Midoriya is a diligent worker. Even someone who weren’t as willing to give out compliments would be hard-pressed to say otherwise.
The boy throws himself into his work. He grabs at bits of garbage, sorting them into smaller piles that he can scoop up and carry over to Toshinori’s rented truck. He dumps his armful in, sorts everything a second time so that it all fits like crammed together puzzle pieces in the back of the truck, and then he trots back down to the beach. Every time the bed of the truck gets full and Toshinori drives it away to the dump, he comes back to find stacks next to the empty space where he parks the truck, waiting for his return, and Midoriya always comes running to deal with getting that loaded up.
He’s a good kid, is Midoriya.
And honestly, it doesn’t cost Toshinori anything to help out with this every morning. If anything, it helps Toshinori. He’s severely limited on the amount of hero work he can do — that final fight against All For One made him cut back so much that he spends most of the day itching, wishing he could be out there instead of swallowing blood and watching other heroes step in instead.
(Toshinori doesn’t begrudge those other heroes for doing their work. But he wishes—)
So. Helping Midoriya is a service to the community, a helping hand for this determined teenager, and a way for Toshinori to feel slightly less helpless himself.
He won’t ever say that aloud, of course. He won’t even think it too loud. He doesn’t like admitting to anyone, least of all himself, that maybe — maybe he’s not good enough anymore.
Then Midoriya wipes sweat off his brow, grinning at Toshinori as he finishes arranging his most recent haul, and Toshinori is able to shove those thoughts away where they can’t bother him for a while longer.
It’s been a week or so since Toshinori offered his help that he notices it for the first time. He wants to brush it off as a trick of the light, but what kind of light makes green eyes look that shade of orange?
An orange that has the same fiery cast as that moment in the underpass, next to a frozen villain. An orange he just saw a bare week ago, and thought he had warned Midoriya off from using.
Toshinori sighs. “You’re not supposed to use your Quirk in public,” he says, trying not to sound too disappointed. In the scheme of things, it’s not a terrible offense; Midoriya is being very subtle about its use, he’s largely using it to help other people, and he’s definitely not otherwise breaking the law with it. But Quirk usage laws are in place for a reason.
“What?” Midoriya asks, lowering his water bottle. He’s sitting in the back of the truck, his legs dangling over the edge of the tailgate. He meets Toshinori’s eyes, and no, it’s absolutely no trick of the light.
“Your Quirk,” Toshinori says.
“I’m not using my Quirk,” Midoriya says. Toshinori might accept that if this kid hadn’t lied to his face a week ago. Not very well, admittedly — his voice had been calm and his expression nearly so, but he hadn’t quite managed to disguise the minute widening of his eyes, the way one of his feet had slid back as if he was preparing to flee.
“Your eyes,” Toshinori says, gesturing. “They’re orange.”
Those selfsame orange eyes go wide.
“What?” Midoriya’s hand fly to his forehead, patting at his bangs as if expecting—
Midoriya lowers his hands. He flips them back and forth in front of him, a baffled expression clear.
“…So, just to check,” Midoriya says. “I’m not on fire, am I?”
“You mean the way you normally look?” Toshinori asks dryly. Oh yes, he recalls that conversation perfectly well. “No.”
To his credit, Midoriya flushes. “Sorry,” he mumbles, looking genuinely contrite. Then, louder, he asks, “But…my eyes are orange?”
“What,” Midoriya says again, obviously thinks about it for a second, and then slumps backwards. He barely avoids slamming his head against the edge of an old microwave. “Why is — what — oh my god.” He closes his eyes.
When Midoriya looks at him again, his eyes are almost totally green.
“I think there might be some things I need to work out with my Quirk,” Midoriya says, sheepish.
Well, he did only discover it recently, Toshinori thinks. The sludge villain incident was barely two months ago now, and Midoriya had spent plenty of that time simply recovering from the attack and the complications it brought with it. It takes more than such a short amount of time to practice to fully work out the kinks in your Quirk.
Toshinori knows that from personal experience. Gran Torino told him he took to One For All like a natural, but there were still parts of it he’d had to work for. He’d had to build up experience using it. He had to figure out all the little tricks he could do with it, until he was good. Until he was better than good. Until he had become the Symbol of Peace.
(But he hadn’t had a previous holder there to help walk him through any of it, no matter how hard he had wished for her.)
Over the course of the next two weeks, Midoriya goes up to Toshinori at various points while he’s hauling garbage to ask, “Green or orange?”
