The first time Midoriya passed out after another harsh day of training, All Might was sort of expecting it. Despite the boy’s incredible work ethic, he was still only a young boy–barely even half way through his teenage years. With the amount of work the boy insisted on putting on himself, it was only a matter of time before his body shut itself down for some much needed rest. All Might was very familiar with the symptoms of fatigue and overwork, so he wasn’t surprised that this had happened. It was nothing a little rest couldn’t fix. If it continued to happen, though, he would have to interfere before Midoriya burned himself out.
All Might crouched down to where his apprentice lay on the dirt road, shaking the other’s shoulder lightly.
“Young Midoriya, wake up.”
“You’ve done good work today, but sleeping on the street is not very good for you. You should go home and rest in your bed.”
Midoriya mumbled something unintelligible in reply, but made no move to get up. All Might shook him again –even slapped his cheek a few times- but he only buried his face further into the dirt, curling into himself. All Might sighed; he really was out of it.
“I suppose then I’ll just have to…” Grabbing Midoriya by the arm, All Might carefully turned his successor onto his back. Then, he gingerly hooked his arms underneath the boy’s body, and lifted. Midoriya shifted slightly from the sensation of being moved, but quickly settled, cradled comfortably against his mentor’s chest. He let out a deep sigh of content, and All Might was struck with how adorable the boy looked. One for All may have increased Midoriya’s physical abilities, but he still looked about as intimidating as a small puppy.
All Might stifled a laugh at his own comparison. It was fitting, what with all Midoriya’s constant enthusiasm. He wore his heart on his sleeve, with the kind of straightforward determination usually only found in comic book heroes. It was refreshing in comparison to many modern heroes of today, who had become preoccupied with maintaining a certain image for themselves.
All Might started walking forward, taking the back streets where there would be less people to notice him. He tried to remember where Midoriya had said he lived. They had passed by it, once or twice, back when they were running cross-city in preparation for the entrance exam.
It would be more convenient to change into his smaller, true form, but then he would have more difficulty carrying his exhausted apprentice. For now, he settled on trying to act as nondescript as possible and avoiding the streets that still had people. The sun was setting, and most people had already returned to their homes for dinner, making his task easier.
“Was it a left from here…or right?”
“Ah! Perfect timing, Young Midoriya! Which way did you say your house was?”
Midoriya looked around sleepily. He must have really been exhausted, or All Might was certain the boy would have spontaneously combusted at the prospect of being held in a bridal carry by his idol-turned-mentor. Maybe he thought he was in a dream, or something.
“Turn right from here, my house is near the end of the street,” Midoriya mumbled before closing his eyes again.
“Oh, good! We’re almost there, then.” All Might readjusted his arms and continued walking, turning right after checking that there was no one around to see him. It wouldn’t do for Midoriya or his mother (nor his father? All Might rarely heard of the man) to be harassed by anyone who saw the “Number One Hero” returning him to his home. The media was particularly bad at respecting boundaries.
“Hey, All Might?” Midoriya slurred.
“What is it, my boy?”
“…I’m glad I met you.”
All Might halted his steps, but Midoriya continued, “Before, everyone would either pity me, or tell me I was stupid for trying to do things without a quirk. You were the first person to tell me I could those things because I was me, quirkless or not”
‘But I didn’t’ All Might wanted to say. He only said those things after initially crushing the boy’s dreams and telling him to be realistic because he didn’t have a quirk. He couldn’t be a hero. Then he ended up eating his own words when Midoriya gathered the courage to defy what everyone had told him and rush into the fray anyway.
“I learned to be strong because of you, All Might.”
No, If anything, All Might –Yagi Toshinori, the once quirkless man behind the world’s greatest hero- had to be reminded of this lesson from his successor instead.
He resumed his stride.
“You give yourself too little credit, Young Midoriya,” he finally replied, “What you have achieved is something you found in yourself. I am only here to help foster that growth. Ah, here we are! Do you need help getting inside?”
Midoriya shook his head, the motion slow and lethargic, “I’m alright. My mom would probably have a heart attack if she saw you in that form, so you can let me down now.”
All Might nodded and carefully put Midoriya down, steadying the boy when he swayed from a combination of exhaustion and muscle strain. They waved goodbye to each other as Midoriya opened his front door.
“Yes, Young Midoriya?”
“…Thank you. You really mean a lot to me.” The clumsy smile Midoriya gave was blinding. All Might found himself too stunned by the boy’s confession to respond, and by the time he collected himself the door had closed.
