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Hizashi was running late. Again.

He pedalled furiously on his bike, speeding up the hill. His slingbag thumped as he stood up on his pedals, bike swaying side to side. And there it was - UA highschool, the top of the rectangular blue building peeking from the crest of the road. The first time he had pedalled this route had been a nightmare. After the weeks of hero classes his legs had toned considerably, and biking up the mountain was no longer an issue. Sleeping late, however, still was. Not like he could have helped it though. As he was finishing up his shift his manager had tossed him the keys, asking him to pack up for the night before waltzing out the door. Hizashi had to wait till all the cooks left before he could lock up. That meant biking home well past midnight, and his house wasn’t all that near either.

He glanced at his watch. Cursing under his breath, he pushed his headphones to his neck and pumped his legs faster. Not listening to music as he commuted? That meant he was full-on concentrating. At the rate he was going, Tensei was going to give him hell when he got there. He sighed. If he ever got there.

First period, first period...English! Hizashi breathed a small sigh of relief. The English sensei liked him, and he had actually done his homework. But still, he probably shouldn’t push it by being late. UA took lateness seriously - if a pro hero were late to the scene...well, many things could have happened by then. And too late would really mean too late.

A few minutes later, Hizashi spotted the rectangular gateway of UA. It was empty as he expected, all the teachers and students had long reached school. Shit, he thought, grinning sheepishly. Tensei was going to kill him.

And then, the loud yowling was the only warning he had before he was launched into the air, landing face first into a bush. He heard the noise of crashing behind (his bicycle!) and whipped his head around, ready to jump into action.

It wasn’t, Hizashi stared at the doberman whining as it bounded down the street. He breathed a sigh of relief. For all his bravado, taking on an actual villain would be really, really hard. He took a look around. The dog must have jumped out of the alleyway. Brushing leaves and dirt of his pants, Hizashi scampered to his bike. Other than a few scratches on the red paint, it didn’t seem to have suffered any major damages. He quickly squatted down to grab the books that had flown out of his bag.

Where had his history textbook flown off to? Ah, he saw the familiar white corners of the book peeking out from some shrubs beside the one his face had been well acquainted with, scratches stinging his face a little. And his glasses, oh thank goodness, his glasses were alright. As he reached into the undergrowth to grab the book, his fingers came into contact with something soft and fluffy.

“Hmm?” Hizashi blinked. He got down on his knees to take a better look. Between the thin branches of the bush, cowering right beside his history book, was a black kitten. It trembled, ears pulled back over its head. Eyes wide, it stared at Hizashi. Hizashi felt his heart melt into a small puddle.

“Aw, you little cutie, did that big widdle dog chase you? I’ve got you now, it’s alright.” He dug a hand into his bag and drew out his half-eaten breakfast, a tuna sandwich. Picking out some tuna (the kind with olive oil, not mayo), he cautiously held out his hand, offering it to the cat. The cat immediately pounced on Hizashi’s hand and licked the tuna up. Hizashi chuckled.

“Poor little fella, aren’t ya? Must’ve been hungry.” He tucked his history book into the bag. “I’ve gotta go, will you be okay out here all on your own?” The cat stared back at him and meowed. It padded forward and Hizashi squinted. The cat was limping.

“Okay, no way I’m leaving you here,” Hizashi muttered, shoving books around in his bag to make room. “If that dog comes back you’re toast, little guy.” With that, he lifted the kitten gently into his sling bag. The kitten was oddly compliant, and snuggled down. Careful to leave some breathing holes, Hizashi closed the flap and ran to school.

He rounded the corner to class 1-A just as his homeroom teacher, pro hero Mattermorphosis, walked out. She wore her hero gear, simple and lightweight armour inspired by an insect’s exoskeleton. Hers was an extremely cool quirk, anything she touched she could mould to the shape she wanted. Limited to non-living, though. She noticed Hizashi’s petrified gaze and sighed, motioning him over.

