Enji approached the building for the first time since he had been scarred. It was of no significance whatsoever that he was scarred or not, but he came to drop off that single gift of a flower for his flower.
Not his anymore, but there had been a time in between Fuyumi and Natsuo when Enji had believed that Rei had come to love him and it had been brief but wonderful. Like a flower wilting in the hand from a too tight grip.
He loosens his hold. From reaching new heights he’s used to misjudgment of his strength and he notes the sickly dark green the stem has taken on, the sap of it tacky against his hand. He looks to the big, white building and turns away.
After Rei had Shoto he knew she despised him. Shoto had been the hardest child to bear. She was bedridden with morning sickness the whole pregnancy and despite her begging, Enji would not let her terminate the pregnancy.
And she suffered for it.
There had been a lot of bleeding and his boy had had to be cut out. She wouldn’t let him hold his son. He had arrived late for his own son’s premature birth and had been talked to in a low, hissing voice. He had seen fear in her eyes, anger, hate even.
“Not this one. Not my Shoto.”
He had thought they were in agreement that his name was to be Shinji.
“I see. Shoto.” He drew it out on his lips and couldn’t bring himself to hate it. This wasn’t the first time she had looked at him this way but it was too late to fix it. Their relationship was beyond saving, but he was a father yet again.
As a young man he had had no interest in children. It wasn’t until he realized what the future of heroes was becoming, that the idea had grown on him. The idea of a legacy long after he was gone. Something that would last as the Todoroki name did. His family had always arranged quirk marriages and though the custom was outdated it was not outmoded. He saw Rei’s picture and realized that with a quirk like hers, there might not be any drawbacks that he had faced for their children. It would be like a counterbalance.
The drawback for Rei was that her constitution was weak. The simple act of lovemaking was too much on her joints, her body. She had been Enji’s first and he had taken things slow, but he remembered the marks of his fingertips on her white skin like spots on petals. He remembered her holding her hips as she was bedridden and helping her relocate bones into sockets.
Touya had been expected, but his weak body was not.
At first, Enji had been livid. When Touya’s quirk manifested he’d been burned alive, scaring and scarring the other children in his school. Endeavor had hoped that he could train him. That he could push beyond the pain to achieve greatness like he had done for himself when he was young and decided he would homeschool his son. It seemed simple enough.
Bring him home. Let him heal. School him.
Except Touya went against expectation yet again. He became listless. Moving only when forced to. The only time he mustered up any fight in him was to avoid bathing because it hurt to clean the burns. It was necessary regardless but Enji used that.
To motivate him, before he realized that Touya was looking at him like that. Before he actually saw him for who he was.
He had been laying on the bed, bandaged and Enji had come to fetch him to spar. Touya had gone quietly for once.
Enji had demonstrated the control again, how to contain the fire and Touya had smiled.
“Watch me then.”
His skin had sloughed off damaging the muscles underneath and Enji had given up on his first born son. Natsuo’s quirk was practically non-existent. When he had graduated honors and got into college, he had joked, “Well. I can do this.”
He had touched Enji’s scotch and the glass had frosted in his hand, sticking to his fingers.
“It’s a great party trick for a college student huh. Endeavor.”
Those eyes had bored into him, wild with something barely contained and Endeavor regretted that Natsuo didn’t inherit anything worthwhile.
He had a fighting spirit that matched his own and he wiped it out with a dismissal, “Don’t waste my time. Is that all you’ve managed? In all this time?”
Natsuo had just frowned, hands shaking, “I’m top of my class. Fuyumi’s a goddamn teacher. Did you even know? You don’t even know what’s going on under your roof half the goddamn time old man.”
Enji had just stared him down and the boy had shook in anger, mouth in a thin line that Enji found intriguing. He couldn’t place it before his study doors slammed shut behind him and he realized that in his anger, Natsuo looked like his mother.
Even if she was quieter about it for the most part.
One day she was tearing apart the kitchen, pulling out drawers and throwing their contents onto the floor. “Where’s my inhaler?! Enji?!”
