Chapter 1: Chapter 1
It wasn’t supposed to end like that. It wasn’t. This was… wrong. So so horribly terribly wrong. Shouta wasn’t supposed to end like that, fragile and defenseless on the hospital bed, with bandages covering his face. Nemuri knew her colleagues were checking on the hospitalised students, and she would be called if she was needed, so for now… she stayed. She stayed with her friend, sitting by the side of his bed, texting with his mother to update her.
“Any news?” Hizashi walked into the room, tired and injured. He had a cut on his forehead, closed with butterfly bandages, and his throat was purple and bruised where he usually wore his directional speaker. Nemuri shook her head, pulling back a chair for Hizashi to sit in.
“Nothing yet. He… they don’t know what shape he’d be in when he wakes up.” She said sadly. The words “If he wakes up” hung between them. No one said it, because hearing it out loud would make it real.
“The kids are going to be alright. They’re being treated. Broken bones, cuts, concussions… burns and frostbites too, but they’ll all recover.” The voice hero slumped, resting his head in his hands.
“At least that. Shouta would be happy.” Nemuri put her hand on Shouta’s gently. It wasn’t the first time they sat like that near a friend’s hospital bed. It wasn’t even the first time this year that they did it specifically for Shouta. But things were different now. After Tensei’s injury, things seemed… more urgent. More real. At least for Nemuri and Hizashi they did. Shouta always knew. He was always on high alert, always extremely aware of the dangers. While the two daytime heroes allowed themselves to grow more complacent, calm down a little. But not Shouta. Never Shouta. Their silence was interrupted by a doctor who walked in. As soon as Hizashi was confirmed as one of Shouta’s emergency contacts (it was easier for heroes to have their peers as emergency contacts), the doctor started explaining.
“His orbital floor was damaged. Now usually I’d say there’s a higher chance of recovery, since he got treated properly and on time, but… this isn’t the first time, not even this year. He recovered the first time well enough, but… I am sorry, but there’s a high chance his recovery won’t be… as complete. If at all possible. He has a very high chance of losing his quirk, and of his sight being severely damaged. He might not be able to see at all when he wakes up.” The doctor’s face was grave, sympathetic and sorry for their fate. Hizashi and Nemuri nodded, confirming that they understood, and he left them be.
Shouta was slowly becoming aware of the fact that he was still alive. His head felt funny, like it was full of cotton, and everything felt heavy. There was pressure on his entire body.
The next thing he noticed was the smell. The sterile smell of latex and disinfectant filled his nose, reminding him of a childhood of tagging along with his mother to the clinic she worked in. They were good memories, no doubt, and they seemed to put him at ease.
Next, as though floating through water, he regained his hearing. There was the rhythmic beeping of machines, the hum of air conditioning, and through the background noise, he managed to hear his friends.
“- up soon. It’s terrifying, honestly. I just… I just want him back.” That was Hizashi. He sounded choked, not the in trying not to cry choked (though there was a hint of that too), but the kind of whispered choked that came with a bruised throat.
“Recovery Girl said he should wake up any day now. Have faith in him. He’s a stubborn ass, he’s not going to kick the bucket that easily.” Ah, Nemuri. Always looking out for them. She was the oldest in their group of friends, and she always waved it over their heads. But when the time came, she was also the older sister who tried to make everything okay. Hizashi laughed, then coughed. It sounded painful. Shouta needed to know. He needed to see what happened. But when he tried, he couldn’t open his eyes. His heart started beating faster, and his head darted from side to side. He felt two hands grabbing his.
“Shouta. Shouta, can you hear me? It’s okay. It’s okay. You’re safe. The fight is over.” He could hear Hizashi, to his right. Safe? Yes, maybe, but why couldn’t he open his eyes?
“My eyes, I can’t - I cant open my eyes.” He forced the words out of his dry throat. Hizashi squeezed his hand, and so did Nemuri to his other side.
“There are bandages covering your face, Shouta. It’s okay. Just calm down and stop thrashing around. It’s fine. Just lie down.” That made sense. Bandages. So his face got hurt again. He lay back down, and could hear a sigh of relief from his friends.
“How are you feeling?” Hizashi asked hesitantly, letting go of his hand only to rest it on his arm. He was always sensitive, always worrying about others first. That was something that connected them, back when they were in school.
“Like you’d expect. Doesn’t hurt too much. What happened to your throat?” He asked, turning his head to where he knew Hizashi’s was sitting. He could hear an awkward chuckle from him, the kind of laugh that wasn’t Present Mic, but Yamada Hizashi. It felt good, hearing his friend without the hero mask on.
“How do you even - never mind, I should’ve known, you’re some kind of ninja, why am I surprised. Yeah, well, some villain used my directional speaker to choke me, then crashed it around my throat. That thing is resilient though, so I ended with a few bruises and the instruction not to yell until Recovery Girl says I’m allowed to.” Shouta could hear the smile in his voice. Sounded genuine. Shouta didn’t need to open his eyes to know if his friend is lying. They’ve known each other for so long, Shouta could recognise every nuance of his voice while half asleep.
“I’m glad it’s not more serious. And… the kids? Are they okay?” He dreaded that question. His students. They’ve been through enough, all of them. How would they handle it if something bad happened to their classmates?
“They’re fine. There were a few injuries, but nothing too bad. They all recovered. Nemuri and I are substituting for you, so don’t worry about them. Focus on your recovery.” Hizashi said softly, allowing Shouta to relax.
“Good. That’s… That’s good. I think… I think I’ll get some more rest.” He said tiredly, slumping back. He heard Nemuri chuckle.
“Just like you, Shouta. Making sure everyone’s okay then immediately going back to sleep.” Her voice was soft and fond as she squeezed his hand. “Get your rest. You deserve it.” Shouta heard her words before drifting off.
“So, today is the big day, huh?” Hizashi asked nervously. Shouta took the last week with mild irritation, suffering it silently. At least the kids didn’t have to see him in this pathetic state. They weren’t allowed to come visit him.
“Finally I can take these annoying things off and get on with my life.” Shouta answered, happy to hear a chuckle from Hizashi. At least he didn’t accidentally offend him. He hated when that happened. The doctor instructed him to keep his eyes shut, then slowly removed the bandages. Shouta touched the skin around his eyes, now scarred and lumpy. Well, that’s not too bad. Scars never truly bothered him, not after the first few. He got used to them. These would be just a mild inconvenience.
“Alright, you can open your eyes now.” The doctor said, and Hizashi squeezed Shouta’s hand (whether it was supposed to be encouraging or nervous, Shouta could only guess). He wanted this done with, and yet…
“What if something is wrong?” The worst part of his mind inquired. And Shouta, being Shouta, decided this was all the excuse he needed to do it quickly, just so he can prove those thoughts wrong. He opened his eyes slowly, practically peeling them open. He looked around…
And saw nothing.
No this is wrong.
It can’t be.
He can’t be.
His heart rate picked up, and so did his breaths. His hand reached up to his eyes, rubbing them furiously in an attempt to somehow fix it, just so he can see something, anything. No no no no no this isn’t happening this can’t be happening I can’t be blind I can’t turn blind if I’m blind I can’t be a hero I can’t save people I can’t save my students I can’t protect them I have to protect them all of them the kids Eri the people on the street I have to protect them I can’t protect them I can’t see I can’t breathe I can’t -
“Shouta!” Hizashi’s voice cut clear through the muffled sounds in his ears. He didn’t even realise it, but he was clutching Hizashi’s hand with a death grip. “Shouta, can you breathe with me? In for seven, hold for four, out for eight. You know the drill, right Shouta? It’s okay.” Hizashi tried to calm him down, force him to breathe properly. He should follow Hizashi’s advice, trying to breathe.
“I can’t-I can’t see. Hizashi, I can’t see anything.” He choked out, holding onto Hizashi’s hand. This was wrong. This was so wrong. He could feel tears pouring from his eyes, but he didn’t care enough to control them. Hizashi rested his other hand on Shouta’s, speaking softly.
