She’d waited a long time for it. She'd worked hard and she'd earned it. Even so, she hated her uniform and despised having to wear it. It skimmed too closely to her skin, but the fit was still all wrong somehow.
Yaoyorozu Momo understood obligation. She had been raised in an environment steeped in honor and duty. She’d taken in self-sacrifice with her first breath, and drank service from her mother’s breast. It was what she knew, what she understood at a cellular level. Dedication kept her studying when her eyes were burning and her head was aching. Duty forced her to eat more of the fatty foods that greased her tongue as her quirk demanded that she give more and more of herself. Service demanded that she become a hero, and that one was easier; she honestly did want to help people. She did what it took and passed all the tests and exceeded every expectation, and was accepted into U.A.
For all of that, she still fucking hated her hero uniform.
She hated the wide expanse of skin that was visible to the entire world, and she loathed the way men’s eyes drifted to her full breasts and her long legs. The design she’d originally given the school for her costume had material that could be easily folded away for when she needed more skin exposure for her creations, but would also give her coverage when she wasn’t using her quirk. When she’d gone to the Support department in a rage and complained, a man wearing thick glasses had blinked at her owlishly and said, “But that’s silly. Don’t you need as much skin showing as possible for your quirk? It’s not logical for you to have lots of material to move around in an emergency. This design is more much efficient.”
Because of course Momo’s feelings didn't matter. Her dignity, her preferences would all need to be sacrificed for the greater good. She wasn’t her body; she didn’t belong to herself. She was a quirk, and someday a hero. She stuffed her protests behind her teeth and swallowed them. Her stomach churning, she turned and walked away.
“Hi, Yaomomo!” Ochako said with a friendly wave as Momo walked over to where she and Jirou were talking by the bike racks. “Hey, I keep meaning to ask, what do you think of your uniform? Isn’t having a hero costume just the coolest?”
“Yes,” Momo said. She hoped her smile looked easy. It was the same smile she wore at receptions with her parents, when she didn’t know anyone and was trying not to appear awkward. “We look like the real deal!”
She wore the costume and she didn't complain. That was her job.
She didn’t like thinking about it. It was easier when she didn’t.
He was her first cousin, and he was four years older than her. She looked up him, admired his intelligence and his quirk and his maturity. He was going to be a hero! She wanted to be just like him someday.
She was eight years old.
It happened several times. Momo didn’t know what was going on. She didn’t understand. All she knew was the distant thrumming of wrong, wrong underneath her skin. Her quirk, so newly gained, didn’t feel like that. But he was older and he assured her that everything was fine, that it was just a game, one for kids only. No need to tell anybody else about it. It was between them, something special. And she believed him. She trusted him. She set aside her feelings of fear and disgust and said nothing, because that was all part of the game. She’d always been good at following the rules.
It took her a long, long time to understand what had really been happening in the darkness of that isolated guest room, and by the time she understood, it was too late. The cousin was a hero, and the bonds of family kept her silent. She looked at her mother and her father, so kind and so innocent, and understood instinctively that if she spoke up, their worlds would collapse around them. She couldn’t do that to them. She couldn’t be their villain.
She tried not to think about it too much. When the nightmares came and her skin crawled and her breath caught in her throat, she left her bed behind and learned about chemical compositions and schematics from thick, heavy books. She hoped that she could create some kind of order from the words and pictures in front of her.
On the very worst nights, she played the piano. Her fingers swept over the keys and her mind drifted within the confines of the notes. It helped, but never quite enough.
When they moved into the dorms, Momo might have gone a little overboard. She brought her furniture from home and crammed the tiny space full with her over-sized furniture, trying to make it smell and feel safe. She didn’t fit. She had to figure out how to squeeze and re-shape herself into an all new set of boundaries.
“Wow!” Mina squealed as she stepped through the door. “This is gorgeous, Momo!”
“A little excessive for me, kero ,” croaked practical Tsu, although Momo caught her gazing approvingly at the gourmet tea supplies by her bed.
Momo laughed, only slightly breathless. “I think I need to work on my spacial awareness. I thought it would fit better than this!” She doesn't think anyone can tell that she’s lying. She didn’t like living crammed in a building so close to so many boys, and she’d gone overboard in trying to make her space her own. It was just so small compared to her room at home. She reminded herself that she was incredibly privileged and that she had no room to complain.
