The words are there the day someone is born and stay after they finally pass, and it’s a cold certainty. At least they won’t be waiting for words to appear as someone is born, for colours to appear as they meet, worlds to bloom as they finally connect. It means there’s no uncertainty that Izuku has one waiting for him.
The words being there don’t matter as much as the message they give him, though.
You can become a hero, written in large, neat writing down his back. It’s a message that sits with him through the Quirkless diagnosis, through his mother’s tears, through the bullying and pain. They hurt, wear him down, but he never breaks.
His most important person believes in him, and that keeps him going to his vision.
Since he was a child, Toshinori’s been confused over his mark. Just a bit.
You’re All Might! Is simple, to the point, and makes absolutely no sense. He’s all might? Does that mean he’s strong? Is it a name? A call, disbelief, elation, fear? He can’t say. That’s just how marks are. His mother tells him to make the most of it, patting him on the head.
So he does. He takes strength seriously, considering the concept down to its bones. He doesn’t have any muscle when he first starts thinking about it, so he begins to weight train. His grades are middling, the product of no studying and paying half-attention in class, so he puts himself to task and brings them to higher percentages through effort alone. His looks…
He can’t really fix those, and he doesn’t think they can really relate to might, so he just tries to tame his hair some, putting it in a ponytail most days. It works, and he trains, and doesn’t think of putting it to anything until he stops a woman from being robbed and she asks what he’d like to do with himself.
When he answers he wants to make the world a place to smile in again, she grins at him and asks if he’d like to help her reach that.
His mother and father never begrudge him having a mark, and it’s a relief, because he’s heard horror stories, and he knows his mark isn’t one they exactly like. His mother, at least. Papa has always been enthusiastic, saying his other must be a good person to say so, must be optimistic.
His father’s mark says You’ve never been anything but a good person to me , while his mother’s proclaims I don’t think I’ve ever seen a more beautiful woman than you. He thinks his father understands it all a bit more.
Nevertheless he holds on, reads those words over and over each day as he changes, keeps to his notes and never lets any of his classmates discourage him. They can’t, not from this, and eventually, he reaches the end of middle school, and stares down at a Yuuei application while Bakugou jeers from in front.
He carries One for All as one does a well-worn coat.
It isn’t a weight to him, almost natural despite the fact he’s never wielded a Quirk before. He flexes his hands when Nana-sensei first has him eat her hair, testing how to draw it out, how it feels. Nothing so dramatic as lightning coursing his skin happens, but he does feel a rush, almost a thrill run through him. When he stops his foot, earth explodes outward and makes a small crater.
The Yuuei exam is in a few days, and when he goes in he meets people he’s never seen before and screams his head off trying to rescue actors from abysses. He, somehow, passes. Nana-sensei is proud, Sorahiko-san amused, and they celebrate at a yakiniku restaurant close to his house that night.
He wonders if he’s close to his other’s might, yet. If he’ll meet them at Yuuei, accidentally bump into them on a mission, hold them as he rushes to paramedics. He can’t say, definitely not now that he’s set onto the path of Heroics. Their sort never can.
He settles himself to waiting, patient. He waits decades.
On a chilly March day, Izuku has his things burnt and ruined by Bakugou. It’s a bitter afternoon as he walks home, rubbing his hand on the ruined journal and trying to convince himself not to let go of his determination. It’s been ten long years and he’s getting tired of it, but he can’t give up. He can’t .
Then he’s swept up by a flow, foul-smelling and gelatinous with a low voice telling him he’s just in the wrong place at the wrong time, and he chokes on his breath and then the villain. He panics, scrambles, tries to think of possible weak spots as the villain rambles, tries to keep from crying and begs for help, for someone, for anyone-
“ Fear not, for I am here! ”
It feels like divine providence, for the Number One to show up at that moment. He dispatches and captures the slime villain in less than a minute, carefully rubs Izuku’s back as he hacks and tries to fill his lungs again. It’s a welcome touch, for all that Izuku usually shies away from such. When he finally reacts to the man being, well, him, the impact is actually lessened.
He doesn’t mean to grab onto the man, not really. He just…
He just needs to know. If he has a chance.
