Izuku had been quiet the whole ride home from the pediatrician’s office. Nothing broke him out of his thousand yard stare; not the jostling passengers on the train, not passing by an ice cream cart, not even seeing a new hero on patrol.
He walked at her side, holding her hand without argument or tugging for the first time in her memory, like a little automaton rather than her little boy.
Inko herself wasn’t doing much better, although for slightly different reasons.
Her son didn’t have a quirk.
She’d always believed on some level that her son would turn out like his father. Being wrong after all this time was… unexpectedly hard.
The apartment was quiet and dark when they got home. Usually Izuku would yell ‘We’re home’ into the empty hallway, but today he kicked off his shoes and hurried inside.
Inko took her time putting away their coats, shoes, and her bag. Her feelings were all jumbled and she needed to sort them out before she did anything she might come to regret.
Housework usually helped her organize her mind, but not today. Her heart pounded as she remembered the early days of her pregnancy, when she’d been by herself and had… foolish hopes.
She occupied herself that way for half an hour until she decided Izuku had been too quiet for far too long.
Inko found him in front of the laptop watching his All Might video muted and on loop. She couldn’t see his face, but didn’t need to. Her baby was crying; not his usual easy tears, but like his heart was broken.
She closed her eyes and reached out with a sense she had deliberately set aside five years ago, when she realized she’d have another person to worry about for the rest of her life.
The inside of Izuku’s head was just as bad as she’d feared. His hopes and dreams were in direct conflict with his own limited, but pretty accurate understanding of what life was like for people without quirks.
All little kids wanted to be heroes, but Izuku had needed it on some primordial level Inko didn’t always understand. He loved heroes; seeing them, learning about them, knowing them. He stood up for small animals and weak children because it was in his nature, not because he was aping his idols or because he was necessarily any good at it. It was just him.
Inko’s heart clenched in sympathy -a spike of emotion she couldn’t quite tame- and Izuku’s head jerked to one side. He pushed the chair around, scrubbing at his eyes and clutching his All-Might figurine.
“Mommy?” He sniffed. “Are you ok?”
Inko’s heart stopped. She thought it had been bad before when she’d only suspected, but Izuku had heard her.
Inko wet her lips, wrestling with her emotions and mostly failing. Izuku had heard her. This changed everything .
It had been twenty-two years since she’d first left the Order and only six since she’d made the decision not to return. No one had ever come looking for her, but she’d stayed hidden all the same after she’d heard rumors about what happened to her former comrades who’d turned themselves into the Jedi Council after the conclusion of the Mandalorian War. They all mysteriously lost their connection to the Force or just plain disappeared.
Of course the Masters couldn’t let the renegades go unpunished or uncontrolled. They were scrambling too in the wake of the war. Maybe it was selfish, but she still didn’t believe she’d done anything wrong.
Even if she had gone home, her heart wasn’t the same as it had been when she left. She didn’t totally agree with the Masters anymore and for the sake of the Order, they couldn’t tolerate dissent.
It was such a strange feeling; being given everything she’d prayed for years after she’d made herself stop wanting it and to have it cause her baby so much pain.
“I’m ok, sweetie.” She went to kneel in front of him and scrubbed at his face with the skirt of her apron. “Are you?”
Trick question, he absolutely was not.
Izuku’s eyes filled up again. “M-mommy, do you think I can still be a hero even if…” He choked on the end of his question.
Inko realized it wasn’t even a choice.
“Izuku, can I tell you a secret?”
That distracted him. As distraught as he was, he was still only four. His internal world was still so malleable. He was the same age she’d been when the temple recruiters found her all those years ago. It was the perfect age, really.
Izuku used his shirt to blow his nose and nodded. He got out of the chair when she beckoned him over and crawled into her lap.
“I always thought you’d take after your daddy.” Inko pressed a kiss into his soft curls. “I never thought you’d be like me .”
“What?” Izuku squinted at her, disbelieving.
She pushed his hair back from his face. “Mommy doesn’t have a quirk either.”
“You do so have a quirk! Mommy has Pull.”
Inko closed her eyes and looked within herself. Part of her was afraid that she’d let her connection go dormant, but the Force responded to her as eagerly as it ever had; maybe even moreso.
