When All Might arrived at the USJ, he saw the kids of Class 1-A being tossed around by a hoard of villains as flames licked the ground and walls, hungry for a taste of their next victim. Several kids could barely stand but they tried as hard as they could to fight back while others were slumped to the floor, motionless, too close to the fire.
All Might took in a deep breath to announce his presence in reassurance to everyone but his voice was robbed. He couldn't say a single word. The kids pressed on determinedly, unaware of his arrival. All Might tried to leap to the centre of the battlefield. However, an invisible force trapped him. He couldn't move. Why was he suddenly unable to rush forward? He had always been quick to save everyone, never faltering. Yet, right now, he stood frozen to the spot, heart thumping as he choked on his own voice.
With every ounce of energy, All Might tried to fight back against the force that was holding him back. Still, all he could do was helplessly watch as the students dropped to the floor one by one.
Then, he saw Bakugou and Midoriya rush at a dark figure in the middle of the USJ before being swatted away likes flies. Bakugou crashed through the wall and flopped to the ground, lifeless, as Midoriya smashed into the concrete floor. None of them even made a grunt.
All for One grabbed the unconscious Midoriya roughly by the arm and scoffed. “This is your successor, All Might?” he said as he turned to look at All Might. His eyeless face had a stare so piercing it bore holes in All Might's body. “Pathetic,” he spat. Without even looking, he flung the boy into the inferno, which engulfed him.
Suddenly, All Might could move again and his legs propelled him forward without a second thought. Roaring, he rushed for Midoriya but All for One kicked him away. He drew his fist back and threw it at All for One. But the punch was caught, and his enemy didn't even budge. That was when he saw it — straw-thin arms with an oversized hero costume draped over his sickly thin body. He gasped.
Toshinori tried to pull his hand back but he was powerless. Panicking, he looked up to see All for One twisting and morphing. He screamed as the grotesque creature cackled. Then, the transformation stopped and a familiar face stood before Toshinori. Leaning forward, Shigaraki Tomura whispered into his ear, “Not only do I get to destroy those brats. All Might’s delivered himself to my doorstep. Oh, but how unfortunate. You’re just a scrawny old man now.” Grinning behind his hand mask, he tightened his grip on Toshinori’s arm. Pain seared through Toshinori as his hand crumbled. He yelled and pulled back.
He kicked Shigaraki in the shin and finally broke his iron grip. Clutching his wrist, Toshinori took a step back. He glanced around, panting. However, he didn’t need to look for long before he gave up and ran. There was no doubt about it. All the kids were dead. There was no one he could save. But that probably didn’t matter. Toshinori couldn't even save himself. Despite knowing its futility, he pushed forward.
But he shouldn't be running! He's the symbol of peace! What symbol of peace would run away like a coward? All those words in his head, spiralling and strangling him. Still, his feet would not stop.
“All Might,” Toshinori heard Aizawa’s voice say from a distance. Halting in his tracks, he looked towards the sound and sucked in a breath of horror. Aizawa dangled, all his limbs disintegrated and his eyes wide with despair and agony as a Nomu seized him by the head. “All Might,” his voice came again, somehow closer.
“Nomu,” Shigaraki said. “Crush him.”
Panic rose in Toshinori’s throat.
It tore through his lips and out of him.
Jolting awake, Toshinori was in the teacher’s lounge, lying on the couch. His chest was heaving and he felt his own sweat dribble down his skin. He took in a large gulp of air and pressed his palm against his forehead. Aizawa was gripping him by the shoulder and leaning over Toshinori, his face bearing a hint of worry. “Ah. Sorry, Aizawa. I shouldn't be sleeping here,” Toshinori said as he sat up.
“You shouldn’t. It’s 9pm. In fact, you should be resting and healing your injuries.” Aizawa diverted his gaze but Toshinori knew where he had been staring before — the wounds he suffered after fighting One for All. After a long pause, Aizawa sighed softly and said, “You were muttering ‘1-A’ and my name.”
Toshinori coughed violently and Aizawa jumped away as blood spluttered out. Apologising again, he grabbed some tissue and dabbed his lips and chin. Nervously, he rubbed the back of his neck and laughed. “W-Was I? It was just a bad dream. Nothing you have to worry about.”