You mean a lot to me, Midoriya had said. All Might had been told that many times by various people over the course of his hero career, but it had never meant nearly as much as it did now. The relationship he had with Midoriya was different than the one he had with his own mentor; closer. It was nice. Nicer than nice. Excellent! A wide smile split across his face, and he gave a loud, boisterous laugh.
If there was more of a spring in his step than usual as he leapt home, near-flying past the city buildings and skyscrapers, he didn’t bother to acknowledge it, only jumped higher.
The next time they met, Midoriya sputtered upon seeing him, turning a bright, tomato red. Every word that came out of the younger’s mouth that day was thought out, measured, as if he was worried he may have overstepped his boundaries and was on a sort of self-imposed probation. He never apologized for what might have been considered speaking out of turn. Not that he seemed to regret what he said, but Japanese culture had always been stricter about respectful relationships compared to others like American*. Eventually, things went back to normal. They never really talked about what he said during his sleepy haze, but the atmosphere around them became noticeable more relaxed.
All Might adjusted their training schedule to prevent his student from burning out. They trained during the times when Midoriya was free, and sent each other secretive, almost proud looks during heroics classes when their work started noticeably paying off.
Even with the adjusted training schedule, Midoriya’s busy school life and personal schedule often resulted in him being carried home by All Might (or dragged home when the hero was in his thinner, true form) more often than not after their training sessions. All Might came to learn that his successor was very loose lipped about his thoughts and feelings when he was half dead from exhaustion. He spoke in an uncharacteristically bold manner, with less of the nervous filter his clearheaded mind usually gave. It proved to be the cause of some very enlightening conversations.
“Yes, Midoriya, my boy?”
“You should have dinner with us one day. My mom makes the best katsudon.”
“Ah, thank you for the offer,” All Might wondered what Midoriya’s mother would say to her son’s idol eating dinner with them like it was a normal occurrence. Never mind that he hadn’t really had much of an appetite since his injury years ago.
“You should eat more. My calculations estimate that you burn more than five thousand calories when fighting in your muscled form for those three hours. Where do those calories even come from, anyway? I never see you eat. How do you get enough nutrients when you lack that much of your stomach? Do you take supplements? How much energy does it take to shift forms? Does...”
Midoriya began muttering tiredly, the words slurring together with the disturbing amount of detail of his observations.
“Ah?! You’ve put that much effort into watching me?!” He spat blood at the thought.
Or another time, when All Might’s time limit had run out and he had to half-carry-half-drag Midoriya home:
“Yes, my boy?”
“How come you’re always referred to as All Might? Isn’t it lonely being only known as your hero name…?”
“What do you mean by that, Young Midoriya?”
“I think…If I was only known as Deku, to everyone I knew, it would be lonely. My friends, my family, would they be able to look past the façade Deku creates?”
“Façade, huh.” ‘Like the Symbol of Peace’
“I want to be seen as the hero ‘Deku’ that never gives up, but sometimes I’d rather be seen as the person ‘Izuku’ who is still just another human. Is it the same for you?”
Toshinori didn't answer this time.
“If it bothers you that much, you can call me by my full name: Yagi Toshinori.”
“…Midoriya, my boy, please don’t call me that,” it sounded wrong, for some reason. Too distant. To be honest, he couldn’t remember the last time someone had called him Yagi, rather than All Might or just Toshinori.
“That’s fine, my boy.”
“Oh, you can call me Izuku, then.”
Their routine continued even after Izuku’s exams were finished and the boy was preparing for the summer training camp. All Might himself wouldn’t be going, so he wanted to make sure Izuku was ready for whatever hell he was sure Aizawa and the other instructors were planning for the students of classes A and B. He increased the rigor of their training bit by bit, often training with the boy in his muscled form and trading blows as they did during the End of Term TestTM. They pushed each other to their limits, Izuku with his quirk usage and Toshinori with his time limit.
Which led to their current predicament:
Izuku was perched upon Toshinori’s back, nearly unable to move from fatigue. Toshinori wasn’t doing much better, having slipped into his true form an hour ago. Exhaustion pressed at the back of his mind, a familiar sensation these days, but he still had to drop Izuku off at home before he let himself collapse. They had really overdone it today, Toshinori’s muscles were protesting with every step.
“Damn it, I’m really…losing it, aren’t I?” He laughed.
Izuku had been oddly silent during the trip home, rather than his usual exhaustion-driven boldness. He drifted in and out of sleep to the steady step-step-step of his mentor’s gait. The boy couldn’t remember the last time he had been piggybacked like this, but it was comforting, nostalgic in a way he was unsure of how to describe. It reminded him of something.
