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That night was… weird. Not necessarily bad , but definitely weird.

Aizawa convinced Yagi to eat a few of the dry food pellets, however unwillingly, so that he could feed him his pain meds. The bunny seemed more comfortable once they kicked in: his breathing wasn’t as strained, and he was content to follow Himawari or Aizawa around the apartment, ambling at their heels and nudging things curiously with his nose. By comparing Yagi’s behaviors to the bunny care pdf, Aizawa determined that Yagi’s body language was a great deal more relaxed now. That was a good sign, at least.

Eventually the teacher gave up on paperwork in favor of getting a few hours of sleep, resolving to take tomorrow’s problems as they came. It wasn’t an attitude he took on often– usually he was more proactive than this– but after the night he’d had, he could be forgiven. He straightened up his apartment instead, gathering Yagi’s clothes and putting them in a shopping bag to be washed later. Himawari was fed, albeit several hours late, but she turned her nose up at it anyway. The teacher shoved both Himawari’s bowl and the takeout in the fridge, though the food in the bags was probably stale by now. He was hungry enough not to care as he dug out a cold box of stir fry and collapsed at the kitchen table to shovel it down.

To his surprise, Yagi jumped up on the kitchen chair next to him. The hero paused mid-chew to raise an eyebrow at the bunny, who was watching him intently, glancing from the takeout box to his face and back.

“What do you want now?” he muttered around the food in his mouth. Yagi, to his credit, made his desire very clear by hopping over, stepping up on Aizawa’s lap, and sticking his nose directly into the stir fry. The man jerked the box up in the air with an indignant cry.

Hey ! Stop that! This isn’t for you, aren’t bunnies supposed to eat carrots or lettuce or some shit? I fed you and you weren’t hungry!”

Yagi just thumped his back leg on the chair as in protest. Aizawa fidgeted. He had to admit it felt weird, giving Yagi pellets that were advertised as ‘Extra Fiber for the Healthy House-Rabbit!’. Aka, pet food. The whole ‘man in a rabbit’s body’ thing was tripping him up again.

He glanced at the stir fry thoughtfully, then pulled out his phone with a grumble.

“Alright alright, so you’re hungry but no food pellets… let’s see what you can have, then.”

Yagi greeted the delay with irritable thump of his hind leg, but Aizawa just shot him a glare.

“What, do you know the insides and outs of what rabbits can and can’t have? No? I didn’t think so. Just gimme a minute, jeez…”

So, after reviewing which vegetables were and weren’t okay (and if a high sodium content was bad for rabbits, because damn did this takeout place put a lot of salt in their food) he got back up and pulled out another box of stir fry. It was the one he’d ordered for Yagi in the first place, which consisted mostly of white rice, a little bit of sauce on the side, and plain steamed vegetables anyway. It was just a question of picking the veggies out, shaking off the rice grains, and putting them on a plate. They looked kinda sad and limp, but Aizawa literally only had beer, takeout, and jelly packs in his fridge, so it was the best he could do for now. Grumbling, the hero put the plate down on the table in front of Yagi’s chair, since making him eat off the floor was just as weird if not weirder than the food pellets. The rabbit (who was very long, even if he was terribly skinny), stood on his hind legs and rested his front paws on the table so he could nibble at the food. From there the pair ate in companionable silence.

To Aizawa’s surprise, the bunny scarfed all of his dinner down even before the famished teacher did. But then again, it made a strange kind of sense. Yagi had a stomach again for the first time in eight years, even if the circumstances were less than ideal. Of course he’d want to eat to his heart’s content.

Aizawa glanced at the bunny, who was crouched in a loaf on the chair looking very pleased with himself, and then wordlessly held out a piece of teriyaki-fried bean sprout in his chopsticks. Yagi blinked at him and if a rabbit could look surprised, this one did. The teacher just shrugged.

“Steamed vegetables are gross. I’ll hit the grocery store tomorrow to get some proper food for you, but in the meantime, a little treat won’t hurt, right?”

Again. If a rabbit could beam, this one did. He gingerly took the bean sprout, munching it down in seconds. He then made a strange sort of purring noise, which started Aizawa enough that he looked at his pdf guide to see what that particular sound meant. He didn’t know rabbits could purr. He learned, after a moment or two of searching, that the purring noise was actually Yagi grinding his teeth together, and it was a sign of general contentment or pleasure, usually linked to food. He huffed a single, quiet laugh at this.

Aizawa wolfed down the rest of his dinner after that and was eager to get to bed, dumping the dishes carelessly in the sink in his rush to get there. He did pause long enough to take Yagi’s blankets out of the pet carrier and arrange them into a nest in the corner of the couch, since the pet carrier was another one of those things that felt weird. But once the rabbit’s bed was made he bid the two animals goodnight, brushed his teeth, and then collapsed into his futon in record time.

After the week he’d had and the level of exhaustion he was feeling, one would’ve expected him to drop off to sleep instantly. But instead he lay under the covers in boxers and t-shirt for an unnaturally long time, wondering what felt off.

It took him a few minutes to place it. Eventually he realized that his general sense of discontent was due to the very quiet, though non-stop, background noise in his living room. Blunt claws were scraping and digging at the couch cushions. The upholstery made a particular sort of whispering noise when it was scratched at. It was barely audible, but it was there. There was also the occasional quiet chirr, and an answering, inquisitive noise from the cat, who hadn’t settled down either. Apparently her roommate’s restlessness was getting to her. Every once in awhile there’d be a muffled thump on the carpet, a brief stretch of quiet while Yagi roamed around, and then the agitated rabbit would leap back up on the couch and resume his futile attempts to make a comfortable spot to sleep. They were anxious noises, and you had to listen carefully for them, but they showed no sign of abating over the following minutes.

Sighing and shaking his head, Aizawa kicked off the covers. It was chilly, he realized, outside the warmth of his futon. The heat systems in the dorm buildings usually switched to low-power mode at night, since most people were asleep anyway. But the weather was cooling and Dr. Inaba had mentioned Yagi might have trouble keeping warm, with how underweight he was. And that wasn’t even considering his separation anxiety. The closed door between him and Aizawa was probably making the bunny feel vulnerable, alone in a dark living room— the same place where he was attacked— with no one but Himawari for company. Yagi was trapped in the body of a prey animal now, and though he was smarter than your average rabbit, it was near impossible to quell hundreds of thousands of years worth of instincts.

Yagi, who was sniffing delicately at his mess of blankets, gave a guilty start when Aizawa opened the bedroom door again. He looked up, ears pricking, then flattened them against his skull, crouching down low as if in apology. It was almost funny– even as a rabbit, the man still had the same mannerisms, the same sheepish cringing at the very idea of inconveniencing someone else. It made Aizawa want to roll his eyes at him, though he resisted this time.

Himawari instantly slid out from under the kotatsu and tried to dart into the forbidden garden of the bedroom. She wasn’t allowed in there at night, since she had a habit of climbing onto Aizawa’s chest at the crack of dawn begging him to feed her. Rousing Aizawa before his alarm, and thereby robbing him of precious minutes of sleep, was a cardinal sin for which she would not be forgiven. He nudged her back out with one foot, then beckoned to Yagi.

“C’mere,” he grunted. “It’s cold and you’re nothing but fluff and bones.”

After a pause in which the bunny did nothing but sit and stare, Aizawa gave a bad-tempered huff and waved his hand again. “Get in here, quick, before the cat invades! I haven’t got all night!”

Startled into action, Yagi leapt down and streaked across the living room, darting between his feet into the safety of the bedroom. Himawari gave a mournful mewl as he shut the door on her. Foiled once again.

Yagi had to be coaxed over to the futon, and refused to even get near it until Aizawa had laid down and got comfortable. But once the man was settled, the rabbit hesitantly ambled over. Aizawa flipped back one corner of the covers. Yagi stepped in, scratched at the bedding a bit, sniffed it, and then all of the tension seemed to drain out of him at once. His eyes closed and he flopped over on his side, sighing softly. The teacher snorted at his antics. He’d seen that one in the care guide pdf. If a bunny flopped, it meant they felt happy and safe.

“Glad you’re doing okay, big guy,” he murmured. Then he folded the blankets over his charge and settled in to sleep at last.

Sunday went by fast, what with all the paperwork he had to do and the scrambling to get something together for 3-A’s Combat Training class. Thankfully, Yagi’s bag was still sitting in the living room. His laptop was password protected (and surprisingly well, too, since Aizawa gave it a couple tries but couldn’t crack it). He tried to get the bunny to somehow unlock it himself, but all he got for his efforts was a blank look. Apparently computer passwords were beyond his rabbit-brain. Still, Aizawa garnered enough from the printouts in his bag to make a coherent lesson for Monday. The detectives at the precinct didn’t make him come to give his statement in person, which helped as well. They didn’t care at this point, so long as he submitted his report for their files. He had to pull an almost-all-nighter, but he got everything done in the end.

So that’s how he finds himself, half-asleep on his lunch break the next day, with a rabbit tugging the lettuce out of his sandwich and the entirety of class 3-A crowded around him.

They chatter excitedly, each clamoring for a chance to hold their teacher-turned-bunny and marvel at his cuteness. They were practically vibrating in their desks all morning, eager to get their hands on him, so Aizawa wasn’t surprised when they all approached him as one gaggle during lunch. He was originally cagey at the idea of Yagi being surrounded by so many people, all of them being so loud. It seemed like the kind of thing which would stress him out again. But Koda promised to keep an eye on it, and besides, Yagi seems to recognize that these are his kids. He doesn’t protest at all as they pass him around like a newborn baby at a house party. In fact, he seems even happier under all this love and attention. Each student gets a turn coddling him, though he ends up with Midoriya in the end– no surprise there.

The green-haired boy (although he’s definitely more of a young man than a boy now, considering that he’s taller than Aizawa by six inches and twice as broad) sits next to his teacher with the bunny cradled against his chest, stroking his ears absentmindedly. Yagi’s a bit tuckered out from the excitement, so he’s content to stay there and watch the kids eat their lunch while Aizawa dozes next to him. The teacher is starting to snore a tiny bit, head barely propped up in one hand, when a question snaps him out of it.

“So, Mr. Aizawa,” Bakugo begins with a deceptive, dangerous sort of calm, “how about the Pet-Snatcher, then? Any leads?”

A hush falls over the table so quickly that Yagi picks his head up, ears swiveling and eyes going wide with alarm as his twitching nose scents the air for danger. Midoriya calms him down again with a few quiet shushing noises. There’s an awkward pause before the teacher clears his throat.

