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You and What Army

Chapter Text

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.

‘Oh, sweetheart.’

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.

Chapter Text

Earlier That Day

Izuku’s day hadn’t been worth much note until after school ended at which point it went straight to hell.

There was a hero fight on the way to school, which granted was pretty great. Izuku got some notes on a debut hero, but things got weird and uncomfortable when her gross fans showed up so he hadn’t stuck around much past the takedown. 

Kacchan was in a pretty mellow mood up until their last period when the homeroom teacher went through the barest motions of collecting their future goals worksheets. That went about as well as anyone could have hoped. Fuze-sensei reacted to Kacchan’s boasting by casually reading off the other students applying to UA, which was pretty much just Izuku. Even though everyone wanted to be heroes they’d set their sights a bit lower when it came to highschools. 

The teachers in their middle school weren’t bad, exactly. They just didn’t really care much anymore and were way more casual with the student body than the faculty at other, better ranked schools would be.

Despite his fears, Kacchan hadn’t made a big deal over Izuku applying to UA even after the little speech he’d made over the cheerful booing of their classmates. He’d just looked over his shoulder and sneered a bit. “Good luck, nerd.

Izuku hadn’t been able to say anything, not with the whole class looking at him. They weren’t laughing at him, but they were laughing. 

He didn’t have a lot of friends or any friends, really. Kacchan was the closest thing he had and maybe the two guys who followed him around. They didn’t talk to Izuku and Izuku definitely did not talk to them, but they let him stand with them in line and eat with them at lunch and after school they all walked together until Izuku turned off towards his apartment. Kacchan and the others went off to do --something. They never told Izuku what, but he knew he wasn’t invited.

Not that his schedule would permit any such thing. 

Ugh, which reminded him that it was Thursday and Thursday was ‘quirk’ training day. That meant a lot of meditation and moving stuff with his brain while his mom shot at him randomly with a laser needler. He could feel the headache starting already so he wasn’t really paying attention as he packed up his stuff to go.

In his defense, Kacchan and the others didn’t really talk to him unless he was dragging behind or if they were having an argument and wanted someone to be the tie breaker.

“Oi, Deku.” Kacchan shoulder-checked him hard. “What’s this about UA? Why’m I just hearing about it now?”

Izuku felt his face go hot. “I hadn’t made up my mind.” He lied. He’d always known he wanted to go to UA. He’d just spent the year trying to talk himself out of it, but hadn’t managed to; not even at the last minute. He wanted it too badly, even though he knew it was dumb. He had too much to hide and he didn’t think he’d be able to hold anything back in the nation’s premier Heroics program. “I went back and forth until we had to hand the forms in.”

Che.” Kacchan huffed at him, starting to bristle. That was the first sign of imminent violence. “Did you not hear me? I’m going to be the only kid from this school to get in.”

This, at least, was familiar territory.

“It’s the top school in the nation and it’s kinda weird to think no one here is going to apply just cause you say so. I’m going to pursue my own goals and you can’t stop me, Kacchan.” Izuku put the slightest Force pressure behind his statement; just enough influence to simmer the other boy down before any explosions got started. This was the Force ability he liked least, but he’d figured out ways to use it that didn’t make him feel quite so gross. He pulled himself back before adding, “...but if you’re that worried about me then I guess you could aim to take first in the exam as a back-up plan.”

Kacchan stared at him for a moment before shaking his head and snorting. “Whatever, nerd. Hurry up and get your shit together. We’re leaving.”

“I don’t want to hear someone who was just bragging to the whole class about how good they did on a mock exam call me a nerd, nerd .” Izuku snapped back on reflex and Kaachan flipped him off as he walked past.

They didn’t really wait for him, but they weren’t walking so fast that Izuku couldn’t catch up either. They split up a few blocks from school as usual. Kacchan and his mooks wandered off towards the open air vending machine drink shop and Izuku turned off towards home. He didn’t have a lot of time to make a snack, eat, change, and still meet his mom at the warehouse on time.

His mind was wandering through the contents of the pantry at home as he passed under the old foot bridge that marked the outermost border of his neighborhood.


Inko woke up on her couch when something cold and wet touched her face. She startled upright and nearly crashed her forehead into that of the man leaning over her. 

The damp washcloth he’d set on her head flopped over into her lap.

“Oh, excuse me!” She gasped while reaching for it, but All Might was quicker and plucked it off her before the cloth could do more than speckle the fabric of her jeans.

“It’s understandable.” All Might tossed the cloth to Izuku who’d been hovering on her other side. “People have had worse reactions to seeing ...that.”

How humiliating. She hadn’t fainted in years except for dramatic effect. “I’m very sorry, Mister… All Might?”

She didn’t really need to ask why he was in her apartment. She remembered him saying something about Izuku insisting and… yes. She’d have panicked and run for her master too at his age if she’d met someone who looked the way that man did. 

All Might grimaced. “Yagi Toshinori, please. If you know this much, you might as well know the whole thing.”

Izuku lost his patience. “Mom, you need to look at his side.” He was dancing in place with agitation. Inko realized he’d changed out of his school uniform and frowned. She couldn’t have been out that long. Come to think of it, she could smell something. It wasn’t quite like garbage. There was a coppery aspect to it that made her think of other times and worse circumstances.

“Just a moment.” She heard her tone change from ‘overwhelmed mother’ to ‘suspicious master’ without conscious effort on her part. “What happened to your clothes?”

Her son blanched and All Might coughed nervously. “That would be my fault, ma’am.” He tried to explain. Inko didn’t need to touch his mind to know he was fixing to tell her an enormous lie.

“There was a villain, mom.” Izuku broke in. “An amorphous heteromorphic type with a possession a-ability…” He paused and gulped under the weight of her expression. She noticed he had a narrow swatch of road rash on one cheek, still bleeding sluggishly. “ might have attacked me? All Might saved my life. I changed because I got sewer gunk all over me. It was starting to smell.”

Her baby had been in a sewer with open wounds

Inko pointed. “Shower. Now.” She ordered him. “Get the hibiclens out from the medicine box and scrub anywhere you broke skin. Then I want you to put a bacta patch on that scrape.”

“Mom, wait…” Izuku flailed at her and pointed at their guest, too overwhelmed to form words.

“Is he dying?” She asked flatly. “Dying this very moment?”

“N-no…?” Izuku squinted at All Might. Worryingly, he didn’t seem convinced. “I don’t think so.”

“Then he can wait for you both to get cleaned up.”

All Might straightened up and held up his hands. “I appreciate the offer, ma’am, but I…” He stopped and swallowed hard as Inko turned to look at him instead. “... but I’m happy to wait my turn?”

Inko took a moment to look the man over, trying to see what had her son so panicked. It was just as bad the second time around, but Inko was prepared for it now. The damage the man on her couch had suffered was catastrophic, but he seemed to be stable despite that. His condition hadn’t deteriorated any in the few minutes they’d been speaking and that seemed impossible, but might be accounted for by his quirk? 

Hadn’t Izuku mentioned something about All Might’s side?

“Izuku said you’d saved his life.” Inko tried to wrap her head around that. She wasn’t often worried about her son out by himself. He could handle himself around the sort of purse snatchers and petty thieves you saw in Aldera. Street murders just didn’t happen in their district. She’d made sure of it. “Explain to me what happened.”

All Might -no, Yagi, he’d said- “It’s not a pleasant story, but… your son was the true hero today. I’d like to establish that at the beginning.” He told her as he leaned forward to rest his elbows on his knees. He sighed and it sounded so very tired.

Inko remembered being that tired once and something loosened up in her chest. It was easier to listen after that as All Might explained -sometimes haltingly- just what had happened that afternoon.

Izuku emerged from the shower shortly after Yagi-san finished his story; pink-cheeked from the water and much calmer. Inko had gone to call Mitsuki so she knew to scrub Katsuki-kun’s hide raw too and then made some tea as she sorted out her feelings.

“The-the shower is free, All Might.” Izuku managed to stay somewhat in control of himself despite the overwhelming idea of his personal idol using their tiny old bathroom that neither of them were all that good about cleaning regularly. 

“It’s all right, my boy.” Yagi reassured him. “Your mother let me off the hook. My skin doesn’t break so easily anymore. I wasn’t exposed the way you were. In fact, she and I were talking…”

That put the wind up Izuku’s back again and he whipped around, upset all over again. “Did you look, mom?”

“I did.” Inko had spent some time observing Yagi and had figured out what her son was upset over. He had excellent instincts, but not a lot of medical knowledge. There were many ways to be a Force user and he wasn’t too inclined towards medicine, but he picked up on things that surprised even her sometimes. “Is the keloid what’s bothering you?”

“Ah… hum.. What?” Yagi stumbled after having been interrupted. His hand moved incriminatingly to his side. He hadn’t shown her his wound, just made vague reference to a nonspecific career-impacting injury.

“I don’t think it’s a keloid, mom.” Izuku insisted. “His muscles are all hard around it, like his quirk is constantly activated in that one area. I saw him transform twice and that forces his quirk to redistribute through his body. Then stuff starts coming out of that little red core. S-sir, could you show her?”

All Might looked uncomfortable, but lifted his shirt to show her his side just below his ribs, which stood out like the sprung staves of a barrel. It was a mostly healed impact injury for sure. His muscles were sort of twisted and almost caved-in around this odd little reddish core; the false keloid.

Inko set her mug down. “Does it now?” She hadn’t been able to observe that part. All she’d been able to determine was that even though it was doing a credible job of posing as the sort of excess collagen that sometimes developed in a healing wound, the keloid itself wasn’t actually part of Yagi’s body. It was more like a plantar’s wart or comedo. In person it looked like a hard little red ball and Yagi’s body had been forced to grow around it. The seam where his skin ended and the keloid began was subtle, but present. She could tell by the way his undamaged muscles sort of curved around the perimeter of the keloid and his skin extended underneath it. 

Part of it was exposed to the air; shiny, taut, and red. It pulsed slowly as she examined it. It was breathing through the exposed bit, she realized; cutaneous respiration. That was how it was fuelling itself. She’d assumed it was a parasite of some kind given how starved All Might appeared to be, but it was actually self-supporting. That must have been how it was still 'alive' otherwise she did not doubt All Might's quirk would have starved it out. 

It had probably started out very small otherwise she couldn’t imagine that the team responsible for the health of a hero like All Might would have missed it. If it had developed in the wound later, like the keloid it was posing as, his doctors would have likely left it in place. It wasn’t a tumor. It wasn’t growing out of control and they would be hesitant to put a patient in as delicate a state as Yagi through an unnecessary surgery.

“Are you able to transform again?” Inko asked, curious by that point.

“I… yes?” Yagi fidgeted, but suddenly expanded into the person she knew from the television. She set aside her questions about the mechanics of that kind of transformation and focused her attention on the keloid. “I can’t hold it for long.” Yagi warned her, but Inko had seen what she needed to see.

“Change back. Do it now.” She snapped. An old familiar heat coiled in her stomach and she was forced to spend a moment acknowledging her anger, investigating it, understanding it, and releasing it. What a horrible thing to do to someone. 

“What did you see?” Yagi was back to cupping his side. Touching the malevolent little thing wouldn’t hurt him. Izuku had been correct. All Might’s quirk contained the problem when he was depowered, but it was consuming the bodily energy he needed for recovery and with his digestive and respiratory systems in such catastrophic condition he had no excess to spare so his body was slowly devouring itself.

“That’s no keloid.” Inko stood up, full of fruitless energy. She went back for her abandoned tea cup. “It won’t affect you while you’re like this.” She gestured at his thin, starved state. “You’re an enhancer, correct? Your quirk is --quarantining it, I suppose? I believe it’s a biochemical factory of sorts. It produces very small, nigh microscopic amounts of what appears to be a virulent neurotoxin. If your condition has been progressively worsening then that’s why. Every time you transform more of it gets past your quirk’s autoimmune response and into the rest of your body where it’s harder to contain.”

Yagis' expression shuttered, which was disappointing but not really surprising. Men like him didn’t accept diagnosis from women like her on this planet. He seemed nice, but he was used to people in white coats. Preferably male people. Medical authority was strictly coded on Earth and she did not fit the role. “Ma’am, who exactly are you?”

“No one, as far you’re concerned.” She smiled her harmless ‘just a homemaker' smile. “And that’s what you’re going to tell people when you go get a second opinion. I’m just an anonymous source.”

That seemed to … reassure(?) him on some level. His expression softened and for the first time Inko realized he’d probably been a very attractive person once before he’d been reduced to two dehumanized extremes. 

“Somehow, ma’am, I find that hard to believe.” He said. “With respect, I will be getting that second opinion, but I can agree to keep your involvement confidential.”

“Do. I can’t help you with it.” Inko admitted. She could, but in ways that would expose her and her son to scrutiny she’d rather not deal with. If it came to a choice between Yagi’s life and her son’s safety then it was no choice at all. Oddly, she rather thought Yagi himself would agree if he knew her situation. “Do you need to rest? I understand why my son brought you here, but it probably took you out of your way. You must have somewhere you need to be.”

“Ah.” Yagi had a habit, she’d noticed, of trying to make himself smaller. He didn’t do that on the television so she was forced to conclude that this was just what he was like when he was himself. He drew himself upright then with his shoulders back and put himself more into the attitude of his alter ego, thankfully without puffing himself up again. “I did allow him to bring me here, but this is the only place I have to be right now. You see, I came to Japan for a reason.”

Inko did not like where this was headed. 

“You are correct. My powers are fading. Until I met you, I had no real explanation --other than slow organ failure due to my injury.” He added that last bit wryly. “I can only work as a hero for a few hours a day now. The end of my career has been looming ahead of me and…” He shot a worried look at Izuku. “ must understand that what I’m about to tell you is a secret. It is a secret people have killed over.”

‘Oh, Izu.’ Inko thought sadly. ‘Why couldn’t you have taken after your father? Why did you have to take after me that way too?’

Well, actually Hisashi was a trouble magnet too. It was how they’d met after all. So maybe Izuku had been doomed from the start.

Judging by the way her son was shifting guiltily around, he already knew. Telling Yagi to go away and take his secret with him wasn’t an option. Ignorance wasn’t going to help. It never had so no surprise there.

“I understand.” She sighed.

“My quirk can be passed on. It’s called One for All.” Yagi paused for effect. He was a good speaker, she’d give him that. It would explain the weirdly intelligent way his quirk had reacted to the fake keloid. If it was less of a quirk and more of a symbiote, which was the only way Inko could see that working, then it would be motivated to keep its host alive. “I am the eighth person to carry it and my time as All Might is coming to an end. I came back to my hometown to look for a successor.”

...and most likely to die , Inko realized. He could have found a successor anywhere. The only compelling reason to go back to Musutafu was sentimental. Men like him only went home to bow out in familiar surroundings.

“You’re Japanese?” Izuku sounded skeptical.

“I pass for white pretty well, don’t I? I grew up in Musutafu; in this very district. It wasn’t as nice then of course.” Yagi chuckled and pushed his hair out of his face. His eyes, Inko noticed, weren’t shadowed. His sclera were actually black and his irises glowed even in the strong daylight. Humans had a wide morphological range, especially those on Earth with quirk-related mutations, but that seemed even stranger than usual. “I take after my father and my mother was of mixed descent as well. I took advantage of that fact to obscure my own history.”

“You want my son to inherit your quirk?” Inko wondered if the man was sane. He looked ---well, no. He didn’t look terribly sane, but then no Pro Hero she’d ever met had.

“He…” Yagi wilted a little, robbed of his speech. “Yes. It’s egotistical perhaps, but it’s a very powerful quirk. It began as a spontaneous mutation between a stockpile quirk and a quirk that allowed a person to pass their genetic information on to someone else. My heir would inherit the combined strength and abilities of me and everyone who came before me. I feel that kind of power belongs in the hands of a very specific type of person. Young Midoriya is the one I’ve been looking for, but he would not consider it without your permission.”

Annoyingly, Inko had to agree with the man. Her son was a dream of an apprentice; hardworking, kind, empathetic, and determined. He never gave up, even when he ought to. Moreover, it wouldn’t be a bad deal for Izuku. They were both walking a tightrope in terms of the abilities they had to pass off ‘quirks.’ 

Jedi recruiters didn’t often come to Earth. They might not ever come again. Inko had taken the only star chart in the archives that showed it with her when she left the Order that first time. She’d meant to use it as part of a research project in her spare time, but the war expanded to fill all her hours. It wasn’t until afterwards when she had personal time again and was looking for a dark corner of the universe to disappear into that she rediscovered the data crystal among her things.

Earth was located out beyond the outermost rim of settled space and was not part of the Republic. She theorized it had started out as what had probably been an undocumented little Seperatist colony. The modern day inhabitants had no memory or record of it, but near as Inko could tell Earth only had about 5,000 years of recorded history and there were human colonies in the core system that had been in the Republic for over 25,000 years so Earth was clearly a lost settlement. As a result, there were very few charted or reliable hyperspace lanes leading to Sol system.  

That did not even factor in the asteroid belt. It did little to prevent starships from approaching the inner planets but did make it dangerous to approach at hyperspeed. Any ship that came to Earth did so at sublight speeds, which would add months and untenable expense to the journey. 

It wasn’t however, as her own presence on the planet would indicate, impossible. She'd originally thought she had the only map, but she'd encountered a handful of other Republic expatriates on Earth over the years. They'd all been criminals and refugees, people who would have been very careful about leaving a trail behind them, so she'd decided to stay and make herself as invisible as possible.

One for All would solve a lot of problems for her child and possibly any children he might then have assuming he had any. A recruiter might forcibly remove the child of a renegade Jedi from the planet, but they didn't actually -despite what anti-Jedi propaganda would have you believe- steal children. So long as she could pass for a native human then Izuku would be safe. She'd already made herself unrecognizable, but she had to take the long view as well. If Izuku had any quirk other than telekinesis that would go a long way towards keeping his secret after her eventual death.

It was just too bad. Some things came at too high a price to be worth paying.

“Out of the question.” Inko shook her head as Yagi gaped at her. “Whether or not you believe me, that quirk is the only thing keeping you alive. If you give it away you will die within a year; slowly, painfully, and you will be out of your mind by the time the end comes with no idea who or where you are. You have a chance at recovery if you get rid of that ...thing and if you find someone able to remove the toxic particles already circulating through your system. Once you’ve been through cell therapy for neurotoxicity you might even be a viable candidate for organ transplants. Your symptoms would be less severe at least. You have a chance to live out the rest of your natural life. Why would you ask a child to take that away and leave you to die in agony?”

“I can’t make assumptions about the time I do or do not have left.” Yagi considered his hands and made a sad noise. “I’ve had a long life and career for someone in my position. I would prefer to head into my end knowing that I passed on the legacy entrusted to me.”

She considered softening her response, but decided subtly was wasted on All Might. “That’s stupid.” She held up a hand to forestall his protest and looked to her son. “Do you want this?”

“I…” He swallowed hard and looked down even as he turned to face his own personal hero. “...I’m honored you chose me, Yagi-san, and I want to... but I…” Oh, there were the tears. His eyes were shimmering with them and he gripped the fabric of his shirt in a failed attempt to hide the way his hands were shaking. “...I believe my mom. Please don’t ask me to do that to you.”

Yagi stared at them. “What if I seek treatment?” He asked, unexpectedly.

Inko cocked her head in a mute question.

“Spiritually, young Midoriya is the perfect successor for One for All.” He explained. “Physically, there is… well, work that needs doing. He is in very good shape for his age, but the transition would be less stressful if he put on some more muscle and he’d be less likely to injure himself while learning to wield it. Ideally, I would like him to enter high school with One for All. That way it would take a lot of work for anyone to discover that he had a different quirk to begin with and proving it would be nearly impossible. UA does a great deal to obfuscate the history of their student heroes prior to highschool. Their quirk registrations are sealed. After that any public knowledge of their quirks is either guesswork or whatever information their agencies choose to circulate. Here is my offer; allow me to train him for a year. During that time I will spend as much time with my care team as you dictate. I’ll even consult with you regarding my treatment decisions.”

Ino squinted at the man. “Are you holding your own health hostage?”

Yagi did not flinch. “If I have to.”

“You seem so sane on television.” Inko knocked her lukewarm tea back in one shot and sighed. He was determined and she was starting to see the hand of the Force in the whole ridiculous scenario. They said that gods might work in mysterious ways, but in her experience the Force was more likely to employ outrageous coincidence and stubborn idiots. 

“Counter offer; I will oversee my son’s training.” No way was she handing supervision of her only child and last padawan to some unknown muscle-bound moof milker. “You can set goals and consult with me. You may even observe.”

Yagi thought about it and looked her over -dwelling a moment on the satin bunny applique on her pink sweatshirt and her fluffy yellow house shoes- before he nodded. “If he’s not meeting goals, I reserve the right to take over.” 

Izuku’s phone bleeped at him right as he finally fell into bed. It had been both the best and the crappiest day. Either way, he just wanted to sleep… but he knew curiosity would keep him awake if he didn’t check his messages.

He grabbed his phone, hoping it was text spam.

Kacchan >:[ : Hey asshole

It wasn’t text spam.

Izuku: kacchan it’s almost midnight

Kacchan >:[ : Why didn’t you tell the cops that thing attacked you first

Izuku groaned and rolled over in bed. It wasn’t worth wondering how Kacchan had found out he’d been attacked too. Izuku’s mom shared almost everything with Aunt Mitsuki and you could hear Aunt Mitsuki’s phone conversations from the street. 

Izuku: They didn’t get to ask me a lot of questions. Death Arms and Kamui were too busy yelling.

Kacchan >:[ : Che

Kacchan >:[ : Well why didn’t you fucking tell me then

Kacchan >:[ : I had to find out when the Hag attacked me with iodine out of nowhere

Izuku: I didn’t want to think about it. It jumped me from behind and I lost consciousness for a minute. 

Izuku: All Might probably told them. He was the one who pulled it off me.

Kacchan >:[ : How the fuck did it get away from ALL MIGHT

Izuku: He put it in a soda bottle. It got out when no one was looking. It opened the cap like an octopus inside a jar.

Kacchan >:[ : lame

That got an unauthorized snort of laughter out of Izuku. Trust Kacchan to put things into perspective; a unique perspective to be sure, but better than what it had been before. 

Izuku: I think he was grocery shopping. He was carrying a conbini bag with him. It was real weird.

Kacchan >:[ : When I’m #1 I am not doing my own shopping. Fuck that.

Izuku: Right?

Izuku: Sorry I didn’t say anything. You’d just gotten attacked and I didn’t want to make it about me.

Kacchan >:[ : Suck it up next time nerd. Telling my ma ‘I don’t know’ when she asked me if your mom had taken you to the hospital wasn’t any better an experience.

The conversation paused just long enough for Izuku to start to drift off.

Kacchan >:[ : I still fucking smell it.

Kacchan >:[ : I took two showers and I keep smelling it like it’s in the room with me

That… Izuku swallowed hard. Kacchan didn’t admit to weakness. No wonder he was still awake. He had to be climbing the walls if it was bad enough for him to make that kind of confession and to Izuku of all people.

Sympathy would just make it worse.

Izuku: I put some mint ointment under my nose.

Kacchan >:[ : brb

That time Izuku did fall asleep before Kacchan came back and Kacchan had probably passed out around then too because there were no messages waiting when he woke up.

Kacchan was waiting, though, at the usual corner. He was alone for once and smelled like menthol.

“Where’s Ojiro and Kashima?” Izuku asked as Kacchan pushed away from the wall he’d been leaning on. He wasn’t real surprised that they hadn’t shown their faces in front of Kacchan that morning, but he had expected to spot them on the way to school.

“Fuckers finally got caught smoking.” Kacchan gritted out. “Ojiro’s ma called mine. Tried to blame it on me like I haven't been on their asses to quit all fucking year.” A brief, feral smile split his face. “Wrong night to pull that shit. The hag damn near reached through the phone and wrung her neck.”

“That’s what they did after they took off?” Izuku tried to picture how that would work: your friend gets attacked by a villain and you run off and… what? Chain smoke in a corner?

He could kind of picture Ojiro doing that. His homelife wasn’t awesome and he’d invent any excuse not to go back before he had to. Meanwhile Kashima didn’t have many original thoughts. It would have been better for him if Ojiro wasn’t around and he only had Kacchan to do his thinking for him, but Kashima liked Ojiro’s brand of rebellion better and copied him like a little kid even though he knew Ojiro often made bad decisions on purpose. 

Kacchan shook his head. “They were smoking before. Public safety officer smelled it on them and Noodle Neck had his smokes stuck in the outer pocket of his bag in full view. Now they’re both suspended.”

That officer must have made a big deal about it if their principal had gotten involved. Aldera Highschool’s reputation was already borderline and if the principal could ignore trouble then he absolutely did. If nobody saw it then it didn’t happen. If it didn’t happen then he didn’t have to explain it to the Musutafu Board of Education.

“That was dumb.” Izuku started walking because Kacchan was still glaring at his feet. It worked. Kacchan stomped after him, still fuming. “Fuze-sensei’s probably going to make us take notes for them.”

“Hell will fucking freeze over before I help those dicks ever again.” Kacchan grumbled.

Correction, Izuku would be taking notes for them. Oh well. 

Kacchan stuck close for the rest of the day. At first it was because they usually walked together, but word of the villain attack had gotten around by lunchtime and people started wandering by to stare, which put Kacchan’s hackles right up. Kacchan generally liked attention, but he hated being stared at so it was no surprise when he dragged Izuku out to eat on the lawn where it was harder for their classmates to find reasons to hang around.

They made it through the second half of the day without Kacchan snapping or Izuku having to intervene with the Force, but only just. By the time school was over even Izuku was on edge and very tired of being watched like an animal at the zoo. Thankfully neither of them had club duties. Some schools had Heroics prep clubs, but not Aldera so it wouldn’t look weird on their transcripts.

Kacchan was the one slouching out of the classroom behind Izuku for once. They walked their normal route quietly until they reached the point where Izuku usually veered off to prepare for his afterschool activities.

“Wanna get coffee?” Kacchan asked suddenly and didn’t quite inflect it like a question.

Izuku had enough time to change, eat, and make it to the warehouse. “I can’t. I got a thing.”

“Thing?” Kacchan cocked his head. “What thing?”

“I’m training with mom tonight.” Izuku was positive he’d told Kacchan before, but Kashima and Ojiro tended to talk over him. Izuku had suspected for a while that Kacchan didn’t track multiple conversations real well so he’d probably stopped listening to whoever was quietest.

“Since when do you train?” Kacchan circled around him, looking interested in anything Izuku had going on for the first time practically ever. “My ma offered Auntie a discount coupon once to the quirk gym we go to and she said she didn’t need it.”

“We got our own place in Manaan.” Izuku bit his tongue too late. There was no rule that he couldn’t talk about the warehouse. He’d just always understood that it was a place just for him and his mom. “It’s just an old warehouse, but it’s private property so we can train with quirks.”

That got a savage lopsided smile out of Kacchan; the first one Izuku had seen on him all day. “Yeah? I wanna see.”

“O-oh, um…” Izuku dropped his gaze and squirmed. They were starting the muscle-building regimen Yagi-san had cooked up with his mom today. He’d peeked at it and knew he was for sure going to get nauseous. It was the reason he hadn’t wanted coffee. He almost didn’t want to eat dinner, but Yagi-san had left his mom a draconian diet plan. Worse still, she’d read it over nodding in approval the whole time. “...that… is… probably not a good idea… maybe later?”

He didn’t expect the flat expression that settled over Kacchan’s face as he stuck his hands in his pockets and turned away. “Yeah, whatever.”

Izuku played his response back in his head and winced. That had sounded an awful lot like ‘I don’t want you to come’ in disguise. Maybe a little bit of it was resentment at being Kacchan’s default option once Thing 1 and Thing 2 were out of favor. 

Still, Kacchan had never asked him to hang out before. Even when they’d been closer as little kids he’d always told Izuku they were hanging out. Asking was kind of a big step for him and Izuku wasn’t so resentful that he was going to chase the guy off just because it wasn’t the perfect overture he’d been wanting. 

“Kacchan, wait!” 

The surly kid just stomped off faster. Izuku gave up pretending like he had pride when Kacchan got involved and ran after him. He did stop when Izuku caught his sleeve.

“I’m sorry! It’s a physical conditioning day.” He blurted out. “I’m for sure gonna barf and I didn’t want you to see!”

It was at once the best and worst thing he could have said. Kacchan stared at him and apparently decided Izuku wasn’t lying because he bared his teeth in a grin that made the other boy wonder if he should have just let him leave in his huff.

“Oh, now I’m definitely going.” 

Inko was not surprised when Katsuki showed up with Izuku to training that evening. Mitsuki had called ahead to warn her that he’d invited himself along and had asked her to put up with it. He’d apparently had two other friends with him at the time of that villain attack who’d run off and left him. 

Mitsuki didn’t like interfering with her son’s relationships even when she thought he’d made bad choices, but those boys or one of their parents had done something that made her change her mind. She was hoping to use the opportunity to maneuver Katsuki into cutting them loose and hanging around Izuku more. Katsuki, for once, didn’t seem to need much maneuvering. 