Toshinori never really doubts in the interim years if he has a soulmate. The words are on his chest, after all, there’s his proof right there. Even as the others find their own, Yawara and Shino and the other two inevitably falling together while Toyomitsu finds his in some police cadet, he doesn’t get impatient. He’s too busy establishing himself, and then mourning Nana, and then taking down All for One’s network. Then the thought slips from his mind completely because…
Because he’s not used to being a person anymore, if he’s honest with himself. He barely eats or sleeps without Osamu’s interference anyways, so why would he think about something as distant as soulmates in that moment?
He thinks about it in the hospital room, of all places. Mortality making him face the things he blocked out, he morbidly supposes. While Sorahiko keeps a snoring vigil by his bed, he runs his fingers over the old mark, ink slightly faded thanks to malnutrition. You’re All Might!
He’d chosen his hero name thanks to it. In all likelihood, he may have already met his mate and simply not realised. Thousands of rescues and captures, they may have simply never said anything. It’s a terrifying thought.
He doesn’t have much else to think of in those first days, faced with his near-imminent mortality and the concept of leaving behind loved ones. It’s a frightening possibility. It’s not one he can avoid.
You can become a hero , All Might says, and Izuku’s heart stops.
Coincidence maybe, a play of words that means nothing, but likely not. That’s not how his life is, not how his luck plays out. So it’s likely. Very likely.
He’s terrified of it being likely, not in least because he’s a useless sixteen-year old only good for analysis and his soulmate is apparently the suicidally-reckless Number One with a time bomb in his side .
Izuku goes home and screams into his pillow some, and when he’s done and his mother scolds him for what she saw on the news, he apologises and acts like nothing else happened. After dinner, he calls Papa and talks to him, telling him how classes are going and which pissant is bothering him now, as Papa lovingly puts it.
Papa stops him as he talks about Kamui Woods and asks why he really called. He always knows.
Izuku tolds him he thinks he’s found his soulmate. His father pauses, leaves the phone for a moment, and comes back with the sounds of liquid moving, telling him to start from the beginning. And he does.
Izuku-kun is a good boy. Truly, he is. Hardworking, dedicated, and maybe just a touch too driven, Toshinori has a feeling he’s made the right choice in successor, even as Osamu yells at him and Nedzu smiles at him over teacups.
Toshinori watches him slowly grow over the year, nourishing him and trying to keep him from hurting himself, and he wonders. How did such a boy come to be? A fantastic mind, cowed by timidity and hesitance. The boy’s got no muscles or Quirk, for sure, but that wouldn’t stop him from something like analysis or basic emergency response.
He may have been jumping the gun when he said he couldn’t be a hero, faced with another Quirkless boy eager to help people. His mind had simply been full of fearful faces and coffins, it seemed.
When he passed on a hair to the boy and waved him off to Yuuei, it felt some like sending him off to the first battle in a war, small tin soldier so eager to prove his mettle to his general. Toshinori could only hope he didn’t melt under the heat.
He doesn’t tell All Might. Couldn’t, words refusing to pass his lips, and maybe that’s alright, considering. Their positions were skewed and he doesn’t want to make a precariousness worse until he’s stronger, able to stand on his own two feet.
So instead of making it overt, calling his claim to the world and sunder, he does what he can. The man coughs blood and he brings a plethora of handkerchiefs, hands whichever is cleanest that day when there’s yet another round.
Izuku researches living without a stomach and begins to bring small snacks, rich in protein and low in sugar and pushes them at the man. He tries to refuse, begging off with politeness and the assurance that Izuku doesn’t need to do such a thing, but the teen insists. It’s not out of obligation, he says, it’s because he wants to, and is that bad? Is he overstepping a boundary?
All Might sheepishly says no and finally takes some of them. Izuku considers it a success and goes back to hauling the trash. The beach is almost clear.
Can he push the man to sleep more, he wonders? To consider watching his time limit more closely? To consider himself an importance once more? It feels almost egotistic to consider it, but there’s no one else thinking about it, it seems.
So he will, instead.
A trainwreck, putting it nicely. The boy won’t stop breaking his bones and Toshinori swears it’s giving him ulcers. He’s constantly rushing after him, holding small meetings to make sure he isn’t hiding injuries.