“You and Tsu are so lucky to be on this floor, though,” Jirou said glumly. “You’ve got Satou with his baking, and I’m sure Todoroki will be quiet. I’ve got freakin' Kaminari on my floor; he’s already blown the fuses twice. Aizawa-sensei looked even less thrilled to be alive than usual when the smoke alarms went off.”
“Yeah, but look on the bright side,” Hagakure chirped as she collapsed and rolled around luxuriously on Momo’s bed. “Someone somewhere was smart enough to make sure that none of us had to be on the same floor as Mineta.”
Jirou’s frown deepened. “I find that even more troubling, to be honest. It means that someone higher up the food chain recognizes that he’s a problem, but thinks that putting him on a different floor from all the girls will solve it. I don’t think even Midoriya and Tokoyami will be able to keep him in check, although I’m sure they’ll do their best.”
“We just have to be aware of our surroundings and watch each other’s backs,” Momo said. She didn't think anybody could see how badly her fingers were trembling. “We should set up a schedule for checking the bathroom and our rooms for bugs or holes in the walls or whatever. He’s done it before and there’s no reason to think he wouldn’t try again.”
“Give any bugs you find to me,” Tsu said. “I like to eat ‘em.” There was a beat as all the girls stared at her in disbelief. Tsu’s cheeks suddenly reddened. “Oh. Kero. Those kinds of bugs. Never mind, I can’t imagine them tasting very good.”
Everyone dissolved into giggles as Tsu protested, and Momo felt lighter as she gasped for breath.
When Ochako got up to leave, though, Momo picked up a poster that was leaning against the nightstand and handed it to her friend. “Here, Ochako. I was hoping this would fit on my wall, but my furniture took up too much space. Would you like to have it for your room?”
Ochako grinned and unrolled the poster to reveal a picture of thousands of galaxies, captured by the Hubble telescope. “Oh, Yaomomo!” she breathed reverently. “Thank you so much! I’ll treasure it!”
“You’re welcome. I thought it seemed fitting for the future Space Hero. Let me know if you need help hanging it!” Momo said with a friendly hug.
“I will. Thanks again, Momo! This will help my room feel more lived in. It’s kind of like a hotel right now,” Ochako mumbled as she looked at her feet.
“A hotel is cold and impersonal,” argued her friend, “and no space that has you in it could ever be seen that way.”
Ochako’s brilliant smile warmed Momo more than any furniture ever could, and something inside of her eased.
The clock was ticking obnoxiously in her ear, and Momo was seriously considering throwing it against the wall in aggravation. If it hadn’t been a gift from her grandmother, she would have. She didn’t have bad nights very much anymore, but occasionally a bout of insomnia would hit and she would spend a couple of days drifting around in an irritated fog. There wasn’t even a piano in the dorm building that she could play to turn her thoughts off, and it made everything so much worse. She hated these spells, but at least she was pretty sure she knew what had triggered this one.
Mina and Kaminari had been watching a tv show that had the latest news about heroes playing in the common room. Momo was sitting at the table nearby, helping Kirishima with his English homework while Bakugo pretended not to care. On the couch, Midoriya was scribbling in a notebook and muttering under his breath as he watched a fight between Kamui Woods and a villain with an oil quirk. Momo was surprised that there wasn’t smoke rising from Midoriya’s pencil as he wrote feverishly to keep up with his rapid fire analysis. People thought Momo was smart, and she was in her way. But she couldn’t hold a candle to Midoriya when it came to breaking down fights and quirks.
“Get everything, Midoriya?” Sero teased gently from his place in an armchair as the segment ended.
“Not quite,” Izuku laughed, shaking out his right hand ruefully. Momo winced as she was reminded of its heavy scarring; was it difficult for Midoriya to write with that kind of nerve damage? “I hope I can remember everything later!”
“Dumb nerd,” scowled Bakugo, before turning his attention back to Kirishima. “Hey, Shitty Hair, watch your tenses! That’s present, you need past!”
“Why is English so hard?” Kirishima groaned, thumping his head against the table.
Around the thuds, Momo could distantly hear the television host move on to their next story. “And in a shocking development, professional rescue hero Klaxon was arrested this afternoon for drug possession! According to officials, the disgraced hero has already had his license revoked, and will be arraigned tomorrow.”