“I’m working on it. There’s a taskforce forming. And before you start,” he interrupts, glaring around at the students who opened their mouths, “the answer is no. You may not join the taskforce.”

“But–”

“No ‘buts,” he growls, not even caring who it is he’s cutting off. He tears off another bite of his sandwich, briefly wonders where the lettuce went, and then continues around a mouthful of food: “I understand that you all want to help put it to rights, but this is a dangerous case. You all need to focus on your studies. I’d hate to have to expel one of you right before your graduation because you went out and got turned into a chihuahua or something…”

He smirks at their uncomfortable fidgeting, the unsure looks on some of their faces. It’s a credit to his reputation that they’re still just that little bit scared of him, never completely sure if he’s joking or serious. He did expel Mineta last year, after all, so they know their class isn’t immune. Of course, there’s always the couple of kids who still have that annoying, determined look on their face which spells trouble. But Aizawa has made his wishes on the matter explicitly clear to them multiple times over the course of the day. Hopefully it’ll be enough to scare them straight, because he seriously doesn’t know what he’d do if one of his kids was victimized, on top of everything else. He just needs them to be safe.

He’s exhausted beyond words by the end of the school day, and his week only promises to get harder from here. He admits to himself in the privacy of his own mind that between the physical, mental, and emotional tolls this debacle is taking on him, the emotional is by far the worst. Hizashi and Nemuri are gone, being taken care of by Thirteen and their friend. He can’t talk to his own friends except for Yagi, who mostly just stares at him in response, occasionally shaking out his fur or scratching his ear lazily, probably responding more to the sound of a voice than anything else. It feels more like talking to himself. The teacher is running on caffeine and desperation at this point. The staffroom is eerily empty, with just Thirteen, Ectoplasm, Vlad King, Cementoss, and Power-loader floating around aimlessly. Every single one of them is nearly at their limit from all this. Aizawa didn’t even have the energy to threaten Vlad when the man snapped a picture of him napping on the couch face-down with Yagi curled up in the small of his back, using his ass for a pillow. It’s prime blackmail material, and normally not the kind of thing he would let slide, but he’s just too tired to care right now. He has to budget what energy he has left very carefully.

While a sizable portion of that energy is reserved for the hunt for the Pet-Snatcher, he makes sure to devote whatever is left to taking care of Yagi. He’s responsible for the man’s well-being after all, at least until he turns back. After school he tucks the bunny into his scarf, zips his jacket up over him to keep him warm and secure, and then strikes out into town to grab groceries as promised.

Yagi naps for most of the errand, only rousing at the sound of produce rustling in the shopping basket. Since he’s there anyway, Aizawa buys a few ready-made meals for himself: boxed sandwiches, sushi rolls, and curry in a bag. Things he can make and scarf down quick for the calories and the feeling of something solid in his stomach. He’ll need something more substantial than jelly packs for the coming days, if he doesn’t want to push himself to collapse. Contrary to popular belief, he does actually know how to take care of himself when it matters. He’s no good to anyone– and especially not Yagi– if he’s dry heaving in a bathroom, half-dead from exhaustion and malnutrition, instead of out there doing his job.

He gets a couple of strange looks in the grocery store. It’s not surprising: he knows he’s disheveled, having been mistaken for a homeless man more than once when he’s been like this. Add to that the strange sight of the big golden-furred bunny nestled under his chin like a baby, and he must make a bizarre picture. He thinks he even sees someone taking a video of him while he’s perusing the fresh fruit aisle, but again, he’s too tired to care.

Yagi startles him damn near out of his skin when he passes by the strawberry display. The rabbit kicks against his chest and cranes his head out from the shelter of Aizawa’s collar, bending over nearly backwards to sniff at the fruit’s sweet scent. Aizawa tries to stuff him back in, but gets nipped on the finger for his efforts.

“Alright, alright! No need to bite my hand off, I’m getting them,” he mutters, throwing a carton in with the rest. “Personally I think raspberries are better, but whatever.”

The two girls who are watching him from behind the spice rack giggle at the bunny’s antics, whispering behind their hands.

He double-triple checks his pdf guide while he’s waiting in line, making sure the things he picked out are bunny-safe and organic. There’s no denying that he’s a little paranoid about his charge’s diet, given what he knows about Yagi both in human and rabbit form. It makes logical sense to secure the best quality for him. After dragging the poor man into this, the least Aizawa can do for him is to make this unpleasant experience as comfortable as it can be.

The teacher’s brow wrinkles in a disgusted frown when he sees the price tag on his shopping cart. It would seem that real food is expensive: a little fact he apparently forgot in the past few years of subsisting off jelly packs and takeout. He pockets the receipt with the intention to save it for Yagi after he recovers, grumbling under is breath about the bunny ‘eating him out of house and home’. The cashier just laughs and waves goodbye to Yagi, obviously enamored with his cuteness.

“You’re a menace, you know that?” the man mutters as he walks back to campus with his groceries. He tucks his chin so he can glare down at the bunny nestled in his scarf. Yagi just stares right back and twitches his nose. “Everyone thinks you’re so sweet and cute, but they don’t have to put up with you. You’re really just a conniving old man, aren’t you, huh? You smug little bastard. You’ve got everyone wrapped around your paw.”

As if he didn’t hear him, or perhaps heard him and is choosing to ignore him, Yagi nuzzles down with a cute little flick of his ears. He turns his furry head to the side, burrowing down beneath the collar of Aizawa’s jumpsuit, and rubs his cheek over and over the man’s collarbone. Aizawa almost drops the groceries, face flushing as red as the strawberries in his bags. Last time he checked the pdf guide, that particular piece of bunny-language is called ‘chinning’ and it’s a rather… possessive behavior. He instantly sets his bags down so he can excavate the rabbit from his warm little cocoon.

““Stop that, stop that right now! I am not territory to mark, get your stupid scent glands off me!” he splutters, one hand gripping Yagi by the scruff of the neck and the other supporting his hind legs so he isn’t dangling in midair. Aizawa’s hair is floating up from his shoulders entirely against his will. He didn’t think it was possible for a bunny to look smug, but there Yagi is. Smug.

“Behave. Your. Self. Or I will dump you in the grocery bags for the rest of the way home,” he growls. But the threat doesn’t seem to have much sting, since the rabbit looks anything but contrite.

He abruptly realizes that he’s getting weird looks again, these ones less than positive than the ones in the grocery store. He probably looks mentally unstable, standing in the middle of the street scolding a rabbit. So he tucks Yagi into his scarf again with a scowl, telling himself he’s being stupid so that he can continue his walk back with minimal blushing.

“No more putting the moves on me until you’re seven-foot-two again. And since when are you so bold, huh?!” he grumbles under his breath, not knowing or particularly caring if the bunny understands him. “The Yagi I know won’t even ask for a glass of water if he thinks he’s putting someone out, but here you are demanding attention and fancy rabbit food and strawberries… I guess being a bunny is good for your confidence, huh. Human-Yagi could take a hint from bunny-Yagi. It’s not a crime to ask for something every once in awhile, you know.”

He means this to be scathing, but evidently the rabbit takes it as an invitation because next thing he feels is a nibble of little teeth on his collarbone. He stops short in the middle of the sidewalk to glare down at the top of Yagi’s golden head. The bunny tucks his nose into the folds of the man’s shirt and studiously avoids looking at him.

“I said behave, you dirty old man! I don’t flirt with rabbits! Come back to me about it when you’re human!” he hisses under his breath. Yagi just huffs a sigh in reply. He appears to be dozing off again, though whether he’s just pretending in an attempt to get out of trouble or actually sleepy is impossible to tell. The teachers lets it slide with a sigh, his step heavy under the weight of the groceries and his exhaustion.

“You’re gonna be the death of me, you know that?”

After their shopping trip, Aizawa’s little moment of peace is officially over. He gets back and takes just enough time to do all the necessary adult things he has to do: i.e., putting the groceries away, feeding the cat, feeding himself, and feeding Yagi. He shovels his microwave curry down as fast as he can without getting queasy, barely pausing to sit down next to the rabbit while he eats at the kitchen table. Then he’s off to the bedroom to change into a fresh jumpsuit and gather his things. He packs an overnight bag, since he’ll most likely spend the rest of the night hunting for the Pet-Snatcher with the new task force. He’ll be literally working day and night on this one. It’s a very ‘I’ll-sleep-when-I’m-dead’ kind of attitude, but then again, this is a very ‘I’ll-sleep-when-I’m-dead’ kind of case. He’s pulled stunts like this off plenty of times before, and he’ll do so again. This is nothing new to him.

The bunny is still working through his little miniature salad when the hero sits down again to feed him a dose of pain meds for the night. Yagi startles a little at the teacher’s abrupt manner, even struggling half-heartedly as Aizawa gets the syringe between his teeth, but it’s a necessary evil. The hero doesn’t have any more time to linger.

“Sorry big guy, but I’ve got places to be and villains to catch. You can stay with Midoriya tonight, right?”

At this, the bunny makes a startled grunting noise. He kicks free of Aizawa’s grasp and then leaps away, making a beeline for the door. He’s fast: before the hero can so much as get a word in edgewise, Yagi has snatched the capture weapon down from its hook and started darting around the room with it, charging here and there with no regard to how he’s criss-crossing the thing, catching it on table corners and chair legs. Aizawa curses and tries to catch him, but he’s too fast and in the end the two find themselves just glaring at each other from either end of a hopelessly tangled living room, the bunny panting with wide eyes and the man scowling at him.

“C’mon Yagi, you’re making this harder than it needs to be,” he insists. “Nezu already agreed to this, remember? You’re staying with the kids at night while I lead the Pet-Snatcher task force.”

The bunny just growls again and tugs on the end of the capture weapon, worrying the material between his teeth. Usually Aizawa would just grab the thing and pull it free, but he can see Yagi is getting worked up and doesn’t want to hurt him. So he tries to reason with him again.

“You’re being dramatic. I’m not staying and I can’t take you with me.” When the rabbit thumps his hind leg as if to say ‘why not,’ Aizawa rolls his eyes.

“Well for one thing, this case is a dangerous one even for me , let alone a little bunny. For another, you’re hopped up on pain meds and you don’t even know what you’re saying. And for the last, I can’t do my job if I’m busy worrying about you.”