To make sure he’s doing alright, adjusting well. Offer him sweets, if his patrol’s been slow that day. The boy will offer him those damnable snacks in return, some sort of pain medicine, leftovers if his mother’s cooked a large meal the night before. He never denies any of it, feeling almost like he has to accept. The others tease him and say he must have adopted the boy with how they hang around each other, but…
It isn’t quite that. He’s close to the boy but not in that way, he thinks. There’s not really a word he can put to it, the worry and admiration and care he’s built for Izuku. He’d be devastated if something happened to him, wants to see him succeed, be happy, laugh. But he knows he can take care of himself beyond his recklessness, knows he’ll make it. He’s not a third parent watching over him as he becomes a hero. But he’s not simply a teacher doting on their student either, and definitely not a man looking after a burgeoning love.
It’s not something he can name, but he’s not too worried about that.
You’re All Might! He says, and Yagi-san always seems flustered when he does. Like being injured makes him lesser, as though not always appearing a block of meat suddenly destroys his history and achievements. It makes Izuku only repeat it more, slipping it in when he can into analyses or casual conversation, even if it gets a lot less casual because of the reminder.
After USJ, as the man bemoans his shorter time limit, the new ache to his side and the new injuries adorning Izuku, the teen can’t help but sputter and shake his head, because wow he hadn’t realised it’s this bad .
“Y-Yagi-san,” He interrupts, stuttering over the name he’d only gotten a few hours ago, “I- how can you talk about yourself like you failed?” Yagi-san stares at him like he’s lost his mind, glancing over at the closed door. Izuku knows he’s thinking of Aizawa-sensei, because they all are, and he sighs. “We all make mistakes, Yagi-san. You’re All Might, but that doesn’t make you a God, you know? You’re still a person.”
Yagi-san stares at him wordlessly, then at his hands. He clears his throat, a dry sound that kind of sounds like it hurts.
“I… keep forgetting that I think. Even with how much you remind me, my boy.”
“So like, All Might. Do you have one?”
Toshinori stares blankly at Kayama-san, leaning in suggestively and wiggling her eyebrows. He sips his- non-alcoholic- beer and waves a hand for her to explain. She sighs like he’s asked her to tapdance on the table and shirks down her skirt, just enough to bare words on her hip. Ah.
“That’s- it’s a bit private, don’t you think?” He hedges, and she rolls her eyes and nudges Aizawa-kun, who is facedown and drooling into his napkin. Aizawa wordlessly holds up his arm enough for her to tug it down, revealing a small string of words. Toshinori squints enough to read You're not - before common courtesy catches back up and he glances away, coughing.
“I. Well. Yes. But it’s on a spot I cannot exactly bare to the whole bar.”
“What’s it say?” Yamada-kun asks, because apparently this generation’s lost any sense of propriety his has. Toshinori hesitates some more, scratching his finger on his glass. It’s an innocuous statement, something he’s been told thousand-fold since he was eighteen. But it’s personal. It’s his , done in cramped writing and messy kanji. He doesn’t want to share it with anyone.
“I’d rather not say,” He murmurs, and it’s a selfish thing, for all that they apparently don’t see it as so. Kayama pouts and Yamada shakes his head but neither push, neither complain or tell him he’s being too sentimental. For some reason he expected different, and that fact makes him ashamed for a bit, to have doubted his fellows.
As he rides home on the train an hour later, he absently thinks. Everyone has words, even if they may not meet their soulmate until the end of their life. He has one, Aizawa-kun has one, Izuku and Iida-kun and Bakugou, even that cryptid shit All for One had one. What did their bodies say, he wonders?
But it’s not his business. So he yawns and watches the lights pass by as the train clacks to his stop.
You will become a hero , he says, and Izuku wonders how worn-down he must look for Yagi-san to say it once more. They’re in the hospital still, Iida-kun being checked out one last time and Todoroki talking to his sister. It’s been a long few days, and Izuku just wants to go home at this point, rest of the internship be damned.
It doesn’t feel like he can, he murmurs, thinking of the waver to Iida’s hand and dimness to his eyes. He’d not pushed, not even thought to. Yagi-san sighs and pats his head, drawing him into a one-armed hug.
“Heroes are human, and so are you,” he scolds. “You can’t apply the concept to everyone but. Yourself…”
They both sit there for a moment blankly processing that. When Izuku looks at Yagi-san, he snorts and starts laughing, and he can’t help but join in. What a pair of fools they make.