Iida clicked his tongue in distaste. “What an embarrassment to us all. How dare he disgrace the hero profession in this manner?”
“Yes,” Shouji said, a furrow appearing between his eyes, “and the worst part is that it damages the bonds of trust between heroes and the public. A hero should be above reproach.”
That caught Momo’s attention despite Kirishima’s imminent homework breakdown. “Being a hero doesn’t mean anything,” she spat, surprising even herself with the harshness in her voice. “Heroes are still people, and that doesn’t automatically make them saints. There are probably a lot of so-called heroes out there that are hiding all sorts of sins, and we would never know. The only reason we’re hearing about Klaxon at all is because he was caught on camera shooting up heroin. You better believe that if he’d been arrested away from the public, he probably would have been quietly released with no one ever the wiser.”
“That’s...a really jaded perspective, Yaomomo,” Ochako said, her brown eyes wide.
“Maybe it is,” Momo replied as she returned her attention to the English homework, “but I would bet Aizawa-sensei’s sleeping bag that I’m right.”
“Whoa,” Kaminari said as he changed the channel. “Just imagine what would happen if Aizawa-sensei came back to class one day for a nap and it was just gone…” There was a collective shudder.
From his place on the couch next to Midoriya, Shouto spoke up for the first time. “It would be a safe bet, though. Momo’s right. There are good people and there are bad people, and some of those bad people are heroes.”
Satou interrupted the discussion when he came out of the kitchen then with brownies, and there was a general stampede to grab them from the platter while they were hot. Momo felt a heavy gaze on her neck, and looked up to see that Shouto was watching her, his face blank. Still, she thought she saw something familiar in his mismatched eyes, and she gave him a nod of understanding. He nodded back, then turned to smile at Midoriya’s enthusiasm over his warm treat.
Brownies. Maybe a brownie would help her sleep now. Sometimes what she thought was exhaustion turned out to be hunger. Her quirk did require a lot of calories. Momo sighed heavily and rolled out of her bed, landing lightly on the floor. She didn't want to disturb Ochako, who had the room directly underneath hers. She shoved her feet into slippers, but didn’t bother with her bathrobe. She highly doubted anyone else would be up at this hour, and her t-shirt and flannel pajama pants weren’t revealing.
She was standing in front of the fridge looking for milk when she heard a small gasp behind her. Whirling around, she saw the light of the fridge reflecting off of smooth, purple balls. “Mineta!” she said angrily. “Don’t scare me like that!”
Mineta’s gaze was vacant, and suddenly Momo was afraid. “You...here...alone…” he muttered, moving further into the kitchen. “I can see right through your shirt…”
Momo looked down, and saw that the light from the fridge, which had revealed Mineta’s presence to her, was also highlighting her curves through her thin t-shirt. She drew herself taller, hoping to intimidate him. “Knock it off, Mineta. I’ve reported you before for being a pervert and I will again. Now leave me alone!”
She gasped when suddenly a sticky ball had come whirling through the air, attaching itself to both her hand and the fridge door. She tried to free her fingers, but they were stuck, as good as glued. “What the hell do you think you’re doing?” Suddenly, Momo was eight years old again, her wrist held in a far more powerful grip as she was held still and forced to submit to a game with rules she couldn’t understand. “Stop!” she said now, as she hadn’t known to say then. “Let me go!”
Mineta was closing in, his fingers reaching toward her breasts. “Just let me do this…” he whispered, a bit of drool dripping down his chin. “It’ll stay just between us…”
Now in a total panic and nearly beyond thought, Momo reached to try and pull her captured right hand free with her left, but only succeeded in getting that one stuck too. She was trapped; she couldn't use her quirk, and now she couldn't even scream. She couldn’t breathe, and her mind shut down to a single phrase: notagainnotagainnotagain …
An angry roar ripped through the room. “What the fuck do you think you’re doing to her, you grape piece of shit?”
Suddenly, Mineta was thrown away from Momo and hit the wall from the force of an explosion, and then Bakugo was standing in front of her, as angry as she had ever seen him. “What the fuck is wrong with you, Momo?” he screamed. It was the first time he’d ever used her name. “You’re stronger than that little prick by far. You could kick his ass into next week if you wanted to. Why the hell didn’t you?”
