They get into a fight three days after USJ, and that probably should have tipped Hizashi off.
If he hadn’t been so spitting mad, so fucking furious at the carelessness and the absolute fucking gall of his husband, Hizashi would have been able to take a step back and realize that this is the beginning of a larger issue. But he’s just one person and he’s exhausted and he’s scared. So he plants his feet, squares his shoulders, and snaps, “if you think for one second you’re going back to work looking like that, then you’ve got another fucking thing coming.”
He’s not even in real clothes, Hizashi notes through the haze of fury. Shouta’s expression is buried under gauze and medical tape, but his shoulders tense and the way he’s shifting from foot to foot means either fear or fury. And Shouta has never been afraid of Hizashi.
“I have to go to work,” Shouta says, his naturally inflectionless voice flattened even more by the bandages. It reminds Hizashi of horror tropes: a loved one goes away one day and someone else is in his place. A tragedy making him unknowable. Pain tightens Hizashi’s chest. He will not lose Shouta. Not like this.
“The school gave us all a day off,” Shouta continues, “but now we have to move on. Besides, I can stand and walk now. I won’t be doing anything strenuous.”
Hizashi gapes for a moment. “...Is this why you asked for Recovery Girl to focus her first session on the damage to your vertebrae?” Hizashi’s voice is trembling with rage. “So you can go back to work?”
“It was the best way to do damage reduction while still not missing critical time in the classroom,” Shouta replies, completely unrepentant. “They have to start training for the sports festival or they’re going to get hurt and fall behind--”
“Fuck the sports festival!” Hizashi yells. “And fuck you if you think I’m going to help you torture yourself. You can’t move your arms! You were up all night last night in extreme pain, Shouta! You think I can’t hear the sounds you make?” Hizashi’s eyes fill with angry tears.
Shouta stiffens visibly. “I wasn’t going to ask you for help,” he snaps. “I’ll be fine by myself.”
And there it is. A chasm starts with just a crack, and Hizashi can already feel the distance starting between them. He knows he could just...leave. Shouta can’t actually dress by himself anyway, not with his hands still in casts, and he knows his husband would be too stubborn to call anyone else.
But it’s a shitty thought, and Hizashi is many things, but he isn’t cruel. He doesn’t want to step back from Shouta, even though it seems like Shouta is stepping away from him.
“Just...will you go for a half day?” Hizashi says, sighing. He cannot believe that he’s compromising this, but he’s doing it anyways. “Or...go tomorrow? Tomorrow, no arguments.”
“I’m going today,” Shouta says, and he sounds heated now. He sounds...anxious? “I need to be back. They’re going to be unprepared otherwise.”
Oh. Oh, Shouta. Hizashi sighs, tilting his head to look at the ceiling. “Okay,” he says finally. “But if anything happens--if you fall, if you throw up, anything--we’re going right back home.”
Shouta doesn’t reply. Doesn’t even relax out of the defensive set his shoulders have fallen into. They’re going to be sore later, Hizashi notes distantly. His arms are going to agonize him tonight. There’s nothing Hizashi can do about that, though. So he keeps his opinions to himself, and silently pulls Shouta’s uniform out of their closet.
“I told you I can do it,” Shouta says, and he’s back to sounding perfectly calm and even, but Hizashi still feels stung.
“Babe, your hands are in casts,” Hizashi says gently. “Let me do it.”
Shouta shakes his head. “I just snapped at you,” he says, and he doesn’t sound repentant. But he does sound...careful? Hesitant. “You don’t need to help me after I made you angry.”
This draws Hizashi up short. Of all the thousand little hangups Shouta has, this has never been one of them. For a moment, he doesn’t know how to proceed. “You didn’t make me angry,” he says finally. “Not really. I’m just angry at the situation. Besides, do you really think I’m gonna leave anyone just because my feelings got hurt?”
“No, of course not.” And thank god Shouta’s response is quick and definite. At least he doesn’t think that poorly of Hizashi. “I just...would like to try. I’ll...I’ll need help putting on shoes anyways.”
Hizashi rubs the back of his neck, frowning a little, but maybe Shouta just needs more autonomy faster. Hizashi can do that. He can give Shouta some breathing room.
“Okay,” he says softly. “Be careful, I’ll get our lunches ready.” Shouta doesn’t reply, clearly focusing on the task at hand.
