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Usyagi

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Class 3-A peers curiously at their teacher in the front of the classroom, not paying attention at all to the board or what’s on it. Even the good kids, Iida and Yaoyorozu and Midoriya and Bakugo, are completely distracted.

They all heard what happened of course: the whole school knows. But they haven’t seen it in person up until now, and it’s stranger than any of them ever imagined.

Aizawa originally had the bunny settled behind his desk in a makeshift bed, made up of the lid from a cardboard case of printer paper and a bunch of soft fleece blankets piled inside. But the rabbit wasn’t quiet or content with that for long. A few minutes later he was kicking up a fuss and trying to roam out into the rest of the classroom. So Aizawa, sighing, scooped him up and cradled him in one arm. He calmed down after that, happy to huddle against the teacher’s side and watch the classroom with sharp eyes and a twitching nose. The students silently vied for the bunny’s attention when their teacher wasn’t watching.

But now Aizawa seems to be struggling with a rabbit in one arm and trying to lecture with the other. He’s been substitute teaching for Midnight for the past week, and her Hero Art History lesson plans often include a lot of diagrams on the board, so he gives a bad-tempered grumble and deposits the little ball of fluff into the folds of his capture weapon. The bunny instantly nestles down against his chest with a soft, happy churr, eyes sliding closed and head tucking under the man’s chin as he settles in to doze.

After a pause the students realize with a start that their teacher has asked them a question. He glances around, sees that they’re all just staring curiously at the rabbit in his scarf, and gives a tired sigh.

“… He’s very clingy,” he says, by way of explanation. Slowly, hesitantly, a hand raises.

“Yes, Midoriya?”

“Um… c-can he hear us? Like, can he understand us or is he just… well, thinking bunny thoughts?”

“Honestly? I have no idea,” the exhausted teacher sighs. “It seems to vary, there’s a lot of factors at work. Sometimes he seems to understand and sometimes he’s just reacting to the sound of a voice, I think.”

“Will he remember any of this?!” Iida wonders, brow wrinkled in concern. All Aizawa has to offer is a shrug.

“Not a clue. Probably not, if I had to guess? But don’t quote me on that.”

Koda is the next one to speak. “Er, sensei…” he whispers, barely audible, “wouldn’t he be more comfortable at home in a rabbit pen or something? Why is he here in the classroom instead?”

A sensible question from a sensible boy. Aizawa shrugs again. “He’s been okay so far. We’re trying to keep his stress levels low until we get this all figured out, and since he seems to be suffering some sort of separation anxiety, I have to keep him close for now.”

“Aw, that’s so cute!!” Ashido squeals, staring at the bunny in Aizawa’s scarf with an enamoured look on her face. The teacher almost blushes, but manages to override it by shooting a glowing red glare out at the class. Ashido especially. She quails at the irritated look on his face.

“I understand that he is a very cute bunny,” he growls, “but you should not be letting that distract you. Now focus up!”

The kids jolt upright in their chairs, dragging their gazes back to their teacher and muttering a collective ‘yes sir’. Aizawa goes back to his lecture, thinking all the time that he really doesn’t get paid enough for this shit.

It all started with the disappearances. The police were investigating a series of missing persons cases in a neighborhood not far from UA High. All young men and women, gone with no note and no ransom call. One day the lead detective on the case didn’t show up to work. Then, the next morning, a parrot was found on her desk, clawing up her papers and cawing loudly. Thankfully, the detective made a very intelligent parrot, and eventually she managed to get the message across to her partners.

Someone is turning people into pets, and making off with them.

When Aizawa was building his own case file he compiled a summary of all available information on the case, both inferred and gathered from existing files. It read as follows.

The villain– a middle-aged male, they think– originally seemed to be targeting young women and men. But ever since the police launched the manhunt for this villain, who the press has dubbed the ‘Pet-Snatcher’, he’s started to use his Quirk as an offensive technique. Anyone who got too close to catching him was in danger of being his next victim. 

They think he might favor pets because he’s collecting his victims. The police profiler suspected that he has an obsession with it. The detectives are combing the local databases for middle-aged men with animal-related Quirks and a criminal record, but the profiler got turned into a gecko before he could dive much deeper into the Pet-Snatcher’s psyche.

The villain doesn’t kidnap or keep the police and heroes he catches, and he doesn’t seem to want to hurt any of the people-turned-animals, since most of the victims that they find are intact. While it’s certainly a relief to have them alive and safe, it presents its own unique set of problems. The police have their hands full just trying to take care of their coworkers-turned pets, let alone hunt down the perpetrator. And the victims have yet to show any sign of turning back.

The police did their best trying to contain it for three weeks, but the bastard somehow outsmarted them at every turn. Out of their depth and now horribly understaffed, they reached out to the hero agencies. UA took a special interest in it, since it was happening close enough to count as a security threat. So Nezu put his best people on the case.

Snipe was the first to take on the assignment, two weeks ago. He got close, even snatching a couple glimpses of the villain before he got zapped into a bearded dragon. His notes have a vague physical description, mostly just an estimated height and weight and a hint of what he was wearing at the time. It was enough to propel the investigation forward, at least.

Midnight and Present Mic tried next, going off of Snipe’s notes. The pair hunted every night for several days straight, but in the end they stumbled across the villain last week by unlucky chance. They managed to injure him before they were turned into a big black python and a cockatiel, respectively. At least now the police know to look for a man who’s deaf in one ear and has a snake-bite in one of his limbs. Thirteen, who already had Snipe under their care, very kindly offered to take both of the out-of-commission heroes, since their mom used to keep birds and they have a friend who breeds reptiles. So at least the heroes are comfortable, albeit unhappy.

With options limited and UA running out of substitute teachers, Aizawa volunteered to take up the case next. As an underground hero he was best-equipped to hunt this slippery, elusive villain without being stalked and caught himself. So for the past week, he’s been dancing a delicate dance with this unseen evil, determined to find this twisted son of a bitch and put things right. The villain’s original victims, the young men and women, are still missing and now Aizawa’s two best friends are trapped as animals. He won’t let it stand.

And that brings him to here and now, running on three hours of sleep on a Monday morning with a bunny napping under his chin and a migraine looming on his horizon.

On Saturday night he and Yagi had made plans to grade schoolwork and organize the week’s lesson plans together. With three teachers out of commission, the pair each had to take on extra work. Since Yagi is retired from field work and has more free hours than his part-time-hero coworkers, he volunteered to cover both Present Mic’s and Snipe’s responsibilities. He was actually doing well as an English instructor, given his fluency in the language and how he’s improved as a teacher in the past two years, but the toll of the extra work was showing. Aizawa would’ve been worried about the man, if he wasn’t so exhausted himself from pulling double teaching duty and working the case at night. They both needed a little help. A Saturday of working together, both on lesson plans and on the case, seemed like the perfect solution. Aizawa was eager to show what he had so far to Yagi, with his brilliant tactical mind. A fresh pair of eyes might’ve been just what he needed to crack it.

Aizawa was running late that night, since he had to wait in line at the takeout place to get their dinner. He’d texted Yagi and told him to let himself in with the spare key. They’ve been neighbors for two years now, after all. They know each other well enough that he wouldn’t mind if Yagi invited himself into his dorm apartment and made himself comfortable. And Yagi didn’t hesitate to do so anymore, with most of his initial shyness forgotten.

Aizawa expected, therefore, to come home to an apartment with the lights on and the tea kettle boiling, with his friend already getting to work at the kotatsu where they usually sit when they grade together.

Instead he walked into a dark room and the sound of his cat, Himawari– a formerly feral stray who rarely makes any noise at all– yowling loud enough to wake the whole campus.

Instantly he dumped the takeout bags and stalked into the apartment with his capture weapon at the ready, Quirk buzzing hotly in his eyes as he scanned for the threat. The window was hanging wide open, the breeze stirring the curtains. Yagi’s bag lay by the door– he hadn’t even gotten as far as the kotatsu– and his clothes were sitting in a rumpled pile in the middle of the floor, like the man inside them had disappeared. Not a good sign.

Aizawa cleared the living room and kitchen, then followed the sound of the meowing into his bedroom. He found Himawari pacing back and forth at the foot of his futon, screaming her head off. And there, huddled in the corner of the bedding, was a rabbit.

Aizawa glanced around to make sure the villain wasn’t still here. Then he sighed, letting his Quirk drop and closing his eyes for a moment so he could rub at them tiredly.

“No… not you too, Yagi.”

Slowly, he approached the futon and crouched by the foot of it, running a quick hand over Himawari’s head to calm her down. She was shaking faintly, but her yowling quieted when she felt and saw him here. He realized that she was probably meowing in an attempt to get someone’s attention, to get help for Yagi, and his heart hurt. He made a mental note to give her lots of pets and treats later, when this was all over.

Yagi, meanwhile, was crouched in the blankets staring at him through glazed eyes. Even as a bunny, his appearance was striking. His fur was a buttery dun color that Aizawa had never seen on a rabbit before. His eyes were their signature blue, but the irises were nearly swallowed in the black of his dilated pupils. He had long soft ears, currently pressed back against his head while he panted. Clearly terrified. His breathing rasped unhealthily. He looked delicate, and so, so small.

Aizawa reached out one hand palm-upward, making a soothing noise in his throat. Rabbit-Yagi squeaked and froze in place, every muscle locked and staring at him like he wanted to run but wasn’t sure where to run to.

“It’s okay, Yagi. Look, it’s just me,” he murmured quietly. “There’s no one else but me and Hima here. I don’t know if you can understand me, but I promise I’m not gonna hurt you.”

Slowly, hesitantly, the bunny stretched his nose out and sniffed the tips of Aizawa’s outstretched fingers. The man carefully stroked his head, eyes widening when he felt how soft that pale yellow fur was. After a few gentle caresses, Yagi seemed to relax into the touch. He made a soft, growly little whimpering noise, and though his ears un-flattened from his head as he calmed down, Aizawa was pretty sure bunnies weren’t supposed to breathe like that. Every exhale was strained and wheezy. Now that Yagi’s every muscle wasn’t tensed in fight-or-flight, his whole body started to tremble.

Anyone who knows Aizawa to any degree knows that he has just three soft spots: kids (he never fights fiercer than he does when a child’s safety is in danger), his friends (he has so few, it makes sense for him to want to protect the ones he does have), and cuddly animals (look, there’s a reason he likes cats so much. Animals are innocents by definition.) And since Yagi now checked off not one but two of those categories, Aizawa couldn’t help himself. All of his protective instincts surged to the forefront. He had to carefully pick Yagi up, avoiding the left side where he knew the injury was; he had to cradle the man-turned-bunny against his chest, thumb stroking gently over the top of his soft head; he had to wrap him in a warm, clean bath towel and then carry him back over out into the living room, murmuring quiet comforts all the way. His body wouldn’t let him do anything else.

He sat on the couch and flicked the light on. “We’ll take you to Recovery Girl and Nezu soon, and get this all sorted out. Okay?” he said, unsure if Yagi knew what he was saying but figuring that the quiet tone of his voice would be soothing either way. “I promise it’s gonna be fine. I just need to make sure you’re not hurt first.”

 He paused when he felt Himawari rub up on his leg, mewling softly. She jumped up on the couch and he stroked her briefly with his free hand. “You did good, Hima,” he told her, flashing her the hint of a smile. Then he turned his attention to the huddled ball of fluff in his arms.