Another glare, another frustrated growl, this time accompanied by a flutter of agitated thumping. Aizawa remembers from the pdf guide that thumping is a rabbit’s way to warn of danger. It’s making him uneasy.

“Look, this arrangement is just for the nights,” the man insists, “and I’ll be back to take care of you during the day! It’s Midoriya , how can you not feel safe?”

It takes another moment of the rabbit glaring at him, chewing on the end of the capture weapon, before he seems to realize all at once what’s actually happening. The teacher’s shoulders slump and his head drops with a sigh.

“Oh… this isn’t about separation anxiety at all, is it. You don’t want me to going after the Pet-Snatcher.”

Yagi thumps his hind leg again, and it’s the best affirmative answer Aizawa could ask for.

Scratching the back of his head, the hero paces back and forth in his kitchen. The rabbit sits down, still nibbling his scarf and watching balefully while Aizawa tries to puzzle this out.

Yagi’s health comes first and foremost: he can’t do anything to upset his furry charge unduly, not when his health as a bunny is so precarious. But the longer Yagi stays like this, the greater the risk to him. The Pet-Snatcher must be caught, and soon. Aizawa has a task force to lead, which he can’t do from his apartment or while trying to babysit a bunny.

And yet… here’s a thought that didn’t occur to Aizawa. He stops mid-pace to stare at the blank front of his fridge, brown furrowing into a frown.

Yagi is still a hero down to his core, no matter what form he’s in. He was the Symbol of Peace for decades, so he knows the nature of the job. Why would he, of all people, be unduly worried about Aizawa being in danger when he knows better than anyone else that it’s all part and parcel of being a hero?

Plus, Nezu said it himself: the man is a tactical genius with an instinctive battle-sense that is still unrivaled to this day. Even after his retirement, he’s been in high demand as a consultant on difficult missions all over the country, even the world. Add hundreds of thousands of years of prey instincts to that legendary hero’s intuition…

And besides that, there’s no way of telling what the Pet-Snatcher said to Yagi on the night he was attacked. Maybe the bunny saw or heard something, and is trying desperately to communicate it even when robbed of his power of speech.

Aizawa picks his way across the living room to crouch down in front of Yagi, who glares up at him stubbornly. He doesn’t know what he expects to find by searching those big blue eyes, but there’s definitely a look in them that’s more human than rabbit. Aizawa can picture that dangerous glimmer on Yagi’s lean face, that grim frown furrowing his brow even as he smiles in defiance. It’s a very ‘All Might’ kind of look, even on a rabbit.

“You know something I don’t, don’t you?”

The fuzzy ears flick upright and then flatten against his head again. It’s hard to tell if that’s an affirmative answer, but Aizawa has learned over the years to trust his instincts when it comes to things like these. Gut-reactions are just the brain’s unconscious response to micro-stimuli, after all, and just because you can’t place the source of the feeling doesn’t mean the signs aren’t all there. And his gut is telling him that Yagi is trying to communicate something important.

“Alright,” he grumbles, reaching out and scooping the bunny up again. Yagi drops the scarf when he hears the resigned tone of voice, finally satisfied that Aizawa is listening to him. “Let’s go talk to Nezu, then.”

The principal appears to listen carefully, paws folded on his desk with Yagi hopping over and around them, while Aizawa describes the bunny’s unusual behavior and the conclusions he reached. But at the end of the teacher’s narration, Nezu just flashes him a crafty smile. Aizawa feels his stomach twist with frustration when he sees that cunning glint in Nezu’s eye, and realizes that none of this is news to him.

“Yes, I thought we might end up here,” the principal says conversationally, confirming Aizawa’s suspicions. And, because Nezu has a habit of monologuing about his brilliant plans like the genius supervillain in a cartoon, he launches into an explanation of his whole thought process.

“Upon seeing the note the Pet-Snatcher left you, I suspected that there might be more to this latest attack than previously thought. His last two lines especially struck me as sinister. He said, ‘hope you don’t mind me borrowing your case file. Let me know when you’re ready to talk, and we can discuss turning him back,” the principal recites. Aizawa narrows his eyes as he follows Nezu’s reasoning, mind racing to connect all the dots.

“Two things stuck out to me: one, the fact that he made a point of taking your case file, and two, that he offered a chance to ‘talk’, specifically about reversing Yagi’s transformation. He has never willingly contacted the authorities before, not even to put in ransom calls for his victims. And he hasn’t shown any sign of wanting to reverse his Quirk’s effects until now. The note smelled of a trap to me.

“The report I got from the handwriting analyst this morning supported my theory. The villain’s penmanship appeared to be frantic and fast, not to mention the fact that he nearly punctured the paper in several places, he was jabbing it so hard. It hinted at an unstable, violent state of mind while he was writing it. There are also hints that his pattern is changing, if you study the case file and the incident reports carefully. Think about it: the police got nowhere close to him, and he was having a grand old time stalking detectives and uniformed officers, picking them off at his leisure. But then the heroes got involved. Snipe got close enough to see him, making notes on the villain’s appearance. Present Mic and Midnight used that information to track him, and when they stumbled across him they managed to injure him before he got away. Now he’s deaf in one ear, and considering the amount of blood found at the scene, it looks like Midnight tore a good chunk out of him with her fangs. Fleeing without stopping to clean up the blood was sloppy of him. Even if the DNA test couldn’t find him in any database, it’s still not consistent with his patterns to leave such a big trace of himself behind.

“And then you, Aizawa, volunteered to pick up where they left off. You’re a wild card to him, even more so than your three predecessors. You have next to no media presence. He likely doesn’t know much about your Quirk or what you’re capable of, though a villain as intelligent as him probably guessed that you are a formidable opponent. You’d have to be, to be a teacher here at UA. All he knows for sure is that you’re a seasoned underground hero with a reputation for effectively taking out dangerous criminals. You had all of your predecessors’ notes and were rapidly narrowing down possible locations of his hideout. Any villain in his shoes would start to get nervous.

“So, it’s no wonder he targeted you and deliberately tried to sabotage your plans. I’m only sorry I didn’t anticipate this beforehand, but at least his plot only partially succeeded. He did manage to steal the case file, but he didn’t get the chance to remove you as an active player. All Might’s presence in your apartment foiled his ambush. Unfortunate for our friend, of course, but fortunate for all the rest of us. You’re still on the case, which is not how the villain wanted his ambush to go. No doubt he was displeased with this.

“The next thing I considered was the state All Might was in when you found him, compared to the others. Snipe, Midnight, and Present Mic were certainly startled by their transformations, and I’m sure it was an unpleasant experience for them. But none of them were nearly catatonic with fear when they were found, the way Yagi was.”

Aizawa interrupts by pointing out, “That’s true, but you also have to remember that he wasn’t expecting to be attacked. Hizashi, Nemuri, and Snipe were pros working in the field when the Pet-Snatcher got them, but Yagi was jumped out of nowhere while he had his guard down, in a place where he was supposed to be safe. Plus, Nemuri got turned into a predator and Hizashi got wings to fly away. Snipe got armor to defend himself with. But Yagi got turned into a prey animal, and a weak and sick one at that.”

The principal inclines his head to Aizawa in acknowledgement of his point. “That did occur to me,” he accedes, “But you also have to remember that underneath it all, All Might is still a trained pro. Prey instincts aside, he’s been in more near-death scrapes than you or I combined. He’s fought and defeated many of the worst villains the world’s ever seen. Normally he’d be able to keep a much cooler head in emergency situations like this. Why, then, did this incident shake him so deeply? I thought that another part of his fear could be due to something he saw, or something the villain said to him during or shortly after the transformation. I think it’s highly likely that he knows something we don’t.

“In addition to all of this, think of the way All Might clings to you so desperately. Dr. Inaba said he was terrified to let you out of his sight. We attributed that to him being disoriented and seeking the safety you represent to him, and I still think that’s true in part. But what if he was also afraid because you’re in even more danger than we thought? Maybe the Pet-Snatcher is getting desperate. Maybe he’s even getting more violent. Factoring in the ominous note, the changes in the Pet-snatcher’s pattern, the circumstances of the attack, and Yagi’s behavior, and there’s only one logical conclusion to come to. Yagi saw or heard something to make him believe that your life is in grave danger, Aizawa. And he’s probably right.”

“So what?” the man growls stubbornly, standing in front of Nezu’s desk with his fists balled at his sides. “I’m a hero: villains wanting to kill me just an occupational hazard. The bastard still needs to be caught, and I’m the best one for the job.”

Nezu just levels a calculating gaze on him as he says,

“My friend, there is a difference between the general occupational dangers of being a hero and the specific, targeted danger of malicious intent on your life. The Pet-Snatcher has shown himself to be intelligent, stealthy, and highly motivated, with all the tools at his disposal to get away with murder. This isn’t something you can take on alone, not unless you want to be his next victim. He means to kill you. Once he crosses that line, what’s to stop him from killing again? There’s no telling how many others he may murder after that.”

“So, what, I’m supposed to sit around on the sidelines then? Are you gonna bench me?” the teacher snarls. Yagi, who’s been sitting on the desk looking from one to the other as the conversation progressed, flinches at the ire in his voice. The man forces himself to take a deep breath and then blow it out between his teeth while Nezu answers.

“No, my friend. I know this is important to you,” he says placatingly. “We all want our colleagues back to their normal selves. And you’re right: your talents will be invaluable in catching this villain. You’re a capable hero, not a child for me to hide away at the first hint of peril. I understand that working alone is what you’re used to. But you have a team for this one, and it’s important to use all your available resources to catch this villain.”

The principal then goes on to describe the setup he has in place for Aizawa’s role in this case. The teacher will spend every afternoon and evening directly after class leading the task force. He’ll be out in the field, of course– nothing on heaven or earth would stop him from personally hunting this bastard down, and Nezu knows it– but he will be accompanied by at least two members of the team at all times, with backup on standby for every mission. Aizawa chafes at the idea of being slowed down by other people tagging along with him, but with the Pet-Snatcher out to kill him, he has to concede the necessity of it. He always tells his students that it’s not smart to do everything alone if you don’t have to. It looks like this time he’ll have to practice what he preaches.