“This is it.” Izuku was showing him around the ropes course, which was much more complex than her first sorry attempt. They’d both changed into workout clothes. Izuku was wearing his usual tshirt and baggy short, but Katsuki’s father had Thoughts about what his child wore. It was the one area where he could outpersist his wife and son. Katsuki had a tight tank black top on and baggy harem trousers that looked like they’d be miserable to run in. “We kind of have a shower in the back, but the water pressure is really sad. You might want to wait until you get home.” He paused and rubbed the back of his head. “Usually I’m flat on my back at the end of the night and mom just turns the hose on me.”

“Fucker, you’ve been holding out on me!” Kacchan accused him without heat. He put on a slightly more respectful face when he saw Inko was listening. “Auntie, thanks for letting me come.” He said it like he was reading a script, which he probably was; direct from Mitsuki’s lips.

“Of course, dear.” She patted his face. “You’re welcome to come along with Izuku on the nights when we aren’t quirk training. It’s not a good time for non-telekinetics to be around. We’re trying to increase the number of objects Izuku can control at one time and sometimes things go flying.”

“Yeah, Deku said.” Katsuki looked embarrassed, but it was telling that he didn’t pull away. “I got quirk coaching on those nights anyway.”

He didn’t originally, but Mitsuki had jumped to reschedule him when Inko had explained the training timetable she had laid out for Izuku. Whatever Kashima or Ojiro’s mother had said to her sure had her fighting mad. She seemed determined to keep her son so occupied that neither boy would have the opportunity to wiggle back into his good graces.

“That’s good.” Inko smiled. “Now, I want you to be careful not to push yourself. This isn’t a time to risk injuries.”

Katsuki sneered. “I can handle anything he can.” He jerked a thumb at Izuku, who contemplated the ceiling with a neutral expression. “Just watch.”

An hour and a half later, Inko considered the two vacant-eyed boys lying prone on the asphalt outside the warehouse. “Check your pockets for electronics.” She warned them and got two affirmative groans in response. “All right, brace yourselves!”

She turned on the garden hose in her hand, pressing her thumb into the nozzle so it produced a wide and fine spray. Izuku made a noise of relief as the water washed over him and then flopped over so she could get the other side.

“Why aren’t you even sweating?” Katsuki accused her once he’d revived enough for outrage. 

She’d been doing everything they had, but the truth was that she’d been cheating by increasing her stamina through the Force. She had a certain silhouette to maintain, after all. Normally she’d have had Izuku doing the same thing, but Yagi needed him to bulk up and the fastest way to do that was to restrict his use of the Force and focus on his material body for a while. 

Katsuki was already quite fit up top, but she thought he might benefit from working his core and stamina a bit more. 

“I wonder?” Inko replied like she had no idea. 

Mitsuki pulled her little red Honda into the parking lot just then. She leaned out the window and grinned at the puddle containing her son. “Hey, you wore him out!” 

Katsuki found the strength to raise up one hand with the middle finger extended and she barked out a laugh. 

“All right, tough guy.” Mitsuki cooed once she’d parked and emerged with the big towel Inko had warned her to bring. “Say goodnight and we’ll go home.”

“Fff… thanks Auntie.” Katsuki dipped his head in a reluctant bow. “Gonna kick your ass next time, Deku.”

“You can try. We’re doing ropes tomorrow.” Izuku offered with a tremulous smile that Katsuki, miraculously, returned. 

“Yeah. Sounds good.” He waved one hand as he stumbled off with his mother. “Night.” 

“I think that went well.” Inko said to her own weary child. “Katsudon tonight?”

“Yeah.” Izuku pulled himself to his feet and staggered towards the bathroom to change into dry clothes, still smiling.

“Oh my.” Inko murmured to herself, thinking of a certain bet she and Mitsuki-chan had made years and years ago when the boys were still velcroed together at all times. 

She might end up having to pay out after all.  

Chapter Text

Inko frowned at her phone two days later. The incoming call was from Yagi. She had two other missed calls from him and no voice messages. He couldn’t possibly have been to a doctor yet and she couldn’t imagine what other reason he had to call her.

“Inko-san, I swear I did not tell him anything.” He said as soon as the call connected. “I tried to keep you anonymous, I swear, but this person showed up and started asking all these leading questions and he already knew your name. I didn’t tell him where you are, but he might be looking.”

She closed her eyes and counted to ten. Well, there was that cat out of the bag. Only years of training in controlling her sudden, overwhelming emotions and making her peace with what could not be changed kept her urge to swear at bay. “Was his name Hisashi?” She guessed.

“I… yes?” She heard the sound of rushed air over the connection. “Do you know him?”

“Yes.” Unfortunately. “Are you transformed right now?”

“I may have had to escape the hospital.” Yagi admitted. “I’m not heading towards you, but do you know of a place where I could lay low for a few hours and break my trail?”

Well, at least he hadn’t wasted time getting that second opinion. Unfortunately, whatever he’d done to be seen so quickly had gotten Hisashi’s attention. She’d never been clear on what it was he did for the Prime Minister except make national problems disappear. All Might’s health problems must have been on his radar already. Hisashi had been a good friend and acceptable lover for a little while; emphasis on a little while. 

“Manaan district. Do you know where the wharf is? There’s a group of warehouses there.” He made an affirmative noise. “I’ll meet you at the main office.”

“That’s not a very good neighborhood…” Yagi started to say, but she hung up on him before he could get too judgemental. 

Instead she grabbed her keys, changed her top and shoes, then drove out to the warehouse. Izuku was still in school, but she texted him anyway so he and Katsuki would stay home. He knew about his father and was curious about him, but not enough to meet the man in person.

Yagi was by the front gate, trying and failing to look small, when she pulled up next to him and unlocked the passenger door without a word. He just barely fit into the car and it dipped on his side. She made a mental note to put him on a scale at some point. He was skin and bones. Where was all that mass hiding?

“Sorry.” Yagi’s tone said he was very, very tired of making that apology. His gaze flicked over her outfit; a long sleeved tee with a dewy eyed pug on it with a polkadot bow tie sewn under its chin and a pink cardigan with tiny pink pompoms on bows at the wrist. He didn’t say anything about it.

“Don’t be.” She said, pretending to misunderstand. “Hisashi can be very persistent.”

No one said anything as she drove up to her warehouse, but Yagi made a low impressed noise when she let him in. 

“I think I owe you an apology.” He turned a slow circle, looking at the overhead ropes course and other training equipment. “I didn’t think you’d take things this seriously.”

“I only added the weights.” Inko answered absently. There were folding chairs somewhere. Yagi might not be able to use them, but she wanted to make the gesture at least. “There’s a fridge in the old office. You can have anything in there you like.” 

“Thank you. My plan was to make him do a beach cleanup.” Yagi chuckled. “Dagobah Beach, actually.”

She was familiar with the site. If you were looking to build up someone’s physique quickly then it was a decent exercise even though anyone working there would be courting tetanus or worse. “Maybe in the future.” She told him.

Yagi quirked a smile at her that… well, Inko was surprised at how pleased she was to see it. It was different from his television smile; lopsided and unguarded. It took ten years off his face. She wanted to see it again.

He sobered quickly though. “Midoriya-san…”

“Inko is fine.” Inko had never warmed up to her pseudonym. Her new name was close enough to her old one that she didn’t have trouble recognizing it. They didn’t have surnames where she came from. She never quite responded right when someone used it even after all this time. 

“Inko-san then.” Yagi’s ears turned red. “Please call me Toshinori in that case.” He cleared his throat, looking uncomfortable. “Today, I just so happened to notice…”

Izuku was the slightly shorter second coming of his father so Inko didn’t need Yagi to get around to asking the rest of his question. “Yes.” She said. “He’s Izuku’s other parent. No, he’s not involved and no, he doesn’t know about Izu. I’d appreciate it if you kept it that way for now.”

Like most human men presented with that request, Toshinori radiated discomfort. “Surely he had the right to know?”

Inko quit fussing with the storage bins. “You met him, yes?” She asked.

“I… yes.” He nodded to himself. Even a confirmed bachelor like All Might could take one look at Hisashi and know he was not co-parent material; not even a little bit. “Yes, I did.”

Hisashi was a classic government spook; he was married to his job and would probably die in service to his country. In the meantime, he would use anything and anyone in pursuit of his goals. When they were still 'together', he’d vanish for weeks to months at a time without a word and then reappear to ask if she wanted to get dinner and a hotel room like he hadn’t even been gone.

Inko hadn’t been emotionally invested in him so she hadn’t minded, but he would have made a miserable partner. He was far more tolerable as an occasional booty call, but even that level of interest had faded in her by the time she turned up pregnant. 

Hisashi wasn’t interested in children and wouldn’t have put much effort into a relationship with his son until Izuku was old enough to be useful. Then, when he found out Izuku had taken after Inko, he would have put in way too much effort --no doubt with an eye toward turning Izuku into a junior agent.

She had a vague plan to introduce them once Izuku was an adult and able to withstand the sort of persuasive power Hisashi was able to bring to bear, assuming Hisashi hadn’t gotten himself blown up in the meantime. 

“We weren’t in a relationship, Toshinori-san.” She took pity on him. “The condom broke.”

That and her implant had failed on her ahead of schedule. She hadn’t even been sure she could reproduce with the locals, but Izuku was evidence that her ancestral DNA hadn’t drifted that far away from that of the people on Earth.

That time his entire head turned red. It was perilously cute. 

She might have found a little bit of trouble.

“While I’ve got you…” Something occurred to Inko. She didn’t often need help. She had the only ally anyone ever needed, but the Force wasn’t always as helpful as a second pair of eyes or hands or an extra intelligence could be. “...would you mind helping me with something?”

Toshinori looked confused. “I… yes?”

An hour or so later, Inko turned the tap in the kitchenette and was rewarded by clean hot water. “I’m impressed!” She leaned over to offer Toshinori a hand out from under the sink. “I’ve been struggling to get that filter to work for ages.” Not that she’d been putting much effort into it. The thing she missed most about home was utility droids. 

Toshinori chuckled and gently waved her hand away. “Thank you, but I weigh more than I look like I do. I’d hate to injure you.” He said. “It was no problem. It’s easier to fix things myself than go through the elaborate security measures necessary to let a handyman into my house.”

She could picture that.

“Can I offer you a drink?” She tried to remember what a person functioning with a reduced digestive system could and couldn’t have. 

“Water, please.” Toshinori carefully sat down at the little table Inko had dragged in from the curb once so she and Izuku could bring their dinner to the warehouse and have a place to eat. The chair creaked underneath him, but didn’t give.

She handed him a glass and noodled around on her phone for a minute or so while he caught his breath. She pretended not to notice when he pulled out a kerchief and dabbed a little blood away from his lips.

It was so tempting to go do something about that, but Inko knew she wouldn’t be able to stop once she started. Toshinori’s condition was in a delicate balance. If she interfered she’d need to find a way to fix the whole mess and she didn’t have her old equipment anymore.

“Inko-san.” Toshinori coughed a little more blood, but didn’t seem distressed by it so she let it go. “May I ask why you left Agent Akatani?”

As though summoned by Toshinori’s innocent question, someone rapped their knuckles against the metal wall of the warehouse so it echoed through the interior.

Hisashi looked fundamentally unchanged from her memory of him; he was still tall with narrow hips, big hands, and long, long legs. Izuku was a bit stouter and gained muscle differently, she realized, but they had the same face and poofy curls. 

He had a new accessory in the form of a younger suited man following him half a pace behind. He was about Hisashi’s age and had the pinched, tired look of someone who had been putting up with a lot.

“Inko!” Hisashi let himself in with that big, winning smile he wore when he wanted a favor. He stopped on a dime when their eyes met and his eyes flicked up and down, taking her in. “ got fat.”

Behind him his partner closed his eyes and dragged a hand down his face, pulling hard enough to expose the pink insides of his lower lids.

Inko sighed and heard Toshinori say ‘oh’ in the tone of someone who’d just answered their own question.

They were in the back of the first humvee Toshinori had ever seen in Japan and headed out of the city before he quite understood what was happening. They were going to one of the regional government research facilities. It was technically the Musutafu campus, but it was really about an hour outside of the city.

Toshinori spent more time there than he liked. It was where his care team was based although they came into town in order to see him.   

Inko-san sat next to him and watched the passing scenery with a serene expression that never faltered no matter what Agent Akatani did to try and draw her attention from the front passenger seat.

He hadn’t realized how often she smiled until she wasn’t. She wasn’t frowning exactly either; just there, but somewhere else entirely at the same time.

“...salvaged most of it for study.” Akatani was saying. Toshinori squashed his increasing irritation with the man. “We kept the medical suite intact, of course, in case we ever met up with you again. It’s still got power, but the robots won’t talk to any of us unless we’re bleeding.” He made a face. “Except for the protocol droid. That one won’t shut up.”

“They get lonely.” Inko finally cracked. “It’s supposed to be around other people. You can’t just lock it up in a closet with a power connection and expect it to amuse itself.”

“Please don’t be concerned, ma’am. D5-N6 has a regular game night with the support technicians and moderates an AI Rights Activism forum.” Agent Kobayashi commented from the driver’s seat in a tired monotone. “The Director hired it as his assistant. It has a salary and it’s own apartment. It’s getting plenty of socialization. It just knows that Agent Akatani will go away if it doesn’t let him get a word in.”

“See, we’re taking good care… wait.” Hisashi looked at his partner. “What was that last part?”

“It doesn’t like you.” Kobayashi clarified. “Because you won’t use its name, you talk about it like it’s not there, and you walk too fast for it to keep up even though everyone tells you not to.”

“Well that seems unreasonable.” Toshinori could see the cheerful sociopath discard the problem in favor of continuing to bother Inko, which was starting to bother him on a level he was unfamiliar with. 

He had dated, of course. It was hard not to when you got into the International Top 25 Rankings. If he didn’t see a carefully vetted someone in public every so often then the journalists started making stuff up; extrapolating wild melodrama from the smallest interactions with any woman or sufficiently attractive man he met. 

Toshinori was married to his work, but his management team occasionally had him escort a nice young lady to charity events so that he would never again wake up one morning and open his news browser to find out he was in a love triangle with two up and coming young heroes -one of whom he was positive was a lesbian and the other was happily married- or had fathered a child with someone who wasn’t even pregnant. That one had been extra bad. Permafrost had had an ovarian cyst and got a little swollen before her surgery, just enough of a pot belly to show when she was in costume, but the news hounded her for weeks about her supposed 'baby bump' when she should have been allowed to rest. There were still people who were convinced she’d gotten an abortion. 

Midoriya Inko was not young or particularly ladylike when she wasn’t paying attention. She was nice in her own way, although Toshinori found he was starting to look forward to those times when her harmless Japanese Homemaker aspect slipped. Someone more acerbic peeked out then and she was not impressed by him even a little bit. 

Both parts were her though and he found her enjoyed her company no matter what face she was showing him that day. The homemaker was as much a part of her as that other old acquaintance Hisashi was trying to tease out of Inko.

“Hisashi, just ask what you’re going to ask.” Inko folded her hands over her crossed knees. “Or I could help you get to your point.”

Hisashi pulled back, cowed in an instant. Kobayashi’s eyes widened in the rearview mirror.

“That won’t be necessary.” Hisashi cleared his throat and adjusted his tie. His gaze flicked over in Toshinori’s direction. He raised an eyebrow at whatever Toshinori’s face was doing and hurried up. “We’d like you to help him.” He nodded again in Toshinori’s direction. “It took two internationally renowned geneticists and someone with a psychometric quirk to replicate your diagnosis. They almost gave up. If it had been anyone else they might have. His care team has been very interested in you and reached out to me when All Might refused to reveal his source. Right away, I knew it had to be you.”

“I chose to keep my source anonymous for a reason, Agent Akatani.” Toshinori rumbled. “In the future you will respect my personal decisions. Am I understood?”

All Might was not often seen threatening people unless they had a hostage, but he’d gotten better at it than he ever thought he would given his childhood aspirations of becoming the Symbol of Peace. There was a certain breed person who had the best of intentions and very few compunctions about trampling his boundaries. Those people didn’t respond to anything except being loomed at.

“Y-yes.” He looked uncannily like young Midoriya in that moment and Toshinori came to the reluctant realization that he was never going to like Akatani Hisashi and that decision had been taken out of his hands before they ever met.

He’d been lauded by many as the greatest man on earth, but in one way it seemed he had turned out to be very, very average. 

Hisashi adjusted his tie again and returned his attention to Inko. A lesser man wouldn’t have been able to ignore the way an irritable Toshinori-san was glaring a hole into his skull, but Hisashi was good at ignoring imminent danger in favor of advancing his case.

“I wanted to show you where your old operating theater ended up.” He said. “I think you’ll be happy. We’ve been taking good care of it.” 

“You were hoping to use nostalgia to convince me to help you again.” Inko translated. “It’s unnecessary. If my equipment is still intact then I’ll help. You can take the clinic to pieces then. I expect most of the chemicals and medication fabricators are nearing the end of their shelf lives. If you want to learn anything from them you’ll need to start soon.”

That wasn’t entirely true. She’d stocked her ship in preparation of living in the shell of a failed colony, but had to reassess her plans upon discovering Earth was a happy, thriving, and technologically advancing garden world. There wasn’t anything on the shuttle that humans hadn’t already worked out most of for themselves --except the Kolto tank.

She’d managed to obtain a rare and precious Bacta starter culture before leaving home, which was living in the closet at her apartment at that very moment. She’d chosen to leave the Kolto tank behind in her shuttle, which she’d gifted to the Japanese government in exchange for her citizenship and the right to live in the country without being monitored. It wasn’t portable or as good as Bacta in equal quantities and it only occurred naturally on one planet in the entire galaxy anyway.

It would take her months to produce enough Bacta to stock a recovery tank if she was willing to use all of it, but if the Kolto was still viable then she had a very good chance at fixing Toshinori up to the point where he could have a normal lifespan without his quirk. He seemed determined to pass it on and she found she was less and less willing to let him die. 

If the cloning tanks were still stocked and functional then she could do even better than that.

Hisashi blinked rapidly at her. “I was expecting to have to persuade you more.”

“You can’t see what I can see.” She reminded him. Hisashi was one of four people on the planet who knew what she was and what she could do. He’d been on the team that intercepted her shuttle when she’d finally decided on Japan as the landmass she wanted to live on. 

To give him credit, he’d advocated hard on her behalf when his superiors had been leaning towards disappearing her into some government sanctioned gulag. They had no way of knowing they couldn’t contain her, but Hisashi had managed to convince them she’d make a better friend than an enemy. 

“That’s true.” Hisashi replied in a rare moment of humility. “How bad is it?”

“Bad enough.” She replied. “It’s good to know the medical droids are still working. If Tosh… if All Might is willing to undergo the procedure then I’ll need their help.”

Hisashi’s slow blink was the only indication he gave that he had absolutely not missed her slip.

Toshinori-san frowned, but it turned out to not be over her nearly giving away his name. “What procedure?” He asked.

“It’ll depend on what I have to work with.” Inko hesitated to make promises she couldn’t keep. “I used to be a surgeon. I specialized in delicate extractions.” Hisashi did not call her on that enormous lie and Kobayashi didn’t seem to know any better. “I should be able to extract that keloid and the neurotoxin it’s already injected into your system.”

The guards at the research campus’s gate let them in after a lengthy check and Kobayashi drove them deep into the complex to a medium sized building where everyone seemed to recognize Toshinori-san even in his smaller state. There weren’t many people around, but those who were bowed with deep respect and gave him plenty of space.

Hisashi led them to the elevator. “We’re headed to one of the sub-basements.” He explained. 

‘Sub-basement’ was right. They went down to a floor labelled SB5 and the elevator let them out onto a spacious open bay that had probably been where they’d dissected her shuttle. Parts of it were still attached to the medical bay, which stood in the center of SB5 surrounded by the shuttle’s chassis, little mobile scanning carts, and many stout cables running this way and that on the floor.

Waiting for them was D5-N6, who’d had itself re-sprayed since she saw it last. It had started out with a dull red enamel coating, but had since switched over to an interesting color-blocking of pale blue, navy, silver, and gold.

“Oh, mum, how good to see you again!” It shuffled happily up to them, walking straight past Hisashi without even an ‘excuse me’ which was the protocol droid equivalent of shooting someone on sight. D5-N6 really didn’t like him.

“D5, you’re looking very dashing.” She clapped as it turned a proud little circle to let her see the whole effect.

“Yes, I have come to appreciate the local aesthetic.” It agreed. “One of the gentlebeings in support has been quite kind about helping me keep the new paint job touched up. They’ve even worked up an oil bath for me. Oh, I was worried when you left, but I do enjoy it here. Mostly.”

She took it by the elbow and started walking towards the med bay. “Has anyone been bothering you?” She asked in quiet Basic.

“Oh, no one organic, Master In’Ko. Except Agent Akatani, who tries everyone’s patience so I’m hardly in the minority there.” D5 assured her in the same language. “The local synthetics though are very alien; both more and less advanced in many ways. They have excellent processing capabilities and I am very jealous of wireless technology on this planet, but their storage capabilities are… well, a bit primitive, shall we say, so they haven’t much personality. So I’ve only had the utility and medical suite droids for company and you know how they can be. Still, I am very pleased with my work and I’ve taken up several hobbies. You mustn’t worry about me, Master In’Ko. I am content here.”

“I’m glad to hear it. If you’re ever unhappy I will take you home with me.” She reassured it. 

“Oh, I would so hate to intrude...” D5 fretted, “...but I will accept if things are less pleasing here in the future. The locals are very nice, but not quite up to snuff in terms of civilized behavior all the time.”

“As long as you’re happy, that’s what’s important.” Inko switched back to Japanese. “Can you tell me how prepared the med bay is for a class four surgical extraction and organ replacement?”

“The medical bay is operating at 96% efficiency. The dedicated battery bank is operating at a reduced capacity, but T3-M1 was able to rewire the bay to be compatible with the local power grid. I would not recommend running all the equipment at once. We’ve had brown-outs that way, but you should not notice any degradation in service otherwise.” D5 reported at once. “The support technicians have found local replacements for the cloning tank feedstocks. The Kolto tank is nearing the end of its usable life, but will be good for one or two more patients depending on the severity of their injuries. Surgical Assistants 4E and 5F report ready for duty. They would also like me to pass on their greetings. They are pleased to be able to work with you again, mum.”

“Glad to hear it.” She turned to consider the stunned hero hanging a bit back, watching her with wide eyes. “All Might, do you mind if I get some scans and tissue samples? We can’t do anything today, but I can get the automatics started.”

“What… exactly would you be doing?” He asked, looking around and taking in his surroundings. Nothing looked too alien. The shuttle had been built by humans for humans and you could only make tables and chairs in so many configurations. Most of the signs and labels in Aurebesh had been covered up with Japanese translations courtesy of D5-N6. “You mentioned a cloning tank.”

“Yes.” Inko guided him over to the small series of dedicated organ duplicators. She had once been a xeno-medical specialist, but she’d stocked the shuttle with her own needs in mind. The surgical assistants were able to conduct most surgeries by themselves, but the state of Japanese medicine was such that she felt comfortable going to a hospital if she was in need. “If the scans indicate that your internal organs meet the baseline human standard then I’ll be able to use these to grow replacements. They used 3D printed scaffolds to grow new organs using cloned tissue --your cloned tissue.”

“This technology exists?” Toshinori covered his mouth with one enormous hand. “Why isn't it in wider use?”

“Well, I can’t answer that.” Inko admitted. She’d kind of expected to see a miraculous medical advancement in the news for years. “This equipment is nearly twenty years old. They’ve had it for fifteen.”

“We have succeeded in reverse engineering some of it.” Kobayashi joined them. “The technicians have been going very slowly with this portion of the donated vessel even with D5-N6’s assistance and the utility droids. Since it’s still functional they are cautious about breaking anything, but the duplicators will be beginning human trials soon. It’s similar enough to organ cloning research from the 21st century with the kinks worked out that we should be able to get the Prime Minister and the Ministry of Health to authorize it for public use within a few years.”

She noticed Toshinori frown at the words ‘donated vessel’, but he didn’t ask. He probably would later. She’d need to ask Hisashi what the party line was these days.

“It’s safe.” Hisashi was more emotionally intelligent than he looked or acted. He sidled up to Toshinori and ignored the crease that appeared between the hero’s brows in response to his proximity. “A certain member of the Imperial family had their heart replaced here once. I can’t name names, you understand, but we know it works.”

It had been the Emperor himself, who was suffering from complications from an assassination attempt, and he was likely the reason they’d been allowed to continue experimenting with cloning technology despite the fact that it had been internationally outlawed on Earth a long time ago.

Inko didn’t say anything.

Toshinori turned towards her. “What do you think?” He asked. It was a far cry from his first reaction to her as a medical authority.

“I think you should do it.” She replied, leaving her reasons why unsaid. He already knew her thoughts on the subject. “There are many people who would like you to live as long as possible. It’s the natural consequence of being a universally adored icon.”

She didn’t say Izuku’s name, but it hung in the air between them.

If he underwent the surgery then he’d get his way and his heir. Izuku had already consented.

He nodded once, hard; an agreement to try and live rather than let himself fade away.

“D5, could you get the scanner warmed up for me?” She asked and the protocol droid happily shuffled off. “All Might, you’ll need to hop up onto the scanning bed there. The surgical assistants will run the imager. It’s noninvasive. You just need to lay still. They’ll position you if they need to. Just relax and let them move you around.” She suppressed a smile when he hesitated, looking at the seemingly flimsy scanner bed. “You won’t break it. It’s able to bear up to 650 pounds.” Humans didn’t get much above 300 very often, but a well built adult Wookie or hydrated Selkath could range into the upper 400s.

He was still very careful when laying down. The surgical assistant booped happily at her in droidspeak and got to work. 

Kobayashi took a step closer once Toshinori was occupied. “May I have a word, ma’am?” There was something chilly about his demeanour and this time Inko held back a sigh. She knew what was coming and it would be tiresome at best.

“D5, keep All Might company please.” She directed the droid. “Help him if he has trouble understanding 4E or 5F.”

“It will be done, mum.” D5 tilted its expressionless face in Kobayashi’s direction and then shuffled back towards Toshinori’s side. Hisashi was off at a distance doing something on his phone and wasn’t paying attention. 

She let Kobayashi lead her far enough away where they could talk quietly and not be overheard.

“You should come back.” He said without preamble.

“Thank you, no.” She didn’t hesitate either.

“Japan is in need of your skills.” Kobayashi was unsurprised by her instant demurral. “According to Senior Agent Akatani, this facility hasn’t been in use since you left. It could have been expanded if you’d stayed. The robots only obey us if they feel like it. I have never seen that level of instant obedience out of them before today. You may have left us with authorization to give them directions, but they don’t recognize us as their masters.”

“It’s because they respect me. I’m not their master either.” Inko had tried to explain that the technicians would need to build a rapport with the droids, but apparently that had gone in one ear and out the other. “They don’t obey me without question either. Have you brought a doctor in to make friends with them? As far as they’re concerned you’re a bunch of irritating laypeople. Why would they listen to you?"

“No one we’ve found has your abilities.” Kobayashi cocked his head. “You’d benefit from the arrangement. There is a small task force of elite agents who handle special tasks for the nation. I believe you would do well there. They’re very well compensated. It must be uncomfortable living in such a small apartment with a growing, exuberant boy.” The chill between them intensified. “I wonder, does Akatani know you had his child?”

Inko let herself smile, froze him in place, and reached into his mind . “You will not reveal anything you know about my son to anyone.”

Kobayashi’s gaze blanked. “I will not reveal anything I know about your son to anyone.” He echoed.

“Good.” Inko released him, raised her voice, and called out. “Hisashi, come get your puppy.”

This wasn’t the first time she’d been threatened nor would it likely be the last. The last person who’d tried to blackmail her had at least been a Hutt and Kobayashi lacked even a quarter of Qursa Nex’s presence. Using Force Persuasion was a stopgap measure and mostly a lesson to Kobayashi about picking his targets better. If Hisashi knew where she was then he'd find out about Izuku sooner rather than later, but she wasn't about to make it easy on him. If she could postpone that headache then she was going to.

Hisashi lowered his phone and squinted at them until he could see the alarmed rolling of Kobayashi’s eyes as he realized all over again that he was paralyzed. “I need to go, sir. Kobayashi fucked up again.” He hung up and strode over. “I told you to leave that black ops shit behind you!” He hissed and turned to Inko. “What did he do?”

“Expressed a wish that I would start working for Y.U.R.E.I. and then started describing my home and family.” She flicked her fingers and Kobayashi slid in his direction.

Hisashi blew his breath out in a hiss. “Right. Great. Wonderful. Exactly what I needed today.” He turned Kobayashi's face so their eyes met. “She was one of the founding members of Y.U.R.E.I., dumbass. They’re allowed to retire.” He explained in clipped, irritable tones. Akatani Hisashi was a pushy little scab, but even he drew the line at intimidation. That, mercifully, hadn’t changed. For one thing, given the individuals Hisashi tended to wrangle on the behalf of the government, it almost never worked so what would even be the point of trying? “I told you what would happen if I caught you doing this again. Inko, can you let him go?”