Yagi twitched in alarm, back legs kicking out, when Aizawa set him down on his lap and flicked the towel back to examine him in the light. “Sorry, sorry, I know…” he sighed, petting the bunny’s head again. “I don’t have a choice. Just let me look, please?”

To his surprise, Yagi actually relaxed again. Like he heard. That glimmer of understanding gave Aizawa a little bit of hope.

The bunny allowed himself to be manhandled, turning over on his back to expose his underbelly and legs. Aizawa sucked in a breath when he saw the gnarled mat of scar tissue clinging to his ribcage, under all the fur. He’d glimpsed the real thing on the man before, knew a little about his condition… the thought of a rabbit with no stomach and one lung was one that made his gut twist uncomfortably. The villain’s other victims were all relatively healthy animals, and they were doing well, but what if Yagi’s illness as a human translated into something deadly for a rabbit?

Still, there was no blood anywhere, which was a good sign. Aizawa pawed over the bunny carefully to make sure. Yagi as a rabbit was long, with a giant wedge of a head and big paws. If he wasn’t so underweight he probably would’ve been one of those giant, chunky rabbits that weighs as much as a cat. But as it was, his body was mostly fluff. He was skinny and fragile underneath, and he was still shaking.

Satisfied that Yagi wasn’t going to expire this minute, Aizawa wrapped him back up in the towel and stood. He slammed the window closed, wondering how the hell the villain managed to get in and out of his apartment without tripping security, and then turned to the kotatsu to grab his case file before he left.

When he grabbed the folder he stopped short at the feeling of its weight in his hand. It was far too light, too empty... his stomach sank as opened it and found all of the papers, notes, and documents gone . All gone. And in their place was a single note, in an unfamiliar handwriting. Aizawa went stiff with fury as he read, eyes frozen and staring.

I dropped by to say hello, Eraserhead, but I found your sweetheart here instead. I was going to make you into a black cat, since that’s the obvious choice, but I thought All Might would make a wonderful bunny rabbit. I was right! He’s very cute, don’t you think? I’m almost tempted to take him with me to keep the others company, but your darling kitty cat wants to keep him so badly! So I let him stay. Take good care of them both– I’ll definitely be seeing them again.

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.

-XOXO, the Pet-Snatcher.

Aizawa could’ve screamed, he could’ve punched through a wall he was so angry, but the rabbit cradled against his chest was still delicate and scared. So instead he snatched up the file, stuffed it into his bag, and then slung the strap over his shoulder on the way out the door. He told Himawari to be good, then slammed his apartment shut and strode away with Yagi in his arms. He walked fast, boots stabbing the ground with every stride.

That note was the last straw; he was on the warpath now.

The takeout dinner they were going to share sat forgotten in its plastic bags in the foyer, going cold next to Yagi’s empty shoes.

Recovery Girl’s office was where he went first, texting both her and Nezu the emergency code on the way so she’d be ready when he got there. It was a chilly night and Yagi was still shuddering, so he paused at one point to tuck the towel around him tighter, hold him a little closer. Thankfully it was only a couple of minutes before he found himself at her door.

He strode in without knocking, still fuming mad. She stopped mid-question, her look grim and quiet, when he carefully deposited the bunny on her examination table. There was no explanation needed as to who this was. She just stared silently for a moment, and Yagi stared right back, nose twitching.

“How did this happen?”

Aizawa explained the open window, the security breach, and finding Yagi on his futon with his frantic cat yowling for help. By the time he finished he was shaking almost as hard as the bunny, but from rage instead. He yanked the case file out to show Recovery Girl the note. Her wrinkled lips pressed into a thin line as she read it. Then, with a tired sigh, she turned to Yagi.

“Can you understand me, Toshinori?” she wondered, keeping her voice quiet so not to startle him. He just blinked at her while Aizawa took deep, measured breaths in an attempt to keep his anger under control.

“He sort-of seemed to hear me at one point, but other than that he’s been basically catatonic… I don’t know if it’s just because he’s in shock, or because he’s got a rabbit brain,” he supplies.

“Hm. Well, Hizashi seemed pretty intelligent even after he was turned, though that could be because birds are smart in general. I’d say Snipe shows uncommonly good language comprehension for an lizard. And that detective who got turned into a parrot even managed to give a statement, even if it was a bit muddled. It probably depends on a combination of factors, but until further notice I would assume Yagi here is smarter than your average bunny.”

After that Recovery Girl turned her attention to the patient. She spoke to Yagi in a low voice, eventually getting him to turn over so she could examine him like Aizawa did. Her papery old hands parted his fur to see the scar while Aizawa looked on, frowning worriedly.

Nezu arrived mid-examination, and the teacher filled him in on what happened. The principal studied the Pet-Snatcher’s note carefully. He was silent for a few moments, bringing the paper close to his snout so he could scrutinize the handwriting.

“And you say he took the rest of your case file?” the white-furred principal wondered, his beady black eyes flicking from Yagi to the note and back. Aizawa nodded.

“Yeah. It’s not a huge problem– most of the records he stole are just printed versions of digital ones anyway– but he did take the only copies of Snipe, Nemuri, and Hizashi’s notes. I remember most of the important points from them, but it could be an issue in the future if there’s a detail I need to review.”

“Hm. Problematic indeed. You were going to show them to Yagi, yes?”

“I was hoping a fresh set of eyes might help. He’s caught things I missed in cases before, and I really need a breakthrough.”

“Hm. Alas, his brilliant tactical mind is now locked away in the head of an adorable bunny rabbit,” the principal sighed mournfully. But then he brightened. “Well, you still have me, and while I don’t have All Might’s natural intuition for these things, I’m more than his equal in intellect! I shall peruse the records and print a new file for you. I’ll also send this note to a handwriting analyst as soon as possible. In the meantime, Miss Chiyo: what of our friend All Might here? Is he well?”

The nurse sighed and shook her head.

“Honestly? I don’t know,” she admitted. “My Quirk doesn’t work on animals. I haven’t really needed it anyway, since all the others were perfectly healthy. But his breathing is more labored than I’d like, and I worry about how he’ll eat if it turns out that he doesn’t have a stomach in this form either… I think it’s time to call in Dr. Inaba.”

Dr. Inaba was the veterinarian they’d been consulting with on this case so far, and a friend of Chiyo’s. Aizawa nodded.

“Right, then. If you call ahead I can go grab her from downtown–”

The moment he turned as if to leave the room, a frightened squeak startled the three staff members. Chiyo had to gently pin Yagi down against the examination table, since he was kicking and writhing for all he was worth. Aizawa’s heart leapt into his mouth and he was back at the tableside in an instant, one hand reaching out to pet the rabbit’s golden head. Yagi immediately calmed down again, laying there curled in on himself and panting from the exertion. He was shaking again, staring up at Aizawa with wide, terrified eyes.

The two people and one pseudo-animal principal all looked at each other in the pause that followed.

“Maybe you should stay–”

“–Yeah, I’ll uh… I’ll stay here for now. If you wouldn’t mind–”

“–Of course, I’ll place the call and send a car around. You two keep an eye on All Might.”

“Of course, sir.”

Nezu tucked the Pet-Snatcher’s note into his pocket with a nod and then turned to go, humming under his breath. The door closed behind him and the two people were left in the quiet of an empty sickbay, listening to Yagi’s rasping breath.

Chiyo didn’t have to hold him still anymore, since he had stopped struggling and was behaving himself, but Aizawa still lingered by the table. One thumb stroked over the top of the rabbit’s head and his long ears, petting absentmindedly while he stared into space, thinking. The shaking soon calmed under the man’s gentle touch. Yagi was on the edge of dozing off right there, though he occasionally roused himself so he could butt into Aizawa’s hand for more head-scratches. The teacher wordlessly obliged.

The old woman couldn’t help but smile while watching the two of them, even in this grim situation. She’s had to watch Yagi and Aizawa dance around each other for two years now, but it was moments of hidden tenderness like these when you could almost taste their implicit ‘something’ in the air. It was unconscious on both sides, this quiet thing between them, and unspoken as of yet. But even unspoken, even as a bud waiting to blossom, it was good for them both. She hoped, prayed to a god she didn’t believe in anymore, that they’d both survive this so that, one day, they could let that flower bloom and be happy together. They had earned a little happiness in their lives, at this point.

Still, she was content to let it happen at its own pace. After all, you can’t rush the springtime flowers, can you?

It was getting late, and all three of them were keyed up and exhausted, when Nezu finally returned with Dr. Inaba in tow. Aizawa greeted her with a nod, which she returned. She apologized for the delay, but the teacher was just glad she was here. The sight of her face was a relief in and of itself. She was a plain-looking woman in her middle age, but under that simple demeanor there was an incredible empathy and a strength which he had thanked the universe for time and time again over the past two weeks.

She’s been with this case since the beginning, having been called to help interpret the parrot-detective’s testimony. Much like Koda, she has an animal communication Quirk. But she chose veterinary over heroism because her Quirk is subtly different. Koda can talk to and command animals. But Dr. Inaba can read them, and empathize with them on a level he can’t. Koda is limited by the intelligence of the animals he communes with, not all of which can form thoughts coherent enough to interpret as speech. Animals that think in smells or pictures or touch rather than sound are almost incomprehensible to him, though they are still subject to his control. Dr. Inaba, on the other hand, can dip right into an animal’s head to sense their emotions and states of mind. If they think in pictures or smells or touch, then she can see or smell or feel those thoughts. She can’t command animals like Koda can, but no matter how simple their thought processes are, she can understand them. It’s invaluable for her profession, and has made life so much easier for the Pet-Snatcher’s victims.

Plus, she is an adult and a licensed practitioner, while Koda is seventeen and still a student under Aizawa’s protection. As useful as Koda could be in a case like this, it’s been dangerous so far (as the four pro-heroes-turned-pets perfectly exemplify) and Aizawa would rather keep him out of it, at least until he graduates. That’s where Dr. Inaba comes in.

The humans and the principal had a brief conference over the examination table, all of them hyper-aware of Yagi’s eyes flicking back and forth from one face to another. The veterinarian had been through all this rigamarole before, but never with a victim in as delicate health as Yagi. Eventually the principal reluctantly gave consent for Chiyo to disclose Yagi’s medical information on his behalf. They all disliked how invasive it was, to have his mind read by a stranger and his history bared without his agreement. They would never have subjected him to this if he were still in the form of a man, but these were extenuating circumstances. In the end, they agreed that his well-being came first. They could apologize to him when he was human again.

Aizawa had a vague idea of Yagi’s condition re: lung and stomach, but had never been privy to details. He offered to leave the room to preserve what little privacy Yagi had. But the moment the suggestion came up, the bunny’s ears twitched upright and the doctor flinched simultaneously.

“Ah, I think you’d better stay, Aizawa,” she said, looking a little pained. “It feels like Yagi really really doesn’t want you to go.”

“It would only be a minute, I’d just step outside the door while–”

“–Let me rephrase that. He’s already stressed, and the idea of you leaving his sight scares him terribly.”

Aizawa blinked once, slowly, before stammering: “I… is it okay? He’s taken me in confidence from time to time, but he never gave formal consent of disclosure.”

The doctor reached out and laid a gentle hand on the rabbit’s back, since sometimes touching a patient helps her get a better sense of an animal’s feelings. She thought about it for a moment, then nodded.

“It’s fine. He trusts you.”