In addition, Aizawa will be expected back at UA every night by the students’ lights-out time at eleven thirty. There’ll be no all-night stakeouts for him. But even if his working hours are limited by this curfew, his team will be self-sufficient. Aizawa will keep a pager on him at all times, just in case they need to contact him. They’ll keep working day and night even without him. This plan has already been organized and agreed to by Best Jeanist, who will be Aizawa’s second-in-command and will take over operations when Aizawa isn’t there. The teacher has to admit, Best Jeanist was a good choice. He’s a man who understands the value of subtlety and networking, and he can operate in stealth when needed. Plus he and Aizawa have worked well together in the past. They’ll make sure to vary the staffing, spread themselves out, and keep the taskforce’s very existence a top secret to avoid anyone else being targeted.

The teacher might not like it, but Nezu has never been wrong in these things before. It wouldn’t pay to start disregarding him now, however much it aggravates him.

“Why let me go on thinking I had a choice in all this if you already had it all set up?” he scowls at the principal. The animal just smiles at him.

“You never would have agreed to it if I had told you all of this yesterday. There was a higher probability of you cooperating if you came to the conclusion on your own. And besides, I knew our friend here would bring it to your attention sooner or later. And you came through for me very nicely, didn’t you, All Might?”

The bunny accepts the principal’s chin-scratches and then licks his paw to run it over his ear, looking very pleased with himself.

Even the rabbit is conspiring against me, Aizawa thinks bitterly.

From then on, Aizawa’s days and nights fall into a strict, exhausting new routine. He’s not running himself quite as ragged as he expected to be, since Nezu insisted he still take time to rest each night, but it’s a near thing.

That night he leaves Yagi in class 3-A’s care, extracting a promise from Midoriya and Koda to make sure the bunny’s stress levels are low and to never leave him alone for a moment, no matter what. All twenty kids enthusiastically volunteer to help. Then, trusting his students to keep the bunny safe, he goes to start work with the taskforce. 

Everything is ready for him when he arrives at the precinct. It takes him a moment to get used to being in the front of the room, leading their pre-patrol conference as if he knows the first thing about teamwork. But then he tries thinking of it as a sort of lecture, and the task force like students in a classroom, and it becomes easier. He can do this.

From the moment he gets there to the moment he leaves it’s non-stop work on the case, evenly split between research and leg work. Best Jeanist makes a good second-in-command. The Fiber hero knows by now how to deal with Aizawa’s abrasive manner. He just lets it slide off of him like water off a duck’s back. Eraserhead’s foul temper is just a product of stress, after all, and it’s understandable.

The underground hero makes and leaves behind a plan of operations for them to continue in his absence, while Jeanist organizes day and night shifts with the heroes of his agency, the consulting detectives, and Endeavor’s loaned sidekicks. The task force will keep working while he’s gone, promising to page him if they have any urgent questions or need further orders. He makes Jeanist promise to keep him in the loop, above all else. Only when he’s sure everything is set into motion does he allows himself to be escorted back to UA.

He makes it back just in time, five minutes until lights-out. The teacher finds Midoriya asleep on the common room couch with Yagi sitting on his stomach in a contented loaf. Uraraka and Iida are piled on the floor next to them, dozing with their heads on each other’s shoulders. He smiles privately at the sight before waking them up to go to bed.

Their rabbit-sitting duties complete, they say goodnight to Yagi and then shuffle off to sleep. This arrangement is probably best for everyone involved, he speculates as he tucks Yagi into his jacket for the walk to his apartment. The bunny couldn’t be safer than surrounded by class 3-A, all of whom are on high alert, determined to protect him. Plus, it gives the kids something useful to do while still keeping them out of direct involvement with the case. They need to feel like they’re doing something to help, or there’ll be trouble. 

He conveniently doesn’t mention to his students that the Pet-Snatcher is most likely out to kill him. It’s not something they need to worry about, and they definitely don’t need another excuse to meddle.

Back in his apartment, Aizawa settles down at the kotatsu to chip away at the mountain of lesson plans and schoolwork he needs to get through for the three classes he’s teaching. He only lasts until about one in the morning before he’s falling asleep sitting-up, with Yagi dozing in his lap and Himawari curled up under the kotatsu by his feet. It’s the bunny who rouses him, nipping at his sleeve until he looks up from staring blankly at his lecture notes and notices the time.

He only got the bare minimum done, but he’ll be able to teach his classes semi-competently, and that’s the most that can be asked of him right now. After that it’s a quick shower, cleaning the litter boxes, brushing his teeth, and finally bed . His own personal nirvana.

He’s only comfortable sleeping here after the security breach because of the vigilant security bots hovering outside his windows and doors, but it’s enough that he’ll be able to snatch a few hours. They bots are programmed not to let a single unauthorized living thing enter that apartment without proper ID. Not even an insect. As it is, he’s grateful to at least have one space where he can rest. He sets his pager on the floor by his futon and then stretches out into the bedding gratefully. Yagi flops down next to him for the third night in a row, letting out a contented sigh. Aizawa tucks the warm blankets over him until he’s little more than a round lump under the covers. The hero just laughs, then buries his face in his pillow to get what rest he can.

In the morning it’s coffee and a jelly packet for breakfast, though he eats it at the table for once with Yagi next to him. The bunny always seems more eager to eat if someone’s sitting at the table with him, and he needs to eat in order to keep up his strength while in this form. The rabbit munches at a mixture of leafy greens, some Timothy hay, and a few food pellets: a well-rounded bunny meal. At one point he glares balefully at Aizawa and his jelly packet as if asking him why he’s not taking the same care for himself. All Aizawa has to offer is a shrug. He tells Yagi he’s not a morning person. Eating solid food any time before ten am makes him queasy.

With a plastic baggie of carrot sticks in his satchel and a rabbit in one arm, Aizawa then goes to teach class as normal. Or, as normal as it can be with Yagi hopping around the room or nestled into the folds of his capture weapon. That seems to be his favorite place to hide. If you can’t see Yagi anywhere, chances are you’ll find him napping against Aizawa’s shoulder, hidden by the slate-grey scarf. This fact seems to amuse and delight everyone who comes across it, though the teacher can’t understand what the big deal is. He’s only being practical.

The bunny’s cuteness is extraordinarily distracting in class, although Aizawa can’t really point fingers at his students when it comes to being distracted. He finds himself breaking mid-lecture four or five times a day to answer his pager, his attention split and pulled a million directions at once.

Sometimes it’s all he can do to sit down, take a deep breath, and pet Yagi’s fur as if to remind himself that the bunny is still there, still alive. The teacher honestly feels better sometimes if he can feel Yagi’s warm weight against his chest, safely cradled in the folds of his capture weapon. Vlad King takes plenty of photos of the pair’s antics to show to Yamada and Kayama later. Honestly, the thought of his two best friends fawning over those pictures almost makes him wish Kan was taking them for blackmail instead. It might be a bit of both. But what else is he supposed to do, tell the bunny ‘no’? It would take a far crueler man than him to deny Yagi anything when he’s like this. And the man will secretly admit that he takes as much comfort from the arrangement as Yagi does. At least he knows Yagi is safe, this way.

The bunny comes with him to the staffroom on Aizawa’s now-rare off periods. He naps in his box-lid bed while the teacher struggles through three classes’ worth of assignments. They have lunch together too, with Yagi eating off the table as usual. Though the teacher has to work through his meal. Then after lunch the bunny goes back to his bed and conks out for a good, long afternoon nap. Yagi draws envious looks from nearly all the staff, Aizawa included. It’s an unfortunate way to be put out of commission, for sure, but that doesn’t stop the exhausted heroes from being jealous of all the rest he’s getting (not that he doesn’t deserve a rest, but still). They jokingly say they wish that was them, their laughs strained and weak.

The moment the final bell rings, Aizawa hands the bunny, his food, and his meds to the students of 3-A, leaving instructions on the medicine dosage for the evening. He entrusts his spare apartment key to Iida just in case, making sure the class rep is equipped with the care pdf Dr. Inaba gave him. Midorya and Koda seem to have made a pact to personally see to Yagi’s care, which is a relief, though the whole class participates too. According to the picture updates Iida occasionally texts him, the kids have a great time eating dinner with Yagi at the kitchen table, feeding the bunny more berries than he’s probably supposed to have. But then again, it’s very hard to resist when Yagi sits up on his hind legs to beg for a treat, his blue eyes wide and excited, nose twitching cutely.

While his class watches over the bunny, Aizawa is across the city throwing all of his strength and cunning into the hunt for the Pet-Snatcher. Hours and hours of desperate struggle and near-fruitless searching later, he stumbles home so tired and battered that he can barely see straight.

After running himself ragged every minute of every hour from the moment he wakes to the moment he sleeps, somehow the best part of his day is coming home with Yagi in tow and watching the rabbit hop in excited circles around his feet, begging Aizawa to feed him a strawberry. Apparently they’re his favorite. It somehow manages to draw out a rare laugh from the hero, every time. And considering it’s the only laugh he gets nowadays, Aizawa enjoys it while he can.

Wash.

Rinse.

Repeat.

The routine drags on and on. Aizawa’s only break is when he collapses into bed each night with Yagi curled up beside him, and even then, he tends to sleep lightly and snap awake at the slightest of sounds. His pager usually disturbs him once or twice too, though Yagi sleeps through it somehow, the lucky bastard.

Somehow Aizawa was under the impression that the task force’s hard work would have captured the Pet Snatcher, or at least come up with some progress, by the end of that week. But the days start to blend together as they turn up nothing but contradictions and headaches. Whoever this guy is, he’s covering his tracks. The villain leaves little signs behind to set them on false trails, leading them in wild goose chases designed to lead into a trap. Most of those traps fail, since Aizawa is starting to recognize the patterns in the way this villain works. But two succeed, resulting in one of Endeavor’s sidekicks as a red squirrel and a hero from Best Jeanist’s agency turned into a tuxedo cat. He’s starting to whittle away at their numbers.

“How the hell is he always one step ahead of us?!” the underground hero roars after the latest loss, kicking an empty trashcan across the police precinct. No one has any answers to give.

The Pet-Snatcher’s original victims, the missing persons from the suburbs of UA, have been gone for six weeks now.

Many of the police officers have been stuck as animals for four or five. 

Snipe has been a bearded dragon for three, while Nemuri and Hizashi have been a snake and a cockatiel for two.

Dr. Inaba has to come back on Friday afternoon to check in on Yagi. He’s doing okay for the moment, but that’s besides the point. The point is, the underground hero wanted to resolve this before it came to that. He wanted to get Yagi out of this, and get his friends back, as soon as possible. And he’s failed.

Yagi ends up staying with Class 3-A for most of that weekend, sleeping at the foot of Midoriya’s bed, because Aizawa works the case nonstop both days. He only returns for a few hours each night because Nezu orders him to.