“S-Sensei! I’m sorry I’m late, you see I had to close up shop yesterday in my part-time job and then go home then do my homework and I-” He gulped when he saw her placid expression and bowed. “I’m sorry Sensei, I won’t do this again!”

Mattermorphosis hummed approvingly, opening up the roll call book to put a check beside Hizashi’s name. “Punctuality is expected of every pro-hero, as I’m sure you know.” He squeezed his eyes shut, he definitely did. “Many pro-heros work side-jobs as well, but that’s not an excuse. We’re expected to go above and beyond in many areas of our lives, no matter how tired. You’d do well to start practicing that from now.”

“Yes, Sensei!” Hizashi’s heart pounded. He would do better and make a good hero!

His homeroom teacher ushered him into class, where he was met with a relieved Tensei. “Hizashi! We were worried that something had happened to you! Wha-What happened to your face? It’s all scratched!”

“Ah, seems like I got knocked off my bike and fell into a bush!” Hizashi grinned sheepishly. He pulled out his chair and plonked down, setting his bag carefully on the floor. Then he noticed something. “Eh? Aizawa’s not in school yet?”

Tensei nodded. “Mr always-rational, always-punctual is late. At first, we thought you two had gone someplace together, but seems not. No one else knows where he is. He’s not answering his texts but there again,” he raised an accusing eyebrow. “You didn’t either.”

Hizashi raised both hands in surrender. “Hey man, was busy cycling. You ever cycle up that mountain? It’s pretty good exercise.” Tensei huffed, and Hizashi swore those little engines in his calves made a small groaning noise, too. Just then, their English teacher pushed the door open and everyone scrambled back to their seats.

The day dragged on, and Hizashi couldn’t help but wonder where Aizawa was. Aizawa Shouta was the most rational person he’d ever met. No spending excessive energy on things like small talk and socialising, Hizashi had made it his personal mission to befriend him, especially since they were sat next to each other. He even had one of the coolest quirks Hizashi had ever seen, an erasure quirk was sure to be extremely useful as a sidekick or even an independent hero. Could he have been attacked on his way to school? Unlikely that Aizawa would be targeted, he wasn’t someone who really drew attention to himself. Even after two months of school, there had yet to be someone in 1-A who could claim to be his friend. But still, it wasn’t an impossibility.

The sudden wailing of sirens caught everyone’s attention. The loudspeakers crackled to life. “Attention teachers and students of UA! There has been a villain break-in at the school.” The voice of Principal Nedzu was drowned out by the burst of chaos that erupted.

“Everyone stay calm!” Tensei frantically cried, but his voice was drowned out. Hizashi clambered onto the table and unleashed his quirk at 10% power. “GUYS, QUIET!”

Immediate silence. The loudspeaker continued to crackle. “This villain has been apprehended, but we ask for your cooperation to move down to the assembly area for mass attendance taking. Thank you.”

The class’ maths teacher shut his book, waving for the students to follow him down and to leave their belongings. They quickly hurried after him. As he was about to leave the room, Hizashi ran back to grab his bag along.

The hallway was crowded with students from the hero, ordinary, support, and business courses squeezing to make their way downstairs. At least no one was rushing, which made it a narrow squeeze but not an impossible one. Hizashi wiggled his way through to where Tensei was. Around them, the students were abuzz, speculating what villain had managed to enter UA, and why the doors hadn’t stopped him earlier.

Tensei peered over at Hizashi and frowned. “Hizashi, why do you have your bag with you? Sensei expressly told us to leave it in class to facilitate the movement.”

“Shh, everyone’ll hear you! Just trust me okay?” Hizashi grasped the bag closer to his body.

Down at the gathering point, the students were lined up in neat rows according to course, year, and class. Mattermorphosis walked down the rows, counting off the students. She nodded, satisfied, and moved to stand behind the podium. Principal Nedzu stood on an elevated platform, and once the teachers had finished he cleared his throat and began.

“Dear students, I am relieved to find that all of you have been accounted for. With the break in that has occured, it is only right for us to let each one of you know what has happened, in order to ensure that the trust between the students and the institution is not compromised.