There are time during the fight, moments he doesn’t like to think about after and didn’t process during, that he almost gave up. Not to let All for One win, no, but moments that he almost let a near-miss land, a blow go critical, a dodge be too slow.
He’s tired. So tired. Over two decades fighting a force still strong, no one left but Sora-ojii and Osamu but they’re gone, tired of his drive- and he’s not needed anymore. He won’t be, when this body finally collapses on him and this man goes down and doesn’t come back. If All for One is finally defeated, would it be so bad for him to simply… go with?
“Izuku-kun… what made you pick him? Pity?” All for One asks, goading past the blood leaking into his oxygen mask, and Toshinori breathes reality and guilt. Yuuei. Aizawa-kun, Yamada, Bakugou Ashido Kaminari Izuku.
He can’t leave, he doesn’t want to leave that. Doesn’t want to leave the boy that’s done so much for him, made him realise he’s Yagi Toshinori and that doesn’t make him not All Might and-
And he loves the boy. Fiercely, with abandon. He-
He’s All Might. And he will not leave tears in his wake.
Izuku sits in an uncomfortable hospital chair and waits for his hero to wake.
Torino-san is sleeping next to him, somehow managing despite the aches he must have and the creak to his bones. He’d been the one to hustle Izuku in here, seeing him fight with the receptionist and barking them silent. He hadn’t commented as Izuku took Toshinori-san’s hand and trembled, felt for a pulse he thought he had seen disappear on the broadcast.
“Izuku.” The teen blinks and looks up, rubbing the crust from his eyes. Toshinori-san looks back with shadowed eyes, exhausted and aching. He smiles when Izuku looks at him, reaching his usable hand out. “Are you alright?”
“I don’t think you get to ask that,” He whispers. Toshinori-san snorts. They sit in silence for a moment, contemplating, basking.
“...I think, my boy,” Toshinori-san starts, “That I’d not be here if it wasn’t for you.”
“In the hospital-?” Izuku asks, a little hurt and more than a bit confused, and Yagi-san shakes his head.
“Here, generally. In this hospital, awake, with all my limbs and my self relatively intact.” The man hesitates, continues, “I believe it’s not too wrong to say you pushed me to care for myself, Izuku. Without that I’d have been worse off in that battle. I may not have come out of it, in fact.”
Izuku stares at him and thinks about that, mind revolving round and round the same thoughts as it refuses to move. Finally, finally, he closes his eyes. He’s so many options ahead of him, so many emotions to him. Relief, worry, gratitude, care. Compassion, fear, love.
Stay silent, give thanks, reveal worries, ask what will happen now.
He fiddles with the zipper to his hoodie. There’ll always be dangers, worries. And he doesn’t want to hesitate, hedge and avoid it forever. There’s no certainty how long one will have, after all.
He unzips his hoodie under Toshinori-san’s confused eyes, fumbling out of his shirt. The man is asking what he’s doing, if he’s alright or if he’s thinking alright, and it all falls silent as Izuku turns. The kanji are a dark line down his back, stark. There are no freckles to obscure them.
Thin fingers shake, touch the top character delicately, breath shudders. Izuku can’t help squaring his shoulders and holding his breath. Papa had told him all those months ago that whatever it came down to, he would have them. No matter what, he can’t forget that.
“...Izuku.” He flinches. “Turn around. Please.”
He does. Toshinori-san has his hospital robe pulled open, emaciated chest revealed. His words are there written right-left, something Izuku had studiously averted his eyes from when he’d first been shown. He reads them now, written in his rushed writing that so often blurs characters
You’re All Might! , echoed across months to a man who’d slowly been doubting the fact. He finally looks at Toshinori-san’s face. He’s crying.
“I think, Izuku,” He murmurs, “That we were meant to remind each other of vital things, the ones we tend to forget.”
Izuku smiles and sniffles, rubbing at the tears that’ve sprung to his eyes, the drip to his nose. Toshinori carefully grabs him and tugs him onto the bed, tucking him into the crook of his arm. It’s easy at this height to tuck his head in the man’s shoulder and he does, closing his eyes.
They’re alright. Everything’s alright, or making its way there, and it feels like a final release of pressure.
Finally, can they relax.