“I’m sorry, Shouta. I am. I’m so sorry. But you have to breathe. You can-you can still have a full life, Shouta. We have your back, always. But I need you to breathe.” His voice was choked, like he was also about to cry. No, this wasn’t good. He has to-he has to control himself again, make sure Hizashi isn’t upset about this. He can break down later, he can cry and curse and fall apart later, but not now. Not when his closest friend was right here.
“No… Shouta, don’t do that. Don’t put on a face. You’re allowed to be sad and angry, fuck, I’m sad and angry for you too, just… for now, just breathe.” How could he notice it so quickly? Fifteen years of knowing each other, that’s how. Just like how Shouta knew his moods and emotions from the smallest hint in his voice.
“I need to make a few phone calls.” Shouta said eventually, once he regulated his breaths. Hizashi was still with him, and Shouta had a feeling that he texted Nemuri and Tensei already.
“Phone calls? Where?” Hizashi asked, confused. Shouta considered it. Who should he call first? Not his mother or sister. He can’t face them, not now. Not when he’s still feeling this vulnerable. Tensei and Nemuri already knew, of course. So what does he have left to do?
“I need to call Nezu. Send my resignation. I don’t want to drag him for too long, and the longer he has to find a new teacher to take my place, the better.” He said eventually. His voice was carefully neutral. That fragile neutrality was all he had to protect him from the overwhelming despair. There was silence as Hizashi tried to process the information.
“No. Shouta, you can’t do that. You can’t do that to the kids. They love you! They need you! You can’t just leave them. Shouta… you can still be a teacher. Your students need you.” He was clearly shaken. Shouta felt bad for that, or he would have if he didn’t shove all of his emotions into a dark corner of his mind to hopefully never resurface.
“My students need a teacher. One who can teach them properly. Look after them. Protect them. I am not that person. I cannot be that person. Not without being able to see. Let me have my dignity and retire before I am forced to because of a scandal.” He was quiet, the blank appearance of calm on his face. But it was only an appearance, nothing more. Inside he was slowly cracking.
“Okay.” Hizashi said weakly, defeated. “I’ll dial Nezu for you.” A tear fell on Shouta’s hand, and he wasn’t entirely sure if it was Hizashi’s or his own. Hizashi handed him the phone, the call already going.
“Ah, Present Mic! Is everything okay? Are there any new developments?” Principal Nezu’s cheerful voice rang through the phone. He was always so cheerful in front of others, lulling them into a sense of security. Whether it was a false one or not was up for debate and decided case by case separately. As he spoke, the door opened and Hizashi told him it’s Nemuri.
“It’s me. I called to present you with my resignation.” There was silence on the line as Nezu considered his next words.
“I see. And why would you do that?” He asked, his high voice seeming, a bit more worried. He stopped messing with his papers too.
“I find it illogical to waste your time with futile hopes of a recovery that isn’t going to happen. You will need to find another teacher to replace me, and the more time you have to find one the better.” He could hear a sharp breath from Nemuri, as though she didn’t believe what he was saying.
“You still didn’t answer my question, Aizawa-kun. Why are you resigning?” Nezu’s voice was quiet and calm, not exposing anything. Shouta grit his teeth. Was he going to force him to say it?
“I’m blind. I can’t see, nor will I ever be able to see again. I can’t use my quirk either. So I’m not a hero anymore, and I can’t teach.” He said bluntly. The silence was deafening.
“I understand. The answer is no.” Nezu clicked his pen, voice the epitome of tranquility.
“What do you mean no?” Shouta practically growled.
“It means no. Your job will be waiting for you when you are ready to take it. We will find a substitute while you are recovering, but you still have a place in UA waiting for you to return.” Nezu didn’t seem phased. Of course not, that bastard.
“You’ll need to find a substitute eventually, Nezu. There’s no recovery happening here. I’m not going to just miraculously get my sight back. I’m blind and quirkless and it’s going to stay that way whether you like it or not.” Shouta was getting angry, but Nezu didn’t seem too bothered by this. He shuffled his papers again, setting them down.
“I understand that. And still, I will not rob one of the best teachers I met in the past three decades of his job because of something like that. Your students will be taken care of until you can come back and teach them yourself again. Goodbye, Aizawa-kun. I do hope you feel better soon.” Nezu hung up. He was pleasant, always so pleasant, who gave him the right to be this pleasant, when Shouta was this angry? When he was trying to get a rise out of him? Anything but this stupid sympathy?
“Shouta… you seriously consider quitting?” Nemuri asked worriedly. There was none of her usual cheer there. Shouta would’ve felt bad for making her worry like that if not for the fact that he was so goddamn angry he could feel his blood boiling.
“I don’t consider quitting, Nemuri. I am quitting. I am retiring from hero work, and retiring from my teaching job, no matter what Nezu says. I’m out. I can’t do it like that.” He barked.
“It’s not like you, Shouta. You never give up. Especially not when your students are involved. You can still-“ Shouta didn’t let her finish.
“Can still what? I can’t protect them anymore, Nemuri. I can’t. They would be dead if I’m the one tasked with protecting them. You’re right, I’m not giving up on them. Ever. That is why I’m giving them a chance to have a goddamn future. Someone who can protect them as their teacher. And even if I do give up, what right do you have to tell me not to? I’m a grown fucking adult, Nemuri, if I want to quit for once in my goddamn like then I will!” His hands were shaking, and the silence was charged. The only sound breaking it was Shouta’s laboured breaths, so close to full on sobs. “I’m sorry. I’m sorry, Nemuri. Hizashi. I’m just… it’s been a long day. I need… I need time.” He said quietly when he realised exactly the weight of what he said. They didn’t mean to hurt him. They wanted to help, and he lashed out.
“I understand, Shouta. We’ll be back tomorrow, okay? When you’ve had time to calm down and rest.” Nemuri said quietly. He realised she was hurt, it was obvious, but he also knew pushing it right now, when they were both on edge, wouldn’t be a good idea.
“Thank you.” He whispered, his head low. Hizashi ruffles his hair affectionately, to Shouta’s surprise.
“See you tomorrow, Shou. We’re still backing you up, no matter what.” He spoke softly, kindly. It was warm, and only made Shouta feel worse. These are the people he lashed out at. The people who cared about him, who wouldn’t abandon him for the world, who looked out for him. And then they left. They left, and Shouta rubbed his eyes again. He grabbed his work phone, an old phone with buttons that had the numbers of his closest people and emergency contacts on speed dial, and called.
“Hey Shouta, is everything okay?” Tensei answered worriedly. Shouta never called through that phone if things were okay. In the background, there was the sound of a foreign tv show, probably one of those dramas Tensei liked watching.
“Do you… do you have time to come over?” Shouta asked tiredly, trying his best not to sound as desperate as he felt. Tensei seemed to pick up on it anyway. It made sense. They did know each other well.
“Sure thing, man. I’ll be on my way. Want me to bring anything with me? I can get you some normal food, instead of hospital food. I know you hate it.” He asked casually. Shouta appreciated the attitude, but he was also bitter. How dare he be this casual when Shouta’s entire world was collapsing on him? No. Don’t blow this up. Tensei is trying to help. Don’t blow up on his. Control yourself.
“I don’t… I don’t really feel hungry right now.” He confessed tiredly. Tensei hummed, promising to be right there. When he hung up, Shouta was left alone with the darkness. It was so frustrating. He endured the past week on the promise of recovery alone. He lived through the discomfort and fear and tiredness, all because he knew that when the week is over, he would be able to take off the bandages and be better. But it wasn’t like that. The world could never be this simple, could it? No, of course not. Not for Shouta. Now Shouta was trapped in darkness, forever.
He heard Tensei’s approach from the corridor. The unique combination of wheels rolling and bursting (from his engines) could only be Tensei. It took some struggle for him to open the door.
“Phew, you’d think at least a hospital would be a bit more accessible, wouldn’t you?” He joked as he managed to get in. Shouta could hear he was tired of it thought.
“You’d expect. Then again, they have pretty much half an interpreter for the whole hospital.” Shouta would never forget the urgent texts he got from Yamada Hibiki and Kanon, when Hizashi got hurt on a mission and the entire hospital couldn’t find a single person who can interpret to JSL.
