Inko swallows, throat tight and unwilling to cooperate with her as she attempts to speak. Her stomach churns, protesting vividly as the words echo over and over in her mind. Terminal, her mind whispers, almost mockingly. It’s as though karma has finally come to collect its debt.
She laughs at the thought, for if karma was real then her life would have been taken long ago. Unless karma is truly patient and has been waiting for just the right moment to strike. She has a son now, and to think that after everything, she would be eternally separated from him. That her baby boy will grow up with only the faintest memories of a mother’s touch.
His father was never there to begin with, and now she will be leaving him too.
Oh gods, what is she going to tell Izuku?
Stealing herself, she looks to the doctor. Despite being a back-alley doctor, Aibou-san has treated both her and her son with the utmost of care. He had been there when Izuku had made his way into the world, pronouncing the child to be happy and healthy. All while his hands were trembling, eyes wide in awe for that was the first time he had truly witnessed a life being bought into this world, rather than see them leave it.
He was the doctor she took Izuku to when her son hadn’t developed a quirk at the usual age, who gave her advice and support on how best to help Izuku after declaring him quirkless.
And now Aibou-san is looking at her, face a façade fitting of the profession he was long ago thrown out of. He pushes up his glasses; a poor attempt to hide the sadness beginning to shine in his eyes as his carefully structured mask begins to crack.
Inko takes a deep breath, forcing the words to form in her throat. ‘I- how long do you think I have left?’
Aibou-san visibly startles, shaking himself before trying to hide away any emotion he may have been showing. Inko has known him far too long for something like that to work.
‘Not long enough.’ He pauses. ‘If you were to seek out professional help, then you may be able to prolong the inevitable… with today’s technology there might even be a cure-’
‘You know why I can’t do that.’ Inko smiles sadly. She had given up on hope the moment she stepped into the room, Aibou-san’s words can do nothing to renew that.
‘They would ask questions.’
Aibou-san massages his forehead. ‘And what will young Izuku do if you’re gone? He’s… he’s struggling enough as it is.’
Those words sting far more than terminal ever could. Inko knows that being quirkless means her son will struggle in the normal world, knows that he is hurting and being hurt by others. She also knows that there is nothing she can do to stop it, for in this society of quirks, being quirkless is the lowest of the low.
And on top of the struggles he will face with that, the thought that someday soon she will no longer be there to comfort him… It’s so painful. But, she also knows how strong her baby boy is. How he will fight to achieve his dreams and continue moving forward no matter what people say or do to try and put him down.
‘Izuku will live on.’ Inko says with confidence, wiping at her face. Her cheeks are wet. How long has she been crying for?
‘And where will he go?’ Aibou-san asks. Then, knowing that there is no convincing Inko to seek out the proper treatment she needs, he adds with a sigh; ‘He will always be welcome here, if it comes to it.’
‘Thanks, but I’ll have to decline. I have someone in mind who owes me a favour from way back.’ Inko smiles, and this time it is one of fondness. ‘I’m sure he will adore Izuku, too.’
With shaky hands, Inko presses number after number on the dialpad. Once finished she double checks the combination of numbers that has, and forever will be, engraved into her memory. Her thumb trembles as it hovers over the bright green call button, and suddenly she isn’t so sure she can do this.
There is only one person she trusts enough to take care of her son, and in doing so she will undoubtedly be dragging Izuku into the life she once lived and was never quite able to leave behind. Besides, this is far too much to ask of someone she hasn’t seen in years, and it is also far too much to put on her son.
Terminal. Aibou-san’s voice continues to echo in her mind, a constant reminder that she will not be there to witness her child grow up. Terminal. That she won’t see him finish middle school, let alone be accepted into UA, because of course he will, Izuku can do anything when he puts his mind to it.
TERMINAL. She won’t see him after that, either. Never knowing if he will marry and have children, whether he will have a wife or a husband or maybe even both.
Inko laughs, the bitterness of the sound thick on her tongue. She’ll never have the chance to have a ‘talk’ with any partner Teen Izuku brings home. But maybe, just maybe he can be there to stand by her son and fill in the gap that she left behind.
With this in mind, she hits the call button.
She brings the phone to her ear as it rings, anxiety eating away at her gut. She laughs again at the irony of it all and is still making the trembling sound when he picks up on the other end.
She hadn’t thought this far ahead, but she does know that the conversation they need to have shouldn’t be held over the phone. But how does one even bring up something like that? Oh, hello, it’s been seven years and I’m dying, would you like to catch up sometime? She laughs at the thought, while at the same time trying to hold back sobs because fuck how could she ever be prepared for this?
‘We tend to laugh-’ He says, calm and patient. Already the perfect parent, of course he is. ‘-because if we don’t, we cry.’
