbing at his still-tired eyes before actually looking up to investigate where the sound was coming from.

He didn’t have to investigate long, because almost as soon as the world came into focus, he saw an image that opened a hole of horrible dread and pain in his chest.

The lights in the room were off, but it wasn’t necessarily dark , since they’d left Hitoshi’s door wide open, the light from the main room outside streaming in, creating a wide strip of yellow light through the middle of the room, and sitting in the center of that was Hitoshi, hunched over and balled up, clutching something in his little fingers.

There was no doubt that the sniffling and short, cut-off sobs were coming from him.

As Hizashi looked, trying to process what was going on and why Hitoshi was so upset, he heard the same noise—a quiet sniffle and a small gasp. Hitoshi raised an arm, wiping at his eyes with the sleeve of his pajamas, and Hizashi’s fingers shook as he searched out the zipper, yanking it down and nearly running the short distance between himself and Hitoshi.

Hitoshi didn’t seem to even notice him, and when Hizashi knelt down and put a hand on his shoulder, Hitoshi jumped, giving a quick yelp of surprise that faded into a low sob.

It hurt even more, being this close to him. Hitoshi was a mess, leaving Hizashi to wonder how long he’d been crying on the floor alone.  His face was streaked with tears and snot, his eyes watery and red, and his lips trembled as he looked up at Hizashi, as if he was still trying to be quiet and not cry out loud. Hizashi stared at him, glancing down, finding that the thing Hitoshi had clutched in his hands was a picture frame. He half-expected the picture to be the same one Aizawa had given him earlier, but when Hizashi reached out and brushed Hitoshi’s little fingers away from the actual photo, he discovered that it wasn’t.

No, Hitoshi had been sitting, curled up and sobbing, with a photo of his birth parents, the one that teenage Hitoshi kept beside the photo of himself, Aizawa, and Hizashi. It was one of the only ones Hitoshi had and it was old, its age showing in the yellowing edges of the photograph. Hitoshi’s fingers had been covering his father and mother, and Hitoshi didn’t try to take it away from Hizashi, letting him see the photo.

Hizashi had looked at it before, when he’d been framing it for Hitoshi. Hitoshi hadn’t said much about it, just that it was one of the few photos of his birth family that he had and that he’d kept it in a locked box for years as he was passed from home to home. Hizashi hadn’t pushed and to him, it seemed like Hitoshi didn’t remember his birth parents much. He didn’t talk about them, nor did he really seem to think about them. The trauma he was dealing with was from his treatment in foster care and that was where his night terrors and anxiety came from. He never focused on his birth parents and it’d always felt like Hitoshi just didn’t think about them much.

But that was fifteen year-old Hitoshi. That was Hitoshi after eleven years of foster care and a huge amount of caregivers who’d abandoned him. That was Hitoshi after having lost his parents when he was hardly old enough to form lasting memories, and after he’d spent almost his entire life without them.

This was four year-old Hitoshi. This was the Hitoshi that, in his mind, had lost his father only months ago and had been abandoned by his remaining family and shoved into some group home for kids with dangerous quirks. For this Hitoshi, that was all still fresh in his mind.

Hizashi had read over Hitoshi’s foster care file, too, shortly after meeting him. He’d already made up his mind that Hitoshi was a good kid, both from what Aizawa had to say about him and how he’d seen Hitoshi act at the house. He’d met Hitoshi and seen that he was a good kid—a good kid who’d been dealt a horrible hand and was coping with it in the most rational way possible—and after that first night with Hitoshi, he’d liked him a lot and no amount of past infractions was about to change that. Still, he’d read the file, if only to get a better idea of what he’d gone through. He could still remember it well, with the way the file had described Hitoshi’s father. Successful, determined, driven, hard-working—and so caring and loving for his son that there was no way he would’ve ever willingly left Hitoshi.

He didn’t know if teenage Hitoshi even knew how much his birth father had loved him. He had no idea what the kid thought of his birth parents. Hizashi wanted to kick himself for never even bringing it up.

Hitoshi’s mother, from what he could tell, had been a kind woman, as well. She’d had a brain washing quirk, though it’d been weaker than Hitoshi’s. There was no way his parents hadn’t been aware of the possibility of Hitoshi inheriting that quirk, and there was no way they hadn’t accepted that possibility with the decision to have and keep Hitoshi. His mother had died early on from sickness and his father, a doctor with a sleeplessness quirk, had become Hitoshi’s caregiver, working in a hospital that took care of heroes until the day he was killed in a villain attack on the hospital.

From the way his history had been written, Hitoshi’s father’s death had been extremely sudden. The documents he’d read had emphasized how much his father had cared about Hitoshi and how there’d been no way for him to even plan for what had happened.

Hitoshi had been left at home with his usual babysitter one night, just like he was five nights out of the week, and his only parent had never come home.

Hizashi reached out, wiping at Hitoshi’s messy face with the sleeve of his shirt, doing his best to clean up the mixture of snot and tears from him. It didn’t work, though, and all Hizashi managed to do was create an even bigger mess and smear it even more over his face and when he pulled away, Hitoshi was whimpering again, the sound high-pitched and making Hizashi feel even worse. He paused, staring at the still-crying toddler on the floor, Hitoshi giving him a wide-eyed, teary look, the same look that he’d given Aizawa earlier, when Aizawa had talked the criminal that had attacked Hitoshi. It was unmistakable fear, and Hizashi knew instantly that Hitoshi thought he was in trouble.

It made sense, with the way he’d been obviously trying to keep quiet and with the fact that he hadn’t woken either of them up, instead choosing to cry alone. It made sense, but that didn’t mean that it hurt any less.

He had to take this one step at a time.

The biggest problem right now was that Hitoshi was upset, but that was too big to fix in this moment. The biggest thing Hizashi could do to help that was to start by cleaning him up. With that, Hizashi moved quickly, scooping Hitoshi into his arms, hearing a wordless, objecting cry as he did, Hitoshi squirming for the first time as he picked him up. He managed to knee Hizashi in the chest, but Hizashi didn’t react, pulling the kid close against him and shushing him comfortingly.

“Shh, I’m just bringing you to the bathroom so I can clean you up,” He murmured, voice a near-whisper. He couldn’t tell if Aizawa was still asleep—he assumed so, given his husband’s earlier exhaustion—and that was the least of his concerns right now. Still, he wanted to be quiet, just in case. He cradled Hitoshi close, holding him more like a baby than a toddler, and at his words, Hitoshi stopped fighting. “That can’t be very comfortable. You’ll feel better when I clean you up.”

He started to make his way out of Hitoshi’s room, tiptoeing around to not wake up Aizawa. The bathroom wasn’t far—just behind the staircase next to Hitoshi’s room. Hitoshi ducked into his chest when Hizashi brought him into the bright light of the main room, but made no noise, not until they were in the bathroom. He spoke then, after Hizashi sat him down on the rim of the bathtub, turning away to wet a washcloth with warm water in the sink.

“I had a bad dream.”

He hadn’t really expected Hitoshi to say anything. He hadn’t said much all night. Aizawa had said, briefly, that Hitoshi had talked a little in the car and Hizashi knew that he was capable of saying full sentences, but Hizashi hadn’t heard it yet. He was aware of the same thing Aizawa was—that Hitoshi had problems speaking because of what had already been done to him in foster care and while Hizashi wanted Hitoshi to feel comfortable speaking around them, he’d shelved that as something that he’d start dealing with in the morning.

He looked at Hitoshi, the water in the sink running as it warmed up. The bathroom was decently-sized and mostly used by Hitoshi, as there was a bathroom in the master bedroom. Hitoshi was sitting on the porcelain bathtub, so small that his feet didn’t quite reach the floor, little cat pajama-covered feet dangling a little above the bath mat. He still had the picture frame in his hands, holding onto it so tightly that his knuckles were turning white. Tears still ran down his face, but at least he wasn’t sobbing anymore, and that in itself was a huge improvement.

“Oh, yeah?” Hizashi tried to not let his surprise at hearing Hitoshi say more than one word show, trying not to draw attention to it so that Hitoshi wouldn’t be discouraged. “Was it about your dad?”

There wasn’t even a second of hesitation, Hitoshi’s face twisting into an incredulous look that almost made Hizashi laugh, his expression mirroring one that teenage Hitoshi regularly wore, “You’re my dad.”

“No, I mean—” Hizashi had to fight to not react to Hitoshi calling him his father again. He’d been so emotional earlier that he’d cried when Hitoshi had first said it… which had then spurred Hitoshi to get upset, meaning that it was probably best to not do that again. “—The guy in your picture. That dad.”

“Yeah,” Hitoshi looked down and away from him, big tears falling down his cheeks. “And the clown man.”

Hizashi couldn’t blame him for being afraid of the villain Aizawa had captured. That guy had managed to creep him out a little, too, but he had been a little afraid of clowns at Hitoshi’s age.

He glanced away, running a hand under the water coming from the faucet, finding that it’d heated up to a temperature that wouldn’t be freezing cold on Hitoshi’s skin. He soaked the washcloth under it before shutting the sink off and stepping over to Hitoshi, crouching down to his height.

“Tip your head up for me, kiddo,” Hizashi told him, keeping his voice soft. Hitoshi did what Hizashi told him to, tilting his head up, and Hizashi started gently wiping the mess of snot and tears from his face, starting with under his nose and on his chin, where the worst of it was. He kept talking to him, not wanting Hitoshi to start crying again, “You won’t have to see him ever again. He was pretty scary, though, wasn’t he? I can see why you had some nightmares about him. Poor thing—you’ve been through a lot today.”

