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Dry Eye And Other Things That Burn

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“...and he’s normally so attentive that, well, I’m concerned on the young man’s behalf,” All Might explained. “I don’t think he’d take so kindly to me prying into his private affairs…”

“...so you want me to do it for you,” Aizawa finished.

“I suppose you could put it that way, yes.”

“Todoroki is one of mine,” he agreed. “And I’ve noticed what you’re talking about.”

Aizawa wasn’t one for hovering over students. Obviously he wouldn’t let a kid fight on a broken leg (or rough themselves up recklessly, like Midoriya seemed so intent on doing), but he wasn’t the type to nag his brats about showing up sick to English class. It was becoming evident, however, that Todoroki’s case was growing into something more serious.

“I’m not trying to tell you how to run your class—”

“—I know. You’re right, though. An intervention is overdue. I’ll take care of it,” Aizawa said.

“Thank you.”

“Don’t thank me. I’m being paid.”

“Such devotion to the craft,” All Might said with a sudden wetness. Aizawa slipped out of the teacher’s lounge before the situation could escalate further, although he could hear musings about the caliber of teachers at this school echoing all the way to 1-A’s classroom.

“Good morning, sensei!”

“Morning…”

It wasn’t hard to get through his brief lesson plan for the day. Alternating between reading from his Intro to Weapons lecture notes and looking over his class, Aizawa kept an eye on Todoroki throughout the hour. Today, the kid looked the same as he’d been for the past two weeks, if not a little worse: his face looked warm, his eyes were somewhat glazed over, and he generally looked out of it. He could answer questions fine, Aizawa had found, and his grades had yet to decline in the slightest.

“Sensei,” Midoriya called, waving his hand in the air. “Since we’re students, and we’re still working on improving our quirks, how should we tell if we need to start working with a weapon?”

“You mean, ‘How do I tell if I need equipment, or if my quirk is just weak right now?’ Looking at pro heroes with similar quirks can be helpful,” Aizawa said, “since they’re generally trained to use their quirks to their greatest potentials. If they have any obvious weaknesses, and you can think of a weapon to eliminate one of those weaknesses, it would be smart to start working with it now.”

“What if we can’t think of a weapon to cover our weaknesses?”

“I don’t know any heroes with quirks like mine…”

“Is there ever a reason not to use weapons?”

Mercifully, the bell rang.

“We’ll continue this discussion tomorrow. All Might wants you all for hero training after lunch,” he said, raising his voice to speak over the sound of his students packing up. “Be at the outside track at one.”

Aizawa waited until the room had cleared somewhat before approaching Todoroki, who’d taken noticeably longer than his classmates to get his belongings together. “Not you.”

Todoroki looked up at him blearily. “Sir?”

“Come back here at one,” Aizawa told him. “Don’t look so worried. You won’t be missing anything important.”

“Understood…” Todoroki stared at him uncomprehendingly.

Aizawa sighed. “Go eat.”

He would have been more upfront about the whole business if it had been another student. Todoroki wasn’t one to disobey a teacher, for sure, but if he knew they would be discussing his health...Aizawa understood. Asking about health was invasive, and even moreso for heroes, whose injuries and illnesses came more often than not from confidential affairs.

Invasive...it was probably invasive to wonder after Todoroki as much as he did. Aizawa was not, by nature, a nosy person, and he had no desire whatsoever to micromanage his students’ lives outside of their training. That being said...working around Endeavor for the entirety of his career left Aizawa with a particular sense of unease when it came to Todoroki. Endeavor had the habit of treating his coworkers as extra limbs, mere extensions of his own will, and his sidekicks had the habit of not lasting long in that position. Children typically weren’t treated the same as business partners, sure, but for a kid to hate his father as much as Todoroki did…

Who’s to say? Aizawa thought.

With an hour or so before he was due back in the classroom, Aizawa saw fit to make himself his afternoon cup of black tea.

The teacher’s lounge was quiet, a good place to seek respite from the frantic pace of a normal day at UA. Plus Ultra was the perfect motto for high-schoolers, who could burn themselves out one day and wake up the next, ready to do it all over again. Aizawa had mostly learned to oversee the enthusiasm without letting it completely drain him, but there was always some level of residual exhaustion entailed in this kind of job.

He looked out the window after setting the kettle on the stovetop, studying the weather. It’s a season for thawing. Ashido will want to adjust the viscosity of her Acid...Kouda should adjust his roster of animals on-call, although I’m sure he knows that…

Perhaps Todoroki’s sickness was a seasonal issue. Allergies were a normal thing to deal with, especially when it came to kids. The fact that Todoroki’s quirk was temperature-based could be another contributing factor, since the weather was getting warmer. If this was an annual ordeal, Aizawa would have hoped that some solution would have occurred to Todoroki or his father by now. They both could be awfully stubborn, though. He wouldn’t be surprised if it was an annual issue and they simply chose to ignore it every time it came up. It wasn’t as though he didn’t do the same thing with his chronic fatigue, along with everything else.

Aizawa took the kettle off the stove before it whistled. He poured his water and left before some other staff member could make an entrance.

He didn’t have long to enjoy the silence in his classroom before Todoroki’s knock called him back to attention, a bit before one. Recalling that he’d locked the door, Aizawa forced himself to his feet and sullenly let his student in.

“Have a seat,” he invited flatly. Todoroki did.

His student looked uncomfortable, not caring to meet his eyes. “Have I done something wrong?”

