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The first time you meet him, you are certainly not at your best.

You’re half asleep behind the register at the part time job you hate. You would call in sick, maybe even quit, but your family isn’t made of money and it’s important that you contribute to your college expenses. Even if it means dealing with customers after pulling an unexpected all nighter because you’d forgotten about a report due today.

You look like shit, but he doesn’t look much better as you greet him half-heartedly.

He’s wearing a white t-shirt about eight sizes too big for him and it’s littered with tears and dirt. He looks like he’s pulled a lifetime of all nighters, judging by the horrifying dark circles below his sunken eyes. His hair is a straw-like blonde mess and he’s practically a reanimated skeleton.

You try not to stare too much as you ring up a 3-pack of generic brand white undershirts. You shouldn’t judge. It probably has something to do with his quirk.

He fishes a wallet out of his tent-like pants, hands you a couple bills, and says, “Are you alright?”

You’re a little taken aback as you fish his change out of the register. He didn’t seem like the chatty type, and you’re a little ashamed that he’s the one being cordial when technically it’s your job to be nice to him. “I’m fine. How are you?”

His mouth is a hard line as he accepts his change. “You seem tired,” he continues, ignoring your question. “Please take care of yourself.” He collects his purchase and turns to leave. “This probably isn’t your ideal job, but keep your head up.”

You watch him leave, vaguely befuddled. What a weird thing for a stranger to say.

Surprisingly, though, you do feel a little better and you stand a little straighter for the rest of your shift.


 

The second time you meet him, you don’t know it’s him.

But you definitely recognize him.

There’s some kind of commotion in the middle of the shopping area, and normally you would stop to check it out, but you’re more interested in getting your shopping done. For once, finally, you have a little bit of spending money and you fully intend to use it so that you’re not the worst-dressed person on your college campus anymore.

You can kind of see two blonde tufts of hair poking above everyone else as you shuffle through the crowd. It’s thinning out a little, but you get caught behind a group of slow-moving teens. You clench the coffee you bought – at, like, a real café! – and try not to be too impatient.

A massive body bumps into you from behind. It’s not with a lot of force, clearly unintentional, but whoever it is has enough mass to jostle you and you drop your coffee. It splatters all over the pavement and onto your shoes.

“Fuck!” you exclaim. You bend down to pick up the cup, because it’s bad to litter.

You turn around to see who bumped into you, and you’re met with a booming voice and a giant, dazzling smile.

“MY APOLOGIES!” shouts a hero, your hero, everyone’s hero. You’ve never seen him in person before and by god, he’s even bigger and shines even brighter than you’d expect. All Might is huge in every possible way.

Immediately, you apologize, bending over a little and babbling.

He laughs, a big, booming chuckle. “It’s my fault!” he insists. “I wasn’t looking!” He points at the now empty cup in your hands. “Let me buy you another!”

“You don’t need to do that,” you say, but he just grins a little bigger and slaps you on the back so hard that you nearly drop the cup again.

“I INSIST!” he announces. The huge hand is still on your back, pushing you towards a nearby coffee shop.

Everyone stares, even people who weren’t in the crowd around him before. A few people follow the two of you, obviously interested. A couple people snap pics with their phones. It’s mortifying. He’s doing it to protect his nice guy image, you assume, but you really, really wish he wouldn’t. Your photo is definitely going to be on the internet later, with hundreds of people speculating who you are, what’s your relation to a famous hero, digging into your private life…

Horrifying. Too bad you’re too much of a spineless wimp to speak up to a top hero.

Thankfully, only one person actually follows you into the store. You’re frozen stiff, only walking because if you didn’t then All Might would simply scoot you along instead.

You pause to drop the empty cup into the trash by the door before joining him in line.

“What kind of drink did you have?” he asks, smiling down at you.

“J-just a regular coffee.” It wasn’t just a regular coffee. It was a very expensive blended drink, with whipped cream, practically a milkshake.

He raises his eyebrows just a hair higher. He knows, and you know he knows, and you break out into a cold sweat.

He orders you a ridiculously over-sweetened, expensive drink. The barista has to ask what flavor of syrup you want and you wish you could disappear. You can’t fathom a man this important and famous doing something like this for you while people watch.

You swear to god his muscles ripple when he takes the drink from the barista and hands it to you. He’s still grinning, almost mindlessly, like he has no idea what kind of trauma he’s putting you through.

He starts to ask you a question. “Are you a student?” he asks, with genuine interest.

You thank him, loudly and hurriedly, and then you bolt.


 

You see him, sometimes, that skinny skeleton of a man.

He doesn’t say much, only rarely offers words of encouragement like he did the first time he came to your store. He always buys the same thing – a 3-pack of white shirts, sized far too large – and he’s always wearing something all ripped up. It’s definitely because of his quirk, you decide, whatever it is. You feel a little sorry for him for having such an inconvenient power.

He likes to ask you questions, little things about what school you go to, what are you studying, where are you from. He seems to brighten a little when you say you’re from the United States.

It’s even more rare that he smiles, but when he does, you’re surprised at how much it warms you. The corners of his thin lips turn up just a little and it’s like a sunbeam is shining out of his face.

Nearly a year passes of him coming to this store, once or twice a month, with you slipping him little pieces of information about yourself.

