Eri’s first day of school at UA is like coming home. Which, she thinks, is appropriate, given she used to live there, back when she was a little more broken and a lot less used to love. Her scars are still there, running down her legs past the hem of her skirt and peering out of her sleeves, precise and white as map-lines, but they don’t burn against her skin like they used to. They haven’t for a long time.
She lingers at the doors for a moment, head tilted up to look at the archway, and her fingers absently find the keychain on her book bag. There are a lot of unfamiliar people here, pressing around her, and the keychain grounds her, sharp plastic ears digging into her palm.
Red eyes land on a face that she does know, then, and she lights up, bouncing up on her toes and waving.
The list of things Kouta knows about Eri-chan goes like this:
Someone hurt her, badly, before she came to live with Aizawa-san, and there’s the echoes of it in the lines scored across her skin and the way she goes quiet and still and uncomplaining when someone starts to yell, making herself as small and unnoticeable as possible.
Her smiles are slow to come, but bright when they do, and they turn her eyes to stars.
She loves color, and uses it liberally in everything she creates, from her outfits and manicures to her sloppy marker masterpieces when they were young to the elegant colored pencil drawings he sees her working on before class.
Her quirk is very dangerous, and very strong. He’s seen her use it once, when they were eleven. He fell and skinned his leg from ankle to knee and then all of a sudden it was fine and he was blinking the tears of pain out of his eyes before they had a chance to fully form, and he couldn’t understand why she kept apologizing.
Her favorite hero is Deku, and her second favorite is Eraserhead, and her third favorite is Lemillion, but the first-second-third ratings run so close together they may as well not exist.
She’s very kind. Sometimes Kouta questions whether he has the right personality to be a good hero, but he knows as a fundamental truth that Eri’s gentle touch and starfire smile will be perfect for the job.
The list of things Eri knows about Kou-chan goes like this:
He’s very brave. That’s not to say he’s never scared, but he pushes it down inside himself and puts on a face of snarling defiance. It’s something she admires about him, that snapping fire and willingness to fight until he can’t anymore. Sometimes she looks at him and sees Izu-nii in his determined glare and squared shoulders.
He’s the best swimmer that she knows. She supposes it makes sense, with his quirk, but it’s an impressive sight to see him fly from one end of the pool to the other, the water moving with him and urging him along.
He wants to protect everyone. He moves in front of her when he thinks there might be danger, shifting his body just a little to guard her from view.
His favorite color is red.
Like her, his family is put together out of mismatched pieces that somehow still fit together just right. Sometimes she thinks they have a lot in common.
He has a complicated mess of emotions surrounding the concept of heroism, one that Eri isn’t certain she’ll ever know the whole story behind. She knows heroes have both broken him and saved him, and that every year he and Sosaki-san go to a quiet grave by the ocean to pay their respects.
The moment their homeroom teacher stomps into the class 1-A room, scowling down at the attendance list in his hand and not even sparing an initial glance at the soon-to-be heroes in their desks, everything goes quiet. A few of the students stare or flinch anxiously back in their seats.
“Alright, brats, time for attendance, I guess,” the Number Two hero mutters, moving his narrow-eyed glare from the list of names to the rows of silent students. “Aizawa Eri.”
“Here!” Eri chirps, and doesn’t flinch when his gaze shifts to her.
“You better know I’m not going to go easy on you for the old bastard’s sake.”
Eri just smiles and nods. She wouldn’t expect anything less.
“Is Waterboy here too?” Detonation asks with a sharp grin that tells Eri he knows exactly what he’s doing.
“Fuck you!” Kouta immediately snaps from where he’s sitting in the row behind her. The rest of their class jerks around to stare at him in stunned horror, but instead of retribution Detonation cackles jagged-edged laughter and scrubs a hand through Kouta’s hair, and Eri can’t stop smiling.
Kouta stares down at the board on his desk as though glaring at it long and hard enough will make a good hero name just appear. He’s pretty sure it’s the same strategy that Bakugou-sensei tried when he was a first year.
He doesn’t know what to write.
Part of him wants to take the name his parents used. Water Hose is a good hero name, and there’s already a few legacies at UA, so it’s not like he would be out of place. But something feels wrong about the idea of wearing it. That name feels unlucky, cursed.
Whatever name he takes, it needs to be something new. It needs to be his.
Different students trickle up to the front of the room one by one. The guest teacher for the day, Pinky, number twenty-eight in the rankings, reacts to nearly every single name with irrepressible enthusiasm, which makes the prospect of presenting his own slightly less daunting. Or it would, if he had anything to present.
Eri picks her way up to the front of the room with the tiptoed caution that never completely faded from her movements, and holds her blackboard up slowly.
昨日, it says. Yesterday, the Rewind Hero.
“I love it!” Pinky cheers from her perch on one of the front desks, throwing up her hands. A few drops of acid fly from her fingers and sizzle briefly against the walls and ceiling. “It ties into your quirk, and it’s so pretty!”