He moved on, trying to be even gentler as he rubbed the cloth against Hitoshi’s wet cheeks, noticing that he’d mostly stopped crying. Hitoshi closed his eyes as Hizashi cleaned under them, and Hizashi was concentrating hard enough that he almost missed Hitoshi’s quiet whisper.

“I miss him a bunch,” It was low, as if Hitoshi was partially talking to himself, but his few words seemed to fill the room and reopened the dark pit in Hizashi’s chest. Hitoshi didn’t open his eyes or move, letting Hizashi finish cleaning off his face, and Hizashi knew that he wasn’t talking about the childlike villain that had attacked him anymore.

“I bet you do,” Hizashi chose his words carefully, wanting to acknowledge Hitoshi’s feelings but not wanting to hurt him more and make him cry again. A parental death was a lot for an adult to handle. He couldn’t imagine how big those feelings were for a toddler. Hizashi had lost his own birth parents, though it’d been because they’d signed him over to an adoption agency, and he’d been an infant —far too young to even remember what they looked like, let alone what kind of people they were. “I bet he was a really nice guy. He loved you a lot. How are you feeling?”

He pulled away, sitting back on his feet. Hitoshi’s face was all cleaned up, a little red from where Hizashi had had to press down a bit to get all the snot and tears off of him. He wasn’t crying anymore, though his violet eyes still looked enormous. He’d relaxed enough to slouch and his grip on the picture of his birth parents had loosened. Maybe like this, with the way he’d been able to relax, Hizashi could get him back to bed. Maybe.

“Sad,” Hitoshi told him, his voice louder than before, though he was still quiet. “Tired. Sleepy. I wanna go back to sleep.”

Apparently, Hitoshi was already a step ahead of him.

Hizashi gave him a smile, his chest warming with the way Hitoshi finally looked at him again, “You want to go back to sleep with Shouta? Or I can read to you a little out here or I could—”

His voice broke, but only enough for himself to notice.

“—Or I could sing to you.”

It was something that he did sometimes with Aizawa, something that had started way back in high school when Hizashi had been learning to sing and Aizawa had been the only person who was always willing to listen to him. If Hizashi sang softly and Aizawa was tired, it’d put him right to sleep, something that was true even now. Maybe, just maybe, it’d be the same with Hitoshi.

Hitoshi didn’t answer him verbally, only nodding and having fallen back into silence. Hizashi didn’t need a verbal answer, though, and he opened his arms to Hitoshi, letting Hitoshi come to him, just as he had earlier that night, before he scooped him into his arms, holding Hitoshi in the same way he had before.

He couldn’t cry. He wouldn’t. And yet, Hizashi could feel a familiar pressure behind his eyes, threatening to burst. He wasn’t upset or sad or anything—he was happy and just emotional . He’d been similarly emotional when Hitoshi had come to live with them, and this was almost exactly like that. Having a kid had wreaked havoc on his emotions in a good way and even though he’d gotten used to having his own little family, Hitoshi being turned into a toddler was doing it all over again.

Aizawa had always said that he was the emotional one out of the two of them. He’d always been right.

Hitoshi was laying in his arms, eyes half-lidded as he gazed up at him. Hizashi took him into the main room, and only then did he let himself look down at the boy in his hold.

He hadn’t yet gotten over how little Hitoshi was. He was still obviously the kid they’d taken in, recognizable with his wild hair, his violet eyes, and the tired expression he fixed Hizashi with. But at the same time, so much had changed about him. His cheeks were fuller, his eyes wider, his face softer . Hizashi had been around young kids all his life, but it wasn’t until now that he realized how truly small kids were.

“What should I sing?” He wondered out loud, shifting Hitoshi so he could support his small body with one arm, brushing the boy’s messy bangs out of his vision with his other hand. He hummed to himself, and before he realized it, he was humming the soft tune that never failed to put Aizawa to sleep, watching as Hitoshi’s eyes fell shut in response. He gave a laugh, feeling Hitoshi sigh against him, “Oh, that one? Shouta likes that one a lot, too. You guys really are similar.”

Hitoshi always seemed to find new ways to remind him of Aizawa.

Hizashi cleared his throat, taking a deep breath in, his soft singing voice filling the room as Hizashi easily fell into the song that he sang to his husband, Hitoshi curling into him as Hizashi sang.

Blackbird singing in the dead of night, take these broken wings and learn to fly.

Hitoshi was asleep by the second round of the song, but Hizashi sang it twice more, telling himself that he was just making sure Hitoshi was asleep.

The reality was that he wanted to stay here like this, quietly singing to his son, watching him as he slept in his arms.

 

 

Aizawa didn’t wake up once in the entire night. He always woke up once or twice, his sleeping having been restless for as long as he could remember. Tonight, though, out of sheer emotional and physical exhaustion, Aizawa made it through the night and woke up to the morning light filtering through the blinds in Hitoshi’s room.

For a moment, he wondered why he was in Hitoshi’s room. He didn’t sleep in here often, but he had a few times. It was rare, but Hitoshi would occasionally ask him to stay with him if he was having trouble with nightmares and Aizawa would either sleep on the floor or end up falling asleep sitting on Hitoshi’s bed.

His moment of confusion didn’t last long, because when he rolled over, trying to look at the clock on the bedside table and see what time it was, he immediately saw Hitoshi, four years old and not even half the size of his teenage self, wide awake and lying against the bed-guard Hizashi had put up the previous night. Hitoshi didn’t look the least bit sleepy, his purple eyes wide and staring right at him, laying down facing Aizawa, holding his cat toy to his chest.

Aizawa dragged a hand through his hair, pushing it out of his eyes and managing to sit up, supporting himself with his arms, raising an eyebrow at the kid beside him, who hadn’t moved, “How long have you been up?”

“I dunno,” Hitoshi responded, frowning a little. “A few minutes or maybe hours.”

Right. Aizawa had no idea why he’d expected a four year-old to be able to accurately tell time.

He waited, rubbing at his eyes, trying to clear the rest of the sleepiness from them. He was still tired, but that was nothing new. When he glanced at the time, he noticed that it was around the time that he usually got up for work, his internal clock having woken him up with enough time to get dressed, attempt to brush his hair, eat something, and head to the school—except he and Hizashi had both taken today off. On any normal day, Aizawa would get up, groggily shower and get ready, and then wake Hitoshi up, Hizashi usually having already left before Aizawa would wake up.

Hizashi was an early bird and the extent to which he loved mornings was almost disgusting. He could be up and singing and excited a minute after his alarm went off. Aizawa was a night person and hated mornings, and Hitoshi seemed to be much of the same.

He was debating on laying back down and telling Hitoshi to close his eyes and go back to sleep, when he heard a bubbling, gurgling growl that no doubt came from Hitoshi’s stomach. Aizawa froze, sighing, and remembered that Hitoshi had probably not eaten dinner last night, since Aizawa was supposed to come home without incident and spend a few hours with his family before going to bed.

“You’re hungry?” Aizawa asked Hitoshi, looking down at him again. “…Why didn’t you wake me up and ask me to feed you?”

“You were sleeping.”

Aizawa couldn’t really argue with that. He had been sleeping.

“I guess we should get up, then,” Aizawa rubbed at his eyes again before sitting up more, pushing the multiple blankets Hitoshi always slept with off of him. He yawned, getting out of bed, and Hitoshi was scrambling after him a moment later. On the floor at Aizawa’s feet was Hizashi, fast asleep in Aizawa’s yellow sleeping bag, glasses and hearing aids on the floor beside him.

Aizawa glanced down at Hitoshi, whispering to the boy, “We don’t want to wake Hizashi up, so watch where you step.”

Hitoshi only nodded and when Aizawa carefully stepped over his sleeping husband, Hitoshi followed closely. Even with it being so early in the morning, it was amusing to see Hitoshi walking on his toes as Aizawa led him out of the room, wobbling a little, the stuffed tail on the cat pajamas bobbing with every small step he took. They successfully got out of the room without waking up Hizashi, and the other man continued to sleep peacefully as Aizawa mostly shut the door to the bedroom, leaving it open just a sliver.

The main room was bright, with both the lights they’d left on last night and the morning light streaming through the windows. He moved to shut the lights off, the brightness making his eyes burn even more than usual, and Hitoshi stood in the dining area, looking around with wide eyes, sucking on his fingers again in the same way he had last night. Aizawa didn’t say anything, going into the kitchen, trying to figure out what a toddler would possibly want to eat. Hitoshi wasn’t a picky kid as a teenager and would eat anything—but Aizawa had always thought that was a product of his treatment in foster care and having been through periods of food scarcity.

He scanned the pantry, trying to find something both simple to make and something that was likely to be eaten by a toddler. Hizashi’s parents always joked that Aizawa had a tendency to eat like a child but now, as he was faced with picking out something to actually feed to a toddler, he was coming up blank.

“How’s eggs and toast sound?” Not finding anything, Aizawa turned back to the bewildered-looking kid, trying the most simple thing he knew how to cook and wouldn’t risk messing up. Hitoshi was watching him, not having taken a single step away from where Aizawa had left him when he went into the kitchen.

Okay,” Hitoshi said, not offering anything more, still standing motionless. Aizawa didn’t push, relieved that Hitoshi was at least alright with the first thing he’d suggested.

Without another word, Aizawa started gathering what he needed. He forced himself to not stare at Hitoshi and sure enough, as Aizawa was getting eggs out of the refrigerator, he heard the patter of Hitoshi finally moving around. He managed a quick glance behind him, finding that Hitoshi had darted into the living room and was standing in the center of the room, looking around with a shocked expression. When he looked at Aizawa, Aizawa busied himself again, figuring that Hitoshi would explore when he wasn’t looking, in the same way teenage Hitoshi had when Aizawa had first taken him in.

