The knocking was a constant background noise by now, but Toshinori didn't really register it. He was shaking, outwards and inwards, feeling as if his chest was being crushed slowly.

He was fairly certain he had been crying, especially since he could feel wet spots on his cheek and his temples.

"…ri? Toshinori!"

The sharp, familiar voice made Toshinori jump in his seat, and he scrubbed one hand over his face, clearing his voice before he called out, still a touch hoarsely, "Ah, yes, my boy?"

"Are you alright?" Izuku's voice was muffled through the wooden door, but the worry in it was still palpable. "Can I come in, please?"

Coming in was a terrible idea, Toshinori thought with a quick glance over to the printouts of bank statements, his list and the letter he had just written.

Gathering what little strength he had left, he pushed himself to his feet, starting to collect all the papers, searching for a good place to keep them locked up and out of sight. A drawer, perhaps.

Opening up the lowest drawer, pushing the papers into it, he called over his shoulder, "No need, Izuku! I will be right there for dinner with you all!"

There was a long pause that seemed to stretch uncomfortably, before Izuku answered slowly, "Toshinori, uh… dinner was almost an hour ago. You missed it."

"Huh?" Freezing in spot, the former hero gaped into nothingness for a moment. He had missed…?

"Kirishima-kun and Sero-kun came to get you when it was time for dinner," Izuku continued, taking the pause as a bad sign. "When you didn't answer, they thought you were taking a nap, so… um. Are you… are you sure you're alright?"

He had been so wrapped up that he had forgotten his students completely, making them worry in the process. Toshinori let out a breath through clenched teeth, hissing at himself for his foolishness, before he dropped the last paper and slammed the drawer shut.

No more of that for today.

With two big strides he had crossed the room, all the while rubbing his hand over his face once more – it wouldn't do when the boy saw tearstains on his face.

He opened the door just enough to face Izuku while he leaned casually against the doorframe, blocking the path to the room behind it. "Sorry about that, my boy. I didn't mean to worry you all."

Izuku blinked, looking him up and down, searching his mentor's face for a sign of something, be it pain or uncomfortableness.

He wouldn't find anything. Izuku may have become well-versed in reading him, but this time, Toshinori would not let him see, under no circumstances.

Finally, the boy's feature eased into something less worried, less tense, and he let out a breath as he smiled up at Toshinori. "It's okay. I'm just glad you're alright."

The simple statement was already close to too much for the fragile state Toshinori found himself in, but he smiled on no matter how hard it was.

Pushing himself away from the doorframe, closing the door behind himself, Toshinori laid a hand on Izuku's shoulder, steering the boy down the hallway. "Now, you're not going to tell me that I missed the movie night, too, hmmm?"

"No, no!" Izuku laughed, shaking his head. "That's actually why I came to get you. We didn't want to start without you."

"You're all too kind to me."

"Are not."

"Oh, you most certainly are."


"Listen to your teacher, will you?"

Bickering and joking, they made their way down the hallway. His student's laughter managed to distract Toshinori long enough to smile for real, even if it was just for a moment.

Even though at the back of his mind, the letter he had just written and hid in his drawer was still haunting him.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ H ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~


I hope you will never have to read this letter. Should it come to this, should the day come where Gran Torino hands you these lines, then that means that I was not able to twist fate into the shape I longed for.

Izuku, I'm sorry. Should you ever be reading this, then I'm sorry. I didn't want it to let it come to this. You know that, don't you? Please. You have to know that I wanted to stay by your side, for as long as possible.

I don't want to die.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ H ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

"You haven't told me what kind of movie we are going to watch, my boy," Toshinori said, tone casual, just when they reached the elevator.

Izuku's contemplative expression shifted into an excited one, the one a child would get on Christmas Eve. It made Toshinori bite back a chuckle, knowing that it would distract Izuku again if he laughed now.

"One of those superhero movies you mentioned a few days ago," the boy informed him, all bright eyes and wide smile. "The American ones, remember?"

"Really?" He had known that especially the boys and most especially Izuku, Bakugou and Kirishima would love the movies, but he pretended to be surprised, teasing, "One would think that you all get tired of superheroes in movies, being heroes yourself."

"Never!" was the very adamant answer to that.

Toshinori started laughing and Izuku joined him, chuckling alongside his mentor.

For a moment, everything was bright and good.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ H ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

And as I write this, I can't help but be amazed. Me, who shrugged it off when I heard that my future held death for me? Who accepted it in the blink of an eye, telling myself that it would be alright?