Then you graduate, you get an office job, and you quit your job as a clerk. You don’t miss the store itself, but you feel a little twinge of nostalgia whenever you pass it, and you think of him.


 

Toshinori Yagi does not often indulge himself by looking at All Might fansites.

He certainly doesn’t dislike his fans, but as time passed he saw his place as a popular hero as strictly a thing of duty. Besides, hunching over his laptop and scrolling through the internet has never really been what he considers a leisure activity.

But occasionally, on a particularly bad day, he might look at one of the hero-centric forums. He pointedly ignores any that feature negative comments heavily, instead selecting from one of four sites he has bookmarked, as they’re known for being positive online community centers.

He worries that he’s being creepy by scanning the message boards for one username in particular. It’s not like he’s ever googled the name, and he doesn’t even know their real last name. He only knows their first name because he’s seen it on their nametag at work so often - though, he’s pretty sure they don’t work there anymore. He knows it’s unusual for a hero to have this sort of attachment to a fan.

He finds a post with their username attached. It’s old, from months ago, from before he was revealed to the world as a shell of the hero he once was.

“All Might bought me coffee once,” says the post. “He bumped into me in a crowd and made me drop the one I was drinking and insisted on replacing it. At the time, I was really embarrassed because everyone was staring, but I look back on it really fondly now. Not a lot of heroes would do that. I think in times like this, having a hero that thinks about little things like that and treats you like an equal is more inspirational than a figurehead you look at from afar. I admire him, but I think he focuses too much on being a figure now…”

Toshinori leans back in his chair and looks out of the window of his room onto the new campus grounds of UA. He would wonder if he made a mistake, wasting the remains of his power the way that he did before the last of One for All drained out of him. He would scrutinize the minutia of his every action, but he feels he’s done that enough already.

He’s not a hero anymore. He’s fragile. Now he’s the kind of man that needs to be saved from falling rocks by his own students.

He tells himself he’s moving on as he types the familiar username into his internet browser’s search bar.

Chapter Text

Toshinori looks at the clock, and realizes it’s well past his self-imposed bed time.

The 23 tabs open on his laptop keep calling him back, asking him to continue fueling the obsession he’s been stewing in for the past several hours.

He can’t keep doing this. He can’t just replace an old obsession with a new one. He knows he’s passed the point of creepy for sure now.

He didn’t mean to dig up so much about his fan, but he did, and there’s no un-knowing all the things he should’ve just asked them about, before they quit and moved to a new job in a different part of the city. But he’s too old and too tired and too close to death to be asking store clerks for their phone numbers.

He has a fleeting thought about how he may not be alive to see how the war against heroes will shake out. How his students will end up after the dust has settled. How Midoriya –

His room is suddenly unbearably stuffy, suffocating him, and he needs to be anywhere else, thinking about anything else.

He changes into his new workout clothes – ones that actually fit his now permanent, weak body – and goes for a jog.

 


 

 

Walking so late at night just outside of the neighborhood where you spent the last of your teen years probably isn’t the best idea when you’re not a hero.

But visiting your parents for the weekend can be difficult, and you needed to get out of the house. It was your mom’s idea for you to visit anyway. Did she really invite you over just so she could spend the weekend berating you for your career choice face to face instead of over the phone?

You kick a pebble down the street as you walk, scuffing your already beat-up sneakers. Because of the sound of the stone clattering against the pavement, you almost don’t hear a different sound off in the distance. It’s someone huffing and puffing. You stop walking.

You glance up at the moon. Is it really a jogger, this late at night? You’re out here walking, so it isn’t out of the question, but it seems more likely that it’s something more ominous. The breathing almost sounds pained. Did someone get injured? Maybe a fight broke out on the outskirts of town?

Against your better judgment, you head towards the noise. It sounds like it’s coming from the beach area between the town and the hero school.

As you round the corner, you’re surprised to find you immediately recognize the figure sitting on the steps that lead down to the sand. Even viewing him mostly from behind, it’s obvious – that straw-like hair, that sickly body. It’s that guy who used to visit the store you worked at, who always used to chat with you and made your shifts a little more bearable. He’s clutching his chest and taking in raspy breaths.

You call out to him. “Hey, it’s you! Are you doing okay?”

He startles and turns to look at you, and when he recognizes you, his face goes from shock to anxiety masked with a subtle smile. He was already looking pale, but it almost seems like he’s getting paler as he looks at you. “Oh, I’m…” he says, between wheezes, “I’m just fine.”

You walk over to the steps and sit down next to him, gazing out into the water. Perhaps you’re being a little too forward or obtrusive, but something doesn’t sit right with you when you think about just walking off and leaving him. You’re healthy, more or less, and even you were wary about being out this late. It seems wrong to leave a frail and apparently asthmatic man out here alone.

“Shall I just sit with you ‘til you catch your breath?” you ask, smiling at him. “It’s good to see you again. Been a while.”

He looks at you with what might be worry. Or guilt? It’s hard to place on his already hard to read face.

“It has,” he says, and he sounds awkward in a way you don’t remember him sounding before. “Are you doing well?”

“I work behind a desk now, and not behind a counter, so that’s a pretty big step up.” You glance him up and down, quickly, hopefully too quickly for him to really notice. “How are you? I see you’ve finally figured out what your correct clothing size is.”