“The world is fucked up, but we gotta live through it. Anyway, how’re you holding up?” Tensei rolled closer, shoving the chairs out of his way so he can settle with his wheelchair next to the bed. Shouta lowered his head, tired.
“Not good. Really not good.” He whispered, pulling his knees to his chest and clutching his head in his hands. Tensei put a hand on his knee.
“Hey. I know. This… this really sucks. Wanna talk about it? Talking helped me get through, and… I know what this feels like.” He was gentle, but not like he was treating him with kid gloves. That was… nice. They often said that Tensei could’ve easily went to psychology and absolutely rocked it. Or to social work. Or anything that had to do with people and treating them. That was just Tensei.
“I’m a hero. This is not just what I do, it’s who I am . I don’t know who I am without saving people. And it’s even worse than that. It’s worse because I can’t do even the smallest things. I can’t read. Fuck, I can’t even look at anyone. I’ll never be able to see anyone or anything again. I can’t even look after myself like that, let alone be a decent guardian for Eri, or a teacher to my students.” Shouta’s voice was small and tired, so afraid of the implications of his situation, so exhausted from the mere thought of it all, so heartbroken at the image of the children he cared for so much left alone to be raised and educated by someone else.
“Speaking of your students… Tenya brought me something to pass over to you. The kids were really worried. They made you a card. Want me to read it for you?” Tensei asked softly, still holding his hand on Shouta. “There’s so much glitter on it I’m never going to get it out of my hands.” He sounded amused. Shouta couldn’t stop the warm, fond feeling in his heart.
“That would be Aoyama. He has an affinity to glitters and no self control when it comes to using them.” He mentioned quietly, smelling a whiff of caramel scent. “And if the smell is anything to go by, Bakugou was nervous when he handled this. I can smell the nitroglycerin even now.” At least his other senses were as sharp as ever. None of the whole senses getting stronger myth though.
“You know your kids really well. Woah, that’s a lot of handwritings. Hey, how about I read a section and you tell me who wrote it?” Tensei offered, and Shouta felt up for it. These were his kids, and Tensei was hinting that he didn’t know them well enough to succeed. So of course now he had to prove himself. So Tensei read, and described the writing, and Shouta told him who it was. The long flowery paragraph in perfect calligraphy was, of course, Yaoyorozu. A shorter, more formal one with a similarly perfect handwriting was Todoroki. The shaky, rambling one was from Midoriya, whose right hand was severely damaged in the Sports Festival and then again in the training camp. One written in French with glitter pens was so obviously Aoyama it hurt. An especially short one, saying only don’t die , was obviously Bakugou’s work. Every kid wrote something, wishing him a smooth recovery and waiting for him to get back to class.
“These kids really care about you. Tenya’s been worried sick, and he said all of his classmates feel the same. They all want to visit you, so if there’s a storm of kids coming soon… don’t blame me for not warning you.” Shouta was shocked by this revelation. They were worried? They actually wanted to visit? Why? Tensei sat with him for a while, just drawing his attention from the situation. Before he left, he turned the radio on and tuned it to Hizashi’s show. That… that was nice. Shouta wasn’t sure he can take both the dark and the silence. If he closed his eyes, he could imagine he’s at home, on his off day, trying to get some rest and listening to the show because he couldn’t sleep. Eventually he drifted off to a song Hizashi used to play on his guitar all the time when they hung out back in school, something in English about a black bird learning to fly. Shouta knew the words by heart already, even though wasn’t entirely sure about all the meanings. It was a comforting, familiar tune that allowed him to fall asleep.
A few days after his rejected resignation, a quiet knock on the door. Tensei, Nemuri and Hizashi didn’t knock. Neither did his mother or sister. Who could it be?
“Sensei, can I… can I come in?” It was the uncomfortable voice of Todoroki Shouto. It was a surprise, to say the least, having him come here to visit. Once Shouta approved, the door opened slowly. His steps were slow and quiet, so quiet that if not for the deafening silence prior to them and the darkness around him that made him desperately search for any sound to locate the things and people around him, he wouldn’t have heard them at all. When he sat down, he put something on the bedside table.
“What are you doing here, Todoroki?” Shouta asked. It came out a bit more aggressive than he meant. The kid came to visit him in the hospital, after all. Shouta could imagine the involuntary moment of freezing, unnoticeable to those who didn’t observe him very, very carefully. Somehow one of the strongest students in his class, froze at any hint of aggression. Not from his fellow students, mind you. But from adults? It was only a moment, but it told Shouta a lot.
“I… the principal wouldn’t let everyone get out to visit, especially not at the same time. They wanted to. But I was already out of school either way so I came to visit.” Todoroki was very still. He was always still. He was probably out visiting his mother. “I… I brought a melon. From the class. We all collected the money. We hope you get better soon.” So that was what he put on the bedside table. That was… unexpected.
“You shouldn’t have. It’s illogical to waste so much money on something that is meant to be symbolic.” He said out of a reflex, and then remembered these are children he’s talking about. They were bound to be illogical from time to time, and doing something nice wasn’t the worst illogical thing they could’ve done. “But… thank you. Tell your classmates I appreciate it.” He softened his previous statement with his gratitude. He really did appreciate it.
“I’ll tell them.” He sounded slightly relieved. There wasn’t much expression in Todoroki’s voice usually, but Shouta learned the nuances. And they meant a lot. “Sensei… can I ask something… rude? It’s really not my place to ask, but I’d like to ask it anyway.” The boy asked all of a sudden.
“Don’t pretend like you have any respect for authority, Todoroki. I heard what you said to the Hosu chief of police. Just ask.” Shouta was slightly amused and mildly horrified when he heard what Todoroki said to the man. He wasn’t like that in class, usually. He was rude sometimes, and quite blunt most of the time, but not offensive or dismissive.
“It’s not about authority, sir. It’s about respect. I didn’t respect him because his decisions seemed wrong and he appeared to prioritise the dry letter of the law over saving lives. I don’t give respect to people who didn’t earn it.” Todoroki said quietly, surprising Shouta. He never thought about it like that.
“I understand. I’m glad I managed to earn your respect then. My answer still stands. Ask.” Shouta nodded, and Todoroki shifted in his place.
“Is it really true that you are going to retire from teaching?” He asked hesitantly. That caught him by surprise. The question, of course, but also the hesitance. Todoroki simply didn’t hesitate. Not in fighting, not in talking.
“And where exactly did you hear that?” Shouta asked cautiously, not wanting to expose if it was true or not.
“Hagakure walked into the principal’s office to bring him papers while he was on the phone. He didn’t notice her.” Todoroki confessed. Of course.
“As stealthy as Hagakure is, I doubt the principal didn’t notice her, considering his heightened senses. It’s more likely that he simply fed you this information on purpose, letting her overhear it while knowing that she will tell the rest of the class. He does that quite a lot.” Shouta explained.
“So it’s not true?” There was hope in Todoroki’s voice. Shouta hates to break it.
“I didn’t say that. Did Hagakure also overhear why I’m retiring?” The silence told Shouta that she didn’t. “I’m blind, Todoroki. This renders me quirkless and debilitated. I can’t continue with hero work like that, and I can’t continue with teaching like that. So as much as I’d want it to not be true, it is, and we all have to face the facts. It would be illogical to cling onto unrealistic hopes.” To get the message across, Shouta had to be blunt. Even if it hurt both of them.
“Maybe not hero work, but… you can still teach. Ectoplasm-sensei doesn’t have his legs. All Might looks like a skeleton and coughs up blood if he moves around too much. And they still teach. I-I even heard Iida’s older brother is trying for a teaching job next year.” There was something in his voice that Shouta didn’t expect. He sounded almost like he was pleading. It was frighteningly similar to the way Eri begged, when she ran to him after a nightmare, please don’t leave me . It wasn’t the same, of course. Todoroki was controlled and more mature, but the undertone was there. The fear was there. It almost made him want to cave in.