Toddler Hitoshi was similar to teenage Hitoshi in that regard, too, because Aizawa was right—as he occupied himself with cooking, watching Hitoshi out of the corner of his eyes, Hitoshi eventually found his way around. He explored the living room first, climbing up onto the couch and then back down, only to dart to the corner with the bookcase and Hizashi’s electric keyboard and investigate there. The corners with the cat toys and cat towers were next, and to Aizawa’s amusement, Hitoshi inspected every opening on the cat towers for one of their three felines. After that, Hitoshi glanced around the entertainment center, though he seemed disinterested in it, and then crawled under the kotatsu after flopping down on the pillows they had laid out around it.

He never caught Aizawa looking at him, too involved in his exploration of the house. He ran to the stairs, evidently done with the living room, and hesitated, the next thing Aizawa heard being the sound of tiny feet bounding up the staircase. With Hitoshi out of his sight, Aizawa turned the stove burner down, brushing himself off, and crept to the living room, where he could properly see up into the loft upstairs. Hitoshi still took no notice of him, clambering up onto the couch bed  they had up there, lying flat on his back for a moment before he climbed up onto one of the arms of it and peered up at a shelf that Hizashi had a bunch of records on. The boy glanced at the two rooms on the loft, but to Aizawa’s surprise, he didn’t attempt to go into either of them, instead hopping down from the couch-bed and pressing his face against the railing that Aizawa was staring up at, Hitoshi’s eyes growing wide the moment he saw Aizawa watching him.

“Having fun?” Aizawa tilted his head up at him, unable to keep himself from smiling a little. Hitoshi had explored in a similar way after a day or two of staying here—though, admittedly, he hadn’t quite climbed all over everything. He was a curious kid at any age and it was entertaining to watch him run around the house and investigate things.

Hitoshi looked to the side, at the two closed doors, but he didn’t say anything and didn’t ask the question Aizawa knew he had. Aizawa waited, waiting for him to question him about what those other two rooms were, but it never came.

“That’s another bedroom and bathroom,” He finally offered, Hitoshi looking back down at him through the bars in the railing. He beckoned Hitoshi to him and the boy immediately scrambled to his feet, “Come back down here; breakfast is almost ready. You can look around more after you eat.”

Hitoshi did what he said, bouncing back down the stairs and following Aizawa back to the kitchen. He didn’t have to tell him what to do, Hitoshi climbing into one of the chairs at the dining room table by himself and sitting quietly, watching Aizawa.

It was easy enough to finish cooking, the eggs he’d made having been thoroughly cooked and the toast he’d thrown in the toaster still hot. Upon opening the cabinets where they kept their dishware, Aizawa discovered that Hizashi had put some of the things he’d picked up yesterday in here and he was a little relieved, having forgotten that Hitoshi probably wouldn’t be able to use adult-sized things.

Of course .

The plastic plates were colorful and had some cartoon cat character on them, and Aizawa hadn’t expected anything less of Hizashi. The child-sized silverware matched, and even Hitoshi gave the plastic dishware a long stare when Aizawa put his breakfast down in front of him, picking up the fork and studying it for a long moment. Aizawa sat down next to him, having been hungry himself, and raised an eyebrow at the toddler beside him.

“You don’t need me to feed you, do you?”

“No,” Hitoshi answered him almost immediately, looking at his food with a perplexed expression. “I can do it myself. Lots of food.”

It was so obvious at this age that Hitoshi had been mistreated in foster care. Even if he was only four and hadn’t been in the system long at this point, a few months or even close to a year was a long time for someone who’d only been alive for four years. He didn’t know how much Hitoshi remembered his life outside of foster care or if the trauma of losing his father and his family had been so great that foster care was almost entirely the only thing he remembered.

Aizawa didn’t know much about Hitoshi’s parents. He knew a bit, including what he’d read in his file, and had asked Hitoshi a couple times about them, always getting the simple answer of ‘I don’t remember’. He’d had no reason to think that Hitoshi was lying . Even if the kid spoke well and knew how to use his words to get people to respond to him, he’d been around Hitoshi for long enough to know when he was lying, and there was also the fact that Hitoshi just didn’t lie to him out of what he assumed was respect. Hitoshi genuinely seemed to not remember either of his parents.

It was a shame, because as far as Aizawa could tell, for the first four years of his life, Hitoshi had had a father who’d loved him more than anything in the world.

“It’s fine if you can’t finish it,” Aizawa’s tone softened a little, guilt from the idea that he’d retraumatized him and forced him to relive being a newly orphaned toddler sitting heavy in his chest.

“No, I will,” It was almost funny, how determined Hitoshi sounded, like it was a challenge. He might have been four, but Aizawa could still see some obvious parts of teenage Hitoshi’s personality shining through his young demeanor. Still so determined and seeing everything around him like a challenge—it was a little endearing.

Aizawa let Hitoshi eat, not caring that the kid was messy with his food. He’d clean it up later. He ate, as well, going through the messages that had piled up on his phone. In the time he’d taken to make breakfast, UA staff had apparently gotten wind that both he and Hizashi were out, as was Hitoshi, and it obviously wasn’t hard to figure out that something had happened to their entire family that had pulled all three of them out of school and work. Nemuri in particular had sent him a barrage of texts and he imagined that Hizashi had gotten much of the same.

Kayama Nemuri: Hey, do you MAYBE wanna tell your best friend why you’re all GONE?

Kayama Nemuri: Okay, maybe Hizashi’s your best friend, but COME ON, SHOUTA.

Kayama Nemuri: I officiated your wedding!!!!! Don’t forget that!!!!!

Kayama Nemuri: In all seriousness, I’m worried.

Kayama Nemuri: Look, I know you’re the sleeping prince of relaxation and all but I also know that you CANNOT be sleeping through all these texts.

Kayama Nemuri: CALL ME, ASSHOLE.

He had half a mind to just ignore her, but he was well aware that ignoring Nemuri never worked the way he wanted it to. She would just keep sending texts. And then she’d get annoyed enough that she’d be banging at their door at the first chance she’d get. That was, unfortunately, just the way she was. It was born out of concern, but that didn’t make it any less irritating. Wanting to avoid having her come over here during her free period, Aizawa begrudgingly gave in and typed out a response to her.

Aizawa Shouta: We’re fine. Incident last night. Go back to work.

He wasn’t under the impression that that would make her happy or set her at ease in the least, but it was worth a try. To no surprise, his phone almost immediately started vibrating again, even drawing Hitoshi’s attention from where he was busy shoving eggs and toast into his mouth and making a mess out of the table and the floor.

Kayama Nemuri: Oh, if I wasn’t in class right now, I’d so be ripping you a new one over the phone. ELABORATE, SHOUTA.

Kayama Nemuri: What KIND of incident?!

Kayama Nemuri: Are you alright???? Is Hizashi alright???? IS YOUR KID HURT???????

Kayama Nemuri: I HATE HOW VAGUE YOU ARE!!!!!!!

Hitoshi was giving him a curious look but still, he didn’t ask anything.

“My friend,” Aizawa clarified with an annoyed sigh. “She’s very upset at me for not telling her about you. If you see a strange, angry middle-aged woman show up, that’s her.”

It was supposed to be a joke, with Aizawa’s odd sense of humor, but Hitoshi didn’t seem to find it amusing. His face fell into a worried frown, lips pressing together in concern. He kept silent, looking worried, even while his face was comically full or eggs and jam from the toast Aizawa had given him.

“She’s nice. Don’t worry,” Aizawa set his phone down, grabbing one of the cloth napkins from the table and leaning over, wiping some of the mess from Hitoshi’s face. The worried look cleared a little, replaced by a small pout as Aizawa cleaned the crumbs from his mouth. Hitoshi wasn’t bothered after that, going back to shoveling food into his face, Aizawa watching him for a moment more before he started a response to Nemuri.

Actually—maybe it’d be better to just show her.

Hitoshi was concentrating too hard on his food to notice Aizawa pointing his phone at him. He got a quick picture, Hitoshi having successfully made a mess of himself once again. It wouldn’t be hard to clean up, but it did make for a picture that even Aizawa had to admit was cute. He sent it to Nemuri, attaching a message along with it.

Aizawa Shouta: Oh, Hitoshi’s fine.

The small pause of silence he got was nice. But it didn’t last long.

Kayama Nemuri: WHAT THE FUCK, SHOUTA.

Kayama Nemuri: YOU DIDN’T TELL ANY OF US ABOUT THIS?

Aizawa Shouta: It doesn’t concern any of you.

Kayama Nemuri: WHY IS YOUR KID A BABY??????

Aizawa Shouta: He’s not a baby. He’s a toddler.

His punishment for that was his phone screen lighting up with Nemuri’s name as she called him.

“Should I pick it up…?” He wondered out loud, glancing again at Hitoshi, who fixed him with a stare, having paused again in his frantic eating. “She’s so loud sometimes…”

“You said she’s nice.”

“I did, didn’t I?” Aizawa frowned heavily at Hitoshi’s matter-of-fact statement. He drummed his fingers on the table, letting his phone ring twice more before he hesitantly picked up, not even bothering with a greeting, “Shouldn’t you be teaching a class right now? The school’s already down two teachers; they need all the help they can get.”

First of all,” Nemuri hissed on the other line, more hushed than loud, Aizawa’s lips pulling into a terrible smirk when he realized that she’d probably ducked into the hallway to call him and was at least trying to keep quiet. “It’s your class I’m teaching. Do you have any idea how suspicious your kids are? It’s one thing for Shinsou to be out. It’s another thing for you to be out. It’s something else entirely for both of you to be out. Your entire class is gonna lose it when they realize Hizashi’s out, too, so good luck dealing with all that when you’re back. Second off, do you want to tell me why your son is a fucking toddler and also why you didn’t think to tell any of us?!”