For a moment you’re worried that teasing is a little beyond the boundaries of your relationship, but his smile broadens just a little.

“I am… doing well enough,” he says. His breathing has steadied, and his hand is no longer grasping at his chest. Instead, he fidgets both hands in his lap. His face looks even more gaunt in the moonlight, but somehow it’s not unattractive, even with those bright irises staring at you from dark sockets.

He leaves it at that, and the two of you are silent for long enough that you feel uncomfortable and have to look away and back at the water.

“Sooo… what are you doing out so late?” you ask.

“I needed some fresh air,” he says, glancing sideways at you. He seems uneasy, still. He never seemed uneasy when he was on the other side of a register. “What about you? It’s dangerous to be out at night in times like these.”

He has a lot of gall lecturing you when he’s guilty of the same thing. “I needed some air, too.” You lean back on your hands and look up at the moon. “You know, you don’t have to feel weird just because you used to be a customer and I was an employee. I don’t work there anymore. We’re both just two regular people on the street now.”

He smiles wide enough to show his teeth. “Is that so?” His voice sounds playful, as though you’ve just told a joke.

You look at his smile. It looks familiar. Two rows of bright teeth, against sharp cheekbones. Those red and blue workout clothes and yellow hair…

For days after All Might’s final fight, you’d analyzed the footage and screenshots posted on forums. He was your hero – everyone’s hero. Furthermore, he was one of the few heroes you’d ever had a personal encounter with. You’d never forgotten that day, when he cheerfully bought you coffee, oblivious to how frightened the attention made you.

The fact that he was growing weak was horrifying, to say the least, but his last appearance was also his most incredible. His most inspiring, in your opinion. So of course you’d examined the video over and over again in your free time, memorizing the grainy image of All Might’s true face.

You might have realized it sooner if only the footage hadn’t been so low quality. You doubt anyone would’ve noticed it if they hadn’t looked at the same images as many times as you and sat as close to the real thing as you were right now.

You realize your mouth is hanging open, and you snap it shut. The man isn’t smiling anymore. He looks scared.

You say it before you have time to think about the consequences.

“All Might?”

The color completely drains from his face.

You lean in. “You are, aren’t you? You’re All Might.”

He glances away, looking like he might bolt. It strikes you that you’re almost certainly invading his space and making him uncomfortable.

“I’m sorry!” you exclaim, leaning back. You felt pretty comfortable with him before, but now that you know who he is, you feel nervous. Even if he doesn’t look the same, it’s the same feeling as you felt back when you bumped into him in that crowd. “I’m just – I mean – I’m a big fan! I mean, of course I am, but, what I mean is, um…”

You trail off. The man – All Might still looks profoundly scared and he won’t look at you anymore.

“Do you remember when you bought me coffee?!” you blurt out.

Finally, he looks at you. “Yes,” he says, seriously, “of course I do.”

“Um, I’m really sorry for running off back then!” You realize now that he was trying to chat – the same as he did when he visited the store you worked at. The epiphany nearly bowls you over.

“It’s alright. You were embarrassed, people were taking photos. It’s understandable. I didn’t think of it then, but looking back on it, I would’ve felt the same were our positions reversed.”

He still looks freaked out, but he’s looking at you in the eye and the corners of his mouth are almost imperceptibly turned up. You must have just frightened him by coming on so strong, or maybe he’s not used to people recognizing him now. Relief washes over you, both because he no longer looks like he’s about to take off running and because he’s forgiven you for being rude way back when. Underneath the relief is a dim astonishment that he seemed to not only remember that day, but reflected on it after the fact.

Well, he was always your favorite hero because of silly little things like that.

“Hey, is that why you got excited when I told you I was from the States?” you ask, fidgeting in your seat. You should probably shut up, but this is such a rare opportunity, and you’re so curious. “Because you like American superhero comics.”

He gives you a wry smile. “Truthfully, I never read that many comics. I like movies more. But, yes, more or less, that’s why.”

You smile back at him, and you’re about to ask him something else, when your phone chirps in your pocket. You pull it out and look at the screen. It’s your mom, sending you texts, asking where the hell you’ve gone.

Your face screws up in disappointment and displeasure. “Um, I should get going…”

You stand up and he abruptly jumps to his feet as well. “Please, wait a moment,” he says, his brows raised and his eyes anxious.

He digs in his pocket and pulls out a phone. He presses a few buttons and then presents it to you. It’s got a new contact entry open on the screen.

“I’m sorry,” he says, and his voice is uncharacteristically soft. “I don’t do this often. I’m not sure how to ask properly…”

You just shake your head, take his phone, and put in your information. When you hand it back, he looks at it and reads your name off of the screen, muttering it under his breath.

“Shall I give you mine?” he asks, looking up from his phone.

You shrug and smile. “You can just text me and then I’ll have your number, too.” You turn to leave, waving, your heart fluttering wildly. “It was really nice seeing you!”

He waves back, standing on the steps and watching you until you turn the corner.

You make it halfway home before it hits you.

All Might asked you for your phone number.

All Might asked you for your phone number.

WAS ALL MIGHT HITTING ON YOU?

No, you think. No, surely not. You’re misconstruing the situation. He’s just being nice to a fan. Maybe he thinks of it as community outreach, a way to keep contributing to society now that he’s technically not a hero.