One week of working with the task force soon bleeds into two.

Yagi’s health starts to decline again in spite of the pain meds. According to Koda, the longer he remains as a rabbit the more his stress builds. It’s affecting his appetite, which is not good considering how underweight he already is. Yaoyarozu makes a tiny blue sweater to help him keep warm, which would be sickeningly adorably if it wasn’t so worrying. Not to even mention how much worse the separation anxiety has become, now. The bunny clings to whoever is holding him so hard, you can barely even set him down without him kicking up a fuss. And he greets Aizawa’s return every night with an almost frantic sort of relief. It would be heartbreaking, if the hero wasn’t so goddamn tired.

Dr. Inaba comes back to check on Yagi for a second time on the next Friday, since he’s only eating sporadically. Her diagnosis is grim. He can’t spend much longer like this, or his heart will give out.

Another two weeks, and he could very well be dead.

Friday night after Yagi’s second checkup is also the second weekend since the taskforce started the hunt. Aizawa is determined that this time he’ll use every minute. This time he’ll catch the bastard. He won’t let Yagi die like this. He throws himself into Friday night’s mission especially hard, startling the team with his single-minded intensity when he arrives at the precinct after class. He plunges them into the latest lead head-first, snarling and barking orders left and right, then takes to the rooftops the second he gets the chance. The two escorting sidekicks have to scramble to keep up with him all night while he combs the area where they think the Pet-Snatcher must be hiding. They’ve narrowed it down to a few blocks now by process of elimination, but even though the probability of his home base being here is high, they still haven’t found any sign of him.

The only reward Aizawa gets for his diligence that night is a futile alleyway chase that leads not to his quarry, but a drug dealer who was skulking on the wrong corner at the wrong time. Not that the hero won’t take any opportunity to get another dealer off the streets of the city. He darts ahead of his two escorts, ignoring their startled cries, and pursues the woman down the narrow street.

It’s a fight that doesn’t go well for him. The woman is wearing a hoodie to hide her identity and seems to have a claw Quirk of some kind, which must be heteromorphic because he can’t erase it. He pursues her into a dead end. But she surprises him by suddenly turning in the middle of the chase and diving towards him. The woman ducks underneath as he’s vaulting over some fallen bins, rounding on him with surprising speed.

Next thing he knows, he’s waking up on the ground. His whole back from hip to shoulder lights up with pain. He went down hard, cracking his head on the wall on the way, and his skull is throbbing. He thinks he must have blacked out for a couple seconds there, since he comes to with a gasp. His escort finds him on hands and knees, bleeding, with the woman who did it gone without a trace. The two sidekicks were too far behind him and she slipped away in the gap between the attack and their arrival.

Overall, not his best work.

It’s an hour after he’s supposed to have returned when he finally arrives at UA in a cab, frustrated and looking worse for wear. He has to limp, and slowly, to avoid aggravating the shallow cuts in his back. Bakugo, Kirishima, and Ashido were the ones taking care of Yagi that night. They stayed up waiting for Aizawa, they were so worried. Thankfully they don’t realize how badly he’s hurt: the team’s nurse did a good job bandaging him up, and he borrowed a spare change of clothes from Jeanist so he wouldn’t have to wear his bloodied jumpsuit back. He assures them he’s fine as he takes Yagi and heads over to his apartment, feet dragging all the way. Bakugo squints at him as he goes, not quite believing it, but says nothing.

The bunny is not as easily fooled as the students, however. He can smell the sharp copper tang of blood on Aizawa. What’s more, from his unique vantage point in the capture weapon, he has a view of the bandages peeking out from under the man’s shirt collar. The rabbit is fidgety for the whole walk home because of it. He doesn’t do his usually happy dance when they get back. Instead he follows close at Aizawa’s heels, eyes wide and worried. The teacher barely even notices. His head throbs, every heartbeat burning in his temples like a brand. There’s not much he can do about it at the moment except rest. What he needs is ibuprofen and sleep, and he needs it now .

The man dumps Yagi’s stuff in its designated corner and then makes straight for the bathroom. The bloody jumpsuit in its plastic shopping bag goes on the toilet lid, to be addressed later. Then he peels the sweater and undershirt from his body, groaning softly as the flex of his shoulder blades re-aggravates the still-leaking wounds.

A startled grunt sounds behind him, paired with the scrabbling of blunt claws on the tile. Aizawa glances over his shoulder and realizes that he forgot Yagi was there, watching him. The bunny’s eyes are fixed on his back, on the four dotted lines of red seeping through the bandages which wrap his torso from hip to shoulder.

“I know, I know. I promise it looks worse than it is. I’ll go see Recovery Girl tomorrow… I’m not waking her up at one in the morning for this,” he sighs, grabbing his brush to yank it through his tangled hair. He avoids the side of his head where the bruise from his fall is, hissing as he tugs on a couple hairs on the sensitive part. A moment later he feels the touch of something soft on his bare foot. A glance downward shows that the bunny has parked himself next to the man’s leg, one furry flank pressing up against his ankle as if in silent comfort. And Aizawa can’t help but smile faintly.

Trust Yagi to make him smile, even when he’s coming apart at the seams.

Once he’s brushed his teeth and downed a prescription-strength dose of ibuprofen, the hero pulls his tattered jumpsuit out to examine it in the bathroom light and see if it can be saved. But he grimaces when he sees the back of it; it’s absolutely shredded from belt to collar. Looks like this one is trash, then. He unbuckles the utility belt, then dumps the suit on the floor in the corner of the bathroom. This is the third ruined costume in as many months. Normally he’d dispose of it properly, but he needs to remember to order more jumpsuits from the support company. The bloody heap of rags on his floor will serve as a good reminder to place the order later. He’s too tired to do anything beyond that.

Yagi stays in the bathroom for a minute or two while Aizawa goes to put on something clean to sleep in. Even as a rabbit, the man seems to have some vague idea of privacy left because the only time when he doesn’t insist on being in the same room as Aizawa is when the man is changing clothes. Instead the bunny sniffs around the bathroom hesitantly, eventually coming up to the ruined jumpsuit.

But the moment he catches a whiff of it up close, he jumps backwards as if stung. His angry, scared grunting immediately brings Aizawa running. The hero crouches down and tries to pick Yagi up, but the bunny kicks his hand away and then charges back and forth in the tiny bathroom, growling up a storm.

“Jesus Yagi, what is it? What’s the matter?” the hero asks, turning this way and that trying to follow the rabbit with his tired eyes. Yagi’s response is to go back to the bloody pile of the jumpsuit and box at it with his front paws. Then he runs in circles some more. He’s making such a fuss that Himawari comes trotting through the open door to see what’s happening. To Aizawa’s surprise, she sniffs the jumpsuit and then recoils too, nose wrinkling like she’s tasted something sour. Her ears flatten and she backs away with hackles raised, fleeing the room.

The bemused hero watches both animals’ reactions blankly, his tired brain struggling to comprehend. This goes beyond just their natural distaste for the smell of blood, but what else could’ve gotten them this upset?

Eventually the distressed, wheezy sound of Yagi’s breathing snaps Aizawa out of it. He captures the bunny by grabbing him in both hands and gently pressing him down against the floor, the way the pdf guide says to. It stills the frantic racing at least, though Aizawa can feel the little animal’s ribcage flutter against his palms with the force of the terrified panting.

“Look,” he rasps, shaking his head slowly, “I don’t know what you’re trying to tell me. I get the ‘jumpsuit smells scary’ part, but… I just… I don’t understand. I need to sleep before I keel over. I’m gonna go to sleep now, then we’ll try again in the morning. Okay?”

There’s a pause. The bunny flicks his ears. Aizawa carefully removes his hands, watching as Yagi stands and then shakes his fur out. Thankfully, the drama seems to be over, though Yagi still shoots the pile of rags a baleful glare on his way out.

The hero unceremoniously dumps Himawari back out in the living room, then closes the door on her and crawls under his blankets on the futon, giving vent to a miserable moan. He desperately needs to change his sheets: they have that stale, clammy old-sheet smell to them. But the second his throbbing head touches the pillow and he closes his aching eyes, sleep steals over his body to claim him. He barely stirs when Yagi noses under the covers to curl up next to his head, huddling so close that his soft fur presses against the man’s shoulder. The last thing he hears is a soft churr, and then he passes out at last.

In his sleep he re-lives that evening, watching himself vault over the toppled bins in the alleyway only for the woman in the hoodie to duck behind him. But this time, after she tears his back open with her claws and he hits the ground momentarily stunned, he feels a shadow loom over him. She whispers in his ear,

“My husband says hello, little kitty-cat. He’s very anxious to talk to you about your bunny boyfriend. I’m sure we’ll be seeing you again soon.”

Then she tears down the alleyway in the opposite direction. There’s a rush of wind, a fluttering noise like bird wings, and she disappears, leaving the hero to come back into his senses on the concrete .

Aizawa jolts awake with a convulsive gasp. His alarm is ringing (how long has it been ringing?) and Yagi is sitting up on his pillow, staring at him.

He sits up and fumbles the alarm into silence, then stares right back at the rabbit for a solid minute.

“… Son of a bitch ,” he murmurs at length. “There’s two of them.”

If there was any doubt as to his rightness, Yagi erases it a moment later by springing up into the air, jumping and kicking his legs as if in victory.

Aizawa’s first order of business after breakfast is to see Recovery Girl. He brings Yagi with him this time, the bunny content to ride in the pocket of his sweatshirt and nibble on a celery stick leftover from his breakfast. But once the hero’s wounds are closed and his concussion has abated somewhat, he calls an emergency meeting with the task force and Nezu. All the remaining UA staff members gather in a conference room while Aizawa sets up a video call with the police precinct, where the morning shift of his team is just now coming on-duty. Best Jeanist puts the video call up on the big projector in the precinct’s briefing room so the whole team can see and hear. Once everyone is present and he has their attention, he launches into a terse summary of the previous night’s incident, the animals’ reactions to the smell on his ruined jumpsuit, his dream-turned-memory, and finally the conversation he had with Yagi this morning. He ends by telling them all his conclusion.

The Pet-Snatcher is not a single person, but two people: a man and a woman.

The ‘husband’ most likely has the animal-transformation Quirk, while something about the ‘wife’s power must have to do with more than just claws. There’s probably an element of stealth involved with her power. That’s how they got into Aizawa’s apartment on a highly secure campus without being caught, and why Yagi reacted so violently to the woman’s scent on his jumpsuit. The bunny must have recognized it from the night he was attacked.