So Aizawa sat off to the side, listening in grim silence as Recovery Girl listed the extent of Yagi’s condition in his human form. The veterinarian took notes, nodding every once in awhile and showing little sign of the shock she must have been feeling as the truth of Yagi’s illness was revealed. God knows Aizawa was sick to his stomach, listening to all this. The list went on and on: hemorrhaging ulcers in his remaining lung and what’s left of his digestive tract; internal scar tissue; pinched intestines; missing spleen and damaged kidney; compromised immune system; burned esophagus from the chronic vomiting fits; osteoarthritis from decades of sustained high-impact hero work; chronic, debilitating nerve pain; and more besides, medical jargon and micro-symptoms and conditions whose ramifications Aizawa couldn’t begin to understand..

None of this surprised Aizawa, but that didn’t make it hurt any less. His gaze kept pulling back to the miserable bunny crouched on the examination table, imagining the real Yagi his place, and silently aching on behalf of the man he’d come to call his friend.

He deserves better, was his one, bitter thought.

When Dr. Inaba was finally up to date on human-Yagi, she laid gentle hands on the rabbit to do her own kind of examination, for bunny-Yagi this time. After a moment of reading him, she asked,

“Aizawa, would you put your hand on the table just by his head? Yes, there, like that. Thank you.”

The hero watched in mild confusion as the bunny shuffled up and shoved his snout under Aizawa’s fingers, like he was hiding. He closed his blue eyes and nuzzled into the man’s palm, soft nose and whiskers tickling his skin. The teacher let it happen, but cocked one eyebrow and started to ask,

“Why–”

“I’m a stranger to him,” the vet cut him off as she felt down the rabbit’s sides for the scar. “He understands the necessity, but it’s still stressful for me to be handling him like this. I figured a friendly touch might help keep him calm, and it looks like I was right.”

Aizawa just nodded once, still nonplussed. But he kept his peace after that.

The veterinarian asked the bunny questions aloud, and she seemed to be getting some sort of silent response, because she always nodded to show she’d heard. Most of them were just about his pain levels, and how he felt. She even asked him to perform a few simple motions for her– stretch your hind leg this way, twitch your tail, turn your head, flick your ears for me, blink, take a deep breath– and, miraculously, the rabbit obliged.

She then pulled a comically small stethoscope form her bag and listened to Yagi’s breathing. Finally, after a couple minutes of careful examination, she put it away with a nod.

“The good news,” she said, “is that he appears to have all of his organs in this form.”

At this, Aizawa let out a silent, relieved sigh. He listened to her explain the rest.

“The transformation process seems to have placed an approximation of the scar tissue on his body, which is causing him discomfort and putting an unhealthy amount of pressure on his chest and ribs,” she described, pointing out the scar in question. “But both of his lungs and his stomach are present and functioning. He should be able to eat regular rabbit food, and as long as he doesn’t get worked up like this again, he should be fine.”

“And the bad news?” Nezu prompted. Aizawa’s throat tightened again when he saw the mournful look on the doctor’s face.

“He’s terribly underweight, exhausted, and hurting badly,” she supplied quietly, stroking a hand down his back where you could see the knobby juts of his spine if you smoothed the fur down. “I don’t know how old he is as a human… as a rabbit he appears to be middle-aged. Four and a half, maybe five years old. But I usually see these kinds of conditions in rabbits twice his age, eight or nine years. He’s suffering a lot of joint pain, and possibly nerve pain from the scar. He might have both lungs, but their function is impeded by the scar tissue and the severity of his malnourishment. I worry for his heart function. He cannot be upset like this again, or the stress threatens to do him serious damage.”

“Does he need any special care, like this?” Recovery Girl asked. Thankfully, the only thing Dr. Inaba had to say was,

“As long as you keep him comfortable and calm, he should be fine for awhile. I’ll get you a supply of painkillers just to make it easier on him. If he’s still like this a week from now, I’ll come back to check up. Other than that, he can do all the normal rabbit things. Above all, just make sure he’s safe and with someone he trusts.”

Aizawa wasn’t surprised when everyone in the room turned to look at him, but that didn’t make it any less inconvenient. He gave vent to an exhausted sigh.

“I know what you’re gonna say,” he grunted, “and I know you’re all gonna override me, but at least let me make my complaints first.”

“Permission to complain is granted, Aizawa,” Nezu chirped cheerily. Aizawa just scowled at him.

“Well for one thing I’m teaching two classes–”

“–Three, actually,” Nezu interrupted, “since I’m going to have to ask you to cover Advanced Combat Training in Yagi’s place now.”

“Ugh! Great! Even better!” the teacher declared, throwing up his free hand in defeat (although he kept petting Yagi’s ears with the other). “So I’m teaching three classes, which means that babysitting a rabbit will be highly inconvenient during the day, and then every other free minute I have is devoted to tracking down the bastard who did this. If ‘safe’ and ‘calm’ is the goal for Yagi, then ‘with me’ is not the place for him to be. I’m clearly the Pet-Snatcher’s next target. He’ll only be in more danger if he stays with me.”

Nezu and Recovery Girl exchanged a look. Then Nezu launched into an enthusiastic lecture directly after, listing his responses on his paws.

“Teaching three classes with Yagi is not a problem,” he began. “I’m sure he’ll be perfectly happy tagging along with you, and since he seems to be a very smart bunny, I don’t think he’ll make any trouble. Plus, I think it will be good for the students to see that their teachers are still alive and well, even if they’re stuck as animals. The kids have been worried and distracted lately, so this is something I want for them. In addition, this gives the students the ability to watch over Yagi during the evenings while you pursue this villain. I’m sure Koda will make an excellent caretaker in your absence, since he has his own pet bunny. You can also let him stay with Midoriya in a pinch, since I’m sure he trusts that boy as much as you, if not more. Class 3-A won’t let any harm come to him while you’re working.”

Aizawa’s scowl deepened as he realized that Nezu was making a lot of sense. Not that the principle didn’t always make a lot of sense. It just irked him. But the final thing the principle had to say was just insult to injury.

“And lastly, as for the target on your back: we’ll be removing that soon. I’m placing guard bots outside your apartment’s windows and doors to make sure this break-in doesn’t happen again. In addition, I called in a few favors. Best Jeanist and his team have agreed to take on the case in conjunction with you. Some sidekicks from Endeavor’s agency have also agreed to join the taskforce on loan, and they have useful Quirks that will greatly aid the hunt. You will be leading that taskforce.”

Aizawa stared blankly for a moment, his brain cataloguing all the ways in which that will be a headache for him. He doesn’t do teams well, let alone leadership, but by that time Nezu had pretty much sealed his fate. The conclusion he came to produced a frustrated growl. He dragged a hand down his face, shooting the principal a glare. Nezu just smiled right back.

“Fine,” he growled, giving in with a defeated grumble. Dr. Inaba just patted his shoulder sympathetically. He never stood a chance.

That was how he found himself, an hour later, lugging a giant box of borrowed pet supplies into his apartment and cradling a half-asleep bunny against his shoulder. Dr. Inaba had downloaded ‘A Beginner’s Guide to Caring for Your Pet Bunny’ pdf on his phone for reference, then gone back to her practice and put together all the basic supplies he would need. He’d taken it all, grumbling about it the whole way, but there was no denying the fact that this was probably for the best. Yagi clearly needed a safe place to adjust, and right now his rabbit-brain seemed to have equated ‘safe’ with ‘Aizawa’.

The teacher was reluctant to unpack that particular thought right now, so he shoved it into a corner for later and instead told himself that Yagi must have just temporarily imprinted on him or something. Yes, that was it. Aizawa had been the one who found him like this, after all, so it made logical sense for the bunny to latch onto him.

Right?

He unpacked all the bunny supplies, examining each item while Yagi carefully hopped around the living room, exploring his not-so-new surroundings from his very new perspective. Himawari trailed behind him, occasionally letting out an inquisitive little mrrp? noise as if trying to communicate with him. She wasn’t acting predatory, thankfully. Probably because he was almost as big as her and could conceivably kick the shit out of her if she tried to attack him. Who knew, maybe she even recognized who he was. At least that was one headache Aizawa wouldn’t have to deal with.

The care package Dr. Inaba had put together contained a food bowl, a water drip-bottle with a stand, a twine bundle for hay, a litter box and substrate to fill it with, a litter mat to keep the mess contained, a box of food pellets, a grooming brush, some nail trimmers, a couple of toys, and pet carrier padded with soft blankets and towels for him to sleep in (or hide in, if he wanted to). There was also pain medication, to be fed to Yagi twice daily, preferably after he’d eaten to prevent stomach discomfort. It was in liquid form with a blunt plastic syringe for dosing.

Aizawa was originally going to put the litter box in the corner of the kitchen next to Himawari’s, but the idea of making the bunny do his business out in the open was somehow uncomfortable. So he moved it into the bathroom, in the corner next to the toilet. Then he picked a corner of the living room to place all the rest of the supplies and the carrier, since the care-guide recommended having a ‘home base’ for a house-rabbit to go back to. But it looked so… strange, all just sitting there on a plastic mat, like Yagi really was a pet bunny. Which, he was, but he wasn’t. He was a bunny, yes, but he was not a pet. He was a man trapped in a rabbit’s body. It felt wrong to treat him like an animal, especially when he was already so scared and confused and in pain…

It hit Aizawa all at once, standing there in his apartment staring at the pet supplies and at a bunny who was supposed to be his very human friend.

The Pet-Snatcher, who wasn’t even supposed to be aware of Aizawa pursuing him, somehow knew who he was and where to find him.

The villain must have been stalking him for days, and he– the ever-vigilant, borderline paranoid underground hero Eraserhead– never even noticed.

The villain had found his home. Had somehow slipped security, both in and out. He had been waiting for him in his own apartment tonight, poised to make him the next victim.

And Yagi… Kind, humble, self-sacrificing, too-good-for-this-awful-world Yagi; Yagi who was supposed to be retired, who was finally getting his chance to rest, to be his own person and have the peace and happiness he’d been denied his whole life; Yagi was the one who was attacked instead. Yagi was the one suffering in his place.

Aizawa sat down heavily at the kotatsu, his throat so choked he could barely breathe. He buried his face in his hands, fighting to process all of this and fighting panicked tears at the same time. If he weren’t so exhausted he would have been in a better place to handle it, but as it was, he felt wrung-out: stretched so thin he could break. Yagi’s clothes were still piled on the floor in the middle of the foyer, the takeout had gone cold and stale, it was now eleven at night and he was exhausted, he still hadn’t eaten yet, he had so much goddamn prep work to do for class, even more paperwork to do for the case now since he’d have to file an incident report and give a statement, and all he wanted to do was sleep or maybe punch a wall, but he was responsible for a very fragile and very precious life now and he couldn’t afford to break down. Not now when all of his friends were trapped and suffering, especially Yagi, who didn’t deserve this. God, why him? Why victimize him after everything he’s been through? He was supposed to be safe, it wasn’t fucking fair–

A soft nudge against his thigh, and a tug on the leg of his jumpsuit, cut through the screaming static in Aizawa’s head. He turned his red-rimmed gaze downward and found Yagi sitting there, blinking his big, shining blue eyes at him. The rabbit nipped at his jumpsuit a second time and then butted against him for attention. Or perhaps to snap him out of his spiral. Something sentimental in Aizawa liked to think it was the latter. He reached down to stroke that soft yellow fluff, sighing heavily.

“We’re okay,” he said, more for his own benefit than Yagi’s. He willed himself to believe it.

Chapter Text

 


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.

Chapter Text


Yagi wakes, and he feels warm.