She let Kobayashi fall. He landed, wide-eyed, on his butt. He suddenly looked about ten years younger and Inko suspected that his partnership with Hisashi was the Earth equivalent of harnessing a misbehaving young tauntaun to an old cranky one so it could learn basic manners.

“This is your fault too.” Hisashi griped as he helped who she’d thought was his partner, but was apparently an agent he was babysitting instead. “Why are you dressed like you run a lifestyle bento box blog? That is practically entrapment.”

“Do I need to come over there?” Toshinori rumbled from the scanning bed.

“Nope! We’re good!” Hisashi called back. “You, go stand in the corner.” He told Kobayashi, pointing to a dimly lit corner on the far side of SB5 from the elevator. He followed, giving the man a sharp dressing down that Inko could still hear. “Don’t give me that face. If you’re going to act like a schoolyard thug then I’m going to treat you like a schoolyard thug. You get that this is your last stop, right? I’m the penal regiment of partnerships. You’re not here because I need help. You’re here because no one else wants to deal with the way you keep losing the plot anymore. You have one chance to turn it around and lots more chances to end up smeared across the pavement. We should be grateful you tried it on her. She’ll just mess with your brain and turn you into a marionette if you annoy her. Obake would have shown you your own heart before you even got done...”

They passed out of earshot and Inko went back to keep Toshinori company.

“Are you all right?” He asked and the concern was --well, it was legitimately touching. She could hardly remember the last time anyone other than her child or the Bakugos had worried about her without being mostly concerned about how it would affect them.

“Nothing I can’t handle.” She assured him.

“We can leave if you want.” Toshinori insisted. “No one here can stop me if I decide we’re done.”

‘Precious.’ She thought to herself and let the warmth of his regard fill the hollow dark place she’d skirted the edges of when Kobayashi had threatened her child.

“I believe you.” She patted his shoulder and pulled up a report from the surgical assistants. “It’s been dealt with.”

Chapter Text

Izuku wasn’t used to not having anything to do. His entire life was ruthlessly scheduled; school, homework, Force training, and now physical training. 

He’d almost gone to the warehouse anyway until he remembered that his mom had ordered him to stay clear. 

So instead he went home, changed, and considered what he wanted to do while he fixed himself some dinner. He didn’t have any errands to run and there were no movies showing that he cared about. 

His phone buzzed just as he was finishing up with his math worksheets.

Kacchan >:[ : What are you doing

Izuku: Hi Kacchan

Izuku: I’m finishing homework.

Kacchan >:[ : I mean after that, nerd

Izuku: Haven’t decided. It’s still early. I was thinking about going Fight Hunting. Haven’t done that in a while. Might see if I can spot any of the new grads. It’s that time of year, you know?

Kacchan >:[ : No, I wouldn’t. Ain’t ever been.

Kacchan >:[ :   You’re the only person I know who still goes and you never invited me.

Izuku rolled his eyes and finally understood that Kacchan was bored or annoyed with his mother and angling for an invitation.

Izuku: I totally have and the last time you said fight hunting is, quote, ‘for nerdass Hero stans and babies.’

To his surprise, Kacchan replied with;

Kacchan >:[ : Guess I did say that

Kacchan >:[ : That thing you posted on HBook with Ms. Joke and the metal guy was pretty okay.

Izuku wet his lips and wondered just what was happening.

Izuku: It’s hardly ever like that, tbh.

Izuku: Usually it’s more like people watching. Half the time I only get there in time to see the post-takedown interview and that’s kind of boring. I mostly wander around listening to a police scanner and, like, buy snacks. 

Kacchan >:[ : Sounds better than staying home. Meet you at the station in 20. 

Izuku groaned and flopped over on the couch. Typical Kacchan. He grabbed a cushion and shouted his frustration into it. Then he went to wrap his plate up, put it in the fridge, change again , and grab his bag.

He got to the station within fifteen minutes, but Kacchan had already beaten him there. Uncle Masaru had apparently caught him before he left though. He was dressed in a tight black tank top, a puffy canvas jacket that kept sliding off one annoyingly buff shoulder while Kacchan tooled around on his phone, and a pair of slouchy pants that were baggy up top in accordance to his preference in fit but tapered halfway down the leg. 

Anyone else would have looked stupid in those pants. Kacchan just looked like he was posing for the catalog picture that would trick them all into buying a pair. He had his mom’s inherent ability to make even the dumbest outfits look good.

“I see your dad got to you.” Izuku observed as he trotted up to join his friend; only too happy to kick him when he was down.

“Just you fucking wait.” Kacchan sneered back, which was as good as a ‘yes.’ “He’s been wanting to get at you for years.”

“Hasn’t caught me yet!” Izuku chirped and fumbled his phone out. “Hang on. I gotta listen to the scanner to figure out where we’re going.”

“What’re you listening for?” Kacchan went over so he could hear the low volume of Izuku’s phone. “They make an announcement or something?”

“I’m listening to how the dispatchers are feeling.” Izuku flicked through the channels, instantly dismissing anyone who sounded too bored or at ease. He stopped on the general channel for Bespin ward. The dispatcher speaking had a tense, unhappy quality to her voice. That meant Bespin had been having A Day and villain activity tended to happen in zones. They weren’t organizing, exactly, they just tended to move in the same directions. “Oh, found a cranky one! Here we go. Bespin.”

Bespin was mostly shopping and fast casual restaurants. It was a great place for fight hunting with a noob. Even if they didn’t find anything there’d be ways to keep entertained. Now that he was out he was looking forward to spending an afternoon out being a normal kid with a (sort of) normal friend.

“S’fine I guess.” Kacchan led the way onto the platform. “We’re taking the blue line.”

“Fine by me.” Izuku would have chosen that one anyway. Their other option was the yellow line and while it might have been more efficient it ran through Ryloth -where all the clubs and bars were- and tended to pick up smelly members of the hard party crowd as they staggered home at any time of day after an extended bender.

It was after rush hour so they were able to find seats on the train and Kacchan showed him an article on his phone -a piece about Tiger of the Wild, Wild Pussycats that consistently misgendered him because he hadn’t changed his costume after his transition even thought he’d held a press conference specifically so people would knock that off- that got Izuku so worked up that they reached their stop before he could stop his rant.

“Hit pause, nerd.” Kacchan got him by the back of the shirt while Izuku took a biiiig breath and finally made himself calm down. 

He opened his mouth to say something, but some dude across the way muttered “Finally!” loud enough for the whole train car to hear and his face went hot. He’d forgotten about his volume, clearly.

“Nobody was fuckin’ talking to you. Mind your business!” Kacchan snapped, bristling enough that the other guy dropped his gaze and didn’t say anything else as the doors opened. “Come on.” 

Izuku’s voice stayed stuck until they’d gotten a few blocks from the until Kacchan elbowed him and said, “... you gonna finish or not?”

“O-oh! Um, lemme put an ear bud in first now that we’re here.” He said as he fumbled the case out of his pocket.

“Lemme have the other.” Kacchan held out his hand and snapped when Izuku hesitated. “You can’t listen and talk at the same time. Come on.”

That was a valid point so Izuku handed one over. “Ok, but stick close. They don’t have much range.” 

The dispatcher was a little calmer when he tuned back in so they might have missed the excitement, but Izuku wasn’t willing to try a new area quite so soon. There was a street fair a few blocks away from the train station and either someone was going to hit it or they were going to go and have a good time.

It had been ages since he’d been able to hang out with someone his own age who wasn’t with him under duress or their parents weren’t around. 

The street fair was for a local anniversary of some kind. The booths were all local businesses shilling for their particular specialties, but there was food and music so there was plenty to do and see. Izuku got distracted by someone doing a folk music set so he didn’t notice when Kacchan peeled off or when he came back until a churro appeared under his nose.

“Oh, matcha!” He accepted it and squinted at the bright red one Kacchan had bought for himself. “What’s that one?”

Kacchan took a big, happy, savage bite of it. “California Reaper.” He chewed for a second and then shrugged. “Allegedly. It ain’t that hot.”

“For you maybe. All your heat receptors are dead at this point. I’m surprised you can taste spice at all anymore.” Izuku took a bite of his and found it to also be a little bland. It had some chocolate in it though, which improved matters. “I wonder if they’re selling CDs. I like this song.”

“Table’s over there.” Kacchan jerked his chin in an arbitrary direction. “Let’s go.”

They were selling little cheap CDs in cardboard sleeves so Izuku bought one and a little poster because he liked the art.

The next group was a weird comedic band and Izuku found he didn’t much like them. Fortunately, Kacchan pulled him away and tapped his earbud.

Izuku started paying attention again and realized there was a street fight going on three blocks away. Unfortunately… “Oh, it’s Kamui Woods.” He never really wanted to see that guy again, but slanted a look at Kacchan. “We can still go if you want?”

“Hell no.” Kacchan looked a little distant, like he was caught up in a memory he didn’t like. “If I never see Barkface again it’ll be too soon.”

“There’s probably going to be another fight somewhere soon.” Izuku understood that feeling only too well. “Velocity shows up around here sometimes. She’s really cool. Maybe we’ll get lucky.”

Kacchan nodded and then pointed at a stall. “We’re getting croquettes.”

Izuku looked and saw they had curry filled ones. He hadn’t had enough at dinner and suddenly they were all he could see. His bodybuilding regimen had trebled his appetite. “Oh man, yes.”

They snacked their way through the fair and ended up taking a picture in front of the ugliest statue Izuku had ever seen. Kacchan sort of sneered at the camera, but also made him retake it three times so that they both ended up looking good and Izuku took up more of the shot than the top part of his head and a peace sign. 

Izuku was full, happy, and a bit tired as the light started to die. He’d kind of forgotten why they’d come out in the first place and was happy to have spent some time with his oldest friend, which had been surprisingly easy.

So, of course, that was when a building exploded right next to them.

Fortunately, it was a building that had been built up to code. The glass store windows crumbled into little cube-like granules and didn’t hurt anyone. The contents of the building, though, went flying out the Izuku instinctively shielded himself and the people around him from the flying drywall and random twisted bits of what had probably been office furniture. 

An arm slung around his waist and someone hauled him away from the scene. “Drop it.” Kacchan hissed in his ear, pulling him around the corner of a larger much sturdier building. “Everyone’s clear. We ain’t out here to get arrested.”

Izuku realized he’d not just shielded himself. He’d halted the debris in midair. The people around them had also run for shelter so there was no one to accidentally drop it on. Izuku released it all and realized he had his back to a wall. Kacchan had his forearms resting on the brick wall with Izuku bracketed between them. Thankfully, his attention was in the street and not the colors Izuku was surely turning.

The word ‘kabedon’ echoed through Izuku’s head, but fortunately not out his mouth.

A hero and a villain plowed out into the street. The hero was a lady in sleek, cyberpunk armor with her face hidden behind a violet visor.

“Looks like you guessed right, nerd.” Kacchan puttered as he pulled them further away from the street. Velocity had her high heeled boot on the guy’s neck and one of his arms -the one with a sort of fleshy aircanon on it that must have been his quirk factor- was twisted under him, broken. It was basically over.

“G-g-guess so.” Izuku clapped both hands over his mouth and groaned in irritation.

“Come on. It’s getting late.” Kacchan didn’t say anything about Izuku’s stress stutter, which he appreciated. It was like a puppy. Paying attention to it just made it act up for longer. 

They blended into the general exodus of people who didn’t want to stick around for the ‘cops and reporters’ part of a takedown. Izuku wanted to stay, but the police would be potentially looking for a telekinetic to question. He was unlikely to be arrested because he’d clearly had a reflex response to stuff flying at him, but he’d be in for a pro forma warning and lecture if they caught up to him.

There were more people on the train heading home, but they found a reasonably open spot to stand even if they ended up sharing a straphanger. It was fine. Izuku’s nerves were still jittery and he didn’t mind having someone he knew close by. Kacchan was better than most. People gave him a wide berth without really meaning to.

He found his voice again once they’d reached Aldera and were in the process of walking hom. “It’s hardly ever that close.” 

“Yeah? My ear’s are still ringing.” Kacchan was walking a little ahead with his hands stuffed in his pockets. “Next time let’s just do the festival and leave the villains out of it.

A little alarm started ringing in the back of Izuku’s head. He’d been noticing some little inconsistencies all day, but had been ignoring them until they formed a picture he could interpret. 

Kacchan had asked him to hang out. He never really did that with anyone unless they happened to be out already. Then he might, at a stretch, ask to continue the outing --without making it look like he’d asked. 

Kacchan had dressed up. Given his druthers, Kacchan lived in skull tshirts and baggy black jeans worn low on his hips. He rarely got his druthers, being the only son of a fashion designer who specialized in casual menswear. This wouldn’t be the first time Masaru had caught him at the door and talked him into changing, but he usually couldn’t get his son into an outfit with more than two components and maybe an accessory. Counting the jacket and brand new sneakers, Kacchan’s current outfit had four.

Kacchan had bought food -not just for himself but for Izuku too- and without being asked. He was legendarily cheap. His parents were well off now, but they hadn’t always been. They’d started out in the same middle-class set of apartments Izuku and his mom still lived in before Masaru-san’s brand took off. They’d never gone without, but Kacchan still remembered not getting pocket money like other kids. He didn’t spend his cash on other people unless they spent theirs on him first.

Last, but not least… Kacchan had been early. Izuku had gotten to the station within fifteen minutes of their text conversation. The station was a ten minute walk from Kacchan’s house. Masaru-san could have re-dressed his son within five minutes, but his best time so far was thirty due to Kacchan fighting him at every stage of the process. So either Kacchan hadn’t fought… or he’d already been dressed when he texted Izuku.

Now he was floating the idea of a second outing.

“Kacchan, was this a date?” Izuku’s mouth asked without checking in with his brain first. He braced for the explosion.

“Why?” Kacchan’s shoulders hunched ever so slightly. “You want it to be a date, nerd?”

Izuku realized then that Kacchan hadn’t called him ‘Deku’ once all day. It was actually kind of weird and he wasn’t sure he liked that. It was kind of mean, but that was his nickname.

His face burned, but for once his pride held him back. He managed not to say the first thing that came to mind, which was ‘I asked first.’ “It was pretty cool when you pulled me around that corner.” He mused aloud instead. “It would have been 40% cooler if we’d been on a date.”

That got Kacchan to look back at him with a raised eyebrow. “Yeah?” He asked. “How cool was it?”

It just figured that was what he responded to.

“60% of what it could have been.” Izuku replied, struggling to keep his face straight. He might as well have not bothered. His voice cracked in the middle.

He did not miss the brief flash of a smile just visible over Kacchan’s shoulder though as he said, “Good thing it was a fuckin’ date then, huh?”

Inko looked up from her conversation with Mitsuki as the door slammed and her son went scurrying past her; bright red, eyes wide, clutching his mouth with both hands, and radiating surprised pleasure.

Inko: Nevermind, I take it back. I think it was a date.

Inko: And it went well

Inko: I could use Izuku’s face to light the house if I wanted.

Mitsuki: I told you it was a date. 

Mitsuki: Katsuki ASKED Masaru to put together an outfit for him.

Mitsuki: The last time that happened it was after someone died.

Mitsuki: Get ready to pay up, bitch. I’ma win this thing.

Inko gently reached out to skim her son’s state of mind and got back only wonder, joy, and confusion underscored by a sense-memory of chapped lips pressed against the corner of his mouth.

It had gone very well, apparently.

Inko: Brace for impact. I think they kissed.

Mitsuki: Shit

Mistuki: He’s either going to be in an amazing mood or he’s about to burn my house down.

Mitsuki: Thoughts and prayers, please.

Chapter Text

Toshinori stared into the cultivation vats holding what would eventually be his new organs. They were still mostly protein scaffolding, but visible tissue had started to accumulate and stretch across the gaps in the lacy armature.

She’d brought him back to SB5 to show him how they were coming along and to cheer him up before they took out the keloid. That’d be happening elsewhere. The Y.U.R.E.I. technicians and biologists wanted to study it afterwards if only so they could figure out whose quirk had made it. A distinctive scar had formed around it in the shape of a sakura blossom so hopefully that would point their investigators in the right direction. At the moment it had been codenamed ‘the poison pill.’

It’d take another week or so before the organs were ready for transplant, but Inko planned on giving them extra time in the vat. They’d integrate faster if they had the full cultivation period and she wasn’t at war anymore. She could afford to take her time. Toshinori needed the extra time for cell therapy once they’d extracted the neurotoxins from his body. Someone else was handling that, thankfully. Right now, though, the assisting doctors were almost as worried about her as they were Toshinori.

Hisashi had let her keep her quirk cover story and only punched it up a little bit by implying her telekinesis was more effective the smaller her target was; right down to the atomic level. He wasn’t incorrect, exactly. She could, but why would she?

“What restrictions am I looking at?” He sounded resigned, but determined. 

He’d been looking better lately; like the prospect of being repaired had given him a new lease on life. He’d put on fifteen pounds. He’d been styling his hair even though he wasn’t using his quirk. 

Inko thought about it. She’d be forcibly integrating the lung with Force Healing so that would be ready to go as soon as he came out from the anesthesia. No one trusted Toshinori to rest like he should after the surgery least of all her. The other doctors wouldn’t know about that though. Hisashi was spreading misinformation that All Might’s missing lung had already been repaired among those people who were aware he was even missing one. 

“I would keep you on a soft diet until your new stomach and the patches in your intestine are fully integrated. Oh, and you might want to avoid dairy until after you’ve been inoculated with some new gut flora.”

He gave her an exasperated look and stood up from where they’d been crouched in front of the tanks. Agent Kobayashi, who still had his job but was in the dog house so he had to do boring things like escort Inko and Toshinori around the campus, stepped back to give them space. “I meant after that. What will the anti-rejection therapy look like?”

Oh bless him, he’d been reading again.

“No anti-rejection therapy.” Inko pointed at the ruby liquid the proto-organs were suspended in. “Those are your organs. They contain your DNA. They’re being fed by your cloned blood. If there’s a rejection we’ll know about it long before I put them in you.” 

Toshinori wet his lips, eyes wide. “If that’s true.” He said after a minute. “I will take you and young Izuku to the biggest steakhouse this country has to offer. I haven’t had red meat in five years.”

“After so long in America?” She teased. “How did you live?”

“Deprived.” He cupped his side. He was doing that more often. “All right, I’m ready.”

“I’ll radio ahead.” Kobayashi was still stiff around her after their little heart-to-heart, but even he sounded relieved. There’d been concern among some that Toshinori would refuse the extraction and he was All Might. Who could force him if he said no?

The surgical suite they’d loaned her was in a small clinic that served the research campus’s non-emergency needs. It was an older facility and they had the oldest room in it just in case any of the neurotoxin got away from her and they had to peel out the whole interior. Inko appreciated the practicality.

Toshinori was laid out on a sturdy examination bed without his shirt. One of the assistants had to look away from the sight of his rail thin body. The keloid made an angry red lump below his last rib. It somehow looked more malignant than it had before, but she had no sense that it was intelligent. She was projecting and told herself to stop.

They were going mostly without anesthesia, just a little bit of a local that the anesthesiologist took care of. Inko hoped while she watched, if she ever ended up needing surgery, that Japan would discover nerve blocks first. 

She tested him with a few little needle pricks followed by a solid poke. “Feel that?”

He exhaled and shook his head. “It’s numb.”

“All right, we’ll get started in that case.” She looked at the hazmat team standing by. “I don’t know if this thing will try to protect itself. Be ready to contain it once it’s been removed. I’ll hold it together with my quirk as best I can, but our best option is to work quickly with no mistakes. Am I understood?”

They nodded. One of them hastened to reassure her. “You need a line of sight on the keloid so that’s why we have a clear splatter shield up around you both.” He explained. He looked sort of like a purple Cerean with one twisting horn coming out the side of his head, but radiated friendliness as he indicated the little hole in Toshinori’s shield. “I’ll be shielding All Might once it’s out. If anyone needs to touch it then that person is going to be me. I’m impervious to all known toxins and poisons so it’s best if I take any hits it has to offer.”

Earth might be a little technologically stunted, but there was something to be said for the wide diversity of quirks among its residents.

“Yes, of course.” Inko bowed. “I appreciate your assistance in this matter.”

The hazmat team stationed two additional agents on either side of her working area. The plan was to catch it in two halves of a containment ball and then lower it down into an impermeable transport case. Then the technicians would take it away for very, very careful study.

She’d decided to treat it like an unexploded grenade and contained it within a ‘shell’ of pure Force energy. It was a bit like a personal shield, but intended to contain impact energy from within. The drawback was that it was vulnerable from outside. That was why there were several of Hisashi's junior agents standing around ready to baffle any accidents or potential sabotage. 

Toshinori squinted in discomfort as she expanded an additional bubble of Force to widen the seal his body had made around the keloid enough that she could pull it out through the existing gap in the pocket of flesh it had created in his side.

“Any pain?” She asked.

“Just uncomfortable.” His voice was unsteady. She could empathise. It had to feel exceptionally weird. “Keep going.”

The keloid was a reddish violet on the underside and veiny. It fought to pulse in her grip.

“Ew.” Someone said.

‘Ew, indeed.’ Inko thought. It was softer than she’d expected. It had a leather skin on the part that had been exposed to the air, but the interior bit felt very fragile. “Be ready.” She warned the hazmat team. “I think it’ll explode once I release it. The interior side is very soft. I think his body was keeping it pressurized.”

“Easy.” The purple man said. “Yano, Sasha; move in with the hamster ball.”

Inko floated the keloid into the center of the space between her and Toshinori. The purple man smoothly interposed himself to cover the gap in Toshinori’s shield. They closed the shell over the floating keloid and he carefully activated the seal.

“All right, lower it into the case.” He took a breath. “Midoriya-san, try and keep it from popping until we’ve got it closed.”

Inko closed her eyes and followed the downward motion of the technicians with her feelings. She held firm until the purple man finally exhaled in relief. 

“Ok, let it go.” He said after the display on top of the case read ‘hermetically sealed.’ 

A wet ‘blorp’ noise escaped the soundproofed case.

“That must have been some pop.” One of the technicians started tapping on their tablet. “We shouldn’t have been able to hear anything. It would have covered the whole room if it hadn’t been contained.”

“Nasty quirks can get real nasty.” Someone else observed. “Especially the saboteur quirks. Are we ready for Phase 2?”

“Midoriya-san?” Kobayashi’s demeanor had warmed five fold within the past fifteen minutes. “Do you need a minute?”

“No, I can keep going.” She nodded towards the technician holding the other containment ball. That one was on a stand and had a lid that could slide down to shut. They positioned it just outside the hole in Toshinori’s shield. Inko would ‘pull’ out the little microscopic granules of toxin. No one had asked her how she could tell where they were and hopefully Hisashi had made it so no one ever would. 

To her surprise, every granule she could locate was clustered near the tiny open wound the keloid had been using as an injection site.

“Huh.” Inko murmured and addressed Toshinori. “Your quirk is actively rejecting the toxins. They were more diffuse when I checked you last.” It had probably gotten more work done while he’d been staying out of his larger shape. If they’d put the procedure off then it might have pushed the keloid out all together, which would have ended in tragedy. In a way Toshinori’s stubborn insistence to keep transforming might have saved some lives.

“It will reject injections sometimes too.” He chuckled, a little short of breath. “Pushes them right out. We all thought it was my muscle density.”

Inko wondered if maybe Toshinori had an allergy he didn’t know about. If it was only sometimes then the quirk was reacting to a harmful substance like it was now.

“We’re in luck. The less work Midoriya-san has to do the better.” One of the doctors -the one who’d made Inko give him a list of how many calories she’d had since the day before and then made her eat an entire extra meal- interjected. “This isn’t the place to find out she does have a quirk recoil after all.”

She extended her wrist and let the doctor fit her with a monitoring cuff. “I won’t be able to answer questions until I’m done, but don’t interrupt me no matter what.”

That turned out to be big talk. She hardly had to do anything at all. It ended up being more like catching than pulling as Toshinori’s body all but spat the poison out.

The granules all came out in one little cluster of blood and fibrin. 

She’d expected to have to pull five years of keloid output out one by one, but they’d all been packed into one piece; practically gift wrapped . Inko pulled it into the containment shell, which the technician snapped shut and sealed in its own containment chest. 

“Well, that was anticlimactic.” She announced, once she’d done an entire body scan looking for more of the malevolent buzz of poison. “He’s clean; ready for cell therapy.”

The doctors moved in, packing the fragile void in Toshinori’s side where the keloid had been with gauze to staunch the slow trick of blood coming from the tiny wound there. He exhaled in relief once the gap had been filled. 

“You won’t have that hollow forever” She promised once they were alone in a recovery room. Toshinori wasn’t in pain, but it had been an invasive and stressful procedure. “I’ll do a little plastic surgery while I’m putting in your transplants, assuming your quirk doesn’t beat me to it.”

“So the tank thing is next?” He asked. He was not looking forward to the kolto therapy.

“That’ll be last.” She shook her head. Even if she thought it was a good idea to stick a man with one lung, even one like Toshinori, in breathing gear and a catheter the kolto was only good for one more round of treatment for someone of his size and weight. She wanted it for when he was recovering from the transplants. “I’ve got some bandages I’d like you to wear for a few days before that hole closes.” A batca patch could only do him good, especially if his quirk was shoving out the damaged and poisoned tissue. The wound, despite its small size, had refused to close even under the persuasion of Force healing and persisted in oozing. It had coughed up one clot already that the technicians went nuts over only to find it just contained the normal gunk produced by a damaged human body.

“Inko-san…” He started to say and she pinched him because she knew he was going to try and recuperate at home where he kept no food, was highly unlikely to change his bandages, and would probably sneak off to fight crime the first time he started to feel guilty about taking time off.

“Do you actually want to recover with a bunch of white coats coming into your room every few hours to stare at you? When I have a perfectly good guest room? That is your only other option.” She asked without mercy. “Not to mention the bandages are in my apartment. I won’t be sharing any with the people here.”

He hunched his shoulders. “It’s an intrusion.”

“Izuku will be over the moon.” … and she suspected Toshinori himself wouldn’t be too unhappy about it either. He gravitated towards other people for all that his private life was very lonely. This resistance was pro forma at best. He didn’t want to be alone any more than he wanted to be the main attraction in a medical zoo. 

“Are you ready to head out, Midoriya-san?” Kobayashi let himself into the recovery room. “Akatani has brought the car around. He’s ready to give you a ride home.”

Toshinori swung his legs down off the bed, suddenly determined. “I choose the guest room.” 

The difference between the boys being friends and the boys dating seemed to be a 250% increase in physical contact. It was less jarring than one might expect considering one of the boys was Bakugo Katsuki and his willingness to touch or be touched had started very near to zero.

Katsuki had been over every single day that week. They didn’t seem to have done anything more interesting than hold hands or do their homework, but Katsuki seemed to be more or less in constant contact with Izuku; one ankle touching underneath the table, sitting shoulder to shoulder, or a rare hair ruffle that Izuku would shamelessly cat into.

“This is precious.” Toshinori stage-whispered to her as they took in Katsuki’s baffled, but pleased expression from their hiding spot in the kitchen.

He had lost any reservations he’d had about recuperating on Inko’s couch somewhere around the first time he woke up from an afternoon nap to the sounds of Izuku and Katsuki hollering at the Hero Report while the apartment filled with the scent of lunch. He stood for a moment outside the guest room door squinting around like he was the alien in the apartment.

He’d wandered out into the living room where he’d been met by Katsuki’s skeptical face and question of, “Who’s the plague skeleton?”

“That’s Yagi-san.” Izuku had answered without looking away from the TV. It had been a few days since Toshinori had come to stay with them and apparently even Izu could only stay starstruck for so long before even All Might took a backseat to whatever tragic and embarrassing thing someone had done on the TV. “He’s staying with us while he gets better.”

“From what?” Katsuki looked him over like he was surprised Toshinori was still alive at all, which -to be fair- so had Inko and that was before he’d put on twenty pounds in recovery.

“A few surgeries, is all. You’re young Bakugo?” He was pretty difficult to offend and just took a spot on the couch behind where the boys were sitting on the couch. “Young Midoriya has told me good things about you.”

Being told that his boyfriend bragged on him was apparently a bridge too far, but was also an effective method to shut the loud boy up.

Inko had watched covertly from the kitchen as the hero sank into the sofa, eyes heavy lidded, and a peaceful expression on his face as the boys slowly forgot about him and continued to hector the television. He got a bit more into the evening Hero Report action as the days passed and the bacta patches (in addition to regular, careful meals) started to work their magic, but eventually he began to join her in the kitchen instead; ostensibly to help do dishes, but in reality...

“...I realized I was crashing their tv date.” He confessed as they stood, nearly hip to hip, in front of the sink. She washed as he dried. It was --nice. The help was appreciated, of course, but Inko found she liked having his attention all to herself. She wasn’t sure what to do with that so she did nothing.