“These are different situations, Todoroki. You students deserve a teacher who would be able to look after you and protect you. Nezu will find you a better suited teacher.” Shouta hated doing that. He didn’t know what brought this, but that kid, who was always so calm, composed and independent, treated Shouta’s retirement like it was abandonment. Todoroki pushed his chair backwards.
“I understand. Goodbye, sensei.” His voice was flat as he left the room. This wasn’t good. At all. Todoroki developed so much since the beginning of the year, grew up, changed . He’s grown so much more expressive and open. Hearing him revert so quickly back to the frozen mask he had earlier that year made Shouta feel like he messed up. Bad. But what else could he do? It was for the better. It had to be done, and the sooner he rips off the bandaid, the better. So Shouta was left alone in that hospital room, again in silence.
A knock on the door. Small and weak. Shouta wondered if it was just a mistake. His students weren’t so shy as to knock like that, and no one else knocked. But no, there it was again, that same knock.
“Who is there?” He asked quietly, hearing the door squeak open slowly. The steps that came in sounded small and fearful, almost too quiet to hear.
“Dad?” A small voice whispered, and Shouta would recognise it anywhere. Eri. He wasn’t technically her father, but it made it easier for her. She wanted a parent, needed the experience of family that would love her and care for her like she didn’t get since her parents, who she barely remembered, died.
“Hey Eri. Are you feeling okay?” Shouta asked, keeping his voice low and soft, non threatening. The silence told him that she probably nodded, or shook her head. “Eri…” he sighed. “I will need your help. I can’t see anymore, so when I ask a question, I will need you to answer with voice, so I know what you answered.” He paused, thinking for a moment. “I know it’s not always easy for you, so here’s what we’ll do. Clap once for yes, and twice for no. Okay?” He asked softly, waiting for a few seconds before hearing a small clap.
“Good. That’s good, Eri. Thank you. Now, are you feeling okay?” He asked, waiting for her answer. Two claps. “Okay. Are you feeling sick?” He started the long process of figuring out what’s wrong with yes or no questions. They were used to it already, as Eri would sometimes stop speaking, either not wanting to or completely unable to. Two claps again. “I’m glad. Are you feeling scared?” He asked the next question, getting a few seconds of silence before a single clap. He nodded slowly. “Do you want to come over here and sit with me while we understand why you’re afraid?” He asked, and this time the clap was almost immediate. “Good. Now come over to where my hand is on the bed, so I can help you up.” He offered. She clapped once.
When she reached the bed, her small hand grabbed his silently. He used that as a sign for where, more or less, she is, quickly calculating how to pick her up without hurting her. He did it, letting her sit next to him. She curled up at his side, clinging to him.
“Are you afraid of someone coming to hurt you? You can do the same thing we did with clapping but instead tap on my hand if you don’t want to talk.” He said softly, realising she might not want to let go of him to clap all the time. Two taps on his arm.
“Okay. If it’s not that… are you afraid of someone coming to hurt me?” He asked, running his fingers through her hair. She hesitated, before tapping twice.
“Are you afraid of a nightmare you had?” This time the tapping took a little less time to arrive. He nodded, thinking. What else could it be? It wasn’t her fear of being hurt, it wasn’t her fear of someone else hurting because of her, and it wasn’t the nightmares from her past. That left only one option.
“Are you afraid that I will leave you?” He asked, hand still running slowly through her hair. He could feel her nodding against his side, tapping once. He nodded, holding her gently in his arms. “What brought that fear?” He asked, so soft, letting her take as much time as she needed. She was silent for a few long moment, mustering the courage to speak up.
“Heard Zashi on the phone… he said you want to stop with everything, and that you feel really bad, and that he… he’s worried that you will leave us forever.” Her voice was barely above a whisper. “He was crying.” She added after the fact. Shouta’s heart broke at the thought of how hard everything must’ve hit Hizashi that he cried like that without noticing Eri was there, and of the poor girl fearing that the person she learned to trust would leave her.
“I’m not leaving you, Eri. I won’t. I’m right here, and even if I leave everything else, I won’t leave you.” He hugged her close, and she clung tighter to him.
“Everyone wants you to not leave. Deku-san and Shinsou-san and Zashi and everyone is really scared that you’ll leave. Lemillion-san too, even if he smiles a lot and doesn’t want me to know. Please don’t leave…” she whispered, and he could feel a warm, wet spot spreading on his hospital gown as she started crying. She was shivering under his arms, and all Shouta could do was hug her a little tighter, and hold back his own tears. He always had a weakness for children, and Eri was… well, she was his child. He actually considered officially adopting her, before… before this. He couldn’t hurt her like that, not when she needs the most stability. Then again, him leaving would cause her even more distress. He was torn, deciding to focus on calming her down for the time being. She wasn’t sobbing anymore, just quietly holding onto him.
“Can you do my hair dad? Like you always do.” She asked quietly. It took him by surprised. He thought for a few moments, realising that this must’ve meant a lot to her, the calm routine of him brushing and braiding her hair. It was logical. It was safe physical contact and positive attention, something that she never really got much of growing up.
“Of course. And you can tell me about your week, if you want.” He said quietly, making the effort to smile for her. She turned her back to him, and he started brushing through her hair with practiced fingers. It was something he’s been doing in the morning, half asleep. It was also something he did since he himself was young. He did it for his sister, and for his mother, and later for Nemuri and Hizashi. He could do it with his eyes closed.
When Hizashi returned to the hospital room (he let Eri go in alone, so she could say what’s on her heart without him there), he saw Shouta, with his eyes closed and a concentrated expression on his face, braiding Eri’s hair slowly.
“Lookin’ good, Eri-chan!” He grinned, sitting next to them. She smiled shyly, looking at him. Shouta seemed… calmer, now. He seemed so tired and depressed since the news broke, but now he seemed more at ease. Hizashi grinned widely. Good. Eri was affecting him well. “Good to see you look so calm, Shou.” He smiled, reaching to touch his arm before realising that with Shouta unable to see him, it would be better not to touch him without making sure he’s ready for it.
“Turns out there’s one thing I can do with my eyes closed.” Shouta said quietly, finishing the intricate braid. Eri smiled, hugging him close. They both looked so much calmer than they did since the attack. Shouta even told a joke.
“I’m going to touch you, okay? Don’t want to freak you out.” Hizashi warned, and Shouta nodded, still calm. So Hizashi reaches out and ruffled his hair again, moving to sit on the bed and hug both him and Eri. Shouta tensed for a moment, then calmed down, relaxing into the hug with a gentle sigh. Eri seemed happy, curled up against Shouta and wrapped in their arms. For a moment, he imagined a future where -
Stupid Hizashi, don’t you dare. Don’t wish for more than you have, because it would only break your heart.
He should’ve let those feelings go long ago. He should’ve buried them deep down, or thrown them away, back in high school. Should’ve just been satisfied with being Shouta’s friend. And for the most part, he was! Really! It was just… he couldn’t help but dream about something else.
“Thank you, Hizashi. For everything. I… I don’t know how I would’ve dealt with this without you.” Shouta said quietly, leaning into him, and Hizashi’s heart melted in his chest.
“Don’t mention it, man! We’re friends, right? I know you’d do the same for me if I needed that kind of help.” He grinned, trying to play it off as nothing as he pulled away.
“Don’t try to act like it’s nothing, Hizashi.” Shouta said firmly, opening his eyes. They were milky and unfocused, but the intent in them was very clear. He looked in Hizashi’s direction, accurate almost to the centimetre just because he knew Hizashi so well he could almost predict his movements. “It’s not nothing, especially not with the way I treated you. I’m not the most pleasant person on the best days, and these… these are definitely not my best days.” He laughed bitterly. Hizashi put a hand on his shoulder.
“I don’t mind, Shouta. I know you. You’re going through something hard. I’m not… I’m not going to leave you just because you’re upset with the bad things that happened to you.” God, that man was impossible. Impossibly kind, too. Shouta presses his head to Eri’s, just holding her securely as she slowly drifted off to sleep. The poor girl didn’t sleep a lot since Shouta got hurt. “We’re just waiting for you to get back home, okay?” He added softly, feeling Shouta tense under his hand.