A lock of Toshinori’s ragged hair tickled his face. Izuku let out a small noise as he lifted his head off of Toshinori’s shoulders to look at the man’s gaunt face. His eyes had a fond glint to them.
“Oh, Izuku, my boy, you’re awake! We’re almost to your house.”
“Aren’t I heavy? I can walk if you’re tired.”
“Nonsense! I wouldn’t be much of a hero if I couldn’t handle the weight of a fifteen year old, much less that of someone as important as my successor! Just sit tight, we’re on your street.”
Izuku nodded, “’Kay,” and sleepily pressed himself into Toshinori’s neck. The blond man tensed, feeling the blood rushing to his face at his student’s actions. Why did Izuku have to be so cute all the time?! Goodness, Toshinori knew he had a weak spot for children, but fifteen-year-olds hardly counted as children these days. Especially fifteen-year-olds that could punch people sized holes into boulders.
When they reached the Midoriya household, Izuku had fallen back asleep. Toshinori knocked firmly on the door and readjusted his charge. He had met Midoriya Inko before, but as far as she knew, he was simply one of Izuku’s teachers who spent more time than usual training the boy in his newly discovered quirk. They had rarely interacted past the occasional greeting as they transferred Izuku between them.
“Young Izuku, it’s time to wake up!”
The freckled boy shifted, placing his hands on Toshinori’s shoulders and sliding off of the other man’s back. He ambled closer to the door, rubbing his eyes as he tried to wake up.
“I’ll see you tomorrow, all right? We can take a break, I think we’ve done enough training for now.”
Izuku turned to face him, an almost delirious, but still stunning, smile once again on his face.
“Okay. Thanks for bringing me home, Dad.”
Toshinori startled at the title, choking a little on his own saliva. He swore he spat a cup of blood in shock, “D-Dad?!”
“Yeah,” Izuku confirmed, looking a little confused at Toshinori’s reaction, “Da-aaaaah-“
Izuku suddenly seemed a lot more awake, his entire face turning a brilliant shade of pink as his brain caught up to his mouth. He let out a noise that resembled a choke and a cough at the same time. Toshinori could practically see the steam coming out of his protégé’s ears in his embarrassment. Not that he was all that better off, either.
“I MEAN-“ Izuku stuttered, “ALL MIGHT! TOSHINORI-SAN! DA-UHHHH-“ the boy’s voice cracked.
“No, no, it’s quite alright, Izuku. I’m, uh, honored to be such an important figure in your life.” Toshinori coughed into his hand, trying to think of what to say next. He wasn’t prepared for such a thing, but it did make a little sense. Izuku’s growth made him incredibly proud, more so than it should if they were simply master and apprentice. It was –dare he say it- almost fatherly pride.
What was he supposed to say now?
Thankfully, Inko took that moment to open the door.
“Oh, Izuku! There you are, you look exhausted!”
“Y-yeah, I’m just going to…gotakeashowerthankyousomuchtoshinorisanSEEYOUTOMORROW!” Izuku all but screeched, rushing past his mother and into the house.
“Izuku-my, what’s gotten into him?” Inko watched her son scramble up the stairs before turning back to Toshinori, “Thank you so much for helping him home, Toshinori-sensei. Izuku always seems to overdo it in his enthusiasm. He’s such a hardworking boy,” she spoke affectionately.
“Would you like to stay for dinner?”
“It’s…no problem, Midoriya-san. I should be going home, but thank you for the offer.”
Inko smiled at him once more (Izuku had certainly gained his likeness from this mother, hadn’t he, which left him wondering about the boy’s f-father), before bowing and closing the door. Toshinori was left standing on the porch for the next few minutes, trying to collect himself.
Admittedly, he could get used to hearing that more often.
Izuku was dreading today. He couldn’t believe he called All Might –Toshinori-san- “Dad” of all things. It wasn’t like he didn’t mean it, but he could believe he had actually let the title slip in his drained state of mind. What would his mother think?! What had All Might thought?! God, he was going to die from embarrassment!
“FRET NOT! FOR I AM HERE!”
Izuku let out a surprised screech, “ALL MIGHT!”
“Of course! Izuku, my son, the summer training camp will be upon you in no time. In the meantime, however, why don’t we reward all your hard work so far with some well-deserved ice cream!”
Izuku’s smile was heartfelt and dazzling, full of teeth and happiness. His heart thumped rapidly in his chest as he took off after his idol-turned-mentor-turned-father-figure. With every beat, he was getting closer the man he admired and the dreams he made when looking upon that strong back.