That’s not unusual– since he’s been sleeping in Aizawa’s futon for the past two weeks, he’s gotten very used to the feeling of sharing warmth. It’s nice.

What he’s not used to is the sensation of his cold foot sticking out the other end of the too-short blankets.

It takes him another second to process the implications of this, but the sound of a buzzing phone soon rams him fully into consciousness. He jolts upright with a startled yelp, realizes he’s very human and completely naked, and snatches the blankets up to cover himself.

The bedroom is lit in the blazing gold light of dawn. Classes will be in session by this time of morning, but obviously Nezu will have made sure that Class 3-A is covered so that their teacher can rest. On Yagi’s other side, the lump of rumpled dark hair and wrinkled sheets that makes up the aforementioned teacher stirs. It’s a testament to how truly bone-tired Aizawa must be, that he didn’t jolt awake to the sound of his phone, even on silent mode. He shifts again, giving vent to a miserable groan as if protesting the burden of being awake. Then he goes still for another long moment. Apparently he’s ignoring his phone, since he lets it keep vibrating on the floor. It takes Yagi clearing his throat to finally get through to him.

Instantly the teacher sits bolt upright, wide eyes scanning the room for danger. When his gaze falls on Yagi he freezes in place, just staring. Yagi stares back for a moment, acutely aware of the unanswered phone’s noise. Then, hesitantly, he gives a weak smile and a wave.

“Uh… hi?”

In the next instant, Aizawa throws himself at him and Yagi is almost crushed by the frantic strength of the teacher’s embrace. For a moment he’s startled, stiff in the other man’s arms. But then Aizawa’s familiar scent floods his senses and washes away the tension. The feeling of warm skin on skin is a comforting, grounding sensation. His hand comes to rest between Aizawa’s bare shoulder blades as he hugs the other man back, taking a deep breath. They sit there holding each other gratefully for a long, long moment. The phone rings through and hangs itself up on the floorboards.

“Good to have you back,” Aizawa murmurs into his shoulder in the quiet that follows, mangled voice cracking over the words. He sounds almost on the edge of tears, though Yagi dismisses the thought a moment later. It must be because of his throat injury, that’s all.

Yagi pats his bandaged-up back once, then lets go. They sit back upright so the older man can offer him a smile.

“I never actually went anywhere, you know,” he points out, mildly amused. Aizawa just huffs a sigh, rubbing the sand out of one eye. He would look adorable with his sleepy face and bed-hair, Yagi thinks, if it weren’t for the stained bandages around his neck and his torso.

“You know what I mean,” the teacher grumbles. “As cute as you were as a bunny, you’re significantly less of a pain in my ass as a human.”

Yagi doesn’t know why he blushes at that— what a stupid thing to blush for!— but he’s saved by the phone ringing again. Aizawa groans tiredly and asks who it is, his aching eyes still closed against the morning sunlight. Yagi leans over to check for him, one hand carefully holding the blanket against his chest to cover himself.

“Oh… oh dear,” he murmurs, frowning at the screen. “We must’ve really been asleep. There’s two missed calls from Best Jeanist, five from Kayama, and eight from Yamada, going on nine now. And a lot of messages.”

Aizawa’s answer is another put-upon groan. He holds out his hand for the phone and Yagi passes it to him, watching curiously as the teacher hangs up on his friend and then calls Best Jeanist back. He glances at Yagi while it’s ringing, then puts it on speakerphone so they can both hear. The Number Three Hero answers promptly.

“We did it,” Jeanist says without preamble. Not that this is a surprise to either of them. “I just wanted to let you know, we found the Pet-Snatchers’ hideout and all of the kidnapped victims. They’re safe.”

“That’s a relief,” answers Aizawa. “Where were they?”

“In the basement of a condemned apartment building where the Takadas where squatting. It was almost right under our feet last night, ironically enough. Your hunch about them operation out of that quarter was right on the money.”

“And they’re all human again, I assume?”

“Yes, all very human, all present and accounted for, including the detectives and your hero friends. I got confirmation from their caretakers. I assume All Might has turned back too?”

“Yeah, he’s fine,” Aizawa supplies before Yagi can get a word in edgewise.

Then that’s all thirty-three victims saved, then.”

The underground hero breathes out a sigh. “That’s good to hear,” he replies. Some of the tension visibly drains out of him, and he sways slightly in place. “What about the kidnapped civilians? They were trapped for almost two months, they must be shaken-up.”

The eight original victims are at the hospital now getting checked out. They all seem fine, if a little worse for wear. The doctors are going to keep them for observation, and a psychiatrist is going to visit each one to ascertain their mental state. But after that they’ll be cleared and allowed to go back home. We’ll get their statements today and handle the paperwork.”

“Thanks, Jeanist. I’ll be up to the precinct later to do my part of it.”

“Got it. There’s just a couple things that need your signature. We need to take your statement from last night and file an incident report on your injuries. I can take care of everything else through my agency. We’ll keep it organized for you so you can get in and out quick.”

“I appreciate it.”

“Any further orders?”

“No, no. I trust you to get it done right. You’re a fucking national treasure and I owe you a drink after this.”

Jeanist laughs and tells Aizawa he’ll have to take up on that offer later. It seems like he’s about to hang up so he can get back to work, but then Aizawa sits up straight again, eyes widening as something occurs to him.

“Oh wait! Before you go… you still there?”

“Yes?”

“Out of curiosity: what did it? How’d you convince the villains to give it up and turn everyone back?”

“Actually, my friend, that was you,” Jeanist answers, sounding faintly amused, almost as if he can picture the nonplussed face Aizawa is currently making. “You really snapped last night. What you said about your friends and All Might was a real wakeup call for them. We let them stew in their own juices for a couple hours and mull over it while we all took a coffee break. It took a little more talking, and we did end up negotiating a deal with them, but they were willing to cooperate when we came back.”

“That’s what did it? Seriously?!”

Seriously! You moved Iku to tears. And Reyusei said your outburst made him think about how he’d feel if someone stole Iku from him. That’s what convinced him to release his Quirk. You’re so quiet and controlled usually, it was a real shock for everyone to see you lose it like that. I mean, I knew you were close with Present Mic and Midnight, but none of us realized you felt so strongly about All Might!”

Aizawa blinks owlishly at that, looking like he has no clue what Jeanist is talking about. But then the teacher glances at Yagi, and evidently he remembers something , because his face flushes cherry-red.

“Yes, well, uh… I was very tired last night so anything I said should be taken with a grain of salt. ‘Kay thanks bye !” Aizawa stammers, then hangs up in a hurry. His hand grips the phone tightly for a long moment, eyes looking anywhere but Yagi. The older hero just glances off to the side, a little red in the face himself and tugging on one bang nervously while he tries to parse through what that latest exchange could mean, what it has to do with him.

None of us realized you felt so strongly about All Might!

Yagi can’t help but wonder what Aizawa said during his so-called ‘outburst’, his heart hammering against his ribs at the thought. But Aizawa won’t look at him.

The awkward pause stretches on and on until, finally, the younger man’s phone goes off yet again. He looks down with a sigh, mumbling,

“It’s Nemuri again… I should probably answer or they’ll never shut up.”

Yagi just nods while Aizawa accepts the call and puts it on speaker once more.

Instantly the bedroom floods with the excited screaming of both of their loudest friends, though primarily Yamada.

HEEEYYYYYYYY SHO!!! YOU DID IT, BUDDY!” he screeches. The teacher just flinches and turns the volume down a few notches before replying,

“Yes, I gathered. You two okay?”

Kayama’s voice says, “Yeah, we’re fine. We scared the pants off of poor Thirteen and their friend when we changed back, though. Oh by the way! We heard what happened to Yagi, Thirteen said you were taking care of him while he was a bunny. Is he there?! Is he changed back too?”

The man in question smiles, touched by their concern for him as always. He leans forward a little to say,

“Yes, I’m right here, and human! You’re on speaker.”

“HEY BUDDY!!!” Yamada shouts happily. “Glad to hear you’re alright! Although I’ll admit I’m a little bummed I didn’t get to see bunny-Yagi, I bet you were sooooo cute! Did you wake up in your birthday suit too?!”

“Unfortunately,” the retired hero chuckles in return, rubbing the back of his neck with his free hand. Aizawa does a double-take at this and then seems to realize all at once that his coworker is sitting on his futon completely naked, with just a corner of the blanket held against his chest to cover himself. Aizawa flushes even harder.

There’s another awkward pause as the two on the other end of the line seem to infer what’s happening while Aizawa just stares at Yagi with an ‘error 404’ look on his haggard face. Eventually Kayama takes advantage of the silence to ask Yagi,

“Umm… you feeling alright, big guy? Hizashi and I woke up with a hell of a stomachache. We puked our guts up after we turned back. I know nausea is even worse for you, without a stomach and all. You doing okay?”

“Ah, I’m very tired, but besides that I seem to be fine for now,” Yagi replies. “I didn’t eat much last night so there’s probably nothing to retch. I’ll see how I feel later. How about now, are you guys okay?”

“Oh yeah, we’re tip-top!” Yamada exclaims. “We were fine once we got all the pet food out of our systems. Thirteen gave us our clothes back and their friend was kind enough to feed us real people-food this morning. We’re on our way back to school to see if we can make it in time to teach class.”

“I should probably do the same,” Yagi sighs, though he looks exhausted at the very thought. And with Aizawa taking the day off to recover, he’d probably have to sub in for homeroom too. Thankfully, Kayama saves him a moment later when she insists,

“Hey, don’t worry about it. I know you guys were running yourselves ragged trying to cover for us, the least we can do is return the favor. And besides, we heard Sho got himself real chewed-up last night. Somebody’s gotta make sure that workaholic idiot stays in bed.”

“Hey, I resent that comment!” objects Aizawa, albeit half-heartedly. Kayama just giggles and sing-songs,

“You wouldn’t resent it if it wasn’t truuueee! Anyway, Yagi: you take care of Sho-chan and we’ll take care of your classes today, yeah?”

Relieved that he doesn’t have to teach directly after all this, Yagi nods his agreement.

“Right,” he replies, “it’s a deal. Thanks so much, guys.”

“No biggie, it’s our pleasure dude! We’ll be over later with dinner and beer to celebrate. Thanks so much for saving us, Shota! LOVE YOU BYEEEEE!!!” Yamada yells. Aizawa just rolls his eyes at the phone.

“Yeah, whatever. Bye,” he grumbles, then jabs the hang-up button.

The silence that follows is, once again, an awkward one. Yagi breaks it by clearing his throat, still twisting and tugging on his bang.

“Right, so uh… clothes?” he prompts. Aizawa just sighs and nods, waving a hand in the general direction of the living room.

“Right, right yeah. I washed them. I’ll just–”

He peels the sheets back and tries to get his legs under him to stand, but the moment he moves, his face twists into a grimace of pain and his arm clamps down over his injured ribs. Yagi, all too familiar with the feeling, just puts a hand on his shoulder to still him.

“It’s fine, Aizawa. Go back to sleep, you need to rest. I can grab them myself. Just, uh… cover your eyes?”

Too tired to argue, the younger man nods and then eases back down into his bedding with a soft moan. He turns on his side and pulls the sheets up over his head. Instantly, his breathing settles back down into the rhythms of sleep, or near-sleep. Yagi’s heart warms at the sight. He flashes Aizawa a smile, unseen, then wraps himself in the blanket to go grab his clothes.