But Momo couldn’t answer. Her breaths came in quick gasps, and she struggled against the ball still holding her hands to the fridge. She couldn’t even attempt to speak. “Oh, fuck,” Bakugo said, his eyes widening with a sudden understanding as a stream of students came running into the room, drawn by the shouts and the explosion.
“Momo!” Jirou shrieked as she rushed to her friend’s side. “What happened?” She saw Mineta moving weakly to sit up against the wall. “What did you do to her?”
“Get her loose!” Ochako cried, reaching for the ball. “She’s hyperventilating.”
“Don’t touch it!” Shouto’s authoritative voice cut through the din and Ochako instinctively backed away. “Let me. You’ll just get stuck, too.” He stepped to Momo’s side, and being careful not to touch her too much, he froze the ball so that it wasn’t sticky anymore. It fell the floor heavily, and Momo did too, although Ochako had grabbed her and eased her way down so that she didn’t hurt herself.
“Did somebody go for Aizawa-sensei?” a voice came from within the thunder in her ears.
“Iida did, the minute he heard the explosion. He thought it was a villain attack. Should we tie Mineta up or something until he gets here?”
“Please. Allow me. Dark Shadow will restrain him. No one here should be stained by his foul presence.”
Jirou’s face appeared in her narrowed field of vision. She seemed to be very close, telling Momo that it was okay and it was all over now. But it wasn’t. It would never be over, would it? Everyone was too close and too loud and she couldn’t breathe.
“Everybody get away from her. Now!” Suddenly the face in front of her was Aizawa-sensei’s; he looked furious and she wondered dizzily how she had disappointed him. “Momo. Breathe with me. Come on, you can do it.” He started to breathe in an exaggerated, slow way, and Momo watched him, then started to copy him, almost against her will. It took a minute or two, but the pained gasps for air slowly faded away, although tears still poured down her cheeks. “There you go. Good girl,” her teacher praised. “Come on. Let’s get you off the floor. May I touch you to help you up?”
“Y-yes,” she whispered, feeling grateful to be asked, to be given some semblance of agency back. Aizawa quickly and gently helped her to her feet, and Momo found herself pitching forward into his chest when her knees nearly gave out beneath her. Despite the fact that she couldn’t feel the ground, couldn’t comprehend what was happening, she felt safe now; she was almost sobbing with the sudden relief.
His arms wrapped gently around her, and he hugged her for a long minute. “Come on. We need to go over to the school and have Recovery Girl check you over. Tokoyami, please bring Mineta and come with us. Iida, you’re in charge here until I get back. No one is to leave the building, is that clear?”
“Yes, sensei,” the class chorused obediently, all but Jirou. She stepped forward, her hands reaching out to Momo. “Please, sensei, can’t I go with Momo?” she begged. “She’s so scared. She needs a friend with her.”
Aizawa's voice was kind but firm as he replied, “Not right now, Jirou. You need to stay here. We’ll be back soon, though.” He moved to the door, shepherding Momo with him. A silent Tokoyami followed, Dark Shadow holding Mineta tightly. Momo noticed absently that a piece of Sero's tape was covering Mineta's mouth.
The next few hours passed in a blur of faces and voices. There were bruises on Momo’s hands from her desperate attempts to escape Mineta's quirk, and they had to be photographed before Recovery Girl could kiss her on the forehead and take the pain away. The camera flashes were disorienting, and the world started to close in on her again. Before it could, hands came down on her shoulders and she was brought back into awareness. “Breathe, Momo,” Aizawa-sensei said softly. “Hang in there. They’re almost done.”
“Right. Yes, of course,” Momo quavered, understanding that enduring this was required of her.
Then Principal Nedzu was there, and All Might, and there were gentle questions, so many of them. And Momo was so tired and so dizzy and confused and hungry and she found herself saying, “It wasn’t as bad as before, Mineta didn't actually…” before she stopped and her hand flew to her mouth, horrified at the slip.
Storm clouds gathered across Yagi-sensei’s brow, and even shrunken down from his hero form, he was terrifying. No wonder most villains quit fighting the minute he showed up, if that kind of look had been directed at them. “What do you mean?” he growled, and she had to remind herself that he wasn’t angry with her. “Has Mineta done this to you before now?”