“Yes, a villain successfully infiltrated the school, estimated to be around 7.30a.m., when most of you would have been at homeroom. He was discovered lurking around the perimeter by our security robots, and a few teachers were dispatched to tackle him. Thankfully, he was captured and brought to the police just now. It has been confirmed that the villain acted alone, though his purposes are still to be discovered.

“Unfortunately, one of our teachers, Gran Torino-sensei, was hit by the villain’s quirk. His quirk is one that allows him to combine two things he touches into one, and as such we would like to request all students to stay clear of the apple tree near Ground Beta. You’ll know it by the yellowish tinge it’s now got. According to quirk records, Gran Torino-sensei will be okay, and morph out of the tree within the next 48 hours. Break-ins have occurred before, and may occur again. We assure you all here that we at UA will review our current security measures and reinforce them. We will do our utmost to keep you all safe. Which brings us to the question, how did the villain enter the school without setting off the alarms?

“This morning, Aizawa Shouta, a student from class 1-A, did not come to school.” Hizashi’s head snapped up at the mention of his friend. Gasps could be heard from the rest of the student body. “His belongings were found in the possession of the villain, including his student access card. We have notified the police and his family, and a search for Aizawa is currently underway. It is unclear, but likely, that the villain used his quirk to attach Aizawa and steal his access card. We promise to employ every and all means to search for him. In the meantime, be extra vigilant, young students.”

For once, all the students at UA had no complaints about their principal’s long speech, if it gave them all the details. Aizawa, Hizashi bit his lip at the thought of what happened. Next to him, Tensei’s eyebrows were scrunched, eyes glaring at the ground. Was there really nothing they could do? In his arms, his bag rustled a little. Hizashi gritted his teeth. And he had been so excited to show Aizawa the kitten he had rescued. He knew Aizawa liked cats, had seen him petting some on the sidewalk after school had ended, as he was wheeling his bicycle out of the gate.

The rest of the school day passed in a dull, dreary flash. Morale was low from one of their own having gone missing, whereabouts and condition unknown.

Finally, the bell rang and their day was over. Hizashi propped his chin up on his hands and yawned. No heroics classes that day meant a normal, average school day, but going home early. Not for him, he had work that evening. A hand slammed onto his desk and he yelped.

“So, Tensei tells me you’ve got a little something in your bag,” Nemuri cooed, staring at him with intent.

Footsteps, and Tensei’s head appeared over her shoulder. “I said no such thing!”

Nemuri rolled her eyes. “Fine. He just said it was strange you brought your bag down to assembly earlier. And my hero senses told me something was up. Could it be something that stirred your blood, your passions telling you to protect it hmm?” She was way too close to him now. Hizashi scraped his chair back. He sighed. There was no escaping Nemuri when she was in this mood. From the glint in Tensei’s eyes, they weren’t going to leave him alone without a satisfactory answer.

“Okay, fine, but promise me you won’t tell sensei.” Hizashi gently picked up his bag and set it on his desk. Nemuri’s eyes blazed with curiousity. He had to shooed her prying hands off the bag. “See, this morning when I was cycling I kind of...knocked into a dog,” Tensei gasped in shock, “and this dog was chasing, well, this.”

Slowly, he unbuckled the flap. He felt something push against his hands, and a small pink nose appeared, followed by whiskers. Soon, the three of them found themselves staring into the face of the sleepy black kitten. It pawed at Hizashi’s hands, resting on the bag, and let out a huge yawn.

“She’s so cute!” Nemuri squealed. She reached out a hand to stroke it but fast as lightning, its paw batted her hand away. “And she likes you Hizashi! She likes you!”

Tensei pushed up his glasses to see clearer. “Don’t tell me...this cat was in your bag the whole day? Without food and water?”

Hizashi shook his head. “I grabbed some sashimi and water from the canteen for it. During recess I let her out in the garden for a while to do...whatever it needed to do. And somehow, it’s a really smart cat, aren’t you? Knew how to behave when Sensei was in class.” He scratched the cat behind the ears, gently taking up its front paw with his right hand. “It’s paw, see, it was twisted when I found it. I thought that Recovery Girl might be able to help, but well, I couldn’t leave it all alone.”