With the uptick in Katsuki’s visits, he’d started doing more training at the gym with his quirk coach. Inko was glad because it meant she had more days with her son’s undivided attention. Entrance exams were looming on the horizon and Toshinori was starting to drop in on more of their training sessions.

Seven months had flown by. There was only a little over one month left before exams and he’d be spending most of that in cell therapy. Between the kolto and Inko’s Force healing he’d be up and about in time to transfer his quirk before the exam, but it turned out that having him sitting on the sessions had an unexpected side effect.

Toshinori was warming to the idea of waiting on transferring One for All. 

“I don’t think I’ve ever seen such versatile telekinesis. The telekinetics I’ve seen in the past could only move specific materials or have strict weight limits.” He confessed, watching a floating laser bot chase Izuku through the ropes course. It couldn’t hurt him or start a fire, but its weapon stung enough to make him that move much faster. “It’d be a shame to hide that light under the bushel of super strength.”

“You don’t think people would notice the super strength?” She wondered. 

“He doesn’t have to use it outside of an emergency and I bet we could spin it as telekinesis.” Toshinori sighed. He considered her for a minute. “To be honest, he’ll have some quirks to choose from and the more I think about it the more mass I’d like him to have before he starts experimenting with it. Some of the earlier users had blow back issues until their bodies were better able to contain it. I was twice his size and weight when I inherited this quirk. One for All is a collection of everything my predecessors and I have to offer. That includes their quirks. Some of them would fit neatly under the umbrella of his existing abilities.”

She’d kind of suspected that once she started actually paying attention to All Might rather than saying ‘how nice!’ and ‘that’s clever’ when Izuku tried to show her yet another video clip he’d found. She was embarrassed to not have noticed sooner, but in her defense they’d started to blur together after the first hundred or so. “I’d wondered about that. You do stay airborne an awful long time when you jump places.”

He nodded, a bit sad. “That’s ‘Float’. It’s not quite like true flight, but it’s very close. I wouldn’t be able to use it as effectively without my enhanced strength. It was my master’s quirk.” He paused and cleared his throat when his voice became hoarse. “Forgive me, I don’t talk about her very often.”

It sounded like she was dead.

“What happened to her?” Inko didn’t like that.

“One for All was a mutation that occurred soon after Quirk genesis.” Toshinori explained. “There were two brothers. One for All and All for One. One for All wasn’t much of a threat in those days. The original was an invalid his entire life. All for One, however, could steal quirks. He became a legendary and seemingly immortal criminal kingpin. It’s a long story and I don’t think I’m up to telling it all right now, but to be brief; All for One killed or arranged for the deaths of nearly every one of my predecessors. Until me.” He caught her eye. “Izuku is safe from him. My master was avenged. I made sure of it.” Ah. He was trying to reassure her. He patted his side. “That’s how this came about.”

She could read between the lines. All for One was dead and Toshinori had killed him. If she understood correctly, he’d taken catastrophic damage in the process. No wonder he’d been so willing to peacefully fade away once he’d passed on his quirk. He’d won. What else was there? 

Inko remembered that feeling of being left adrift; not quite sure what to do with herself after the victory celebrations were over and the heavy business of rebuilding began. If it hadn’t been for what happened to her comrades who returned to the Order ahead of her while she stayed behind to help with reconstruction then she might have gone back too and let the High Council demote her to a farming cloister to live out the rest of her days pulling weeds and chasing nerfs. Only outrage and, yes, fear had kept her motivated to stay beyond their reach. Did she really have the right to chastise him?

Izuku, she wasn’t worried about. She had been a Jedi Master and a very junior Councilor by the time she defected from the Order. That’s how she knew who was responsible for so many of the former renegades ‘losing’ their connection to the Force. Only Jedi Masters were taught Force Severance. There were many techniques in the Order limited to the Masters. They were the Order’s last line of defense. Few things in the universe that could resist her when she chose to move. 

“I think Izuku will need to be the one to make that decision.” She chuckled at Toshinori’s flustered look. “It’s going to be his quirk next. You should tell him about the others; your master at least.”

“Maybe.” Toshinori returned his attention to the ropes course. “Maybe.”

Chapter Text

Toshinori had anticipated being able to get out of Inko-san’s guest room after about a week or, but the reality was… well.

It turned out ‘cell-therapy’ was a lot more involved than what he’d expected and it had taken months. He alternated between feeling fine, sleeping around the clock, and suffering from splitting headaches. He owed the Midoriyas more than words could say because they kept him fed, watered, on his medication schedule, and feeling human.

Inko-san never said anything, but he always felt instantly better when she’d been in the room or had applied one of her homemade bandages to his side. At first he thought it was psychosomatic, but when she made a cell-therapy migraine vanish by patting him on the shoulder in passing he realized she was actually doing something. Young Izuku seemed to have it too, although either not as potent or he wasn’t as well trained as his mother yet. 

Given the fact that the boy was the one to diagnose him in the first place he was forced to conclude it was part of their quirks. They didn’t make a big deal about it so neither did he.    

Despite the fact that it seemed like it was taking forever, his other doctors marvelled at the speed of his recovery. 

One for All seemed to have soaked most of the damage, but the little hole in his side stayed open and spitting out what he could only describe as ‘junk’ for ages. It was the size of a papercut, but he’d never been so overjoyed to see a wound close before in his life.

Finally, five and a half months after he came to the Midoriya apartment, Inko gave him the greenlight to recuperate in his own home --after he’d shown her the specialized meal-delivery service he’d signed up for and pictures of the medical support bars installed in the bathroom.  

Toshinori toed a dust-covered box he’d last packed in Houston then moved to Los Angeles, New York, Tokyo, then finally Musutafu without ever unpacking and realized he’d made a mistake. 

His management team had gotten the penthouse for him. He was pretty sure he owned the building and not just the penthouse, but couldn’t remember who leased the lower levels of the highrise. His only criteria for housing had been a landing pad, a bedroom with room for his king size mattress, and a bathroom with a tub he could fit into; that last thing being what had made his apartment take on a deceptive rosy glow in his memories.

He’d forgotten about the rest of it.

It wasn’t that the penthouse was bare. It wasn’t. They’d had an interior designer come through so he had furniture --sort of. 

It was all vinyl and acrylic in red, yellow, blue, and boatloads of white. He’d never paid much attention to it, much less sat on any of it. He knew better than to try. There was nothing they could have done to that stuff that would prevent it from being pulverized under his weight.

After he’d finally walked through the other rooms -not just the space between the bedroom and the door- and was surprised to find he had an enormous glass-walled conference room for some reason with a high tech viewscreen that covered the entire wall and a round table that could seat up to ten people. There were also two bunk rooms and a sauna he’d never noticed before that sat four.

Belatedly, he realized his managers had made him an HQ and not a place where he could actually live. Contrasted against his recent memories of the Midoriya apartment he was forced to admit that he wouldn’t be getting any recuperation done in his own house. It was too symptomatic of the workaholic he’d become after his injury and with the tantalizing possibility of full recovery just within reach it was easier to give himself permission to stand down for a little bit --and to realize just how every aspect of his life before he’d met the Midoriya’s had been bent towards keeping him at work all day, every day.

He wasn’t sure how he hadn’t noticed before, but the chronic pain and fatigue that came with his previous condition was no joke. Still, there was an honest to God mural of his face on the wall that he’d successfully ignored for the brief time he’d lived there and, having now noticed it, could not look away from.

He finally snapped a picture of it and sent it to Inko, the one person he thought might understand.

Toshinori: Hypothetically what would it cost me to rent your guest room for the next two months while I have the place renovated?

Inko: The pleasure of your company

Inko: groceries and chaperoning the teenagers sometimes

Inko: It’s a shame that’s in your living room. Objectively, it’s a lovely painting.

Toshinori reluctantly agreed and hated to destroy it, except for one thing.

Toshinori: That’s in the bedroom. Across from the bed. It’s the first thing you see when you wake up. There’s another in the living room.

He sent her a picture of that one too. 

Inko: Oh. My. That is a very loving reproduction of your…

Inko: Um

Toshinori took another narrow eyed look at the giant wall painting, which was indeed of him in costume and showed off his… everything. The artist had clearly been influenced by the early 21st century era Captain America comics. It was a picture of him in a victory pose; making a peace sign and twisted at the waist so he was looking back at the viewer. The composition cut off just above the bridge of his nose at the top and at mid thigh on the bottom. It was somewhat more comfortable to look at than his own grinning face, except for one thing.

He was almost immune to the stuff his management team would greenlight, but in recent years a lot of the pictures of him focused on one particular body part. 

It wasn’t his smile.

Toshinori: It’s okay. You can say it. It’s a love letter to my backside.

Inko: It’s flattering.

His butt had not been that round since he was twenty-five, but he appreciated the sentiment. 

Toshinori: It’s a giant painting basically of my ass that you can see from every part of my apartment. I was serious about renting your guest room.

Inko: I was serious too. Pack some more clothes and come back. Izu’s cooking tonight; nikujaga. 

That was a subtle warning to stop at the conbini on his way over for a snack. Toshinori gave his young protege full marks for his willingness to take some of the stress of running a household off his single parent, but he was still very much a beginner in the kitchen and easily distractible. If he didn’t forget to season the food then he wandered off, occupied by some worthy cause, and let it burn. 

Toshinori: Well, I can’t possibly miss that. I’ll be there soon.

The transplant operation was blissfully routine. The surgery droids took on the bulk of the work leaving Inko free to focus on the business of speed-integrating that new lung and subtly repairing some of the old, healed damage All Might had accumulated over the years. It was similar to what she was used to seeing on older knights or veteran troopers; joint damage, old breaks, worn cartilage, and that sort of thing. For once she had the time and reserves to do something about it. The plan was for that man to live a full life. She thought she might as well head his old injuries off at the pass before they turned into arthritis or worse.

Toshinori spent the following several hours, once she was certain he would be able to breathe easily, suspended in the Kolto tank. She's forgotten how dense and green the algae solution smelled though. The scent hit her like a wall when she unsealed the tank. Bacta had a sweetish pineapple smell that was very different. Fortunately her patient had breathing gear so he didn't have to suffer from the odor when they lowered him into the tank. 

She didn't get as much time out of the Kolto as she’d hoped for before it went murky on them, a sure sign that that batch was dead, but it was just as well since Toshinori woke up enough around then to realize he was floating all but naked in a tank of slime in front of not just her but also Hisashi and Kobayashi. 

They’d given him some modesty shorts, but they didn’t hide much once he was suspended in the viscous Kolto. Toshinori was beet-red when the droids lifted him out with a winch and hid his entire face in the blanket she gave him to wrap up in.

Inko probably shouldn’t have worried about him trying to return to work right away. Toshinori turned out to be part of the 3% of humans that got very drowsy off of prolonged Kolto contact. Even once the anesthetic wore off he still wound up on the couch at her place for the rest of the day watching, but not really watching daytime television and letting her put bacta patches on his stitches without demurral for once.

He’d figured out they weren’t just homeopathic bandaids and had decided that meant they were rare, probably expensive, and shouldn’t be ‘wasted’ on him. 

Izuku was out at his last minute cram school that night. He’d done all right on the most recent mock test, but not as well as he wanted so Inko had scaled back his training some more to make room for tutoring. Frankly, Izuku was in excellent shape and even Toshinori had no concerns about his ability to pass the Heroics exam although he still hadn’t shared any information about what was involved.

It was not the best night for Katsuki to show up at the house.

Inko could feel him long before she saw him. She wasn’t a natural empath, but she could pick out the minds of people she knew well without too much effort. Katsuki was like his mother and very easy to pick up on to begin with. That was when he was in a relatively good mood and not an enormous strop. 

Inko looked at the boy on her front step and decided this had gone beyond a strop. Katsuki stood with his shoulders hunched, his hands shoved into his pockets, and his gaze trained on the ground. She could feel a temper tantrum brewing in his skull, only just barely contained by the fraying threads of his better nature. The inside of his head was so intense she couldn’t actually read his mind to tell what the problem was. “Is Deku home?” 

She hadn’t heard that nickname in weeks, but it seemed to be more of a slip on Katsuki’s part than actual anger. Not using his old nickname for his boyfriend seemed to take constant effort on Katsuki’s part. Inko had been pleased to see him making it though. 

“I’m sorry, sweetheart, he’s at cram school tonight.” Katsuki was supposed to be at his quirk gym, come to think of it. “Did you need something?”

Hearing that almost lost Katsuki his control of emotions. “Him.” He shook his head. “I just needed… him. I’ll go.”

“No, I don’t think you should.” Inko slid into the breezeway to block his way. “Come inside. We can wait for Izu to get home.”

“Auntie, I am this close to setting a fire.” He squeezed the words out through clenched teeth. “Deku does this thing to calm me down when it gets like this. If he ain’t here then I shouldn’t be either.”

Oh, she didn’t like hearing that. “Can you tell me what he does?” There was a good chance it was a Force ability and she didn’t know how she felt about him using those on his friends.

Katsuki jerked one shoulder. “He just talks… and it’s like a poke in the brain. I get mad and he says something too fuckin' reasonable then suddenly I remember you can’t just punch people when they’re pissing you off. Even if they fucking deserve it.” His shoulders mantled at the thought, but at the same time he was seeking Izuku out for help. He wasn’t frightened or feeling like his autonomy was under threat. He just wanted his boyfriend to help make it better.

Inko concealed her relief. That sounded much better than what she’d instinctively pictured. Force Persuasion represented a slippery ethical slope and every year there’d been at least one padawan who struggled with the lure of making their lives just a little easier. 

Fortunately, it sounded like Izuku was not controlling his boyfriend’s thoughts and as she examined the boy in front of her she could even understand why Izuku had done it. Katsuki’s current mood was way too intense to be natural and she could sense that he was deeply, secretly distressed by it. 

Inko wished Izuku had come to her rather than spot treating Katsuki’s mood swings, but he might not have realized he was accidentally masking the symptoms of a deeper problem the boy seemed to be struggling with. She was going to have to discuss this with Mitsuki and Masaru before doing more than stabilizing him.

“Katsuki-kun?” She reached into his mind as gently as she could and took control. “It’s going to be okay.”

“Woah.” The boy sagged and she had to hurry to get under his arm to keep him from hitting his knees. “That was more than a poke.” He wheezed, all but crosseyed. 

Belatedly, Inko realized that Katsuki could feel what she’d done. “I’m sorry, sweetheart. Come inside and tell me what has you so upset.”

“Y-yeah.” Katsuki got his feet under him and pulled away. He gave her a look. “Since when can you do brain stuff?”

Oh, that was going to be a conversation. “Since always. I don’t tell people about my whole quirk.”

“Ffff… so that’s where he gets it.” Katsuki shoved his hands into his pockets and stomped into the apartment after her. He didn’t elaborate on what ‘it’ was and Inko didn’t feel like she could push him on the subject for the moment.

Inko led him past where Toshinori was asleep on the couch and into the study where she pointed at the squashy loveseat. “Here, sit. You might be a bit woozy. I think Izu’s been using a lighter touch than I do.”

“Mmm.” Katsuki just made a noise, but sat down. The relieved sigh that escaped him when he didn’t have to stand up anymore spoke volumes on its own. Izuku might not have been having to do much at all, she realized, as she examined Katsuki in the Force. There was a tiny thread of connection tapering off the boy’s specific presence within the universal and interconnected energy field that represented the cosmic Force. 

The connection led off into the distance and if Inko touched it she could feel the mental agitation of a certain young man busy trying to make himself care about Japanese history. 

“What are you doing?” Katsuki leaned away, looking alarmed and uncomfortable as he tried to bat the sensation off him. “Quit!”

“Oh my!” Inko covered her mouth. The boys had a Force Bond.

Really, she shouldn’t have been shocked. It happened with some frequency among young Force users and their teachers. The relationship between a Master and their Padawan straddled the divide between teacher and parent. It happened between other young people as well who were strong in the Force and that was at least part of the reason why the Council discouraged attachment between young Jedi. Izuku and Katsuki had grown up close as brothers and were on their way to becoming lovers as well. It might be more surprising if they hadn’t established a connection. 

Katsuki wasn’t Force sensitive himself, but was piggybacking on Izuku’s sensitivity. That must have been what he registered as a ‘poke’ in his brain. Izuku hadn’t been controlling him. He’d just made contact and the connection alone must have enough to balance Katsuki out again. No wonder Katsuki didn’t seem upset about it. He even seemed to welcome the contact judging by the way he’d gone looking for Izuku as soon as his control started to fight him. 

“I’m sorry, I was just trying to understand something.” She apologized. “Are you alright? You seemed very upset earlier.”

A silent snarl chased its way across Katsuki’s face. “I got kicked out of my gym.” His voice was low and gruff. “Ojiro’s fucking mom found my coach and lodged a bunch of complaints with him. He ignored it for a while, but today he said he’s tired of dealing with her and that I need to go somewhere else from now on.”


Inko had met Ojiro Natsume once on Parent’s Day while the boys were in elementary school and had gotten the impression of a woman who could neither forgive nor de-escalate. At the time she’d been feuding with her ex-husband’s new wife and had been describing their passive-aggressive war at volume, casting herself as both the obvious victor and innocent victim at the same time. Last she’d heard, the ex-husband had surrendered his custodial rights to their son and moved to another province. Katsuki or his mother must have become her new adversary.

“Do you want me to call your mother?” Inko asked. That coach must have not realized he was caught between the Devil and the deep blue sea. She didn’t mind letting him find out.

Katsuki shrugged one shoulder, but picked up his head like a hunting dog as the front door opened to admit her son. He had his books under his arms like he’d left cram school at a run. The building was just around the corner so he hadn’t been far. 

… he’d probably felt her palpating his Force Bond. Whoops.

“Izuku, I think Katsuki-kun might appreciate your company for a little bit.” She chuckled as he darted past, intent on his boyfriend.

They could discuss the Force Bond later.

In the meantime, she had a phone call to make.

Mitsuki took the news about as well as Inko had expected her to. She was slightly mollified to know her son was safe and being appropriately fussed over by his boyfriend. Inko agreed to take custody of Katsuki for the night while Mitsuki went to go show his former quirk coach what his own liver looked like. Masaru went with her either to make sure she didn’t actually spill blood or to take pictures while she did. It was hard to tell with him sometimes.

Katsuki had his head in Izuku’s lap getting his hair played with when she checked on them and squinted at her like he was daring her to say something about it. She just winked.

“Your mother would like you to eat here tonight. She’ll come pick you up later once she’s done running an errand with your father.”

Katsuki turned his face into Izuku’s thigh, which did nothing to hide the way his ears turned bright red.

“Is everything alright?” Toshinori asked drowsily from the couch.

“Katsuki-kun needs to find a new gym.” She explained quietly. “The mother of a former friend appears to be harassing him. I’m not sure what they’ll do. I know the woman in question. She’ll just keep making him too difficult to keep as a client. I suspect she’d trying to scuttle his chances of getting into UA.”

Legally, Inko couldn’t train Katsuki unless it was non-quirk related. That would have been the easiest and safest option. Even if Ojiro-san found her warehouse Inko wasn’t as easy to bother as a small business owner would be. Unfortunately, she was only allowed to mentor her own children without a permit since quirks tended to be similar within a family and if Ojiro reported that to the police then both the boys would be out of a safe place to practice.

Toshinori huffed sleepily at her. “Well, it’s a good thing you have a private training area and know someone with a teacher’s license isn’t it?”

Inko went over to kneel by the couch so the boys couldn’t overhear. “Are you sure? When I said I needed someone to watch the boys every now and again I meant so I could go to the store or visit with Mitsuki.”

“As if I’d let someone trying to tear down a child have their way.” His eyes were starting to slide shut. “Let me know when and I’ll arrange my schedule.” 

The day of the UA entrance exam was deceptively lovely. Inko sent both her boys out with lunch boxes and a kiss for Izuku. 

She was confident in her son and not at all worried about how the exam would go --or at least that’s what she told herself. As she looked at her sparkling clean house and the enormous stack of homemade snacks she’d made, she was forced to admit that maybe she was more anxious than she’d led herself to believe.

Inko wasn’t really expecting anyone to come home until dark so she’d parked herself in a lounge chair on the balcony to read for a little while. Therefore it came as a surprise when the door opened and shut in the late afternoon.

“...going to do, Kacchan?” Izuku sounded as close to tears as you could get without actually crying. “I messed up.”

There was a beat of silence, then Katsuki replied in a gruff voice. “You’re gonna eat a big dinner tonight. Then tomorrow we do the exam at Shiketsu and there probably won’t be robots because they’re that fucking contrary so you’re not going to screw up twice.” He paused again and Inko could almost hear the nasty grin in his voice. “I want a picture of you in that fuckin’ hat if you end up there. Gonna make that shit my lock screen.”

Izuku sniffed. “You know Shiketsu doesn’t allow dating, right?” He sounded somewhat better.

“Who’s gonna tell ‘em?” Katsuki scoffed. “They don’t care what you do at home. They care about what they have to see. I ain’t taking a three year break because they have a stupid holdover rule from the 1970s… why are you smiling like that? What? Is something on my face?”

“I don’t want to take a break either.” Izuku said, still sounding a little damp.

Inko very quietly got out of her chair to creep up to the patio door and shamelessly spy on her child. This sounded like it was about to get good and she needed details to tell Mitsuki and Toshinori. 

Katsuki was predictably pink-faced and had his hands stuffed in his pockets. “W-well, then tell Hamster Cheeks to piss off the next time she shows up.” 

Izuku rolled his eyes. “I don’t even know her name.” He said. “Anyway, I think she knows we’re together. She saw you push me up against the wall and made a face.” He proceeded to do a pretty accurate imitation of someone whose gaydar had just gone off. His expression softened. “The jealousy thing is probably going to get old fast, but I don’t mind it right now. It’s a little flattering. I’m not looking at other people, Kacchan. There’s this cute guy who’s been kissing on me and I’m pretty happy with it.”

Katsuki immediately puffed up like an angry cat with his cupped hands shooting sparks. “What? Fucking who? I will beat their ass!”

She covered her eyes, but did not miss the look on Izuku’s face when he asked, “Really, Kacchan?” He pointed at Katsuki.

Katsuki blinked and then pointed at himself too, mouthing the word ‘me?’

“Yeah, Kacchan.” Izuku finally went over and let his boyfriend put his arms around him. “Has no one ever told you you’re good looking before?”

“No! What’s wrong with you?” Katsuki’s face told a different story. He had his chin propped up on Izuku’s shoulder and a pleased, savage expression where no one but Inko could see it. Either they had or he had decided he liked hearing it from Izuku.

“I guess it’s my job then.” Izuku chuckled. “Kacchan, you’re good looking to the point where it makes me mad sometimes. You haven’t had a pimple since we were eleven and it’s deeply unfair except I really like looking at you so I guess it evens out.”

That apparently exceeded Katsuki’s capacity for positive attention and he buried his face in Izuku’s shoulder with steam all but coming out his ears.

Inko stood, dusted her seat off and pitched her voice to carry. “Oh, is that you, boys? How was the exam?” She watched them spring apart, bright red. 

Katsuki couldn’t stay. His parents had a big celebration with his grandparents planned just for getting into the exam. Inko had tentatively planned something similar for Izuku, but instead put him on the couch with a plate full of snacks and back episodes of the Hero Report. 

Toshinori didn’t come home until late, just in time for dinner. Inko had scrapped her original menu in exchange for Katsudon when she found her child rolled up in a blanket like an agonized burrito. 

“Izuku, what’s the matter?” She asked.

“I messed up.” The burrito informed her. “Toshinori-san is going to be really disappointed in me.”

“I doubt that. What happened?” She sat next to him on the floor.

“The exam was beating up robots. You got a certain number of points for each one.” Izuku popped his blotchy face out of the blanket. 

Oh no, she’d never taught him how to fight droids. They were very uncomfortable opponents for a Force user; alive, but not alive at the same time. You couldn't quite tell what they were going to do or where they were unless you learned to read the small electrical impulses that preceded their motions. No wonder he’d foundered. Jedi Knights received extra training in dealing with hostile war droids; something she’d never considered for Izuku. The only droid he’d ever fought was the little floating stinger she’d built out of spare parts to train his agility and the point was to evade it not disable it. 

“I-I froze up. It wasn’t like training and I couldn’t feel what they were doing. Then there was a great big one that you didn’t get any points for defeating. It was bigger than the buildings in the training field and knocked some over. A girl got caught in the rubble and it was about to step on her. I… um… knocked it over.”

Inko blinked, trying to imagine how that would have worked. It was possible, but Izuku had a problem of getting in his own way when it came to lifting very, very large objects. Technically it took the same amount of effort for a Force adept to lift a grain of salt as it did to lift a car, but the mind had a hard time accepting that and created the illusion of effort where in reality there was none. It was a common mental block and they were working on it, but she was very surprised to hear he’d managed to push through on his own.

“It had one of its feet raised and it was really poorly balanced so I got under its foot and pushed up so it fell backwards.” Izuku clarified. 

Ah, that made more sense.

She stroked his bangs. “I wouldn’t give up hope just yet.” She told him. That thing about the giant robot made no sense unless there were other scoring methods. “And Toshinori-san adores you. He won’t be angry. I promise.”

That promise was on her mind when he got home at last wearing what was possibly the ugliest suit she’d ever seen in her entire life. 

Toshinori looked around to see if Izuku was present (he wasn’t, he’d finally got up to change out of his tracksuit) then gave her a manic grin and two thumbs up.

Inko had to cover her mouth with both hands to keep from making a noise. He was in! Going by the intensity of Toshinori’s happiness he was more than in, he’d done well!

The week it would take the results to be officially released was going to be an exercise in patience.

Chapter Text

Not even a full day later, Inko squinted at her messages. There was one from Toshinori, but she’d had to read it twice and check the number before she believed it.

Toshi: Inko, I need you to beat up one of my co-workers please.

Toshi: Sincerely.

Toshi: I need you to hand this man his own ass in front of all his friends.

She took a moment to process the idea of Toshinori using even such a mild swear as ‘ass’ without ‘apologizing for his French.’ Katsuki-kun might have been a bad influence on him. Either that or this coworker had pissed him off beyond all reckoning. 

Inko: No promises. What did he do?

Toshinori took a while to reply. The gray ellipses by his name pulsed, vanished, and pulsed again for a while until he was happy with his explanation.

Toshi: He’s going to end up as Izuku’s homeroom and primary heroics instructor. I bragged on the work you’ve done with him a bit, but he said that Izuku will need to be retrained from the ground up when I mentioned you were his mother.

She needed a minute to wrangle with her feelings. It wasn’t unreasonable for an accredited instructor at a top tier institution to have reservations about her. She was effectively nobody in Japanese society. According to some, a homemaker was less than a nobody. They might respect her ability to make a character lunchbox, but not more than that. She’d chosen her cover with care and had made her peace with all the drawbacks that came with it. It was nice that Toshinori was upset on her behalf though.

Izuku would be able to prove himself. He’d worked hard. He showed well. Any idiot would be able to see that. 

Toshi: Then he said he wasn’t going to waste time working with a spoiled brat and Izuku would likely be expelled on the first day. It’s not an idle threat. Eraserhead has expelled entire classes on day one before.

Toshi: So I bet my boss 10,000 yen you could take Eraserhead.

Toshi: He took the bet.

… but maybe not any idiot.

Inko had dealt with antagonistic teachers before and had dared to hope she was done with it. Izuku had had one in kindergarten who’d been a major quirk bigot and had nearly set the entire class at odds with each other (‘good’ quirks vs. ‘bad’ quirks, which very quickly became ‘good’ children vs. ‘bad’ children) before Katsuki happened to parrot some of her quirkist philosophy where Mitsuki could hear it.

Izuku and Katsuki might have been on the ‘good’ quirk side of the divide, which meant they got their snacks first and more stars by their names on the class Good Deeds poster, but Izuku was very sensitive to the fact that he didn’t really have a quirk like the other children and had asked her one night if that meant he was secretly ‘bad.’

That marked one of two occasions when Inko had lost her temper since settling on Earth. She hadn’t done anything personally. She hadn’t trusted herself. Fortunately, she had a best friend who was very easy to weaponize.

Katsuki didn’t naturally talk about school like some children. It had taken some very targeted questioning to get him to say anything where his mother could hear it, but it was worth it in the end. When Mitsuki went on the warpath nothing survived. The boys had a new teacher by the end of the month; one who’d had a devil of a time unravelling the toxic class behaviors she’d inherited from her predecessor. 

Then again, she’d managed to impart the concept of ‘divide et impera’  to a bunch of six year olds and gave them tips on how to both recognize it in the wild and not to be manipulated by someone trying to use it on them so maybe the neighborhood had ended up profiting overall.

She made herself take a mental step back away from her personal baggage so she could think critically about what he was actually asking her to do.

Toshinori tended to view beatings as instructive rather than punitive so there had to be something redeemable about this ‘Eraserhead.’ 

They’d just need to hit him until it rose to the surface.

