TODOROKI Touya : 9 years old
TODOROKI Fuyumi : 7 years old
TODOROKI Natsuo : 3 years old
January 11th, 8:21PM
Of the three kids sitting on the wooden floor around a board game, the red-haired one, the oldest, turned to look briefly at the huge clock hanging on the empty wall behind him. It pulled on the still tender skin of his neck but if it hurt a little, he still didn't show it ; he was used to this constant ache picking at his flesh, and there were other issues running on his mind these days anyway.
It's been three hours since Mom and Dad are gone.
"Hey, Touya! It's your turn."
His little sister's high-pitched voice pulled him out of his thoughts. He played his turn. Beside them, spectator of their game, the youngest brother opened his mouth wide to yawn.
"When will Mom and Dad come back?" said boy ended up asking in a small voice, eyes almost closed. Touya parted his lips to answer but his little sister was faster, "Dad will be back before dawn.
- What about Mom?
- I don't know, Natsu. She might have to stay at the hospital with the baby for a little while.
Natsuo's big dark-grey eyes got bigger, filled with genuine curiosity. Fuyumi, the little girl, put a hand on his head to mess with his pristine white hair while giving an answer, "Because that's how it works. She can't leave the baby alone.
- But why don't she come back with the baby?
- Because they both have to stay at the hospital to rest.
- But... why-"
Lost in thoughts again, Touya let his siblings' exchange fall in the background. His turquoise eyes fixed themselves on the board game and his face tightened as more and more doubts kept bothering him.
Will Mom be okay?
This question, rather instinctive, was the first one that came to him, before something like a wave of anxieties overwhelmed him. Those worries were familiar ; they had been visiting him regularly for the past few months. Another child...
That issue felt bigger, less rooted in a particular timelapse. His mother was giving birth to another child. A fourth child who, without even asking to exist, will be condemned to become either a failure or a success. A shiver ran through Touya's skin when the ghost of his father's face began to form in his mind. His father, with his flaming number-two hero suit and his steadfast cold stare, telling him that his fate, Touya's fate, was between this unborn child's small hands. That if this baby was reaching his expectations, Touya wouldn't be forced to train his quirk anymore.
Your body is weak, like your mother's. It's not meant to resist to flames as hot as yours, I know that. But it will never get tougher if you keep being lazy like this. Get up.
You're my backup plan, Touya. If Natsuo only gets an ice quirk, like we expect him to get soon, and if the upcoming child doesn't get a quirk as powerful as yours, you will be the one to follow my steps. You'll be the one who will have to become the best, so don't bring shame to me.
You're Endeavor's son! My son! Why are you so weak? You must work harder, harder than that!
Unconsciously, Touya let his fingers graze his left arm above his shirt, felt his damaged skin sting under his sleeve. The burns weren't visible yet, but he felt their presence everyday. Soon, if nothing changed, his skin will start to sizzle, to grill like an overcooked piece of meat. No one but him and Fuyumi was aware of that fatality.
"Children, it's time to go to bed."
Three heads turned at the same time towards the new voice. A middle aged lady had just walked in the room, hands burried in a tea towel.
"We were almost done... 'guess we'll have to end the game tomorrow, then," Fuyumi sighed, defeated, whilst starting to gather the game's pieces.
Touya reached for Natsuo to pick him up in time before the caretaker did it instead, "I'll take care of Natsu, Haruko.
- Are you sure ?
- Yes. I don't... I don't usually have the chance to put him to bed.
- Alright, then. I will check your rooms in half an hour. Fuyumi, let me take care of the game. Go with your brothers."
Nodding, Fuyumi got up in a swift motion and ran towards Touya and Natsuo, both already on their way to the big bathroom. She arrived in time to see his little brother close his eyes and lay his chin against Touya's shoulder.
"Isn't Natsu too heavy for you, Touya?" she asked, uncertainty coating each of her words. Touya shook his head, "No, it's alright. I'm strong." and as if to convince himself further, he readjusted his little brother's weight in his arms and held him tighter. Natsuo opened his eyes slightly to stare at Fuyumi and say, in a quiet but determined tone : "Touya is strong. He's the strongest."
And right after that, Haruko's voice resonated from the living room.
"Don't forget to come get your medicine before going to bed, Touya!
The eldest acted as if he never saw the side glance his sister threw him. He lowered Natsuo on the ground, settled his stool in front of one of the bathroom sinks, and gave him his toothbrush with some toothpaste.
"Don't swallow it, okay?
- Tell me if you need help."
Natsuo only answered with a nod, before starting to brush his teeth thoroughly — and rather clumsily, but well enough to be left alone. Touya found the opportunity to let out a sigh, reaching for his own toothbrush before joining Fuyumi, who was waiting for him with the mint toothpaste, "So... you'll read the story?" she asked kind of like a rhetorical question, while staring mindlessly at Natsuo through the huge, very clean mirror.
Touya followed her gaze and nodded, "Yeah. I'll try.
- Mom does it, usually. Or me. Or Haruko. It will make him happy if it's you, for once. Right, Natsu?
The two eldest burst into laughters simultaneously when they saw their brother's toothpaste-coated face.
"... Will Dad come read me a story too, one day?"
It's this question, asked so innocently, that made them lose their smile. Again, as Touya was getting ready to answer, Fuyumi spoke, "Maybe one day, Natsu. But Dad's always really busy, so... I don't really know."
For the first time in a while, Touya threw a disapproving glare to her sister. Don't make him hope.
"It's no big deal anyway. We're here. We don't need Dad for bedtime stories." he said instead, after spitting his toothpaste in the sink. No need to make him hope when we know it's useless, he wanted to say to Fuyumi, but stayed silent simply because he knew that it really wasn't what she wanted to hear.
But maybe, in the end, hope will still lead us all to our downfall.
"I'm gonna get dressed. I'll join you in a minute in Natsu's room.
Touya watched silently as Fuyumi left the bathroom, and as soon as she was gone, turned to Natsuo. The younger was rincing his toothbrush, focused pout on his lips.
"Did you rince your mouth?
- ... Touya?
- Hm?" Touya switched his gaze from the mirror to Natsuo beside him.
"I can't wait to see the baby! I'm going to be a big brother, just like you!
- Me too, I can't wait..."
Touya swallowed dryly — his throat had suddenly started to feel tight. What is this feeling? Is this fear? Guilt?
I don't want a child to take my place and live the nightmare I'm living right now. But...
But if I keep living it...
"Let's go, Natsu. Let's go get ready for bed."
Touya tightened his hold on his little brother's cold hand. No. No way. No one else must live this.
I can become stronger. For my family.
I'll burn myself, if I have to.
I'll cook my own skin, I'll scream in pain.
If it can keep them away from Dad...
I'll let my flames swallow my whole body little by little.
In hopes that it will make me stronger instead of burning me to ashes.