Chapter 1: Dirt Tired
Yagi Toshinori felt constantly tired.
He wondered, absent-mindedly, if this was anywhere near what Aizawa felt. The man always looked like he’d not slept in a while. Having dry-eye didn’t help in that department...
After his battle with All for One, the precious embers of One for All having died within him, Toshinori’s body seemed to tire. It hadn’t been much, at first. Occasionally he’d nod off whilst sitting in the staff room; the couch was much more comfortable than he’d like to admit. Then he’d nearly dozed through an entire meeting. More than once Aizawa caught him slumped down in his teacher’s chair, head on the desk, nearly snoring. That was a feat in itself, considering Toshinori only had one lung to speak of or speak with . There’d been some annoyance at first. But lately, that annoyance had morphed into some kind of concern. Or, at least, Toshinori thought it was concern. It usually came in the guise of reprimandations.
‘If you’re sleepy, then go home. Don’t fall asleep on the desk. You’ll drool on the papers,’ was what Aizawa had said.
Yet, despite his apparent exasperation, Aizawa had taken it upon himself to escort Toshinori home. The younger man had offered no exposition when asked, simply grumbled about ‘old’ and ‘dark out there’. Now they were walking together.
“Why don’t I just call a cab?” Toshinori asked.
Aizawa shook his head. “You said cab rides on your own make you nervous, right?”
Toshinori’s eyebrows perked slightly. He was surprised Aizawa would remember something like that. He’d only ever mentioned it once, on passing chance, when he’d been attempting to make small talk with the younger hero. It was a silly thing, really. But he could still remember those first few jobs he’d taken. Car-jackings. Kidnappings. It was no fault of the drivers, often enough. Most of them seemed amicable people, but there was always a chance… And besides, with All for One extinguished, he had very little raw power.
Their walk returned to relative silence. Toshinori, like he often did in moments of peace, shifted his focus inward while still maintaining awareness of where Aizawa led. First, Toshinori felt the beating of his heart. It still continued to work, even after all the abuse. Blood flowing, rushing, from his heart, through his singular lung, spreading back throughout the rest of his body. Muscle fibers, ligaments, everything working in tandem to keep him upright, keep him walking. The bones tucked beneath it all, a miraculous structure that held up despite its history. Then there were those mangled old organs nestled deep within his cavity.
Sometimes, Toshinori wondered about what might have been, how things would be different. If he’d never become a hero, never met Nana… It wasn’t that he regretted his decision, never had, never would. It was a simple curiosity; a thing to imagine.
How would his body look, at this same age, if he’d never fought All for One? Would he look like Aizawa? Lean, well muscled, of a healthy weight… Toshinori shook his head to be rid of the thoughts. He shouldn’t be comparing himself to Aizawa, pretending the man somehow had it easier, had something far better than he. Aizawa was a hard worker and he had the scars to prove it.
At the sound of the voice, Toshinori brought himself out of his musings. Aizawa had paused at the edge of the walk leading up to Toshinori’s house. They’d both just been standing there, then. Crap.
“A-ah! Yes, thank you, Aizawa! I’ll be seeing you tomorrow, then, yes?”
Aizawa fixed his dark eyes on Toshinori, scrutinizing, like a cat would a bird. It nearly made him twitch. “...Yeah.”
Toshinori bid Aizawa a good night and swiftly retreated towards the front door, fumbling with his keys. As he slid the lock open and opened the door, Toshinori chanced a peek back to where Aizawa stood. He was stock still, a small frown on his face. One hand moved, and Toshinori jumped slightly. The hand moved up and back behind Aizawa’s head to scratch at that black mane of hair. Then, as if nothing had happened, Aizawa turned on his heel, waved goodbye, and stalked back down the street. He appeared to be returning to the school. Toshinori watched him go.
Chapter 2: Dirt Dreams
Toshinori dreams of a different possibility. He thinks about the generation Aizawa and the others are helping to raise. Feelings and a bursting dam ensue.
There are nods to depression and chronic pain here.
Toshinori knew this all had to be a dream. It was a thing of imagination, something hoped for but never achieved. He didn't have a family. He didn't have a loving wife, nor did he have adoring children. He didn't live in a modest home in the foothills with a salaryman's job. Was this his mind's way of torturing itself?