Eri flushes, color creeping into pale cheeks, and ducks her head. “Thank you, Mina-nee- I mean, Pinky-sensei.”
Kouta scowls down at his own slate, the pen twirling between his fingers, and continues racking his brain.
Eri doesn’t do well in the sports festival. Her quirk only works on living things, and with robots as the first obstacle, she’s eliminated round one. It’s okay, though. She’s happy to sit on the sidelines and cheer for her classmates.
She’s already decided she wants to be a rescue and aid hero, anyways, not a combat-focused one. She runs through the combat drills with everyone else, and her scars are now layered over skin defined by muscle, but she doesn’t take any joy in fighting. She wants to heal things, and help them grow. She spends time after school in the infirmary with Recovery Girl, and practices rewinding injuries away.
Every time someone thanks her, every time glazed eyes brighten or a twisted limb straightens in a blink, Eri’s confidence grows.
It took her so very long, to learn that her quirk wasn’t a curse.
In the ring, she sees Kouta spill a puddle of water across the concrete battleground, slipping his opponent up and sending her off balance, and then unleash a focused torrent from both hands that blasts her out of bounds. Eri claps excitedly, forgetting any nervousness for a moment to shout her support.
He loses in the quarterfinals, and shuffles onto the sidelines with a bruise darkening half of his face and water still dripping from his fingertips. She undoes the injury with a tap of her fingers, and they share popcorn while they watch the finals.
“I’m gonna win next year,” he promises through a mouthful of popcorn. “I could’ve beat that snake guy if he didn’t dodge like that right at the end.”
She nods, and offers, “Izu-nii lost in the second round of fights, when he was a first year. You made it to the third round.”
“...I’m still gonna win next year,” he says after a moment, looking appeased, and she passes him another handful of popcorn.
Eri, after some consideration, goes to study under Uravity (number nine in the official rankings) for her internship, to learn more about rescue heroism with a side of martial arts. Kouta wavers for nearly a full day over whether to accept the offer from Deku before he decides to take it. Who cares if he looks like a fanboy? It’s Deku.
It’s his hero, after all.
“Undertow,” Eri suggests. She’s sprawled half off of his bed, upside down, a dictionary held in front of her nose. Ostensibly, they’re doing homework. In reality, she’s given up on the English homework and moved on to the ongoing quest to find Kouta a hero name.
He frowns, looking up from his math worksheet. “Doesn’t that sound kind of villainous?”
She nods, conceding the point, and flips back through a chunk of pages, landing on ‘T.’ “Tempest?”
“It’s a cool name,” he says after a pause, “I just don’t know if it fits me. I think Tempest would be better for a weather hero, you know? Like Zephyr.”
He makes a face in response, and thinks of all the times tsunamis have ravaged the coasts of Japan. Eri seems to follow his train of thought, because she nods with a wince. “Right.”
They fall into a comfortable silence, broken only by the gentle turning of pages and the irritated scribbling of pen against paper.
“What about Torrent?” Eri suggests, and Kouta pauses.
Someday, the Rewind Hero and the Fountain Hero will open an agency together, straight out of high school. The New Hope Hero Agency. They’ll make a good team, a combat hero and a rescue hero, working in tandem.
For the moment, though, they’re just best friends, Eri perching on Kouta’s desk while he sprawls sideways in his chair, waiting for class to start, talking about the test tomorrow and the latest changes in the hero ranks and absolutely nothing important.
“Do you want to be a hero?”
This is Kouta’s favorite conversation starter with his peers. Anyone will tell you that this is a vast improvement over his previous favorite conversation starter, which was a silent, sullen glare, shadowed by the brim of his hat.
The white-haired girl nods. “Yes,” she says, softly. Everything about her seems gentle and breakable at the same time, like she might shatter if Kouta makes a wrong move.
“I do too,” he says, a sentiment which would have been unthinkable to the Kouta of a year ago. But whatever. That Kouta been kind of a brat, and he hadn’t seen Izuku nearly kill himself to save him, so he hadn’t understood anything. Kouta was seven now, so he understood a lot more. “My parents were heroes, you know,” he confides after a moment. This is a new feeling too- feeling pride in his parents, even if it’s only in a tentative sort of way, instead of just bitterness.
She doesn’t respond to that, not out loud, but she casts a look over her shoulder, though the doorway, to where Eraserhead is talking to Oba-san and Ryuko-san in quiet voices. Kouta thinks he understands.
“We should be heroes together,” Kouta decides after another moment of quiet coloring, and Eri’s eyes jerk back to him, wide and startled.
“My parents were heroes as a team,” he explains, setting down his marker. “My mom always told me it was best to work with a partner, somebody you trust and like a lot. They protect you and look out for you, and you do the same thing for them.”
Her smile is a fragile, nervous, birdlike thing, but it’s there, and Kouta feels like he’s accomplished something great when she says, “I’d like that.”