Major spoilers for ch. 161 in the manga. Set after the scene with Mirio and Izuku in 162.
I wanted to write some Dad Might and it just...got out of my control. So here's some angst for you.
Title from a lyric used various times in the musical Hamilton.
He gets the call after dinner.
It's the early evening; the sky is painted with soft lavender, and the air carries through the open window the scent of gasoline and cherry blossoms. Toshinori is peacefully sipping at his tea, plumes of steam drifting up his nostrils, and then his phone vibrates in his pocket.
It's Naomasa. Toshinori's heart plummets in his stomach even as he answers.
He doesn't say 'hello'. He doesn't say 'how are you?'. He doesn't comment on the weather or the beautiful sunset.
He's too old for that. He's seen too much; he knows better.
Instead, he presses 'accept' with shaking fingers and says, "What happened?"
"The raid on the Eight Precepts was successful, but your people did not escape unscathed," says Naomasa, tone flat and unemotional. It's meant to keep Toshinori from panicking, but it has the opposite effect. Now he knows that something went very, very wrong during the raid.
Oh, god, Midoriya was there.
"What happened?" repeats Toshinori and swallows around the hot lump of fear in his throat.
"Look, just...I think you'd better head over to the hospital."
Nighteye is dead.
Nighteye is dead.
Toshinori stares down at the pale, cold face of a man he had once called friend and has to fight the urge to tear this building to the ground. Pain and fury boil in his gut, and despite his weakness, despite his uselessness, he wants to find Chisaki and tear him to pieces.
But he is needed. Mirio is screaming. Midoriya is sobbing.
Toshinori straightens his spine and leaves the room.
The room has two occupants.
Mirio, who no longer has a Quirk, and Midoriya, who was once in his place. Mirio, with his bright, sad smile, and Midoriya, with the tear tracks still stained across his cheeks.
Toshinori looks at these boys (his boys) and doesn't see his young students.
He sees the ghosts of all those he'd failed. Sees the futures of all those he will continue to fail, all because he was not strong enough to end All For One once and for all.
"Mi—" the name dies on his tongue. He's not sure whose name he meant to call; perhaps both, or perhaps neither. Regardless, his jaw locks shut when two pairs of eyes turn to meet him.
"A-All Might," says Midoriya, and wipes a tear away from his eye.
"Are you alright?" asks Toshinori, stepping further into the room. He's still not sure which one he's talking to.
"Y-yeah," says Midoriya, and his voice is trembling. Mirio just smiles and smiles, and he looks so much like Toshinori himself that it hurts.
"I'm sorry," says Toshinori, before he can stop himself. "I'm sorry."
Midoriya opens his mouth to answer (to forgive? to condemn?) but Mirio beats him to it. The older boy (but still a boy, still so young, oh god, how could Toshinori have let this happen) crosses the room in seconds, placing a still-shaking hand on Toshinori's shoulder and smiling like the expression is a weapon, a shield against his pain.
"It's okay," says Mirio, still, still smiling. "It's not your fault."
It is, but Toshinori appreciates the sentiment.
"It's not," emphasizes Midoriya like he knows what's going through Toshinori's head. The tear tracks on his face do little to assuage Toshinori's guilt. Limping slightly, Midoriya joins Mirio at his side and forces the shaky image of Mirio's grin onto his own face.
"Midoriya," chokes Toshinori, and he's not proud of the way his voice wobbles. "Mirio. I—"
"Hey," says Mirio, like he can force away the tears with just his words. "It's those villains. It's those damn villains." A pause, and a flicker of sadness across his face before the smile grows impossibly wider in retaliation. "He knew—he knew what he was getting into. He knew this would happen. And he...he chose this."
"That's what it means to be a hero, huh?" adds Midoriya, fresh tears glistening in his eyes. "We have to make sacrifices."
Toshinori has to breath in hard to fight back the sob trying to claw its way up his throat. Then he moves, driven by some unknown impulse, and wraps the two up in his skeletal arms, holding them as tightly as he's able and pressing their heads into his shoulders.
"You shouldn't have to," whispers Toshinori, and he can feel the smile fall from Mirio's face. "You shouldn't have to."
Toshinori looks at these boys—his boys—and sees himself as he was when Nana died. Young and naive and impossibly wise beyond their years. They have seen too much, and yet they continue to dream. Deep down, it frightens Toshinori; after all, look at where those dreams got him.
And yet here they are, heroes in their own right, children with gleaming futures ahead of them, and a heavy burden already of pain and sacrifice.
It shouldn't be this way. They shouldn't have to suffer.
Toshinori's days are over. And yet looking at the children who will lead the way into the future, he knows his job is not yet done.
He will make the journey easy for them, he swears silently into Midoriya's leaf-green curls. Mirio's silent tears seep wet and hot through his shirt and he makes a promise to protect them however he can.
He may not be a hero anymore, but he is still their teacher. He will guide them into the future.
"I'll do better," whispers Toshinori. "I'll make it better."
Sun filters through the window, impossibly bright for the weight of this day, and Toshinori holds his boys tight.
He will not let them go.
He will never make that mistake again.