Inko invites him into her home, smile strained and eyes puffy from tears shed not long before his arrival. They sit down in silence, coffee cups placed in front of the both of them. Inko’s hands tremble as she takes a sip of her brew, skin much paler than it has ever been before and her wrists far too skinny. She looks ill.
Kurogiri takes all of this in, a sinking feeling in his stomach. There are questions he wants to ask but knows that Inko needs to be the one to speak up first, as whatever she called him for seems to be far more important.
He suspects that he will receive the answers he is looking for, anyway.
Suddenly Inko shoots up, giving a quick ‘excuse me’ before stumbling away into another room. That shocks Kurogiri too, for the Inko he knew would never stumble. After a moment of waiting for her to return, he takes a sip of the coffee placed in front of him, delicious as ever, before getting up in pursuit of his old friend.
It doesn’t take Kurogiri long to find Inko. She is sitting on the floor in the middle of a room so overwhelmingly filled with All Might merchandise that Kurogiri almost thought that the pro-hero himself was hiding in the corner, waiting to ambush him, for a moment. There’s an incredibly sense of irony, a villain and a former villain, in the room of a hero-worshiping child.
Kurogiri’s eyes widen. A child.
Kneeling down beside Inko, he says; ‘You were with child. That’s why you left. Did something happen to him- or her?’
Inko shakes her head, and through the hair covering her eyes Kurogiri can see a tired face wet with tears. If not the child then- oh- oh no.
‘I don’t want to leave him.’ She says. ‘I don’t want to die.’
Kurogiri wraps his arms around her. She cries and screams at the unfairness of it all, the sounds muffled by his suit. He will hold her for as long as she needs holding, until every single bit of the pain she has bottled up inside has been let out.
‘Giri-chan.’ Inko says, eventually. Kurogiri wants to smile at the old nickname but can’t quite manage it. ‘When I- when I’m gone- will you-?’
‘Don’t worry.’ Kurogiri reassures. ‘I would never say no to something like that.’
‘Thank you.’ She says, snuggling further into him. ‘Izuku will love you.’
Kurogiri takes note of the name before he looks at the All Might clock hanging on the door. The blinding smile of the pro-hero makes it difficult to make out the time. 3:23pm. ‘He might not if he comes home to see his mother with a strange man on his bedroom floor.’ He says.
Inko laughs. ‘I can’t wait for you to meet him. He’s so adorable.’
‘I’m sure he is.’ Kurogiri replies. ‘He came from you, after all.’
When he returns to the bar, Kurogiri doesn’t cry. Crying is something he lost the ability to do long ago. He doesn’t mourn either, because mourning is for the dead. Inko isn’t dead. Yet.
Besides, people die all the time.
It is only when Tomura enters the bar, soon followed by a variety of petty thugs that have been recruited into what is the beginning of the League, that the full gravity of the situation hits Kurogiri. He agreed to take in a child. Him. A villain. Raising a child that rather obviously worships heroes.
Kurogiri prides himself on his calm demeanour; he’s the responsible one of the group. So, when the word ‘fuck’ escapes his lips, he tries his best to cover it up. When Tomura’s head snaps in his direction, eyes narrowed, he knows he failed.
The scene is the same as the last time he met with Inko. They are in her apartment, drinking coffee at a table made for two. This time, however, Inko appears to look slightly less like she will shatter into a million pieces any second. Emotionally, anyway. Physically she looks no better than she did last time. On the contrary, it almost seems as though she has lost more weight.
This brings some relief to Kurogiri, and at the same time sorrow yanks at his heart. It well and truly shows that whatever illness is causing Inko’s suffering, she will not be able to beat it in the same way she once defeated those who crossed her path.
Which brings Kurogiri back to what he needs to say.
‘I am a villain.’
Inko smiles. ‘I know.’
‘I still work under All for One.’ He reminds her.
‘Mmhm, I used to work for him, too.’
Kurogiri is slightly taken aback by the casual way Inko speaks, as though she is completely at ease with speaking about her former villainy. He is about to speak again, to get to the point of the matter, but Inko beats him to it.
‘I know what this is about, Giri-chan.’ She says. ‘And before you say that I shouldn’t put Izuku into your care, hear me out. Please.’
Inko smiles, silently thanking him for giving her the chance to explain. ‘Izuku is quirkless.’
That is surprising, but Kurogiri doesn’t understand how that would have anything to do with Inko’s decision.
‘It isn’t talked about much in the public eye, but if you actually look there are a lot of horror stories about quirkless children in the foster system.’
Oh. It hadn’t occurred to him that something like that would be an issue, but it does justify a lot of Inko’s concerns…
‘That’s…’ Kurogiri trails off. ‘Still… surely there are other, more eligible, people you know who would be willing to take him in.’