But you think of how soft he sounded when he asked, and you think, oh, wouldn’t it be nice if he was flirting, though..?

When you get home and check your phone, you have one new text.

It says, simply, “Please call me Toshinori Yagi. I am not All Might anymore.”

 


 

 

Toshinori stares at his phone and feels like throwing up. He’s hunched over on a bench on the school grounds. His hand is shaking a little.

What the hell is he doing..? Hadn’t he just been thinking earlier how irresponsible it would be to drag more people into his life when he’s already on the verge of death? Hadn’t breaking Midoriya’s heart with his inevitable demise been enough? Did he really need to do it again, grow close to another young, bright-eyed fan just to devastate them later?

He jolts, realizing he’s made a mistake, and quickly starts tapping out a second text on his phone.

“Also, please, for the sake of the memory of All Might in the minds of the people, do not spread my identity around.”

There. That’s diplomatic enough. He hopes it doesn’t sound too much like a demand, even though it sort of is. He hits send.

He knows it’s a losing battle after the last fight had been caught on camera, but he’d like as few people as possible to know the extent of All Might’s true condition.

He leans back on the bench and stares up at the sky. There’s no point now in pretending that he’s not at all enamored with this person. He always was the type to develop stupid puppy crushes, like a dumb schoolboy. If Eraserhead knew, he would chew him out for sure.

What’s worse is that this is new territory for him. He feels terrible that a part of his infatuation stems from reading their posts online, from digging into their blog that they wrote under the same pseudonym as their forum handle. It’s true that it began with little conversations in person, which was a normal enough beginning, but he took it too far all on his own, into the realm of the internet. He barely understands online communities, much less the ethics of snooping around in someone’s public accounts.

At the end of the day, knowing that a kind, good person idolized him made him feel good, brought him back to a time when he was still strong and felt proud of himself. It made him feel like he was still All Might.

He was being unbelievably selfish.

They’d said, “I don’t work there anymore,” as though he hadn’t already known all about their new job. Because it would be creepy if he’d already known. Which he did.

Because he was being creepy.

His phone buzzes. He has a new text.

“of course!! i totally get it. have a good night toshinori!! lets get coffee sometime?”

He smiles. As a teacher, he should really be chiding the lack of capitalization and the missing apostrophe, but it’s not like he doesn’t rely on his phone’s autocorrect for spelling sometimes.

Feeling more alive than he has all week, he texts back, “Yes. Are you free tomorrow?”

Chapter Text

You sit anxiously in the café and wonder if you’re completely fucking mad.

Texting the All Might and asking to get coffee was already bold enough, but now you’re here, not even 24 hours after giving him your number, waiting to meet up with him.

But then, he’s the one who suggested today, isn’t he? You gave him a pretty big out, said you should “get coffee sometime,” which would’ve easily allowed him to politely continue telling you “sure, of course, sometime,” and postpone meeting up indefinitely. But he didn’t. He’s the one who suggested meeting up at literally the soonest available opportunity.

So that means he’s definitely interested in you, doesn’t it?!

If it were anyone else, there would be no doubt in your mind what his intentions were. But this isn’t anyone else.

You’re pulled out of your train of thought when you realize he’s standing at the counter, waving at you while the barista gets his drink. They’d handed it over almost immediately, so he must’ve gotten just a drip coffee, which contrasted pretty sharply with your latte.

He grabs several sugar packets and walks over to your table with a tight-lipped smile. It looks like he made an attempt to comb his hair back, and he’s wearing a yellow pinstripe suit. He’s overdressed, honestly – you’re wearing much more casual clothes. He slides into the seat across from you, looking about as nervous as he did last night.

“It’s good to see you,” he says. “Are you doing well?”

“Well, it’s pretty early on the weekend for me to be awake, but the coffee’s helping.” You smile brightly at him, excited. “How are you?”

“I’m fine,” he says. “You’re not a morning person?”

“Not on my days off,” you say, and his smile twitches as he dumps several packets of sugar into his coffee.

He seems anxious, glancing out the window, and doesn’t say anything else, so you take a sip of your latte and take the initiative.

“So, I’m curious,” you start. “You said last night you like movies? What kind?”

The corners of his mouth twitch again and he sheepishly looks you in the eye as he pops the lid back onto his cup. “All kinds. It’s a little embarrassing, but I’ve amassed quite a collection of DVDS, VHSes, and paraphernalia over the years.”

You raise your eyebrows at him and you can feel yourself grinning. “Really? But what’s your favorite genre?”

“It depends.” He sips his drink and fidgets, running his thumb along the rim of the lid. “Right now, I’m into old western movies. Cowboys and showdowns at sunset and horse chases, in black and white. That sort of thing.”

You find yourself giggling a little bit. “Seriously? I gotta be honest, that’s not really my kind of movie. What’s the appeal for you?”

“It’s the overall tone, I think,” he says, and as he’s speaking he sits a little straighter and gets a little more animated. “The imagery is less and less relevant nowadays, but that symbolism of a lone, stoic figure that appears in to make things better and rides off into the sunset when his job is done – that’s the same sort of ideal that I chased with the image of the American superhero. A lot of American media tells that sort of story, actually. You see less of that here in Japan, I think. Which isn’t to say we don’t have those stories, but still.”