That wonderful wife of his looked so much like Nana, it was almost spooky. But she had sandy blonde hair, so it couldn't possibly be her. The way she smiled was bright and wide. It painfully reminded him of All Might's signature grin. But here, in this dream, All Might didn't exist; it didn't matter much to his children. They saw him as a hero all his own.
They looked much like Midoriya and Bakugou - with obvious differences. Blond, scruffy hair like their supposed father. "A sunflower mane" Kayama had called it. A few sharper features. They were taller. The way they looked at him was different, too. Gone was the abrupt expression of excitement, gone was the explosive confidence. both looked to him with soft, genuine, contented love. It was enough to make him cry.
It was how Toshinori awoke. Crying, his bedsheets an absolute mess. He hadn't cried earnestly in a while. A life without heroes or villains. Without the gouging pain in that pit that used to be his stomach. Without the harsh realities of this unforgiving world with its people to please, people to save, people to defend and people to teach. There hadn't been a hint of his scarred and skeletal body. No evidence of All for One with his jeering grin and gut-wrenching taunts. Toshinori hadn't felt tired. Or scared. There'd been no trace of pain.
So, Yagi cried.
Sobs racked his body in uncontrollable shudders. The contractions in his middle dug daggers into his gut. It hurt, but it also helped. These pains gave him something to focus on. He was always in pain. Mostly, it manifested in a subtle ache. Other times, though, it ripped through his body. This was a good pain that only came by crying; letting go and accepting.
Yagi didn't have a family. That was okay. He could never have a family now. That was okay. Yagi couldn't bear to marry another. That's okay, too. His body was mangled, destroyed, and tired. That's okay, too.
He did everything for other people. He didn't throw away his happiness as much as trade it. They were happy, they were safe, and there'd been peace for a time.
All for One, the man who'd sought to destroy everything, the one who'd punched a hole in Yagi's stomach, he'd come back. He'd threatened the peace Yagi had sacrificed everything for. That's why young Midoriya was so important. That's why they all were. Sometimes, it felt as though they were the only reason Yagi insisted on clinging so stubbornly to this life, in his shell of a body.
That's right. Everything, from here on out, was up to the next generation. Aizawa and his other colleagues had been charged with teaching the younger ones. Yagi still had a job to do. He just didn't know how much more of himself he could give to that purpose before disappearing completely.
Chapter 3: Waking Up
Toshinori finds peace... and the rest he's been searching for.
When it came time to get to school, Toshinori felt somewhat better, if a bit sore. A couple hours had passed from his little... breakdown? Was that what he should call it? That made the most sense.
He still felt tired, despite having gotten some sleep in a proper place (at home, in bed). He didn't have the strength to wonder more at the dream, his nightmare and reminder. He barely made it to the kitchen when he forgot why he was there entirely.
Toshinori swayed back and forth from the balls of his feet to his heels. Forwards and back, over and over till he was tilting dangerously each time. Why was he up again?
Something vibrated suddenly in his left had, startling him badly. Toshinori fumbled with the phone, hazy trance now broken. He glanced at the screen and let out a sigh. Thank heaven for calendar app reminders. School time.
Things dragged on loner than they normally did. Toshinori had very little energy left, it seemed. He taught the bets he could. A part of his was grateful at not having to keep up hi transformation. But he remained very, very tired.
When lunch was called, Toshinori found himself creeping back over to the teacher's lounge. It seemed he was apt to do so nowadays. Aizawa was there, unlike the many other times Toshinori had visited the place. It made him freeze, caught in the doorway.
Aizawa's black eyes, with his dark circles and light scar, fixed on Toshinori. He yet again felt the prey in a game of cat and mouse. That gaze of Aizawa's really was intense, even without the use of his quirk. It made Toshinori want to back out of the room slowly, but he knew he couldn't. That would be rude for one thing. And, for another, you never, ever turn your back on a hunting big cat.
Offering a polite nod, Toshinori went to fetch a mug for coffee. Aizawa glanced away- back down at the paper he seemed to be grading.
In the teacher's lounge, made up of smaller amenities, were several places to sit. The hardwood table and chairs, a lone single-man sofa, and the couch; Aizawa currently occupied said couch. Although there was plenty of room for Toshinori if he decided to sit, that was not the reason he was there.
After fetching coffee, Toshinori settled for sitting on the sofa. He sipped calmly from his mug. He silently hoped this would be enough to work him through the rest of the day. This was his third cup today. It had to start working sometime.