In the end, Shouta actually does manage to get his jumpsuit on, and they’re only a little late for class. But when Hizashi leans over to kiss Shouta goodbye for the day, he walks on by. Hizashi watches his husband shuffle to his homeroom class, a limp already noticeable in his gait, and feels incredibly, deeply lonely.
Hizashi had been prepared to take off as much time as possible until his husband could at least fend for himself without him. But Thursday night, Shouta sluggishly turns to him and says:
“Shouldn’t you be sleeping? You’re going to hate running your Friday program at 1 a.m. if you don’t get some sleep.”
Hizashi stares at him from across the room where he had been doing dishes in the kitchen. “Oh,” he says. “Uh, I had planned on taking more than one week off from radio to--”
“I’ll be fine,” Shouta interrupts. “I’d prefer if everything didn’t stop around me.”
Hizashi wants to ask are you going to be okay on your own, wants to say I don’t feel comfortable with you by yourself like this. But instead, he gently places the dish in the sink and says, “okay.”
When he comes back, he’s exhausted. Strung out from worry and stress and fear. The apartment is quiet when he comes in, still and peaceful in the early morning hours. None of that peace reaches his heart until he stumbles out of his boots and all but dashes to the bedroom. He stands in the doorway a long while, breathing in and out in deliberate steadiness.
Shouta is asleep on his back, but the bandages on his face are too loose and lopsided, edged with a little dried blood. A quick glance in the bathroom tells Hizashi everything he needs to know: the gauze had been leaking blood at some point in the night and Shouta, despite having two bandaged arms, somehow managed to replace the gauze and re-wrap his facial bandages. He did a clumsy job, but he did it. Hizashi walks into the room and gently sits on the edge of the bed. Shouta’s snoring slightly, so he’s clearly actually asleep. He wrapped his bleeding, aching face up with his broken hands instead of calling Hizashi.
Breath catches in Hizashi’s throat, and the tears come unbidden, streaming down his face. He presses his hand against his mouth to stifle the sound and wraps another arm tight around his aching chest, his breaking heart.
Come back, he finds himself thinking, come back, come back.
He goes to the living room with the intent to just calm down enough to go to bed without bothering Shouta. He falls asleep on the couch instead. In the morning, Shouta doesn’t ask.
Lunch has just started, and Hizashi all but bolts out of his class, glad for a fucking break. Things are...okay. They’re different, and Hizashi doesn’t know what kind of different, but they aren’t fighting, and that’s probably all they can hope for right now. He’s feeling cautiously optimistic.
Naturally, when he steps into the staff room, all feelings of good will and optimism go immediately to hell. Yagi rises from his customary perch on the armchair by the window and approaches him with a look of concern on his face. Not concern, trepidation?
“Yamada-kun,” he says hesitantly. “I think you should know that Aizawa-kun has been in the staff bathroom for...more time than I am comfortable with, personally. I would let him be, but--”
“No, thank you,” Hizashi says breathlessly, already taking large strides across the lounge and jolting the bathroom handle. “Shouta, let me in. Don’t pull any shit right now, you’ve been in there for far too--”
The lock clicks, but the door doesn’t open. Fine. Hizashi pulls it open and barges in, heart racing and fear coursing through his veins. It takes a second for him to stop and actually see that Shotua is upright and not immediately dying. He’s half out of his facial bandages, though, and the angry gash across his cheek, along his eye socket, is bleeding sluggishly. There’s the smell of disinfectant in the air, and Hizashi’s brain finally puts the pieces together: Shouta’s cleaning and re-bandaging himself without help. Again. Shouta blinks dark, swollen eyes at him, and it’s the clearest look Hizashi’s been able to see of his eyes in weeks.
“Let me...will you just let me help you with that?” Hizashi says roughly. When Shouta doesn’t reply, but doesn’t recoil, Hizashi gently plucks the supplies from the top of the sink, pulling the disinfectant wipe out of its container and gently cleaning Shouta’s face. It’s closer than they’ve been since USJ. They feel miles apart.
Hizashi is halfway through putting the clean gauze on when he murmurs, “you don’t have to do this by yourself. Don’t you trust me?”
Shouta’s stare jerks out of middle distance to look at him, his dark-eyed stare rapidly disappearing under bandages. Hizashi realizes, suddenly, that he’s afraid of the answer for the first time ever.