“No, no,” Momo said, her eyes darting around. She couldn't believe this was happening. She couldn’t understand how she had gone down to the kitchen for a brownie and now she was having this conversation. “That’s not what I meant, I’m sorry. Forget it, please?”
“Yaoyorozu-san,” Nedzu said, his voice very kind, “I think it would be for the best if you finished what you began to say. Why was this not as bad as before?”
At her continued bewildered silence, Aizawa-sensei stood up from his chair, and crouched in front of Momo. He took her hand in his, and the callouses from his capture weapon pulled against her skin. This was real. This was actually happening. “What happened to you before?”
For a frenzied moment, Momo wondered if this was how Shouto felt all the time, if there was a small space in the pit of his stomach that was constantly at war between fire and ice. It felt like there were two sides of her heart battling for supremacy: the desire to finally, finally tell someone, anyone, and her instinctive need to maintain the balance, to hold her tongue and push through her own shame and humiliation.
Then Aizawa-sensei said softly, “Please, Momo, let us help you.”
It broke her.
Words spilled from her mouth as fast as tears fell from her eyes. She spoke of being very young, of being held down, of holding her silence and grief deep inside. She kept her eyes on Aizawa-sensei as she told him how she had never gone into that guest room again, how she brushed off her mother’s worry when she heard her daughter crying out in the night, and how she had learned to cope with the pain and rage. She saw flickers of anger, sorrow and regret pass his face, but he sat quietly and listened as the sins of the past came pouring out of her in a great flood. Every once in a while, he gently squeezed her fingers. It kept her grounded, and she matched her breath to his.
“Did you ever tell anyone about this before?” Principal Nedzu asked at one point.
“No,” she replied. “I didn’t understand, not for a long time, and by the time I did...I was afraid. I was afraid of what it would do to my parents, and how they would see me. And if it got into the media, and it would have, I would have become the poor little rich girl, accusing a good hero for the attention. I’ve seen it happen before. I just...I just couldn’t do it.”
When she had finished, she looked up, and saw that Yagi-sensei was standing with his back to the room, his fists clenched with rage. Without turning around, he grit out, “What’s his name?”
Momo shook her head. “It doesn’t matter. Not now.”
“Momo,” Aizawa said, “it matters a great deal. You said this person is a hero now. We can’t allow him to go unpunished for what he did to you. He can’t hurt you anymore; you don’t have to be afraid of him. We’ll protect you. You'll be safe.”
“You don’t understand,” Momo snapped, slapping the tears off her cheeks angrily. How much could one person cry, anyway? “It doesn’t matter. He’s dead. He died in a car accident two years ago. They held a huge funeral for him, one fit for a hero. I had to go to it with my parents. Apparently the service was very moving; he had done so much for the world.”
A slamming noise startled her, and Momo turned and saw that Yagi-sensei had driven his fist through a wall. “Toshi, out,” Principal Nedzu said sternly. “Now.”
Yagi-sensei turned around, blood dripping from his hand. “I apologize, Yaoyorozu-san. I’m sorry for frightening you, and I’m sorry for your suffering. You don’t deserve it; you should have been protected.” He bowed, startling her even more, then left the room.
There was silence then, and Momo turned to Principal Nedzu. “What’s going to happen now?”
“Since your childhood abuser is dead, there’s nothing we can do there, I’m afraid. You can file a report with the police, if you wish, so that’s it on the record. Regarding tonight’s event, far more can be done.” Nedzu spread his paws on the table, looking determined. “Obviously, Mineta will be expelled. He’ll be off the campus within the hour, and will be banned from ever entering the grounds again. We will also be sending a copy of our findings to the police. They’ll take it from there. He may be facing criminal charges as well.”
“Do you have to?” Momo said, her hands trembling. “Please. If the police find out, then they’ll just question me all over again, and I can’t...I can’t…”
“We’re required by law to report any sexual assaults on minors,” Aizawa-sensei said. “But we will do everything in our power to keep this as easy on you as possible. I promise you, Momo, you aren’t alone in this.”
“We will also be recommending you for counseling,” Nedzu continued, “and conducting a review on the policies that allowed Mineta to be here. On behalf of the school, I offer you my sincerest apologies. You should not have suffered what you did tonight, and we will do everything possible to help you recover from this.”
“Thank you,” Momo said softly. “What about my parents? Will you tell them?”