“Right now, your home is in UA. Mine isn’t, not anymore.” He said quietly, eyes shutting tight. Hizashi knew how much it hurt for him. UA was Shouta’s home, even when he wasn’t teaching. It was a sanctuary. Beside the small apartment he grew up in with his mother, and the home they shared (out of convenience and habit, as they became roommates after graduation and decided it would be more comfortable to stay that way), UA was Shouta’s safe place. Even more so after the dorm system was implemented and the teachers also moved in. It became home. They even brought their cat with them. And now… now Shouta was saying he won’t return to UA.
“You still have a place in UA, Shouta. Even if you don’t return as a teacher, there’s a place for you there. Always has been, and always will be.” Hizashi smiles gently. It was meant to be encouraging, but Shouta closed off. He lowered his head, just holding his daughter quietly.
“It would be too hard. Everyone around me will constantly have and use all the things I want but can’t have anymore. There are kids there trying to become heroes to save people. All the teachers are heroes. Even though there are other courses, UA is the most heroics oriented place I know. Being surrounded by that, knowing that I can’t do this thing that is… fundamental to the person I am… it would break me, Zashi. I know that.” He sounded so crushed it hurt. Hizashi wanted to tell him that there are others in that exact situation in UA, other teachers who want so bad to be heroes but can’t anymore, but he knew it would only upset Shouta. It felt like he would be guilting him into doing that, telling him look at all those people, their troubles are worse and they still do it, why are you so weak? And Hizashi never ever wanted to do something like that to Shouta.
“Whatever you choose… I’m right here. You have a home with me.” He decided to make a bold move (well, decided wasn’t the right word. It was more like… was overcome by the need ), and pressed his lips to the top of Shouta’s head. It wasn’t a completely foreign gesture between them, and even less rare in their friend group. With Nemuri being the physically affectionate person she was, they were well practiced with this kind of intimacy in a platonic context. Hizashi just usually didn’t do that with Shouta, mostly due to his fear of his emotions coming to light. But when he did… it was important.
Hizashi did it when news broke in school about his villain father and the man’s death at the hands of the police, breaking most people’s trust in Shouta and leaving him almost alone. He did it after Shouta’s first unsuccessful mission, when he was a broken mess of guilt and scrapes, recounting the horrors of a hostage situation gone wrong in a hollow voice, wrapped in the relative comfort of his blanket and the darkness in their first crappy apartment. He did it when Shouta finally returned home after the USJ attack, after he woke up from a terrible nightmare presenting to him the worst possible outcomes of that encounter on top of the already horrifying event. He did it after the training camp and the subsequent raid on the League of Villains, as Shouta finally let himself unwind from the horrible stress of students getting hurt and kidnapped, friends disappearing, and of course the collapse of the pillar that was All Might (And as much as Shouta disagreed with him on many things, he was still born in the generation just between the old world and the new, old enough to vaguely remember the more dangerous world of “before All Might”, and young enough to grow on stories of the man’s great successes as they were happening, watching them on the news as a kid). The last time he did it was after the raid on the Eight Precepts of Death, as Shouta recounted dead heroes and injured children and how he was kidnapped, feeling so trapped in his own body, moving so, so painfully slowly as time almost stopped for him.
And now, of course. Now, when Shouta was trying to cast away all the things that made him happy in life, for the sake of not hurting himself by being surrounded by the things he loves but can’t have. Hizashi couldn’t help but hope they find some way to help him, because if he didn’t get any help with that… Hizashi was afraid that he would wither away and die.
And he couldn't sit by and watch it happen.
This is pretty much all I had pre-made, so it will take time to update. Then again, my other fic Vigilantes started with just two pre-made chapters, and now it's at 25 and not showing any sign of stopping. So we'll see how this goes. I hope you enjoy! What do you think? Any suggestions? I'd love to hear your thoughts!
Chapter 3: Chapter 3
For a while now, there was a steady stream of students coming to visit. Some tried to convince him to keep teaching. Some just came to wish him health. Some came just once, and others, like Shinsou for example, came almost every week. Todoroki never returned after that first visit, and Shouta couldn’t say he didn’t understand that. He sounded so hurt…
“May I come in, Aizawa-kun?” A knock on the door, and All Might’s voice was heard through the door. He sounded fairly uncomfortable, like he wasn’t entirely sure if it was his place to come.
“Yeah, sure, come in.” Shouta sighed, running his fingers through his hair. All Might didn’t come visit until then, and Shouta wasn’t entirely sure why he came now. As he walked in, a strange clicking sound followed his steps. It confused the hell out of Shouta. What was it? All Might pulled a chair, and sat down.
“Truth be told, I planned to wait a little longer with my visit, until the wave of students calms down a little and you’re feeling a bit better. But Yamada-kun was under the impression that my presence would somehow helpful to you, though I’m not quite sure how… but I’d be grateful if I can help.” The man sounded awkward and unsure, and Shouta couldn’t help but groan loudly with annoyance. “My apologies, I didn’t mean to-” He started apologising, and Shouta cut in.
“I’m not annoyed with you. Hizashi fooled you, that’s all. He’s trying to have you convince me to not retire. He seems to think I’ll compare our situations and decide to go back into teaching.” He wasn’t angry with Hizashi, not really, but it was definitely annoying. Why couldn’t he just stop.
“Ah, I see. I apologise, that’s… I was unaware of that.” He sounded embarrassed again.
“It’s not your fault. For all his goofy, harmless act, Hizashi is smarter than most people understand. I’m not surprised he managed to fool you.” Shouta dismissed it.
“I assure you, I won’t be trying to convince you to do anything. It’s your choice, and your life. My opinion on it isn’t remotely relevant. I’m just sorry that I wasted your time. I know that you don’t particularly like me.” All Might’s voice was good natured and light, but that last statement frustrated Shouta.
“I don’t dislike you, All Might. I might disagree with you on some things, or believe that you are a criminally inexperienced and clumsy teacher, or detest the way your presence shifted the focus of heroics to being solely on physical strength, but I have a lot of respect for you, both as a person and as a hero. I even think you’re not a completely abyssmal teacher, and definitely have the potential to be a good one, despite your lack of awareness.” Shouta couldn’t help but explain, both complimenting and insulting him more than he ever did before at the same time.
“Thank you. That means a lot coming from you.” All Might answered with what sounded like a genuine smile, though those turned out to be quite rare for the Symbol of Peace, especially considering how smiling was practically his trademark.
“Don’t mention it. Now would you mind explaining to me what the hell that sound was when you walked in? It sounded like you’re knocking on the floor before stepping on it.” Shouta waved off his thanks, focusing on the question that bothered him since the beginning of the conversation. All Might laughed.
“Oh that? These were my crutches.” One question answered, and another popped in its place.
“Crutches? Did you get injured or something?” Shouta asked, confused. All Might retired from hero work, and was fairly careful when it came to what little remained of his health.
“Oh no. I’ve just been trying out different kinds of mobility aids lately. Decades of heroics take a certain toll on the body, on top of my various other chronic injuries. These have been great help with the pain lately, so I consider sticking with them.” He seemed to take it lightly, and be genuinely happy with it.
“You sure take it a lot easier than I would’ve expected.” Shouta noted, in a tone that didn’t convey anything other than a simple fact. All Might’s laughter seemed genuine, if a bit sad.
“Oh, I assure you, I didn’t take this easy at all. I’ve been considering it for months. didn’t want to do it because I was afraid it makes me weak. I… well, I have some old fashioned opinions I had to wrestle with for quite some time. I’d never judge another person for using any help they need, but… it’s different for myself.” He admitted, and Shouta was struck by the realisation that maybe they were more similar than he ever wanted to admit.
“Huh. I can understand that. Bet the students were pretty damn confused when you showed up like that.” He gave a small smile, imagining the kids’ reactions to All Might in crutches.
“Terribly. Their questions may have prompted an unplanned lesson on the long term effects of heroics careers on the body. I know they have a few lectures about that in next year’s curriculum, but I figured if we’re already on the subject…” He sounded almost like he was apologising for that.
