Emi Fukukado, hero name: Ms. Joke, took a deep breath before opening the door of Shouta Aizawa’s office. She’d gone through several jokes in her mind that she thought might make a decent ice breaker or 20, and made sure her excuses for being there were rock solid: After the combined practice, she’d accidentally left something important behind, so after school was over and she took her students home, she changed clothes and waltzed right back into Yuuei’s gates. That thing she accidentally left behind? Her heart, of course!
She prepared her brightest smile, and walked in.
“Missed me, Erase-”
He wasn’t in there.
That is, unless her eyes were playing tricks on her and suddenly Shouta was a very small silver-haired girl.
The girl, who Emi guessed to be around six years old, stared at her with huge red eyes, mouth slightly hanging open with shock. Emi laughed awkwardly.
“Did I … get the wrong room?” The girl didn’t answer, instead staring at her with a hint of horror. That was… odd, to say the least. She hoped Shouta hadn’t been telling the girl weird things about her… But that look was a little too scared for Emi’s liking. She pushed those feelings to the side for a moment- it was time for a new approach! “Sorry about that!” Emi grinned, then awkwardly looked at the name plate. It was definitely Shouta’s office, but… after knowing him for nearly a decade, she was definitely sure that he didn’t have a kid, and he wasn’t really the babysitting type.
“I’m the hero with an ever-present smile, Ms. Joke!” Emi extended her hand to the girl, who shrank a little away. Talk about a tough break, maybe this was Shouta’s kid. She softened her smile and voice. “Don’t worry, I’m not scary. You can call me Emi, if you’d like. What’s your name?”
“I’m Eri.” The girl responded. Emi’s smile broadened again.
“You have a lovely name! Eri and Emi… We match, ya see?” Eri gave a small nod. “Eri, do you know where Eraser- ah, Mr. Aizawa is?” Eri glanced away, as if she wasn’t completely sure if she was allowed to speak. “I’ll tell you a secret~” Emi grinned. Eri looked back at Emi, confused.
“He has a meeting, then he’s training with Shinsou, that’s what he said. What’s… what’s the secret?” Eri’s eyes widened slightly, flicking from Emi’s smile to the door and back, as if expecting Shouta to enter the room to scold her, or possibly looking for a quick exit. That didn’t sit well with Emi, but she hid it behind a conspiratorial wink and leaned forward, covering her mouth so only Eri could hear.
“I’m going to marry Mr. Aizawa.”
Eri didn’t really look convinced, but she didn’t seem to mind the secret either way. “Is that why you came to see him?”
Emi nodded, grinning. “That’s right! I was going to ask him on a date tonight! Were you going to ask him on one, too?”
“W-What?” It came out as a confused squeak.
“Is that why you’re waiting for him here? Eraser doesn’t have any siblings that I know of… So he’s not your uncle, right..? A secret love child…? No, you can’t be…” Emi tried mulling over some ideas in her head, but knowing Shouta like she did, everything kept coming up blank.
“He takes care of me.” Eri said softly, interrupting Emi’s loose train of thoughts. Emi was about to respond when the little girl’s stomach growled.
“Not very well, apparently. It seems like old Eraser’s late for his own dinner date.”
“U-Usually, Mirio and I eat together… but he’s… he’s gone home for the weekend, so I…”
“Well, who knows how long Eraser’s gonna take, so how about I be your date tonight? Where would you like to go?” Emi stood up, brushing herself off, and extended her hand to the little girl. Eri glanced at it, then up at her with apprehension.
“I’m… not supposed to go out…”
“Nonsense, I’ll leave a note letting him know where you are. I can’t just let a kid starve, can I?”
Eri took a few moments to think it over, then shyly took Emi’s hand. “Is it really okay?”
“Of course! Besides, with Eraser, it’s easier to ask for forgiveness than to ask for permission. What’s your favourite food?”