Nedzu and Aizawa exchanged glances. “We’ll have to inform them about Mineta. As for the abuse in your childhood, no. But I do think it would be best if you told them,” Aizawa-sensei said. “I think they would prefer to support you as you heal.”
Closing her eyes, Momo nodded. “I’ll think about it. Thank you.” She leaned her head against the coolness of the conference table. “I’m so tired…”
“I think that’s enough for tonight, then.” Her teacher stood up and drew her to her feet. “Some of the other teachers were escorting Mineta off the grounds, so we’ll go back to the dorms where you’ll be comfortable. Or would you prefer the infirmary? Recovery Girl could give you something to help you sleep.”
“The dorm, please,” Momo begged, thinking of her bed, and the comfort of knowing her friends were near. “But...but maybe we could get that medicine from Recovery Girl anyway? I’m so afraid of dreaming.”
“Of course,” he replied. “Whatever you need.”
The walk back to the dorm building seemed twice as long as it had been just a few hours before, and Aizawa kept his hand firmly under her elbow to keep her from stumbling. They entered the dorm building, and Momo was both a little pleased and overwhelmed to see that all of her classmates were there, waiting up for her.
They surged to their feet upon her entrance, but Aizawa-sensei held up his hand to stop the barrage of voices. “I know you all have a lot of questions and that it’s been a long night, so I’ll keep this short,” he said calmly. “The most important thing for you to know right now is that Mineta has been expelled.”
“We knew that,” Ojirou said softly. “Mic-sensei came in and tried to take all of his stuff from his dorm room, but Bakugo had already set it all on fire. We were...we’re pretty angry.”
Aizawa raised an eyebrow at Bakugo, who shrugged, utterly unrepentant. “What? Icy-Hot over there made sure that the fire didn’t spread. The little fuck didn’t deserve to take his crap home. There was a lot of creepy stuff in there, anyway. Pictures and shit. We saved some, in case you needed the evidence, but I wouldn’t touch any of it without some gloves on.”
Momo thought she saw the barest hint of a smile pulling at her teacher’s lips, and he didn’t scold Bakugo as she’d expected. He smoothly went on as if he hadn’t been interrupted. “All that aside, Mineta never should have been here at U.A. in the first place. I apologize to you all for failing as your teacher to protect you, especially you girls,” he said, looking over at Mina, Ochako, Jirou, Hagakure, and Asui. “What happened tonight was inexcusable, and I can assure you that it will never happen again.”
“Thank you, sensei,” Hagakure said. “It’ll be nice to be able to relax here.”
“Yeah,” croaked Tsu. “It’s been pretty awful.”
“I know,” Aizawa said. “All I can do now is apologize, and make sure that you’re safe from now on. With that being said, school is canceled for Class 1A tomorrow, and I suggest you all take this time to rest, process, and catch up on your homework. Counselors will also be made available to you in case anyone would like to talk about their feelings or concerns. We’ll have a meeting at some point with more information, but for now, I suggest you all go to bed. I’ll stay here in the common room in case anyone needs me. Even if I'm sleeping," he said, looking sternly at each student in turn, "if you need me, you're to wake me up. The only way I'll be angry is if you don't. Now go get some sleep."
At his words, the girls rushed to Momo’s side. “Come on, Yaomomo,” Ochako said, tears in her eyes as she took Momo’s hand in hers. “You must be so tired. Let us help you?”
“Okay,” Momo said muzzily. “Bed sounds nice.”
Moving as a group, Momo was led upstairs. Mina gently cleaned her dirty face, and Jirou handed her a fresh set of pajamas. Tsu pushed her favorite stuffed frog into Momo's arms, and Hagakure made sure that she ate a granola bar and drank a glass of water before helping her slide between the cool, clean sheets.
She had cause to be grateful for her stupidly oversized bed as she slipped easily into a dreamless sleep. It turned out to be the perfect size to shelter six exhausted girls, curled up together like a pile of kittens.
The next few days and weeks were hard, harder than she had even suspected they would be. It was as if a dam had been opened, and she was hit with flashbacks at the strangest of times. She could be laughing with Kirishima, or listening to music with Jirou, and would come back to herself gasping. Her teachers and classmates were patient with her, though, and she was grateful for their kindness. Momo met with a counselor, a woman named Mary with an unusually deep voice and the ability to call Momo on her bullshit without mercy. Momo liked her and found that she was giving more of herself in therapy than she ever had in training. And training was different now, too.