Inko: When and where

Toshi: Thank you

Toshi: Tomorrow at UA around noon, if you’re free? I’ll come get you.

Toshi: We could do lunch afterwards? As a thank you, of course.

She ignored the heat in her cheeks as she read that message. 

Inko: That would be lovely.

Toshinori got caught by Nedzu shortly after they arrived on campus right after he’d dropped Inko off at the ladies locker room to change. His soon to be new boss had some ideas about an exciting surprise for the acceptance letters of the top ten examinees. Since Izuku was ranked number seven, Toshinori was willing to let himself be led away. Midnight had agreed to walk Inko to the gym in his place. 

It worked out in his favor. He’d stashed some snacks in his desk and wanted them for during the match. He was actively gaining weight. One For All kept his weight relatively static once he reached a certain point. It had slowed down his degradation due to injury to a crawl and was probably the reason he’d survived long enough to meet the Midoriyas, but it kept his appetite roaring once he entered recovery and had all that weight to gain back. He was averaging 5000 calories a day and still woke up hungry at night. Putting away a tin of flavored popcorn before lunch wouldn’t even scratch his appetite, but might make it easier to wait for the kitchen to produce their plates.

He had plans to take Inko to that promised steakhouse, but just the two of them. It was purely medicinal after some exercise and not like he was trying to impress her or anything --although he probably would have tried if he’d had any hope that it would work.

Nemuri was lingering around the entrance to Gym 5 with a worried look. She was out of her workaday dominatrix gear and wearing a soft-looking hoodie dress and sandals. “Are you sure about… wait, did you bring snacks?”

Toshinori held his tin out of reach. “Get your own.”

“Like I’d risk losing a hand touching your food these days.” She sniffed. “Come on, Midoriya-san’s corner is this way.”

He’d been looking forward to seeing her camouflage for the day and was not disappointed. 

She’d dressed in a pair of designer workout leggings with an expensive sheen and looked like they had never been worn before; not even once. They had diagonal mesh panels on the thighs and a cell phone pocket. She had a cropped top, equally new, with the neckline artistically torn off at an angle to expose the soft round curve of her shoulder and the multiple, layered straps of the sports bra she had underneath. It was pink and had ‘WERK’ written across the bosom in silver studs. The shirt and leggings contrived to expose a few inches of her curved belly; marked by childbirth with stretchmarks and faint remnants of diastasis recti. She’d gone one step further and put on makeup. She frequently wore a little, but this was a little heavier and less skillfully applied with a bit of shimmer on her cheeks.

All told she looked like she’d even never set foot in a gym, much less thrown a punch, in her entire life. 

She was in the process of stretching when he arrived and returned his wave with a little one of her own, but continued to warm up. He realized then that she’d gotten a matching manicure and pedicure to go with her outfit; pink glitter french tips with purple rhinestone hearts on her ring fingers. 

Aizawa meanwhile hadn’t even gotten out of his sleeping bag yet. He was a yellow lump on the other side of the gym, back turned towards the center. Nemuri had told him stories of the ways Eraserhead liked to psych out his students. He was apparently going to try the same trick today. 

Inko paid him no mind.

Toshinori pursed his lips to suppress the smile threatening to break out across his face. This was going to be good.

He and Aizawa hadn’t started out on the best foot. The underground types didn’t care for All Might in general, but Aizawa in particular had a way of looking at Toshinori like he was something the younger hero had just stepped in.

At first Toshinori had been eager to earn Eraserhead’s good opinion. His time limit meant he wasn’t around the other staffers too often though. Thanks to Inko, he’d been able to change that and in the process had learned more about his coworkers. Not all of it was good.

Aizawa was maybe thirty and thus too young to remember what Japan, and Musutafu particularly, had been like back in his day before there were quite so many Spotlight Heroes. 

Yes, a lot of them were glory hounds, but they had an undeniable effect on the crime rate wherever they operated that was often discounted by the underground types or anyone who hadn’t been there, watching it happen. 

When Toshinori had been young it hadn’t been out of the ordinary to have a small death count every day of the week from villain activity. Today you could go years in Japan without a civilian death. Toshinori wasn’t solely responsible for that, but he and heroes like him had worked hard to bring about that level of change. A large part of it had been giving young people the dream of something better; of being a Hero. 

Usually he could power through other people’s reservations about him. He knew what he was like in costume. It wasn’t irrational to assume he was like that all the time. They didn’t often realize he was an actual person straight away and not a giant grinning idol, but Aizawa took it to a whole new level. It was clear that the majority of the reason he’d taken a dislike to young Izuku was because Toshinori had spoken up for him.

A few months ago, with his potential death and his need for a successor who could fend for themselves, he might have let it slide. That was then. This was now.

“Oh man.” Nemuri murmured at his side, watching from between her fingers. “I can’t watch.”

“I can.” Toshinori replied and opened his popcorn.

Eraserhead waited until the last moment to leave his cocoon. 

Inko wasn’t as talented a Force Empath as her son, but she had the benefit of more experience than him so she’d listened to the man’s mind buzzing from across the floor. He’d been very much awake in there and annoyed about sacrificing his Saturday so the Principal could educate a new staffer. His mental image of Toshinori bordered on offensively cartoonish and cleared away any lingering reservations Inko had about engaging in the bout.

Toshinori was right. Eraserhead was stubborn and prone to his own unique prejudices, but he was still young and somewhat flexible. He’d taken one look and dismissed her from his list of concerns. He was already in the process of planning the rest of his day; feeding some stray cats, grading, and patrolling the neighborhood around his apartment for a pickpocket that had so far eluded him for weeks. 

He reminded her of many young Jedi she’d had the pleasure of instructing in the past. This would be interesting and perhaps a bit nostalgic. She wasn’t often homesick, but Eraserhead reminded her of a phase many talented Jedi Knights went though; a false sort of world-weariness that masked their underlying pride or ego. 

Left unchecked, that ego became bitterness. Bitterness led to resentment. Resentment led to anger. Anger led to the Dark side --which, granted, was not a concern for Eraserhead. He was a normal person and not a Force Adept. He’d just become an unbearable prick instead.

There were worse ways for a young man to learn to pay attention to the world as it is and not how he’d decided it should be than a little embarrassment. Inko found herself happy to assist.

“Everyone is here?” Principal Nedzu appeared in the gym entrance. “Excellent. Let’s get started.”

Eraserhead stood up at last, still in his sleeping bag, and zipped himself out. He was in his full costume; capture scarves, goggles, and ratty coveralls. Izuku had been only too happy to extoll to her Eraserhead’s many virtues --and a detailed description of all his specialized gear. 

In person, Eraserhead looked like he hadn’t slept in ten years. His eyes were bloodshot with bags underneath and he was sporting a five o’clock shadow at noon. He didn’t feel tired though, so that was apparently just his face.

Izuku would probably have recognized the hero that stepped into the space between them. Inko sort of did although she couldn’t remember his name. There were a lot of mainstream heroes in Musutafu to keep straight and she’d never acquired the knack of it. He had a leather jacket with exaggerated shoulder pads, a speaker around his neck, and long blond hair that stuck up like a cockatiel. 

“Heeeeeeeeey!” He pointed finger guns at both Inko and Eraserhead. “Are you two ready to party?”

Nothing showed on his face, but Eraserhead’s mind did an odd little affectionate flex at the sight of… Present Mic? Yes, that was his name. They were either close friends or… no, they were lovers… no, wait, they were married. Gracious. Half the reason Eraserhead was out for that pickpocket’s blood was because the kid had managed to lift his husband’s wallet.


Present Mic didn’t seem to require a response, which was good since he didn’t get one. “Allllll right! Here’s the rules, my little listeners!” He pumped a fist into the air and pointed at the ceiling. “There’s going to be three rounds. Best two out of three takes the pot! The round ends after either five minutes or until one of you is pinned for a count of ten. This is a clean fight; no biting, no edged weapons, no deliberate fluid contact. Ya dig?”

“Of course!” Inko chirped.

“Yeah, yeah.” Eraserhead flopped a tired hand in the direction of his husband. “Let’s get this over with.”

“In that case, LETS! GET! STAAAAARTED!” Present Mic brought his raised hand down in a chop and booked it out of the ring. 

Inko felt the Force stir and come alive around her in response to the uptick in her heart rate. Maybe this would be fun too. It had been a long time since she’d had an opponent that wasn’t her teenaged son.

Neither of them took a stance. She and Eraserhead stared at one another for a few seconds, waiting for the other to move, until Inko got bored with it and smiled so her eyes shut in a brief blink.

Eraserhead took the bait.

She felt, rather than saw him move and sidestepped him when he charged with the vague intent to push her over. She crouched a bit to get her fingertips under his hip and armpit and then flipped him, head over heels, onto his back. She boosted his momentum a bit with the Force so he hit the ground hard enough to knock the wind out of his lungs.

It took the stunned Present Mic a second to start counting. Principal Nedzu, surprisingly, was the one to prod him into action by poking him in the side.  

“One! Two! Three! Four! Five! Six! SEVEN! EIGHT! NINE!” Present Mic wet his lips as a red-faced Eraserhead started to try and rock himself upright, like a turtle stuck on its shell. “AND TEEEEEEEN! Eraserhead is down! First round goes to Midoriya!”

Everyone in the gym gasped except for Toshinori and Principal Nedzu.

The school nurse, another hero, came over and poked Eraserhead with the business end of her cane. “He’s fine.” She announced, sounding bored. “Just winded.”

Round two had to wait until Eraserhead got his breath back. The nurse made him sit for a moment and then touched him up with her quirk. She offered the same to Inko, but Inko politely declined once she saw how the woman’s quirk factor operated.

Eraserhead started the second match with a mad tic under one eye, a wide stance, and his lips peeled up off his front teeth in irritation. He looked like a pissed off raccoon. It made keeping a straight face difficult. 

He launched out of his corner as soon as Present Mic finished the word ‘Go!’ His quirk was not activated so Inko pulled his feet out from under him. He was ready this time and threw himself backwards so he could land on his palms and handspring upright again. 

His eyes were blazing red when he came for her a second time so she couldn’t use any Force abilities, lest he realize she was able to. She could feel his quirk working on her a little bit. It didn’t affect her, but she was aware of it struggling to extinguish something in her that she didn’t have to begin with. 

Eraserhead thrust a palm strike at her face and she got a hand under his elbow to redirect it up and away from her. That left him overextended, but he rolled forward to avoid anything she might had tried to do in order to take advantage of it. She let him go, but did make use of the opportunity to make him land on his face once his eyes weren’t on her anymore.

This time Eraserhead came up with his goggles on. He wasn’t using his quirk, but he was taking her seriously at last. 

She noticed Toshinori eat an enormous handful of rainbow colored popcorn with great delight. 

Maybe Eraserhead thought she was distracted. Perhaps she was, but not enough for it to make a difference. He used his scarves to vault into the air. This time he did have his quirk on, but she noticed it started to waver before long. It had a recoil effect. 

Given the timing, he probably had to keep his eyes open and they’d already been irritated when he arrived. That must have been why he was pretending to sleep. He’d been keeping his eyes shut for as long as possible. How clever!

Eraserhead attacked before it broke. She liked his tactics. It was hard to defend yourself from above. His capture scarves looped around her and she waited until just before they tightened -when he was trembling on the cusp of a blink- to disrupt the delicate electrostatic field he used to manipulate them. The scarves fell in a puddle at her feet --including the one in the rafters keeping him airborne.

She actually softened his landing that time so he hit hard enough to wind up stunned, but not enough to injure himself.

Present Mic was faster to start the count this time. Eraserhead was trembling again by the time he hit ten, but didn’t manage to get to his feet until a few beats after Present Mic hit ‘ten.’

“Ladies and Gentlebeings, we have a WINNEEEER!” Present Mic wasn’t actually thrilled about having to announce his husband’s loss, but he was good at faking it. “Midoriya INKOOOOO!”

“Wait.” Eraserhead’s voice cut through the excited chatter of his coworkers as he staggered to his feet. All she could see of his face over his shoulder was one livid eyeball framed by his loose hair and trained on her. “Again.”

Principal Nedzu turned towards Inko. “It’s up to you, Midoriya-san.” He said, but his eyes begged her to agree. “It wouldn’t count towards the bet, of course. That was settled in the first two rounds. This would just be to satisfy Eraserhead.”

“I don’t mind.” Inko wasn’t there for the bet, after all. She was there to ensure her child’s academic instruction didn’t end up getting short changed because his teacher thought she was an interfering amateur. Also, the first two rounds had been a little too short to be really all that fun. She hadn’t even broken a sweat yet.

They retreated to their corners, but this time Eraserhead got a bottle of eyedrops out of his pocket and used two drops in each eye. Then he pushed one of his sleeves back to reveal a heavy cuff around one wrist. He unlatched it using his teeth and dropped it to the ground where it dented the floor with a loud CRACK. He removed a similar cuff from his other wrist and both ankles, which left similar dents where they landed.

Principal Nedzu sighed audibly in the stands. That was probably going to be annoying to repair.

Well if he was going to take her seriously at last then she owed him the same, didn’t she? Inko shifted into a classic Consular’s readiness stance. It was enough like the Ichimonji taijutsu stance that Eraserhead would think he knew what to expect from her. 

“Ready!” Present Mic wasn’t hamming it up this time. “Begin!”

Freed of his weights, Eraserhead was suddenly a much more formidable opponent. He charged again with his quirk activated, but he was stronger and faster. It was more difficult to redirect the force of his blows. Once he’d closed the gap between them he stayed on her, having figured out that gap was where she was most lethal, and putting his superior height and reach to their best use.

That time she started to sweat. He was a better fighter than her son, it was clear. He was also less concerned about hurting her, which led Izuku to pulling punches he ought not to. The Force swelled within her making her faster, more precise, and aware of his movements before he even made them. 

Still, he wasn’t pushing her as far as she could go and it was a little disappointing. For a second there she’d dared hope.

Jedi Consulars, unlike Knights, outlasted their opponents. Inko was trained to endure a siege: the silent heart of a maelstrom. She danced with Eraserhead, enjoying the match and exertion anyway, until sweat drenched the back of his costume and he was having trouble keeping his eyes open. She was still fairly fresh. The Force fed her stamina almost without her asking. 

She kept going until he was about ready to drop because if she ended things any sooner then he’d just get back up again.

This time, when she slammed him onto the ground he didn’t rise after Present Mic finished the count. He just lay there heaving for breath with his eyes squeezed shut. She’d have been worried, except he was grinning from ear to ear. She wasn’t the only one who’d been having fun.

She’d underestimated Eraserhead. He had not considered them anything like equals at the beginning, but had gone out of his way to make it a fairer fight. It had been such a natural choice to him that she hadn’t even noticed it while eavesdropping on his thoughts. 

He was a nicer boy than he let on.

Inko beckoned the eye drops over and went to kneel next to her downed opponent.

“I have your drops.” She told him. “Left eye or right eye first?”

“Left.” Eraserhead rasped. “Three.”

He was an old pro at letting someone use drops on him. He looked up and didn’t blink until Inko had dispensed all the drops. He winked the drops in and then said, “Right side now.”

Once they were done with the drops, she called a water bottle that had been sitting out on the bench nearest his corner. She’d seen Present Mic sneak it over there while Eraserhead had been hanging out in his sleeping bag, but before she’d realized they were married.

He let her help him sit up and accepted the water without attitude or fuss. “Who are you?” He asked, lowly, once he’d drained half the bottle.

“No one you need to worry about.” She patted him on the shoulder and smiled up at Toshinori, who’d brought her water bottle over. “Thank you!” She smiled a bit wider than she meant to; high on endorphins and just happy to see him. She noticed he had a tin under one arm. “What is that, by the way?”

“Flavored popcorn.” He opened the tin and tilted it her way. The inside was divided into three sections. Each section had a different type of popcorn in it. There was the rainbow colored stuff, a bright orange popcorn, and a third type that was a more mellow tan color and had a thin shiny coating. The whole thing smelled sweet, except for the orange stuff. “Would you like to try some?”

She took a piece of the tan popcorn and found it was plain for the most part with a snappy sugar glaze and had been dressed in a little flaky salt. It was good. She took two more pieces.  

Present Mic had followed him over and caught the exchange. “CHEATER!” He gasped, pointing at Toshinori. “You could have just said Midoriya was your girlfriend’s kid. No wonder you got so mad.” 

He went around them to fuss over his husband, who made annoyed faces but soaked it up like sunshine on the inside. Present Mic looked her over. “So, you’re what? A retired pro? Did you two meet on the job?”

“Retired, yes.” She replied, a little stunned by Mic’s presumption. “Ah…”

“...but you’re not denying that you’re his girlfriend.” Present Mic grinned when she ‘eeped’ and blushed. “We can keep our mouths shut around here, don’t worry.”

Toshinori’s face was pink when she dared a look at him. He offered her a hand. “I don’t want to rush you...” He said softly, but loud enough to be overhead. “... but don’t forget about our reservations.”


He wasn’t denying it either.

“That’s right.” She couldn’t help her smile. It bubbled up from inside and wouldn’t be denied. “Let me go clean up while you get your winnings.”

“You dog.” Present Mic cackled as she made her way to the women’s locker room. Nemuri-san escorted her again, but left her alone inside so she had a moment to put her head between her knees and hyperventilate a little.

It wasn’t that she didn’t like Toshinori. She did. It wasn’t that she didn’t want him as a lover either. She did. 

It wasn’t even that she hadn’t known that Toshinori wanted her back. She was familiar enough with the dance of attraction to notice it in other people. He hadn’t said anything before so neither had she.

It was that Inko had had close friends and she’d had sexual partners. She’d never had someone who was both.  That was a bit too close to passion for the Order to permit and she’d never been moved that way by anyone after she’d left.

She had no idea what she was doing. 

“You all right in there?” Nemuri called from the hallway.

“Not… very.” Inko wheezed. She wasn’t dangerously out of balance, but she was having trouble taking control of her feelings.

Nemuri-san stuck her head in. She took in Inko’s pale face and came all the way in. “Let me guess, Mic just tripped you two into defining the relationship?”

“I suppose so.” Inko found herself calming down in the face of Nemuri-san’s equanimity, as though via osmosis. When she’d calmed herself, her brain began to work again. She could be a friend. She could be a lover. She could be a friend to her lover. That was a start, at least? “We’ve been getting… close.”

“More than close.” Nemuri-san smiled. “He offered to share his food. That’s basically a proposal.”

“Please, I’m not ready for that.” Inko demurred. 

“Maybe keep it in the back of your mind.” Nemuri-san advised her. “I have to warn you that Heroes don’t date casually --or do anything casually, really. We’re all high-commitment freaks. It’s a hazard of the industry.”

Inko felt better when she left the locker room dressed in a casual flower-print dress and a gray shrug trimmed in white kittens playing with a ball of pink yarn and discovered Toshinori had replaced Nemuri in the hall. 

Normally she didn’t invade his privacy or the mental privacy of anyone she spent much time around, but she couldn't help but skim the outer shell of his mind. There were nerves there, yes, but also a warm glowing approval of…

“You like my clothes?” She asked, startled.

Toshinori jerked upright. “Was I staring?” He asked, a little guilty.

“You can stare if you like, but I was dressing like that to annoy you.” Her face went hot as the unintended confession slipped out.

“Oh, I know you were.” Toshinori gestured towards the end of the hall towards the parking lot and his old beat up truck. She fell into step next to him. “It doesn’t mean it worked. I like the things you wear. They're soothing. That sweatshirt with the pointillist unicorn in iridescent puff paint and ribbons for the mane is my favorite so far. You should wear it more often.”  

Inko had made that one herself. 

Her cheeks started to burn. She reached out with a trembling hand and slipped it into the crook of his elbow. A tremor shot through him, but he flexed arm under her fingertips and straightened his shoulders after a second radiating happiness.

Eraserhead was waiting for them at the exit, leaned up against the wall next to the door. His eyes looked terrible.

“Eraserhead.” She greeted him. “Thank you for a lovely match.”

“My pleasure.” He sounded sullen, but his feelings were sincere. “What can I expect from your son?”

“Izuku is a bit stronger than I am, but slower. He needs to work on his agility.” Inko thought about it. “He’s a more versatile telekinetic. He can handle multiple objects and lift himself a bit. Given enough practice and motivation, I expect he’ll be more powerful than I ever was.”

“I’ll keep that in mind.” That time he did smile. It was not a nice smile and he accompanied it with a dark tide of predatory anticipation.

...she might have just made Izuku’s school life harder than necessary. Oops.

Chapter Text

Toshinori moved back into his apartment before the beginning of the school year after having spent an astronomical amount of money to have it turned into a place where a person could live and not a hero agency that just so happened to have a bedroom in it. 

Inko got the sense he didn’t want to, but he’d been dealing with increased media attention after having to give an interview about his permanent move to Musutafu and got paranoid about leading the press to her door. 

She got to see the old decor before the painters came through when their first date turned out to be more successful than Toshinori might have been counting on. He’d been banking on a kiss and some conversation when he invited her to his place for coffee. Inko, meanwhile, had been celibate for fifteen years plus change and the last person she’d been with was Hisashi, who was a ‘roll over afterwards and snore’ type. Toshinori looked like a cuddler and she was pleased to find her hunch was correct.

The paintings were every bit as bad as Toshinori had said, but the pictures he’d sent her had failed to convey the sheer scale involved. The penthouse had a loft so the ceilings in the main room were sky high and the wall painting in there went all the way up. The conference room had glass walls so there was nowhere in the place save the bedrooms and the toilet where you weren’t confronted by All Might’s gigantic smile and eerily perky butt.

It was no better to wake up to the smaller, more abstract mural in the bedroom. She squinted at it for a moment before a large hand covered her face.

“Don’t look at it.” Toshinori groaned and buried his face in her hair. “I swear the eyes follow me around the room.”

The newly decorated apartment was much more tasteful and comfortable than the first attempt. The conference room had been gutted and transformed into a library that was already half full. The old boxes she’d spied gathering dust in a corner had turned out to be almost entirely full of books. She’d known Toshinori was a reader, but he’d also turned out to be a collector. 

The hard plastic furniture was changed out with upholstered things Toshinori could actually sit on without breaking, but Inko noticed that there were normal sized chairs and lounging furniture as well. She told herself those were clearly for guests and ignored the clever steps framing the counters in the kitchen so that a very short person and a very tall person could use the room at the same time. Likewise she ignored how one of the guest rooms had been turned into something a young man might get good use out of and the other had been left empty as though it were waiting for a purpose.

Hearing the story of getting his people on board with the renovation was more amusing to think about. The penthouse was owned by ALL-M LLC although the company was basically just Toshinori’s personal assets and the people required to wrangle them plus all his charities. There still had to be a board meeting to approve a design.

The winning designers had been a pair of fraternal twins, a man and a woman, who almost got kicked out of the boardroom as soon as they opened their first slide to show the media space with an electric massage chair front and center. The board members fortunately couldn’t do it without Toshinori’s nod, which he did not give. Instead he cocked his head at the picture and said, “Well, that does look comfortable. I’m afraid I’m abnormally heavy. What’s the upper weight tolerance on that?”

He hadn’t missed the stillness that swept over his managers when suddenly they remembered they weren’t coming up with an ad campaign or designing a public facility. This was a place where a very large person had to live.  

“It’s rated up to 650 lbs.” The lady designer replied at once. “We focused on furniture lines marketed towards people with mutagenic quirks so everything is customizable including the load it can bear. This particular chair is very well rated among strongman type heroes.”

“I was hoping to have something that might accommodate guests, but I’m liking the tone of this.” He’d said. “I made a pinterest board with some thoughts I had on the matter. Would you like to see it?”

The designers grasped each other's hands with hearts in their eyes and said, “Sir, we would love to see your Pinterest.”

Toshinori continued to pack on weight although it took time to show anywhere except his muscles. He got a six pack and basketball sized biceps before his skull stopped being visible through his face. Slowly, but surely his cheeks began to fill out though and the two of them stopped getting quite so many odd looks when they went out. His larger form was still much larger than his day-to-day body so he just looked like a very tall and fit civilian person. 

The true milestone of his recovery was when Katsuki stopped referring to him as ‘Skeletor’ -a reference Inko didn’t get, but amused Toshinori to no end- and started calling him ‘that weirdo dating your mom.’

Still, the better he got the more something itched in the back of her head when she looked at him; a connection her brain was trying, but failing to make. It had gone past a mild annoyance to a real problem that nagged at her whenever she was alone leaving her irritable and distracted; exactly the worst mood for her to be in when Hisashi appeared on her doorstep with a tense smile.

“So!” He said as soon as she opened the door to find him on the other side. “Do I owe you back child support? How does this work?”

She shut the door again in his face.

“Inko!” Hisashi knocked urgently. “All right, all right. I had that coming. Seriously, let me in. We need to talk about it!”

“I think you know what I’m capable of if you try and take my son from me.” She told him when she opened the door again.

He rolled his eyes at her, looking so much like Izuku when he was annoyed with Katsuki that she was a little offended. She was not the Katsuki in their relationship. 

“Considering I’m the one who had to clean up what was left of Dr. Mercury with a power washer, yes. I’m aware. I’m not going to try and take him away. I like having my bones inside my body. That’s not even counting that brick building you’re dating.” He shuddered and went to drop on the couch like he lived there. 

It was so reminiscent of when they’d still been friends, albeit with benefits, that she let him do it. 

“You know I was wondering why All Might is always looking at me like he’s trying to kill me with his brain. I wasn’t expecting the answer to be that I’m his girlfriend’s baby daddy.” Hisashi looked around. “I kinda want to see pictures. Do you have pictures?”

Did she have pictures? Who did he even think she was?

Hisashi made a noise like a teakettle when she dropped a stack of photo albums in front of him, organized by year. He started at the beginning and made a deeply satisfied sound when he got to tiny preemie Izuku swaddled in a mint green blanket with a knit rabbit hat. “This is what I came for. Bunny ears, yes.” 

He spent some time paging through without much comment beyond approval of tiny infant Izuku turning into a fat toddler and then a little kid with skinned knees. He stopped when he got to the first picture Inko had dared take of him using the Force; it was of Izuku and his quirk evaluator as he floated that pencil for her.

“He turned out like you.” Hisashi touched the picture and shot her a hopeful look. “No fire at all? Not even a little puff of smoke?”

Inko thought about it. “I had him checked when he was four. The doctor took an xray of his foot and said it was impossible. I was obviously reluctant to take him in for genetic testing.”

“The toe joint thing?” Hishashi blew a raspberry and the thought. “That hasn’t been used as an accurate diagnostic tool in forty years.”

Quirks themselves should have been impossible so Inko had no idea, but she’d been questioning that test recently anyway. 

“He seems to be oddly fire resistant.” She admitted. It was something she hadn’t noticed until earlier in the month when Izuku had accidentally put his hand on a lit burner while rooting around under the counter for something and then took it off without seeming to notice. It had only been a second and not long enough to tell for sure. She wasn’t quite ready for a proper test. “He’s dating a boy with a fire quirk that throws sparks and has come home with some holes in his clothes, but never a burn.”

“I’m fireproof in my mouth and around my face so that makes sense. Oh man, he got both.” He rubbed his jaw, looking down at the books in front of him; all full of a smiling child. His mouth had a sorrowful twist when he pulled his hand away. “ did good not telling me. In case you were wondering. I’m glad I didn’t know until now. This is a better life than it would have been with me around.”

“Perhaps.” Inko wondered sometimes. Izuku seemed happy and well adjusted, but he was eager for the attention of a positive male role model and Toshinori had filled that position since before they’d even met. She knew human children did best with their parents, but she hadn’t realized that the genders could make a difference. Still, the Hisashi she’d known…

“No ‘perhaps’.” Hisashi huffed. “I’d… have seen it as an opportunity.” He gave her an offended look when she made an involuntary noise of disbelief. “Inko, it’s been fifteen years for me too. I wouldn’t have left me alone with an alien hybrid baby back then either. We’ve both changed. You’re less of an ice queen and I’m less of an opportunistic vulture.”

“Was that a quote?” She asked. There was something about the way he’d said it.

“Yeah.” He waggled his eyebrows. “From one of my performance reviews. It was considered a positive at the time.”

“Ah.” That sounded about right. “I’m afraid Izuku isn’t going to be home for a while. He’s on a date to celebrate his exam results.”

The boys were milking that achievement for everything it was worth. There’d been a big dinner at the Bakugo house followed by another one at Inko’s place. Then they’d gone on a solo date to an amusement park to celebrate Katsuki taking the first place spot. A week later the boys went to the aquarium to celebrate Izuku making it in the top ten. This most recent outing was to celebrate just getting in when Izuku thought he’d flubbed the test altogether. She was starting to think Katsuki still felt like he needed an excuse to drag Izuku out for a day. 

“Oh yeah, he’s about to start high school right?” Hisashi grinned. “Where’s he going?”

“U.A.” Inko cherished the flabbergasted look on his face. “He was in the top ten of the Heroics exam.”

