The moment he steps into the police station, his gut twists, telling him that something is going to happen whether he likes it or not. He takes note of the feeling because it's kept him alive and mostly intact over the past three years as an underground hero. Which is why his scowl is harsher than normal as it's aimed at the officer who is processing the still unconscious criminal too slowly for his tastes. But it gets done soon enough and Shouta walks quickly towards the entrance, aiming to go back to his apartment and sleep for the next eight hours, hands tucked into the pockets of his suit.
He halts in his tracks, one black boot already out the open automatic door, releasing a heavy and somewhat annoyed sigh behind the fabric of his capture weapon. He could still make a break for it but Detective Tsukauchi doesn't stop him just to chit chat, well aware that Eraserhead is not the type for such drivel. The fact that he did meant that it was important. Shouta closes his eyes to rid himself of an oncoming migraine before he turns around, eyes narrowed with mild annoyance and growing exhaustion. It disappears however at seeing how disheveled the normally composed man is.
The Detective's staple hat is gone revealing short, dark hair that looks like the man has been running his hands through it in growing distress for some time, tan coat also absent to show a wrinkled white dress shirt with the sleeves rolled up to his forearms. Looking closer, Shouta can see not just coffee stains but streaks of blue ink too on the once pristine shirt. Tsukauchi's expression is pinched in exhaustion and resignation. Huh. The tense tone makes a bit more sense now.
His gut twists further at the sight and he can only think one simple sentence.
God fucking damn it.
Eraserhead follows the Detective without a word, already dreading what this was about.
"Absolutely not," Shouta says, seeing how Tsukauchi's expression falls at his refusal. "I don't have the time or the experience to take care of a kid. Much less the funds in the long run."
Tsukauchi runs a hand through his hair again, sighing heavily. "I know that it's a huge responsibility," he admits, voice tight. Shouta is on edge all of the sudden when the Detective gets a determined glint in his eyes. The man doesn't waver despite the harsh glare being aimed at him and Shouta hates him for it. "Which is why I'm cashing in every favor you owe me for this kid." The Detective continues despite the multitude of swears aimed at him from the Pro. "And I'll even help out with funds."
"Why me?" he finally asks when his anger cools. He knew that all those favors would bite him in the ass one day despite how much the Detective has helped him out over the years. Had quickly learned on the job that giving and dealing information always came with a price eventually. Damn you Tsukauchi, he thinks despite being somewhat impressed that Tsukauchi played him like this.
Tsukauchi closes his eyes, looking just as fatigued as he feels. "Because I trust and know you won't treat the kid like shit." He continues at the heavy silence, voice low and defensive on the kid's behalf. "How many Quirkless kids do you think survive the system, let alone a foster family in this day and age, Aizawa?"
The Underground Hero straightens up at that, eyes widening slightly before a dark gaze sweeps to the window that peers into Tsukauchi's office. Sitting in the far corner of the office floor is the six year old boy, Midoriya Izuku. Curls of green hair bob in time with his dipping head as sleep claws at him, before jolting himself awake, dull green eyes darting around unseeing. Searching for something. Someone, Shouta corrects himself grimly.
("Midoriya Inko left for work Monday morning last week but never arrived when she was due to clock in." Tsukauchi informs, voice low and grim despite the fact that the station was basically empty this time of night. "We don't know if she left the boy willingly or not, or even if she's still alive. But it's been six days since her disappearance and four days since he was discovered by one of the neighbors. I've worked enough cases to know what the more likely outcome will be, Eraser, and it's not an ideal one.")
The kid has the darkest bruises beneath his eyes from lack of sleep that Shouta has ever seen on someone, himself included. Tsukauchi's coat keeps the boy warm and acts as a makeshift sense of comfort even if it dwarfs the kid as the boy keeps it wrapped tightly around him, his hair, eyes and the toes of red shoes the only parts of him visible as he hides away from the world. Waiting.
The picture screams exhaustion, terror, loneliness, and misery.
Another minute of watching the boy jolt himself awake has Shouta sighing with resignation. Favors or not, he can't risk seeing a kid hurt any more than they were. Nor could he risk him ending up in an even worse situation.
God fucking damn it.
"What do you need me to sign?" he mutters into the folds of his scarf, gaze lingering on the depressing sight.
Tsukauchi sighs in relief next to him. "Thank you."
"You can thank me by getting the forms and paying for half of what he needs until I can manage on my own."
The paperwork is the easiest part. The kid - Midoriya himself - is another matter entirely. The boy had immediately become alert at the sound of the office door opening, head snapping up and dull eyes peering out from beneath the coat collar, only to wilt at the sight of the Detective.
Shouta stays outside the office, leaning against the opposite wall and watching through the office window as Tsukauchi crouched down to Midoriya's level a few feet away from him, hands visible as they rest on his knees. He mentally takes note of it, to leave the boy enough space to flee and to keep his hands in clear view of the kid.
It paints a telling picture of how Midoriya's life has been like. Hopefully, not his home life.