You lean forward, interested. It’s like getting a peek behind the curtain of the creation of your idol. “Would you say that you liked the imagery of the American superhero more, personally? Or did you pick it because you felt it better represented the themes that you represent?”

He frowns at you. It’s not an unkind frown, but it’s a serious one. Like a stern teacher. “You do realize I am no longer that man? I’m happy to answer questions for you, but I can’t be that person ever again.”

You feel your brow crease with confusion. “Why are you talking about All Might like he’s a completely different person?”

Toshinori worriedly glances around the café before he continues, but the two of you are tucked in the back corner, the patrons are few and far between, and none of the baristas are paying attention. “All Might is… was a symbol. An ideal for people to look up to, to inspire them.” Toshinori looks down at his hands, which rest on the table in loose fists. “All Might is not me, not really.”

“That’s just not true,” you insist. “Are you telling me the guy who insisted on buying me coffee and saw straight through me when I lied and said it was just a cheap drip coffee and not an expensive mixed drink – that wasn’t you?”

“It was, but –”

“Then don’t say it wasn’t!” you say, and it comes out a little meaner and more forceful than you meant it to. Something about the way he’s talking about himself makes you angry. “I get that you have to put on certain affects in public when you’re a hero, and that you built your hero identity to be a certain way, but to say that you’re not that person, or even that you’re not All Might anymore… it’s not true. I don’t believe that. I look at you, and I still see All Might.” You fold your arms over your chest resolutely.

He looks at you in surprise before he looks back down and smiles. But there’s no humor in his smile, no warmth. “How can you say that with such certainty? Even looking at me now, you think that?”

“Look,” you say, leaning in and resting your elbows on the table. “We don’t know each other that well. But based on what I do know? That day, when I met All Might, what he did – that had ‘Toshinori Yagi’ written all over it. Toshinori Yagi is person who would do something that human. That’s the sort of thing I admired about All Might, so to me, you’re still All Might.”

He looks up again, and his smile looks different. His eyes look a little less sallow. “Geez,” he says, and he makes a weird snuffling sound, like he wants to laugh but thinks it would be rude. He covers his mouth with one hand and looks out the window.  

“What?” you ask, genuinely confused by his sudden change in demeanor.

“I’ve spent a lot of time worrying about the visual disconnect between All Might and the person I actually am. I don’t look strong. I don’t have a good smile. I can’t stand up tall and straight and command attention.” He rubs his hand over his face, and though he’s still smiling, he looks tired. “That seriously doesn’t make a difference to you?”

You furrow your brow at him. “You have a perfectly good smile.”

He drops his hand, eyes widening at you in surprise, and then he does laugh. It’s a low chuckle that shakes his shoulders, but underneath it you can hear tones of All Might’s hearty belly laugh. He laughs until his face is tinged pink.

“You think so?” he says, and he looks genuinely fucking pleased. His yellow hair radiates around his head like the sun and his truly cheerful grin nearly blows you out of your seat. His skin looks healthier than you’ve ever seen it before now that he has a little color in his cheeks.

“O-of course!” you say, suddenly feeling very flustered. Your stomach is doing flips.

He chuckles a little more and then launches into a flurry of questions, like a floodgate had been broken. It’s like before, when he used to ask you little things while he bought that awful 3-pack of oversized shirts, but he’s no longer held back by the social constraints of the customer-employee relationship. He asks about your hobbies, your job, your family, nodding along and cheerfully prodding for more details when you don’t offer them up yourself.

He doesn’t stop until he glances at his phone and realizes how much time has passed.

“Ah, I’m sorry,” he says, looking genuinely remorseful. “I’ve got some things I have to attend to. I need to get going.”

“Oh, that’s okay!” you say, cheerfully. “I think I’ve kept you long enough. We can meet up again some other time.”

Something about his expression looks relieved as he gathers his things and stands up. “Of course. I’ll text you later.” He gives you a little wave as he heads out.

You sit in the café a little while longer, staring out the window, reflecting.


 

Toshinori realizes now that he’s in big trouble.

He’s been in relationships before. Fleeting ones, yes, ended prematurely due to his high stress job and his need to uphold his public image, but he does have experience. And he’s experienced enough to recognize that this is a fledgling relationship.

Between a young 20-something with their whole life left to live and a man knocking on death’s door.

Worst of all, he has absolutely no intention of breaking it off.

His heart is pounding in his chest like he just ran a mile, and he can’t feel anything else as he drives back to the school campus. He’s giddy. It’s selfish, he knows it is, but he doesn’t want to feel anything except the euphoric high of being genuinely admired for who he is. Who he is, not who All Might is.

He repeats one thing in particular over and over in his head.

“You have a perfectly good smile.”

It’s true that his students, especially young Midoriya, admired him regardless of his form, but he couldn’t possibly go into detail about the complexities of his situation with them. He’d laid so much on Midorya’s shoulders already, and his already small circle of friends had enough on their plates without him continually confiding in them about his worries about All Might. He doesn’t even know what possessed him to be so vulnerable so quickly. The fact that not only did he feel comfortable enough to lay himself bare, but you had the chops to disagree with him and be frank about what you valued in him, as a person –

That honesty is the same sort of quality he sought out in friends like Aizawa, in pupils like Nighteye.