“Woah. Our kid is cool! I always kind of wondered what it would have been like if you’d been young enough to go the traditional hero route.” He chuckled. “Looks like we’ll find out. Hey, uh… so.” His smile faded and he leaned forward to give her the ‘serious talk’ look. “This might be overstepping my bounds, but it looks like All Might is planning to stick around you and the way he acts around Izuku suggests you two aren’t casual. Am I getting warm at all?”

So he had known about Izuku enough to be watching him for a little while. 

“That is toeing the line, yes.” Inko observed coolly. “I trust you have a point?”

“If you’re going to keep him around and -you know, if my vote counts for anything then I say ‘do it’- you’re gonna want to tell him about you.” Hisashi recoiled at the look she gave him. “It’s just a suggestion!”

“I seem to recall an extremely long lecture you gave me about who can know about me and that was you, the Director, and the Emperor himself. You drew very insulting pictures on a white board in case I didn’t understand.” She stood up to loom over him, which she could only do while he was seated. 

Hisashi rushed to defend himself, “I told you that so you wouldn’t try telling like a neighbor or someone in Y.U.R.E.I. That was when that conspiracy nut, Blink, was still around! It was a legitimate concern! If word got around and he found out about it then it would have been all over his social media within an hour! All Might is a different story. He’s got the security clearance to know!” There Hisashi paused and looked uncomfortable. “Anyway, you… ah… you should probably tell him something at least. You, um, used to talk in your sleep. It wasn’t in any language I recognized, but you’d get pretty upset sometimes. It’s gonna come up.”

“I don’t know.” She wrapped her arms around herself, surprised at how vulnerable the idea made her feel. 

“It’s just a suggestion.” Hisashi backed off, but he started rooting around in his pocket for something. “I, uh, brought you something too. It’s not exactly a present, but it's yours and I meant to give you one before you vanished on me.”

He held out a little leatherette case about the size of a business card. There was an ID card inside with her name, a black star, and a number underneath. When she looked at the back she saw the word HERO written on the back in white on a matte black surface.

“This is a hero’s license.” Inko squinted at Hisashi, trying to understand.

“It’s backdated to legalize some of the things you did on behalf of the Japanese government.” He explained. “That doesn’t go through the Hero’s Commission. It was issued by the Emperor so there’s no exams, it doesn’t expire, and gives you the right of summary execution. Everyone in Y.U.R.E.I. gets one of those these days. Technically this is the same class of license as All Might, but he’s licensed through the Commission too and sticks to their rules unless shit really hits the fan. There are the usual caveats. If you see someone about to nuke a city then you can act, no questions asked. In any other situation you need to text me first with a name and I’ll tell you yes or no. I know I don’t have to tell you not to abuse it, but don’t abuse it.”

She held up the little case to show where the word ‘Vortex’ had been debossed into the corner. “What’s this mean?”

He turned red. “That’s your code name.” His hackles went up as she kept staring. “Don’t look at me like that! You never wanted to pick one out yourself so I had to improvise. I wanted to pick Mesovortex, but the Director told me it was stupid and wouldn’t sign off on it.”

That was true. She’d never considered herself to be a hero, but from a legal standpoint she’d been doing the work of one for a little while. She still had one question.

“What’s a mesovortex?”

He worked his jaw for a second and she knew, whatever it was, it was going to be soppy. “It’s the wall of storms around the eye of a typhoon. I remembered what you told me about growing up in that whole cult situation. Consular wasn’t an option since you still seem to think they might come after you.” He grimaced. “It seemed like what you’d pick if you were going to pick anything. Anyway, you’ve got it now. As far as the Director is concerned I’m still your handler so if you cause any trouble then I’m going to hear about it. Please do not give me trouble. I already have so much trouble.”

“Even with Kobayashi?” She tucked the license into her pocket. She couldn’t imagine using it, but her son was going to be a hero one day and her lover’s coworkers already thought she’d retired from the industry. It might come in handy.

“Kobayashi is most of the trouble I’m dealing with.” Hisashi hissed. “Yeah, he seems mature and responsible right up until he isn’t. He got salvaged from a secret police training facility in this tiny tinpot villain dictatorship in southeast asia and has a very tenuous grasp on what’s okay among civilized people. When he deviates from the script he makes me look housebroken by comparison and I set the Kremlin on fire once!”

He'd told her that before. Inko still didn’t know what the Kremlin was and wasn’t interested enough to look it up, but it sounded important and burnable so she nodded to show she understood the gist of his complaint.

Something occurred to him just then. “Oh god, we made a kid.” Hisashi pulled on his hair. “What if he turns out like me?” He slid down in his seat and fell over on his side. “What if he turns out like you!? You thought it was a good idea to brainwash the Prime Minister the one time!”

Oh good, they’d reached the ‘elaborate meltdown’ phase of acceptance. Inko got up to make herself some tea. 

To make matters better, Toshinori let himself into the apartment right in time for Hisashi to holler, “The one time I tried to take a vacation I ended up getting chased through St Petersburg by the KGB! I wasn’t even going to Russia! I was going to California! I was going to learn to surf!” 

Toshinori paused halfway through sliding his shoes off with wide eyes.

“Hisashi found out about Izuku.” She told him quietly. “Now he’s remembering some of the things we got up to when we were younger and panicking about it.”

“Why aren’t you panicking?” Hisashi glared at them over the back of the sofa, clinging to it with hands like claws. “I wanted to get rid of a tree stump once when I was twelve. I had no resources except a library and whatever I could find in my uncle’s tool shed, but I still blew my eyebrows and half the garage to smithereens. He’s got twenty IQ points on me!”

“Hopefully also a better chemistry curriculum.” Toshinori replied faintly.

“You think that’s going to make the explosions smaller?” Hisashi hissed.

“I think if he wanted to blow something up he’d ask his boyfriend nicely.” Toshinori went over and kissed her on the cheek. “Do I need to throw him out?” He whispered in her ear.

She shook her head. “No, he’s not challenging my custody rights. This is just him processing, I think.”

“I cannot be a father.” Hisashi continued to mutter to himself and started to get a little twitchy around the eyes. “If you need someone to vanish into a van and never be seen again then, yeah sure, I’m your guy…” 

“Oh, that’s where it came from.” Toshinori observed quietly. He went to stand behind her and hug her from behind as they watched the father of her child quietly lose it on the couch.

Hisashi took off, still wild eyed but not actively talking to himself, around the time Izuku texted to say he was on his way home. Hisashi immediately remembered some mysterious errand he needed to run far, far away as soon as she told him. It would probably be a while before he was ready for a face-to-face meeting. His advice lingered on though and Toshinori was sensitive enough to her mood to pick up on it at once.

They were eating dinner together. It had become a habit even after he’d moved out. Half the time Izuku was occupied with Katsuki so the company was more than welcome and most of the time Toshinori didn’t end up going back to his place anyway. 

Normally it was her favorite thing; conversation with their ankles linked under the table. Even she could tell she was quiet, but she kept getting swept under by her own thoughts.

“Are you still worried about him?” Toshinori asked, startling her out of her latest fugue. 

“Who?” She blinked. “Hisashi? No, not exactly. It was something he said that was meant as advice. I’m not sure if I should follow it.”

“Is it good advice?” He asked.

“Maybe. Probably.” She admitted. “It’s not easy advice. It’s about us. He thought I should tell you more about myself.”

Toshinori paused in the process of collecting their empty dishes. “Did you mean about where you’re from?” He asked, pointing up for emphasis. “You can tell me if you like, but not if you think you have to. My experience of leaving Japan isn’t quite the same, but I understand that it can be hard to talk about home when you can’t go back there.”

Inko had been in the process of taking her mug to the kettle for another cup of tea. It slipped from her suddenly nerveless fingers and shattered on the floor. 

“No, no, don’t move!” He picked her up under the arms like a toddler to get her bare feet away from the shards. It was so absurd that she came to her senses.

“You’re ridiculous.” She gestured at the broken pieces of her mug and they rose up to deposit themselves into the trash.

“Oh, right.” Toshinori set her down and rubbed the back of his head in embarrassment. “Was I not supposed to realize?” He asked.

“It… depends on what you realized.” Inko pressed her palms against her stomach. She could practically feel the butterflies inside.

“That you’re an alien?” He asked. “I mean there was a spaceship. Akatani didn’t say it was a spaceship, but that thing in SB5 looked like a spaceship to me. There were robots with entire unique personalities and hyper-advanced problem solving skills. Two of them performed independent surgery on me. Not to mention your quirk is too versatile to be normal. Izuku I could understand. He’s late Q5, but you’re Q4… or would be, I suppose, if you were from here.”

She covered her face and fought not to groan. How foolish. Hisashi hadn’t even been hiding it. She’d been too focused on the surgery and getting rid of that little monstrosity to realize. “It was a drop ship, technically.” She admitted faintly. “The real ship is parked in a crater on the dark side of your moon. That’s assuming it’s not a giant mynock nest at this point.” She shrugged. 

Toshinori squinted at her with something approaching horror. “What’s a mynock?” He sounded like he didn't really want an answer, but was afraid of what his imagination would produce if he didn't get one. “Please tell me it’s not a space monster. We have enough problems on Earth without space monsters.”

“Technically?” She wouldn’t classify them as ‘monsters’ per se, but they were dangerous nuisances. “They’re silicone life forms that evolved to survive in a vacuum. You’ll find them on large asteroids mostly or moons without an atmosphere that have been hit by meteors. They feed off radiation and will suction onto starships to try and hitch a ride to new breeding grounds. They’re a problem because they can cause hull breeches and often carry exogorth larvae.”

He made another face. “What’s an exogorth?”

She thought about it for a second, trying to think of a good illustrative example. “Have you ever read Dune?” She asked at last and going by the way he turned pale she took it to mean that he had. “Like that, but they eat the minerals out of asteroids and rocky exoplanets. They also eat mynocks so the two species tend to occupy the same environmental niches.”

“No, I am not ready for sand worms to be real.” Toshinori went to the fridge and got out two entire pints of the fancy ice cream he insisted on leaving at her house given how often he ate there. He handed her the vanilla peach ripple and cracked open his rum raisin. He stabbed his spoon into it for emphasis. 

She could have taken pity on him, but didn’t. “The colloquial term for them translates to ‘space slug’.” 

Toshinori shot her a look, got up, picked her up, and sat back down with her in his lap. How that counted as a retaliation she had no idea, but whatever got him comfortable asking for the things he wanted was fine by her.

“You’re taking this very well.” She observed after a while.

“I’ve been the top hero in the world for over twenty years.” Toshinori smiled sadly. “This isn’t the strangest thing I’ve seen in the past year even. Did you know alternate dimensions are real?” She had, but also knew they were nearly impossible to transverse. That ‘nearly’ seemed to be a key distinction. “An interstellar refugee my government already knows about and integrated into regular society over a decade and a half ago isn’t something I’m going to worry about. Did you buy your citizenship with that shuttle?”

“It was a downpayment.” She ate a spoonful of ice cream to buy herself a moment to find a way to explain what else she’d been doing. “I performed some surgeries and spent time as an independent defense contractor in order to secure my living here.”

Toshinori had been All Might too long to not know what that meant. “You killed people.”

“A few. I didn’t accept every task given to me.” She plucked at the fabric of his shirt. “Doctor Mercury, Leviathan, Entropy, and one person who never gave a name. They were in the process of diverting a train into an occupied building and I didn’t think to ask later.” 

Whatever reservations Toshinori had seemed to be cleared away by those names. They stood among the legendary monsters of recent human history; people so capricious, dangerous, and powerful that there was no realistic way to incarcerate or rehabilitate them without paying for it in an unequal measure of innocent lives. 

He whistled, low and impressed. “Entropy. That’s one of the few villains who ever consistently got away from me.  Her quirk let her do something like teleportation. That must have been an unpleasant fight.”

Inko shrugged. 

Entropy never knew what hit her, actually. She’d had a normal civilian life in Japan between her crazed and seemingly random mass murder sprees. Inko had arranged to sit next to her on a train one day. It had taken a while to sort through the woman’s mind and understand that there was nothing Inko could do to help her or cure her psychosis. She was happy the way she was. 

Murder was a fun hobby for Entropy, not a compulsion. She looked forward to it. She planned her sprees for months with elaborate mood boards and custom playlists. She enjoyed that almost as much as the sounds of her victims made when they realized they were about to die. Entropy didn’t care about other people except for the ways in which they could serve or amuse her and short of writing her a new personality she wasn’t going to start.

So Inko introduced a strategically located air embolism into Entropy’s brain. She’d lived for a few minutes, but dropped dead in the station after departing the train. Contrary the way she lived, she’d died leaving barely even a ripple behind. 

“Something like that.” Inko picked at her pint of ice cream. “Toshinori, I…

“Don’t tell me unless you want to.” He wasn’t quite looking at her. “Don’t do it because Akatani made you think you should.”

Inko leaned back to look at him askance. “Are you jealous of Hisashi?” She couldn’t make herself picture it. All Might was objectively superior to Agent Akatani in every aspect. 

“A bit.” Toshinori admitted, looking deeply uncomfortable.

“We were never more than friends. I slept with him because I could rely on him not to make anything more out of it. I was lonely, but not anywhere near ready for romance.” She considered what Hisashi had said. He wasn’t wrong. Toshinori did deserve to know at least some of who or what she was and she found that she wanted the excuse to share that part of herself with him. “I’d recently defected from a monastic order. There were very strict rules about attachment and I was feeling… rebellious, I suppose?”

Toshinori finally looked at her again, but with disbelief that time. “You were a nun?” 

“Not like what you’re picturing. It wasn’t an enclosed cloister or segregated by gender the way religious orders are on this planet. We weren’t even all the same species. It was a large organization and a powerful entity in galactic politics.” Inko explained. “We took vows of celibacy. The rule against sexual relations wasn’t enforced, but marriage and passionate feelings were strictly forbidden. I was very unhappy with the Order when I left, but I didn’t fully renounce my vows until I came to Earth. That discontent influenced my decisions, but even then I knew I was not emotionally available. I don’t regret the things I did, but I probably would not have had an affair with him if we’d met later once I was… calm.” She used the Force to float her ice cream back into the refrigerator. Her appetite was gone and there was no point in letting it melt, but at the same time she didn’t want to move from where she was. 

He made a thoughtful noise. “Why did you leave?”

“I disagreed with a decision made by the order’s governing council. I’d recently been promoted to the rank of Master and Council Member, but I wasn’t a voting member. I could only make arguments. There was a war going on and the Galactic Republic was struggling against a hostile cultural group known as the Mandalorians. We were uniquely positioned to minimize casualties and even perhaps end the agressions sooner, but the high councillors were reluctant to become involved.” She took a breath. “The problem is that I’d been part of a team tasked with investigating a planet that turned out to have been conquered early on during the Mandalorian expansion. Cathar was outside of Republic space, but the planet had gone dark and the Republic was on friendly terms with them. Intergalactic communication is much slower than you might expect living here. It was some time before anyone realized something might have gone wrong. The Order agreed to send a small, fast ship to investigate and report back.” 

Now came the hard part. 

“We arrived to find the Cathar people had been wiped out. There was some evidence that their orbital and ground defenses held out for a while and we eventually found a few refugees had escaped to nearby settled planets, but it was maybe ten percent of the entire species. They were functionally extinct. The Republic did not move at that time. The Cathar and Mandalorians had bad history between them. The Republic Senate believed that the genocide was a tragic, but personal affair between the two groups so there was no evidence of any greater threat. Later the Jedi High Council said the same thing when the Mandalorians began to invade Republic space.” 

She startled as a big hand stroked her back. “So that’s why you had a mobile hospital.” Toshinori observed.

The Nike hadn’t originally been hers, but she’d commanded it on behalf of a small independent planet as part of their contribution to the war effort. They’d eventually fallen under Mandalorian rule and she’d inherited ownership of the vessel under interstellar salvage law as the commanding officer. It was a carrier of sorts, except the Nike carried small field hospitals instead of trooper transports. She’d donated most of them to the Republic’s restoration efforts, but kept two for her own needs. The drop ships were much newer than the carrier itself, which was hopelessly outdated even by the Republic’s reduced post-war standards and would have been sent to rot in a scrapyard even if she donated it so she wasn’t shorting anyone by keeping it for herself. 

More importantly, she knew by then that she needed to leave known space. The carrier could have supported her for the rest of her life if she’d needed it to. It had certainly carried her beyond the Council’s easy reach. 

“That’s right. I defected from the Order along with others who felt the same way. We all contributed in different ways. I was mostly medical support as a combat surgeon and later as a medical fleet commander, but we were boarded several times over the years. I saw action then.” She kept fidgeting with his shirt. “This may not be an issue, but Hisashi mentioned that I was restless sometimes in my sleep. I think I frightened him. That is what he felt you ought to be made aware of.”

Toshinori thought about it. “Maybe once in a while.” He said, much to her surprise. “I stroke your back until you settle down. You never seem to remember having a nightmare the next morning so I’ve been letting it be.”

Inko felt her face flame up and was saved from having to say anything intelligent by the door opening. 

Izuku walked in, took one look at them on the couch, and held up a book to shield his eyes. “I’m home and I didn’t see anything!” He declared as he made a beeline for his room. “I think I’ll go put my headphones on!” 

She swatted Toshinori as he smothered his laughter with one enormous hand. “I’m sure you must have walked in on your parents at least once.”

“I don’t recall them touching each other that often actually. I lost them when I was fairly young so I don’t have too many memories.” He wiped one eye. “They were fundamentalists of some sort. It’s common enough in America. I assume that’s where they were from although I don’t know for sure. They didn’t believe in having sex unless it was for procreation. Even an acceptable level of PDA in Japan was a bit much for them.”

That itch in the back of Inko’s mind intensified, but still failed to produce any conclusions.

“I’m glad you’re more liberal.” She told him.

His ears turned pink, but he smiled and said, “Oh me too.” He cleared his throat and slid a look her way. “So, those vows you mentioned. You don’t still… you know? That taboo against attachment, marriage, and passion; is that still something you believe?”

Inko blinked. That was an odd question to be asked by the person whose lap she was sitting in. “No. I fully renounced my vows when I left the order. I still follow some of their moral teachings, but I’m not obligated to if I don’t want. If I still observed those proscriptions then I wouldn’t have kept Izuku when he was born. Why do you ask?”

“No reason!” He seemed pleased for some reason. “No reason at all.”

Chapter Text

Izuku did not get kicked out on his first day, but it might have been a near thing for Katsuki. 

They both did fine in Aizawa’s sudden-death physical exam although Izuku did discover that he could move an object further than he could reliably perceive it. Inko hadn’t had an opportunity to test him for that so she was already pleased with his new school.

“We had to throw a ball with a tracker in it.” Her son explained as he tied shirataki for her at the counter and Toshinori made them all tea. They were having a hotpot because Toshinori was trying to catch up on all the things he’d been missing out on over the years as an expat with no stomach and because hotpots were perhaps one of the things Inko liked best about Japanese cuisine; community and a good meal all at the same time. “Eraserhead said to keep moving it as long as I could and he’d tell me when it stopped. You were right about him being weird, but he was nicer than I expected.” 

They were having dinner at Toshinori’s place for once. His movements were being watched, but no one paid much attention to her so until the heat died down they’d agreed to start spending time together at his place. It was easier for a middle-aged woman and her somewhat plain-looking son to move around than it was for a seven foot tall blonde body builder.

“What is this I hear about young Bakugo almost hitting another student?” Toshinori asked as he set Izuku’s mug in front of him. It was a limited edition ALL M brand cup from a run of only seventy-five world-wide. He’d sworn Inko to secrecy when he got it for Izuku and made her pretend she’d found it at the grocery store so the boy would actually use it.

Inko hadn’t quite worked up the nerve to explain that Izuku could detect lies and avoided making Toshinori any promises on that front.

“Oh, that.” Izuku squinted at his tea. “There was this guy I ran into during the exam. His name is Iida. He yelled at me during the briefing. I was, um, muttering again and Kacchan apparently decided they’re mortal enemies?” He looked back and forth between Inko and Toshinori like he was hoping for some input.

One of the unanticipated side effects of making a romantic connection with someone was that Katsuki had three modes rather than his original two; ‘surly and bored’, ‘surly and excited’, and now ‘you looked at my boyfriend funny so I’m going to rearrange your face.’ 

It just figured his love language was violence.

Inko would have been more upset about that last one except the only thing Katsuki seemed to get consistently upset about was when people wouldn’t let Izuku talk or if they made him feel bad about it. She was too much of a mother to disapprove of someone so willing to make sure her son had room to be heard.

Izuku’s mumbling could be frustrating, but she’d noticed he didn’t do it as much around Katsuki anymore. He chattered like he had when he was a kid on a startling breadth of well-informed topics. Katsuki, meanwhile, seemed to like to deliberately get him started and then stood back to just soak in the sound. He’d ask leading questions too if it looked like Izuku was about to wind down or feel stifled.

They’d had a rough patch when Inko sat Katsuki down to explain the Force bond. He’d long ago cottoned onto the fact that Izuku was more than a telepath but he hadn’t realized it was something Inko shared with her son. He wasn’t been happy about being kept in the dark, but after Inko demonstrated some of the more advanced Force techniques for his benefit Katsuki reluctantly agreed that the true extent of Izuku’s abilities was something that should be kept private even from his own parents until after he and Izuku had their hero licenses.

Inko kept her own history private. Izuku wasn’t a Jedi so it would be up to him to define his relationship with the Force and she hated to paint him into a corner when he was a teenager. She did give Izuku quiet permission to discuss it with Katsuki when he felt like he might be ready.

Katsuki was more annoyed with her than with Izuku anyway, near as she could figure. He was still pouting in her general direction whenever they met. Maybe it was because she was the adult and Izuku had been operating under her orders, but she suspected it also had something to do with the fact that somewhere along the line Izuku had received a permanent ‘get out of jail free’ card in terms of Katsuki’s temper so he needed somebody else to be mad at. 

Given her upbringing, Inko wasn’t all that familiar with what true romantic love looked like --but she was pretty sure that’s what was growing between the two teenagers. 

She was getting less and less annoyed about the inevitability of paying out on that bet.

“I’m familiar with his family.” Toshinori sat another cup down in front of her. That one was a pale blue ceramic mug without a handle and a design of cherry blossoms down the side. “The Iidas are a family of pro heroes, but young Iida does seem to be wound a bit tight.”

“He’s not that bad.” Izuku hastened to defend the boy. “He came up to me before class and that was what Kacchan didn’t like -that and he was fussing because Kacchan had his feet up on the desk- but he actually wanted to apologize because he thought I’d had some special insight about the exam. I didn’t, but it was nice of him to say. Kacchan calmed down after that, but Iida’s an uptight rich kid so I don’t think they’re ever going to really be friends. That’s okay though. There’s this group of kids who keep looking at him like they’ve got the words ‘target acquired’ written on their foreheads.” He twiddled his fingers. “It’d be nice if Kacchan could make some real friends.”

“Oh?” Inko leaned over in a silent invitation to keep going.

Izuku blushed and it would have been cute, except he seemed more sad than anything else. “I think he thinks everyone is like Ojiro and Kashima now.” He explained. “Ojiro’s mom made a lot of trouble for him at school. I mean, fortunately for him the principal would go to any length to avoid dealing with problems so it didn’t really hurt his acceptance at UA, but the teachers started treating Kacchan differently and Ojiro spread some gross rumors about why he got suspended so our classmates did too. He says it doesn’t matter, but it does. I can tell.” He tapped his temple.

In that moment Inko made a mistake. She forgot Toshinori was in the room. “Don’t get so reliant on that bond that you forget to talk to him. He can’t hear what you can. He won’t know what you’re thinking unless you tell him.”

“Oh, I… um…” He covered his face with both hands and groaned. “Ok. That’s fair. I didn’t think about it like that.”

“Bond?” Toshinori looked back and forth between them. “What bond?”

Izuku made a noise eerily like a startled bird and turned bright, bright red as he too remembered Toshinori was there. “UM!” He shot up out of his chair. “I need to go to… the… the place…bye!” He bolted out of the room to go hide in the bathroom probably.

She kind of wished she could hide with him, but if she ran then Toshinori would go after her. 

“Inko?” He prodded.

“Izuku and I aren’t just telekinetics.” She pressed her hands to her cheeks to cool her face. This is what came of putting off difficult conversations. “Sometimes when a person like us gets very close to someone else a connection forms. We discovered a little while ago that Izuku and Katsuki-kun have developed that connection. I’ve been working with them to develop it a bit further, but Katsuki can’t do much with the bond except get Izuku’s attention or send one-sided messages.”

Toshinori chewed that over for a minute. “Is that why they keep only having half their conversations out loud?” He asked in a conspiratorial whisper as he leaned in shielding his mouth so his voice wouldn’t carry. “And why they make synchronized faces? Because I’d been wondering if Izuku had some telepathy that he didn’t know about and I wasn’t sure how to bring it up.”

“They’ve been doing that since they were babies so I don’t know.” She admitted. She’d noticed it too, but humans had amazing intuitive abilities and could infer accurate conclusions out of very little data. There was a reason why most of the galaxy listened when a human said ‘I have a feeling.’ They weren’t always right, but they were often enough to not take chances. Even relatively normal people could do that if they spent enough time around each other. Children especially were natural mimics. “Izuku is an empath. I have some ability in that area, but I have to work at it so I don’t generally bother and what I ‘hear’ is difficult to interpret.”

“Have you… ah…?” Toshinori poked his forefingers together and avoided her eyes. “I don’t suppose you’ve…”

“Read your mind?” Inko guessed. “I did once. It was after that fight you arranged between Aizawa and I. When you met me outside of the lockers. I didn’t ‘hear’ much except how much you liked my dress.”

His head snapped up and he pointed at her in accusation. “I knew I wasn’t staring!”

“No, you weren’t.” She agreed. He had been a little bit, but she didn’t see the point of rubbing his nose in it. “I will confess that I’m not particularly emotionally intelligent. Even if I looked, I wouldn’t necessarily know what I was seeing outside of a fight. Emotional expression varies from person to person. Those taboos I told you about weren’t just about sex or marriage. It was any extreme emotion; anger, fear, joy. Everything I know about being a… a normal well-adjusted person is self-taught. Izuku is better at interpreting other people’s minds. I’m not so literate.”

“I think you’re underestimating yourself.” Toshinori said that, but his relief was palpable. She might not understand complex emotions, but even she knew people needed to feel private in their minds. “So, Young Izuku and Young Bakugo are psychically married now?”

“No, no.” Inko snorted. “It’s not that kind of bond. It can happen between parents, siblings, and very close friends. It’s more common among young people, but even then it doesn’t happen that often.”

“Ah.” She could tell from his tone he was a little disappointed now. Well, perhaps it sounded romantic to someone who didn’t quite know what was involved.

“The boys share each other’s nightmares sometimes.” She told him. “They had a screaming fight the other day because they got caught in an emotional feedback loop when Katsuki got upset about something and accidentally infected Izuku with it until I had to knock them both out and let them sleep it off. Izuku was instinctively regulating Katsuki-kun’s mood disorder, but now that they’re learning to use the bond they’re both a little destabilized.”

It didn’t help that Katsuki’s new psychiatrist was reluctant to attempt medication due to the chemical nature of his quirk and the fact that he’d just started school. They were going to attempt a trial over the summer break, but that was a long way off. 

Toshinori grimaced, looking into the middle distance as he imagined it. “That is not quite what I’d been picturing.” He shifted his weight from side to side. Then he snuck a glance down the hall to make sure Izuku wasn’t on his way back. “Did you realize it’s been about ten months since we met?” 

“Yes?” She blinked at him, confused. Was that a significant date? Was there an anniversary she’d missed?

“I know we’ve only been together for two. I say that because I don’t want you to think I’m being presumptuous or…or trying to rush things.” Toshinori cleared his throat and she noticed he was sweating. 

Oh goodness gracious, he was going to ask her to move in. If he did she was probably going to say yes because she had discovered she had a problem with telling that ridiculous mountain ‘no’ and she hadn’t even considered discussing the possibility with her son. 

“You may have noticed that the guest room is maybe a little…it’s not a guest room.” He snuck another look at her. “Would you two like to maybe leave some stuff here? So that you and Izuku don’t have to ride the train so late at night? That room is for Izuku no matter what since he’s my heir, but you don’t have to do anything you don’t…”

“Yes.” She reached across the table to hold his hand. She repeated herself as all the nervous energy drained out of her lover leaving behind a brilliant lopsided smile. “Yes.”

“What do you mean I have a room!?” Izuku shouted from the hallway.

Toshinori startled so bad he accidentally puffed up and tore out the shoulders of his shirt. “Aw no, I just got this one.” He mourned as he shrank back down again. Inko had wondered. It fit suspiciously well.

“S-sorry!” Izuku apologized as he slunk back up to the kitchen counter. “Do I really have a room here?” 

 “Ahahaha! You caught me, my boy!” Toshinori boomed, reverting to All Might mode as he usually did when confronted with his number one fan. “Would you like to see it? If that’s all right with your mother?”