After the police had questioned her and her hands had finally stopped shaking, Aizawa sat down next to her. He hadn’t left her side during the difficult interview, and his solid presence was a greater comfort that she could have imagined. When one of the police officers was being brusque with her, impatient with her long, pained pauses, her teacher had snapped at him, “Watch your tone. She’s answering your questions. Give her some time.” She felt protected, and it got her through the ordeal.
Now, he turned to her and said, “You mentioned being uncomfortable around Mineta, especially in training. Any particular reason?”
“My uniform,” Momo answered immediately. “I hate it. I’m too exposed, and I get scraped up and bruised because I have no protection. My original design called for a paneled bodysuit that could be quickly folded or zipped back so that I could still use my quirk. I complained, but the guy in Support said I was being silly, that I needed to have as much skin exposed as possible in order to be efficient. I thought he was right at the time, but now I don’t see how it makes any great difference.”
Aizawa’s eyes darkened, but he nodded. “I’ll take care of it immediately. I imagine that the Support class would be thrilled to come up with a new design for you. Especially that Hatsume character; she seemed to be sharp.”
Momo bowed her head in gratitude. “Thank you, sensei. I appreciate it.”
“That’s something that can be easily fixed, Momo, and could have been handled long before now,” he chided gently. “I know I can be a grumpy old man, but I want you and the rest of the class to feel like you can come to me with your problems. Is there anything else I can do to make you feel more comfortable?”
She thought for a minute, but nothing occurred to her. “No, I don’t think so. Just my uniform.”
“Well, just let me know if you change your mind,” he said. “Now get back to the dorm. You look like you could use a nap.”
Momo nodded and left the room, only to encounter Shouto standing in the hallway. “You headed back to the dorm?” he asked.
“Yes,” she replied. “I missed lunch, talking to the detective.”
“It’s not good for someone with your kind of quirk to miss a meal,” he commented. “Come on. I’ll walk you back, just to make sure you’re okay.”
“Thank you, Shouto,” she said, touched. The walk was silent at first, before Shouto said suddenly, “What you did was very brave, you know.”
Her heart twisted. “I don’t know what you mean. I didn’t do anything. I just let that creep trap me, I didn't even try to use my quirk…”
“That’s not what I meant,” Shouto interrupted. “Although, for the record, that’s not something you should blame yourself for. He caught you off guard in a place where you should have been safe. You can’t help how your body responds to that sort of thing, especially if you’ve been hurt before.”
She gasped. “How did you know? Aizawa-sensei didn’t say anything.”
“He didn’t have to. I know what a PTSD panic attack looks like. That kind of thing doesn’t just develop spontaneously. Trust me, I know how you feel.” Momo glanced at him, wondering again at that strange sense of understanding that she’d had with Shouto before. “But what I meant was, you were very brave to report it, and to talk to the cops and everything. I know that going through the legal process can be an even worse experience than the actual event sometimes, and I admire you for pushing through it.”
“Is this something you’ve thought about before, Shouto?” Momo asked, trying hard to keep her voice soft.
This silence was even longer. “Yes,” he said. “I’ve had to think about what my words would do to my family, to the world. And I’ve swallowed them down every time.”
Tentatively, she reached out and touched his arm; it was warm. “You don’t have to swallow it anymore if you don’t want to, Shouto. I was afraid too, for a lot of the same reasons. I still don’t believe anyone should have to come forward if they don’t want to. But if you were to want to, I think it would be okay. I think...I think Aizawa-sensei and Yagi-sensei and everyone else would back you up. And I know that the class would.”
“I’m starting to realize that,” Shouto said, and he didn’t try to shake off her fingers.
“Midoriya would especially love to back you up,” she dared to tease.
Shouto groaned. “Oh, look! There’s the dorm. I’ll talk to you later, Momo.” He peeled off, but Momo noticed that he was headed in the direction of the gym. Maybe Midoriya was there, too. Shouto always seemed to have a supernatural sense of where he was, like Izuku was some kind of lodestar.