“Not to my knowledge.” Aizawa sat on the edge of his desk. “We need to discuss your wellness. Or lack thereof.”

Todoroki closed his eyes, looking thoroughly caught. “No one has any reason to be concerned—”

“—don’t argue,” Aizawa interrupted, “about something so foolish. Your other teachers have approached me about this, and frankly, it’s impossible not to notice your condition. Fevers lasting multiple weeks and constant exhaustion aren’t normal, and certainly won’t help your efforts to train and improve your abilities.”

“Yes, sensei.”

“I’m not here to lecture you,” he sighed, “I’m here to figure out what the problem is. Do you have any idea? Has anything like this happened to you before?”

“No.”

“Nothing? No issues with temperature regulation, quirk overuse…?”

“No. Nothing to this degree,” Todoroki amended.

“We’ve all seen what overuse of your right side does to you,” Aizawa frowned more deeply, “but I haven’t seen you use your left since the Sports Festival. You haven’t been overworking it in your own training?”

“I haven’t used it,” Todoroki replied, eyes trained carefully at the ground, “since the Sports Festival.”

“Which was around three weeks ago. I’m sure you don’t need me to tell you that it’s unwise to leave half of your quirk untrained, and that’s not what we’re here to discuss...before the Sports Festival, did you experience any side effects related to the suppression of your left side?”

Todoroki’s expression grew strained. “I’m not sure.”

“I’m right, aren’t I,” Aizawa said. “Listen, I’m not here to—”

“—sensei—”

“—tell you not to hold grudges—”

“—sensei, please,” Todoroki grimaced, “the trashcan—”

Aizawa barely made it to the desk before Todoroki leaned over the edge and threw up into the bin. Relief seemed far away, as he lost the contents of his stomach and continued to dry heave, looking about as miserable as Aizawa had ever seen him. It seemed to stop for a moment, leaving Aizawa with the burden of breaking the silence; yet then, the gagging started again, and Aizawa felt himself reach out as Todoroki spat out some piss-yellow fluid.

His student’s shoulder was sweltering under his hand, and he could feel a slight quiver running through Todoroki’s entire body. “Can you use your ice?” he asked, trying to keep his sense of urgency out of his voice.

“That’s what I’ve been doing,” Todoroki managed. “It’s—” he heaved, “—this isn’t because of a grudge—

“Tell me, then,” Aizawa prodded, steadying him.

“I don’t know if—if I can control it. My left.”

Ah. He’s afraid. “You mean you haven’t trained it properly,” Aizawa repeated, “and now that you’ve had it suppressed for so long, you’re worried about what will happen when you release all that stockpiled energy. That’s understandable.”

“Before,” Todoroki started, tensing up with nausea.

“Breathe. Deeply, through your nose.”

Todoroki nodded, and followed his advice. It was hard for Aizawa to watch. Having this conversation would have been difficult no matter what, he knew, Todoroki being the prideful kid he was. Having it while he was physically weakened was worse, somehow, like kicking a man who was already down.

“Before the Sports Festival,” Todoroki tried again, breathing carefully, “it was never this bad. Even after—” he had to pause, “—after I stopped using—it , I—it never made me sick.”

Aizawa let that sit for a moment, anxious to let the kid catch his breath. Then he prodded again. “Things changed at the Sports Festival?”

Todoroki shook his head violently. “I used it. I let it get too out of hand. Against Midoriya. I shouldn’t have used it.”

“Midoriya was fine.”

“I didn’t mean to. I did,” he stumbled, “I mean, it wasn’t like I lost control of my quirk. I just don’t understand why I let myself…”

Aizawa didn’t say anything. He gave Todoroki’s shoulder an experimental squeeze, urging him on.

“...do people ever get quirks they...can’t handle?”

The question didn’t exactly take Aizawa by surprise when it came. “Sure. Lots of people can’t control their quirks when they’re kids. Some people never learn. Most do.” He slid off the front of his desk, reassuming some of his characteristic sternness. “If I was concerned about your physical or mental ability to handle your own quirk, I’d expel you. As it stands, the only threat I see to your success is your own stubbornness.”

“Can…”

“‘Can I help?’ You should have asked sooner. It would have saved us both a lot of trouble,” he chided, though the rebuke lacked his typical harshness. “Go ahead. Use your left. I’ll erase your quirk if you become a danger to anyone.”

“Right here?”

“That’s right.”

So Todoroki set himself on fire, after Aizawa had stepped a few feet back, and bore his sky-high mess of flames admirably well for the first few minutes. After that, when the papers on Aizawa’s desk had started to curl up and brown at the edges, he urged Todoroki to start reining in his power. It took another couple of minutes for the temperature of the room to drop to something reasonable for the season, and even then, Todoroki was unable to extinguish himself completely on his own.

“Sensei,” he had winced, and Aizawa had cut off his quirk instantly.

“Let me see.” There was some slight blistering over Todoroki’s scar, Aizawa noticed, and wondered if that area would always be more sensitive to this side of the kid’s quirk. Otherwise, he appeared unharmed, albeit dead on his feet.

“You look better. You should still see Recovery Girl for the face," he said, "but you'll probably be fine from here, with some rest." Aizawa considered him for another moment. "Don’t let it get to this point again."

“I won’t." Todoroki looked away. "I’m sorry.”

"For?"

“Becoming a danger," he answered, "and inconveniencing you and everyone else…”

He trailed off as Aizawa stuck an unexpected hand on his head and steered him, without another word, to the nurse’s office.