I was racing for that finish line, almost wishing that I could reach it already, because waiting for an unknown end is so much harder than to greet death with open arms once it's finally here.

Now, though, I refuse to accept it. Refuse to accept the end.

My boy, this is your doing. Before meeting you, I would never have questioned my fate.

But then, you stumbled into my life.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ H ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

They more stumbled than walked into the already crowded living room. Feeling a burst of silliness, Toshinori had just swung Izuku up and over his shoulder, carrying him from the elevator down the hallway. Ignoring all the yelping, trashing and loud "No"s he got from Izuku in the process, of course.

It had not worked as well as he had thought – he was not nearly as strong as he once had been, and Izuku was heavier than he looked.

Still, they were laughing like children as they managed it through the doorway and into the room behind it, drawing everyone's attention to them.

"Sensei?" Momo asked, blinking in surprise, before a smile lit up her expression. "Oh, there you are! We were already worried when you missed dinner!"

"Ah yes, I heard," carefully, Toshinori put Izuku down again, dusting the boy off with a few pats. "I'm sorry about worrying you all. I was… a bit out of it, it seems."

"No, no, don't worry! It's good if you got to take a nap!"

A nap, huh. He didn't deny nor did he agree with that assumption. It was for the best if the children just continued to believe he had simply taken a nap.

He really didn't know how he should even begin to explain what he really had been doing the whole time.

"I will get you something to eat!" Izuku declared, dashing off before he could hold him back. Toshinori saw him join Satou and Shouji in the kitchen where the boys were preparing snacks for everyone.

"Sensei!" Before Toshinori could even react, he already had Uraraka hanging onto his arm, looking up hopefully at him. "Are you joining us for movie night?"

"Wouldn't miss it for the world, my girl," he answered, not really surprised by how honestly he meant that.

The others who had listened in started cheering immediately, high-fiving each other.

"Sensei will join us! Wooohooo!"

"Victory dance!"

"Could you all fucking stop being children for a second," Bakugou remarked from his place on the armchair, side-eyeing the ridiculous dance Mina and Tooru performed. "Dance" being a very far-fetched descripting of all the hopping and stomping around the couch in the middle of the room they were doing, simultaneously chanting with close to no rhythm "Sen-sei is joining us, Sen-sei is joining us!"

"Awww, but where would be the fun in that?", Kirishima laughed and run up to join the two girls in their dance, eliciting an annoyed sound from Bakugou.

And Toshinori just huffed out a strained laugh at the sight.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ H ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Was it fate that we meet? Pure chance? I don't know. I don't really care. I met you, you met me, and that's all that counts to me.

I didn't really look at you when we first met. Believed you to be just another one of All Might's fans, one of the many he had. I had.

How foolish that seems now. How grateful I am that I got a second chance to really look at you.

There is much in you that reminds me of myself, of what and who I once was. Your wish to become a hero. Your desire to help others – more than you help yourself. Your stubbornness, your recklessness. I think that's the first thing that made me realize that you would make a good successor.

The other thing is that you're so much stronger than me.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ H ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

"Cuddling session!"

"My girl, wait, be… oomph!"

Toshinori spluttered, the "be careful" getting stuck in his throat as Mina all but slammed into his right side. It was enough to almost topple the former hero off the couch, had Izuku not supported him on his other side.

Mina hummed contentedly, cuddling up to her teacher like a cat would. Sprawled out all the couch next to him, head resting in his lap, she beamed up at him. "Now we can start the movie!"

"Well, that's good to know," Toshinori tried for a serious expression, he really did, but he couldn't help the wide smile on his face.

"Eeeeh!" Tooru exclaimed as she caught sight of the pair, hands gesturing wildly. "No fair! I want to cuddle, too!"

The serious expression shattered completely as Toshinori reached out to her, beaming. "There is enough space, I believe."

"Yay!" Tooru took one jump, landing half on Mina – who squealed in laughter – to rest her invisible head on Toshinori's right shoulder. "Perfect!"

By now, Toshinori was shaking in laughter. Shifting to the side, adjusting to the extra weight resting on him, he almost lost his balance when there was no longer anyone supporting him on his left side.

Izuku had moved away silently at some point.

Looking over, Toshinori frowned when he realized that Izuku had scooted over to the furthest end of the couch, watching his mentor and his classmates from there.