She stepped inside, and immediately smelled something spicy coming from the kitchen. She didn't really want to go into the kitchen, but avoiding it wasn't a viable long term solution. There was no time like the present for pushing through her fear and trying to get life back to normal. She followed the smells and found that Bakugo was in there alone, stir frying meat and vegetables in a giant wok. It had come as a surprise to everyone, even Midoriya, that Bakugo enjoyed cooking and was good at it. He rarely cooked for anyone but Kirishima, though.
He looked up at her entrance, but shockingly didn’t start screaming for her to get the hell out. She took that as a sign that it was okay for her to sit down at the table to wait for him to finish, and idly noted that all the marks on the walls from the explosion the night before were gone. A moment later, a loaded plate was slammed in front of her. “Here,” Bakugo growled. “Eat before you fall over again, you’re as pale as a fucking yeti or something.”
“You’re too kind,” Momo drawled as she picked up a fork. “This smells good. Thank you for letting me have some.”
“Yeah, whatever. You want something to drink, you can get it yourself. I’m not your damn waiter.”
Momo ate, enjoying the bursts of spices on her tongue. To her surprise, Bakugo didn’t stomp away like usual. He waited until her mouth was too full to respond before muttering, “And just so you know, I’m sorry for yelling at you last night. The Ear girl screamed at me for twenty straight minutes after you left with Aizawa. Like I told her, I was pissed off because I couldn’t understand why you hadn’t decimated that grape fuck before he got within ten feet of you. You’re too good. But I get it now. I even…” he stopped, looking a little ill at having to connect with another human being. “I even know how you felt. Sort of.”
“What do you mean?” Momo asked, her curiosity getting the best of her.
“When we first moved into this crap building, I was taking a shower. Some of Shitty Hair’s girly styling gel dripped down from where he’d squirted it on the ceiling, like some kind of toddler with a ketchup bottle. It landed on my face. It doesn’t seem like a big deal, and it isn't, but in that moment, it felt like slime.” He swallowed hard. “It took me ten minutes to stop shaking, even longer to be able to get myself out of the stupid shower. I just couldn’t move.”
Momo remembered the headlines from when Bakugo had been attacked by the sludge villain. He’d nearly been killed. She winced in sympathy. “Yeah. I guess you do understand, then. I’m really sorry that happened to you.”
“Yeah. So, sorry for being even more of an ass than usual or whatever.”
Momo smiled. “Apology accepted. And thank you again for lunch, Bakugo. It’s delicious.”
Bakugo stalked away, his tolerance clearly at an end. “Yeah, I know, I’m a goddamn genius. And wash your dishes when you’re done, princess.”
On another sunny afternoon, shortly after Shinsou had taken Mineta’s place in both the dorm and the Heroics department, Momo knocked on Aizawa’s office door. He was spending more time in the dorm, and it had made them all feel safer. The teacher looked up at her tentative knock and smiled. It wasn’t his wide scary one, but the small, real one that he wore more and more as his students grew to trust him and include him in their lives. “Hello, Momo. What can I help you with today?”
“A piano,” Momo said firmly. “We need one in the common room. My parents said that they would pay for it, as long as you gave us permission to have one.”
Aizawa chuckled. “It sounds like you have everything worked out. You feel that strongly about it?”
“Yes, sir,” she said. “I think it would go a long way to increase student productivity and overall moral. After all, it’s been proven that music improves recall and retention of verbal information.”
“Well, that’s all very logical,” he replied. “I’d be glad to sign off on it. But not because you think it would make you a better hero, Momo. You’re allowed to want things for yourself, and you don’t have to justify your needs. You’re a person first; everything else has to come second.”
“I know,” she said. “I know that now. Thank you, Aizawa-sensei. I’ll let my parents know that you said it was okay.” Softly, she shut the door behind her, and moved towards the kitchen, humming Clair de Lune under her breath. It smelled like Satou was making lemon tarts, and those were her favorites. She paused for just a minute at the sight of Shinsou’s lavender hair, as she always did. But then he turned around, and it was his own familiar, tired face, not the one she feared. He gestured for her to join him at the table, and Jirou held out a tart that she’d saved just for Momo.
Momo was breathless again, but not from fear. She didn’t think she’d ever seen something so beautiful before as Jirou holding that lemon tart. She moved to the table and sat down between her old friend that was becoming something more, and her new classmate that was becoming a friend.
She was safe in her home. She finally fit.