“I told the principal,” Aizawa said simply. That’d been enough for him. He’d called Nedzu last night with Hizashi and told him what had happened with Hitoshi. Aizawa had some sort of personal rapport with the principal, as he’d helped him a lot in high school, and Nedzu had been more than understanding of them needing to take a couple days off. “That’s all I needed to tell, right?”

“It would’ve been nice to know that something happened! We’re your friends , Shouta.”

“I was tired,” Aizawa conceded., rubbing at the bridge of his nose in frustration. “It was a long night. I didn’t want to talk to anyone else.”

Hitoshi was staring at him with violet doe-eyes, and Aizawa noticed that he’d started swinging his legs under the table. There was a moment of silence in the conversation and then, quietly, Hitoshi spoke up, “Dad, I’m done.”

Hearing him call him that was still a little surprising, and Aizawa didn’t even breathe for a moment before he managed to look down and see that Hitoshi had finished all his food and the juice Aizawa had given him. He was a mess and so were the table and the floor, but it was nothing that a small bit of cleaning couldn’t fix. He got up, starting to make his way over to the sink to get something to wash Hitoshi off, taking his dishes with him as he went, and Nemuri’s shocked voice came through the phone he was still holding against his ear.

“—Did he just call you dad?”

“Hitoshi… had an encounter with a villain last night,” Aizawa set the dishes down in the sink, turning the water on and running a cloth under it, trying to phrase what had happened so that Nemuri would know what he meant and Hitoshi wouldn’t get upset. “He and Hizashi came to pick me up at the precinct I’ve been working out of. It was crowded and Hitoshi happened to meet with the villain I’d captured, who had an age regression quirk. I’m sure I don’t need to spell it out for you.”

“Oh—” Nemuri’s voice softened considerably, worry falling into it and replacing the annoyance from before. Aizawa let her mull it over, going back to Hitoshi, who made a cut off noise of protest as Aizawa started wiping at his face. He didn’t fight, though, only pouting, and that alone made Aizawa’s job a lot easier. He hadn’t gotten much on his pajamas, the remaining mess mostly being on the table with a little on the floor surrounding where Hitoshi had been sitting. He was about to tell Hitoshi to go play while he cleaned up, when Nemuri spoke again, “Oh, poor boy. I’ll be over at lunch today.”

“What?” Aizawa froze, wet cloth still on Hitoshi’s face. The boy had his face scrunched into a heavy pout, nose wrinkled up and bottom lip pushed out. “No, you don’t need to come over.”

“I’m going to.”

“You don’t need to.”

“I’m gonna anyways.”

Aizawa pulled away from Hitoshi, satisfied with how clean his face was, and gave the boy a nod. Hitoshi seemed to understand, getting down from his chair, immediately darting away and going back to the living room, where he started to once again investigate the cat trees, clearly looking for their pets.

There really was no use in arguing with Nemuri. If there was something she wanted to do, she’d do it. If she’d set her mind on something she’d wanted, she wouldn’t let anyone else talk her out of it. She was stubborn and persistent, two traits that could be good in hero work, though right now, Aizawa wished he could talk her out of it. He wanted Hitoshi to be comfortable here for the next few days and even if he didn’t have a lot of experience with kids his age, he did want it to be a positive experience for him, and he had no idea how introducing him to new, strange people would affect him.

However, Nemuri was both Aizawa and Hizashi’s friend. He knew that she’d never try to harm their kid, and she liked Hitoshi, anyways. If anyone was going to meet Hitoshi like this, he’d rather it be someone like her. So he gave in easily, far easier than he would’ve with anyone else.

“Fine,” He gave a groan, just for good measure, as he started cleaning up the table. “Call before you come. I’ll let Hizashi know once he wakes up.”

“Good,” Nemuri’s tone picked up into a happier, more excited one. “I’m sure little Shinsou is just adorable , especially from that picture you sent me. Oh, I’ll bring him something! And I can bring you guys lunch since you’re so kindly letting me come over and see him. I gotta go back to teaching your nosy kids, but I’ll see you in a few hours.”

With that, the conversation was done. Nemuri was coming over during her lunch break and there wasn’t much Aizawa could do about it. He cleaned up the table and got the broom from the closet and cleaned up the floor, still dreading Nemuri’s impending visit. He knew it’d be fine in the end, but it was still irritating given that he hadn’t planned for it in the first place. He was the type of person who liked having things planned out, and he’d worked out a small mental schedule for today the night before.

He’d planned on it being a quiet day at home, mostly spent observing Hitoshi and letting him get comfortable in the house and with them. He’d wanted to maybe take Hitoshi to the nearby playground, if Hitoshi would be up to it, but for the most part, he’d expected to spend the day with him and Hizashi here at the house. Nemuri had never factored into that plan, and he was almost afraid that she’d suggest taking Hitoshi out when really, all Aizawa wanted to do was spend the day here and not have to go places with a kid who barely even spoke. He’d wanted to save that for tomorrow, or the next day, granted Hitoshi was still small.

Things changed, though, he supposed, and that was fine, too, even if he was set on being a little grumpy about it.

He was working on washing the dishes, finding comfort in routine, easy tasks, keeping an eye on Hitoshi as much as he could. Hitoshi seemed to know how to behave, and he wasn’t causing trouble at all, still exploring the house. He climbed around on the furniture, hiding under the kotatsu, and when Aizawa looked at him last, he’d been investigating some of the cat toys they had.

So he really wasn’t expecting it when he felt someone pulling at the back of his shirt.

He’d turned his attention back to the task at hand, figuring that Hitoshi was fine to occupy himself with looking at the cat toys for a while. He hadn’t heard the pattering of Hitoshi’s small feet running over to him, and he hadn’t heard him in the kitchen until he pulled at the back of his shirt, making Aizawa startle for a second before he shut the water off and turned to the boy.

Hitoshi had pulled up the hood of his cat pajamas, the stuffed cat ears standing up on his head, violet eyes peering up at him through a mess of wild hair, Hitoshi wearing an expression that Aizawa had seen on his face before, but only as a teenager.

“Kitty,” Was all Hitoshi said, and Aizawa narrowed his eyes at him, trying to figure out what he wanted. That expression was one that he only saw when Hitoshi was up to something. Hitoshi was well-behaved as a teenager, but that didn’t mean he wasn’t mischievous at times, and with the toothy grin Hitoshi was wearing right now, it mirrored the expression teenage Hitoshi wore when he had something up his sleeve.

“You… want me to show you the cats…?” Aizawa guessed. It seemed logical—Hitoshi liked cats and appeared to be curious about the cats here, given his thorough investigation of the cat toys and cat trees. But Hitoshi shook his head, still smiling wide, and it occurred to Aizawa that this was the first time he’d actually seen Hitoshi smile since last night.

“No!” Hitoshi raised both hands, let go of Aizawa’s shirt, and bent his fingers in a way that resembled cat claws, grinning up at him, “ Meow !”

Then, Aizawa realized what Hitoshi wanted.

He hadn’t wanted to see the cats. Or, at least, that wasn’t what he wanted right now .

“Oh— you’re the cat,” Aizawa leaned back against the counter, crossing his arms against his chest. “You want me to play with you…?”

Hitoshi nodded, his grin growing wider. He held his hands up higher, and made a noise that sounded like an attempt to hiss at him. Aizawa hesitated, not entirely sure what to do. He’d never played with little kids before, and he couldn’t quite remember ever playing as a kid, though it’d been a long time. He didn’t exactly want to do something wrong.

He went with his gut instinct, reaching out for Hitoshi, with the intention to pick him up, “Alright; come here.”

Hitoshi darted away from him, and Aizawa was momentarily concerned that he’d already done something wrong, but Hitoshi let out a giggle and a joyous shout of, “No!”

From there, it wasn’t hard to figure out what Hitoshi wanted him to do.

He wants me to chase him.

Well, that was easy enough. Hitoshi wanted to run around and he wanted Aizawa to chase him and try to pick him up. At least, that’s what he was gathering from this exchange. Testing it out, Aizawa made a move towards Hitoshi, being a little quicker than his normal pace, and Hitoshi laughed again and ran, dashing to behind the counters and trying to hide, though he was being pretty obvious. He tried again, just to make sure, quickly moving to near the counters and leaning over to look behind them, and Hitoshi cried out happily and launched himself off of the floor, breaking into a full run and scurrying to behind the staircase, near where his room was.

He really did just want to be chased around. That was simple and Aizawa had woken up enough that he was willing to move around.

He went after Hitoshi and Hitoshi immediately ran, clearly running from him at full force, giggling the entire way. For Aizawa, he had to be careful to not go after him too fast, keeping close, but not close enough to actually catch up to him. Hitoshi ran from behind the staircase to the far end of the living room, near Aizawa and Hizashi’s room, breathless and laughing and as Aizawa chased after him, hands outstretched like he was going to scoop Hitoshi up into his arms if he got too close, he couldn’t help but to grin, too.

Hitoshi barely paused at the end of the living room and as soon as Aizawa got close again, he took off, nearly running straight into the door of the master bedroom, Aizawa managing to get it open before Hitoshi slammed right into it. Hitoshi was through the door in a second, Aizawa following him, and Hitoshi stopped for a moment, seemingly distracted by the new room he hadn’t seen yet, giving Aizawa the opening to pick him up, sweeping him off the floor as Hitoshi dissolved into another fit of giggles, breathing hard.  