He finds them on a side table in a plastic shopping bag. They’re clean, if a bit rumpled. With the blinds closed for privacy he puts them back on, sighing happily at the secure, human feeling of being clothed.

Significantly more comfortable in his skin now, he turns back to the bedroom with the blanket in hand. Though he pauses on the way to crouch down and pet Himawari, who is rubbing up against his shins for attention.

“Thanks for taking care of me, Hima,” he says, and smiles at the answering purr.

In the bedroom, with Himawari safely locked outside, he drapes the blanket over the Aizawa-shaped lump on the futon. The man grunts his thanks, shifting to curl in on himself even more. It’s a little chilly in the apartment, since the heat only just kicked on, and no doubt the poor man is still exhausted. He hasn’t slept nearly enough to offset the night’s exertions.

So no one will blame Yagi for leaning down and tucking the blanket around Aizawa, with a tender look in his eye that thankfully no one but him can see.

“You go back to sleep,” he says. “I’m going over to my apartment for a shower, but I’ll bring over some breakfast for us.”

“Nnn… don’ hafto…” the teacher mumbles. Somehow understanding it anyway, Yagi just waves a hand airily and insists, “It’s okay. You took care of me. Now it’s my turn.”

The younger man doesn’t say anything in reply– just breathes a little deeper as he drifts off– but Yagi doesn’t mind. He knows Aizawa would’ve said something if he didn’t find that plan agreeable. So Yagi takes the silence as a ‘yes’ and leaves the hero to his well-deserved rest.

The sun has changed angles in the window when Aizawa slowly, painfully, claws his way into consciousness for a second time that day. He lays there just breathing for a long moment, getting used to the way the pain jabs at his injured ribs. If he breathes shallow so his chest doesn’t expand, it doesn’t hurt quite so badly. Sleepily, he wonders if this is how Yagi feels every day.

Yagi … what was it he said he was going to do? Aizawa can’t quite remember.

Maybe Yagi is the reason Aizawa’s apartment smells so temptingly like food. He didn’t realize how starved he was until he caught a whiff of it, and now his stomach is growling ferociously. The teacher blinks a few times to wake himself a bit more, ears tuning to the faint sounds of movement in his kitchen. Even with the bedroom door closed, he can smell something frying on the stove.

Then again, he shouldn’t be surprised. Yagi cooks, and cooks well. This isn’t the first time he’s helped himself to Aizawa’s kitchen. The only proper use his kitchen ever really gets is when Yagi invades it. Ever since the teachers all moved into the dorms two years ago, the retired hero is always eager to cook for company. He’d rather share a meal with friends than cook all by himself, he likes to say.

Groaning softly, Aizawa sits up out of bed and casts around for his jeans from last night. It’s then that he realizes: all his dirty clothes have been picked up, washed, and folded. They’re sitting on the low bedside table, not a drop of blood to be found. Yagi must have taken care of it for him. There’s even a pair of clean, dry sweatpants on the floor by his pillow. The underground hero sighs, though he can’t hide the hint of a smile. Trust Yagi to go Plus Ultra even on the little things. He’s always had a funny way of showing gratitude.

Not that Aizawa is complaining. Especially when he pulls the sweats on and realizes with a pleasant shiver that they’re still warm out of the dryer.

Out in the apartment’s living room and kitchen, Aizawa is unsurprised to find Yagi standing at the stove with a spatula in hand. The taller man turns to glance over his shoulder when he hears the door open. He points the shuffling figure to the corner where the coffee pot– the only appliance in the kitchen that gets any regular use besides the microwave– is quietly percolating.

“Coffee will be done in a minute or two. I only just started on breakfast though, so you’ve got time for a shower.”

Aizawa just grunts his understanding and goes to stand in front of the blessed pot, leaning his hands on the edge of the counter and resting his eyes while he waits and inhales the coffee’s scent like oxygen. The moment it’s done he pours a big mug and loads it with sugar. Then he turns and shuffles back to the bathroom. Before he goes Yagi calls after him,

“Let me know if you need help with the bandages.”

Again, Aizawa just grunts in reply.

In the bathroom, he sets his mug on the alcove in the upper corner of the shower to cool. He goes to strip and unwind his bandages as per his usual post-injury routine, but stops and does a double-take when he sees the rabbit litter box sitting all-too-innocently next to the toilet.

Weird weird weird weird weird, this is weird, his brain chants as he goes through the motions of unwrapping and cleaning himself up, moving with sloth-like slowness to avoid aggravating his newly-closed wounds. The chant continues and then heightens in volume when he gets out of the shower fifteen minutes later and realizes, while trying to dry himself off, that there’s no way he’ll be able to get clean bandages back around his torso without turning or stretching his arms in a way that’ll hurt. Even toweling his hair off sends a hot flash of pain down his bones, let alone trying to reach behind himself. He realizes with a heavy sigh that he’ll have to ask for help.

He does so, reluctantly, once he’s dry and wearing pants again. Yagi obligingly comes to give him a hand, though he does the same double-take Aizawa did when he sees the rabbit litter.

“Can’t believe those bastards made me shit in a box for two goddamn weeks ,” he grumbles under his breath as he cracks open Aizawa’s medical kit. The underground hero snorts at this, but that soon devolves into full-blown, roaring laughter, so hard it hurts. He sits there on the toilet lid with his head in his hand and fucking laughs, because after everything that’s happened, what else can he do? Yagi looks confused at first, but soon enough he’s chuckling along too, shaking his head ruefully.

“Two weeks stuck as a rabbit, we both almost fucking died, and that’s what you’re hung up on?! The shitting in a box part?!” Aizawa gasps, though he dissolves again shortly after.

They only sober up again when the pain in Aizawa’s side outweighs his wry amusement, and when Yagi starts to cough a little, tasting a warning hint of blood in the back of his throat. The pair stand in the blank white lights of the bathroom and just breathe, wiping away tears of mirth, for a long, quiet moment.

Eventually Yagi gives a heavy sigh. “We really lead the strangest lives, don’t we?” he says as he pulls out a fresh roll of gauze and starts measuring out strips. Aizawa tilts his chin up so Yagi can wrap his mangled neck with hands that are gentle almost to a fault. The underground hero sighs. He waits until Yagi is done before he grabs his mug and drains the last of his coffee.

“Comes with the job,” he murmurs, grimacing after he swallows. Everything in his throat– windpipe, esophagus, voice– still hurts like a bitch, even if it was non-fatal. Yagi seems to wordlessly understand this, giving the younger man’s shoulder a comforting squeeze.

They’re quiet after that, while Aizawa holds up his arms and lets Yagi patch up his side. It feels normal again, that silence. That’s one of the things Aizawa has always liked about their friendship: that they can comfortably share silence. That, while Yagi does like to talk, he doesn’t feel the need to fill up empty spaces or make noise for noise’s sake.

But if Aizawa was hoping for that normal, un-awkward quiet to continue, he is sorely disappointed.

They go back to the kitchen after Yagi finishes bandaging Aizawa up, to eat the meal Yagi has made them: a big plate of omurice for Aizawa, and a smaller bowl of plain yogurt and fruit for Yagi. Their first hang-up occurs when, out of all four chairs at the kitchen table, Yagi automatically goes for the one right next to Aizawa. The one where he ate breakfast every day for the past two weeks. As a rabbit. Standing on his hind legs on the chair. He blushes when Aizawa stares at him, then hurriedly shunts himself off to the other side of the table again, sitting across from Aizawa instead.

The quiet while they eat is a little strained, and it gets even worse when Yagi gets up to grab the carton of strawberries from the fridge. He brings the carton and a paring knife back to the table. There’s only a few left, and they’re getting a little old and wrinkled, so he’s going to use them up in his yogurt. He pauses in the middle of slicing them when he realizes Aizawa is staring at him again.

“W-What is it?” he haltingly prompts. Aizawa blinks hard, then gives his head a shake and goes back to eating.

“Nothing, sorry. I just, uh… didn’t know you liked strawberries so much. As a human, I mean.”

Now it’s Yagi’s turn to blink. He reddens again, deeper this time, and once he finishes slicing the berries his free hand starts tugging at his bangs the way he always does when he’s flustered.

“Ah, I um… I’ve always been somewhat partial to them, I suppose. I’m just trying to use them up so they don’t go bad in your fridge. You said you liked raspberries better, right?”

Aizawa freezes, chopsticks dangling from his hand as he gapes at the other man.

“Wait, y-you… you understood all that?!” he exclaims, his mind racing back to re-examine of all the times he talked absentmindedly to himself while Yagi was there in the room… saying things that he never would have said to the man’s face, because he assumed Yagi wouldn’t remember most of it once he changed back.

Jesus Christ, he realizes, I let him sleep with me, right next to me. We practically cuddled most nights…

As if he’s realized where Aizawa’s head just went, Yagi flushes an even deeper shade and starts waving his hands appeasingly, spoon clattering in his bowl when he drops it.

“Oh! Uh, I… I didn’t exactly understand it all, per se?” he stammers, hands fluttering this way and that as he explains. “I only got what you were saying about half the time, you know, when it really mattered, like when you told me to thump twice for yes and once for no. But uh, um… I still remember almost all of what you told me, and uh… well, now it’s sort of un-locked in my brain, I guess? I can go back in my memories from that time and now I understand the words you said where I didn’t before, I dunno, it’s a strange feeling…”

Aizawa stares for another second after Yagi trails off, then abruptly realizes he’s staring. He clears his throat awkwardly.

“Yeah, um… I guess a lot of this has been strange for you,” he mutters, looking back down at his plate so he won’t have to meet the other man’s eye. He feels rather than hears Yagi’s sigh.

“Strange for both of us, I suspect,” he admits. “But, all the same… I should thank you.”

“You don’t have t–”

“No, I do. Just… let me do this. Please?”

Aizawa pauses, then nods and lets Yagi gather his thoughts. At length, the older man clears his throat.

“This all could have been a lot worse, but you made it… bearable, I suppose. I know you went out of your way to accommodate me, and uh, if memory serves, I was, um… not always the best-behaved,” he mutters, frowning down at his yogurt. Aizawa figures they’re probably remembering the same things. He thinks of the scent-marking incident after the grocery store, and the nipping, and the constant nudging for pets and attention, and the clinginess. He tries to be annoyed like Yagi expects him to be. But honestly? He’d be lying if he said he didn’t sort of like it, if it didn’t feel… natural, somehow.

But Yagi is still talking, so he keeps his peace while the man finishes his little speech.

“I didn’t really have a whole lot of control over my behavior with all the… the rabbit instincts, and stuff… but I know it was inconvenient. You still went through a lot of trouble for me anyway, which you didn’t have to do. In the end you saved my life, and then… you made me feel safe, even when I was scared out of my mind. So… thank you, Aizawa. I can’t even begin to express my gratitude for everything you’ve done.”

A pause, and then the younger man swallows hard.

Don’t apologize. Don’t thank me, he wants to say. I wanted to do it. I needed to do it. I liked having you around, I’ll miss you when you’re gone, whether you’re a bunny or a man. Don’t leave. Stay with me.

Instead, all he can do is bow his head humbly. He accepts the thanks, and the apology. It feels too… formal, somehow. They finish their meal in tense silence, and Aizawa has a sinking feeling that all of their silences will be tense from now on. There will be no more companionable quiet for the two of them. Something has changed, and though neither man can put their finger on it, it’s there all the same.

They can never go back.