He sees the moment that Tsukauchi informs Midoriya of the situation because green eyes immediately snap to Shouta in fear before completely disappearing from view as the coat is pulled up around his head. From the distressed look on Tsukauchi's face and how his hands hover in the air but never make contact, Shouta can gather that the kid hates the idea and doesn't want to leave the Detective's side. (It's only then that it really clicks that the boy had been with Tsukauchi the whole time. How, when compared to the easy going and trusting nature of the man, Shouta seemed intimidating and stand offish to an already terrified six year old.)
With a sigh, he pushes himself off the wall and removes his hands from his pockets, gripping the door handle and twists, which opens with a soft click. Tsukauchi immediately stands and backs away to sit on the couch in the middle of the office. Far enough away to not be crowding but staying within Midoriya's line of sight. Shouta's frown is, thankfully, hidden behind the fabric around his shoulders as he plops down a few feet away from the boy, legs bent at the knee with arms resting on them, hands dangling in clear view.
Shit. What can he say that won't scare the kid further?
A long, tense silence passes as he turns over what to say without sounding too harsh or indifferent. Or that he's pissed at Tsukauchi still.
"Midoriya, right?" he begins slowly, tone less gruff than usual. "I get that you're scared. It's alright to be. If our positions were switched, I think I would be too." He continues on, not really expecting a response even if the coat shifts tighter around the boy. "I've worked with Tsukauchi long enough that I consider him a trustworthy friend."
He ignores the surprised stare burning the back of his head at that. The fact that the Detective is the only one he really listens to and works well with in the station should have been enough evidence of that. Then again, Shouta has been told time and time again by people all his life that he needs better social skills. It's a waste of time and energy to him. In his experience, actions said more and were far more honest than words ever were.
"So he's asked me to look after you in his stead since his work is more demanding than my own." He pauses as green eyes finally peer over the collar of the coat, Shouta able to retain his neutral expression with ease despite how hopeless the gaze seems. It- It tugs at something in him because it's not right and he desperately hopes - as awful as that is to think - that the mother was taken against her will. "So even though you'll be staying with me, you can still see him whenever you like, if that's what you want."
Green eyes shift from him to over his shoulder at Tsukauchi then back again. It's subtle, a blink and you'll miss it moment, but Shouta sees the boy nod once. He responds in kind, dark eyes still focused on the boy but words aimed at the silent Detective behind him. "Bring him by my place tomorrow afternoon. I should have the spare bedroom cleaned up by then."
Shouta blinks with a long exhale as he takes his time standing back up, feeling the wary eyes on him even as he walks all the way to the door. He pauses with one hand on the doorknob and the other reaching up to rub one eye lazily, a different sort of exhaustion weighing down in his bones. "I recommend drinking some chamomile or lemon balm tea," he states softly. "They can help you relax enough to get some rest without suffering any unpleasant dreams."
He doesn't wait for a response, immediately taking his leave as he slips out as silently as he entered. He has a bit of clean up to do once he gets back home and wants to start as quick as possible if he wants to catch a few hours of sleep.
(It has nothing to do with letting himself be vulnerable for just a moment. It doesn't. He's just discovered ways to avoid nightmares through too many trials and errors and doesn't want to see the kid suffer more than need be.
Besides, Tsukauchi needed the rest too with how frazzled he was looking. He knows the man is just as human as anyone else, but seeing him lose his normal composure over this situation has Shouta feeling a little off kilter. Makes him want to correct it somehow and being the hero he is, Shouta helps in his own way. Whether or not his advice is taken remains to be seen.)
It's well past two in the morning when he finishes tidying his apartment up, the bedding of the guest bed tossed into the dryer as the last task. He contemplates taking a shower but decides he'll take one later, muscles twinging in protest as he stretches with a wide yawn.
The absolute balls on Tsukauchi, he thinks unable to keep the smirk from pulling at his lips. Well played.
He plugs the charger into his dying phone as he drops down onto his mattress with a sigh, screen lighting up to reveal multiple notifications of missed calls and texts, namely from Hizashi. One stands out from the rest as it's from the Detective himself. He clicks it open and it's one simple sentence.
Tsukauchi: A cup of Lemon Balm tea and he was out in thirty minutes.
Good. Hopefully it helps make the kid look less haunted. (Probably not but it doesn't hurt to wish for either.) He doesn't bother to reply since it was sent hours ago, not wanting to risk the chance of waking either of them. Shouta clears his notifications before setting his phone back on the bedside table, shifting around until he was buried under his covers.
He goes to sleep with that gut twisting feeling still clawing at him. It's less dread now and more of something else.
The first few days are weird and strange as Shouta reminds himself that he's not alone in his space anymore when sounds of movement reach his ears sporadically. Midoriya stays out of sight as much as he can and never utters a sound. Always doing his best to stay silent and something in Shouta twists at the realization.
(The pro feels the last of his temper aimed at the Detective fade away at the thought. The man knew what he was doing when he pulled the rug from beneath the underground hero.)
But he believes that letting Midoriya come around at his own pace and time is the best option. Still, that doesn't stop him from calling up Naomasa (they're on first name basis now what with the circumstances) when Shouta is unsure of what exactly to do. The man has nieces and nephews, is better equipped with taking care of small, squishy children than Shouta ever will be. His other alternative is calling Hizashi but that's not something he wants to deal with at all, let alone with Midoriya's current state.