“You’re a fast kitty,” Aizawa held Hitoshi close, the boy laying in his arms and looking up at him, still trying to catch his breath. This was easier than he’d thought it’d be and seeing the grin on Hitoshi’s face after last night was enough to put Aizawa at ease. “You want to meet the actual cats now?”

Still gasping for breath, Hitoshi nodded happily, struggling to sit up in Aizawa’s arms so that he wasn’t holding him like an infant anymore. Aizawa let him, helping him up so that Hitoshi could put his arms around his neck. Once he was comfortable, Aizawa brought him to the edge of his and Hizashi’s bed, still unmade from the day before, and pointed at the sleeping black and white cat at the foot of the bed.

“That’s Blanket. She’s old,” Aizawa explained, Hitoshi following where he was pointing, staring at the cat. Aizawa let him, curiously moving his foot under the bed, and sure enough, a moment later, a grey paw flashed out, Aizawa just barely managing to move his foot before the other cat sunk her claws into him.

He let Hitoshi look at Blanket more, the boy making no move to get out of his arms and pet her, before crouching down, keeping a firm hold on Hitoshi as he got down on the floor. He held Hitoshi so he could see under the bed, a little amused at the glowing eyes and dark, long-haired shape he saw under there, “That’s Jelly. If you’re going to pet her, you need to be careful. She’s friendly, but she likes to play.”

He heard Hitoshi make a soft noise, sounding like a coo, and Aizawa continued holding him there for a moment more before he stood up again. The last cat was a bit of a wild card and could easily be hiding anywhere, but Aizawa had a good idea of where she could be. Like the others, she had her favorite places and the three of them seemed to all end up in the same room in the mornings. Aizawa crossed the floor, Hitoshi in his arms, to the closet that Hizashi kept his clothes in, the door slightly ajar and a rumbling, purring noise confirming his suspicions.

He pulled the door wide open and a yellow-eyed, brown tabby cat stared up at him, purring loudly as she curled up on one of Hizashi’s discarded leather jackets.

“This is… Present Meow,” Aizawa felt like he died a little inside whenever he had to say Meow’s name out loud. Of these three, Blanket was the first cat they’d gotten and Jelly had followed soon after. They’d had cats before—mostly older cats who’d passed away—and after Jelly, Hizashi had gotten fed up with Aizawa’s naming capabilities (or lack thereof) and had taken to naming Meow himself. Aizawa was convinced that her full name was just as bad, though. “You can just call her Meow.”

He set Hitoshi down on the ground so that he could see the cat a little better and Hitoshi just stood there, staring down at the cat, until Aizawa gave him a small nudge. Hitoshi then took a small step forward, stepping half into the closet, turning to look at Aizawa, seeming to want reassurance.

“It’s alright,” Aizawa tried. Hitoshi looked… nervous. Aizawa didn’t actually know if, at this point in his life, he remembered ever interacting with animals. Given how nervous he looked, it was as if Hitoshi thought he was doing something wrong, or like he thought he was going to hurt the cat. “Go ahead. She’s pretty nice. You’re not going to hurt her.”

With that, Hitoshi took another step and then one more, stopping at the pile of Hizashi’s dirty, discarded clothes. Aizawa leaned in the doorway, watching Hitoshi closely as the boy crouched down, at first just staring at Meow, looking her in the eyes. Aizawa didn’t push, and a moment later, Hitoshi raised a hand and gently put it on her back, stroking his fingers slowly over his fur.

Aizawa didn’t comment, keeping quiet as Hitoshi grew more and more comfortable with interacting with her. Before he knew it, Hitoshi was scratching his fingers gently behind her ears and Meow was purring louder, leaning her head into his hand.

Almost without thinking about it, Aizawa reached for his phone and took another photo of Hitoshi. The nervousness had drained out of Hitoshi and he was looking far more relaxed and when Aizawa leaned down slightly to get a better look at him, he saw that Hitoshi had a small smile on his lips.

With Hitoshi being so gentle with the cat, Aizawa backed away, sitting down on the unmade bed with a yawn. He was still tired from last night, even though he’d slept uninterrupted. It was early and Aizawa had problems staying awake during the daytime anyways, especially when he was staying at home and taking a day off. Usually, on his rare days off, Aizawa would sleep, usually on the couch or, if it was warm enough, out in the backyard. He couldn’t necessarily do that now, though, with Hitoshi here, so he took to just watching him.

His eyes were starting to droop when Hitoshi finally moved away from the cat, and he saw it was because Meow had gotten up, stretching, and was starting to make her way out of the closet and out of the bedroom altogether, probably in search of breakfast—something Aizawa would have to get to soon. Hitoshi didn’t try to follow the cat, instead looking around the room, and Aizawa knew instantly what caught his eye when Hitoshi focused his attention on the dresser near the window.

He got up again, beating Hitoshi to the dresser, and picked up the object of Hitoshi’s interest, holding it out to him as Hitoshi came to him.

“You want to play with them?”

Even as a toddler, Hitoshi seemed to have interest in him as a hero, since the thing that had caught Hitoshi’s interest once the cat had left was Aizawa’s goggles. It was the only bright, colorful thing in the room, since Aizawa usually preferred darker colors and greys and Hizashi just went along with it. The goggles were a bright yellow, firm and made out of heavy plastic. They had a few scratches and dents in them, from years and years of use, but otherwise looked like new.

Hitoshi stopped, not taking the heavy goggles from Aizawa, looking from them to Aizawa and then back again. He frowned, little hands clenched at his sides and quietly, he spoke, shaking his head, “I’ll break them.”

Oh. Hitoshi was nervous about breaking something of Aizawa’s. As a teenager, the kid rationally knew that Aizawa’s equipment wasn’t easily breakable at all, but there was no way he could possibly know that as a toddler. Again, it just reminded him that Hitoshi had been mistreated in foster care. He’d come out of his shell a little to get Aizawa to play with him but now, with more uncharted territory, it looked like he’d gone back to being shy and hesitant.

It couldn’t be too hard to reassure him, though. Aizawa was more than willing to let him play with his equipment. He’d been beaten up, burned, frozen, and had just about everything possible happen to him. There was nothing a four year-old could do to his goggles that a villain hadn’t done in his twelve years using them.

“You won’t,” Aizawa told him, taking his goggles in both hands and bending them as far as the plastic would allow, softening his grip to show Hitoshi how they bounced right back into their regular shape. “They’re durable. I use them for hero work. You’re not going to break them.”

“Hero…” Was all Hitoshi said, looking even more uncertain than before, biting down on his bottom lip and staring at the goggles Aizawa was holding out to him.

Aizawa considered himself to be a rational, logical person. That didn’t mean, though, that every decision he made was well thought out. Just like any other person, Aizawa sometimes made stupid, impulsive decisions in the heat of the moment, decisions that he later came to regret and wish he’d thought over more.

This was one of those decisions.

“You won’t break them. See?”

Without another thought and without a single bit of hesitation, Aizawa raised his arm, reeled back, and threw his goggles as hard as he could at the wall.

He realized his mistake as soon as he let go.

The heavy plastic of his goggles slammed hard into the wall, bouncing off and onto the floor with a hard thud , leaving a dark mark on the off-white wall in its wake. The noise echoed through the rest of the silent house. The cat on the bed jumped and scattered, bounding off the bed and darting underneath it. Hitoshi jumped, too, watching with wide eyes, covering his ears as the noise resounded, and then slowly, he looked up at Aizawa, who was staring in horror at what he’d just done.

The worst part wasn’t the noise. The worst part wasn’t that he scared both one of his cats and his son. The worst part wasn’t even the mark he’d left on the wall.

The worst part was that they lived in a duplex. That was a shared wall .

Aizawa had just thrown his durable, hard plastic goggles at the one wall in the house that they shared with the older, retired couple in the house next to them and had more likely than not woken them up.

In the moment, it had seemed logical. Hitoshi wanted to see his goggles but was too afraid to touch them because he was under the impression that he’d break them and hadn’t seemed to immediately believe Aizawa when he’d told him that there was no way he’d break them. The rational thing to do was show Hitoshi that they wouldn’t break, and so Aizawa had done what he’d thought would prove it to Hitoshi and had used all his strength to roughly throw his goggles into a wall to show Hitoshi how durable they were. The fact that Hitoshi would be scared of loud noises, that the cats were definitely scared of loud noises, and that that wall was the one they shared with his neighbors had escaped him.

As he heard the footsteps from the main room, running towards the master bedroom, Aizawa realized that he’d forgotten one other thing.

Shit ,” He murmured under his breath, dragging a hand down his face with the realization of how badly he’d screwed up. A second later, Hizashi burst into the room, green eyes wide with fear, hair sticking up and splayed all over his face. He hadn’t even bothered to put his glasses on and he looked panicked and worried, but he looked over the room, first looking at Hitoshi, still standing in front of Aizawa holding his ears, then at Aizawa, and finally, at the mark on the wall and Aizawa’s goggles lying on the ground, and he relaxed, raising a suspicious eyebrow at Aizawa.

“…What just happened?”

Aizawa couldn’t blame his wild, panicked reaction. With being in their field, they were trained to react this way to perceived danger, and the incredibly loud noise of something heavy and solid slamming into the wall would definitely scream danger to anyone who heard it.

Aizawa sighed, knowing that he probably couldn’t get out of admitting what he’d done, “I threw my goggles at the wall.”

Hizashi’s tone dropped to one of incredulousness and he gave Aizawa a disbelieving stare, “ Why did you throw your goggles at the wall? You scared the shit out of me, Shouta.”

