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Thick Blood, Sweet Water

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Shouta walks around the corner of the store isle and nearly bumps into a woman, who yelps and drops her basket. It's only his hero trained reflexes that keep his toes safe.  

“Sorry, sorry,” she says, hands on her round cheeks. He starts to bend to pick it up (causing his back to crack alarmingly) but she's quicker, pulling it upwards towards her with little waves of her hand. A telekinesis quirk, albeit a weak and slow one. “It's just — you looked like someone I know, I was surprised, sorry!”

She's short and chubby, with green hair and freckles, a round nose, and full lips. Something about her makes Shouta's skin prickle uncomfortably. He hands her basket back to her with a bow and scoots rapidly around her to leave. He's not escaping, he tells himself. Stores are just crowded, noisy places, and it's illogical to spend more time in them than necessary.

She finds him again when he's staring at the daifuku shelf, debating whether he should get the red bean paste or the green tea.

“Do you need something?” He's short with her, barely shy of snappy. He's being rude. He can't find it within himself to care all that much.

“I-” she stutters. “I was just wondering if I could ask your name.”

He doesn’t want to give it to her. His friends are continually scolding him for rudeness, though, so he says, “Aizawa Shouta,” with as much audible reluctance as he can muster.

He doesn’t like her. He doesn’t know why.

Her face blanches. She twists the sleeves of her cardigan in her hands. He watches the dark shine of her green hair in the harsh store lighting. He needs to leave, he needs to get out of there—

“Do you know an Aizawa Yume?” she asks, and he feels like his heart has been ripped out of his chest.

“Who’s asking,” he snaps at her. He only ever hears that name a few times a year, when he can’t avoid a phone call with his parents.

“My sister-” she stutters. “I’ve been looking, I haven’t seen her in twenty five years, I just-”

He doesn’t — he doesn’t want this, it was just a short grocery run, he doesn’t want to be pulled back into the tangled mess that is his family, but. But he remembers sitting in the dirt drawing with a stick, a green head bending over to peek at his efforts. He remembers a sweaty hand in his own clammy one, and someone tracing his freckles and laughing. He remembers someone switching the eye he wore his patch on so he covered his good eye instead of his lazy eye, and the fight that ensued with his parents. He pulls details back into his memory and his mouth.

“Inko,” he says. “That’s not my name anymore.”

He can see her process this, and his heart feels like something is yanking it out his throat.

“You’re—”

“Let’s talk outside,” he says. He’d rather not have this sort of conversation in the crowded supermarket aisles. The bright fluorescent lights are giving him a headache, anyway.

He avoids looking at her as they check out in side by side lines. This doesn’t mean that he can’t see her sneaking glances at him in his peripheral vision. He’s so bad at this, has always been so bad at conversations like this, no matter how much he scripts them out in his head.

They leave the store together with their grocery bags. There's a small municipal park nearby with a few benches by the pondside, and they head towards it by mutual silent agreement. Inko is wringing her hands. Shouta's trying his damnedest to keep his out of his hair.

“You're… Yume, then? Or used to be?,” she asks again when they're both sitting on the bench, awkward and stiff. The light filtering through the leaves above them dapples her face.

“Yes,” he answers. “I changed.”

She laughs wetly. “No wonder I couldn't find you. I'm sorry it took me this long.”

“I barely remember you.” It's only after he says this that he realizes how this might come across. “I wouldn't have recognized you either,” he hastens to clarify.

They sit in silence for a small bit. Shouta pulls his neck down into his scarf and feels his stubble scratch on the yarn.

“Shouta,” Inko says, like she's testing the name on her tongue. “Shouta-chan, I'm sorry,”

“What for?” he asks. He's not sure whether it's an expression of sympathy or a genuine apology for something she did. The honorific causes a feeling he shoves downwards for now.

“I left you,” she says. “I didn't know how to bring you, so I didn't.”

She's getting blubbery. Does he offer comfort? He takes back every thought he's ever had about high school drama mediation. Teenagers are so much easier to deal with than estranged elder sisters. At least soothing and disciplining children is something he's good at.

“I was a difficult child,” he manages. A statement of fact, and also a plausible reason. He wouldn't mind her using it as an excuse; the rest of his family certainly continues to.

Sullen. Silent. Strange. Stupid, or if they were trying to be nice, “special.” It seems that she had the same thought.

“That's not an excuse,” she wails. 

“I don't blame you,” he clarifies.