Nezu looks pensive by the time Aizawa is done. His paws are folded in front of his snout and he has that clever glint in his eye which means he’s thinking something significant. But Vlad King just sneers derisively at the underground hero and the bunny in his sweatshirt pocket.

“This is all speculation. How are we supposed to act on a concussed hallucination and the word of a rabbit?” he demands. Aizawa just glares, then extricates Yagi from his pocket. He gingerly sets the rabbit down on the tabletop, where Yagi crouches and stares at Vlad with an eerie intensity in his blue eyes.

“Yagi,” the teacher begins, speaking loudly so his voice will carry. “Thump twice if my theory is correct, and once if it’s not.” 

There’s a pause in which the entire room, the video chat included, holds their breath. Then the bunny stands and pounds his back leg twice in rapid succession, so hard the table rattles.

Instantly the room erupts into chaos, everyone shouting something all at once. The bunny

startles so hard he almost falls off the table, though Aizawa catches him and stows him back safely in his pocket, one hand petting his head to keep him calm. Nezu calls it all to order a moment later when he stands up on his chair. He claps his paws together and the din settles, all eyes turning towards him.

“This, ladies and gentlemen and others, is obviously the breakthrough we’ve been waiting for. Now that we have a better sense of our enemy, it’s time to close in,” he declares. “I have formed a plan of action based on available information, but before we get started, I should preface this by saying: it’s a dangerous one. It has the highest probability of a positive resolution for the Pet-Snatcher’s victims, but it will put many of the participants at risk. So if anyone is unwilling to be a part of this, they should leave now.”

It’s a credit to every hero in that room, and in the taskforce, that no one moves. All Aizawa sees when he looks around are determined eyes and jaws set squarely. Nezu gives a satisfied nod.

“Good. I expected nothing less. Now if everyone would listen carefully…”

And that is how Aizawa Shota finds himself walking down an empty street after sunset the next night, in civvies with no weapon and a pair of most-likely-murderous serial kidnappers gunning for him.

It’s very simple, really. The Pet-Snatchers made it clear in their original note that they wanted to ‘talk’ to Aizawa, and him specifically. Nezu smelled a trap. So the task force set one of their own, with him as bait.

There’s an area of ten blocks or so, sandwiched right between the city and its suburbs, which the task force is almost certain the Pet-Snatchers operate out of. It coincidentally contains the alleyway where Aizawa was injured the previous day. He goes there first, keeping his hoodie pulled up over his face and his jacket zipped up against the cold night. He doesn’t expect to find anything there, but that’s not the point. After he makes a show of examining the alleyway, he exits the other end and starts to wander up and down the streets, combing the blocks in a systematic cordon.

The hero walks fast, with his head ducked. He can’t help it. He feels vulnerable like this, with just a pocket knife tucked into his jeans and his Quirk for self-defense. The wife has already shown her Quirk to be heteromorphic and thus immune to him, and he’s got a giant metaphorical target painted on his back. He knows he has backup even if it’s invisible for now, but that doesn’t dispel the twisting, uneasy feeling in his gut.

That uneasiness soon manifests into the sound of footsteps behind him.

The teacher turns just in time to stare down a knife brandished in his face, and the eerie grin of the woman who’s wielding it. The woman from before. He freezes, putting his hands up to show he’s unarmed and glancing at the shadows around her. But where’s the husband…?

Something deep in his instincts tingles, and he senses more than hears something behind him. Again, he turns and sidesteps just in time, watching a pair of grabbing hands shoot right past him. Quickly he ducks out of their reach and then takes a running leap at the wall. He kicks off of it and grabs onto a fire escape with one hand, swinging up onto the platform in an easy show of agility. Temporarily out of reach, he crouches there on the edge to get his first good look at the enemy in the hazy yellow glow of the streetlamp.

The woman is, as he observed before, of a solid build with long, sharp black claws on her hands. This time she’s not wearing a hoodie and he can see her face. When she grins up at him, the look in her purple eyes maniacal, there are fangs in her mouth. But the man— the one who tried to double-ambush him— is remarkably plain, next to her. He’s a drab figure all in shades of brown: same muddy hair, tanned skin, dark brown eyes, a drab brown worker’s uniform in shades of beige… he seems to blend in with himself, innocuous and dull.

Until he smiles up at Aizawa, and like his wife, the glint of madness turns his face into something chilling to behold.

“Clever,” the hero calls down from his perch, wary of the way they leer at him. “She distracts me by getting caught sneaking up on me, then when I turn to deal with her you get the real jump on me and zap me into… what was it that you said? A cat?”

“That was the original plan,” says the man, his voice raspy like a chain smoker, “but you’ve been such a thorn in our side, I was thinking a spider might be more fitting, Eraserhead. So much easier to crush into a little black stain .”

Aizawa suppresses a shudder at the venom in the man’s voice, turning it into a cool shrug instead.

“Sorry to disappoint, but it doesn’t look like there will be any zapping tonight. You wanted to talk. So let’s talk.”

The woman, still smiling, cocks her head at him.

“Took you long enough to get in touch. Getting desperate, are we? How’s your bunny boyfriend, is he doing well?”

The hero shoots her a glare as he replies, “He’s not my boyfriend, and actually no, he’s not. You’re putting his health at risk by keeping him like this. He could die.”

“I’m sorry to hear that,” she pouts. “Maybe it’s because you’re not taking proper care of him. You should give him to us! I’m sure he’d be much happier.”

It takes every ounce of Aizawa’s self-control not to sneer.

“Somehow I doubt that,” he replies through clenched teeth. “Why do you care so much anyway? You’re the ones who trapped him like this.”

“We find that most people are better as animals. Even All Might,” the drab husband interjects. “Life is simpler like that. Happier. And we can give them a much better home.”

“So, what, you’re collecting them, then? Plucking people from their lives and hiding them away in a basement somewhere?” the hero demands. At this, the woman’s hackles seem to raise and she takes a step closer. There’s an insane fire in her purple eyes as she glares up at him and yells,

“You don’t understand! You’re just a mean, callous person who makes himself feel better about his shitty life by playing at hero! Leave us and our children alone!”

“Children, huh? Is that what this is about? You’re trying to build some kind of sick, twisted little family?”

“What would you know about family?” the man growls, putting a hand on his wife’s shoulder. “We’ve watched you, Eraserhead. Everyone’s afraid of your Quirk and no one likes you. You come home every night to an empty apartment. You spend all your time working because you have nothing else. You’re all alone except for a stray cat and a bunch of kids who aren’t even your own, and they’ll be leaving you behind soon enough. Then what will you do?”

The teacher feels his jaw tighten angrily at the thought of them spying on him, passing judgement on him. How dare they?

“I’ll do what I always do: keep moving,” he declares. “My students know I care about them, and that’s enough for me. Besides, I wouldn’t be alone if you hadn’t turned my best friends into a snake and a cockatiel.”

“Oh, so that’s the bitch that bit me,” the man frowns. “And that shitty bird screamed my wife’s ear off. If we knew they were your friends, we would have killed them like we were gonna kill you.”

Aizawa can’t help it now. He feels his hair start to lift from his shoulders as he stands up on the fire escape platform, hands balling into fists as he declares,

“There will be no killing! I won’t let this continue. You should make this easier for everyone and turn yourselves over, before anyone else gets hurt.”

“Not likely. We’ll die before we give up on our family!” spits the woman, claws lengthening as if preparing for an attack. The man walks forward as if to grab the fire escape ladder and pull it down, but Aizawa doesn’t let it get that far.

“Fine,” the hero growls. “We’ll do this the hard way. Now, Jeanist!”

Everything explodes in the space of just a few seconds.

Suddenly four more heroes appear seemingly out of thin air. In reality they were utilizing one of Endeavor’s sidekick’s Quirks: the ability to shrink herself and up to three others down to the size of ants. Best Jeanist, Cementoss, and Ectoplasm were hiding in the pocket of Aizawa’s jacket the entire time, and the moment Aizawa made it to the fire escape the three invisible heroes climbed out to position themselves. Full-sized once again, they leap down to the sidewalk at Aizawa’s signal, rolling to their feet the moment they materialize with their weapons and Quirks at the ready. Meanwhile, the hidden transmitter in the Aizawa’s ear beeps to signal that the rest of the team, who were on standby just blocks away, is closing in.

Jeanist and Aizawa both lunge at the same time with the two other teachers following close behind. Fibers from the Number Three Hero’s clothes shoot out like wires, wrapping around the villains tightly, while the underground hero activates his Quirk and clones pour from Ectoplasm’s mouth to surround the villains

It should have gone smoothly. Their timing is perfect. Everything is right.

But they don’t anticipate the tear gas.

Before Jeanist can solidify his grip on the villains, there’s a bang of a canister. In a split second the man and woman disappear in a cloud of smoke, lost to Aizawa’s sight. He has to close is eyes against the chemical sting, cursing violently as the itching, tingling sensation burns in his lungs and floods his vision with tears. Ectoplasm’s clones dematerialize after a few hacking coughs, breaking the perimeter. Jeanist yells in fury when his hold on the villains’ clothes suddenly goes limp, the threads cut by razor- sharp claws. The wife’s garments fall, empty, into a pile on the ground while the sound of the husband’s bootsteps recedes.

Nezu predicted something like this. The most problematic part of the plan, he’d said, wouldn’t be the husband’s Quirk. It would be the wife’s. By process of elimination and measuring probabilities, he deduced that her Quirk is actually a transformation type: the ability to shapeshift herself . It’s only active during the split second when she’s transforming, which is why Aizawa can’t erase it unless he catches her mid-shift. He can trap her in one form or another if he can see her, but he can’t revert her to her original body once her shift is locked in. The villains’ stealth, and their eerily good surveillance skills, are due to her power. She most likely turns into something small and innocuous– a bug in the corner of the room, or a bird outside the window– in order to infiltrate things and places. She crawls in unnoticed, shifts back, and clears a path for her husband to get in and out. Then they get away clean. That was how the pair pierced UA’s security undetected, how they stalk their victims and set their traps.

The moment Best Jeanist calls out that he’s lost them, the four heroes turn and dash free of the cloud of gas, each scattering in a different direction so they can encircle the area. They cast around for a sign of movement– any movement– looking around them with reddened, watery eyes. The wife has transformed, though into what they’re not sure, and the husband is nowhere to be seen. The pair will probably stick together as they try to give the heroes the slip.

