A teenage Toshinori lays on the floor, stomach twisting in agony. It’s pathetic. His legs and arms are bruised, and every movement feels like choosing to press deep into those bruises. The middle of his right arm is a solid plum from blocking attacks, like there’s a rock wedged under his skin. His eyes sting.
“Come on boy!” Torino calls, at the ready. His knees bend up and down as he moves in place, face fixed in a wicked determined smile, “Heroes don’t cry. Can you afford to waste time doing that when a villain is coming for you?”
His stinging eyes have been noticed. He props himself up with one arm, and Toshinori rubs his eyes a bit too hard with his other hand. His eyes are burning sharply now from the salt of his sweat. Aching, with what feels like the last bit of power he has left, he stands on shaky legs.
He turns to face Torino and immediately retches all over the floor.
Toshinori warms himself up some soup, home in his small tucked away apartment. His stomach churns. He’s taken on a kid, with no better reasoning than it just felt right.
It’s hard to know what to do with Midoriya. Toshinori does have experience being a teenager, of course, everyone does. Life makes anyone okay to train a teenager because they’ve all been there… right? He should be qualified to teach a hero too, because well, he’s number one. Still, when Toshinori thinks back to his training he doesn’t think he can train Midoriya the same way he was. He really doesn’t think he could.
His hours are up today. He sits at his couch, flips through news restlessly for a bit. His mind doesn’t stop circling around the same thoughts.
He thinks about calling Torino. He doesn’t. He pointedly doesn’t think about calling Nighteye.
He types up an e-mail to David, instead.
I’m starting my teaching job soon. I’ve been reading! Wondering if you have any tips for me.
Yours truly, Toshinori
It makes him feel like he’s done something, at least. It makes him feel less like he’s avoiding other things. Then, he goes to bed.
Torino taps his head. “What do you know about training a hero? The only good thing about you is your body,” he laughs coarsely. His voice is thick, a smoker’s voice.
All Might looks down at himself, at his hands, but his body is the same as always. Bone ridges sharply defined against thin looking skin. Clothes that don’t fit and hang loose.
Nighteye is there too. He’s far away. He should be disapproving, but when All Might catches his eyes he just looks hurt. He’s too close and too far at the same time. The dream flickers into something less focused, more raw, but the unease lingers.
The unease lingers when he wakes up too.
It doesn’t get easier for Toshinori once school kicks into session. If anything, the problems mount.
It’s especially difficult because Midoriya reminds him of himself as a teen, as much as he tries not to dwell on that. He knows its favoritism. Favoritism is less than ideal, as Aizawa and a few other teachers have reminded him.
When he talks to Midoriya, he finds himself looking out of the corner of his eye for Aizawa. Every time they remind him it makes him feel there’s something wrong with his fondness. Being less than ideal is enough by itself to bring a lump of guilt to his throat. At the same time, there’s this well of affection and understanding he can’t bring himself to pull back. He sometimes thinks about how he can solve it, before pushing it deep deep into the back of his mind. As far back as he can, because every time he brushes against the issue it just makes him feel guilty.
People tell him he’s too soft on Midoriya. That it’s detrimental. He knows that too.
He just understands the boy too much.
Midoriya, a quirkless high schooler with new power, scars on his hands, and a burning desire to help and save others. Midoriya, someone who wants to save more than win, and who hurts himself over and over for the sake of others.
Toshinori knows he’s supposed to chastise the boy heavily for it, but every time he thinks of himself at that age. Hurt, over something or other. Sacrificing a piece of his body to save something or someone, one by one.
He can’t encourage the boy to keep doing that to himself, to keep giving parts of himself away to save others. Which is a problem, because Midoriya impresses him so much, he can’t help but be amazed at what true heroism it is. Just like his own. He can’t help but understand that it’s something Midoriya needs to do. Just like him. They’re so similar it pains him. Every chastisement he hands out makes him self conscious. If he gives the speech other people have given him, it makes him a hypocrite.