So he smiles big, steps back and says, “sorry. That’s a loaded question, huh? Really, you should at least let someone do that until you get your hands back. You’re going to ...hurt yourself.” He wilts, exhausted, and rubs his eyes.
“Hizashi…” Shouta’s voice is rough and wavering, nothing like the strong, decisive tones he usually takes.
“Stop,” Hizashi says, holding up a hand. “I’ve given you space because you need space. That’s fine. I get it. I mean, I don’t get it. But I know that’s a thing for you. Right now, though, I think...I think I need space.”
He leaves before the tears start falling. He strides out of the teacher’s lounge as quickly as he can without running. He just...needs to not be seen for a second. Just for a second.
He ends up on the roof, because he used to be that student, and he supposes he’s always, in his heart, that kind of guy. He folds his legs under him and watches the clouds drift lazily in the sun. Students are socializing on the grass, teachers on duty are roaming, and from up here...it’s peace. Hizashi breathes in, breathes out, and waits for his intense misery to pass.
Hizashi startles, looks over his shoulder to see All Might--Yagi--standing behind him with a kind, awkward grin. “...What are you--how did you find the way up here?” Hizashi blurts out, his brain-to-mouth filter gone for the day.
Yagi laughs, sitting next to him. He reminds Hizashi a little bit of a paper doll, fragile and angular and foldable. “I won’t tell you what kind of student I was when I attended UA, then,” he jokes, and it’s such a relief that Hizashi laughs too.
“I always knew we would have gotten along!” Hizashi says with a tired grin. “To think, when I was up here as an angsty teenager, you were off…” he gestures vaguely, “saving people.” He grows somber then, because there’s only one person he wishes he could have saved, and even though Shouta is alive, it still feels...too late.
“I thought perhaps I could offer some insight,” Yagi says gently. “As someone who once experienced a traumatic injury that impacted my Quirk, my health, all of it.”
Hizashi blinks, turning shocked eyes to Yagi, who is leaning back, tilting his head towards the sun. After a moment, Yagi continues, “when I was recovering from my injury, it was as if...my body was taken from me. We define ourselves by our Quirks as a society, yes? And as heroes, we measure our worth by how much damage our bodies can take so others don’t have to.”
Hizashi looks at his boots. He knows this already, has lived this life, but to hear it from the Symbol of Peace is...humbling. Validating.
“I am not as close to Aizawa-kun as I could be,” Yagi says. “But I imagine...he is pushing because it’s all he can control. It isn’t healthy, nor is it very kind. But it’s...what I did. For a while. When I had my injury, I didn’t feel useless, I felt worthless. Perhaps Aizawa-kun doesn’t realize the difference. Perhaps he does. But I also want to tell you, my friend,” Yagi turns bright blue eyes at Hizashi and says, “that you are overdue in your grief.”
“My...grief?” Hizashi is already crying, even though he’s still confused. Tears are rushing down his face and his breath is hitching. “There’s nothing to grieve, he’s alive, he made it, he’s...different, but he’s still mine. We’re okay, right? We’re gonna be okay, right?” He looks up at Yagi, and he should feel awful, embarrassed even, for putting his older coworker on the spot like this, but he needs some fucking reassurance or he’s gonna go crazy.
“Of course,” Yagi says confidently. “We can all tell Aizawa-kun cares for you. Trauma just...changes everyone around it. You may have to work to rebuild what the event has taken from you both. That includes grieving what was lost, I’ve found.”
Hizashi’s breath hitches once, twice, and then he’s crying for real. Red-faced, openmouthed sobs into his hands. Loud, rough cries rip from his chest and it’s a good thing he has excellent control over his Quirk or everyone would know just how much his heart is broken. And Yagi, bless him, has a big hand on Hizashi’s shoulder and lets him cry.
After an exhausting stretch of time, Hizashi scrubs his hands down his face and manages an ugly, but genuine, smile. “You’re a real smart guy,” he croaks to Yagi. “Thank you. I don’t know what I would have done without your advice. Probably just pouted some more.”
Yagi smiles, looking genuinely pleased. “I’m glad to have helped,” he says. “And now, if you’re ready, I think it’s time to go to class.”