They turned nigh identical pleading expressions on her and she smiled. Honestly, she was curious too. She’d only taken a few peeks through the open door in passing. “Let’s all go look.”

It wasn’t a room for a teenager, she realized as soon as Toshnori led them inside. It was almost a small apartment unto itself. The designers had taken advantage of the sky high ceilings to put in a small loft and the bed was up there with a little nightstand and a lamp. The ground level was split between a small study area and a private sitting ‘room’ with its own television.

“The design firm went a little overboard when I told them I wanted the option of hosting a future sidekick.” He admitted as an aside to her. “Then when I saw the mock up I couldn’t say no. It turns out that the floors below this one have been left empty so I had one of them turned into guest housing. That way I don’t have to have strangers in my actual house. There’s a big gym down there too.” They watched Izuku poke through everything with his eyes all but falling out of his head. “Would you like to use it sometime?”

“Well, you would need to have a conversation with Katsuki-kun first if you wanted to have regular training here.” Inko thought they’d probably have to do that eventually. Keeping something from Katsuki when Izuku already knew about it was an exercise in anxiety.

“No, I meant --well, yes, we should tell him soon anyway.” Toshinori rubbed the back of his neck. “I meant you and me. You mentioned you haven’t had an opportunity to push yourself in a while. Eraserhead is a tough opponent. If he’s not sufficiently challenging then… perhaps I might be?”

Inko’s entire body flashed hot. He kept surprising her with things she hadn’t admitted to herself that she wanted. Although on this count she might have been less embarrassed if he had asked her to move in. “Are you sure?”

“I want to see what you can do.” Toshinori shot her a small quiet smile. “Believe it or not I haven’t had a good sparring partner in recent years either.”

The plan had not been for Inko or young Izuku to stay the night, but some journalists had figured out Toshinori was at home and set up a barricade around the lobby to question anyone who came out of his official elevator. It would take the police a while to clear them and Inko was the one to realize that the trains would stop running long before it would be safe to exit the building. 

He snuck out using the launch pad. It occurred to him that he could probably clear the media frenzy by turning on the spotlights so people could see him leave from the ground level. He could have snuck them out the freight elevator into the garage too. The press hadn’t figured that one out yet, but he didn’t actually want either of the Midoriyas to go. 

He’d almost asked Inko to move in. It was too soon. He knew that. He’d almost done it anyway. Only the deer in the headlights look on her face had stopped him.

Given the things she told him it was already a minor miracle she was willing to try dating at all. Toshinori knew he should be content with what they had so far. He wasn’t used to feeling greedy.

A year ago he had made his peace with the limited time he had left. Now he’d been freed from the prison of his illness, but Nighteye’s prophecy was still looming on the horizon and Toshinori was faced with the need to try and fit an entire lifetime into a couple of months. 

It wasn’t fair.

Nothing about his life had really been ‘fair’ so he wasn’t all that surprised that he’d only found the person he wanted to spend his life with once it was almost over. His entire life had been either feast or famine so he usually wasn’t afraid to steal what moments came his way.

He retrieved a few changes of clothes from the Midoriya apartment plus some extras and the reference books young Izuku had requested for his homework. He told himself all of that was going to go back in the morning. This was temporary.

Still, the apartment looked small, dark, and uncomfortable without the inhabitants present. It hadn’t been his imagination then; his own penthouse suddenly seemed more like a home with the right people in it. 

Most of the lights were out when he snuck back in from the launch pad. Inko was sitting up in the library and reading by the light of a lamp. He could see light coming from young Izuku’s room along with the soft sound of music.

“I sent him to get a start on his homework.” Inko set the book aside and padded over to greet him. “I sensed some news drones trying to fly up to this floor so I turned down the lights. The drone baffles deterred them though.”

Huh. That was new. He was glad to know the air jets were working, but nobody except the installation company had tested them before. “I wonder what has them so excited?” He wondered out loud and then held up the canvas tote bag he’d liberated from her shopping bag collection. “I brought the things you asked for.”

“All Might, sir?” Izuku wandered out of his room and brightened when Toshinori pulled his reference books, thin laptop, and headphones out of the bag. There was also a fresh uniform shirt, his prescription face wash, and some lounge clothes for sleeping in; none of which the boy had thought to ask for. He liked to think he was getting better at this business of wrangling a younger person. “Yes! Thank you.”

Inko leaned into his side as young Izuku made off with his spoils already muttering about quadratics. They weren’t going to hear from him again until he started getting ready for bed. The boy’s mother said the hyper-focus was common for ‘people like them’ and that he shouldn’t be worried, but Toshinori could help it.

“I found that thing you asked for.” He handed over the odd little flashlight shaped thing. It had been hidden under the bed frame in Inko’s room. At first he thought it was a weapon or a machine, but it didn’t seem to have an ‘on’ button. It seemed a little industrial looking to be a religious implement. It might have been a medical device, but his inner child kept insisting ‘sonic screwdriver, sonic screwdriver, sonic screwdriver.’

She accepted it and slipped it into her pocket before kissing him on the cheek. “Thank you. It’s foolish, but I have a hard time sleeping without it close to hand.” A tense, self-deprecating look flickered across her face. He’d gotten the impression that she was embarrassed of her own trauma and that worried him too. “I had it in my purse the last few times I stayed over.”

Even if it was a weapon, it wasn’t the worst coping technique Toshinori had ever seen among veterans. He wasn’t about to judge her.

Inko hooked a finger over the edge of the bag and peered inside. Then she looked back up at him with one eyebrow raised. “I don’t see a nightgown in there.” She observed.

“Oh darn. I must have forgotten.” Toshinori couldn’t hold back his smug grin. “I’ve got a tshirt you can borrow.”

She squinted and he realized that they’d washed up on one of the many rocky shoals of pop culture she didn’t know about. Inko was more likely to know about books than television due to the time and practice it took her to become literate in Japanese. He knew he was starting to be one of her most trusted people when she started asking him to translate the more esoteric kanji for her. 

“Is that a fetish thing?” She asked with the kind of candor she only displayed around him and young Izuku. 

“A little bit.” He admitted. “More affectionate than sexy.”

“Well then, that’s alright with me.” She looped her arm around his waist. “As long as it’s at least a bit sexy.”

That evening was a small sneak peak into a life he’d never considered for himself. Inko finished her book while Toshinori worked on his lesson plans. Eraserhead and Blood King had forwarded him a highlight reel from their physical exams so he could do it on the couch next to her. When she got up to make tea she brought him a cup too.

The children had a fascinating range of talents and he was really looking forward to working with them. The amount of time on his ‘clock’ had doubled in the past few weeks, although he was still off active duty for the moment. Inko had given him a tentative greenlight, but then he saw an interview on the news where one of the younger local heroes admitted on live television that he’d been afraid that having All Might around was going to impact the amount of work he’d be able to get.

It wasn’t a perspective he’d considered before, but it made sense. Heroes were a bit more freelance in Japan and he was used to the regulatory agencies in the US which had kept heroes of his caliber on call for a specific category of threat. 

He’d thought they were worried about him getting old, but in retrospect they might have been keeping an eye on the opportunities available to younger heroes as well. He didn’t have a handler in Musutafu to coordinate his movements so he was going to have to start thinking of those kinds of things for himself.

His instinct was to feel guilty about not doing enough, but at the same time it meant he didn’t have to short change his students. He’d been feeling guilty about the possibility of that too. 

Young Izuku came in for some help with his english homework. It was just some light reading, but the text had specific jargon related to heroics that he wouldn’t have encountered in middle school.

Later when he was washing his face and changing into his night clothes, he could hear Inko gently but firmly badgering young Izuku into shutting down the computer and getting ready for bed. 

“No buts.” She said. “You have to be up early.”

‘I want this.’ He thought as he lay in bed that night. Inko was a warm, quiet presence in the darkness. ‘All the time.’

It was hard to make himself shut his eyes, but eventually he drifted off --only to be rudely woken up after what felt like five minutes, but was really about half a REM cycle.

Inko sat up blinking with her hair in his face as he reached for his phone, which was making the ungodly racket that had woken them both up.

“What is it?” She asked.

“It’s the security system on my parents’ storage unit.” Speaking of guilt. The storage unit was one of the main reasons he’d come back to Japan. It needed to be cleaned out. He’d taken over the lease when the original term his father purchased ran out, but Toshinori had never been able to make time to deal with it. The owner had upgraded the security system several times over the years and now the alerts went straight to Toshinori’s phone. “Someone broke into it. I need to go.”

She kicked out of bed. There was an odd tension in her shoulders that Toshinori didn’t like to see, but was also feeling himself. “I’m coming with you.” 

Maybe that made sense. He wasn’t feeling great about an emergency that made him run out of his house in the dead of night by himself after a day when the press had been particularly keen about his private business. 

Civilians weren’t supposed to use their quirks as part of their careers, but most journalists had some sort of passive predictive ability. They were rarely on a par with Nighteye’s prophecies, but the media always knew when trouble was brewing. 

Inko hopped into her pants while texting with one hand. “I’m leaving a message for Izuku.” She explained. She put away her phone and held out her hand. The little metal cylinder from earlier flew out of her purse and she clipped it onto one of her belt loops. “Better safe than sorry.”

“Liberty!” Toshinori addressed the room and the lights dipped. During the day she would answer him, but at night she stuck to silent acknowledgement especially if there was someone crashing in his guestroom… or in his bedroom, in this case. “If young Midoriya wakes up before we get back please let him know we had to run an errand and will be back before morning.” The lights dipped again. 

“Oh!” Inko blinked. “Your house is a droid?”

“Not exactly. The smart features are remotely operated by an AI.” That was an important distinction he’d learned to make. The ‘droids’ she was used to were housed in their bodies, which just wasn’t possible on Earth yet. The robots he was familiar with were piloted by intelligent synthetics who ‘lived’ in giant server banks and the AI piloting a robot was not always the same one from day to day. Liberty had ignored him for the most part since hed moved into the penthouse. His boring day-to-day hadn't merited that much of her vast attention since he'd come to Musutafu. “Liberty’s servers aren’t housed here, but she’s run all my bases and private residences for the past ten years.”

“Goodness, you should introduce us properly later.” 

They madeit out of the building without disturbing the teenager.

Toshinori had flown with people before, but despite a lot of loud fantasizing by newscasters he’d never been in the air with a girlfriend before. He held her against his side as they sailed through the darkened city sky. She had her arms around his neck and he supported her with a forearm comfortably underneath her hips. It was kind of like a movie, which he shouldn’t have been so excited about at age forty seven and yet.  

It wasn’t the most efficient way to carry someone, but he did not give a good goddamn about efficiency right at that moment. 

The storage unit was part of an old business in Musutafu close to where their old house used to be. The old place had been torn down years before, but the neighborhood looked mostly the same; maybe a bit cleaner. The storage company had open air units and Toshinori quietly let them into the lot. 

“Someone is still inside.” Inko told him quietly. It was nice having an ESPer on his side for once. “They’re… he’s frustrated. There’s something he’s trying to turn on and it’s not working… or it’s defying him?” Whatever she was picking up on made her crinkle her nose. “What did your parents do again?”

“My dad worked construction and my mother… she wasn’t a housewife. She was the primary earner.” He realized he didn’t have an easy answer. She wasn’t always around. Sometimes she left and then came back. His dad had never seemed worried about it, but he was always glad when she returned. Still they never discussed it around him and, with the usual self centeredness of childhood, he’d never thought to ask. “I’m not sure what she did. We’ll go in. What do you need in terms of space to work?”

“If he’s armed and shooting then a fair bit, otherwise I can work in close quarters.” A look of eerie tranquility settled over her face. It was the same expression she’d worn to beat the stuffing out Aizawa; like she wasn’t only inhabiting her body.

Toshinori could hear someone talking low as they approached the sectional door. It had the terse plosive sounds of profanity, but it wasn’t any language Toshinori recognized-- except he sort of did. The words were familiar and wanted to make sense.

“Toshi, I want you to let me take the lead on this.” Inko’s voice was low and strained. Her face was pale when he looked her way. Whatever the intruder was saying she understood it. That was not a good sign. “No matter what he says, let me handle it.” 

He wasn’t actually looking forward to fighting amongst his parents’ heirlooms. There was a point where ‘strong’ became ‘too strong.’ Most of his trademarked attacks were based around mitigating his power but he was still hell on his surroundings. Inko was small and precise. Even if there wasn’t something weird about the intruder he’d been glad that she’d tagged along. “All right.” 

He slunk back. Inko rolled the door up with a short gesture and a man spring to his feet inside. He turned and in his free hands was a…

“Gun!” Toshinori barked it out on instinct.

“Tion'ad's ogir?” He shook his head, annoyed. “ Haar'chak … who’s there!?”

“Stand down and you won’t be harmed.” Inko slid into his line of sight. The little metal cylinder was held loosely in her dominant hand. 

“Jetti!” The man hissed and fired two shots. Toshinori reflexes were superior, but they weren’t ‘intercept bullets’ good. The gun didn’t fire bullets though. It was a laser gun, which was arguably worse. A dark shadow loomed up behind the intruder and knocked him over before he could fire a third time. 

Inko spun the cylinder up like a baton and two long stable beams of green light erupted from either end of it. The laser bolts splattered harmlessly against the barrier of her weapon. She reached out and the gun yanked itself out of his hands and into hers. Without saying anything she flipped the pistol in one hand and shot him once in each knee. “Copaanir bah try tug'yc?” She asked coolly once he got done screaming.

“No.” The man groaned as his head fell backwards onto the concrete floor. “What’s a Jedi even doing here? This is the ass end of the galaxy. Don’t you have a temple to go float rocks in?”

Inko and the man both flinched though when the giant thing that had knocked him over lumbered up to its feet -it was a quadruped of some kind with a tall peaked shoulder blades- and started making its way towards Toshinori. 

The watery streetlights revealed it to be a great big robot; taller than him even. It wasn’t as big as the Zero Point exambots, but it was on par with one of the three pointers. It resembled nothing he had a reference for except its behavior was kind of doglike as it bumped up against him with one armored shoulder and made an inquiring warble.

“That…” Inko’s tone was unreadable. “ a Basilisk.”

“Great, it’s already got a bonded rider.” The man groaned. “I wasted my time and got shot for nothing. Why were you leaving it in a shed, asshole?”

“I didn’t…” Toshinori struggled to stay upright as it continued to nudge at him in what seemed to be a mute demand for attention. What HAD his parents been up to? “...I didn’t know it was in there?”

“Darling…” The man on the floor looked up sharply in surprise when Inko started to speak and then at Toshinori with something approaching respect. “... do you perhaps favor one of your parents?”

“My father, why do you ask?” Toshinori frowned as the man’s hand started to creep towards something on his belt. His voice dropped two fearsome octaves as he said, “I wouldn’t, if I were you.”

The man raised his hands and both eyebrows. “That’s some impressive menace there, friend. You look like a heavy worlder.” He coked his head. “You’re, what? Clan Ordo?”

“I believe…” Inko did something that made the gun whine and redirected the man’s attention back towards her. “... you want to tell us about why you broke into this shed.”

The man’s expression slackened and he actually smiled a little. “I want to tell you why I broke into this shed.” He parroted. Toshinori added another magical space power to the list he was keeping in the back of his head; telekinesis, telepathy, healing, and now mind control. Quirk evolution was seeming less freakish with every passing revelation. “I’m on a mission to recover any war droids that survived disarmament. There’s records of a small community of defectors settling here. They were retrieved for the draft under the orders of Mandalore the Ultimate, but their belongings were left behind. Just my luck, there was a straggler.”

Inko snapped her fingers, looking alarmed, and the man passed out on the spot before he could say anything else distressing. It was too late. Toshinori had heard enough.

“Defector?” Toshinori had to right himself as the Basilisk butted into him again. It could sure pack a punch. “Okay, okay. How’s this?” He stroked its back and it made a dissatisfied noise. 

“Bang it a little on the side.” Inko swallowed and stepped over their downed opponent. The basilisk nosed at her, but didn’t seem to feel aggressive. It was a bad moment for Toshinori to realize its head was made entirely out of guns though . “I saw their riders do that in the war sometimes.”

Toshinori was trying not to think about that; that gruesome war she’d barely survived or the intruder who’d mentioned a ‘draft.’

His parents had both vanished one day while he was at school. It wasn't that uncommon for them to go on a long errand without telling him. They’d raised him to be pretty self-sufficient so it was a day or so before he even thought to get scared. Even then, he’d known to go to one of their neighbors who in turn called the police. Eventually he ended up in foster care. 

No one could ever find evidence about what happened to his parents although they did try. The police had back-traced their movements for a little while via the public security network. 

A pair of unidentified people showed up at his house in the middle of the day. His parents left with them willingly as near as anyone could tell from their body language. They were seen boarding a train, but no one could figure out where they got off. The authorities declared Toshinori’s parents missing and then finally dead six years later.

Part of him had always believed they were still alive somewhere. When he was a  teenager he’d harbored a sickening suspicion that they’d abandoned him because he was quirkless. It was hard to believe even then. They were both quirkless too and had never seemed all that impressed by quirks. They’d loved him in their own spartan fashion and he’d never questioned it when they were still around.

Now a terrible, horrible realization was growing in the pit of his stomach.

What if his parents hadn’t left of their own free will? What if they went quietly so the people who came for them didn’t realize they were leaving someone behind?

“Toshi, I can make him go away.” Inko spoke to him in a low, urgent tone. “Then we can leave. Do you trust me to take care of this?”

The basilisk leaned into him and Toshinori gasped on an aborted laugh when it became clear that it was trying to comfort him. 

“All right.” He knelt down next to the robot and it draped its strange head over his shoulder.

“Then take the basilisk out of sight.”

Toshinori obeyed. His head was full of a low buzz as he tried and failed to deal with any of the revelations that had just landed in his lap. His parents were aliens. He might be an alien. 

The more words he heard in that foreign, but not foreign, language the more he started to remember his mother and father speaking like that with him and each other. Mando’a was what they exclusively spoke at home. His parents were relaxed about most of his schooling except that, but he’d never met anyone else who’d even heard of it. For a long time he thought they’d been preserving a dying language like Ainu or Saami, but maybe not. If he concentrated he could sort of pick out the words despite not having spoken it in over thirty years.

Inko had said ‘ Copaanir bah try tug'yc?’  

If he hadn’t just lost his mind then that meant ‘Want to try that again?’ 

Inko joined him after a few minutes and held a finger up to her lips. 

The man was quiet for a minute and then -having apparently forgotten everything that just happened including getting shot twice- banged around in a storage unit across from Toshinori’s, muttering in that alien language, and then finally stomped off.

They waited until Inko nodded. “It’s safe to move.” She sighed. 

“We can’t leave Basil here.” Toshinori had considered it for a brief moment, but then he realized that the robot… the droid had probably been awake and alone in that shed for thirty-five years waiting for someone who was never going to come back. After that it wasn’t a choice.

“Basil?” Inko cocked her head. “Ah, basil -isk. No. It would probably go looking for you. They’re not fully sentient, but they bond tightly with their riders. I've heard them scream when their riders are shot down. It wasn’t meant to be alone.” She held out a hand to Basil, who made a gesture sort of like sniffing it. “I’ve never been this close to one.” She glanced his way. “Toshi…”

“Not here.” His voice sounded raw even to him. “The bottom level of the penthouse is armored. It can stay there if you don’t think there’s a risk that it’ll attack anyone, but I don’t know how we’ll get it up there.”

“They aren’t aggressive on their own. They only attack on command and they only accept orders from their bonded rider. That appears to be you.” Inko considered Basil. “I can lift it if you can carry it.”

“Are you sure? It might weigh more than I…” He yelped as his feet left the floor. Both he and Basil floated about two feet up off the ground. He glared at his girlfriend. She wasn’t even sweating. “Inko!”

She smiled up at him. “It won’t be a problem.”

Chapter Text

Getting Basil into the penthouse straddled the border between hilarity and tear-inducing levels of frustration. 

They absolutely woke Izuku up. He came staggering out of his room only half awake with spectacular bedhead only to stop dead at the sight of the giant droid they’d brought home in the dead of night. Toshinori would have felt bad, except the kid wanted to be a hero and that was what hero life was like sometimes. He’d need to get used to weird nights and rude awakenings eventually. Might as well start now.

Basil wasn’t sure about him until Toshinori sort of remembered the alien… or rather, the mando’a word for ‘friendly.’ Fortunately it was a bit like riding a bicycle; the more he spoke the more he remembered. 

Inko still had to correct his pronunciation, but the droid seemed to get the idea and unilaterally decided Izuku was its new person. Izuku took it about as well as could be expected considering Basil was about nine feet at its tallest point and wanted to bump into him like it did with Toshinori. Izuku had to grab onto it’s armoured shoulder and let it lift him off his feet. The only reason it could even get around the apartment was because the doors and halls were designed to let Toshinori get around as All Might. 

It still would only reliably take orders from Toshinori, but Izuku turned out to have enough mando’a that he could get it to move out of his way if he asked nicely. When Toshinori expressed surprise that Inko had taught him any of it at all she looked at him like he was the weirdo.

“I don’t understand only being able to speak one language.” She sniffed. “The minimum in the Core Worlds is three. In Rim Space people speak at least five and usually understand more.”

Basil meanwhile settled itself on the floor in Izuku’s room like an enormous sleeping dog and refused to budge. Toshinori didn’t quite have the heart to force the issue either and Inko seemed very confident about it not being dangerous so Izuku ended up sharing his new room with a very large new roommate. 

Inko waited until they’d gotten both teenager and war droid put back down for the night after they had retreated to the master suite to say, “Well, he always wanted a dog.” 

The laugh that escaped him sounded like it belonged to someone else. Toshinori dragged a hand across his face as he sat down on the bed. “Love, please tell me my parents weren’t genocidal maniacs.”

“I highly doubt it.” She turned towards him and her expression said she’d taken the question seriously. “How old were you when they vanished?”

“Twelve.” It was three lonely years before he’d met Nana-sensei. “That was thirty-five years ago.”

She nodded. “Then they were very early objectors. I only know the rumors, but there were some questions about the legitimacy of Mandalore the Ultimate’s right to rule. He was the clan overlord at the beginning of the Mandalorian expansion. There was also a prominent objector at the end of the battle of Cathar, which happened around that time, who argued against exterminating a fallen enemy.” Inko’s gaze turned inwards. “She was gunned down with the last survivors. That triggered another wave of defections. A minority of the Mandalorians felt that went against one of their sacred laws. I hadn’t heard anything about them hunting down their deserters, but this region is considered unknown space. Anyone who noticed wouldn’t have risked reporting it to the Republic Senate even if they could.”

Toshinori had known in his heart for a while that his family was dead, but getting answers after all this time wasn’t bringing him the closure that he’d hoped for. That Mandalore person sounded like a dictator. Dictators weren’t known for letting their traitors live long. It sounded like he was already dead and had died in total defeat, which gave Toshinori at least some savage comfort.

He scooped Inko into his lap and flopped backwards onto the bed. “I’m an alien.” He wheezed. It was slightly less terrifying a concept now that he knew Inko was one too and that Earth wasn’t a tiny bastion of life in an otherwise empty galaxy, but rather a quaint little backwater where frightened people went to hide.

“Maybe not.” Inko patted his chest. “Mandalorians are forbidden from leaving any abandoned children they find. They must either raise the child as their own or reunite them with their family. It’s part of the Resol’nare; the six tenets of Mandalorian culture.”

That word tickled his brain. “I think I remember that.” He squinted. There were a lot of things he remembered from when he was about five or so that his parents suddenly stopped talking about or doing around the time he was old enough to start picking up on them. They’d probably decided to integrate into Japanese culture. “There was this nursery rhyme… Ba'jur bal beskar'gam… Ara'nov, aliit…” He squinted as his already overtaxed memory began to falter. “I can’t remember the rest.”

Mando'a bal Mand'alor— An vencuyan mhi. That’s the one.” Inko nodded. “Education and armor, self-defense, our tribe, our language and our leader—all help us survive. They would have explained the tenets more as you got older.” She paused to give him a look-over. “You do look like a heavy worlder though; tall, muscular." She admitted. "You’d need to take a genetic test to be sure, but I wouldn’t recommend it.”

“No.” He agreed. That was a terrible idea. The Y.U.R.E.I. labs already went nuts over every tissue sample they got from him even though the results they got were inevitably boring. Whatever he was, his genes weren’t weird enough to have raised any red flags already. He wasn't sure 'illegally adopted by aliens' was better than being an alien himself, but he'd grown into a carbon copy of his father only taller so he doubted it.

He had other things on his mind anyway. The more they talked about it the more things he remembered; one connection led to another and another. “How strict was that ‘find their parents’ thing? Because one time my dad brought home this kid and introduced him as my new brother. My mom just about killed him when she found out and I had to take the little boy to the police station while they fought about it.”

“Some were better than others. From what I understand, having a big family was desirable.” She started tracing a circle on his chest and cleared her throat. “We should probably be more careful about birth control. Izuku was something of a miracle baby, but...”

Toshinori’s ears caught fire as he followed that train of thought. “So, in theory we could…”

She nodded, squeezing her eyes shut as her face went pink. “It’d be much easier than if I tried again with a person native to Earth. Izuku was a rough pregnancy. If I wasn’t a healer then he might not have made it. That said, I’m not really interested in more children at this point in my life.” She added that last one with a pained smile. 

Oddly, he felt the same way. Even disregarding the prophecy, he was a bit old to be considering babies and he only had so much time left with his heir. “Young Izuku is a full time job.”

“I love my work.” She agreed, smiling. That smile faded as they looked at each other. “Is… there anything else you’d like to ask me about?”

Right. Laser staff. Mind control. The ability to lift one and a quarter tons of mass and hold it for the space of a ten minute flight seemingly without effort.

“A few.” He agreed. “What exactly is your quirk? Does Akatani know about that staff? Akatani should probably never find out about the bullet-stopping laser staff.”

“He knows.” She shook her head. “It’s a sword, actually. The light saber is a traditional weapon for members of the Jedi Order. The materials to make one are very rare though. Kyber crystal doesn’t occur on Earth as far as I know so they wouldn’t be able to recreate it.” She huffed a sigh as something occurred to her. “I’m going to have to find some eventually when it’s time for Izuku to finish his training. Every Jedi makes their own saber as a rite of passage. I’m not one anymore, but I’d like to give him that experience.” 

Something sharp and angry shot through his chest as Toshinori realized he probably wasn’t going to get to be part of that. It sounded like it would be amazing; an actual quest for a magic crystal. That was the kind of adventure his job hadn’t been in a decade.

For the first time he really, truly began to resent the sands draining from his hourglass. He didn’t want to go.

“My quirk is --it’s hard to explain.” She fidgeted some. “It’s harder in Japanese. There are words you just don’t have. There is something, it would be called the ‘Force’ in your language. It’s an energy field created by all living creatures. I can manipulate… no, that’s a bad word. Communicate? That doesn’t work either.” She scrubbed at her hair. “Is there a Japanese word for something that is too big and complex to be a person but is still alive?”

“Not… really.” This was starting to sound like actual space magic.

She sighed. “The Force is like that. It’s too vast to be known, but you can interact with it if you are born with a certain sensitivity. That sensitivity lets us perceive it. Our abilities aren’t unique -although we do all have different aptitudes and talents- so you can’t quite call it a quirk. It's not instinctive like a quirk either. It takes years of study and meditation to learn.”

“Huh.” His girlfriend was a space wizard. Too bad the press could never find out about it. They would lose their minds, but would also make Inko and Izuku’s lives unbearable and that wasn’t acceptable. “So I wasn’t making it up? I bounced back from surgery faster than I should have.”

She nodded. “I did help with cell therapy and managing your symptoms, but most of your post-op recovery was due to the bacta and kolto treatments. You quirk was involved too. I couldn’t tell what it was doing aside from ejecting damaged tissue your body would have usually reabsorbed.”

That last bit was the least surprising thing he’d learned all night. One for All could still catch him napping after all these years.

They relaxed together for a moment before one final question occurred to him.

“What are we going to do about Basil?” Did droids come with a safety? Its whole face was made of guns. People lived in his building who weren’t him. “Do you know how to deactivate its weapons?”

“No.” She made a thoughtful noise. “But I think I know someone who can ask.”

Inko found herself a little disappointed the next morning that Toshinori hadn’t asked her to move in because his kitchen was easily three times larger and more efficient than her own. It was a joy to work in.

When she got into the cabinets and found a set of three bento boxes clearly meant for two men and a small woman she was force to consider the idea that he had meant to ask and then chickened out at the last minute. She’d noticed the night before too that the fridge had been fully stocked for a Japanese cook who used all the same brands she did despite the fact that Toshinori himself did not cook anything except steaks, gigantic cheeseburgers, and oven fries. 

Like most Jedi she’d been used to eating either bland temple food prepared by the members of a support cloister or ration bars when she was away from the Order. The Republic’s military rations had actually been a step up for her diet-wise so she hadn’t learned to cook until she came to Earth and Japan was a good place to learn. She hadn’t expected to enjoy it as much as she did. Temple life didn’t automatically preclude hobbies, but acolytes were steered away from anything that needed too many materials. 