There’s a lot to do in the aftermath of the Pet-Snatcher case. Yagi goes back to his apartment to pick up his life where he left off, while Aizawa attempts to get his shit back in order after two weeks of utter madness. Neither of them really have any time to talk, in all that, and honestly? They’re both perfectly happy with a little distance.

It takes Aizawa another day of rest and two more healing sessions with Recovery Girl before he’s back on his feet, in a state where he can teach and resume his normal schedule of hero work. Though ‘normal’ is relative. The aftermath of the Pet-Snatcher case promises to be a real headache, but he vowed he’d follow it through to the end, which means he’s still task force leader until the trial is over. He’ll only be done when Reyusei and Iku Takada are found guilty.

In the meantime he gets his end of the paperwork done, gives his statement on the takedown, and follows up with the judge and lawyers regarding the deal that Best Jeanist promised the Takadas: that their defense will be built on their mental illness and will get the pair seriously considered for secure psychiatric treatment rather than prison. In all honesty, that was probably going to happen anyway, considering the pair’s history and the clear evidence of insanity contributing to their heinous actions. They’re not the victims here, though they like to think they are, but they’re not some kind of evil, loathsome super-villain either. They don’t deserve to be treated cruelly.

Aizawa can’t find it in himself to feel bad for the pair, with everything they put his friends and Yagi through, and everything they did to him personally too. But he can understand that they only ended up here because somewhere along the line, society failed them. A hero failed them. And the least they deserve is to get the treatment they’ve needed their whole life, even if it’s all too little, too late.

He hates stories like these. They’re all-too-common in his line of work.

With the date of the trial set and the lawyers gathering their witness statements, Aizawa can finally re-focus on teaching, which he’s been missing badly nowadays. Class 3-A is so happy to have him and all their teachers back in one piece, they even pitched in and made everyone a big cake to celebrate. It was mostly Sato’s doing, of course, but everyone insisted that they helped. Aizawa would be too cruel if he didn’t let them take a few minutes at the beginning of class to share out slices of their cake and enjoy it. In the end, he’s just glad to see them lose their haggard, worried looks. Such an expression has no place on their faces. Not yet. Not while they’re still under his care, even if it’s just for a few more precious months.

All in all, he’s simply grateful his life is settling back into its usual rhythm. He’s a creature of habit (as much as a hero can be a creature of habit with lives as crazy as theirs). It’s such a breath of relief to see Nemuri and Hizashi and Snipe in the staff room every day, and to get back in the classroom without having to worry about checking his pager or juggling three separate lesson plans.

Although he has to admit, he misses having a little company while he teaches. The space between his scarf and his chest feels… empty.

It’s a stupid, fanciful thought that he banishes every time he has it. If he really needs the company that bad he can just adopt a bunny for fuck’s sake. But he won’t, and he knows it, because it wouldn’t be the same. The one he really misses is Yagi .

That’s one part of his routine that still hasn’t settled, much to his annoyance. Even after he and Yagi took their time apart and got their distance, somehow they never figured out how to close it again. How to be like they were before. They just sort of… drift, he supposes, like little flecks of dust floating in a beam of light: close, but never touching, always arcing away from each other and off into space at the last moment.

Their routine used to be comfortable, if a little… incomplete. Yagi’s piece in his life fit in nicely next to Nemuri and Hizashi’s, a much calmer counterpoint to theirs and one he found himself gravitating towards more often than not. It usually consisted of one making tea or coffee for the other– whoever got into the staffroom first in the morning would make both drinks– and then sharing the early quiet before the rest of staff filtered in. Then they’d go their separate ways to teach. They’d come together again over 3-A, which has become their shared responsibility with Yagi as involved in their growth as Aizawa is. Lunch was something they shared two or three times a week, when Aizawa sought Yagi out, and dinner was something they also shared two or three times a week, but this time it was when Yagi sought Aizawa out so they could co-work together after hours. Sometimes Hizashi and Nemuri would join in, sometimes not. It was always good either way.

Who cared if it always felt like there was something missing between them, something going unsaid? It was comfortable.

Now it’s all fallen to pieces. The coffee and tea are still made because they’re still being civil, dammit, and both of them need something hot in the mornings to get through the day. They still teach 3-A together, since neither is coward enough to shrink away from their duties just because of a little interpersonal awkwardness. But the stilted way they interact nowadays doesn’t go unnoticed either. Their early mornings aren’t companionable anymore. They feel more like a tense standoff, with both waiting for the other to say something and neither getting the guts up to do it, until someone else finally arrives to shatter the ice. The pair don’t have either lunch or dinner together anymore because Aizawa isn’t sure how to seek Yagi’s company without it being strange, and if he’s waiting for Yagi to come to him then he’ll wait a long time.

Aizawa’s apartment feels empty when he comes back to it, nowadays: even with Himawari to greet him.

He starts to lose sleep again.

If he’s hoping things will smooth out when the Pet-Snatchers’ trial is over, he’s sorely disappointed. At least the trial goes smoothly, thank fuck. The universe finally cuts him a little slack with that one. The stars align so that Reyusei and Iku Takada are tried separately, but both cases are considered together as one. The judge easily finds them guilty on all charges but mentally unfit to serve prison time, then sentences them both to ten to fifteen years in a high-security psychiatric ward with no parole possible, though if their treatment is successful they can be moved to normal prison in the future. The pair will be allowed limited visiting rights with each other considering their marital status. And lastly, all of the villains’ victims who filed restraining orders were approved. Even if the Takadas are released back into the world eventually, they can never come near the people they hurt again. It’s everything Aizawa could have hoped for as a conclusion for this mess of a case, and the judge even commends him personally for his work.

Not that he cares much for that sort of thing. He lets Best Jeanist handle all of the media attention that such an interesting case draws, happy to let the glory fall to someone else.

Aizawa leaves the court building for the last time a few weeks after the day the Pet Snatchers were caught. The trial is officially over, the case closed in every sense of the word. He stops short on the bottom step, loosening his tie and looking around him as if waiting for something to change, waiting for a weight to lift from his shoulders or a kink to smooth out. But whatever intangible thing he’s expecting doesn’t happen, and he leaves feeling just as unsatisfied as before.

Then, the very next morning, something does happen.

When he comes in to school on the Monday after the trial’s conclusion, there’s a second item sitting on his desk next to the coffee Yagi made like usual. The new object is one of those plastic bottles with the big clunky lid, for smoothies, and it appears to contain…

Well. A smoothie.

Confused, Aizawa walks over and picks it up, tilting it this way and that to watch the creamy slush swirl, and then giving it a delicate sniff. The contents is a vibrant shade of pink and smells like something fruity– probably berry-flavored, judging by the color– and also vaguely like yogurt. There are pips interspersed in the mixture and it’s a little grainy with ice, so it must be fresh.

The hero carries it over to Yagi’s desk and holds it out with a quiet mumble.

“Here, I think you left this at my–”

“–It’s for you,” the other man interrupts, pointedly not looking up from his computer screen. Although he does tug on one bang nervously as he explains, “You, uh… you mentioned that eating anything solid before ten AM makes you nauseated, but, erm… well, breakfast is an important meal and you really should have something more besides those jelly packs. I looked at the labels and they’re all chemicals and corn syrup. And stuff. So uh… yeah. That’s for you.”

The younger man blinks once and then looks down at the smoothie, mostly so he has somewhere other than Yagi to look. This is… the first time either of them have brought up what happened between them while Yagi was a bunny, and the awkwardness that ensued when he turned back. Aizawa still isn’t over the realization that Yagi heard and understands everything Aizawa said, all those things he never would have told the man to his face, all those things he let slip when he thought he was talking to himself… He supposes that this is both an acknowledgement and a peace offering of sorts, then. So he just thanks the other man with a nod and quietly returns to his seat.

And… after he’s had half of his coffee, he tries it.

The first sip is mostly out of curiosity, and because he can feel Yagi glancing at him from across the room, waiting on tenterhooks to see if he’s accepted the offering. It’s just meant to appease the other man, to get him to stop fretting. But the moment the smoothie hits his tongue his eyes widen.

It’s raspberry.

Yagi must’ve gone and bought some frozen fruit or something, and probably a little vanilla yogurt to blend in with it. There’s also a hint of something else which might be almond milk, and honey to sweeten it. It’s the kind of thing Yagi wouldn’t be able to have very often with his dietary restrictions, which means he went out of his way to make this. But it’s also the kind of thing Yagi, ever the home chef, would make just for fun. Or to help out a friend.

Aizawa takes another sip, this one longer and with more relish. It tastes… clean. Clean and simple, with none of that heavy chemical sweetness that clings to the tongue for hours afterward when he eats a jelly pack. It’s remarkable, he speculates, how much difference a thing like this can make. He didn’t even realize how funky and strange his mouth always tasted, with his constant diet of liquid meals and greasy takeout, until he had something healthy and homemade. And Yagi is right: the smoothie sits well on his stomach even considering the early hour.

He’d be a shitty friend if he let such a considerate gesture go unappreciated.

So, he finishes the whole thing in near-record time, and he doesn’t make any effort to hide the small signs of enjoyment it incurs. Not that he’s particularly vocal or obvious about such things, but someone who knows him well enough will know where to look. When he’s done he rinses the bottle in the kitchenette, caps it up, and returns it to Yagi’s desk. This time he makes sure to meet his gaze when he says,

“Thank you, for this. It was good.”

Blue eyes brighten with a familiar and much-missed smile.

“Ah, I’m glad you liked it!” the retired hero replies, his cheeks brightening with a dusting of pink. But it’s a happy sort of blush this time, and it feels like a breath of relief to Aizawa. A little hint of a new normal.

And so, that becomes their new routine.

Every morning for the next week, Yagi brings him a smoothie for breakfast. It’s always the same raspberry one that Aizawa likes so much, and it tastes just as good every time. After a few days of this Aizawa finally gets up the courage to invite the other man over for dinner and paper-grading again, like before. They both set aside Friday night, and Yagi promises to bring over some food. In the meantime, the companionable quality comes back to their silences, and when they do talk, the familiar banter edges back in. Not quite flirting, but not just joking either.

It’s not much, but it’s a start.

Hizashi and Nemuri accost Aizawa during lunch on Friday, chanting his name until he rolls his eyes and agrees to eat with them.

“You doin’ anything tonight, Sho-chan?”

The question comes out of nowhere, halfway through the meal and with no lead-in. Aizawa raises one eyebrow, swallowing the bite of rice he was in the middle of chewing when Nemuri asked.

“Why, what are you two up to?”

She just winks in return. “It’s been a couple weeks ya know, and we haven’t hung out just the three of us since before this whole Pet-Snatcher debacle! A night at the bar is long past due.”

“It’s time we had some fun and got shit-faced my duuuude!” Hizashi yells, though only at medium volume, since it’s still school hours. Aizawa flinches anyway. There’s a stress headache building behind his eyes and, as much as he loves his two best friends, he really needs a quiet night in.

“Not tonight,” he sighs, and truthfully begs off, “I’ve got plans.”

He realizes too late that this was the wrong thing to say when the pair share a significant look. His sense of impending doom only grows as they press up next to him on either side, shoulder to shoulder, their smiles almost predatory.

“Really? Plans, huh?” Nemuri drawls, manicured nails tapping rhythmically on the tabletop. Her other arm encircles his waist to draw him close. “Hizashi, when’s the last time Sho-chan had plans with anyone besides us?”

“Well, Midnight my dear, the only person I can think of who he hangs out with that’s not you n’ me is Yagi!” answers the blonde, slinging an arm around Aizawa’s shoulders.