And that was how all three students ended up standing outside Recovery Girl’s office, cat in hand. They heard a small voice telling them to enter, so they pushed the doors open and went in.

“You’re telling me to kiss a cat?” Recovery Girl looked borderline offended. “What, is he going to turn into a prince for me?”

“Oh? It’s not female,” Nemuri looked disappointed.

“C’mon Sensei, please?” Hizashi’s puppy-eyes were well-known to practically be his second Quirk, but Recovery Girl refused to look at him, facing the wall with arms crossed. “Please Sensei? At least help us bandage him up?”

“Please Sensei! Is it not the duty of every medical professional to help those in need?” Tensei joined in with the pleading. Hizashi smiled gratefully at his friend. To Tensei it was practically impossible to ignore someone, or something, in need. And from what he heard, it was even worse with his younger brother, Tenya.

Midnight nodded in agreement. “Please, Sensei!”

Recovery Girl sighed. “Fine. But next time, go to an actual vet. Hand him over.”

Hizashi lifted the small cat to Recovery Girl’s waiting arms. She melted almost immediately, cooing and stroking its small head. The students grinned. Who wouldn’t love such a cute fluffy creature?

Turns out, Recovery Girl did kiss the cat.

It seemed strangely placid as she bandaged up his paw. “My Quirk doesn’t work so well with animals, so there might be some aftereffects. Just give it plenty of water and food and he’ll be fine.” The cat licked her hand and she chuckled. “Does he have a name?”

Tensei and Nemuri turned to look at Hizashi. “It’s best not to give him a name if you don’t want to get too attached,” Tensei began.

“Mr Whiskers!” Hizashi cried, beaming proudly as he interrupted Tensei. Red-faced he pushed his hair back in embarrassment. “Whoops, sorry Tensei.” Hizashi wasn’t well-known for not getting attached to things.

Recovery Girl tickled Mr Whisker’s snout. “Well then, Yamada, better take good care of Mr Whiskers. Make sure his paw heals up well.”

“Will do, Sensei!” Hizashi chirped. Nemuri and Tensei couldn’t help but smile, their friend had such a soft heart.

Since Mr Whisker’s paw was still setting, Hizashi placed his bag in his bicycle basket, looping the sling around his wrist and pushed the bike slowly. He parted ways with Tensei and Nemuri at the station, promising to update them regularly. Nemuri had fished out a small laser pointer keychain for Hizashi to entertain the cat with. On the way back home, Hizashi also stopped by the supermarket to grab a can of cat food.

Going up the stairs to his second-floor apartment, Hizashi was careful to not appear like he was smuggling a cat into a no-pets-allowed residence. He breathed a sigh of relief when he slipped into his apartment. Most of his success with that, he dryly acknowledged, was because the landlord hadn’t actually seen him. He quickly toed off his shoes by the door and flicked on the lights.

His apartment was humble, if on the small side, but perfect for someone who lived alone and spent most of the time in school or working anyway. He opened his bag and Mr Whiskers tumbled out. The confused ball of fuzz stared at the place, carefully taking in the new surroundings,

“Home sweet home little fella!” Hizashi chirped happily. He padded across the room and the cat followed, letting out a soft meow. He went to the small counter on one side of the room and fished out a can opener. Depositing the cat food into a small bowl, more yellow than white from overuse, and set it down in front of Mr Whiskers. The kitten walked over and began eating happily. Hizashi smiled, and headed off to get changed.

After work that night, he took out his homework to finish, setting the radio to play in the background. Mr Whiskers was curled up on a cushion, fast asleep. Humming, he finished English in a breeze. When he got to Maths, the fatigue started to step in and Hizashi found himself staring at the cat five feet from him.