(He'll reply to his numerous texts later. He's got more pressing things to worry about right now.)
It's in the afternoon of day six when Midoriya continues to hide away from him that Shouta calls Naomasa. Unsure of what exactly to do and not wanting to freak the boy out, Shouta has been leaving snacks like his quickly dwindling supply of jelly pouches and a few juice boxes (plus a cup of lemon balm tea at dinnertime) at the closed bedroom door, knocking twice before walking away. He represses the desire to spy when the faint sound of the door opening reaches his ears each time. But when he comes back later, both jelly pouches are squeezed empty as well as one juice box.
He knows that Midoriya needs something else to eat besides that but Shouta hasn't had the time to go pick up more groceries, not wanting to leave the boy on his own.
"Is everything alright, Aizawa?"
"When you get off or get lunch or a long break, can you come stay with the kid? I have to go grocery shopping."
There's a sound of amusement on the other end. "I'll be there in two hours. Anything else?"
Shouta grunts. "Did he hide away from you when not at the station?"
There's a lengthy pause. "No. Although that may be because I was the first on scene. But you may be able to appeal to him."
There's the sound of papers shuffling. "From what I remember of his room, he's an All Might fan. As in posters, bedding, figures. You name it."
Shouta frowns because he doesn't really like the Number One's whole 'smile in the face of danger' shtick. All Might is reckless and terrifyingly powerful but intelligent. Had to be to be Japan's Symbol of Peace for years now despite hopping between here and the United States frequently. Despite that though, he can see why people, and more importantly kids, would look up to him.
"He only brought his All Might pajamas and figure," the pro points out. Midoriya had arrived in them with action figure clutched in one hand. Shouta would only see the pj set when it was piled with other dirty clothes when he would stop by again after asking for laundry.
Naomasa sighs on the other end. It's full of sorrow. "I know," he replies and that's that before the call ends.
Shouta knows exactly what to do now.
When he gets back later, there's multiple bags of groceries in each hand. What stands out most though is two tufts of yellow strands that stick out from the bulge in the pocket of his hoodie. Shouta glares at an amused Naomasa, kicking the smirking Detective out.
"One word of this to anyone and they'll never find your body."
Naomasa merely hums, his Quirk ringing out the lie easily. "My lips are sealed."
"Go back to work."
He places down a bowl of soba with a side of white rice and a few more juice boxes (apple and orange this time instead of the usual mixed fruit one) with the cup of lemon balm tea at the bedroom door first before setting the All Might plush behind them. Shouta then taps his knuckles against the door twice before walking away to go eat his own dinner.
The pro comes back an hour later to collect the now empty dishes stacked nicely in front of the door, a lone juice box sitting in the empty cup beside the chopsticks.
The plush is nowhere in sight but he doesn't need to guess where it exactly disappeared to.
Shouta moves to the kitchen, tossing the juice box away before pausing at the folded note that was carefully hidden beneath it. He sets the dishes down on the counter with a soft clink, fingers gently grabbing the note and dusting off the last of the rice stuck to it. He opens it and is greeted by a crudely drawn face of the All Might plush and two scribbled words.
He releases a shaky exhale, eyes squeezing shut as his dry eye acts up.
He's not about to cry. Nope. Definitely not.
Shouta gets the sense that the plush isn't the only thing he's being thanked for.
(And if he pockets the note only to later place it in his bedside drawer that contained photos of happier school days when Ob-
Well, no one would ever know.)
Shouta slinks into the kitchen the next morning, half asleep as he fumbles with the coffee machine, breathing in deeply as the smell of fresh coffee brewing hits his senses. It's when he's finished pouring his first cup that he hears movement behind him, the soft near silent brushing of socks against carpet. He merely takes a sip of his drink, sighing in contentment at the taste before slowly turning around with his hands curled around his bright pink mug. Dark eyes meet green as Midoriya half hides behind the corner leading from the living room into the kitchen. Shouta hides his smile behind another sip of his coffee at the sight of the plush tightly clutched in the boy's arm.
"Do pancakes and french toast sound good?" he asks, voice still thick with sleep. He waits as Midoriya watches him, taking note of how the bruising beneath the boy's eyes is lightening up. And that yes, Midoriya does have freckles. He's still scrawny though but not it's something to worry much about. The kid has eaten the majority of what Shouta gave him.
His patience is rewarded because Midoriya gives a single nod. Shouta hums, turning to place his mug down on the counter and grabs a stray hair tie (one of many scattered throughout his place just in case) to pull his hair out of his face before he begins to gather what he needs. "You can watch tv in the meantime if you like," he offers as he pulls out the pancake mix from the cupboard.
Green eyes linger on him for some time, watching as he pours the mix and milk in the bowl before the staring disappears. Shouta is adding the eggs when he hears the television click on, the low murmur of some cartoon filling up the normally silent apartment.
Something warm bubbles up in chest and Shouta thinks that maybe he's not so bad with tiny ones after all.