Aizawa and Toshinori sat in near complete silence. Only the occasional shuffle of papers, scratch of a pen, or wheezing breath interrupted. Neither one spoke of last night. The tension became thick enough to be cut with a knife. The knife, thi time, was the clatter of a pen.
Toshinori, somewhat startled, glanced at Aizawa. The man had fixed him with a deep glare. It felt like he was trying to burn holes in Toshinori. Hands shaking, Toshinori lowered the mug of coffee and expressed his confusion.
"What is it, Aizawa" Toshinori didn't miss how tight-throated he sounded. And he was sure Aizawa didn't, either.
"How are you feeling today, All Might?"
"How did you sleep, then?"
"Uhmm... I slept- I slept just fine. Can't complain."
Aizawa hummed at Toshinori's answer. There was something else hidden in those dark eyes. They scrutinized Toshinori, almost appearing to look dissaproving. That had to be his imagination. But that intense gaze... Toshinori began shifting his body into the sofa- unconsciously self-conscious. Then he decided to take a chance.
"Aizawa... Have you had dreams-? Dreams that should be well and good, but seem like nightmares at the same time?"
One black brow arched slightly. Clearly, the question came as unexpected. Toshinori could hardly believe it himself. After a fair bit of silence, Aizawa's gaze softened slightly.
"Maybe. Why ask?"
"I- my dream, last night, it was... Have you ever thought of life without superhero work?"
Aizawa's head sloped slowly to one side. His black locks followed, draping over shoulders like feathers or fur. He was blinking again. It was a comfort, if a small one.
"I guess, sometimes. But there's no use wondering what could have been different. Just like there's no use in 'what ifs.'"
Toshinori nodded slowly, solemnly. He nodded, as if he understood, or as though he agreed. It made sense. Aizawa always made sense, if one were to think like Aizawa to begin with. But Toshinori was himself, and so he couldn't help but think like Toshinori. And he wondered about all sorts of things. But, currently, the one and only thing he wondered at was his dream. The things he'd seen. The possibilities laid bare and so quickly moved past.
"I've been thinking about it. More and more."
Aizawa nearly sighed, but his expression remained engaged. "Why do you think you have been thinking about it?"
The question surprised Toshinori. He struggled to find the words. "I- I suppose... I guess it's just been- it's been harder for me to-"
"Don't beat around it. Why would you wonder about how things 'could have been?'"
Toshinori considered that question for a while until he felt certain of an answer. It would be the hardest, but most sincere, thing to say. "Because I am uncertain."
Aizawa leaned forward from the couch. His legs uncrossed and both arms slid forward till he propped himself with them. His shoulders went up around his head and neck in a relaxed manner. His expression had taken on a calm, hooded manner- a sign that he would listen.
With a deep breath, Toshinori explained further. "I worry about the choices I have made and the places those choices have taken me... I worry for the generation we are building up. And I think about what could have been different because of that worry... What could I have done differently?Would the world be better off if I'd done one thing over another? Would it have made a difference?"
"What does that matter?" asked Aizawa.
Toshinori's brow furrowed at the blunt question.
"We have only what we've been given or made for ourselves. The best thing we can do is work with that."
When the final school bell rang, Toshinori gathered his things promptly and wandered out, through the gates. He didn't head home right away. Instead, Toshinori puttered about the city. He took turns at random, only ever bothering to backtrack when met with a dead end. It was one of the worst things someone could do, but he felt like he had to. There was something to find within his mind and walking helped with that. The things Aizawa had said to him kept coming back. They splayed themselves wide over his mind's thoughts, insisting they be picked apart and examined more thoroughly.
Focus on the way things are here and now. Know them. Know your situation and the choices made the led you there. If you find you don't like the way things are now, then work to change them. There is no merit in wondering, worrying about your past.
His time in the world's view was all but finished. He was exhausted and sore. His body ached in ways it never had before. All for One returned, but now rested in jail. Other evils, not just the League of Villains, would soon rear their heads. Toshinori had chosen a successor, one he felt the utmost confidence in. He was in the process of teaching a class of aspiring heroes; they would one day became great heroes. In his eyes, they already were.
For all its negatives this world and his life had to offer, there were also positives to challenge them. Toshinori knew he would continue to help those positives as long as he was able- and beyond.
After returning home, Toshinori felt a sense of peace like he never had before. A gentle calmness settled in his chest. It warmed his heart. For the first time in a long time, he felt rested.