“Must be nice getting to sleep all day, huh?” Quietly, he crouched down and snapped a photo of the sleeping kitten, sending it to Tensei and Nemuri. He sent it to Aizawa too, before he remembered. Subdued, he set down his phone. “Right, villain got your phone,” he whispered.

Hizashi stared at the math sums in front of him. How important was mathematics right now, when he didn’t know where his friend was? That gnawing feeling in his stomach began to grow, the same one he’d managed to ignore the entire day. The teachers had said the situation was under control, they were working with the police, and Hizashi had just….accepted it. Leave it to the adults, it was the rational thing to do, don’t get caught up in people’s business, that would be what Aizawa would have done, right?

Even if he wanted to do something, what could he do? He didn’t have any information about the villain, what his quirk looked like. He didn’t even know where Aizawa lived, and they’d been friends for what, a month? Two? Were they? Aizawa didn’t speak to many people in class. He just happened to be stuck next to Hizashi in the randomly generated seating plan. And Hizashi was terrible and keeping quiet.

Not seeing Aizawa again...something in Hizashi churned at the thought. Objectively speaking , they weren’t even friends. During classes though, Hizashi could never help his eyes from straying to watch Aizawa. The way he utilised his quirk was next to genius. Supplementing it with his binding cloth thingy, together with his graceful, strong movements, he was hard to beat. When it came to rescue missions, he somehow always knew the right thing to do. But right now, past midnight, there was nothing Hizashi could think of that he could do, nothing -

A soft pressure on his thigh snapped him out of his thoughts. Hizashi looked down to meet the dark brown eyes of Mr Whiskers, staring up at him with a strange look. Hizashi’s expression softened. “You worried about me, huh, Mr Whiskers?” He gave the cat an affectionate ruffle. “You don’t need to. I’m okay, but Aizawa...I hope they get him back soon.” He’d have to rely on the heroes for now. He’d be one one day, out there, helping people get their friends back. But for now, he had to pass math. Hizashi turned back to his workbook reluctantly.

Hizashi didn’t sleep well that night, but somehow managed to wake up early enough to get to school on time. He had refreshed the bowl of water, and left a pile of newspapers. Mr Whiskers seemed a bit more lethargic than usual, but Hizashi chalked it up to being unfamiliar with the environment. He probably had been used to free roaming the streets, after all.

“Hey, did you hear?” His ears perked up as he walked down the hall. “The tree that Gran Torino-Sensei was merged with, a senpai from year 2 said he noticed hair poking from the trunk!”

“Huh? When I went there yesterday there wasn’t anything!”

“Yeah, me too! And get this, when Senpai said he didn’t do his homework, the tree shook! And all these leaves fell!”

“No way!”

Right, Gran Torino-Sensei! He’d been preoccupied with getting Mr Whiskers home, he didn’t manage to visit Ground Beta! Knowing UA, it must have been swarmed with students trying to get a look.

He reached 1-A and slid the door open. From the back of class, Nemuri and Tensei motioned him over, standing by his desk.

“Ta-da!” Nemuri cried as he reached them. She whipped out a white plastic bag and deposited it on his desk. “We didn’t know how else to help, so we got you some cat food!”

No way. And he was just rebudgeting for the month to accommodate Mr Whiskers, which might have meant eating more during school to store up the energy. His parents sent him money every month, but he didn’t want to ask for more. To get some spending money, he worked three days at a fried chicken joint. Peeking into the bag, it was crammed full of cans with cat faces on them.

“We didn’t know what Mr Whiskers would like, so we got a selection of all the flavours,” Tensei agreed. “Some look really tasty, like that Salmon chow…”

Nemuri swatted his arm. “Want me to tell Fuyumi-chan that you think cat food sounds appetising?” Tensei’s face turned beet red and he shook his head violently.

“Nemuri, I swear -”

“You guys are the best friends ever!” Hizashi threw himself on the two, squeezing tight with both arms. They laughed, and squeezed back.

“How do you know Fuyumi-chan anway, Tensei?” Hizashi asked once they had let go. “She’s from the ordinary course, right?”