The study was always littered with Izuku’s discarded toys, books, and school supplies no matter how often they tidied up. At Inko’s command they rose slowly into the air and arranged themselves into a loose cloud surrounding them. Izuku gasped in delight and it turned into a yelp as Inko Force-lifted them both up and the floating clutter shifted into gently turning concentric circles with them in the center; the heart of their own tiny solar system.
“No, baby.” She whispered into Izuku’s ear. “That’s just what I tell people.”
She settled them both down onto the squat little couch leftover in the study from its brief tenure as a home office. Izuku clapped as she sent everything floating away back into their proper places leaving the room as neat as it ever was.
“That was so cool!” He enthused and Inko squashed her guilty feeling of pleasure over being the recipient of that starry eyed expression for once. Izuku had only ever looked at his heros like that before. Of course, it didn’t last. Izuku was the most analytical baby she’d ever encountered. He’d never met a problem he didn’t want to pull apart at the seams. “How is that not a quirk?”
“They don’t have quirks at all where I came from.” Inko chose her words with care. She’d be able to tell him the whole story one day, but he was still so little .
“Everybody’s got quirks though.” Izuku protested. “The teacher said...” He came up short, remembering his own condition.
“No, not everyone.” Inko agreed, sadly. “Some people in Mommy’s... hometown can do something else. It’s a very rare sensitivity, but it opens you up to things other people -even people with psychic quirks- can’t see or touch. Sometimes that sensitivity is hereditary.”
Izuku sucked in air. “Do you mean…?”
“I think so.” Inko lied a little. She didn’t think. She knew . Izuku was reacting just like any other youngling she’d ever taught; who, after seeing a Force ability was possible, instinctively started to try and replicate it. He’d probably had a Force sense his whole life; just faint enough that he’d been unable to distinguish it from his other senses and she hadn’t noticed.
She could feel him probing at her mind exactly like a baby who’d just discovered they had hands . She probed right back, the equivalent of a gentle tickle, and he squeaked in surprise.
“I felt that!” His smile flickered and his eyes started to fill up again. Inko swept him back up into her arms just in time for the tears to start. “ Mo-om …” He wailed.
“You can do it if you want, honey.” She told him as he sobbed into her chest. “It’ll be a lot of work; even more work than if you had a weak quirk, but you can be a hero.”
He’d never be a Jedi, though and Inko couldn’t be sad about that.
He felt too much and loved too hard. The Council would have never accepted him fully into the Order. He would have ended up in one of the support cloisters as a farmer or a temple guardian. They might have gone so far as to sever his connection to the Force, but no matter what they’d have done Inko would have never known about it because he’d had been taken from her as soon as she’d given birth and given over to the creche school.
Inko hadn’t regretted her past choices before, but now she knew she never ever would.
Izuku could lift a pencil by the time he was four and a half.
Inko was a more seasoned hand with the Quirk Registry system than she’d been when she’d first come to live in Mustafu and had had to come up with a relatively believable, useful, and innocuous use of her Force abilities that would pass as a normal quirk.
“Oh, telekinesis!” The Registry agent cooed as Izuku demonstrated his ability for her. “That takes a while to get the hang of. It takes so much power and their little brains are so busy already at this age. It’s no wonder you didn’t notice right away if there was no poltergeist activity.”
She clapped as Izuku makes the pencil spin, but stopped him after another minute.
“I recommend you take him in for some diagnostic studies until you know for sure how he’s powering his quirk. Quirk exhaustion is a concern for manipulator and emitter types. Hopefully he’s using lipids instead of neurological electrical discharge, but I would restrict his quirk practice time to an hour a day until you know for sure.”
Inko projected sincerity as she agreed, but didn’t do the diagnostic testing. It was expensive for one. She could afford it, but a single mom with no obvious job wouldn’t. A single parent would take their chances and figure things out at home. For another, those diagnosticians wouldn’t be able to identify how Izuku’s ‘quirk’ worked and she didn’t want to leave a paper trail if she could help it.
