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.