Tensei nodded, and Nemuri cut in. “She’s Endeavour’s daughter! They knew each other from young, going to those fancy galas.” Ah, Hizashi nodded. Galas were expected of most pro heros, it was regarded as a good place to make connections for inter-agency team ups. Children from hero families like Iida and Todoroki must really start all these hero activities from young. That gnawing feeling was back, and Hizashi sat down. Tensei and Nemuri looked at each other. But before they could say anything the bell rang, and they rushed back to their seats.

Once school ended for the day, Hizashi and Nemuri were left to walk home. Tensei had a date, apparently. They watched as he ran to catch up with a girl in UA uniform, with shoulder-length white hair streaked with flecks of red.

“Hey Nemuri, let’s go see the Gran Torino tree!” Hizashi suggested.

“I was just gonna suggest the same thing!”

They took the shortcut to Ground Beta through the school building. As expected, a small crowd had formed around the tree, and they were whispering excitedly. As Hizashi and Nemuri got closer, they could see what the commotion was about. Yesterday, Principal Nedzu had said the tree was yellow in colour, possibly due to Gran Torino-Sensei’s cape. This morning, Hizashi had overhead some students talk about white hair poking out and yep, he could see those too. But now, the tree seemed to be swaying constantly.

Hizashi looked at the other trees around. They weren’t moving. There wasn’t any breeze.

“It looks like Sensei is trying to fight his way out of the tree!” whispered the students. Hizashi had to agree.

“Hey students, please leave the area!” Mattermorphosis, Recovery Girl, and Principal Nedzu walked out of the building behind them. They carried a large blue tarpaulin sheet and some poles. The students scattered, forming a pathway for them to pass. Among the three of them, with the help of some students who ran forward including Hizashi and Nemuri, they set up a tent surrounding the base and most of the tree. The students could just about see some white hairs sticking out. Mattermorphosis tied up the entrance to the tent, while Recovery Girl set some cloths down inside.

“For Gran Torino-Sensei when he morphs out,” explained the Principal. “We’ll have to ask everyone to stay away, security bots will make sure no one enters the tent.”

With murmurs, the crowd dissipated. Hizashi and Nemuri collected Hizashi’s bicycle and started home, cat food bag in tow. A tent? Hizashi thought back to the cloths Recovery Girl had set down. They were yellow and white. Ah. Not cloths, clothes, that meant that when Gran Torino-Sensei turned back he. Ah.

Hizashi cast a side glance at Nemuri. Her face was red. Yep, she was thinking that too.

That day, Hizashi headed straight for work, a double shift from late afternoon to 10.30 p.m.. An hour later he was back home and showered, blonde hair dangling around his face. He stepped out of the shower to see Mr Whiskers staring back up at him. If he looked lethargic this morning he looked unimpressed(?) right now. Hizashi didn’t even know cats could look like that.

“My friends Nemuri and Tensei got all this cat food for you, Mr Whiskers!” He chirped. “Wanna try Salmon Chow? Or maybe Feline Feast?” He held those two cans out for the cat to sniff. Mr Whiskers gave them both a once over. Then his paw came up and tapped on the Salmon Chow twice.

“Ooh, we’ve got a smart kitty!” Hizashi cooed in delight. “Okay, I’ll get you that!”

He had eaten dinner at work. Grabbing a soda from the minifridge, he sat down beside the table and laid out his assignment books. Today was history, and Hizashi stared at the mangled cover. His phone rang with a message and he swiped it open.

It was from Tensei, a short quick message: Any news about Aizawa?

Hizashi gave a huff as he smiled sadly. Some deja vu, huh. He stared at the history book. If the teachers had been setting up the tarp, they probably expected him to morph out tonight, Hizashi thought. If the villain had broken in at 7.30 a.m., and the assembly had been called at 9.00 a.m., that gave an hour and a half for the villain to be discovered outside Ground Beta, Gran Torino-Sensei to be morphed, the villain to be captured, and the police to take him away. With some added time for the staff to regain their composure (statements had been taken after assembly, he had heard), Hizashi estimated Gran Torino-Sensei’s morphing to have taken place around 8.15 a.m..