"What are you doing over there, my boy?" Toshinori pointed out, patting the spot right next to himself, the spot Izuku had occupied up until now. A silent come here.

Izuku jolted, clearly startled to be caught in his retreat, and scratched the back of his head nervously. "Ah, I thought… I didn't want it to get cramped, so…"

That only deepened the former hero's frown, and he patted the same spot again while he noted, "I think there is still more than enough space for you. Don't you think so, too, girls?"

"Yeah, of course!" Tooru chimed in immediately, waving. "The more, the merrier!"

"Get over here, Mido-chan, come on!" Mina piped up, laughing as she made a grabbing motion towards the boy.

"I… ah," Izuku smiled weakly, unable to deny such a request. Carefully, almost hesitantly, he moved closer again, hovering nearby for a moment.

Until Toshinori lost his patience. Simply stretching as far as he could, he grabbed his stubborn student and hauled him over and closer. Before Izuku could do as much as yelp, he was already back at Toshinori's side, held there by the arm around his shoulders.

"There we go," Toshinori concluded, very content with himself, while he rearranged Izuku to his liking. "That's much better."

Izuku rolled his eyes – really rolled his eyes, that cheeky boy, Toshinori thought with a wave of fondness washing over him – and squinted up at his mentor. "I didn't want to intrude, Toshinori-san."

"Nonsense! Now, stay here. We're having a cuddling session, apparently."

"Sure we do!" Mina nodded very seriously. "Cuddling sessions are better the more people partake!"

"There you go, you have to stay. Young Mina has spoken."

"Yeah, stay with us, Izuku-kun!"

"Okay, okay…" huffing fondly, Izuku allowed the three of them to keep him as close as possible.

And Toshinori made sure to leave his arm were it was, right around Izuku's shoulders, just in case.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ H ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

I know you think yourself not good enough sometimes, Izuku. I know, even though I don't really know what to do about it. I see it in the way your smile wavers sometimes, or you stare at your hands as if to ask "Why am I like this?".

Izuku, believe me when I tell you that the way you are is just right. You're stronger than most of us, stronger even than me.

After all, you were the one to save me, and not the other way around.

Every day I spent around you gave me a bit more of something back that I had already lost.

You refused to give up. No matter how dire the situation, how slim the chances, you pushed on, taking step after step towards your goal. You had less than anyone else, less chances and hope, and yet you reached for the stars.

I can't help but admire that about you, for I had already lost that same drive long ago.

Spending time with you changed me. Slowly but surely, I found myself no longer asking "How much longer until it's over?". I found myself asking "What will he look like, up there, at the top?"

I wanted to see for myself. Wanted to see you grow, wanted to see the wonder in your eyes whenever you overcame another obstacle. Wanted to cheer for you, to celebrate with you when you finally arrived at your goal.

I still want to.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ H ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

In all honesty, Toshinori wasn't really paying attention to the movie at all. He barely knew which one they were watching, but that was all.

He was having way more fun goofing around with his students.

Huffing fondly, he handed young Tsuyu (who was sitting between his legs) one of the onigiri the children had prepared for him as the girl patted around searchingly. She smiled up at him gratefully before turning back to the movie, chewing happily.

Stuffing an onigiri on his own into his mouth, Toshinori poked Izuku into the side until the boy looked away from the screen and up at him.

Toshinori pointed at his stuffed-full cheek, eyes crinkling as Izuku immediately started snorting in laughter.

"Shhhh!" Kaminari hissed from somewhere across the room, gesturing for them to be silent and listen to the movie, even though he was smiling himself. Even Bakugou shot a short look over at them for the distraction, but didn't say anything.

Izuku made a helpless noise in the back of his throat, hiding his face in Toshinori's shoulder to smother his giggling.

In turn, Toshinori hummed contently, not once taking his gaze away from the happy boy.

Really now… who needed a movie when he got this?

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ H ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Don't misunderstand, Izuku. I know what you will look like as the Number One. How many times have I imagined it already! Because there is no doubt for me that you will reach it, that far-fetched goal that you set for yourself. You will surpass everyone, even me.

The only thing I regret is that now, I won't be there to see it.

In the end, the more I think about it, the clearer it becomes to me. Somewhere along the way, you stopped chasing after me, didn't you? You no longer needed to follow the footsteps of All Might, because you had set your own path. Somewhere along the way, you stopped aiming to be like me, but instead, you became your own hero.

No. More than that.

