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Growing Pains

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How many times?

One? Five? Too many to count.

This isn’t fair.

But, it’s certainly expected.

The first thing Toshinori notices is how quiet and white the room is, and then how quiet and white the child in the bed is. Far too quiet given his usual muttering and far too ghostly for a boy with a personality as bright as his. Toshinori stares for a few moments, willing the boy to move, but all his efforts earn him is the steady rise and fall of the boy’s chest. For now, that is enough.

Toshinori walks to the small bed and slumps into the waiting chair at its side. This familiar dance has played out so many times and here he is once more. Walk to the room, walk to the bed, slump in the chair. Watch. Wait. Possibly doze off if it’s been a particularly rough day or it’s late into the night.

For now, though, Toshinori can’t sleep. His worry pulses through him, keeping him on the edge of awakeness despite how exhausted he feels. Snippets of thoughts pop into his mind but are quickly chased away with the one task at hand: Watching over Izuku while he recovers.

Toshinori notices how much the boy has grown. Even under the sheet, he can see how Izuku’s physical appearance has been sculpted and molded. His body is that of a man, strong and powerful, but his face is still young. Rosey cheeks flushed with fever dot the child-like face. His messy mop of hair sprawls underneath his head while loose curls find their way onto his brow. They’re slick with sweat from the heat of his body and Toshinori moves forward to brush some strands away. He’s not at all fond of the warmth still radiating from the boy and he glares at the strands that quickly fall back onto Izuku’s forehead.

When Toshinori pulls his hand away, Izuku lets out a soft sigh and the man freezes. “Midoriya?” Toshinori asks with a little hope and a little uncertainty. But, Izuku isn’t close to consciousness. He just shifts a little and then is still once more.

It’s like this for the next few hours. Midoriya will move or stir and Toshinori will quickly try to call him back to consciousness, but the boy slips back to a still sleep again. A few times, his eyes open, but they’re unfocused. Sometimes he’ll mutter or mumble, but it’s not something Toshinori can easily make out. Besides, he knows that responding will do little good. It’s clear Izuku doesn’t know his mentor is there.

As the hours pass and the sun starts to poke itself out over the horizon, Toshinori feels the weight of guilt pressing more and more on his heavy heart. If he could just do something Midoriya wouldn’t be in this position. If he hadn’t used all his power. If he were stronger, he would have walked away with fewer injuries and his power intact.

But he’s not and he didn’t and Midoriya is his successor now. Midoriya alone carries the weight of One For All. A piece still lives inside Toshinori, but Midoriya is the only one who can use it.

Izuku might bear the name “Deku” with pride, but it is All Might who is useless.

It hadn’t even been a known villain. Just some low-level scummy criminal who caught Midoriya off guard. He’d gotten his license and was worn from the exam and extra training, but when he heard people call for help, he couldn’t ignore them. And Toshinori admires that. As much as he wishes Midoriya would put his own wellbeing first, he can’t help but be proud of the boy’s consistent selflessness.

It’s an odd feeling, being so upset at the way things turned out, yet at the same time, he feels his heart bursting with pride for the boy, for his boy who has proven time and time again he will do anything for others. That is what One For All is for, and that is why All Might picked Izuku as his successor and student.

But now, he wishes there was some way he could continue having his strong, selfless, kind Midoriya and take away all this hurt. That he could continue to be his mentor and place this weight upon him, but also know that no harm will come to the boy. That, of course, is impossible. Even if he had left Midoriya quirkless and ordinary, no one can guarantee the eternal safety of another. And, someone like Midoriya would find his way to trouble--Quirk or no quirk.

It’s early morning the next time Toshinori hears the bed rustle and he glances over as he does every time, though not with the same anxiousness as before. However, he finds himself looking back at Midoriya’s half-lidded and slightly focused eyes.

“Midoriya?” he asks, finding himself rising from his chair.

“All Might?” Izuku’s voice is soft and slow. Toshinori breaks into a wide smile and places a hand on Izuku’s mop of hair.