“In the bathroom medicine cabinet. Where it belongs.” He had turned the page in his book and she stormed up to him, “Why do you do that?! Why do you move my things around without asking what if I had had an asthma attack and died would that make you sorry?!”
“No. You shouldn’t leave your things lying around where Shoto can get ahold of them. What kind of mother are you.”
He sets his book aside and gives her his full attention just to spite her. If she is wants his attention, she can have it and bear to regret it.
“You didn’t even think to ask me what I was looking for?! You! You didn’t even answer me when I asked!”
“Did you want me to leave you alone or are you going to bother me and blame me for not leaving you alone, woman. I don’t care what you do!”
He had never struck her but when she screamed in his face, he had wanted to and it shocked him right to his core.
He knew it was partially his own fault.
He had bitterly held it against her that Shoto cried whenever he tried to hold him. He hadn’t been a kind person to begin with, but now he had nothing to say to her that wasn’t an observation of how she fell short. They had been sleeping in the same room for years but only when Shoto was born did she move to the guest room. When he was five his quirk had manifested much too late and impatient to have some kind of success he realized as he saw the ice melting from his son’s fire that this was what he was waiting for.
He had grabbed Shoto by the arm and the child had screamed. Rei had screamed at him to stop, but he had roared at her, “You can’t coddle him forever!”
Shoto had been unwilling to do anything. He had just cried and wailed and refused to use his quirk and Enji had hit him. If you don’t have a quirk, then you should learn to handle yourself without one.
“Are you crazy?! He’s only five!”
Rei had crumpled around their son, legs probably too weak to hold her up. It was the fastest he’d seen her move in years and her face was creased with pain.
Shoto was gasping. Finally quiet.
“I’m going to work.”
What had he done? He tried to approach them, but Rei looked at him, eyes wild.
Shoto never trusted him, but he didn’t need to. He pushed his son to try and reach greater and greater heights. There had been a time when Shoto was bright-eyed and too late, Enji realized Shoto was looking for some sort of approval as if one kind word could make all of the training worth it.
Those eyes had darkened when Enji had told him, “This is nothing to celebrate.” upon his entrance into UA.
“This is just a stepping stone.”
And he saw his own enraged gaze stare back at him, the twin of his eye marred by the scar Rei had left on his son. He remembered that day Shoto got that parting gift from his mother vividly.
He had received the call from the hospital, realizing that the worst had come to pass. His boy’s face was burned and Rei was the culprit. He had gone to face her and she was shaking, she screamed and clawed at him, hyperventilating.
He demanded over and over again where her inhaler was but she just gasped, shaking her head. Panic attack then.
He demanded she copy his breathing. Purse your lips. Breathe, breathe, breathe. He had to grab her wrists so she couldn’t claw him. He felt the bones grind against one another in his grip and remembered how delicate she was.
She broke away sobbing and curled against the wall, she managed better on her own and was revived but so frightened she was rocking back and forth.
He couldn’t even remember a time when she had ever smiled at him. All he could picture were her dark, wild eyes.
She had had to be hospitalized because he refused to press charges. He refused to think it as anything other than an accident. The nurses had looked at the claw marks on his arms and he had just looked at them, so angry there was nothing in him left to burn, “She’s...unwell.”
Rei had had a nervous breakdown.
It was his fault.
He knew she was sickly but he would needle her, “What did you do all day? Just laze about? Every day I come home and nothing is done.”
His own mother had handled everything in the home, and his father had worked. He had expected much the same when he got married except that that Rei was unable to do the simplest of tasks. Not because of incompetence, but for inability.
He would say things like that, letting his frustration out on her from checking the statistics polls right until All Might retired.
They had wiped All Might’s stats from the public eye and archived them.
If he had known he would have screenshotted them. It was a tedious process to find out that there were websites that could show previous editions of a website or whatever you called it.
Fuyumi and Natsuo lived there but the house was big enough that they could be far from where Shoto was expected to train and study. Begrudgingly, Shoto worked towards being the strongest hero. Infuriatingly, he refused to use his fire and Enji’s chalked it up to what his books called “the rebellious phase.”