Izuku was over the moon about his new ability. He was less happy about the non-exciting aspects of his training like meditation and physical conditioning, but he only needed mild nagging at most to keep at it and she couldn’t say that about every Force sensitive child she’d tutored.
Philosophical instruction was more difficult and made worse by the fact that Inko herself had a lot of unanswerable questions about her own beliefs after her time away from the Order. She was meditating an awful lot herself as a consequence.
There was only so much teaching she could do for an exuberant grade schooler in her little apartment, however.
Musutafu was a relatively safe area without much villain activity so property values for what she needed there were outside Inko’s price range. Money still wasn’t an issue, but currency in Japan was digital. Worse still, most banks had AI monitoring their account transactions. People noticed if money moved around in nonstandard ways; such as housewives withdrawing enough to buy a commercial building in cash. She was already getting away with a lot. Pushing it would be a bad idea.
Inko already had some cash put aside though. It was her emergency fund, which she’d built up slowly over the past few years. Her income covered their expenses plus some, so she had enough to do what she wanted without drawing unwanted attention to herself and her son if she was frugal about it.
She wasn’t afraid of the friends she’d made when she’d first come to Earth -the ones who had helped her build her nest egg- but she didn’t want to wake up and find them on her doorstep one morning either. They were good people, but they were also the kind of people who always needed something.
Fortunately, the neighboring district of Manaan was in the first gasp of an upswing. Two rising heroes had established their agencies there for the same reason Inko picked it for her training facility; the property values were rock bottom, especially in the commercial zones. Five years of barely restricted villain activity meant that every building in the district was damaged or had once been damaged in a hero fight.
She bought a warehouse located in the center of an entire block of them; about as unique as one rock in a gravel pit. The former owner was a small time importer who was too close to retirement age to wait out the market. There were holes in the roof and the only bathroom didn’t work, but at this stage she only needed a private open area.
Izuku sneezed the first time she brought him there. “It’s dirty in here.” He complained and Inko had to laugh.
“Not for long, honey.” She told him as she hauled cleaning supplies out of the back of her forgettable little sedan.
It took them a few days to get the warehouse looking less disreputable on the inside. By that point, Inko had discovered the other reasons the previous owner had been so willing to sell the building at a loss.
The other reasons were a small gang of under powered villains; sort of like a swoop gang but they all had ground vehicles. A bike gang, maybe? They were petty criminals, but seemed to be trying to branch out into smuggling or drug running because they spent a good long while casing the other warehouses as well.
Inko sensed them watching her for a while before someone approached her.
It was a hot day so she’d left the big bay doors open for some air. Luck was on her side for once. Izuku was at school, but she’d started leaving him at home after she’d first picked up on the extra attention.
She ignored the man until he banged on the metal frame of the bay door and only then did she take her attention away from the junior ropes course she was trying -and mostly failing- to build.
He was a heteromorphic type with a face made of slabs of craggy stone-like flesh that glowed red where the planes of his features met. “You the owner of this place?” His voice sounded like rocks being ground together.
“I am.” Inko sized him up and wondered just how bad this encounter was going to get. The man did not look or feel like a person who understood any language other than violence.
He looked pleased. “Got an offer for ya. I know a guy who wants to buy this place; cash, no questions asked, no paperwork.”
So, in effect, she would still own the place and be liable for the taxes plus anything he and his friends used her property for. Hilarious.
Inko smiled and took the man’s mind in her grasp. “This building is no good.” She told him.
“This place is shit .” He muttered almost to himself. His eyes jerked to the left and right lingering on pinprick holes in the sheet metal walls and spots of rust like he’d never seen them before, even though it was all visible from the outside.
“It looks worse on the inside.” She continued.
“Can’t keep product in here. Cops wouldn’t need a warrant. They could just look in through the holes in the walls.” The man hissed, totally unaware that he was speaking out loud. “Fuckin’ shit .”
“It would be too expensive to fix up.” Inko was almost impressed. She’d seen more impressionable people but this man was actually internalizing her suggestions. Usually people just echoed her directions.
“Can’t afford to patch no walls. We ain’t even sold anything yet.” The man started to back up and he shook himself out of his stupor. “What kind of operation are you running here, lady? This place is a dump!”