Then Aizawa’s student pass? Hizashi pushed his history book aside, deep in thought. Seeing how they put out clothes for him, it meant that clothes did not morph with the person. But maybe, given the yellow hue of the tree, some could. It wasn’t impossible.

Hizashi’s eyes widened. That meant it was highly possible that the villain morphed Aizawa and took his belongings, it wasn’t just stealing! No one mentioned if his school uniform had been discovered on the villain. And given Aizawa’s sudden absence and the lack of information...the teachers were still looking for what he had morphed into.

7.30 a.m. School started at 7.45 a.m., but someone like Aizawa would definitely not be late. 7.30 would be just the right time for him to enter the school gates, take 5 minutes to get to class from there, and have 10 minutes to spare. 10 minutes to enter a state of sleep, which was how Hizashi always found him when he burst into class just on time.

A colour that is closely associated to the individual, huh? That one was easy - black. Aizawa’s long hair was black. His eyes were black. His whole hero costume was practically black. That wasn’t as easy as Gran Torino though, what objects were that shade of bright yellow?

Think, Hizashi, think! Adrenaline, like the one he felt during hero class. If they hadn’t found Aizawa yet, even with CCTVs, maybe it occurred in a blind spot. Or maybe...Hizashi turned to look at Mr Whiskers, calmly grooming himself beside the empty bowl of salmon chow. Maybe Aizawa had been morphed into something mobile.

The Gran Torino tree...this cat getting from well, normal cat behaviour to lethargic in a day? Hizashi scrambled up and took hold of Mr Whiskers. With quick fingers, he prodded the cat’s upper left paw under much protest.

“Aizawa! You look really strange with a sleeve one-up one-down, why not roll them both up?” Hizashi had asked during training.

Aizawa hadn’t even looked up as he laced up his sports shoes. “Scar,” he replied flatly. “Not something the world has to see.”

No, surely not? But there it was, under his fingertips, a patch of dry, rough skin on Mr Whisker’s otherwise fluffy body. Hizashi gulped as he lifted the cat up, hands under both armpits. Mr Whiskers met Hizashi’s gaze even as he dangled in such an undignified manner.

“Aizawa?” he whispered. The cat meowed back.

Was that a confirmation? Or was that just a cat being a cat?

“No, no, that’s not it right?” Hizashi let out a bark of near hysterical laughter. “You’re not Aizawa.” He said that firmly to Mr Whiskers, but Mr Whiskers let out a yowl and almost scratched Hizashi.

HIzashi flinched and yelped but didn’t drop him. Slowly, he looked back. The cat, again, met his gaze. “Aizawa?” he tried again. The cat, calmly, meowed. Okay. Okay. This was actually happening.

“That means you can understand me right, Mr Whi- Aizawa.” Hizashi took a deep breath. You’d think that in a world where Quirks were the norm, one would stop being surprised by this kind of things. Seems not. “If Sensei is supposed to transform back tonight that means you probably will too.” The cat nodded its head.

Hizashi set down the cat and opened his drawers. He fished out a pair of sweatpants and a grey shirt. “I don’t know your size, but these are baggy enough that they should fit most people right? I’ll put them here.” He took a deep breath. “Tell you what, I’ll try to stay up tonight to watch over you okay? But if I fall asleep, here,” he set a bottle of mineral water and a packet of crackers beside the set of clothes. “In case you’re hungry.” He grinned.

The clock struck 2.18 a.m., a truly unremarkable time. Hizashi was sprawled on the floor where he had fallen asleep just a while earlier, glasses crooked on his face. Music played from the radio player, as it had all evening whenever Hizashi was home. The door front clicked shut, autolock system enabled.

That morning, Hizashi woke up to an empty apartment. His glasses were neatly folded on the desk, he grabbed them and blinked tired eyes, reaching out to shut the alarm. He gazed sleepily around the room. The set of clothes were gone. So was Mr Whiskers. In his place on the cushion Hizashi had laid out, was a cat, white as snow.