“But he and Yagi weren’t talking last time I checked, were they?”

“No, they weren’t! So what changed, buddy?”

The underground hero scowls at his lunch, then shoves more rice in his mouth, pointedly not looking at either one.

“I said I had plans, I didn’t say they were with anyone,” he mutters around his food. Nemuri just rolls her eyes at him.

“Oh puh- leaze. You never lie about having ‘plans’ if you don’t feel like coming out with us. You just straight-up tell us to fuck off. You can’t pull one over on us Sho-chan, we know you too well.”

 “And this time we’re not letting you off the hook,” Hizashi adds. Aizawa just thunks his bowl down on the table and glares at the ceiling as if begging for divine patience.

“There’s nothing to be ‘on the hook’ about,” he growls. But to his surprise, Hizashi’s response is to pull out his phone and queue up a photo.

“You sure about that, bro?” he wonders, flashing his friend a cock-eyed smile. He leans in and shows him a picture– of himself. The underground hero’s hair starts to lift from his shoulders in vague, unnamed embarrassment when he realizes it’s one of those stupid blackmail photos Vlad King took. Evidently he followed through on his threat to share them with Nizashi and Nemuri. This particular picture is the one where he’s asleep face-down on the couch with Yagi, as a rabbit, curled up in the small of his back. Using his ass as a pillow.

Hizashi swipes to the next one, which shows Aizawa standing on the observation platform of Ground Gamma, directing 3-A and 3-B’s joint training while bunny-Yagi sits nestled in his capture weapon and watches. After that are two or three more shots of Aizawa going about his routine while the golden-furred rabbit makes himself comfortable in his perch like he was meant to be there. In one of them, Yagi has fallen asleep with his head tucked under Aizawa’s chin, looking utterly contented. The teacher is lecturing with one hand and petting the rabbit with the other, stroking down the curve of his back soothingly.

The last picture is Aizawa working through lunch in the staffroom while Yagi, sitting on the desk next to him, munches on a couple stems of mint and basil. The teacher is offering him a slice of strawberry, which Yagi seems very eager to accept, eyes shining bright and blue, his big soft ears pricked with interest. Aizawa is smiling at him, an uncharacteristically tender look on his face.

That seems to be the end of the photos Hizashi has, thank god, but Aizawa has been getting redder and redder with every picture. By the time Hizashi sets the phone down he can practically feel his heartbeat roaring in his ears.

“Fucking delete those,” he growls, but it’s half-hearted and neither of his friends pay it any mind. Instead, Nemuri pokes his arm and insists,

“What I want to know is how you guys went from being pals to the cutest fucking thing ever and then right back to awkwardly avoiding each other. Because you’re not subtle, honey. You two have been super-weird around ever since he changed back, and literally everyone has noticed.”

“I’m sure not everyone is–”

“–No dude, it’s everyone ,” Hizashi interjects, “Like, I even heard the kids muttering about it earlier today, yo.”

Aizawa groans and pinches the bridge of his nose.

“Seriously? Even the students?”

“Yyyyup.”

His friends each pat his shoulder comfortingly as he finally gives up and puts his forehead down on the table, groaning frustratedly through his teeth.

“It’s all so royally fucked and I don’t know how to fix it,” he complains, defeated by their combined wiles and the weight of his own guilt. “We’re supposed to do dinner and grading tonight, like we used to, but it’s all different now and I’m worried it’s gonna be awkward just like every other fucking thing is.”

“Well maybe we can help if you just tell us what happened,” Nemuri offers, rubbing up and down his back soothingly, like she used to in high school when he had bad days. He just sighs.

“I wish I knew… It’s just strange, is all. You guys weren’t there, but if you’d seen him you’d get it.”

“Then explain it to us. From the beginning”

Aizawa briefly summarizes finding Yagi in his apartment, caught in an ambush meant for him, and rushing him to the nurse’s office. He described how the terrified rabbit latched onto him and refused to let him out of his sight, for more reasons than one, and how he was saddled with the duty of caring for him… though not completely unwillingly. He finishes by declaring, “It wasn’t actually half bad. While he was a bunny he was just so… so… different.

“Different how, sweetie?”

“Well obviously he was different, he was a fucking rabbit,” Hizashi snorts. Aizawa just rolls his eyes.

“No duh, but it went way beyond that, rabbit or no… You know how the Yagi we know would literally rather walk into traffic than inconvenience someone else by making his needs and wants known?”

“Yeah, that’s him alright,” scoffs the voice hero. It was something the three friends have discussed before, and at length. Nemuri just nods, prompting Aizawa to continue with a pat on the shoulder. He sucks in a deep breath and blows it out slow.

“Well… he wasn’t like that when he was a bunny,” he murmurs. “Something about being in that form must’ve forced him to drop his inhibitions, because… well. He was clingy . And demanding, too. He was always kicking up a fuss if I so much as let him out of my sight, and begging for treats and attention and fuck-all else… And I… I dunno. It was strange.”

“Strange how?” Nemuri prompts again. His reply is a shrug and a long pause before he admits, at length,

“I just… I didn’t mind, I guess. If anything, it was a refreshing change of pace. It … it was better somehow, having him around. Even if he was a dumb rabbit. It made this whole shitshow bearable. It felt better to have him nearby. At least then I knew he was safe, y’know? But it’s just… Now my place feels so fucking empty … I know it shouldn’t, but it does. And what do you even say to someone after all that? He slept in my bed for fuck’s sake… I said things to him that I’d never say to his face. And he remembers all of it. I can’t even look him in the eye without feeling weird now. We had a good thing before, but this went and fucked it all up.”

Unseen by Aizawa, Hizashi and Nemuri share a knowing look over his bowed head. Then Hizashi folds his arms on the table and sets his chin down on them so he can be at Aizawa’s level and look him in the eye.

“Buddy,” he sighs, “I know you think the thing you and Yagi had was good. But in reality it was a bubble waiting to pop. This was what popped it.”

“What are you even talking about?” Aizawa growls.

“I’m talking about the tension, dude. You must’ve felt it. Every single conversation you guys have had for the past year and a half has been at least fifty percent flirting.”

Aizawa flushes cherry-red again as he mumbles, “No it’s not, that’s just how Yagi is. We don’t flirt, we just… talk, is all.”

Nemuri rolls her eyes and sinks down on the table too so she can shoot him a sardonic look.

“You sure about that, hon?” she drawls, “Because I’m very sensitive to sexual tension, and every time you and Yagi are even in the room together, I swear I get chills. Also, he makes you a smoothie for breakfast every day now. Are you sure it’s just nothing? Because he doesn’t do that for anybody else. Just you”

Aizawa looks at her like he’s seen a ghost. Then his lips move as he mumbles something under his breath. Nemrui scoots closer and raises one eyebrow.

“What was that?”

“I said, um… there was one incident while he was a bunny. I guess you could maybe count it as ‘something.”

“Oh?”

“Well I… there was this bunny care pdf thing, on my phone … and uh, it had a list of common rabbit behaviors and what they meant. At one point he uh… he did this thing called ‘chinning’, where he sort of rubbed his cheek over me, and uh… the pdf said it was, well… a territory-marking thing. Because rabbits have scent glands there.”

Nemuri has to dig her nails into her palm in order to disguise her obvious glee as she asks,

“And what did you do?”

Another mumble, and another request to repeat what he said. Eventually Aizawa admits,

I told him to stop flirting with me and come back when he was human, okay ? I didn’t think he’d remember anything I said!”

Now Hizashi really can’t help it: he gives a sound halfway between a sigh and a chuckle, shaking his head ruefully.

“You dummy,” he says. “No wonder things are awkward! Knowing him he’s been fretting  and over-analyzing for weeks. Besides, did it ever occur to you that maybe he was clingy because he likes you? And trusts you?”

“Well of course he likes me, we wouldn’t be friends if he didn’t–”

“–Bro. I don’t mean it like that. I mean he likes you, likes you. Why else would his bunny instincts have told him to scent-mark you? Why else would he only feel safe around you?”

Hizashi scans Aizawa’s face after this to make sure he got it, but all he gets is another blank ‘error 404’ look. So the voice hero sighs and opens up his phone again, scrolling to the picture of Yagi dozing in Aizawa’s scarf and looking for all the world like he belongs there.

“That,” he says, pointing at the golden-haired bunny, “is not a man-trapped-as-a-rabbit who just thinks you’re ‘just a friend’, my dude. That is a man who loves and trusts you so much he’d happily fall asleep on your chest. Bunny-Yagi was just doing and saying all the things Human-Yagi is too insecure to do and say himself.”

Aizawa stares at Hizashi, his gaze blank and petrified. Like his soul has left his body. Nemuri just sighs and pats his shoulder again.

“You were in a good place with him before,” she adds, “but it couldn’t last. You guys were never going to stay ‘just friends’. It was a stepping stone, and you can’t stand on a stepping stone forever without eventually crossing to the other side. And you can’t go back now. The only way to go is forward. So get over yourself and pick one: take the next step with him, or tell him ‘no’ and re-build your friendship from the ground up.”

Aizawa glares at her for a moment as if he literally can’t believe what he’s hearing.

“From the ground up?! What the hell is that supposed to mean? How the fuck am I supposed to choose?”

At this point Nemuri and Hizashi are starting to get (justifiably) frustrated, so they exchange a look and then take deep breaths. When Hizashi speaks again, he does so slowly, as if he’s talking to a five-year-old.

“Look. Buddy. We love you, but you’ve gotta get your head out of your ass. It’s incredibly simple. Yagi likes you, and you like him, and you both have for a long time. But neither of you was gonna say anything about it until this whole mess happened. Because you’re both disasters.”

“Were we really that obvious?” mutters Aizawa. Hizashi just offers him a nod.

“Yup. But that’s changed, ya dig? Now, whether you meant to or not, things have been said. You can’t pretend they weren’t. So, you’ve got two choices: ask him out, or reject him and move on.”

“But I don’t want to lose him as a friend if I say no! What the hell am I supposed to do then?!”

“That’s what Nemuri is saying, bro! Even if you don’t want to date, you won’t lose him. This is Yagi!” Hizashi exclaims, spreading his hands in a ‘there you have it’ gesture. “He’ll still care about you and want to be a part of your life no matter what, but if you reject him, you guys will have to figure out a new way to be friends. And it’ll take time to mend that bridge.”

“One the other hand,” Nemuri interjects, “if you finally ask him out, you’d be getting rid of all this goddamn sexual tension for good, which would frankly be a mercy to the rest of us. And you wouldn’t have to worry about hurting him and having to start over. But you would still have to start something new, either way. Because you can’t keep on like this. I know a change like that is scary, but it’s necessary if you guys are ever going to escape the awkward-cage you’re stuck in right now.”

Hizashi nods his agreement, and then finishes, “So you’ve got two choices, amigo. And you’ve got until tonight to decide.”

“But why does it have to be tonight? ” he grumbles, folding his arms around his head so he doesn’t have to look at either of them.

“Because this is the perfect opportunity to sort out yourself and Yagi for good!” insists Nemuri, giving his shoulder a vigorous shake. “And besides, if I have to watch you two idiots pine after each other for one more day, I might actually throw up in my mouth.”

Hizashi adds, “Just bang already and put us all out of our misery.”