She's over a decade older. He doesn't remember quite when she left, but she was definitely in her early teens, which means he was just past toddlerhood. A teenager alone on the streets is one thing. A teenager on the streets taking care of a child like he had been is another matter entirely. He knows street kids. It's his job to know street kids. They talk to him. He gives them food and hygiene supplies and change. They're often targeted by petty criminals and low-level villains, and so exactly the demographic he most needs to protect.Inko seems so soft. He can't imagine her in that sort of environment.

She pulls a box of tissues out of her bag and wipes her face. She's wearing no makeup and he suspects this may be why.

“I hope it went well for you,” he tells her.

“A clean break,” she says, nodding. “I… seem to have a lot of those.”

He pulls out his hair tie and lets a comforting curtain fall. “Sounds nice. They call sometimes. It's never fun.”

“Family bonding.”

“Family bonding.”

Inko pulls two wrapped melon pan out of one of her bags and offers one to him.

“Family bonding?” She sounds uncertain this time instead of reminiscent. He takes it.

More silence as they eat, beyond her sniffles. He’s usually quite good with silence, but this is becoming uncomfortable. He decides to make an effort. Manners and all that.

“Are you… married?” There's no ring on her finger, but that doesn't mean she doesn't own one. At thirty he's rather old to not be married; she could be as odd around relationships as he is, but he somehow doubts that.

“My husband is overseas,” she says after swallowing the last of her bread. “He sends money back, but I haven't seen him in over a decade. We should probably get divorced, now that my son moved out and I can get a job…”

She trails off. If he remembers correctly, she wanted to be a baker when they were younger. He can picture her running a crepe cart. He can also picture bringing Eri to her crepe cart.

“I'm a pro hero,” he offers in return. Personal information for personal information.

“My son loves pro heroes,” she says. “I think it's so scary - all that fighting! Everyone getting hurt… I don't know how anyone can do it. And he looks up to All Might and I never want that to happen to my boy. Once was enough.”

She's getting sad again. “You have a son?” he asks, mostly to distract her, but also because he's never had a nephew before and would like plenty of time to get used to the idea.

“Oh, yes, my son!,” she says, visibly brightening. “Izuku! He’s 16, goes to UA in the hero course. I wish he didn't, but All Might is … very persuasive.”

Shouta needs time to process this whole development but is vaguely horrified at the blush spreading across her face.

“I'm sure Izuku would love to meet you! Oh, we should call him right now and see if he can get a free day!”

For some reason that’s the funniest goddamn thing he’s ever heard. He bursts out laughing, which frankly is more of a choking wheeze, and then he starts crying, which is really more of a burning in his eyes. The unexpected emotion makes his muscles limp and he plops ungracefully to the pavement.

“Problem child,” he chokes, resting his head on his knees. “I should have known.” They have the same hair texture, for god’s sake, and when he was a child, before his freckles faded, they stood out on his chubby cheeks in the exact same way as his student.

She's looking at him with something approaching panic, all the energy put into pride switching to anxiety.

“I'm his teacher,” he tells her through wheezes. “Eraserhead. He's probably told you all about me.”

She bursts into tears. They must make quite the sight. The thought of this makes him laugh harder.

Eventually, they both calm down. Shouta’s chest aches from the unfamiliar exercise. If he was more prone to hyperbole he’d say he was sitting in a puddle of tears.

“What about you?” Her voice is raspy from crying. She's probably dehydrated.

“Me?” His voice is even raspier from lack of laughing practice.

“Do you have a family?”

He considers how to phrase what he wants to say. He's not in the habit of defining his relationships.

 

He'd moved in with Mic after the USJ incident, when he was too injured to eat or bathe by himself, and then never moved out. It gave them both some security when it came to hero work, in that someone waited for them to come home and could bandage up wounds that didn't need the hospital. Hizashi could cook, which was also a plus, and Aizawa gave him an in-person listener.

Were they dating? They'd never officially gone out, but they lived together and often shared a bed. Hizashi was also the recipient of the vast majority of Shouta's physical affection. So partner it was.

Eri hadn't technically been adopted, but he was her legal guardian. They'd planned to find her a foster home, with sweet calm parents who were not pro heroes with bad cases of flat affect and apathy, but now he couldn't imagine giving her up.She smiled at him and drew him pictures and he felt more positive emotions than he had in years. Previously, he had been rather certain his emotional range oscillated between abject terror for the safety of his students and annoyance about loud noises and bright lights. Eri makes him smile, and also care about something that wasn't permeated with the feeling that he was teaching them to die.