Hizashi blinked at the time on his phone and shot up from the floor in terror.

By the time he reached UA, homeroom had just started. Throwing open the doors, Hizashi was surprised to see the front of class empty, his classmates still milling about. Nemuri and Tensei ran up to him.

“Hizashi! Did you hear the news? They found Aizawa!” Tensei cried.

“That’s why Mattermorphosis-Sensei isn’t here, they’re at the station being questioned!” Nemuri added on. “How’s Mr Whiskers doing?”

Hizashi took a second to reply, catching his breath from the sprint up to class. His phone beeped and he nudged it open. The message notification appeared on screen. A simple message.

Aizawa: Thank you.

He let out a breathless laugh. Nemuri shook him by the shoulders. “What’cha laughing for? Did I say something funny?”

“No, no,” Hizashi shook her hand off. “Funny story, Mr Whiskers…”

Later that day during break, Hizashi didn’t join the rest of the class at the cafeteria. Instead, he headed out to the grass field, lay on his back with his headphones on, and listened to his favourite jazz songs. It was a habit from young, apparently. His father would bring him to the nearby field and they’d lie for hours listening to nature. When his father had bought a set of matching music players, they’d lie next to each other in silence, music flowing around and between them.

It was calming. And despite his usually energetic demonour, Hizashi liked calming.

He felt something nudge his leg, and cracked an eye open. Above him hovered a familiar face. He sat up and paused the track, sliding his headphones to his neck.

Aizawa held out a juice can, and Hizashi happily accepted. He sat down next to Hizashi in the grass. “I knew I’d find you here.”

“Oh yeah?” Hizashi took a sip. Apple juice. “How was questioning?”

A snort. “The usual. They’ll probably call you in soon, you know.”

Hizashi hummed in agreement. “What’s with the special juice?”

“Uh, it’s to thank you,” Aizawa’s voice was awkward. Hizashi saw a faint dusting of pink on his cheeks. “For you know, everything.”

“Aizawa -”

“Shouta,” he interrupted softly. “You can call me Shouta.”

“Shouta-kun?” Hizashi tried out.

“Just Shouta’s fine.”

“Well, Just Shouta,” Hizashi chuckled at the snort that earned him. “How much do you remember?”

Shouta blinked. “Apparently the guy’s quirk gradually unmorphs you. The first day I didn’t get any sensory input. I could kind of see at night I think, you were doing maths and looking very stressed about something. From the second day it felt more like I was transformed into a cat than the cat and I being shoved into one being.”

That was definitely the most Hizashi had ever heard Shouta talk. It was nice, comfortable even. But “Huh.” was all that came out.

“I’ll wash your clothes before returning them.” Aizawa said. “If you were worried about those.”

“Huh? Oh, oh yeah! Thanks.”

Silence as they drank. Hizashi knocked back the last of the juice. “Hey, Shouta? Are we students or heroes first?” The question had been bothering him for a while.

“Students.” Shouta didn’t hesitate before replying. “I mean, we’re hero students, but we don’t even have our provisional license yet right? But I think as we go we’ll..morph more into heroes. Right now it’s more like two things sharing one body, but we’re not there yet. Heroes. Not until we graduate, maybe not until some time after that.” He looked at Hizashi, staring into the distance, and his gaze softened. “There was nothing else you could have done, Hizashi. Setting up the clothes and everything...that wasn’t bad at all.”

Shouta saw Hizashi blink in rapid succession. He looked down at his now empty apple juice bottle. “Besides,” he continued awkwardly. He usually wasn’t the one to talk so much. “Saving a stray cat from a dog and nursing it is a pretty heroic thing to do.” Shouta felt, rather than saw, Hizashi’s grateful look.

The bell rang, indicating the start of the next lesson. Hizashi stretched and hopped to his feet. He held out a hand. “Let’s go, Shouta.”

Shouta hesitated a little before grabbing on. The corners of his lips tugged up a little, catching Hizashi by surprise. “Let’s go….Hizashi.”