And, on some level, he had been frightened that perhaps he disgusted you. That you were just being nice to a feeble looking man. But you offered your response without even thinking about it, so that there was very little room for him to doubt your veracity.

“You have a perfectly good smile.”

Truthfully, he’d been begging for comfort and reassurance, and you’d offered it up as though it were nothing.

He starts tapping out a text as soon as he’s out of his car and walking to his office. He worries if maybe he’s coming on too strong or looking desperate, but he’s still too giddy to resist.

“Would you like to watch a movie next weekend? I understand that you live a considerable distance away, so I’m happy to come to you.”

He sits at his desk, stares blankly at his paperwork. He taps his foot, drums his fingers on the desk. He glances at his phone no less than twelve times before he shoves it into a desk drawer so it won’t distract him.

Out of sight, unfortunately, is not out of mind. He feels like tearing out his hair as the words swim on the page. Has he already read this paragraph? Yes, he read it at least three times now, he decides, and moves on to the next one.

When his phone vibrates in his desk, he can’t rip the drawer open fast enough.

“i don’t mind driving out to meet you… if you show me your movie collection”

You’ve tacked an emoji on the end of the text. Toshinori squints at it. Looks like its winking? That’s flirty, isn’t it? He’s not well versed with emojis, but winking is a pretty universal signal, isn’t it? You’re so bold! He finds himself blushing again, like he did in the café when you complimented him. He smiles like an idiot and texts back.

“I would love to show you.”

Chapter Text

Toshinori waits for Saturday afternoon with baited breath. He can barely focus on his work, and finds himself staring into the middle distance when he’s meant to be watching the students’ supplemental training.

Embarrassingly, he saves a couple of your selfies from your blog onto his laptop. He opens them up occasionally, at night, when he has little else to do but sit around and watch a movie and think. Every time looks at them he thinks about deleting them, but eventually he caves, and simply closes the window instead.

He browses your blog again, too, and his heart leaps into his throat when he sees you’ve written a post about him. It doesn’t mention him by name, but it’s clear who it’s about. You gush about what a sweet man you’ve met, how it’s such a lucky coincidence that you’ve run into him again, your doubts about how he’s truly interested but you hope that he is…

If you knew that he was doing this, would you still feel that way?

 

 


 

 

 

Toshinori meets you at the shuttle station on Saturday.

He smiles and waves at you from the other side of the rotating bars. You walk over quickly, excitedly, nearly bouncing. He looks nervous, like last time, but also tentatively thrilled. His movements look like someone restraining themselves, like he wants to swing his arms like a kid or punch the air but he doesn’t want to look silly. He’s dressed more casually this time, just a plain white t-shirt and jeans.

The two of you make idle small talk about how your week has been and about the weather as he leads you to his car.

“I don’t really care for driving,” he confesses, sheepishly, as he pulls the door open for you, “but I promised a friend I would take it easy and stop walking everywhere.”

You just laugh, and he watches you from the corner of his eye as you buckle up and he pulls out of the parking lot.

The drive to his place is mostly quiet until you realize where you’re heading.

“Ah... you live at the hero school?” you ask.

“Yes,” he says, shooting you a glance and smiling that anxious smile. “There are small apartments in one of the buildings for teachers who elect to use them. It’s good to have staff nearby at all times in case of emergency, since we also have on-site dorms.”

“Oh, I see!” you say.

After stopping at a complicated looking gate, he parks and leads you into one of the buildings, and the two of you ride an elevator up to one of the higher floors. The closer you get to his apartment, the more nervous Toshinori seems to get. His face is tinged pink, and he fiddles with the keys inside his pocket.

Finally, he stops at one of the doors in the hall and leads you inside. You slip off your shoes and look around.

The apartment is pretty modern, which makes sense, since it was probably built around the same time as the new dorms. The living room and kitchen have an open floor plan, and there’s a hallway to the right that you presume leads to the bathroom and bedroom. He was right, it is small, but it’s not cramped either. You step further into the apartment and, when you see the left corner of the living room, you begin to understand what he meant when he said he’d amassed a collection.

There’s a large bookshelf, jam packed from top to bottom with VHS tapes and DVDs. Some of the boxes are beat up like he’s owned them for years and watched them over and over, while others look brand new. Some of the shelves hold action figures too, of all shapes and sizes, probably of the superheroes he found most appealing. There’s a lot of red and blue on their costumes. There’s some odds and ends there too – props from movies, maybe?

Against the wall that borders the hall, there’s a pretty sizable TV and sound system, and surrounding it, a bunch of movie posters, old and new. Some are even framed.

“Woah!” you exclaim, a little surprised.

He grins at you as he shuts the door, but his eyes are still anxious. “I told you, it’s a little embarrassing.”

“No, this is amazing!” you say. You lean down to look at a box next to the TV stand. “Are these actual old film reels?”

He nods. “I bought them a while ago and I haven’t really figured out where to put them yet.”

You start scanning the shelves, wondering if he’s already picked out a movie for the two of you to watch. “I can’t imagine owning all this. It’s impressive. What got you started on collecting?”

You turn around and he’s just staring at you, fondly. It startles you a little how soft those dark eyes can look. “Truthfully, I’m just prone to obsession. I think it’s a common trait in heroes. One of my most promising students is the same.” He steps next to you, idly gazing at the shelf. “I went to his home once, and his room was absolutely plastered in All Might merchandise. I see a lot of myself in him.”