“Congratulations, you learned one of the most important lessons about teaching. That lesson was relevant, so you gave it. As long as they catch up on the material this lesson replaced, it’s a very good thing.” Shouta couldn’t help but feel a bit proud. Relieved too. All Might seemed to be genuinely trying for the children.
“Thank you, Aizawa-kun. I’m glad it turned out okay.” It amazed Shouta, every time he talked to All Might, how genuine and simple to talk to the man was. Well, that wasn’t quite right. Talking to All Might was just as stuffy and annoying as he imagined it would be. Talking to Yagi Toshinori, however, was a completely different thing that Shouta learned to enjoy.
When Hizashi came to visit later that day, Shouta couldn’t help but be slightly angry.
“Okay, what is it? I know that expression, I clearly did something wrong, so what is it?” Hizashi asked, genuine and open as he always was.
“You tricked All Might to come here and try to convince me to go back to teaching. I don’t know what’s more insulting, that you didn’t even tell him about your plan, or that you thought it would work.” Shouta said, just a bit cold.
“That’s really not why I asked him to come over.” Hizashi said, offended. “You should know I’d never do this to you! You’re my friend, and even if I don’t like your decision, I won’t guilt or manipulate you into it! I just know that All Might is good at all the… support and motivation thing. In a way I’m not. He’s good at making people feel understood, you know? I genuinely thought he would be able to help you feel a bit better. I know you don’t always agree with each other, but you do appreciate each other.” Shouta felt very self conscious about how he immediately turned to suspect Hizashi. He turned away, clenching his fists.
“I’m sorry.” He said tiredly. “I really shouldn’t have thought that, it’s just that I’m so frustrated… so many of the kids try to convince me to go back to teaching, and I know all of you want me to do that… I know I’m unnecessarily apprehensive. I’m sorry.” There was silence for a few moments, and Shouta could feel his eyes full with tears. He kept them back, reining them in.
“It’s… it’s okay, Shouta. I understand why you’d get defensive about that. Doesn’t mean it didn’t hurt that you went straight to that, but… the point is, I understand why you did that.” Hizashi said, then let his voice soften a bit. “Can I sit next to you on the bed?” He asked, and Shouta just nodded.
A chair scraping against the door as it’s pushed back, the mattress sinking slightly under the warm leg pressed to his. The scent of Hizashi’s shampoo, which Shouta knew very well (Hizashi was a creature of habit, and he’s been using the same shampoo since they moved in together), as his long hair fell over Shouta’s shoulder. Hizashi’s sharp chin leaning on his shoulder, and an arm wrapped around him from behind. Shouta closed his eyes, letting himself believe that this is normal. That everything is okay, and Hizashi is just hugging him like he did sometimes. He was less affectionate with Shouta than he was with their other friends, but that was understandable. Shouta himself always appeared more distant than any of them. But Hizashi always knew when Shouta needed help. They learned to know and help each other.
“I’m sorry, Hizashi. I know I’m insufferable right now. I keep lashing out and making a mess about things, and you don’t deserve it. If at any time it gets too much… please leave. I don’t want to have you stay with me out of a sense of loyalty if I genuinely hurt you. It’s not right for you.” Shouta’s voice was slow and deep, and bone tired.
“I don’t know if I can. I’ll be honest with you… I don’t think I can leave you, even if it is painful. I care about you too much, and you know how I am when I care. But… I’ll keep it in mind. Just don’t try to push me away just cause you think it’s better for me. Let me make that decision, if I choose to.” Hizashi spoke softly, just squeezing Shouta tight. The warmth and pressure were both welcome, as was the opportunity to actually know where Hizashi was. With most of his body pressed against Shouta’s, he could more or less position the rest of him in space.
“I promise.” Was all Shouta could say, before letting his head fall. He wrapped his arms around Hizashi’s, as the other man’s face pressed against his back, and let his tears fall. He was desperate for that contact, for the physical pressure of just being held tight, the closeness Hizashi and him shared that held inside it history, and care, and love. Only then did he let himself cry, feeling Hizashi’s tears soaking in his back.
“Hey Shouta, how’re you doing? You’re getting out next week, right?” Tensei rolled into the room, after another long struggle with the door.
“Yes, and then it’s back home. Haven’t been there in a while.” Shouta said sadly. He really wished that he could go back to UA, back to his normal life as a teacher and a hero, but… he couldn’t. So it was back to the house he shared with Hizashi, only now Hizashi wouldn’t be there with him.
“I got kind of an awkward question for you, and I’d probably need to ask Hizashi too, but… okay, you know how stressed my parents were when I got injured? They didn’t really stop. I love them, don’t get me wrong, but god I’m sick of being treated like I’m made of glass.” He ranted, and Shouta nodded in understanding. His own family knew better than to treat him like that, but Tensei’s parents were always more worried in that respect. Protective too. While Shouta grew up exposed grim reality after grim reality, Tensei’s early years were quite sheltered. Even as an adult, he mostly remained on the lighter side of the profession. Not as much as Hizashi, who was relegated to the role of the ace up the sleeve due to the uncontrollable nature of his quirk and only called to active duty in emergencies, but he was definitely not as deep in the mess as Shouta was. Or Nemuri, to most people’s surprise.
“Sounds annoying, but… where is the question?” Shouta asked, turning the radio off so he can focus solely on his friend. Tensei laughed, the way he always did. Sunshine and smiles, like most people he ended up befriending, somehow. It was a miracle that those people even wanted to be around his own gloomy self, if you’d ask him. A true miracle that somewhere deep down he was afraid of losing. He feared the moment his luck would run out and those friends he loved so dearly would understand just how unpleasant he was to be around. It wasn’t a rational thought, but he couldn’t quite expel it, especially not now when he was more sour and grim than ever.
“Would it be okay if I moved in with you for a while? I think the distance would help a little. Besides, your place is closer to the university I go to.” He stopped, hesitating for a moment before going on. “And I think both of us could use the company. Alone time isn’t the best thing to have when your head isn’t in the right place.” This sentence wasn’t said with the same smile he had before, and Shouta knew how to read between the lines.
“Nightmares again?” He asked softly, answered with a sigh and what Shouta guessed was a tired nod. It seemed to be easy to forget that Shouta was blind. Hell, he himself opened his eyes sometimes expecting to see. It was a habit.
“I’d assume you nodded. Same one? About Hosu?” He asked sympathetically. He heard the familiar sound of skin striking skin, and knowing his friend Tensei probably facepalmed.
“Shit, sorry, forgot that - never mind, I’m sorry, and yeah, same nightmare. Guess my parents aren’t entirely wrong to be worried, huh?” His lame attempt at a joke earned a long suffering sigh from Shouta.
“Of course they have a reason to worry, Tensei. But worrying and treating you like you’re fragile are two different things, and your parents sometimes have a hard time distinguishing between them. Like that time Nemuri got injured in a fight and camped at your place.” That mention raised a chuckle in both of them, as they remembered how unproportionally worried the Iidas were about a simple broken leg. It was especially ridiculous since both of them were experienced heroes, who dealt with far worse injuries themselves. But it seemed like when it came to their children, both their actual children and those they collected along the way… there were no limits to their worry.
“Anyway… yeah, that’s the situation. So, what do you say? Is it okay with you? I’ll have to ask Hizashi too, but I think I can be a good roommate. I’m pretty organised when I want to be, I’m not disruptive, I-” Shouta couldn’t help but snort, cutting Tensei’s spiel in the middle.
“The sales pitch? Seriously? I’ve known you for fifteen years, Tensei, I know who you are. Of course you can stay. It’s like you said, we could both use the company.” He turned to Tensei, eyes opening for the first time in their conversation. Just for emphasis. He preferred to keep his eyes closed these days, nade things feel a bit more normal. It’s normal to not see when your eyes are shut, after all.”
“It’s a deal then?” Tensei’s excitement was audible.
“Deal. Just don’t leave your socks all over like you do at your own house. I might not be able to see them but they have a place and they’ll stay in it .” Shouta squinted intently at Tensei, who laughed brightly. Shouta couldn’t deny that the sound cheered him up. Tensei was one of his best friends, and the sound of his laughter was comforting, a promise that some things are right in the world.