Emi took another sip of the milkshake, her face in her hands, gaze on the excited little girl in front of her. She usually had a resting grin, but each story about Mirio and Deku told without taking breaths made it hard for Emi to do anything BUT smile. The light in Eri’s eyes as she recounted the cultural festival and the jokes Mirio would tell her over Lunch-Rush’s gourmet meals made Emi’s heart skip a beat. Ah, to be young again, when the entire world was all new experiences - Emi would give a leg to hear each joke for the first time again. She’d never really considered having a kid of her own, and biologically, she knew it was impossible, but to get to see the world through new eyes… maybe she wouldn’t mind it. Well, she wouldn’t mind spending more time with Eri, at least. She blew the straw wrapping at Eri, which made her laugh in surprise.
“Remember to breathe! How am I supposed to meet the coolest people in existence if you’ve stopped breathing?” She teased, and ruffled Eri’s silver hair.
“R-right! Sorry, I got carried away…”
“No need to apologize! How are you liking your crepe?”
Remembering that she had food in front of her, Eri nodded and took another bite. “It’s good! Do they make apple crepes?”
“I’m sure we can try making some! We can hang out at my house next time.” Emi smiled brightly, hoping that she could pull off that kind of cooking. Her gaze wandered to the window, where she saw a tall man in black peering back at them, specifically at Eri. Her eyes narrowed. “Eri, do you want to take the rest home?” She made sure to keep her tone chipper, but something about that guy really bothered her.
“Yes, please, I-” Eri followed her gaze and froze, her face growing pale. That didn’t escape Emi’s notice. She waved down the server for a box, and gave them the payment. Her eyes didn’t leave the tall man’s for a moment.
“Eri, please listen to me. I want you to go to the bathroom, and don’t come out until I come to get you.”
“Don’t worry. I’ll take care of him. If I don’t come for you in 10 minutes, call Erase- Mr. Aizawa.” Eri stared at her with horror, but Emi only gave her a bright smile. “I told you I’m a hero, right?”
Eri didn’t look convinced. “Miss Emi, I don’t want you to get hurt, too - can we please go?”
Emi took her hand. “Don’t worry, this is a piece of cake for me. Besides - I have to be a really strong hero if I’m going to win over Mr. Aizawa’s heart, don’t I?” She laughed lightly and ruffled Eri’s hair before standing up. “I’ll walk you to the bathroom, okay? You’re going to be super safe, Ms. Joke is here for ya!”
Eri followed her, trembling, and held tightly to the box with her free hand. Emi gave her a bright wave and turned back to the door. Eri reached out to grab her hand again. “Please - please be safe…” She said softly and Emi smiled.
“If I’m not safe, Eraser will save me, so I’ll be floating easy either way. But I’d better not worry him, so I’ll be safe. I promise.”
She closed the door quietly and made her way to the front. The tall man was no longer at the window, but that didn’t mean she was going to be reckless. Emi informed the server to take note of anyone entering or leaving the bathroom, and made sure that Eri would be in good hands. She nonchalantly pulled out her boxing gloves from her purse and slid them over her hands, tightening the cuffs around her wrists. She had a feeling that they’d be getting a bit of use today.
The tall man wasn’t outside the door of the cafe, but Emi didn’t let her guard down. She turned the corner of the building and narrowly dodged a hovering shard of glass aimed for her face.
“Where’s th’girl?” The voice was gravely and low. Emi turned to see the man, a shattered glass bottle in his hand, shards floating around him.
“Do you eat glass as well as throw it?” She dropped her purse and entered the alley, dodging a few more shards. She wanted to gain as little attention as possible, since she wasn’t in her full hero suit and the higher ups would gut her for fighting in public. Not like she always listened too much to them, but she really didn’t like filling out paperwork. “What do you want with her?”
“Ya don’t need t’know.”
Her eyes narrowed and a smirk spread across her lips. Usually, the high she got from fighting kept her in a decent mood, but the idea of Eri being in danger kept a lid on it. Not to mention the time limit she put on herself. “Oh, I need to know.” She tried to keep up the smirk, feeling slightly self-conscious about not wearing her mask. She ducked from another shard, narrowly missing her cheek. “And you’re going to tell me, one way or another!”