It’s sweet, listening to him talk about his students. There’s an obvious affection in his voice.

The two of you are quiet for a moment before he speaks up again.

“Did you have anything particular in mind that you wanted to watch?” he asks.

“Oh, I dunno!” you say. You walk over to his couch and sit down, dropping your bag nearby. “I was thinking maybe show me one of the westerns you like.”

“I thought those weren’t your kind of thing?” he asks, but he’s already picking through a particular section of his collection.

“But they’re your thing, and I’d like to see the appeal,” you explain, and he chuckles.

He pops popcorn as the two of you chat, and he gives you several options to pick from. You settle in on the couch with him as he starts the movie, and soon both your hands buried in the popcorn bowl. You find yourself enjoying the movie even though you hadn’t really expected to – although, maybe his rapt attention and adorable enthusiasm has a lot to do with your level of enjoyment. During a quiet scene, you hone in on Toshinori’s soft breathing, and, bravely, rest your head gently on his shoulder. You listen carefully as he skips a breath, and then the rhythm returns to normal.

It’s sweet, just sitting here like this. It’s been a little while since you’ve dated normally, and if Toshinori’s nervousness is any indication, it’s been a while for him too.

About halfway through the movie, Toshinori pauses it, turns to you, and asks if you’d like to stay for dinner.

You say yes, and he freezes.

“Oh, I hadn’t… I hadn’t planned this far ahead,” he says, voice tinged with embarrassment. He jolts to his feet, and starts looking through his fridge and cabinets. “I don’t… I don’t think I have enough for a proper meal.” He winces at his own lack of preparation. “Would you be disappointed in ordering something? Is that bad form, on a date? To order in instead of cooking…”

He trails off. You heart flutters. That’s the first time either of you have specifically called your meetings a date.

“Toshinori,” you say, twisting around on the couch to face him better. “I am a simple person who enjoys simple pleasures. Delivery is just fine.”

The night passes comfortably. He orders food and buzzes the delivery person through the gate as the two of you start a second movie. This one he’s seen many times, he says, so the two of you chat comfortably and eat while you half-watch the screen.

By the time you finish the second movie, it’s dark out, and the last shuttle will be leaving soon. He drives you to the station, and walks you as far as he’s allowed to go without a ticket or a pass.

He stops you at the gate. His hand is clasped around yours – it’s big, so much bigger than yours is – and you don’t remember when that happened, because you were too busy talking and giggling. The station is more or less deserted.

His other hand cups your face incredibly gently, his thumb brushing against your cheek. His face is red, getting redder by the second, but he’s smiling that excited, nervous smile. He leans in, tentatively, and when you don’t back away, his lips connect with yours.

They’re thin and sort of chapped but the whole thing is so sickeningly sweet that your stomach flips and you press back eagerly. His mouth is hesitant against yours, careful and slow. His tongue peeks out as you get lost in the kiss, brushing against your lower lip. He makes a noise, a rumbling deep in his chest.

You reach out to touch him, and your hand lands somewhere along his ribs.

He pulls away immediately, inhaling sharply as though he’s been electrocuted. His mouth hangs open as he sucks in a second breath and his hand leaves your face.

“Oh, sorry!” you exclaim, unsure how to comfort him.

He wrangles his startled expression back under control with an uneasy smile. “It’s okay. I was just surprised.”

The two of you stand there awkwardly before you pull your hand away from his. “I should get going…” you say.

He nods, and watches you leave.

For a while, you’re worried you’ve done something wrong, but he’s already texting you not ten minutes after you board the shuttle.

“Tonight was fun. Hope to see you soon.”

And then, before you can reply, he sends a second text:

“How about next week?”

 

 


 

 

 

Toshinori lies on his bed for a very long time that night. His cheeks burn whenever he thinks about that goodbye kiss, about how your lips felt against his, the curve of your jaw under his fingers…

He wishes he hadn’t flinched away so abruptly. You couldn’t have known that was a sensitive spot for him.

He stays up well into the hours where he should be sleeping, texting you instead. It’s juvenile, maybe, not wanting to go a minute without talking to you, but he feels comfortable with it. He’d googled dating tips earlier, and he was certainly breaking at least one of the rules by talking so late into the night after only the second date, but he decides he doesn’t care.

He was out of touch with the dating scene now anyway. Why pretend that he understood the rules to begin with? You didn’t seem to mind.

He falls asleep with his phone in his hand.

 

 


 

 

 

The next few weeks blur together in a mix of long text conversations and nervous dates.

You drag Toshinori to a flea market. Initially he’s reluctant, nervous about the large crowds and small spaces. You talk him into it, and while he spends the first half hour very close to your side, he eventually starts enjoying himself, poking through old VHS tapes and happily listening to you talk about whatever peaks your interest. You catch him staring at you several times with a soft look in his eyes. After spending the day holding his hand, your palm feels very cold when you lay in bed alone that night.