You became my hero, too.

Izuku, my boy. It was not your dream or your determination that gave me back my will to live.

It was you.

You refused to let me go so easily. The more I tried to convince myself that my death was inevitable, the more you insisted on the opposite. And I found myself resisting less and less, but suddenly agreeing with you.

Before I knew it, I was running from death instead of chasing it. And I will keep on running, keep on clinging to life, if it just means that I can get one more day, one more hour, one more minute with you, with your classmates, with all those amazing people that I met in the time I have known you.

I wrote this letter without knowing where to start or where to end it. I think I wanted you to understand that, if there was even the slightest chance, I would have stayed by your side. I hope I could also give you a sense of how much I think of you, because I am not sure if I can really put it into words.

In the end, what I really want to tell you is – thank you.

Thank you for giving me back my will to live. Thank you for being there.

Thank you for saving me.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ H ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Somewhere down the way, Izuku had lost his last shyness. Instead of trying to flee or hovering nearby but not really close, the boy just slumped sideways and all but fell against Toshinori, resting his head on one bony shoulder as he cuddled closer.

That made the former hero freeze in surprise. Mina and Tooru had, at one point, decided that they couldn't sit still next to him, too busy dashing to the kitchen for snacks and fooling around with their other classmates. There was more than enough space for Izuku and him on the couch, but the boy insisted to use him as a pillow…

That couldn't be comfortable.

"You should get a pillow," Toshinori said quietly, mindful of the fact that especially his collarbones and his shoulders were nothing more than bones jutting out, only barely softened by thin skin.

"Mhm," Izuku shook his head, snuggling closer as if to prove a point. Which he probably really was trying to do, knowing him. "You're a good pillow. Don't need more."

Toshinori couldn't help the chuckle bubbling up his throat, even though it sounded bitterer than he liked. "My boy, I know that I'm too bony to be comfortable. You don't have to get bruises to prove a point."

A pause before, "Shhhhh. Pillows don't talk."

He poked the boy in the side for that one, grinning over the startled, smothered yelp he got, even though he had to swallow down the gratefulness that threatened to choke him as he took a shaky breath.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ H ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

I'm grateful for the time I got to spend with you, Izuku. It has been a very long time since I felt this alive, even at ease. Even though you made me worry quite a few times, reckless, self-sacrificing hero that you are.

I enjoyed the time with you more than you probably know. I am proud of you, which I haven't told you enough. I know that, because there is no way that I could have ever told you that enough.

Thank you for being the son I never had, never believed I would have.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ H ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

"Awww, that ending was so cute!"

"You don't have to tell me that, I'm nearly crying over here."

"Dude, you are crying."

"Crying is manly!"

Everybody laughed as Kirishima took the tissue Bakugou all but threw at him and tooted into it with as much force as an elephant, causing another bout of laughter.

Izuku chuckled, too, rubbing his eyes with the back of his hand quickly when he thought nobody was watching.

Toshinori, though, was watching.

"Still such a crybaby, you," he rumbled, reaching up to pat the boy's hair.

"You heard it," Izuku sniffled, managing a weak smile. "Crying is manly."

"That would make you the manliest hero of them all, then."

Laughing aloud at the incredulous look that got him, Toshinori reached over and pulled the grumbling boy into a one-armed hug, chuckling still even as Izuku murmured how mean he was being.

"You know, the movie ended," Tooru piped up.


"So… is everyone thinking the same thing?"

A pause followed where the children exchanged gazes, smiles flickered up and some fond sighs could be heard.

Kirishima was the one to cheer loudly, almost painfully loud, "MORE MOVIES!"

"Goddamnit, keep it down, Hair for Brain!"

"Whoops, sorry!"

Toshinori chuckled fondly at the display. He didn't feel like getting up or moving at all, so he was more than content to continue the movie night for as long as possible.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ H ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Knowing you, you probably will be crying by know. Won't you? You were never really good at taking orders, especially not when I told you to stop being a crybaby.

This time, I won't be there to talk you out of it or lessen your pain. I can only hope that you will do the right thing and get the comfort you need from those who care for you. There are many of those that do.

To be honest, I may be crying at this point, too, so I can't even criticize you about it.

But hear me out just one more time.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ H ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Somewhere in the middle of the fourth movie, the last of the children had fallen asleep.

They had tried their best, fought against their heavy eyelids and slipping consciousness for as long as they could, but finally, they had lost that battle.