“Oh, are you leaving?” Inko asked, all innocence.
“Fuck you, bitch!” He hissed and turned his back on her.
“Such a shame.” She murmured and waved as he left. Hopefully that was the last she’d see of his group, but she didn’t know how well he’d do at persuading his friends of his new point of view.
Inko got out her phone and checked the feed from her security cameras. Sure enough, she had a great view of the gangster’s face to go along with the footage of his friends casing her property.
A few days later found Inko on her couch watching her son lose his tiny mind over Pro Hero Jetstream’s post takedown interview on HNN. Jetstream was pretty junior and specialized in solo villain apprehension so him taking down a nascent drug syndicate was big, big news. His career was about to take off.
She allowed herself a private smile -hidden by the rim of her tea cup- as Jetstream took a moment out of the interview to thank his anonymous informants.
Izuku chose that moment to pile into her lap talking a mile a minute about Jetstream and weren’t his boots the coolest thing she’d ever seen?
Time passed, as it did. Izuku got bigger and his focus improved.
That was a good thing insofar as his training went, but a bad thing for his socialization skills. Around age six, he picked up a habit of muttering. Before that he’d happily babble about anything on his mind, but afterwards he seemed to try (and failed) to reign it in.
He stopped talking about the other kids at school and Inko saw less of little Katsuki.
That was the one drawback of not growing up in a creche school, Inko realized. There was a comfort to be found in growing up with a peer group who were all going through the same things you were. It was harder when you were alone and surrounded by people who seemed effortlessly proficient with their special abilities.
Izuku still hadn’t let go of his craving for approval so she knew it wasn’t that he didn’t want friends. He wanted friends. It bled off him in waves whenever someone his age paid him any attention at all.
This was one area where Inko didn’t know how to help. Jedi didn’t make friends , really. You shared fellowship with other members of the Order, but getting too affectionate with anyone was discouraged by the Masters because it might lead to passion . Living among regular people had shown Inko that was dumb way to handle it. Love happened, after all. Learning to understand her emotions had served her better than pretending they didn’t exist ever did, but Jedi lived in their own ideological microcosm. She was also forced to admit that not everyone had the capacity for critical self examination.
Inko had made some friends before of course, but hadn’t really been an active participant in the process. She was too used to passing in and out of their lives without attachment. She didn’t really know how to change that habit nor, considering the friends in question, did she really want to. That wasn’t the kind of friendship Izuku needed.
Unfortunately, it seemed like he was going to have to figure that one out himself.
Most of Izuku’s school life was a closed book to her, but she did know that he’d been in the same classes with the same kids since grade school. Their cliques had formed early and were pretty static. Middle school didn’t change anything. Maybe he’d have to wait until High School to meet any new people.
Izuku seemed happy for the most part; pursuing his studies, training, and chasing hero fights.
Inko worried about him still. That was the fate of a master and a mother, it seemed.
Still, she was hopeful for his future. He’d integrate into Japanese society and live out his life in relative peace. It was a flashier route than she’d chosen for herself, but after the life she’d led before Izuku was born a little peace and quiet was more than welcome.
So, of course, a few weeks into his third year of middle school her panicked son dragged All Might into her living room where he immediately threw up blood and deflated in a cloud of steam into the sickest man Inko had ever seen that was somehow, impossibly still alive.
Looking at him with her senses only made it worse. It was like being back in the war only without an operating suite and an army of medical droids. He was missing most of a lung and nearly all of his stomach. His other internal organs were heavily scarred and she could see hundreds, possibly thousands of hairline fractures in his skeletal system. The man shouldn’t have been standing, shouldn’t have been conscious, or even breathing .
“Pardon the intrusion, ma’am.” He rasped in a voice utterly unlike the persona he showed on TV. “The boy insisted.”
“Oh… no… no trouble…” Inko wheezed, falling back on the familiar rituals of hospitality even though they sounded ludicrous even to her. Her heart was hammering in her chest and her face felt hot. Why was it hot? Why was she hot?
Then the worst thing possible that could have happened did .
Inko’s eyes rolled back in her head and she fainted right in front of her only child and the most famous hero on the planet.