One weekend there’s a movie festival, and Toshinori of course is excited and suggests it to you. It’s fun discussing the movies with him after each showing, but you feel exhausted by the end. Sitting in the dark for hours and hours and focusing, unexpectedly, wears you down eventually, but you stick it out and smile through it for Toshinori’s sake. You’re surprised when he admits afterwards that he was feeling fidgety towards the end, and you end the day with a walk in the park as the sun sets. When you reach a part of the park that’s empty, he pulls you aside, glances around furtively, and kisses you gently underneath a tree.

He surprises you one day by asking you out to dinner that same night. He shows up in a suit and takes you to a restaurant that you’re not quite adequately dressed for. You sit there embarrassed and avoid the waiter’s eyes, even as Toshinori assures you over and over that of course you look lovely. He apologizes afterwards, and tells you he’s ashamed that he’s embarrassed you in public again, and you tell him it’s alright because the food was really good. He laughs at that.

When he drops you off at your apartment, he presents you with a gift, something small and silly that you’d pointed out at the flea market weeks earlier. And he awkwardly asks, “I’m not seeing other people… Are you?”

You smile and tell him you’re not.

 

 


 

 

 

It happens when he least expects it, when he’s finally grown comfortable walking side by side with you in public.

And it happens so quickly. He’d forgotten how quickly it can happen, since it’d been a while since he’d been an active hero.

One moment you’re by his side, smiling at him. The next moment both of you have realized there’s a commotion headed in your direction. Another moment, and he is shoved away, grazed by a giant arm and hand as it grabs for you.

He’s knocked back against the pavement, his old wound screaming in a way that it hasn’t for weeks. He opens his eyes, tries to get his bearings. You’re gone, you’re not standing on the pavement anymore. You’ve been snatched up by a villain with a giantification quirk, and he stands in the middle of the street, clenching your body in his massive fist, another person in his other hand, wielding you as a human shield against the two local heroes approaching.

He tries to activate One for All. Nothing happens.

There’s none of that power left inside him. It’s gone, the last vestiges of his ability to transform wasted on something stupid, on some dumb gag he did probably to make a student or a coworker smile.

Cold fear washes over him.

He just wanted to make people smile.

The villain in the street squeezes your body in his hand as he threatens the heroes.

You aren’t smiling anymore.

He staggers to his feet, his side in agony, thinking surely, surely there’s something he can do. If he could muster up a punch, a kick, anything…

He looks down at his clenched fist. It’s weak. There’s no power there. He’s not a hero.

He can only watch in raw, childlike terror as the villain squeezes harder and you spit up blood. That finally forces the local heroes into action, and they bolt forward to attack.

He doesn’t remember the rest. It’s just a blur of horror and fear and action that he’s not a part of. He remembers lying to the paramedics as they carried you into the ambulance, telling them he was your husband in hopes that he could come along for the ride and stay by your side, even though you aren’t conscious.

He remembers the paramedics telling him they can’t let him in the ambulance and running back to his car, his legs and wound blazing with pain. He remembers blowing through several stoplights, recklessly. He remembers panicking at the front desk at the hospital, stammering so badly that the nurse couldn’t understand what he was trying to say.

He doesn’t come out of the fog until he’s sitting in the waiting room at the hospital, the buzz of medical equipment and nurses talking surrounding him. His body is limp and he realizes he’s been staring blankly at the wall for a long time.

Sharp dress shoes come tap-tap-tapping down the hall, heading his direction. He looks up.

“Nighteye,” says Toshinori, dimly shocked.

Nighteye only bows his head minutely in response. He’s cold, stiff. The disagreement from six years ago still hangs between them.

“How did you know I would be here?” Toshinori asks.

Nighteye adjusts his glasses and looks away. “I monitor for any instances of your name being logged in hospital records. It’s for… when you…” He trails off, and thinks better of finishing that sentence, and starts a new one instead. “Imagine my surprise when your name pops up as some civilian’s husband.”

Toshinori leans forward and opens his mouth to say something, but Nighteye simply raises a hand to silence him.

“It’s of no concern to me whether it’s true or not. Though I do I suspect it’s not, and you’ll be answering to hospital staff if they happen to cross-reference civil records to see if the patient is actually married. Regardless, you wouldn’t lie unless this person was important to you.”

Nighteye gazes critically down his nose at his former mentor. Toshinori feels like shivering under his gaze. After all this time, Nighteye still resents his decision. He wonders if the icy exterior is just a façade, or if he really does hate him.

“Have you told them?” asks Nighteye.

“I have –” Toshinori starts, and then he stops. He rests his elbows on his knees, clasps his hands together tightly, until his knuckles turn white. “No.”

Nighteye finally looks away, gazing off somewhere, passively. “How heartbreaking it is that you’re being so unfair. Consider what you’re doing. You’ve survived this long, perhaps outlived my prediction, but we don’t know for how much longer. You are not well. Whoever they are, they deserve to know that.”

“I’ve gotten better,” Toshinori insists, although he doesn’t believe it’s true. “It doesn’t hurt as much, or as often –”

“Teacher, please,” begs Nighteye, and for a moment both of them are transported back to that conversation from six years ago.

Toshinori closes his eyes and covers them with one hand. The hospital lights are giving him a headache, and so is the pained look on his former pupil’s face. “You’re right,” he says.

He can hear Nighteye turn on his heel and go tap-tap-tapping away, and he wishes he could follow and apologize properly, but he feels completely drained. He can’t move.

So he sits, and he waits.