“I was showing Hitoshi that they wouldn’t break,” Aizawa answered simply. Hizashi didn’t reply and with the sound of tiny footsteps, both of them looked to Hitoshi, who’d taken his hands away from his ears and was tiptoeing towards where Aizawa had thrown the goggles. He bent over, investigating them, before carefully picking them up by the adjustable rubber strap and holding them in his hands, still cautiously.

There was a moment of silence as Hitoshi turned them over in his hands, looking at them curiously and clearly studying them for any signs of damage. After he was finally satisfied, Aizawa and Hizashi watching him, he looked up at Aizawa.

“They didn’t break.”

He didn’t know what it was.

Maybe it was the matter-of-fact way Hitoshi had said it. Maybe it was the situation as a whole. Maybe it was the fact that Aizawa, the picture of rationality, hadn’t thought things through enough to realize that throwing his goggles at the wall as hard as he possibly could would have consequences. Maybe it was that at the very moment that Hitoshi was done pointing out that his goggles weren’t damaged, the doorbell rang. Whatever it was, Aizawa dropped his head into his hands, trying to cover his face as he started laughing .

In turn, that caused Hizashi to laugh and then, after a moment of watching the two of them, Hitoshi started giggling, quietly at first and then louder, still holding onto the goggles he’d picked up. Somehow, that just made things that much funnier, and Aizawa had to grab onto Hizashi’s shoulder for support, all while trying to get himself to stop so that someone could answer the door.



“We’re sorry for waking you.”

Hizashi listened to Aizawa, talking at the front door to the older woman who lived next to them. To his relief, neither of their neighbors had been upset at the loud noise that Aizawa had caused when he threw his goggles at the shared wall between their houses. They’d just been concerned, mostly because Aizawa and Hizashi never made much noise and despite Hizashi’s quirk, they’d never had a problem being too loud for the couple that lived next to them. This was a first and they seemed more concerned than anything and then confused when they’d seen little Hitoshi peeking out from behind Aizawa.

They, of course, were aware that Aizawa and Hizashi had a son, a boy they’d adopted, but they knew that he was a teenager , not a toddler, and it took a while to explain that yes, this was Hitoshi and that he’d been hit with a regression quirk and would be like this for a while. They’d cooed over Hitoshi a little and Hitoshi had hid first behind Aizawa and then had climbed up onto Hizashi’s lap and gotten out of eyesight of the older man and woman who’d come over to check on them.  Luckily, Aizawa seemed to be finishing up with them.

Hitoshi was still holding onto Aizawa’s goggles and was currently sitting in Hizashi’s lap, turning them over in his hands, looking at them with interest. He didn’t try to put them on, seeming more than content with just holding onto them and looking at them and Hizashi wondered, somewhere in his blurry memories that were locked away from the regression quirk, if Hitoshi somewhat remembered the fact that those goggles belonged to the hero he’d followed for most of his life. It looked like he had some sort of connection with them, and Hizashi doubted that it was only because they were bright and colorful.

“Yes, everything’s fine. Thank you for the offer, but we won’t be needing a babysitter,” He could hear Aizawa saying, clearly trying to end the conversation. Their neighbors were friendly people, but they had a tendency to talk and talk and talk. They liked Aizawa and Hizashi and by extension, Hitoshi, but Aizawa wasn’t the type of person to hold a long conversation like they always wanted to. Hizashi stifled a laugh, watching Aizawa finish up the conversation, shutting the front door as their neighbors left, breathing a sigh as he did so.

“They really are nice,” Hizashi tried to reassure him, eyes following Aizawa as he approached Hizashi and Hitoshi, slumping down on the couch beside them with a groan.

“Another unneeded interruption,” Aizawa huffed.

Hizashi raised an eyebrow at that, frowning a little, “‘Another’?”

“Nemuri called earlier,” Aizawa leaned back on the couch, turning his head to look at Hizashi. “Or more—She texted me, called me, and then announced that she’s coming over here during her lunch break. So that’s going to happen, too. I really didn’t want to deal with anyone else today.”

Hizashi snorted at Aizawa’s want to just be alone with his family today. It was endearing, and Hizashi felt warm, Hitoshi in his lap and Aizawa next to him, leaning on him a bit. Aizawa looked a little tired, though that was pretty usual. He knew that Aizawa usually rested on his day off and that on days like this, his tendency to overwork himself caught up to him and tired him out even more than usual. He offered Aizawa a smile, sitting back so that Aizawa could properly lean against him and instantly, Aizawa had his head hooked over his shoulder, an arm wrapping around his back to pull him closer.

“Hitoshi,” Hizashi smiled wider at the boy in his lap. Hitoshi looked up at him, having been experimenting with the rubber strap, pulling it tighter and then loosening it again. “Did you sleep alright? You didn’t wake up any more times, did you?”

“He woke up last night?” Aizawa was the one who answered him, and it confirmed that Aizawa had actually been heavily asleep, apparently throughout the entire time Hizashi had been comforting Hitoshi. That was odd, given that Aizawa was a light sleeper, but it wasn’t that surprising with how exhausted Aizawa had been the previous night. It’d been a long day for him, and it didn’t surprise him in the least that that was the one night Aizawa had been able to get to sleep and stay asleep.

“Just for a bit. I woke up and took him out of the room for a bit. It was all alright, right, Hitoshi?” On his lap, Hitoshi nodded, looking back down at the goggles, giving Hizashi the opening he needed. He kept one arm around Hitoshi, using the other to fingerspell signs to Aizawa, careful to not draw Hitoshi’s attention, “He was upset about his father. Had a nightmare and everything.”

On his shoulder, Aizawa hummed in acknowledgement, leaning up and whispering lowly in his ear, “We need to talk about that later.”

Hizashi didn’t react, other than happily chirping, “I agree!”

Aizawa was right. Hizashi had never talked to Hitoshi about his father, how he thought of him, his feelings towards him or the events that had put him into foster care in the first place. If anything, this was the best time to try to gauge what it’d been like for him and as far as Hizashi could tell, at this age, Hitoshi was missing his father terribly. It seemed to be a little better, given that he was home with them instead of in foster care and wasn’t constantly being reminded that he didn’t have parents and wasn’t being mistreated on a daily basis, but Hizashi could still tell—especially after what had happened last night—that Hitoshi still remembered his father clearly and missed him a lot.

They needed to talk about what to do about Hitoshi now—whether to talk to him about his father and being in foster care or just leave him be—and what to do when the quirk wore off. He was seeing now, more than ever, that Hitoshi had been through near-constant trauma for over a decade, starting with an unexpected tragedy and only ending when they’d taken him in. Hitoshi was in therapy and they were working with him but maybe—maybe this went deeper than Hizashi had expected it to.

It wasn’t like he hadn’t known how bad it was. It was just that Hizashi had grown up in a good family. His family had been loving, affectionate, and encouraging. They’d made him believe that he could get to where he was now and for a while, all Hizashi had known was a loving, close family. He hadn’t really thought anything else was possible . He’d been a kid with a narrow world-view.

And then after they’d graduated, that world-view had been crushed the moment he’d learned what sort of home life Aizawa, his best friend in the world, had had for his entire life, including the three years Hizashi had known him at that point.

That was his first experience with anything like that. His parents had fostered and he’d known from that that some parents would mistreat their kids, but—it’d just never been so visceral as when Aizawa’s home life had finally come to light.

Since then, Hizashi had done a lot to change that narrow world-view he’d had as a kid just out of high school. But still, sometimes, it could be shocking to see just how deeply things like this affected someone. He was sitting here now, wishing that he’d thought to talk to Hitoshi about his birth parents and what it’d been like for him when he’d been put into the system. He couldn’t imagine that Hitoshi didn’t harbor some negative feelings about it—Hizashi knew he would, in his place. Hitoshi had been abandoned by his family and essentially set up for a lifetime of abuse and mistreatment and had lived in that for over a decade.

There were conversations that had to be had after this quirk wore off, and a conversation he would have to have with Aizawa about how much to talk to Hitoshi about things now. But for now, they’d have to have that conversation later, because Hitoshi was here and wide awake, and Hizashi wasn’t about to talk about any of that anywhere where Hitoshi could hear them.

“Hitoshi, do you want to play? There’s a few things I picked up at the store for you last night,” Hizashi shook the thoughts from his head, instead focusing on entertaining Hitoshi. He gave Aizawa a glance, finding that Aizawa had shut his eyes, leaning heavily into Hizashi, “I think Shouta wants to sleep a little. Come on, I’ll show you.”

“I’m fine,” Aizawa muttered against him, opening his dark eyes and staring right at Hizashi.

Hizashi laughed, “At least relax a little. I know you get tired when you take days off.”

He gave Aizawa a small nudge, pushing him back against the arm of the couch so that he was at least laying down a little. Aizawa huffed at him, being his usual grumpy morning self, but didn’t verbally protest. Hitoshi got down off of Hizashi’s lap, following Hizashi when he went to the closet in the main room, pulling out the bags he’d shoved in here last night. Hitoshi just watched with blatant interest as Hizashi started pulling things from the bags, surrounding himself and Hitoshi in a circle of various art supplies, stuffed animals, and toys.

He may have gone a little overboard, but he was happier being over-prepared than anything. Aizawa was still awake, too, though he was laying down on the couch, keeping his tired gaze on what they were doing. Hizashi hummed to himself, if only to fill the silence, and Hitoshi finally moved when Hizashi pulled a tiger plush from one of the bags, gasping excitedly and sitting down on the floor next to Hizashi, looking at the stuffed animal with big, wanting eyes.

Hizashi didn’t hesitate in giving it to him, and Hitoshi pulled it against his chest, the toy oversized and almost as big as Hitoshi was. With that, he looked around the small circle of things he’d gathered, and grinned at Hitoshi.