She launched herself at him, fists clenched. He dodged narrowly, trying to shank her with the glass bottle, but she punched it out of his hand. As Ms. Joke, Emi liked staying true to her brand, but after enough years, she felt a little stale at coming up with joking retorts while fighting. Her body began to radiate a blue aura as she started warming up her quirk. She didn’t necessarily need to say anything, let alone anything funny to make it work, but she felt like she’d let herself down if she didn’t at least try. She dodged the glass again - there was more of it and it was getting uncomfortably close. She didn’t want to get any cuts if it’d make Eri worry. Glass jokes… glass jokes… Glass half full? Glass houses… Oh, glass puns could get unnecessarily pg-13-
“How much does a polar bear weigh?” The tall man looked at her in confusion.
“ENOUGH TO BREAK THE GLASS!!!” Her quirk smacked him and he chuckled for a moment before bursting into uproarious laughter. His senses and mind grew so numb he barely felt the impact of her fist against his face. He was still laughing as she pulled the tab on her cuffs and released some of the quirk-binding tape. She quickly tied him up and dialed for the police.
It wasn’t much of a cathartic fight, but she had to do what she could with what little time she had left. She sent a quick text to Eri to let her know that everything was fine and that she’d pick her up soon. Upon turning off her phone, realization sunk in and she smacked herself in the forehead. “Ugh, it’s enough to break the ice… God, I’m out of it lately.”
Luckily, a police officer was nearby, and took control of the still-laughing tall man from her. She went back to pick up Eri, who had calmed down after receiving the text. Eri studied her for a moment, then went to hug her tightly.
“See? Not a scratch and less than 5 minutes. You’re always going to be safe with me.” Emi grinned, scooping the girl into her arms. “Now let’s get you back to Yuuei before Eraser has a fit. This can be our little secret, right?” Eri nodded and pressed her face into Emi’s neck. Emi blinked for a moment, the soft affection catching her off-guard, but then the smile smoothed back across her lips and she gently patted Eri’s head.
Emi had Eri back in all grins by the time they reached the campus. Seeing her eyes brighten when she got a new joke, and the laughter it caused made everything seem just a bit brighter. Emi hadn’t even noticed how foggy her mind had been before. The genuine life in Eri’s eyes...it was like a tiny bit of light, and Emi could get used to this.
“Hahaha - EriEri, why did the chicken cross the road?”
“Oh- wait, that might be a little bit dark, haha… oops-”
“Joke. What do you think you’re doing?”
Emi glanced up in surprise to see Shouta’s signature scowl. She laughed awkwardly.
“Eraser! You didn’t tell me you had a kid!” Emi gently set Eri back on her feet, and took her hand.
“I don’t. She’s not supposed to be off campus.” Eri hid slightly behind Emi’s hand, looking guilty. Emi, however, learned to make a rule to not let a guilty conscience weigh her down.
“We just had a little dinner date, don’t worry your pretty little head about it... unless you’re worried about me falling for someone else, of course.”
“Joke- I’m serious.”
“Hi, Serious, I’m Joke.” She flashed him a smile as he sighed in exasperation and walked through the gates.
“How about we talk later? I have some things to ask you.” Despite her smile, her eyes were piercingly serious. Eri glanced up at her, worried. “Besides, Eri was going to show me her room! It must be really cool living on the mighty Yuuei’s campus!” Shouta was silent for a moment, then turned and walked through the campus doors, his ducklings in tow. After they got through the doors, he made sure to walk to the side of Emi, keeping her in his sights.
It was clear that he wanted to say something - wanted to say a lot of things, but he wasn’t sure how much he could say in front of the child, and Emi felt the same. She had to know what was going on with Eri’s existence at Yuuei, and the man who was after her. Plus, she had a fair bit of scolding to do on her own.
“Can’t keep your eyes off me? I’m swooning.”
She grinned at him, but he didn’t flinch. She liked that about him - no matter what she did or said, he was always so serious, and always had a quick retort. She liked happiness, she liked life- but his scowl was always refreshing to a woman who was only ever surrounded by laughter.
Both he and Eri had the same something that drew her in. Maybe it was their genuine emotions. Even if he hid most of his behind a cool mask, he still didn’t give her fake laughter. Eri was young enough that her emotions were practically dripping off her sleeves, but both of their emotions were very real, and that was beautiful to her.