“Well, all set! ready to finally go home?” Hizashi called brightly, and Shouta couldn’t help but smile a little. His friends were kind enough to help him organise the house before he went there, setting everything up so he wouldn't have too much trouble with it. He hated it, hated feeling helpless and needing the assistance of his friends, but he also felt a certain warmth in his chest knowing they cared enough to do that, even with their busy schedule.
“Yeah, sure.” Shouta answered shortly, getting up and feeling for his cane. None of them handed it over to him, and he was thankful for that as he grabbed it, and started moving forward. Hizashi slung an arm around him, in a gesture that was extremely familiar after over a decade of close friendship and spending most of their free time together, and some of the time that wasn’t free as well. He got into the car’s back seat as Tensei took the front, and Nemuri put the wheelchair in the trunk.
“See you around, Shouta. Please don’t let Tensei be an idiot, alright?” Nemuri kissed his cheek, and he couldn’t help but roll his eyes.
“Tensei is always an idiot, Nemuri. I can’t change that. But I’ll make sure he doesn’t mess up with that teaching certificate. He’ll be joining you two in UA next year even if I have to lose sleep over it.” He turned his head to Nemuri’s general direction,
“I don’t know if I should be touched or insulted.” Tensei chuckled, and Shouta reached forward to find his shoulder and squeeze it encouragingly.
“Touched. Definitely. Didn’t you hear me? I just said I agreed to lose sleep to help you.” Shouta couldn’t help but smirk. Tensei laughed, and Hizashi drove off. “But seriously. Don’t worry. You have a lot of potential to be a teacher. I have faith that you’ll do great. I mean, even All Might is improving as a teacher. You’ll probably do better than he did at first.” Hizashi and Tensei both started laughing, and it made Shouta happy, even though he did mean it seriously. He was in a surprisingly good mood that he knew would turn sour once he gets home, and nothing is as it used to be.
It wasn’t about the physical objects that Hizashi took with him to the dorms. Before moving in together, Shouta’s apartment was an empty room, a set of dumbells, a sleeping bag and a suitcase. That’s all he could afford to rent if he wanted to live close while not burdening his already struggling mother. It wasn’t just the cats either, though their absence would be weird and wrong. It would be the break in the routine that made that home a home for him.
Waking up to Hizashi singing in the shower at an ungodly hour, and not being sure if he just woke up and started the day or just came home and is going to bed (both options being equally outrageous). Scrolling through the news on the phone while waiting for the coffee to boil. More recently, peeking through the open door to Eri’s room, and seeing her safe whenever he needed the assurance that no, he didn’t fail her. Small things made this house a home to him, instead of just a place to sleep and train like his highschool apartment was. Most of those small things came from living with the person he did for the past twelve years. They’ve been inseparable since graduation, and now he was going back to live in his and Hizashi’s home… but without Hizashi. He wouldn’t be alone, sure, but it still felt uncomfortable.
“Shouta, thinking about anything special?” Hizashi asked, probably glancing at him in the mirror. Shouta could, with minimal effort, imagine that movement.
“Just how I can’t wait to have some peace and quiet in my sleeping bag, finally. I don’t particularly mind hospitals, but damn it was getting annoying there.” Shouta did his absolute best not to upset his friends. They didn’t need to be upset just because he was feeling as grumpy as usual. Before he wouldn’t have minded too much, but he was acutely aware of how bad he could be getting, how likely he is to pull away and isolate himself as time goes on, and how even more likely he is to just drift away from the people he cares about as he no longer has a part in the world that consumes most of their waking hours. He didn’t want that to happen. He didn’t want to be so unpleasant to be around that they would leave.
Deep down he knew he was probably being irrational. He knew his friends were unlikely to leave him, even if he was in a dark mood ( they couldn’t leave you so far but they will now cause you’re not part of their world anymore and if you give them enough reason they’ll simply leave ). But that irrational part of him, the one that was terrified of losing these people he’s grown to trust and love and care for, kept thinking that he has to be careful now. That he has nothing to offer them, and if he’s not careful, if his company isn’t pleasant, they’ll see just how much he lacks value and leave him behind.
“I bet you had a hard time sleeping in the hospital bed.” Hizashi kept his voice light. “Well, you’re going to finally have some peace and quiet. Not too much though, I hope! Bet Tensei wouldn’t let you sleep all day.” Hizashi’s smiles were always audible.
“You can count on it!” Tensei joined. “I’m not letting you laze around just because you’re back home. I’m gonna need your help with motivation to train again!” He laughed, and from the sound of banging Shouta could guess that he pumped his fist in the air and accidentally hit the roof.
“Since when am I a motivation?” Shouta asked, with a mix of real confusion and sarcastic confusion.
“Since always! If anyone can push a guy to do what he needs to do it’s you. Besides, training together is much more fun, and you need to stay in shape too.” Before Shouta began to protest, Tensei cut back in. “I know you’re not going back to heroics. We’ve been through this. But you still need to stay in shape. It would do you good, you know? Give you energy, and keep you healthy. You’ve been religiously training since we were in second year, Shouta. This kind of routine would help you. I know it helped me.” His voice was firm and kind, and Shouta was a little grateful.
“Alright, fine. But if your posture is bad I won’t know it, so you better do the exercises right.” He grumbled. He didn’t want Tensei hurting himself doing exercises wrong. He always did mess around a little when no one was putting an eye on him, getting sloppy when he could get away with it.
“Okay mum .” Tensei laughed, and Hizashi joined him, bursting into a booming laughter that was just a bit too painful, but still pleasant to hear. The car came to a stop.
“Alright, we’re home! I’m gonna get the chair out of the trunk and I’ll be right back.” Hizashi narrated, getting out of the car. Shouta opened the door, unfolding his cane and feeling the ground around him. He still felt unstable and lacked confidence walking around. The world felt so much bigger and emptier when he couldn’t rely on his sight to locate himself, and while the cane was certainly a lot of help… he was still not used to it. He went on the sidewalk carefully, waiting for Tensei to move into his chair and come with him. Hizashi walked with them to the house, saying things that Shouta only faintly heard as he was trying to map the world around him and make the image in his mind and the ground beneath his feet overlap. They had to, right? Shouta lived in this house for years now. He knew it and the area around it perfectly. So how come he couldn’t make sense of things around him now?
“Shouta, you listening?” Hizashi asked, wrapping an arm around his shoulders the way he always did. It only made Shouta tense for a second, before he calmed down. It wasn’t an attack, just Hizashi being Hizashi. It was safe.
“Of course I’m listening.” He grumbled in a way that made it clear that he did not, in fact, hear a word of what was said to him. Hizashi just laughed.
“Alright, anyway, I didn’t have to reorganise much, since we already did most of the organising so Tensei can visit a few months ago, so the house is mostly like you remember it. I pretty much just organised your closet so you’ll have an easier time finding things. You don’t have a lot of clothes, and they’re mostly the same, so it shouldn’t be too much trouble. And if it is we can figure something out, cool?” He asked, still leaning heavily into Shouta’s side as they walked in. That was… really nice of him. Shouta hated depending on others for help, and Hizashi knew it. So he just organised things in a way that made sure Shouta would be able to find them and use them.
“Cool. Thank you, Hizashi. Really.” He had to be sincere. Usually he’d just mumble something about it being unnecessary and try to save face, but… Hizashi and Nemuri did all of that to help him. They cared enough to make sure he can stay on his own two feet when he comes back home. “Tell Nemuri I said thank you.” He turned his head in Hizashi’s direction, feeling Hizashi’s neck move in what was probably a nod before he caught himself.
“You got it, Shouta. Welp, I’m off to grade homework. I’ll be coming over this weekend, okay?” He asked, and there must’ve been a big grin on his face.
“Hizashi, this is your house . You don’t have to ask before coming home.” Shouta said tiredly, but not without fondness. Hizashi laughed.