“Alright, kid, what should we do first? We could play a game or draw or—”

“Draw,” Hitoshi murmured, voice muffled from where he had his face pressed into the fur of his new stuffed animal.

That made sense—like Aizawa, he knew that Hitoshi would sometimes doodle on his papers, mostly when he was bored or waiting for something. He’d never seen Hitoshi actually sit down and draw anything, but he seemed to enjoy drawing in the margins of his notes occasionally, and, from what Hizashi had seen, he had a bit of talent. He wondered if Hitoshi had liked it more as a child and had had his creativity squashed out at some point, the way Hitoshi had interrupted him as soon as he’d mentioned doing something with the art supplies having supported that.

He clapped his hands together, giving Hitoshi a wide smile and pulling some of the art supplies over to him, putting a large pad of paper in front of himself and Hitoshi and offering Hitoshi a pack of markers. Hitoshi didn’t even hesitate, picking out a purple marker and flopping down on the floor, lying on his chest.

“We can hang whatever we draw up in the kitchen!” Hizashi flipped open to the first page, waiting as Hitoshi looked over the wide expanse of blank paper, the boy’s lips having twitched up into a subtle smile at the mention of hanging his work up. After giving it a long look, Hitoshi uncapped his purple marker and started drawing, looking determined and like he was concentrating hard as he bit down on his lip.

Hizashi glanced at Aizawa, finding him still watching through half-lidded eyes, and relaxed, relieved that he’d easily found something to occupy Hitoshi for a while. He put on some music, turning on his radio station on his phone, and then joined Hitoshi, lying on his side and doodling alongside Hitoshi.

 

 

Aizawa stayed awake through most of it, occasionally dozing off or getting lost in his own thoughts, some of his worry having returned to him with the mention that Hitoshi had been up last night after a nightmare. Watching Hizashi and Hitoshi was comforting, though, especially since Hitoshi seemed less and less bothered by his situation in general as time went on. The two of them were quiet, Hizashi occasionally singing along with the radio he’d put on, but Hitoshi was near-silent, only ever responding to questions that Hizashi asked him.

He’d noticed that Hitoshi was starting to talk a little more, but something still seemed off about the way he talked. It wasn’t that Hitoshi wasn’t articulate. He definitely was, and Aizawa honestly thought he spoke better than the few kids he’d met around Hitoshi’s current age, but all things considered, that wasn’t a very big sample pool. It was something else and at first, Aizawa couldn’t place what it was, because Hitoshi always responded to them and when he felt like talking more, he could say full sentences just fine. It was hard to notice, since Hitoshi talked fine when he wanted to talk, but something still felt off about it and Aizawa knew it wasn’t just the simple fact that Hitoshi was a quiet kid.

He tried to figure it out, getting lost in his thoughts a few times while watching his husband and his son draw together. He ended up half-dozing off, still awake and aware, for the most part, but with his eyes closed and mind lost in his head as he thought about this entire situation and went over their interactions with Hitoshi over the past day.

What drew him out of his half-asleep trance, though, and brought him back to the ground, was Hitoshi’s small voice, talking unprompted for the first time since he and Hizashi had started drawing together, “I’m done.”

“Oh,” Hizashi’s voice took on an impressed, almost singing tone. “Hitoshi, that looks fantastic! Why don’t you go show Shouta? I’m sure if you ask nicely, he’ll help you hang it up!”

A pause and then, quietly, “Okay.”

He expected the sound of little feet approaching him and Aizawa shifted onto his side, opening his eyes a bit to watch Hitoshi come to a stop in front of him, holding a large paper in front of him, the paper being nearly half Hitoshi’s size.

“Dad,” Hitoshi called out to him, and Aizawa woke up the rest of the way at the sound of Hitoshi calling him by that title. It was still new to him and Aizawa wasn’t completely sure he could get used to it, especially when he fully expected Hitoshi to go back to calling him the much more formal ‘Sensei’ once the quirk wore off. He’d be lying to himself, though, if he tried to say that he didn’t like it.

“What’s this?” He managed to sit up, his body aching in protest as he righted himself. Hitoshi trotted forward, pushing his paper at him so that Aizawa could see it.

It was obviously a child’s work, but even Aizawa could easily identify what it was supposed to be. It was a little scribbly, but impressive for a four year-old. Hizashi had obviously drawn the house—their house, Aizawa quickly realized—and Hitoshi had drawn three people in front of it. There was a small purple kid who was clearly Hitoshi, and then Aizawa and Hizashi, who looked much more detailed than Hitoshi had drawn himself. Hitoshi had even added a pink wobbly line on Aizawa’s face where his orbital scar was. It looked good , and Aizawa felt an odd surge of pride looking at it.

“That’s a pretty good drawing,” Aizawa commented, taking the paper from Hitoshi, who lit up at his praise, bouncing on his feet. Aizawa rubbed at his eyes, looking at it a little more closely. He wasn’t someone who liked art all that much, having never been creative himself, but this was cute and something he was more than willing to hang up. He only hoped that teenage Hitoshi wouldn’t want them to take it down once the quirk wore off.

He glanced at Hitoshi from over the paper, finding him still beaming, though he was biting at his lip now, as if he wanted to say something.

“What’s wrong?” He prompted, setting the drawing down on his lap.

“Nothing,” Hitoshi told him immediately.

From where he was still sitting on the floor, Hizashi spoke up, a wide, unsuspecting grin on his face as he urged Hitoshi, “Didn’t you have something you wanted to ask Shouta?”

The way Hitoshi’s face fell and how he stilled was all too telling. He bit at his lip, raising a hand to his mouth and sucking at his fingers in what Aizawa now realized was a nervous habit. Teenage Hitoshi scratched his neck and toddler Hitoshi sucked on his fingers to comfort himself when he was anxious.

He had no idea why Hitoshi could be anxious, though. It was simple. He’d assumed that Hitoshi wanted his drawing hung up, from the way he’d been so determined after Hizashi had mentioned it when they’d first sat down to draw. Even Aizawa had noticed that, sitting across the room and getting ready to doze off. The way he was acting now was strange.

—Unless…

Unless it wasn’t the idea of having his artwork hung up that was making him nervous.

“Um…” Hitoshi said, voice having fallen hushed and quiet again, tone trembling. He didn’t say anything else, giving Aizawa another nervous hum, and with that, the problem was starting to become clearer.

“Is there something you want, Hitoshi?” He asked, leaning forward, doing his best to keep his tone gentle, despite the anger he was starting to feel as he begun to realize exactly what was going on. He’d missed it, last night and today, because it hadn’t seemed so out of place that it was glaringly obvious.

Hitoshi nodded at him, but said nothing more.

Aizawa leaned to the side, meeting Hizashi’s gaze. The grin had fallen off his face and he seemed to know that something serious was going on.

“Has… Hitoshi asked you anything since we were at the precinct?” Aizawa’s voice was completely serious, and as he stared at Hizashi, his words the only sound in the room besides Hitoshi’s shaky breathing. He went over last night again and this morning, finding nothing over and over again. “Anything at all? Not even asking for anything—just… a question—?”

The pause that Hizashi took was more horrifying that Aizawa wanted to admit. He could see it in Hizashi’s face—he was running into the exact same dilemma that Aizawa had.

That was what was missing. That was what was wrong with the way Hitoshi talked. Not only had he been trained to keep quiet—he’d been trained to not ask questions at all . Even this morning, when Aizawa had woken up and found Hitoshi wide awake and clearly needing to eat something, Hitoshi hadn’t asked for food, nor had he asked Aizawa to get up. He hadn’t asked anything, and he hadn’t asked anything since getting hit with the age regression quirk.

He remembered the curious look Hitoshi had given him when he’d been talking to Nemuri on the phone, the way Hitoshi had stared at Aizawa’s goggles but not asked to play with them, the way he’d made a cooing noise at Hizashi when he’d wanted the stuffed animal Hizashi had gotten for him—even the way he’d gotten Aizawa to play with him earlier. In every case, there was something Hitoshi clearly wanted , whether it was just wanting to know who Aizawa was talking to on the phone or wanting to be played with or even an object he’d wanted to hold or see, Hitoshi had very carefully avoided asking for them. He hadn’t uttered a single question since getting hit by that quirk.

Not only was Hitoshi quiet; he had an entire portion of his vocabulary that he was apparently terrified to use. That was why he seemed so silent, scared, and submissive. He only responded to things, very rarely speaking on his own, and he didn’t dare to ask anyone anything.

“…No,” Hizashi finally answered him, the look on his face telling Aizawa that he was feeling the same horror—the same anger —that had started stirring in him the moment Hitoshi began expressing nervousness over asking Aizawa something. Hizashi ran a hand through his long hair, staring up at the ceiling and away from Aizawa, “No, he hasn’t asked me anything since I brought him to the precinct last night. He’s just… responded to things…”

Aizawa forced himself to turn back to Hitoshi, forced himself to keep his anger down and away as he spoke to him, seeing that Hitoshi was already terrified—the last thing he wanted to do was make that worse, “Hitoshi, can you ask me a question? What did you want me to do?”

Hitoshi was shaking by now, having taken to just biting down hard on his bottom lip rather than sucking on his fingers. His hands were balled into fists, lips trembling, and Aizawa could see the way his eyes were watery, filling with tears. He felt a hard pang of guilt for forcing Hitoshi to do this, but he didn’t back down.

“What is it, Hitoshi?” Aizawa pressed more, leaning forward to further look him in the eyes. “What do you want?”