Hizashi takes a big breath and hauls himself to his feet. “Those kids aren’t gonna teach themselves! Or, well, I guess they could, but that would be a disaster.”
They’re silent all the way home, but that’s okay for once, because Hizashi needs the time to think about what he needs, what he wants to say, what Shouta needs, how to get Shouta to say what he wants to say. He’s so tired of being angry at his husband. He realizes that he’s been angry with Shouta ever since he was healed enough to be out of the hospital, and that’s...that’s fucked up. It doesn’t matter why, Shouta’s in a lot of pain, and Hizashi has just been...angry at him. Shouta may have pushed Hizashi away, may have widened the chasm between the two of them, but Hizashi helped create it.
He’s barely taken off his boots, though, when Shouta turns to him.
“Will...you take off my outer bandages on my face?” he asks, his voice thick and anxious even through layers. “I need to talk to you and...and I want to see you clearly. And I want you to see me clearly.”
Fear bubbles up in Hizashi’s chest, but instead of speaking, he just nods. They sit on the couch and the bandages fall from Shouta’s eyes. Even his face looks different, with half-healed gashes and deep bruising. His facial structure is subtly changed now, and Recovery Girl might not be able to change it back. But his eyes...Shouta’s eyes are exactly the same.
“I know you said you need some space,” Shouta croaks, chewing on already chapped lips. He looks pale, and already there’s a little furrow in his brown that is his only tell for how much pain he’s in. “I’m sorry. I’ll give you whatever you need after this, please.”
Please. Hizashi’s chest tightens and he swallows once, twice, before managing to say, “I want you to talk to me, baby. I’ve...that’s all I want. Don’t worry about space anymore, I’m okay now.”
“Are you?” Shouta asks, and Hizashi blinks in surprise. “I’m...when I woke up. I really thought I had died. And now I’m back, and I...feel like I did die. Not literally.” Shouta looks frustrated, a little pout bending his mouth. “I’m not me anymore, Hizashi. I don’t feel like me anymore. I have all this...all this horrible shit in my head now, this nonstop, revolving door of terrifying shit and it sometimes doesn’t feel like there’s room anymore for me.” Shouta shifts, his voice rising, getting more agitated and when he cuts himself off again, he shakes his head--an automatic tic for when he needs to re-work his thoughts--and doubles over in pain.
Hizashi reaches for him, places gentle hands on his shoulders, moves to cup his face oh so delicately. “Babe, Shouta, baby,” he soothes. “It’s okay. I’m here, I’m listening. One word at a time. It’s okay.”
“It’s not okay,” Shouta says, sagging in Hizashi’s grip. “I’m so full of hurt, I’ve hurt you. I don’t know how to rebuild from what’s left of me, and this person I’ve become just hurts you.”
Hizashi feels like his heart is physically being ripped out of his chest. He wants so desperately to hug Shouta, but he doesn’t know, he doesn’t know if that will actually help, if he even can hug Shouta with all his injuries. “You...no, baby,” Hizashi sobs instead, “no, you’ve got it all twisted. I love you. I loved you before this and I’ll love you after. I was just...so angry because I couldn’t tell if you needed things to go back to normal, or if you were punishing yourself, or if you were pushing me away.”
“I don’t know,” Shouta says, looking at Hizashi desperately. “I don’t know what I was trying to do. I feel like a stranger to myself.”
“A really fucked up thing happened to you,” Hizashi says, still crying. “And, like, we’re used to fucked up things happening on patrol, or out on the streets. Not at UA, our literal childhood home, with a bunch of children. We...there isn’t a mindset for that. It made us both different.” Hizashi ducks his head. “I shouldn’t have been so angry with you. I should have listened to you.”
Shouta shakes his head, gentle this time, “I don’t even know how to listen to me right now.”
“Well,” Hizashi says, smoothing his thumb over delicate skin. “I’m a fast learner and you’re stubborn as hell. I bet we can rebuild this. If...you want to.”
Shouta’s mouth trembles. “You’re so stupid,” he mutters, his bangs falling over his face. “As if I want anything else.”
Hizashi laughs, and gently, carefully, presses a kiss onto Shouta’s forehead. “I love you,” he murmurs. “I should have told you that more, too.”
Shouta laughs, a choked and fragile sound, “I don’t think you can physically tell me that more if you tried. I love you too.”
It’s weeks after USJ and only now do they start to heal.