He was reading those baby books he had gotten when they were expecting Touya. When he managed to talk to Fuyumi she had had even more books but about young adults. He was grateful Fuyumi had such a kind disposition. She was much like her mother that way. Though her eyes were weak. She was asthmatic and her quirk had given her hypothermia the first time he had tried to train her. She had only inherited her mother’s ice, but his own temperature sensitivity which he was not happy about. It had frightened him half to death, seeing what very much looked like a smaller version of Rei with chattering teeth and purpling lips, looking paler than a ghost.
Perhaps Fuyumi was so forgiving because he had let her go from training easier than his sons, who he had expected to push though.
He had stopped Fuyumi one day as she was eating breakfast, “Talk to me for a moment.”
Her toast had dropped out of her hand and he couldn’t help the way his grip tightened on the doorframe. Was it carelessness? Was it some underlying condition she needed to deal with? Did her hands always shake or have such loose grip? Were the smaller capillaries and nerves in her fingertips damaged from just one time of hypothermia?
He asked her and she laughed, face red with embarrassment, “No dad, you just surprised me. I thought you were at work.”
“A young woman can’t afford to be surprised.”
“In my own home, maybe.” Fuyumi had said softly, “It’s supposed to be where you...can relax.”
He didn’t think so.
“Shoto is visiting Rei.”
Her hands fluttered, “Yes.”
“How is it going?”
“Well. I think.” Her shoulders drooped, smile suddenly smaller and he wondered what he had done.
Her smile brightened, “I-I’m doing just fine dad! I have to get ready for work in a bit-“
“Then I will leave you to it-“
“But! I was going to say but I have time! Before that. If you would like.”
She talked about her kids. How they were learning and growing and Enji couldn’t understand it but he struggled to pay attention. He wanted to care. Fuyumi was the most perceptive of all of his children so he was not surprised when she accused him, “You like reading, don’t you dad? What if I gave you a few books. To help with Shoto?”
Despite all of the things Enji had read, he and Shoto still fought. Enji was not home often but when he was, it was difficult to find his son and even more difficult to get the conversation going into a direction he approved of. Or even a response at all.
Now that the dorms were built, he came home to a house that felt empty. He had only started coming home to ask Shoto how he was doing in UA to try and offer him advice, but conversations take two people.
It made him swell with pride to see Shoto doing things on his own, even if it was out of spite. It didn’t matter how he felt because he was shaping up to be more than Enji could have ever hoped for. Shoto would definitely surpass All Might. He felt like the goals he was hoping for so long ago were coming to a realization.
It was easier to find some small amount of happiness from that.
He hadn’t realized he was unhappy at all.
His life seemed to be getting better. He had heard that Rei was making good progress, although Enji was paying for medication for her anxiety and depression on top of treatments for her preexisting conditions. He was paying for therapy.
He knew Shoto was visiting her and knew enough not to pry. Even if secrets drove him insane.
Just his presence alone, he was told could send her into another anxious fit. He left things between her and Shoto between her and Shoto and it felt much as it did when he was first born. Each of them trying to covet him like a treasure, except that Enji knew now that people weren’t fit to be coveted.
It took his entire life to understand that.
Everything needed room to breathe and grow or else it would wilt, shrivel like kindling set to flame.
Except, he had known that. From the beginning he knew that, he just hadn’t cared enough to take care with other people.
He turns back towards the hospital, flower in hand and takes off the bit of the stem he has crushed. With just his fingernail, it isn’t a neat job, but all he could ever give was his best effort.
It was too late to fix anything. His children bore the scars both mental and physical for his negligence, his insistence that he knew better. His wife had suffered both mentally and physically for his need for redemption and even now he felt not that he had changed but merely that this continued path was winding into kinder territory. Into places where he wasn’t taking a mentoring role, a leading role, but one taking a back seat to Shoto’s success. All he could really do, is be a parent and start to take a supporting role.
He would watch his son’s life, the results of his failures and successes unfold for the world to see and he felt something akin to pride.
He hadn’t changed, but he could bow his head and try and do some good with what was left. A reformation into something greater. Something that was already beyond his control.