He had to see—or hear—for himself just to make sure that he actually knew what was going on. He didn’t back down. He needed to know, needed to hear it from Hitoshi’s own mouth. Then he could take action, but he needed that confirmation first.

When it came, though, Aizawa just felt more guilty.

I can’t! ” Hitoshi burst, crying the words out, big tears falling down his cheeks. He squeezed his eyes shut, wiping at them with the sleeves of the cat onesie he was still wearing. Aizawa reached forward, intending to pull Hitoshi to him, but he froze when Hitoshi raised his voice, each repetition getting louder and louder until his small voice was yelling at him, filling every corner and empty space of the room with the raw pain in it, “I can’t, I can’t, I can’t! I’ll do something bad! I can’t!”

Hizashi was up in a second and before Aizawa could say anything or process what was going on, Hizashi had swept Hitoshi into his arms, the boy dissolving into loud sobs as he threw himself into Hizashi’s shoulder, rubbing at his eyes and still trying to wipe the tears from his face. Aizawa stood up, not knowing how to make this better, how to calm and reassure Hitoshi when he was bawling into Hizashi’s shoulder.

“Hitoshi, you—”

“Shouta,” Hizashi’s voice was soft and held no malice, but it might as well have been Hizashi screaming at him, because Aizawa froze and fell silent all the same, standing back even when Hizashi gave him a gentle look, speaking quietly to him, “Don’t push it any more. Not right now.”

Guilt fell heavy in his chest and he stood back as Hizashi took Hitoshi away from him, singing a low tune to him as he whisked the boy into the kitchen. He could still hear Hitoshi crying, sobbing into Hizashi’s shoulder. Hizashi didn’t stop singing to him, rocking Hitoshi in his arms, and all Aizawa could do was watch, knowing that the only reason Hitoshi was so hysterical was because Aizawa had pushed him too much.

He forced himself to move, sitting back on the couch, dropping his head into his hands, trying to concentrate on anything other than the sound of his son sobbing in Hizashi’s arms.

He’d seen Hitoshi cry a couple times before, but never like this. It was always due to something else and the times that Aizawa had seen him cry were few and far in between. Hitoshi had never broken into tears due to something Aizawa had said to him and now that he had, Aizawa had no idea how to handle it, the guilt he felt threatening to swallow him whole.

He didn’t look up, not until Hizashi had calmed Hitoshi enough that he stopped sobbing. He could still hear Hizashi singing to him, voice low and gentle, and Aizawa kept his head down until Hizashi made his way back to him.

Only then did Aizawa look up, raising his head to see Hizashi continuing to rock Hitoshi in his arms. Hitoshi was laying against his shoulder, eyes only half open and dazed, sucking on his fingers. His face was clear of any tears, though it was red, and the only thing Aizawa could think was that Hizashi must’ve cleaned his face off before bringing him back over here.

“I don’t think I’m very good with little kids.”

It was all he could think about, how Hitoshi had gotten so upset because of him . He’d known that Hitoshi had been trained to not ask questions. He hadn’t needed the confirmation from him. It was obvious from the way he’d acted and the lack of asking any for the past day. He’d known prior to this that Hitoshi had been banned from asking things at some point in foster care, though he’d had no idea it was this early on or had been so effective on a curious four year-old. He didn’t even want to think about what had been done to Hitoshi to make him so terrified of asking things.

Aizawa was terrified that he’d just retraumatized his kid. It didn’t matter that it was unintentional—he’d still done it.

“I don’t think that’s true, Shouta,” Hizashi told him, voice hushed so not to stir Hitoshi. “You made a mistake. No one’s going to be mad at you for that. Hitoshi’s not gonna hate you. He’s four. He doesn’t know what holding a grudge is.”

“Is he… Is he alright?” Aizawa glanced at Hitoshi again, finding that he still looked dazed and faraway. He had an arm wrapped around Hizashi’s neck, the other hand in his mouth, and he looked like he was more than content to just lay against Hizashi’s shoulder. It was odd—Hitoshi wasn’t really expressing anything. Not anger or sadness or even anxiety. None of the curiosity from earlier today was there, either. He just looked tired.

“He’s fine,” Hizashi smiled down at him, rubbing Hitoshi’s back gently. “Kids get sleepy after an outburst like that. It tires them out emotionally and they usually wind up napping. I have a couple siblings who had tons of temper tantrums and outbursts when they were little, and they almost always tired themselves out during it. It’s pretty normal.”

“Ah,” Aizawa let out a relieved breath. Hitoshi really was just tired. He supposed it made sense, from how hard Hitoshi had been bawling. “Good.”

Again, Hizashi sat next to him, continuing to rock Hitoshi gently. Aizawa kept his eyes on them, not daring to get too close, and soon enough, Hitoshi’s eyes fell shut. It only took a few minutes after that, but Aizawa watched Hitoshi’s breathing even out, the boy settling in Hizashi’s arms.

“Wanna hold him?”

Hizashi startled Aizawa, making him sit straight up at the sound of his voice. He stared wide-eyed at his husband, and with Hizashi’s expression, he could tell that Hizashi wasn’t joking around. It was a genuine offer.

“Are you sure that’s alright?”

“It’s fine,” Hizashi flashed the same small smile from before at him and carefully, he picked Hitoshi off of his shoulder, not rousing him and supporting him so he didn’t move around much. “Don’t beat yourself up so much because of one mistake. Isn’t that what you’d tell your students?”

“I’m not great at following the advice I give to them,” Aizawa muttered under his breath. He leaned against Hizashi, taking Hitoshi from his arms, making sure to support and hold him in the same way Hizashi had been. Hitoshi didn’t wake up or even move, not seeming to realize that he’d changed hands. Aizawa guided him to laying against him, Hitoshi shifting a little in his sleep so that his head was on Aizawa’s shoulder, small body curled against his chest.

“See? You’re fine,” Hizashi sat back, looking over the two of them. There was a moment of silence between them, Hizashi and Aizawa sitting together on the living room couch, Hitoshi asleep after an emotional outburst on Aizawa’s chest, with the room bathed in the light of an approaching afternoon. Hizashi was the one to break it, green eyes flickering away from Aizawa, “Last night… It’s the best time to talk about this, isn’t it? What happened last night—I woke up to Hitoshi crying. Kinda like he was just now. He was looking at that photo he has of his parents. I tried to talk to him about it, but he just said he missed his dad.”

Aizawa drew his hand through Hitoshi’s wild hair, letting his eyes fall closed and forcing himself to breathe evenly, “It’s… understandable. To him, he only lost his father a few months ago.”

“I know, but—” Hizashi frowned, again looking away from Aizawa. He’d known Hizashi for long enough to know that he was bringing up something that made him feel bad. “—Have you ever tried talking to him about his parents? I mean, when he’s normal and everything. I haven’t. I’ve never even mentioned them to him.”

“Don’t feel bad. I don’t think he remembers them,” It was almost funny, how they were both sitting here, feeling guilty about separate but related things. Aizawa felt guilty over pushing Hitoshi so much and Hizashi felt guilty over having never brought up Hitoshi’s parents to him. “It’s been almost twelve years for him, Hizashi. He wasn’t even four when it happened. He hardly remembers them.”

“Do you think he blames them?” Hizashi asked him, his voice hardly above a whisper.

That was something he hadn’t really considered.

“I… don’t know,” Now he was starting to wish he’d talked to Hitoshi more about it. While him being in foster care wasn’t his parents’ fault, it had been a direct result of his parents’ deaths. They had caused the event that put him in foster care, even if it was unintentional, and Aizawa could see why Hitoshi might blame them for that.. “I haven’t asked him about it.”

“Maybe we should.”

Aizawa nodded, agreeing with Hizashi. Neither of them had ever thought to talk to Hitoshi about his life before foster care and right before being put in the system. He was seeing now that that had been a mistake. They’d been focusing too much on the trauma Hitoshi had from his most recent foster home rather than focusing on his eleven years in foster care as a whole. It was easy enough to do that, since Hitoshi never talked much about the other households he’d been in or what things had been like before he’d been placed into the system. Both Aizawa and Hizashi had made the mistake of not focusing enough on Hitoshi’s whole life.

He didn’t want to do that anymore. He wanted that to change once the age regression quirk wore off of Hitoshi. They would have a lot of talking to do and more things to process. After what he’d seen today, especially after the realization that Hitoshi wouldn’t ask questions, Aizawa was convinced that there was more to Hitoshi and what he’d been through than what they’d already started working through, even if Hitoshi himself didn’t realize it.

“Yeah,” Aizawa murmured, looking down at the boy in his arms, brushing his hand through Hitoshi’s hair again. “We should.”

Hitoshi didn’t stir at his words, sleeping peacefully in his arms. There were no signs that not long before, he’d been sobbing and bawling on Hizashi. He looked… normal. Like a normal toddler. Like any four year-old off of the street. And yet, people had been so afraid of a harmless child that they’d trained him to never ask anything of anyone. Holding Hitoshi here, Aizawa could still remember how horribly pained Hitoshi had sounded when Aizawa had pushed him too far and he’d broken down and how he’d been convinced that if he asked a simple question, he was going to hurt someone.

Aizawa stared at him for a long time, just watching Hitoshi as he slept, his head resting on Aizawa’s shoulder. Eventually, his gaze drifted up and almost immediately, he saw that Hizashi had hung Hitoshi’s drawing of them up on the wall in the dining area. He could see it clearly from here, with the house Hizashi had drawn and the three of them, drawn in wobbly, scribbled lines by Hitoshi.

Aizawa tried to push aside the thought of what had been done to Hitoshi, at least for now, and he felt a thin smile tugging at his lips as he stared at the drawing.

He only hoped that Hitoshi would let them keep it up once this wore off.