“My boy, I’m glad you’re awake.” All Might’s voice is full of emotion that he struggles to keep at bay.

“Where am I?”

“The hospital,” he replies, sitting back down. He scoots his chair closer to the bed so he doesn’t have to move his hand from Izuku’s head. “Do you remember what happened?”

“I do,” Izuku nods as he glances around the room. The hospital. That makes sense. It all looks so familiar now. Once he’s done surveying his plain hospital room, his eyes lock onto All Might’s and immediately fill with tears. Toshinori frowns. He hates this part.

“I’m so sorry,” Izuku says, not having the strength to push back the tears that spill onto his cheeks. “I keep messing up and ending up here and making you worry. I’m not a good successor. I keep failing.” His voice shakes on every word and he struggles to even spit out the few things he wants to say. Weakly, he brings his one mobile hand up to furiously wipe away the tears, but more continue to spill onto the pillow and mattress.

“Hey.” Toshinori does the job for Izuku, grabbing a tissue from the nightstand and bringing it over to dab at the boy’s wet face. “You did fine, young Midoriya. Even the pros had a hard time with this one. You’re not the only one who got hurt.” You were just hurt the worst. Because you had to be in the center of it all. Because you had to save as many people as possible.

“This keeps happening.” Izuku’s voice is quieter now and his body heaves with the struggle of the tears he just let out.

“Growing pains,” Toshinori notes with a half-hearted smile, but Midoriya doesn’t seem to appreciate the joke.

“I’m never going to get any better. I’ll keep hurting myself. I’ll keep getting hurt or getting beaten and then one day I’ll just die, and One For All will die with me and--”

“Stop.” Toshinori’s voice is firm but kind. God, he doesn’t even want to think about the idea of Izuku dying. He pushes that thought as far as way as he’s able which, given the circumstances, isn’t that far. “Young Midoriya, you’re not going to die. You will grow stronger and you will find a successor of your own who will make you go through this.”

“Go through what?” Izuku asks, wiping away the last of the tears that have fallen.

“This.” Toshinori gestures to the room and then to Izuku. “The waiting. The not knowing if your student is alright. Being there when they awaken with doubts and apologies. And knowing that they’re going to be alright.” Izuku seems to ponder this, but his skepticism shows. “My boy, you’re fifteen. Becoming the number one hero doesn’t happen overnight. Becoming a hero isn’t an easy task on its own.”

“But I have One For All,” Izuku interrupts.

“Which means nothing.” That comment earns Toshinori a look that’s somewhere between startled and disbelief. “I mean it. Think about it, Midoriya. Yes, you do have the power of One For All and it’s a great power at that. But One For All didn’t give you your drive to save people. It didn’t give you your dreams and goals. You are the one who got into UA. You are the one who made it so far in the Sports Festival. You are the one who received your provisional license. Yes, One For All is a wonderful quirk to have, but it’s not the reason you are where you are. Any person can have a quirk. It takes a hero to use one to its fullest extent.”

Midoriya listens to every word his mentor says. By the time Toshinori is finished, he’s crying again, tears silently streaming down his face.

“Why are you crying?” Toshinori asks, concerned.

“Because I’m so lucky,” Izuku manages to tell him between stutters and heaves.

Toshinori smiles. “Yes. You are.”

“I’m sorry,” Izuku says, but Toshinori holds up a hand.

“Go to sleep. You’ve gotten all worked up now and I don’t need the nurses on me about that.”

Izuku settles into the sheets once more and Toshinori ruffles his hair. He sits back down in the chair, breathing a sigh of relief. Izuku is okay. He woke up and is resting now and he will make a full recovery. He always does.

Izuku turns his head to Toshinori and asks, “Will you be here?” He hates feeling like a child, especially in front of All Might, but the thought of being alone in the hospital is daunting. He’d much rather wake up to a friendly face.

“Of course, my boy,” Toshinori tells him, as he does every time they find themselves in this position. Izuku smiles as he closes his eyes. The return of a steady rise and fall of the boy’s chest tells Toshinori that he’s finally asleep again.

And so he sits there with him, as he promised.