Thankfully, Nezu predicted that too.

One of Jeanist’s sidekicks has a power called ‘Containment’, meaning they can cast an invisible magnetic force shield of up to two miles in diameter. There’ll be no escape for them.

Aizawa’s mind races as he looks around, him, still coughing and spluttering. He taps his ear-radio to contact the rest of the team, signalling the start of Phase two: the more dangerous alternative, if Phase one failed. He directs the taskforce to partner up, spread out, and start searching. The Pet-Snatchers can’t have got far in the few seconds since the tear gas went off, and the villains are nothing more than rats in a maze, now. But the night is dark and there’s no telling which way they went, where their hideout is. They’ll have to do this carefully, and keep on the lookout for ambushes.

He takes a few more steps away from the tear gas cloud, fighting to get his reaction to it under control. He needs to be able to keep his eyes open, dammit, or–

“Eraser! Behind y–”

He hears the Cementoss’s warning cry a split second too late.

He half-turns, arm raised to defend himself. Then a bright, white stab of pain lights up his side as something spears into his side under the arm. He gives a strangled cry, which is quickly silenced when he feels a clawed hand seize him by the neck and squeeze, hard .

“Anyone moves, and I slice his throat open!”

The five heroes at the scene freeze in place, staring over Aizawa’s shoulder. It’s the wife’s voice just by his ear, her claws lodged in his flesh. She yanks him backwards, using him as a human shield. He can feel her nakedness against his back where she hides behind him, having shed her clothes when she shape-shifted. She must have snuck up behind him in a different form and then transformed back to ambush him. Fighting through the pain, and fighting to breathe, he tries to plant his feet and throw her over his shoulder. But the claws of her other hand are still embedded in his side. She twists, hard, and he screams as he feels the long claws crack a rib. She’s strong, and she’s just a hair’s breadth away from puncturing his lung. His clothes instantly stain dark with blood. It’s all he can do to stay standing, let alone fight her off.

“What… do you want…” he rasps, half-choked by the crushing grip on his neck.

“You’ll let us walk out of here,” says the man’s voice, also from behind. He emerges from the alleyway his wife sprung out of, where the pair were hiding after their tear-gas escape. “You’ll call off your backup and you won’t follow us when we leave. We’ll take Eraserhead here with us as insurance. Make a move and he dies.”

The four other heroes, standing in the middle of the dimly lit street stock-still, look to Aizawa as if waiting for a cue. He meets Best Jeanist’s eye, gritting his teeth against the blinding pain in his side. There’s a split second of silence, of stillness, in which the world holds its breath. Then the underground hero’s grimace twists into a wolfish smile.

Do it, he mouths.

And all hell breaks loose.

...

“Aizawa. Aizawa… can you hear me?”

“Eraser… Eraser! c’mon, PLEASE say something!”

“Shit, shit shit! Was I not fast enough? Is he okay?”

“No, look! It’s fine. It’s closing up now. The neck wound was just shallow, and it doesn’t look like she got past his ribcage.”

“I dunno, even if it’s shallow, they got him good.”

“Yeah, but he got ‘em good too. Did you see that throw?”

“How could I miss it? I think I saw her soul leave her body when she hit the sidewalk!”

“Yeah, but she got his throat. Crushed it too, by the look of all the bruising. Maybe he lost too much blood.”

“He’s definitely kinda pale… I think we should take him to a hospital. The paramedic’s Quirk stopped the bleeding, but there might be internal damage.”

“Wait, look! I think he’s coming to!”

“What? Where?”

“Just give him a second. Okay, everybody step back. Give him some air.”

The clamor recedes and, slowly, Aizawa blinks himself back into his body, his head ringing with the leftover echoes of his companions’ voices.

The night around him is lit up in flashes of blue and red alternatively, blending into a purple smear across his vision. He groans and shuts his eyes again, one hand covering the closed lids to completely block out all the light.

“Aizawa, can you hear me?” asks Best Jeanist’s voice.

“Ugh… yeah,” the teacher groans in response. It hurts to speak, and his voice croaks horribly out of his mangled windpipe. He’s laying in an ambulance cot with an emergency blanket around his shoulders.

“How do you feel?”

“Like I got stabbed.”

“Think you can sit up?”

“Yeah, just gimme a sec.”

The aforementioned second is given, and then Cementoss’s broad, flat hand slides under his back and helps him upright. Aizawa groans again– his wounds might have been sealed, but there’s bruising. His rib is cracked and it all still hurts like a bitch. He sets one arm across his knee and then slowly eases his eyes back open again, to get a look around him.

The remaining UA staff, including Nezu, are gathered around him along with Best Jeanist. Beyond them, the rest of the task force is securing the two villains into Quirk-suppressing handcuffs so they can be loaded into police cruisers. The pair look subdued, watching Aizawa come to. Probably disappointed that they didn’t manage to kill him, though he definitely feels like he’s been murdered.

Evidently it was worth it, though. Best Jeanist was fast enough in seizing the man’s clothes. The woman wasn’t wearing anything for him to get a hold of, so she still managed to tear partway into Aizawa’s throat before the underground hero tossed her over his shoulder and slammed her into the pavement, Quirk activated to prevent her from transforming. Bleeding from his neck, he’d waited just long enough for Cementoss to secure her in a cocoon of concrete before he let go and collapsed, blacking out from the pain and the rapid blood loss.

Fucking worth it.

“That was very brave and very, very stupid,” Nezu scolds him. “But still a job well done. The villains are in custody thanks to you.”

Aizawa just shoots the principal a frown as he asks,

“Have they given up the location of their hideout?”

“Not yet.”

“Have they reversed the transformations yet?”

“No.”

“Then the job’s not done, well or otherwise,” the hero growls. He swings his legs over the edge of the cot, ignoring the paramedics’ protests. “Let’s get them to the precinct for interrogation.”

“You don’t have to be there,” Best Jeanist insists, tossing his head to sweep his bangs out of his eye. “We can take care of it. Why don’t you go home and get some rest?”

“No. I’m not leaving until they give it all up.”

The heroes exchange a glance and then look to Nezu. The principal’s only response is a shrug of his shoulders.

“If you insist, my friend.”

So the UA teachers return to the school, the paramedics bandage Aizawa up, and then the taskforce transports the villains back for questioning. The teacher grits his teeth against the pain and keeps moving, keeps pushing forward. He’ll rest when he’s gotten his friends out of this mess: no sooner, and no later. 

Once Aizawa has changed into new clothes to replace his bloodied sweatshirt and jacket, he spends the rest of the night at the precinct. In the observation room, specifically. It’s been agreed that he shouldn’t participate in the interrogations directly, given the Pet-Snatchers’ especial hatred of him. So Best Jeanist goes into the room instead, with Aizawa occasionally suggesting questions or lines of inquiry through an earpiece. It’s kind of a shame that he can’t question them himself, since he’s a master interrogator, but the villains are less likely to talk to him. And he’ll admit that he’s a little too close to this, on a personal level.

So he listens instead as the story comes out in scraps and threads over the course of hours, slowly weaving together into a whole picture.

They villains are crafty– they wouldn’t have gotten this far if they weren’t smart– and at first they don’t talk at all. They must have agreed ahead of time on a plan in case they were caught. But the theory of agreeing not to talk and the reality of facing several very angry, very determined heroes in the interrogation room are two completely separate beasts. Soon enough the team gets the pair’s fingerprint scans back, and identifies them. Once the heroes have their names and backgrounds to work from, they use it as a conversation starter, and then as leverage. And slowly, the Pet-Snatchers begin to crack.

Their names are Reyusei and Iku Takada. Reyusei, the husband, works at a local zoo cleaning animal pens. His Quirk, being a ‘scary’ one that most people don’t like the idea of, often got him into trouble in his life. The team’s psychological profiler, who’s been watching the interrogations from behind the glass with Aizawa, thinks the man’s obsession with animals came from a lonely, possibly abusive childhood where his only friends were pets. Reyusei tells them that he wanted to be a zoologist, but had to abandon his career and take up menial labor just to survive. He hates his job, where he’s underpaid and overworked and doesn’t even get to interact with the animals. His coworkers and the zoogoers ridicule him on the daily.

Meanwhile Iku, the wife, is unemployed due to a whole slew of untreated mental illnesses and personality disorders which make it nearly impossible for her to get a job and keep it. There’s something unsettling about her, about the way she talks and the manic glint in her eye. Lacking clothes when she was arrested, the heroes provided her with a pair of sweats to wear. But she doesn’t seem bothered by her nakedness at all. If anything, she seems to revel in the discomfiture she caused. She is as changeable as her Quirk, which allows her to shift into any animal that weighs as much as or less than her, or to take on aspects of those animals at will. She seems to favor long claws, as is painfully evident by the bandaged-up wounds in Aizawa’s side and neck. All they could really find on her was her name, a sealed juvenile record, and some unpaid credit card debts. Her past has been near impossible to dredge up so far, but the glaring lack of any kind of records regarding her life hints at an unhappy background of some sort.

The pair have been married for years in what appears to be one of the most dysfunctional relationships in Japan. Sometimes they seem to hate each other. Sometimes they seem obsessively adoring of each other, to the point of codependency. They often bemoan being kept apart, but at the same time, each is quick to lay blame on the other. They contradict themselves and each other, now that they’ve been separated and they’re talking. In Aizawa’s experience, villain partnerships like this often end up that way: they eventually either turn against each other, or lose the thread of their story so much that nothing either one says makes any sense, and you never really uncover the whole truth of the matter.

But even so, a few things are painfully clear. The pair have no family or friends outside of each other. They’re outcasts. And though they desperately wanted to for years, they never had children. They couldn’t on their own, and couldn’t afford expensive fertility treatments. It was unlikely that they’d ever be approved to adopt a child either, with their income and living conditions. That was probably a good thing for the children, given the kind of home they’d be going to, but Iku and Reyusei’s greatest grief was that they couldn’t build a family together. They harbored a delusion that having a child would somehow fix all of their problems, repair the broken parts of their marriage, make their lives better somehow as if by magic.

So they turned to pets. They took in every stray they could find until their apartment was overflowing, a filthy hoarder’s den where the animals suffered from neglect and the two people didn’t have the resources to fix it. But they just kept collecting strays anyway. They were evicted, of course, the animals taken away and adopted out to proper homes and shelters. They could have found another apartment, since Reyusei still had his job at the zoo and Iku qualified for several different kinds of government support and welfare. But instead they started squatting in abandoned buildings and basements. It’s still unclear as to why they chose to do this, rather than start afresh.