In his usual matter-of-fact tone, Aizawa said, “They do say that nightmares are often a reaction to stress and anxiety.” He sat down on the couch beside Toshinori as he folded his arms. “And my guess is that it has something to do with the recent loss of your quirk.”
Intertwining his fingers, Toshinori leaned forward and rest his elbows on his thighs. Taking a deep breath, he closed his eyes. “In my nightmare, the class was attacked. Basically, I couldn't do anything and could only watch them get… Defeated. You were there too but… Nomu got you.” He sighed loudly. “If there’s another attack on those kids, I won't be able to do anything. I’m not All Might anymore.”
“Of course you’re still All Might. And those kids still call you that, don't they? Just because you lost your quirk, it doesn't mean you’re not All Might anymore,” Aizawa said. “A hero’s a hero.”
“But I can't save people like I used to. 1-A is always the target of so many attacks… I can’t protect them anymore.”
He shrugged. “Yes, you can't protect them much now but you don't need to always be the one doing the saving. You’re not the only pro hero around here. Not to mention, those kids are tough enough. They won't go down that easy and they’re there for one another.” His face twisted into a bigger scowl than usual. “Mostly.”
Toshinori chuckled. “Mostly,” he agreed.
“They give me migraines every single day. Isn't it about time they stop their ridiculous squabbles?” Aizawa closed his eyes and rubbed his temples, as if to mentally shove down his irritation. “Really, have a bit more faith in the rest of us, All Might,” he said as he held Toshinori’s gaze. “I’d have expelled them a long time ago if they can't even handle themselves.”
Not too long ago, Toshinori had found his new colleague to be unnerving at best. But, after a while, he began to notice that hidden behind Aizawa’s masks of apathy and coldness was genuine care for the people around him. Although, in this moment, his face was hard to read as usual, Toshinori could feel the warmth in his voice, now that he had gotten to know Aizawa. And, for some reason, little hints like this never failed to make Toshinori feel as if he was wrapped up in thick soft blankets, and sipping hot cocoa on a Christmas night.
Shaking his head, he sighed amusedly. “This is why we really can't get along, huh, Aizawa?”
Shouta frowned and crossed his arms when he found All Might in the staff lounge at night again several days later. Does this man really like testing his patience this much? “You’ve already watched the progress of the students and they've all gone back to their dorms. So why are you still here?”
Startled, All Might looked up. His eyes blinked several times before his hands shot up to rub his neck. He chuckled for a short moment before resting his chin on his palm. “I was thinking,” he began. “Remember this morning? Debris nearly fell on me and Midoriya kicked it before it hurt me?”
Putting his hands down by his side, Shouta took a seat beside him. He nodded, looking at All Might earnestly.
“It made me realise something. I am being protected by the people around me now. It used to always be the other way around so it never quite occurred to me that there could be a vice versa way to this.” All Might’s smile, one of the things that never changed about him, was still as warm and wide as when he was in his hero form. “I’d just like to thank you because I may not have realised that now if it weren’t for the talk the other day.”
Heat curled and spread in Shouta’s chest. The feeling was pleasant but too unfamiliar to him so he suppressed the urge to react to it. Instead, he opted to reply, “You’re welcome.”
All Might’s shoulders seemed to drop slightly. “This will take some time getting used to though. It’s really hard to suddenly just… lose my quirk and become completely powerless.”
“Take your time. Just remember you can rely on us all a little more. You have protected every one of us for so long. I guess it’s about time we returned the favour.” Shouta punched his shoulder lightly. “We’ll all be here for you. Just so you know, I’m one of those people you can rely on. So feel free to talk to me when you have anything on your mind. I’ll lend a listening ear anytime.”
“That's hard to believe considering you seem pretty intent on kicking me out of the school.”
Shooting him a glare, Shouta replied, “It's not that I don't want you around. You’re recovering from mortal injuries, All Might. Or should I let you run around till your wounds reopen and you bleed to death in the staff lounge all by yourself?”
“It’s a joke! A joke!” All Might laughed as he waved his hands in the air. “You're too serious sometimes! But fine, I’ll take better care of myself. I wouldn't want to cause anyone unnecessary worry, especially not my new self-appointed babysitter,” he said as he nudged Shouta teasingly.
Shouta groaned loudly. “And this is why we can’t get along.” His lips betrayed a hint of a smile.