‘Well, there is Mitsuki, but I don’t want to put her in that position and her son is a bit…’ Inko shakes her head. ‘Besides, you were the first person that came to mind! I also think that it would be good, for Izuku, to grow up knowing that everything isn’t as black and white as it seems. And I know you won’t judge him for not having a quirk, and that you’ll help him.’
‘Besides, you’ve always been good with children.’
The smile Inko gives him makes Kurogiri forget exactly how much of a bad idea this all is.
As Inko’s health continues to deteriorate, Kurogiri takes time to take care of her whenever he can. This is how he meets Izuku. It’s quite terrifying, meeting the seven-year-old child you will undoubtedly be taking care of for as long as they need your care.
One look at Izuku’s smile and bright green eyes, filled with awe as the child goes from introducing himself to questioning and theorising about his Warp quirk, and Kurogiri knows that he will do anything for Inko’s son.
Three months since Kurogiri was first introduced to Izuku, Inko calls the two of them to her bedside.
‘Izuku,’ she says, ‘do you like Giri-chan?’
‘Yeah!’ Izuku nods eagerly, clutching an All Might figurine in his hands as though that will protect him from what is to come. There is worry in his eyes, Kurogiri can see. Even a child would be able to tell that something about the situation is wrong, after all.
‘And does Giri-chan like Izuku?’ Inko asks.
‘Of course.’ Kurogiri says.
‘I’m glad.’ She smiles, and it’s glaringly obvious where Izuku got his from. ‘Izuku,’ she beckons Izuku to come closer to her, ‘how would you like to live with Giri-chan?’
‘That would be awesome!’ Izuku exclaims, before his eyes widen and tears begin to well up in them. ‘But you have to come too, mum, please come too.’
Tears fall from Inko’s eyes as she pulls Izuku into a tender hug. ‘I can’t, I’m sorry.’
As the two weep together, Kurogiri wraps himself around the both of them. Tears trail down his face, and just this once he allows himself to cry, in the presence of the two he cares for most.
Ah, he realises, these two are my family.
Explaining everything to Izuku is difficult for Inko, but she insisted that she be the one to clarify things with her son. There are a lot of tears shed between the two, and Kurogiri feels both like he is intruding on a sacred moment, and as though this is where he belongs- by the side of a long-time friend whose life will be far too short, and her son, far too young to be without both parents.
Once things have been explained, Izuku is understanding. Which surprises Kurogiri, though it probably shouldn’t. He’s a smart child, able to make logical decisions even when he is blinded by the tears in his eyes and the pain in his heart.
Things change after that. Izuku insists on helping Kurogiri take care of Inko, and despite still attending school he spends as much time as possible by his mother’s side, talking with her excitedly about heroes and quirks and how much he is learning.
Kurogiri begins to clear out one of the spare rooms at the bar for Izuku. Though it probably isn’t the best place for a child to live, it will have to do.
He has talked to All for One about the situation, too. When learning that the child is Inko’s, All for One seemed quite accepting of what Kurogiri is doing, though he didn’t seem too distraught about Inko’s condition. Kurogiri shoved the anger he felt at the other’s reaction deep down, it would do him no good to act on it.
One of the things Kurogiri hasn’t told Izuku yet, however, is his status as a villain. He doesn’t think Inko has told him anything about their shared history, either. If she had, Izuku probably wouldn’t have been so welcoming towards him. Or he wouldn’t be such a huge hero fan.
There are more important things to worry about then Izuku’s reaction to something like that, though. Like the fact that Inko can no longer stomach anything.
Kurogiri wants to take her to a hospital- he would do anything to preserve this beautiful life in front of him. But Inko stops him with her smile, calm and accepting of her fate.
He takes her to Aibou-san’s instead.
Izuku was seven years old when he first watched the light fade from the eyes of another human being. That person was his mother, who lay on a make-shift hospital bed, with the doctor he always silently dubbed ‘The Wacky Doctor’- no, Aibou-san and Giri-san by his side.
Izuku has seen people die before in movies, how their eyes gradually slide closed as they whisper last words into the ears of the ones love, their touch tender and romantic as a hand slowly falls from its place cupping the cheek of the one they care about most.
That’s a lie. He thinks, staring into the lifeless eyes of his mother.
Everything becomes far too much for him. Izuku cries out, grasping his mother’s body and pleading, begging her to stay with him, even though she is already gone. He shakes her shoulders, ignoring the scent and grime that comes with the relaxation of muscles.
Kurogiri pulls him back, and Izuku kicks and punches at him in desperation and anguish.
‘Give her back!’ He begs, though to who he doesn’t know. ‘Please give her back! Mum! Please!’
Kurogiri pulls Izuku, still kicking and screaming, into a hug as Aibou-san moves to close Inko’s eyes for the final time.