Toshinori was still awake, even though his eyes were burning due to the room being only illuminated by the flickering TV screen he had been staring at for the past few hours. He couldn't sleep – didn't really want to when there was so much to see, to soak up.

There was Bakugou, fast asleep, without a blanket. Said blanket had somehow – and of course not because the explosive boy had thrown it at them – ended up laying all over Kirishima and Kaminari, who had ended up in a pile, snoring quietly.

Tsuyu, curled into a little ball, was hiding half under one of Shouji's many arms. The other arms the boy had thrown over Tokoyami, Mineta and Uraraka, providing them all with living pillows and blankets alike.

There were more such piles all over the room, little nests of blankets, pillows and sleeping children – Jirou resting her head on Momo's shoulder, the other girl's head resting on top of hers. Shouto hugging a blanket, curled up on one of the other couches. Kouda pressing a plushy to his chest while he held onto Satou with his free hand, not letting go even in his sleep.

It was quite the sight to behold, and Toshinori would have gotten up to go and get the camera long ago, had there not been someone holding him back.

Izuku was a heavy, but not unwelcome weight in his lap. The boy had slipped from his position on his mentor's shoulder, and Toshinori had let him, carefully resting the boy's head in his lap instead. This way, he could look down at the peaceful face that twitched and scrunched up in dreams from time to time.

Gently carding a hand through the mop of green hair that was feathered out against his stomach, Toshinori smiled ever so slightly as Izuku sniffled and scrunched up his nose before relaxing into the touch with a murmur.

He… probably should wake the boy up, part of him contemplated while his hand didn't stop, carding and petting through green strands with a mind of its own. Wake the boy up, get him to a comfortable bed and then come back to do the same for the other students… that would have been the most logical way to go.

Toshinori, however, didn't want to be logical right now. He wanted to keep it all close, to enjoy it while it lasted, because… because he could never know…

How many more moments like this?

The thought came unbidden, piercing through what little peace he had felt in the last few hours, and he grit his teeth as the pain returned full force.

How much time do I have?

He didn't even realize that his hand twitched, gripping a bit tighter just for a second as he tried to keep quiet.

Perhaps that was what woke the boy up. Or perhaps Izuku just had some sort of sixth sense.


The drowsy, croaky voice sent a jolt through him, and he took a quick breath, fighting back tears and sobs alike.

Izuku blinked up at him sleepily, eyelids heavy still. A frown flickered over the boy's expression as he turned his head, becoming aware of his surroundings.

"I…I'm too heavy," he concluded after a moment, attempting to roll around and off his mentor's lap.

Toshinori's hand shot out before he could really think about it, gently gripping the boy's neck and pulling him back.

Making a little, surprised noise at the back of his throat, Izuku let it happen, not resisting, but looking curiously up again.

"Stay," Toshinori murmured as an explanation, unable to hold back the plea in that one word.

The last tension left Izuku shoulders and he did as he was asked, even though his frown deepened. Reaching up carefully, the boy let his hand hover over his mentor's upper body.

Eyes flicking up, he whispered, "Does it hurt again?"

Worrying about his scar, because that was what kept him awake normally…

It almost made Toshinori laugh again – or perhaps sob? He wasn't sure what it was, his emotions in too much of a turmoil, but he swallowed it back down, anyway.

"A bit," he answered hoarsely, even though the pain wasn't from his scar at all. "Just a bit."

Izuku made a sympathetic noise, expression softening. Rolling around, he snuggled closer, hiding his face in the shirt above Toshinori's belly, wrapping his arms around the thin upper body in front of him.


"'S okay," the boy murmured, muffled by the fabric, already falling asleep again as he spoke. "It's gonna be okay, promise."

The words where meant to be reassuring, but they were enough to shatter Toshinori's last control.

It was a good thing that Izuku had already fallen back asleep, because no matter how much he grit his teeth and tilted his head back, the tears were streaming down his sunken cheeks as Toshinori whispered back into the darkness, unheard by everyone,

"I hope you're right, my boy. I really hope so."

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ H ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Midoriya Izuku. When the time comes, you will rise to the top and tell the whole world that you are here.

I'm not saying this to pressure you, but because this is a fact that I will never doubt.

You're the best student I could have had, and I'm grateful that I could get to be your teacher.

And please know that, if I'm there to say it or not, I am and will always be proud of you, my boy.

Thank you, Izuku.

Thank you for everything.