She needed a better father than her previous “dad.” Even if Shouta was anxious about messing up, at least he would never cause her physical pain or use her for experiments. Any work he did with her on her quirk would be helping her to control it and learn to use it for healing. Daughter, then.

He settles on explaining this thought process with, “A partner and a daughter. I live with her at UA, and he stays at our house. Technically his house. I'm a later addition.”  

“You have a daughter?” Inko’s eyes light up.

“A ward — I'm her legal guardian, we're not related, but she’s lived with me for some time —”

“Oh yes, that girl from the rescue.” Midoriya must have told her something about it — not much information was released to the public.“Should we talk to them? Izuku should know who you are, and maybe them too? I hope… hope we can keep in touch after today.”

He barely manages to avoid making a face. Too many conversations in one day. Too many emotions in one day; he wants to sleep for a week. She’s right, though; the next logical step is to have a conversation with his student. Nephew. And his roommate. Partner

Oh, this is going to be hard to get used to. All this family .

“Not Eri,” he says, finally. “We'll have to explain things, and she's had to know too much about bad families. I'm the first home without abuse.” She'd know what they were talking about. He doesn't want her to have to be reminded of Overhaul.

“A babysitter, then? And… should we go to UA? My house isn't set up for company...”

He nods, then pulls up Toogata’s number from his phone.

  • can you watch eri.

The teen texts back nearly instantaneously.

  • YES!!!!
  • Can I get her ice cream? I'll get her ice cream!
  • Now? I'll be over in five minutes!

 

  • any time within next half hour.
  • will let mic know you will come.

 

  • We'll have a blast!!!!! Eri-chan is always fun!!!
  • We can play Rummy!

That done, and ignoring the further barrage of enthusiasm (how on earth can one teenager have so much to say? It must be that youthful energy he never had), he texts Hizashi.

  • need to talk at dorm apartment. bringing visitor. toogata coming for eri. back in 30 min.
  • bought all ingredients on grocery list.

As an afterthought, he adds,

  • not a bad talk.

And then he mutes his phone. He'll turn it on in five minutes in case he gets a call about his class, but he doesn't want to hear his text tone go off a hundred times. He activates his quirk and uses his wool scarf to slip it into his coat pocket without having to contort his arms too much. Since the Noumu, both shoulders have been more prone to dislocation and he's still healing from a midnight skirmish a week past. His elbow locks sometimes, too.

This should be a lesson plan, honestly. He needs to teach his students how to deal with injuries that never heal all the way. All heroes, if they've spent any length of time on active duty, have scars that pull. Close range fighters, like Shouta and All Might, are more prone to this. Midoriya should learn that verbally and not through experience, at least. All Might is certainly not a good role model for chronic pain management.

“We both have Mom's quirk!” Inko exclaims, watching his scarf move.

“I have both of theirs,” he says, hauling his grocery bags up. He tries blowing his bangs out of his face, and Inko reaches up (she has to stand on her tiptoes — Shouta's big sister is tiny).

“Both?”

“They activate simultaneously — Erasure with vision, telekinesis with physical contact. Avenue switched from theirs, though.”

“I wonder if the Erasure was why Izuku was quirkless.” She's muttering. Must be where the problem child got it from.

Quirkless. Midoriya Izuku “was” quirkless. This could explain an awful lot (what kind of driven, motivated, intelligent teenager is incapable of the most basic uses of his quirk? One with a new one, apparently) but also raises many, many questions. He will ask them later.

For now, they're headed to UA.

“Did you drive here?” she asks. He didn't, because he doesn't, and says so.

“Oh, I'll drive, then,” she decrees, and steers him with a hand on his scarred right elbow towards the grocery store parking lot. He's rather relieved. Bags on the train are never fun, and neither is trying to keep track of someone through station changes.

Her car is tiny, battered, and cute. It fits her perfectly. He loads both their bags into the trunk as she starts the engine.

It seems like they've dealt with everything they need to get through themselves. Anything else can be worked through later. She's chattering away anxiously and he's staring straight ahead. Words aren't quite making sense to him right now, and he can't tell whether it's harder to understand her or actually say something in return.

He's tired. His eyes hurt. His vision is going double, as it's been doing since his sinuses got smashed in. He pinches his leg through his sweatpants to keep himself awake, but he feels his head dipping lower and lower.

“Fine,” he thinks, defeated by his own exhaustion, and falls asleep on his sister's passenger side window.