Their story fractures from here: Reyusei insists that it was his wife’s idea to use his Quirk to take people. He swears that he didn’t want to do it, but that his wife dragged him along, using him to furnish herself with the family. Meanwhile, Iku’s side of the story is that Reyusei just brought a cat home from work one day and told her it was her child now, that he’d made it for her with his Quirk. In this version, Reyusei was the one who started it and he only brought Iku in when the police started looking for him and he needed a way to fight back. She was only trying to help her husband stay out of jail, she says. She constantly downplays her own role even though it’s obvious that none of this would have worked without her.

All of this is interesting, for sure, and the observing psychologist is having the time of her life cataloguing all of this. But the heroes grow more frustrated by the hour as two things– the two things they really care about– elude them.

Where are the villains hiding their victims?

And how do they turn them back into people?

The Pet-Snatchers’ original victims are trapped somewhere, alone and imprisoned in god-knows-what-kind of conditions, and there’s no one there to feed and water them now. The longer this drags out, the more dangerous things become for them. Not to mention all the other lives trapped in limbo, all the police officers and detectives and the four heroes at UA who are stuck as animals and have been for far too long.

The one and only consistent part of the Takadas’ story is their absolute, staunch refusal to give up the location of their ‘children’, or to turn their victims back. Neither of them even makes any demands in return for the information, tries to cut a deal, or drops any hints. They just clam up the moment it’s mentioned, not saying a word.

Aizawa thinks of Yagi and Nemuri and Hizashi, and he seethes.

The heroes regroup to discuss their options after hours of fruitless questioning, and Aizawa shares an idea he’s been mulling over. A few different options are put on the table, but eventually they agree that while it’s risky, Aizawa’s suggestion has the greater chance of at least putting a crack in their walls, if not breaking them.

They put the husband and wife in the room together.

It’s the first time the two have been allowed to see each other in the many hours since their arrest. Aizawa stalks back and forth behind the glass as he listens.

Slowly, and with a kind of smugness that’s meant to infuriate, Best Jeanist starts to outline for them the ways the pair have betrayed each other since the questioning began. The lies, the contradicting stories, the blame-laying… but the two villains smile at him, and each confidently declares that the other wouldn’t do that to them because they love each other and nothing will get between them. They call him a liar, confident in their own superiority.

So, at a signal from Jeanist, Aizawa goes to the control board and start to play back a carefully-picked selection of recordings over the speakers.

Watching their faces fall is delicious to him: in so much pain and after so long without rest, he can’t help feeling vindictive. The pair start glaring at each other, speechless and shocked with every new audio clip.

They don’t even make it halfway through the recordings before the two villains are shouting, screaming their lungs out. The argument drags on and on and the heroes don’t even have to do anything: they just sit back and watch as the Pet-Snatchers’ marriage falls apart right before their eyes. At one point Iku even lunges at her husband, though they’re cuffed to separate tables and can’t get close to each other. On the edge of tears, she screams:

“How could you?! Are you trying to get our babies stolen away from us?”

You’re the one who betrayed us, you scheming whore!” he snarls back. “I was trying to protect you, but maybe I should just tell them everything, huh? That’ll fucking show you! Maybe I’ll turn your babies all back, just to show you who’s really in charge here!”

Iku’s face twists into a terrible mask of rage, but then as quickly as it came, the fury ebbs. She blinks once, like something has suddenly occurred to her.

“Wait, Reyusei… That’s what they’re trying to do. Don’t you see? They’re trying to turn us against each other so we’ll confess. They probably faked those recordings! It’s a ploy!”

Reyusei catches onto her twisted logic a moment later, and then the manic smile is back on his face. Aizawa just watches, speechless. He’s seen crazy before, but the way these people are suddenly ignoring the evidence of their own ears is still mind-boggling. How can they be screaming bloody murder at each other, then perfectly in-sync the next?

The husband leans back in his seat so he can glare at the one-way glass.

“You almost got us there, Eraserhead,” he calls. “Very clever. But we’ll never give it up. You hear me?! I’ll let your friends and all our children die before I turn them back over to you swine ! If we can’t have them, then no one can!”

Aizawa stares through the glass for a long moment, hands clutching the edge of the control panel white-knuckled. He glances from one face to another, the woman and the man, their smug grins. He thinks of Yagi, trapped and scared and dying.

And he sees red .

When he comes back into himself ten minutes later, Aizawa doesn’t remember everything he said. He doesn’t remember storming into the interrogation room and seizing Reyusei by the collar, shaking the man so hard his own injuries reopened and stained the bandages with blotches of red. He doesn’t remember what it was he roared in their faces, the things he screamed at them as the pain and exhaustion finally got to him and he snapped. He does remember being forcibly dragged from the room, and he remembers the stricken look on the villains’ faces before the door closed and he was led away. That bit was satisfying, at least.

A couple of the other heroes from Best Jeanists’s agency make him sit down. They ply him with water and ibuprofen, tiptoeing around him like he’s something dangerous and feral. After a short break he tries to tell them that he’s fine now, it won’t happen again. He should get back in there. But the moment he stands up, he’s swaying on his feet. It’s obvious to everyone else in the room that he’s fit to collapse if he doesn’t get some rest. So Endeavor’s two sidekicks forcibly bundle him into a car at Best Jeanist’s command. The pair escort him back to UA, ignoring his weak protests. There’s nothing more he can accomplish in this state, they sensibly point out. He’s done enough, and the task force promises to let him know the moment something changes. And besides, he can’t deny that he crossed a line back there. So he lets it happen, grumbling the whole way.

They try to take him straight to Recovery Girl, but he insists he has to go to the 3-A dorms first, so they reluctantly walk him there. He limps in to find all twenty of his students piled on the floor of the common room in a mess of blankets, pillows, and sleeping bags. Half of them have dozed off in a giant pile, though the others are lazily watching some horrible C-rated horror movie, half-asleep themselves. Evidently they had a movie night, staying up to await the results of the mission. He can’t blame them for being on edge.

Yagi, who is regrettably still a rabbit and is dozing curled up in the crook of Bakugo’s elbow, pricks his ears and looks around the moment the latch clicks. When he sees Aizawa come in the common room doorway he instantly jumps up and streaks across the room, darting around his feet in excited circles. Bakugo is a little slower to rouse, having been kicked awake when Yagi ran to greet Aizawa. He sits up just in time to watch the teacher lean down and pick the bunny up, groaning softly when moving aggravates his injuries. 

“What the hell sensei, what took you so long?!” the boy shouts, which effectively wakes the rest of the class. They pick their heads up, looking around for their teacher with wide, hopeful eyes. But then faces fall and voices raise in concern when they see the state he’s in. 

Asui, who’s closest to the door, is the first to crowd around and ask if he’s alright. But the others follow close behind. He pauses to scratches Yagi’s ears, momentarily savoring the softness of his fur. It seems that Yaoyarozu made the rabbit another tiny sweater: this time in purple, to contrast with his pale golden coat. He settles into the teacher’s arms happily, like he’s been waiting all day just to do this. Aizawa heaves a deep sigh, listening to the kids chattering and talking over each other.

It’s a good feeling, to have not-died.

“I’m alright,” he assures them after a second to get his breath back. He clears his throat once, knowing his voice sounds like shit. “The Pet-Snatchers are in custody. We did it.”

The mood lightens at this, though the kids’ faces are still tinged with worry.

“Um, sensei?”

“Yes, Kaminari?”

“If the villains are caught, why is Yagi-sensei still a bunny?”

Aizawa shrugs his good shoulder.

“We still haven’t convinced them to reverse the transformation. They’re in interrogation now, but we’ll break them soon enough. I just came back to see Recovery Girl and sleep a couple hours, then I’m going back to the precinct.”

“Is that wise, sir? You look really beat-up,” wonders Shinsou.

“Yeah, well. I did something stupid and this is what I get for it. But it worked out in the end. I promise it looks worse than it is.”

“If you’re sure, sir,” Iida declares. “Is there anything else you need from us?”

“Yes. I need you all to go the hell to sleep already, it’s four in the morning on a school night! What are you even still doing up?” he demands, a stern, teacherly edge creeping into his voice even through his exhaustion. He glares around at them in the pause that follows, waiting for an answer.

It’s Midoriya who rubs the back of his neck sheepishly before finally speaking up.

“Uh… well, Yagi-sensei wouldn’t settle down, he seemed really worried when you didn’t come back at eleven-thirty like usual. So I figured I’d stay up with him and watch a movie to distract him until you got back. And then a bunch of us joined in, and class movie night happened, and we meant to go to bed but then… well, here we are.”

“At least Yagi-sensei seems happier now, ribbit, ” says Asui, tilting her head at the rabbit in his arms. Aizawa just sighs again, thinking,

He’ll be happier when he’s human, dammit.

After he’s testily sent his students to bed, the two sidekicks escort Aizawa and Yagi to his apartment. Yagi rides in his usual spot cradled against the hero’s chest, sniffing the man’s bandaged-up neck worriedly. At one point during the walk he starts rubbing his chin and cheek on Aizawa’s shoulder again, as if trying to confirm Aizawa’s continued alive-ness by scent-marking him. Though the hero doesn’t have the presence of mind to notice or protest, this time.

Recovery Girl is waiting for him in her nightdress and coat when he arrives at his apartment door. He grumbles that she didn’t need to wake up and come over here, but she silences his protests with a smooch and a scolding about not getting his wounds properly treated sooner. And he’s so exhausted that she can’t do much for him besides patch up the immediate complications of his internal damage (which, she points out, was dangerously close to turning worse if he’d waited much longer to get seen to. Iku’s claws were just a hair’s breadth away from puncturing his lung and his carotid). His recklessness earns him a whack on the knee with her cane. Although, after her emergency healing took such a chunk out of his stamina, he’s barely even awake enough to feel it. 

Once the sidekicks and the nurse have finally left him alone in his apartment, he somehow manages to get his clothes off of him before he collapses into his futon, every limb aching and heavy as lead. Eating, showering, teeth-brushing, and all other various self-care routines can wait until he’s had at least a few hours’ nap. He stays awake just long enough to watch the bunny do his little happy-flop like usual, and to tuck the covers around him. Then, wrung-out and exhausted beyond words, the hero passes out.