Each time Toshinori answers, Midoriya pulls out a notebook and writes something down. Sometimes he doesn’t even have to ask — Toshinori simply calls out “Orange!” when he notices Midoriya’s eye color has changed. Occasionally he calls out “Green!” too, just to make sure that Midoriya knows when he’s at his base level.
Or what Toshinori assumes is his base level. The way he can figure it is that Midoriya must have a base level, a mid-level, and then full usage of his Quirk, which was the fire-and-ice Toshinori had seen in action. The mid-level seems unconscious, rather like those who have a Quirk that is always active; Midoriya doesn’t always seem to notice that his control has slipped and that he’s begun using part of his Quirk.
Toshinori isn’t sure what part of his Quirk the orange eyes are supposed to represent. A stepping stone toward using his full Quirk? Low-level usage of his Quirk? Simply a cosmetic change that fluctuates with Midoriya’s mood and the weather? Toshinori has no idea; it seems like thinking too hard can set off Midoriya’s eye color change.
It’s interesting and Toshinori is curious to know what exactly causes it, but it’s none of Toshinori’s business. If Midoriya wants to talk to him about it, other than having Toshinori assist in pointing out the color change, then it’s up to Midoriya.
It’s enough that Toshinori is able to help Midoriya a little with this.
If nothing else, he can almost count it as assisting a student with their Quirk. Good practice for Yuuei, though Toshinori is doubtful of how much he is actually assisting. Midoriya is the one writing down all the information and likely drawing his conclusions in his notebook.
After the two weeks, Midoriya finishes a long thought. His pencil pauses over the page, then jots one last thing there before he closes his notebook and says, “I think that’s enough. At least I can practice in some other environment.” He’s frowning slightly. Orange bleeds through his irises, a sunset overpowering the leaf green of his eyes.
“Orange,” Toshinori says, one last time.
Midoriya looks at him with those orange eyes, and there’s something infinitely sad in them.
this was going to be part of the beach clean up arc, but even though I liked the concept, I couldn't fit it in. also there's a few details in this that are not totally consistent with a few small details in chapter 12, so...
notes to myself about this scene when I was outlining the beach arc:
• Izuku’s eyes glow orange while he tries to not bond with Toshinori/has Tsuna memories/using Intuition(?) (Toshinori makes a comment about it during the Beach Clean Up arc)
⁃ Toshi: Your eyes are orange
⁃ Izuku: W H A T
⁃ Toshi, privately: well, at least if he’s using his Quirk, he’s not doing it on purpose
Izuku may have thought that he was fine with however things turned out with the exam, but back at home the days drag by slowly and he keeps convincing himself that things are not at all alright. Then he’ll manage to swing himself back around, thinking positively about it, and then putting it out of his mind—
And then he’ll start thinking about it again, and did he do well enough? He took out a good number of robots, and he tried to take out plenty of three-pointers, but he sacrificed the last few minutes to help Uraraka, and he doesn’t regret that, he doesn’t, but what if that was a tipping point, and now he’ll never get into Yuuei? He didn’t even apply to anywhere else! He didn’t want to apply to anywhere else! He’s just destroyed his entire future.
Izuku buries his head in a pillow and screams.
(Quietly, so his mom doesn’t get worried.)
His phone buzzes beside him.
Izuku pulls his face out of the pillow and picks it up. He doesn’t try to stop the smile that makes its way across his face.
is this you?
Attached is a picture of a small dog with very curly, very green fur. Its tongue is lolling out of its mouth, and it looks quite pleased with itself, despite the paint can laying at its paws, the obvious source of the dog’s color.
you caught me. mom’s repainting the living room and I couldn’t help myself
you type well despite a lack of opposable thumbs
that’s what my nose is for, uraraka
They’ve been texting back and forth for days. Izuku is almost startled by the easy friendship they’ve fallen into, but there is no part of him that dislikes it. Uraraka is so cheerful and kind. Izuku really wants them to make it into Yuuei together.
He really hopes that they make it into Yuuei.
Oh, god, what if they didn’t. Not only will Izuku have failed to get into the school of his dreams, which will put his entire future career at risk, but he might not be able to keep the only friend he’s made since Kacchan decided at age five that Izuku wasn’t worth it anymore.
Izuku has a friend now. He doesn’t want to lose that too—
There’s the mental equivalent of a smack to the back of his mind, and Izuku is jerked out of that disastrous train of thought.
Uraraka has texted him again.
Izuku takes a deep breath, exhales it slowly, and texts her back.
this was supposed to be the beginning of chapter 12, but while it was cute and built up Uraraka and Izuku's friendship some, it wasn't quite what I wanted for the chapter as a whole.
feat. Anxiety Brain vs. the Power of Friendship (and Ghosts)