“Well, I wouldn’t want to burst in on whatever party you and Tensei would be throwing here, especially not with Eri! By the way, yeah, I’m bringing Eri over on the weekend too. She’s going to miss her dad. I already cleared this up with Nezu.” He insisted, and Shouta couldn’t help but feel a sharp pain in his heart when Hizashi called him Eri’s dad. He had plans, before everything that happened, to adopt her. He already laid out his case, how with his quirk he’s the person most fit to look after her in case her quirk acts up, how with two jobs he has the stable income to allow him to raise a child on his own, how he had a support network so she would never be alone even in an emergency where he has to leave on his hero work. It was pretty much a matter of bureaucracy.
Now he didn’t have any of that. He didn’t have his quirk, so if hers acted up, there’s nothing he could do. He didn’t have a job, and disability payments weren’t really enough to raise a child like Eri on, even with his limited retirement funds as a hero. Underground heroes didn’t get much there, and Eri needed many things kids her age don’t usually need, therapy being only one of them. Even his support network relied on living most of their time in UA, so that was out of the window too.
“Sure. Good. Thanks again.” He said, distracted, as Hizashi said goodbye to both of them and left. Shouta spent some time walking around, memorising the locations of things. He would still need his cane around the house, at least for a while. He counted steps, using the techniques his mentor showed him for moving in total darkness back when he was still just an intern. He never knew how useful this would be to him. He should call her. Nightshade did tell him to stay in touch. She was retired too, he heard. A head injury that lead to spasms in her leg. Not many underground heroes lived to retire from old age, but she was close. It only happened when she was fifty, a ripe old age for a hero dealing with the scummiest situations of the underground who made a habit of pissing off gang leaders.
“You already moved your things into your room, right?” He asked Tensei, who by the sound of it turned on the TV.
“Yeah, Hizashi and Nemuri helped me do that a few days ago. Thanks again for letting me live with you. It’s a lot of help.” He said tiredly, but his tone was happy. He sounded like he was smiling.
“I told you, Tensei, it’s only logical. As you said, it’s not good for either of us to be alone right now, and here is closer for you to get to university without too much hussle. There’s no need to thank me.” He said absentmindedly, still thinking about the situation with Eri. Tensei lowered the volume on the TV.
“Okay, what’s eating you up? And don’t tell me it’s nothing cause we’ve been friends for too long, and it would be pretty insulting if you think I wouldn’t notice.” He said, and Shouta stayed silent for a little while. Should he tell him? On one hand, he didn’t want to burden his friend with the trouble running through his head. He probably had enough of those without Shouta. On the other hand… Tensei could be a valuable voice of reason. Or of optimism. Both Shouta knew he sometimes needed. Tensei knew how to call him out when his head was locked in a circle. Maybe he could help him figure this out. Shouta carefully approached the couch, sitting down.
“It’s about Eri. How am I going to tell her that I can’t be her father? That I’m leaving her?” He asked tiredly.
“Why would you leave her? You were practically in the middle of the process of actually adopting her, weren’t you? Why would you not be able to now?” Tensei asked, sounding genuinely confused.
“When I started it I had a quirk that was especially suitable for dealing with hers, two jobs that allow me to support her and give her everything she needs, and the help of every teacher in UA in case of an emergency because we were on school grounds most of the time and surrounded by heroes. Now I don’t have a quirk, don’t have a job, don’t have that network of people around me, and I’m not even sure I can care for myself independently, so how in hell am I going to look after any kid, let alone her? She needs someone who can protect her and care for her, and… I don’t think I can be that someone.” Shouta’s voice was exhausted and pained as he explained to Tensei his thought process.
“Do you think there’s anyone who can do better than you for her?” Tensei asked, serious.
“I can think of five people, this very moment, who can. Give me another second and it will be twenty.” Shouta deadpanned, running his fingers through his hair.
“Let me rephrase this. Do you really think being in the system would be better for her than being with you? Yeah, there’s the chance she’ll get to the perfect home that would love and care for her. But you’ve seen the kind of places kids end up in, a lot more than I did. What do you think falling into a place like this would do to that kid? We don’t even have to go to the extreme. Most people out there aren’t that good with mental illnesses. The odds of her getting into a home that wouldn’t see her illness as real, or wouldn’t know how to help her with it… the damages would be… bad, Shouta. Really bad. You can get a job once you’re back on your feet and used to the situation. Hell, there’s a job sitting there waiting for you in UA once you’re ready to take it again. But if you think I’m letting you pull away from people any more than you already did, you’re dead wrong.” Tensei was serious, his voice stern and without its usual lightheartedness. He was serious about this.
“What do you mean pull away from people? I’m sitting here with you. I talked to pretty much everyone I know since I was hospitalised. If anything, I’m more connected to people now than I was before.” Shouta snapped back at him
“You’re putting up a front with everyone, Shouta. Don’t pretend not to. Even with us. Fuck, even with Hizashi , and the two of you are basically joined at the hip since second year! You pushed all your students away too. Tenya’s been telling me things, you know? How some of the kids are afraid to visit you cause they feel like they’re annoying you, even though we both know it’s not true. You love those kids, and they love you, but you won’t even let them show you they appreciate everything you did for them. That kid too, Shinsou, you barely acknowledge him when he comes. You even push your sister back. It’s like you’re trying to distance yourself from everyone, and I don’t know if it’s because you’re afraid everyone will leave and try to minimise your pain, or because you want to disappear and don’t want people to miss you. Either way, we’re not letting you do that. So you’re not detaching yourself from everything and everyone. I’m not letting you do that. You’re going to get better and you’re going to stay Eri’s dad and I will make sure of that.” Tensei’s serious voice said it all as he gripped Shouta’s shoulder.
“Tensei, I already told you, I can -” Tensei didn’t even let him finish.
“Don’t give me that I can do what I want crap, Shouta. Yeah, it’s your life, and you’re an adult, but I also know you’re going to regret doing that when you’re feeling better. We’ve been through enough together, haven’t we? All of us. You helped me through hell and I’m going to help you too even if you don’t think you need help because if you do something you regret no neither of us will be able to forgive ourselves.” His breaths were heavy, and Shouta couldn’t realise why.
“It’s… Tensei, i’m not just giving up, okay? I’m just being realistic. Right now, I can’t even take care of myself alone. I don’t know how to. I’m unemployed, newly disabled, and trying to figure things out. I’m not… I’m not a stable parental figure and I’m not a particularly good friend right now. I know that and I’m sorry. But…” His voice faded.
“Fuck realistic. That’s a worst case scenario, not realism. There’s plenty of blind people that raise families, Shouta. And how many times do we have to say it to get it through your thick skull? You’re not alone! That’s the thing! You’re not! Just… stop giving up on yourself just because it’s harder!” Something was wrong. Shouta could hear the wrongness in Tensei’s voice. He sounded choked. Shouta reached up his hand, touching his face and finding tears.
“Tensei, why… why are you crying?” He asked, confused. He really couldn’t understand. Sure, Shouta could see why Tensei would be upset, but to the point of crying?
“Because one of my best friends is giving up on himself, and it’s the same friend that convinced me that I can be more than just the hero Ingenium. You’re falling into the same trap you helped pull me out of and you don’t even see it, do you? I need you to keep going, okay? If you refuse to do it for yourself, do it for us, okay?” He asked, hand still gripping Shouta’s shoulder tight. He had a choice to make then. He could choose to lay down, just tell Tensei he’s too tired and continue to slowly step away… or he could choose to move through. Even if it was hard. Even if he was exhausted and didn’t want to keep going.
And he chose.
He chose to live on, even if he didn’t actively want it, just like he did when Shirakumo died. He found the want later, right now, choose would have to do.
“Okay. Okay. Fine. I’ll… I’ll keep going. I promise. I can’t… I can’t promise I can do it alone though. I don’t… I don’t know if I’ll succeed.” Shouta said earnestly, prompting a wet laugh from Tensei.
“Don’t you get it, Shouta? That’s the point. You’re not alone.”
Thank you all so much for reading! I enjoy this story very much so I really want to give you more. I had a free evening after one of our lectures got cancelled, so I sat down and wrote this. I hope you enjoy! Tell me what you think!