“Don’t do that ever again,” he tells Midoriya, sitting alongside his hospital bed. This is a scene repeated, more than once.
He can’t bring himself to stay angry too long when Midoriya avoids looking at him with blinking eyes and shakes under scolding. The longing for Toshinori’s approval is obvious. Images of himself as a boy getting shut down by Torino, and his own deep desire to make everyone happy come to his mind so vividly he feels like he’s choking on an acid reflux of emotion.
“But I’m so proud of you.” he finishes. He ruffles Midoriya’s hair. The boy doesn’t flinch at things like this anymore, he just looks happy - relieved - grateful.
Midoriya smiles, cautiously. He always looks so taken aback by praise, but what Toshinori says is always true too - what he did was heroic. Stupidly heroic. He finds himself concerned for and impressed by Midoriya every time. It gets Toshinori to think over all the ways he’s failing and succeeding at guiding his student.
The message might be a bit mixed. It’s hard for it not to be, when Toshinori fights a battle with himself every time he looks for what to say.
After the Sports Tournament, he’s excited to hear a nomination for young Midoriya come through. It will relieve Midoriya’s anxiety about disappointing him.
When Cementoss opens it up however, Toshinori’s anxiety spikes. Gran Torino. Professional name.
Had Torino been watching him? Has he not been doing a good enough job? Had Torino seen how soft he was? He catches his hands shaking. He clutches them to the side of his pants, trying to will them to stop. What is this feeling?
Like a highlight reel, he can remember himself as a boy, but now he can imagine Deku there too. Midoriya spluttering puke all over the ground as Torino smacks him in the side of the head. Torino delivering hard truths to Midoriya, telling the youth as he lays broken on the ground all the ways All Might has failed to prepare him. Vivid memories of his own training keep circling back - the fear, feelings of failure, grief.
“Are you… okay?” asks Cementoss, still at the computer and looking nervous himself.
When Toshinori is nervous, it catches. He breathes. He wills himself to calm down. Someone else being there helps. He has to stay calm for everyone. He smiles. “It’s an old friend,” he says, and it comes out without a shake.
Still, by the time he delivers the news to Midoriya he’s shaking again, and has had to smack at his legs multiple times to try to quit their shaking.
Midoriya, chronic nervous shaker, picks up and is vibrating out of his skin by the time he’s finished telling him about Torino.
Toshinori feels bad. It feels so easy talking around the boy. The closer Toshinori gets to people, the more he leaks, and he can’t even justify distance anymore.
He’s worried for Midoriya on his training. Midoriya, of course, doesn’t come back incident free, but he comes back safe and sound and All Might is grateful for that. They don’t have a chance to talk about Torino specifically until later, when he’s awkwardly hunched across from the boy in a cafe booth.
“So, how was he?” asks Toshinori, a little cautiously.
Midoriya laughs. “He was… Well, I can see why you’d say all that, All Might. It sounds like your training was pretty harsh. I was nervous at first but he’s not that scary! He was really helpful!”
Toshinori doesn’t know what to say to that for a moment, so he sips at his tea. He’s relieved. Yet, his chest still feels tight. “I’m glad that you’re both getting along. Did he mention me?”
Midoriya gives him a deer in the headlights look, then shrugs his shoulders slightly. “A little bit,” he replies sheepishly.
Suddenly, Toshinori doesn’t want to know. “I’m glad you’re okay after that scare,” he says, shifting topics. The conversation drifts into chatter about the incident with young Midoriya, Todoroki and Iida and anecdotes to inspire and teach the boy. It’s best not to dwell.
At night, when he’s home alone, he dwells. He thinks about the conversation again as he heads to bed, and the feeling of relief has faded. There’s a different, sharp emotion lodged in Toshinori’s chest and a feeling of queasy nausea.
Toshinori spends the rest of the night thinking about the ways him and Midoriya really are different after all.