She wanted to see his real laugh one day, too. She knew he was only keeping his eyes on her to make sure he could erase her quirk if she tried to use it on him, but after enough fake laughs induced from it, she wanted to take his breath away on her own, but she couldn’t let him know that. Besides, she liked it when he looked at her.
“This is my room…” Eri said softly. It was a good thing she did, because it seemed like Shouta might have missed it in his efforts to protect himself from a little bit of laughter.
“It’s very… roomie!” Emi smiled at her, but was a little concerned at the lack of… well, anything. There were some drawings taped to the wall, a tv with some DVDs picked up on sale, and a few flowers, but it was mostly empty. More like a hospital room than a bedroom, despite the small attempts at life. “Your drawings are lovely!” Eri smiled back at her, and went to show her some of the crayon sketches.
Emi glanced at Shouta, her eyebrows furrowed slightly, but the moment Eri’s gaze was on her again, she was all smiles. She fawned over the work, and Eri’s messy hiragana, which she explained was from her lessons with Mirio. After a while, Shouta coughed softly and Emi gave her a goodbye hug with promises that she’d come and play with her again.
Emi softly closed the door behind her, and her smile fell.
“Eraser, what’s going on?”
“She’s in Yuuei’s care- She’s not supposed to leave the campus.” He was skirting around the real issues, and Emi knew it. He ushered her into his office, and she took a seat, eyes directly on him.
“You know what I meant.” Her voice was polite, but firm, and Shouta slumped over across from her, closing his eyes for a moment. She knew he was tired, but blinking from Shouta was like blinking from a cat- it was a sign of trust, and she wasn’t about to break that.
They swapped stories, Shouta explaining the circumstances of Eri’s arrival at Yuuei, and Emi told him about the tall man, even though she knew it would put him in a position where he’d be more concerned about Eri leaving.
“I want to take her out again.” Her voice was soft, but clear. He let out a sigh. “I know she’s safe here, but she needs to spend some time outside of that room and your office. It’s not healthy for her to be cooped up inside all the time.”
“I can’t just let you take her out alone, and you need to ask permission from Nezu first either way.”
“Then go with us.”
“I’ll do whatever paperwork it takes, but she’ll be safer with both of us with her, and I doubt Principal Nezu would have a problem with that.” Shouta rubbed his eyes and sighed, knowing she wasn’t one to budge.
“Where are you wanting to take her? I’m not saying yes, remember, I’m just asking.” A grin spread across her face.
“I was thinking a mall - someplace public where any would-be villains can’t make a scene, and somewhere that she can go shopping. Her room is depressing.”
Shouta leaned back and closed his eyes for a moment of thoughtful silence. She liked that, too. She knew he considered himself a man of logic, and was clearly trying to think of the best course of action. She didn’t know if she’d tell him some day, but she trusted that aspect of his personality. It was calculating, and could be quite cold, but it was a constant. The people who usually flocked to her were the kinds of people who were loud and always changing. She didn’t necessarily mind the noise, but peace… was something she didn’t get very often. A small smile touched her lips. She didn’t get to see Shouta very often, but she cherished every moment of it. She’d see him in the news every so often, but that could never live up to the real thing. Her eyes lingered on his face, the scar beneath his eye. It was relatively new, but she hadn’t commented on it before. It suited him, somehow, and she found herself smiling in a daze. She wanted to reach out and touch it.
“I’ll talk to Nezu about taking her out next Saturday. Does that time work for you? Stay with me, Joke.”
She blinked, forcing herself out of her daze. He sighed, obviously rethinking his decision already.
“Yes! You look great!” He sighed and she caught herself. “That sounds great! I will be here!” She laughed awkwardly and excused herself. “See you next Saturday? Lunch, or?”
“I’ll text you.”
“Please do!” The colour rose to her face, and she closed the door and sighed, expecting him to likely be doing the same. She had been doing so well, too, at staying focused and serious... She pat her face a few times until she regained her composure, and walked out.
Next Saturday, she had a date!