The final ten minutes of their lunch break consists mostly of an enraged Aizawa chasing his two meddling best friends around the staffroom and then down the hall, threatening death and dismemberment and general mayhem on their persons for that last comment. And for daring to interfere in general. The pair just giggle their glee and run away, sing-songing ‘you know we’re right, you know we’re right!’

Honestly, the worst part is that Aizawa does know.

They are right, about one thing. Not the banging, of course– he doesn’t know why he hangs out with those two menaces to society if that’s the first place their minds go. But they’re right that he can’t return to the way things were with Yagi. There’s only one direction he can move now that the bridge backwards is burned, and that’s forward.

He doesn’t actually have to decide tonight . He could wait if he wants to. But after a little mid-afternoon soul-searching, he realizes he’s sick of the way things are. He doesn’t like feeling trapped, and it’s time he did something about it.

So he has until tonight to choose his path.

Chapter Text


Yagi doesn’t know exactly what he was expecting when he meandered over to Aizawa’s place at seven with a covered platter of roasted salmon skewers and grilled vegetables for dinner. He thought they might dutifully ignore the events of the past few weeks in favor of forcing a semblance of normalcy. Or perhaps they would awkwardly fumble around a new dynamic which neither knew how to handle, and part ways early after eating, content that they had at least given it a try even if it didn’t work out.

Either way, he didn’t expect this . But here they are.

The kotatsu where they usually work together has been pushed aside in favor of the kitchen table, which is… set? With actual cutlery? And plates? Real ceramic plates, not paper ones. And a modest little arrangement of flowers. Yagi is flabbergasted when he sheds his shoes at the door and comes in to find this. He didn’t think Aizawa even owned a real set of plates, let alone a flower vase. And there’s even music in the background, which is something they usually only do when they’re working over in Yagi’s apartment. Since when does Aizawa own a sound system at all, let alone a nice one?

Himawari trots up to him a moment later, startling him out of his daze. She doesn’t meow for attention, quiet little thing that she is, but she is already purring when he crouches down to pet her.

“Hi there babygirl, how ya doin’? It’s good to see you,” he greets. A moment later Aizawa’s voice calls from the back room,

“That you, Yagi?”

“Um, yeah! I’ve got dinner!”

“Just set it on the table, I’ll be out in a minute.”

The retired hero gives Himawari’s head a last scratch and then goes to do as he’s told, setting the platter on the folded-up hand towel that’s obviously meant to hold a hot serving dish. He hesitates, glancing around for a moment, before taking a seat at the place setting across from Aizawa’s usual spot. He notices that the lights in the kitchen are dimmed about halfway: not an uncommon thing, of course, since Aizawa often keeps the light low in his apartment to go easy on his aching eyes and occasional migraines. But considering the circumstances, he can be forgiven for wondering.

All doubt is dispelled when, a moment later, Aizawa emerges from the bedroom carrying what looks like a scented candle in a squat glass container. He’s scowling at it, but Yagi is a little more preoccupied with what he’s wearing. Usually the man just dresses his hero uniform down a little at the end of the day, losing the belt and boots and scarf, and unzipping the collar a bit. Or he changes into sweats, comfortable lounging clothes for an evening of grading.

But tonight he’s in fitted blue jeans and a soft-looking tee: black, of course. His sleeves are rolled up like he’s been busy with something or other, which exposes the pale lengths of his scarred forearms, traced with the occasional contour of a faintly purple vein. His hair is half tied-back in a loose bun, a few wavy flyaways springing free. And the way the v-neck strains around muscled shoulders has got to be illegal, or at least unfair.

Yagi jolts back into himself when the underground hero thunks the candle on the table next to the flowers and, still scowling at it like he can’t believe it’s even there, lights it with a match.

“Had to rummage around to find it, but I knew I still had one,” he mutters, a terse explanation of the candle’s presence. Yagi spares it a glance: the wax is inky black, no surprise there, and the label says ‘midsummer night’. Apparently the candle company has decided that a midsummer night smells like a slightly spicy men’s cologne. It’s not bad, though: the scent is actually reminiscent of the way Aizawa smells.

Which, of course, Yagi became intimately familiar with not long ago.

This thought, of course, has him freezing up and blushing a moment later for no apparent reason. There’s the awkwardness again. Those thoughts and memories he still can’t get rid of. He has to dig his nails into his palms under the table to keep his head on straight, since Aizawa is still talking to him as if nothing is wrong.

“Thanks for bringing over dinner, it looks good. Is that salmon?”

The older man forces a nod and a thin smile.

“Uh, yeah! I um… didn’t have much time after training with Midoriya so I just grilled it up fast. It was supposed to be something we could eat quick and easy while we were grading, I, erm… I didn’t realize we were, uh, having a nice dinner or I would’ve done something more–”

“–Yagi,” Aizawa interrupts, fixing him with a gaze that could be amused or fond or just plain perplexed. It’s always hard to tell with him. “This is fine. Simple is good.”

The other man just nods wordlessly in response, watching as Aizawa takes a few skewers on his own plate and has a bite. Yagi takes one or two to start with, though he has to work through his food much slower.

For the next few minutes they eat quietly, letting the background music do the work of easing the silence. The melody seems to swell and flutter in the spaces between them, in time with Yagi’s racing pulse.

Dim lights… flowers… a candle… the effort to look nice. To MAKE things look nice. Just for… for me?

Their food is done, or almost done, by the time Yagi finally gets up the courage to ask,

“Aizawa is… is this a date?”

The younger man pauses mid-chew, then seems to force himself to swallow, throat bobbing with the effort of it.

“Well, I… I mean, we should still get work done tonight, but uh… y-yes? If you want it to be.”

If you want it to be.

“And… if I don’t?”

Aizawa looks down and away, twirling a stripped-clean skewer stick idly in his fingers.

“Then, it’s just two friends having dinner, I guess. No uh… no hard feelings.”

Now it’s Yagi’s turn to swallow, and hard. He doesn’t like the sound of that. No hard feelings ... like it means nothing to him, when it so clearly means everything.

Slowly, hesitantly, Yagi’s hand creeps across the table to touch the back of Aizawa’s clenched fist. The younger man un-tenses at the light brush, and after a moment of coaxing, lets his and Yagi’s fingers entwine. The older hero squeezes lightly and, gazing down at their joined hands, decides he likes the way they look. They way they feel. He glances back up and finds Aizawa’s dark eyes trained unwaveringly on his face. Waiting.

For a moment Yagi balks, a familiar fear turning what’s left of his guts upside down. It’s hard to undo years of self-enforced isolation in a single moment, after all. But he thinks it might take time for him to unlearn that. He remembers warmth and safety and a quiet, amused voice, amplified into a soothing rumble by the proximity of ear to chest.

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 .

The man takes a deep, steadying breath and then asks the obvious question, just because he needs confirmation, needs to know he’s not imagining or misinterpreting it. That this isn’t some fever-dream born out of longing and a quiet, life-long pain. That someone does actually want him, even now, even like this.

“Do… do you want this to be a date, Aizawa?”

A pause, and then a hesitant nod. Yagi closes his eyes and sways in place, thinking he might faint on the spot from relief, though the feeling of Aizawa squeezing his hand back keeps him upright somehow.

“Please, I… please say it, I need to hear it,” he whispers, feeling just a little pathetic for asking. But then, didn’t Aizawa tell him to ask?

And the man’s answer is to get up from his chair, which scrapes a bit on the tile floor, and come around the other side of the table. He separates their hands briefly, but makes up for it a moment later when a pair of warm, strong, familiar arms encircles Yagi’s shoulders and draws him close. Even sitting, the retired hero is so tall that when he returns the embrace, his forehead rests against Aizawa’s shoulder. The v-neck is as soft as it looks, and smells so comforting. Plus, it does a very good job of soaking up Yagi’s overwhelmed tears before they even fall.

“Yes,” Aizawa says, breath hitching as he exhales shakily. “I love you, you big idiot. It took me fucking long enough to figure it out, but I love you. Please date me. Properly, as a human. Because as cute as you were as a bunny, I like you better this way.”

The retired hero gives a shaky laugh, leaning back just far enough to wipe his eyes dry again before he stands from his chair. He nods, hands coming to cup the smaller man’s face gently.

“Right, right… properly this time,” he murmurs, grinning ear to ear through his tears. “I think… I think I’d love nothing better.”

Neither one really kisses the other, per se, but their lips meet in the next moment and it’s glorious. It’s natural, it’s beautiful, it’s everything they ever needed and all Yagi can think is… if he knew it was going to be like this, he would’ve kissed this man much, much sooner.

There’s a whole lot of different conversations the pair should probably have, sooner rather than later. Conversations about needs and wants and boundaries, about pasts and presents and futures. But by mutual, silent agreement, they decide that tonight is not the night for them. Tomorrow probably isn’t either, though they will talk about it soon. Yagi just needs a little time to get past the obstinate disbelief at the idea of him, finally getting to date someone. Someone he could be happy with. It’s a foreign concept, more than he ever dared hope for.

And Aizawa just wants time to bask in the fact that, after so much time and so much struggle, he finally gets to call this man his . With everything they’ve been through, a little basking shouldn’t be too much to ask.

When dinner is finished and cleaned up, the pair retreat not to the kotatsu, but to the couch. Yagi, too shy to ask for anything much louder than a quiet murmur but still asking all the same, whispers in Aizawa’s ear as they’re settling in. The teacher can’t help a smile tugging at the corner of his mouth when he hears the request. Without a word, he sets the grading work they’d intended to do aside and instead stretches out, half-sitting up against the pile of ratty throw pillows that pad one arm of the couch. Yagi lays back across his chest, hesitant at first, but melting into it soon enough. The contented look on his face when Aizawa wraps his arms around him and hugs him close spreads an unfamiliar warmth over the teacher’s whole body. He wants to see that look again and again and again. It’s what spurred him to take the plunge, after all, with setting up tonight the way he did. The desire to see Yagi smile again, for him. Not the way he used to, but in a new, better way.

God , he’s so glad this worked out. For the first time in months, he breathes out and feels his bones settle in his body, the tension flooding out of him at once.

Maybe this is what he needed all along.

He sighs as they get comfortable, listening to the music with his cheek pressed to Yagi’s feathery hair.

“Hizashi and Nemuri are gonna be insufferable about this,” he mutters under his breath.

“Mm… why’s that?”

“Ah… no reason.”

They don’t mean to, but they fall asleep like that.

And when they wake up a few hours later with aching necks, Yagi moves them next door to his bedroom rather than try to do work or part ways for the night. Grading can wait until tomorrow. His western-style bed is easier on his back, he says, and it’s clear that Yagi wants Aizawa to come with him if the shy blush and the vice grip on his hand is any indication. They abandon their plans in favor of just… well, sleeping. Together. Just sleeping.

Aizawa couldn’t care less where Yagi sleeps, as long as it’s with him.

They fall into the covers together in a routine that is almost familiar. Just under different, better circumstances. It takes a little shuffling, a little wriggling, to figure it out. But they do finally end up comfortable, with Yagi laying in what must be his usual mountain of fluffy pillows, and Aizawa plastered over his left side as if to protect it. The younger man rests his head on Yagi’s chest, where the regular pulse of his heart is as soothing as any lullaby.

He’s almost completely asleep, just slipping away from the last dregs of consciousness, when he hears Yagi’s voice murmur,

“I… I think I love you too.”

The only reply Aizawa can muster before he drops off entirely is a faint smile, but it’s enough and Yagi sees it. He falls asleep smiling just like that.

It’s the best rest he’s had in years.