Cooking was useful and necessary, which appealed to her practical nature. Lunch boxes could be a creative outlet and there used to be little passive-aggressive competitions among the mothers when Izuku was in grade school for who could make the best composed, most attractive bento box for their child. Inko didn’t want to think she was competitive, but no one set out to learn to make onigiri that looked like soccer balls for their own sake. It certainly hadn’t been to get her son to eat. Izuku would devour anything she put in front of him so long as it didn’t smell off. 

She’d bought Izuku a meal plan due to his new caloric demands, but also sent him off with a ‘snack’ as big as a full sized meal to get him through the long stretch between lunch and the end of the day otherwise he came home crabby and nauseous. 

Toshinori meanwhile was still eating small, but frequent meals as he and his new stomach got accustomed to each other. He didn’t need a lunch box because he still had the meal-prep service he’d hired to fuel his recovery diet, but his mind all but glowed with shy pleasure whenever she gave him one -especially if it was cute- so it had gotten to be routine whenever they started the day under the same roof. 

She’d started her morning by sending an email inviting D5-N6 to come mediate with the Basilisk. It might not understand much Japanese, but droidspeak was universal. D5 had replied with an instant affirmative and promised to be by as soon as it could arrange for transport. Toshinori had added it to the security whitelist before going back to sleep for a bit so Inko was not surprised to hear the elevator -which let out directly into the livingroom- ping while she was standing on the counter with her head in an overhead cupboard looking for plastic wrap. There were too many things in the deep cupboards and a cloud of it was floating around her head as she searched.

She was distracted and not particularly sensing any imminent danger, which was to say she wasn’t paying attention and thus did not notice that it was a living person and not a droid right away.

“I’m glad you could find a ride so fast!” She heard footsteps approach her and caught a glimpse of a tall, narrow person shape in the periphery of her vision. She held down the roll of plastic wrap to them and concentrated on returning all the bric-a-brac floating around her head. “Could you hold that for me please? I’ll be down in a moment.” The person accepted it. “Thank you.”

“It was no trouble.” They replied in a deeply skeptical tone that did not belong to D5.

Inko yelped and the stuff she’d been holding up with her mind dropped a few inches before she caught it again. She turned to see a tall man with green hair streaked with yellow and pale, pale gold eyes that didn’t seem to have any pupils. He was dressed in a plain suit with a red polka dot tie as the only touch of whimsy about his dour person. He had long, sharp features to go with his long limbs and large hands; one of which was holding the box of plastic wrap she’d just handed him. 

Inko squeaked as she remembered that she was wearing the lounge clothes Toshinori had brought back for her the night before. She hadn’t given him any particular instructions because she’d wanted to amuse herself by seeing what he’d pick out on his own. That turned out to be a fluffy sweater and matching over-the-knee leg warmers with pink and white stripes and a pair of white shorts trimmed in lace  with a kitten face on one hip that she hadn’t worn in years. She’d been surprised that they even fit. They were definitely tighter than she wanted to be wearing in front of a stranger.

She sent the boxes and containers she’d been holding up back into the cupboard, albeit not as neatly as she’d found them.

“Pardon the intrusion.” The man’s voice was flat, but not wholly unfriendly. It was just mostly unfriendly. “I did not realize he had a houseguest.”

“I didn’t realize he was expecting anyone either.” Inko hopped down from the counter, buoying herself lightly with the Force so she didn’t make noise when she landed. “Can I help you?”

“I…” His gaze flicked up and down as he handed the plastic wrap back to her. “...doubt it.” 

Right. He didn’t feel dangerous, but there was a simmering current of hostility running just below his placid surface that told her -unless something drastic changed- they were not ever going to be friendly. 

“Well, then would you like a cup of tea while you wait?” She did not want to say Toshinori was in the shower, but he was in the shower. Neither he nor his pro-hero level hair routine would be out anytime soon. Instead she gestured towards the living room with all its comfortable furniture that was not immediately in her face. “I’ve got some things to finish up here.”

He looked at the packed bentos and, dammit, her discarded phone that was still showing the pictures she’d just posted to Instagram of them. Normally she didn’t care about people making assumptions about her and in fact usually encouraged it, but this was different. It was personal and new. Having someone come to sneer at it was --distressing.

“No, thank you.” He said and then went to go stand in front of the giant floor-to-ceiling windows off the launch pad.

Toshinori mercifully came wandering out of the bedroom, hair wet and wearing just his slacks and undershirt, just as she was wrapping the lunch boxes. “Inko, do you remember where that salve got off… to…” He stopped and stared at the man, who had turned to watch him with a stern expression.

“It’s in the fridge.” She retrieved the bacta infused ointment she’d given him for conditioning his surgical scar. “You have a guest.”

“Yes, thank you.” Toshinori didn’t quite put himself between Inko and said guest. She could read the fear that came off him in waves, but not the nuances of it. His body language said he didn’t expect violence, but he was afraid all the same. “Nighteye. I wasn’t expecting a visit from you.”

“Really?” The man, Nighteye, observed coolly. “You must not have seen the news this morning then. It’s fortunate that I have both of you in that case.” He took a phone out of his pocket and held it up to show a news article. Inko beckoned the phone over to get a better look and Nighteye released it with a raised eyebrow.

The headline read ‘ALL MIGHT SPOTTED DURING MIDNIGHT RENDEZVOUS’ and below it was a picture of the two of them about halfway between the penthouse and the storage unit. It was actually a really good picture, but also damning if Toshinori’s management team wanted to try and deny that he was seeing anyone. Their body language was too comfortable and intimate.

Her back was to the camera, but they caught her leaning into his chest with her hand on his sternum. Toshinori was watching her from the corner of his eye with a soft, fond expression that was not at all platonic. 

“It looks like the paparazzi caught a picture of us last night.” She handed the phone up to Toshinori.

“Oh boy…” He squinted at the little phone and then sighed in relief. The picture was from the way out and not the way back when they’d been carrying a wardroid. That would have made for a very different article. The one they got was not ideal, but better than it could have been. “Well, that’s not so bad. Liberty? How is the crowd outside?”

The lights dipped and a woman’s voice sounded from the speakers. “I’d recommend staying inside today, sugar. A bunch of them swarmed in a few minutes after Nighteye came through.” She had an accent Inko couldn’t quite place beyond ‘somewhere specific in America.’ She also seemed to have tons more personality than the other Earth AI she’d encountered heretofore. “There was a crowd brewing at UA too right up until this news broke. Now they’re all headed over here. Principal Nedzu has left a message asking you to let Eraserhead cover your classes today. They were harassing some of the students headed in for early morning duty.”

“In that case please let him know I’ll draw the media fire this way.” Toshinori did something with the phone screen and Inko didn’t realize what until she heard his phone chirp ‘There’s no reason to fear! Why? Because a message is here!’ from the other room.

“Did you just send that to yourself?” Inko asked. 

He looked a little guilty. “It’s a really good picture and I want a copy.”

“I hate to interrupt.” Liberty chimed in once more. “Miss Inko, you have some guests coming up from the garage level. I’ve routed them around the hubhub in the lobby. D5-N6 is on the white list, but it seems to have brought two additional guests. Can you confirm that T3-M1 and T3-J7 are friendlies?”

“Oh, he brought the utility droids with him!” Inko murmured to himself and then hurried to reassure the AI. “Yes, they’re quite friendly and won’t cause any trouble. They’ve probably come to see if Basil needs specialist attention.”

“That is what Mr. D5 promised me. I’ll show them in now.”

The elevator doors opened to admit D5-N6 and the two utility droids who had followed her after the Nike was decommissioned. They too had gotten new paint jobs, which was rather surprising for a utility droid since they rarely cared about their appearances and would toodle around in their factory paint job until it flaked off.

“Good morning, mum!” D5-N6 shuffled in with its arms lifted in a very unique protocol-droid gesture of enthusiasm and slightly ahead of the T3s, who booped their own more sedate greetings and added warning about the media scrum going on downstairs. “It is a pleasure to see you again too, sir. Oh, excuse me.” It drew up short at the sight of an unidentified person. The T3s scooted backwards and behind it. “Please forgive my interruption. I am D5-N6, human-cyborg relations, and these are my companions, T3-M1 and T3-J7. May I know your name?”

Nighteye looked at the droids and then looked at Toshinori. “What are you doing?” He asked over D5’s little huff of ‘My! How rude!’

“Come with me and I’ll get you introduced to Basil.” Inko beckoned them over. 

“Of course.” D5 answered in Japanese and then switched to Basic. “I am really this close to losing my patience with these natives. How they are able to deny basic courtesy to someone they can clearly have a conversation with is beyond me!”

“They are still a little backwards.” She agreed in the same language and tapped on Izuku’s door. “Sweetheart, there’s some visitors here for Basil. May we come in?”

“Yes!” Izuku sounded a little squished and when she opened the door she found out why. Basil had him penned under the loft and was half-wrapped around him like a protective bulldozer. It must have been able to hear the tension in Toshinori’s voice. “It got upset a few minutes ago. Oh, hello!” He waved plaintively over Basil’s back at the droids. “Sorry, I didn’t see you right away.”

“D5, M1, J7, I would like to introduce you to my son, Izuku.” Inko smiled as the T3s made an excited series of beeps and rocked on their tracks with excitement. “Izuku, these are some old friends of mine. D5-N6 was my XO aboard the Nike. T3-M1 and T3-J7 were part of our support crew.”

Basil lifted its great head and went over to examine the other droids. The T3s booped at it and it made a low series of deeper beeps and whistles in reply. The conversation was a bit fast for Inko to follow all the technical details, but she could tell the T3s had introduced themselves as friendly support droids and were asking for permission to run some diagnostics.

“There’s an empty floor two levels below this one that Toshinori has agreed to let you use.” Inko told them as D5 shuffled past her very intent on Izuku. “If you go to the back of the penthouse Miss Liberty will take you down on the freight elevator.”

To her surprise Basil followed the T3s without balking. Then again, it had gone 35 years without a tune up. It was probably looking forward to some maintenance.

“Just a diagnostic for now.” Inko called after the droids. “Wait for Toshinori before you make any other decisions, please!” 

She got back a chorus of beep-boops that were the droidspeak equivalent of ‘yes, mom.’

“My goodness gracious.” D5-N6 said softly, still focused on Izuku. “He is your splitting image at that age, mum. Oh, please excuse me, Young Master Izuku. I have been serving your mother for many years now. After we settled here I did not think I would ever see another padawan of hers or, dear me, a natural child. I am both honored and pleased to meet you.”

“Me too. Mom used to tell me stories about you when I was little.” Izuku was a bit more natural with AI than the adults she’d met. For one thing he didn’t have much experience with the more limited AI of Earth. She’d raised him with the general attitude of the Republic where anything that could talk deserved courtesy until it started shooting.

“Did she? Why, I am flattered! We did have so many adventures.” D5-N6 shuffled towards her. “Mum, I think Young Master Izuku and I can keep each other occupied for the moment if you care to return to Sir Toshinori. His biometrics were showing high levels of agitation.” It told her that last part as low as it could. “I am reluctant to leave him alone with that person.”

“Thank you, I will.” She looked to Izuku. “Izu, sweetie, you’re staying home from school today. Have you met Liberty yet?”

“I introduced myself this morning and warned him he might want to stay out of sight until Sir Nighteye is gone.” The AI in question spoke from a small speaker on the desk. “I normally trust All Might to handle his own business, but… if you wouldn’t mind playing referee out there, I’d appreciate it. Those two were very good friends once, but they had a falling out and… well. You saw.”

She had.

Inko gave Izuku a smooch and left him with D5, who was already peppering him with the sort of busy-body questions droids asked when they met someone they wanted to keep. She’d have to warn Izuku later that droid affection took the form of extreme nosiness.

Chapter Text

Inko got back into the livingroom in time to overhear the following:

“...out of your mind?” Nighteye had gone from vague discontent to active anger. 

“It’s not up for discussion, Mirai.” Toshinori didn’t sound as firm as he could have. He was upset and hid it badly. 

“Really? Have you told her anything?” Nighteye asked. “Does she know…”

“Enough!” Toshinori cut him off. He was getting angry and that was a new look for him. Inko wasn’t sure she liked it. “You left. That was your decision, but this is my life. It’s my future and it’s my quirk. Whether you agree or not, my decisions are mine.”

“You’re still the same as you were then. You won’t listen.” The tall man shifted his weight back on one foot and adjusted his glasses. “Do you not care who gets hurt?” He noticed her then over Toshinori’s shoulder and something happened; one of his eyes took on a deep violet hue.

It was like bearing the weight of the Force. She’d shouldered that mountain once before during the battle of Malachor V. Every Jedi and Force sensitive in the field felt it. Their actions that day had been so pivotal that every eye, seen and unseen, was on them. It wasn’t quite the same now. It had that same pressure, but it was more like standing underneath a giant invisible eye while her skin peeled back to reveal the inner workings of her most private self.

She reacted and not especially well. 

Nighteye’s head snapped back as she hit him with the psychic equivalent of a backhanded slap. One hand flew up to cover his nose and mouth. When he regained his equilibrium and pulled it away he was bleeding freely from the nose.

Inko’s voice, when she found it, was just shy of physically freezing. “I’m going to choose to believe that you have no idea what that’s like for someone who can feel it.” She kept herself tightly contained within her body as she came to stand next to Toshinori who was watching her with the same alarm she’d felt when he’d started to raise his voice at Nighteye. “Young man, you have just used the only free pass you will ever get from me. If you attempt to do that again to anyone in this household without their explicit consent then you will find yourself suddenly outside with no memory of how you got there.”

Inko did not believe he actually meant to do it again. Nighteye was still reeling and disoriented from the slapdown she’d just given him and Quirks weren’t like Force techniques. They could be a reflex, but she found she did not much care about that when she felt the crushing regard of his Quirk fall on her a second time. 

“I warned you.” She snapped her fingers and shut his consciousness down. He didn’t pass out, but he did become for all intents and purposes a life-sized doll. 

Anger was harder to deal with when she was still smarting from what her instincts insisted on classifying as an attack even though she knew better. She held him there until she trusted herself not to hurt the man. 

Still, her voice had the eerie tranquility of a Jedi Master and not the ordinary woman she’d rebuilt herself into when she spoke again, “Liberty, when I put him in the elevator could you please let him out somewhere the reporters won’t mob him?”

“Consider it done, ma’am.” Liberty replied and there was a tone of immediate respect and trust there that she hadn’t picked up on before. The AI suddenly sounded like a soldier. The elevator doors slid open. “Ready for the package.”

The man lurched around and marched inside.

Inko had to keep her attention on Nighteye even once the doors closed behind him. Toshinori tried to say something and she had to hold up a hand to forestall him. “Forgive me. I need to concentrate.”

“He’s left the elevator.” Liberty told her kindly and Inko released her grip on the ‘pause’ button in Nighteye’s brain with a sigh of relief. Good riddance. If she never saw that self important little Hutt slug again it would be too soon. 

“Thank you, Liberty.” Inko massaged the back of her neck, trying to chase away the lingering feeling of being squashed under a giant’s thumb. 

“My pleasure, ma’am. Permission to blacklist Sir Nighteye?” She’d reverted back to her original sunshine tones. 

Inko paused and frowned. She looked to Toshinori who was still pale and unhappy looking. “Do I even have the right to do that?”

“You do now. I’m writing you into the administrator’s list.” Liberty replied tartly. All right, so she was very advanced for an Earthborn AI. “All Might lets that boy get away with murder. His quirk is foresight. He was looking into your future without permission.”

“Libby!” Toshinori glared at the ceiling at the same time Inko said, “Then yes, absolutely.”

The power of prophecy wasn’t as shocking for her as it might have been for a regular person. Every Jedi received visions every so often. Once she attained her mastery they’d lost their glamor as she came to understand the true nature of causality. 

“Ban confirmed! I’m going to go chat with Izu and D5 now.” Liberty sniffed. “Don’t bother me unless it’s an emergency, All Might.”

“Well, at least she’s paying attention to this location now-- I suppose it’s my fault for not reviewing the security list. I forgot he has automatic open access to my properties when I’m in residence. He hasn’t visited in years.” Toshinori came over to check on her. “Are you all right? I’ve never heard of anyone feeling his quirk in use before. Are you hurt?”

“Not hurt, exactly.” Inko tried to suss out exactly how she was feeling. The sensation faded fast. Now she was mostly annoyed about being seen in her kitten shorts by a stranger.  “It was very invasive. I wouldn’t have hit him except it was such a nasty surprise. Are you?”

Toshinori shook his head, picked her up, and sat her on the counter so they were eye to eye. “It’s my fault. I never had a problem with him using his quirk on me. He… he meant well.”

“Toshi, sweetheart.” She cupped his face to make him look at her. “Permission before isn’t permission later.” She let her thumb drift back and forth across his cheekbone. “What are you so scared of right now?”

“Am I being that loud about it?” He closed his eyes and leaned into the touch. 

“A bit. I’m also worried and not minding my business as well as I normally do.” Inko confessed. “Who was he?”

“My former sidekick.” Toshinori sighed. “We split up about six years ago and he has his own agency now. We were collaborating again for a little while when I returned to Japan to look for my successor, but ended up disagreeing on the final candidate. I couldn’t persuade him and he couldn’t persuade me so we ended up going our separate ways again. He may seem stern, but his heart is good. The media hasn’t tried to get into my personal life in years. It’s a worrying trend and he hasn’t always reacted well when he’s been frightened or if someone in his inner circle is threatened.”

Maybe. Inko reluctantly admitted she hadn’t reacted well either. In hindsight Nighteye’s mental presence was eerily like that of another Jedi and it had made her defensive.

“That didn’t quite answer my question.” Inko set her own behavior aside to meditate upon later. “You were frightened of him or something he might do. What?”

“I ---was afraid of something he might tell you.” Toshinori fingers tightened on her hips. “I should have told you at the beginning, but at first I wanted to keep it to myself and then later I was afraid you might leave.”

Fat chance of that. She was too selfish to leave, but she made herself stay quiet and listen.

“Nighteye looked into my future when I was first injured.” He explained quietly. “He did his best to convince me to retire afterwards so I knew that whatever he saw was bad, but I wasn’t ready to listen. He ended up telling me what he saw. I don’t… have a lot of time left. In a few months or a year I’ll fight someone and lose. His predictions have never been wrong. I’ve seen him try to change them. It’s never worked.”

“Well, no, it wouldn’t have.” Inko mulled it over. Prophets who weren’t also Force adepts were rare, but not unheard of. Nighteye’s abilities probably followed the same rules. “It’s his quirk after all.”

Toshinori blinked rapidly in surprise. “I beg your pardon?”

Normally Inko would have been a little more careful about how she answered a question like that, but she was preoccupied by the puzzle of a prophetic quirk and still rattled a bit so she just answered without thought as though she were talking to a padawan or a younger Jedi. “Prophecy is organic predictive modelling. His quirk would take into account everything he is and everything he knows. He couldn’t change his own predictions nor would anyone he knows very well.” Inko mulled it over, trying to remember what little she’d been taught on the matter. 

Jedi were inherently disruptive to prophecy since prophets did utilize the Force a little bit in their process -no organic brain possessed that much processing power- and the Force had a hard time predicting the actions of a Force sensitive person. Force Adepts could feel the flow and ebb of the Force so they could not be observed without in turn being affected by it. Jedi could do their own version of foresight, but it wasn’t the same. In some ways though it was more helpful.

“Even then...” She continued absently. “...there’s no such thing as predestination. Prophecy is just the most likely outcome of many. That’s in the short term. Long term prophecy is little better than a shot in the dark. The predictions are incredibly fragile. How long ago was… what?” She realized he was staring at her.

Two big arms closed around her and, while yes she did enjoy his hugs, that was not the reaction she’d expected from him. “What?” She asked again.

“I wish you would marry me.” He murmured almost muffled by her hair.

Inko pushed him back. “When did you ask?!” She cried out in alarm. As dense as she could be sometimes she knew she wouldn’t have missed that.

Toshinori clapped a hand over his mouth and went violently red. A year ago he would have puked blood on the spot. “I didn’t!” He hastened to assure her. “I know it’s too soon and… that I don’t have the right. I just…” He swallowed. “...would really like it if you never went home and just stayed with me forever, but I can’t offer you any kind of future with me in it. I still want to ask.”

She was going to leave.

The silence between them was deafening. She hadn’t pulled any further away. Instead she was looking for something in his face and if he knew what he’d have shown it to her.

Asking had been equal parts desperation and the fact that he just couldn’t hold it back anymore. He loved all of her all the time, but he liked her best when she wasn’t paying attention. That was when she displayed this intellectual dry wit and breadth of lived experience that he didn’t think anyone ever got to see except him and young Izuku. He wanted everything even though he knew it wasn’t going to happen.

No one had ever stayed with Toshinori before --whether they meant to leave or not. He’d known on some level that he’d never get to keep her, either of them, but had been determined to keep his eyes shut and enjoy the ride while it was still going. 

Only now he was getting greedy. He knew that asking what he was asking for was the least fair thing he could do.

Inko reached up and cupped his face with her soft little hands. He closed his eyes and braced for it.

“Do you mind if I take a look?” She asked.

Toshinori’s eyes snapped right back open and the first thing he saw was the guilty little face Inko always made whenever she was about to cop to having yet another magical space power. It was getting ridiculous. “You’re joking.” He said flatly. 

“It’s not the same as what your friend can do.” She admitted and continued to pet his face with no indication that she ever wanted to stop. “I can look at your options, but none of them will be for certain so long as Izuku and I are around. Then again, neither will Sir Nighteye’s prophecy, but I can at least predict a general trend or actions to avoid.”

“What difference are you or young Izuku making?” He didn’t necessarily disagree. That echoed a feeling he’d had for a while. Young Izuku had entered his life like a happy little breeze in a closed room and had changed… everything, really. Life was suddenly interesting again and that was before the boy dragged him home. 

If he hadn’t met the boy then he’d likely have accepted whichever candidate Nedzu and Mirai liked best whether he felt it or not. It had been a long five years and he’d lost his stubborn head of steam. He’d been so tired. It had taken everything he had just to keep the illusion of All Might going. Part of him had almost welcomed his impending end because it meant that he’d finally be done soon. 

“That prophecy was probably diverted when you met Izuku.” She smiled with a little bit of chagrin. “Our existence interferes with the… network, I suppose you could say, that prophets use to ‘see’. We’re corrupting data in that analogy. People like us are very hard to predict.”

That was for damn sure. 

Hope was growing in his chest and it hurt. “All right.” He wet his lips and felt a bit like the White Queen in Alice in Wonderland; ready to believe six impossible things before breakfast because the other option was too bleak to consider. “Look.”

She scooted a little closer so she could lean up against him and close her eyes. To his surprise, he could sort of feel something going on. The air took on a solemn weight like something was pressing in on him from every angle including up and from within. It was just shy of uncomfortable and he realized this was what Inko had felt earlier, except she’d felt it more.  

No wonder she’d smacked Mirai into orbit. It didn’t hurt, per se, but ‘intrusive’ was a real good word for it and his brain tried hard to interpret the sensation as pain.

“Huh.” She said after a while, sounding faint and bemused as she pulled back. The pressure eased and then vanished leaving him struggling to remember what it had felt like.

“What?” Toshinori asked in alarm. 

Inko looked up at him again. “Ask me.” She said. Her cheeks went a light shade of pink.

He didn’t follow right away, but when he realized what she meant the bottom fell out of the universe.

“I don’t have a ring!” He hissed because apparently that was his primary concern. What.

“Get one later.” She put one hand on his chest right over his heart, which was doing its damnedest to beat right out of his ribcage. “Ask me.”

Oh, jeeze. He was about to ask the most important question of his life and he didn’t even have a real shirt on. They were going to need a do-over once he found a good ring. People did that, right? Do a soft proposal and then ask again later for real? “Will you marry me?” He breathed.

She smiled like the sun cresting over the horizon. “Yes.”

Izuku walked in followed by D5 right as Toshinori swept her backwards into a kiss.

“Oh my! And in the kitchen! How shameful!” The droid wailed and Toshinori could feel his fiancee smile against his mouth. “Young Master, avert your eyes!”

“Um, Toshinori-san…” Young Izuku let the droid shield him from the scene they were making, but did pitch his voice to carry. “...the T3s want permission to give Basil a Japanese lexicon. Can I tell them yes?”

“Yes, anything it wants.” Toshinori let his forehead rest against Inko’s. Oh lord, he was about to be a father.

They’d developed something like an informal version of that relationship, but this would be for real.

“Within reason!” Inko, the veteran parent, told them. She kissed him again once the sound of footsteps faded. “They’re gone.”

“Did you know that was going to happen?” He asked once he’d taken the edge off his need to memorize the way she tasted. 

“It was a strong possibility.” She winked.

“What else did you see?” He almost didn’t want to know. 

“You’re not going to die.” She pushed his unruly bangs out of his face and sobered a little. “Not unless you give up, but you’re not going to give up because you just made me a promise. Do you understand?” She pulled him down to eye level by the front of his shirt. “Your job from now on is to come home so you do whatever is necessary. Swear it.”

She was maybe not aware of what he was willing to do if it meant having even just a little more time with a family of his own. He took her hand and turned his face into it.

“I swear.” 

Unfortunately, it wasn’t just a matter of settling down to plan a wedding, but it was a good day for everyone to be accidentally housebound. 

Izuku took the news like someone had just given him a million dollars, the Nobel Peace Prize, and a lifetime VIP pass to Hero Con in one awkward package who spent way too long explaining that Izuku didn’t have to call him dad, but it would be okay if he wanted to call him dad, but he didn’t have to, but if he wanted to then Toshinori would really like that a lot.

Inko spent the morning more or less in constant contact with Toshinori while he looked at jewelers on his phone and tried to pretend like he wasn’t. She was happy to let him take point on that front. There were apparently a lot of arcane rules about engagement rings and she was occupied with reading the articles Liberty kept sending her about the wives of prominent heroes who were all either constantly in the spotlight or never seen at all. 

She’d known, sort of, that the women associated with desirable bachelors lived under a microscope one way or the other. There were already some pretty nasty analyses of that picture Nighteye had brought to their attention online. No one had caught a snap of her face, but they had plenty to say about her body. 

It was annoying, but nothing she hadn’t heard before whispered by younger women at the grocery store. She’d actually lost some weight in recent years just keeping up with Izuku and that American Dream Plan had led her to packing on some of her old muscle tone even though she’d been shamelessly cheating using the Force, but her body was never going to be the same shape as it had been before she gave birth. Her stomach and hips were permanently round and she had persistent fat clinging to her tricep area. The women who the media were most likely to ‘approve’ of by publishing fewer scurrilous articles about had a very specific silhouette she wouldn’t even have fit into forty years ago. 

Still, she got the warning Liberty was trying to slip her; they’d have to go public before long and it was going to be a media blitz when it did. She had to decide now how she was going to handle it.

That flew in the face of everything she’d built her life to be, but it hadn’t escaped her notice that she and Izuku featured prominently in every permutation of Toshinori’s future where he grew old and passed away as a peaceful old man. Nothing was certain. There still was no such thing as destiny, but she could identify patterns with the best of them and Inko had felt the will of the Force when she peered into those possibilities. 

Inko wasn’t the only person who wanted him to have a happy life. All Might was so universally adored on Earth that it echoed within the Force and became a driving energy all its own, but if she wanted one of those futures to come about then she was going to have to take a chance and step into the light after decades of sticking to the shadows.

She loved him enough to try. 

That was a revelation all on its own; that feeling, which had started small and built incrementally over time into something that took up as much space in her body as she did, was love . Having felt it now twice, she could understand why the Council over the years had decided to weed it out of the Jedi. It was overwhelming to say the least. 

It occurred to her to wonder where Toshinori’s management team was during all this. As she did, Liberty dinged the speakers and said, “Heads up, lovebirds. It’s about to hit 9 o’clock.” 

“Shoot.” Toshinori muttered and put his phone away. “I forgot. They aren’t allowed to call me before 9 AM. You might want to change, love. We’re about to drown in video calls.” He wet his lips. “I can run interference for you if you want to stay private for a bit longer. I’m probably going to have to give a public statement acknowledging that I’m seeing someone. No one is going to really expect me to give out your name until we’re really ready to go public on our own terms, but that might be inviting the paparazzi to try and identify you ahead of time.”

“I’ll meet with your managers for now.” She’d been mulling it over and had come to the conclusion that a professional opinion would be very welcome. “Should Izuku be involved?”

“That’s the best plan.” Toshinori thought about it. “I think it might be best to tell them about Izuku, but he’s a bit easier to handle. He’s an up and coming UA student. They’ll want to get a head start on licensing his image --and probably workshopping merch if I’m going to be honest, but I don’t think they’ll want him in front of a camera until after the Sports Festival. That’s the traditional debut for legacy heroes. You and I are a different category of news.”

Annoyingly, Inko heard her phone start to ring in the other room. She recognized the ring tone.

“Is that the theme song from Lupin the Third?” Toshinori asked.

“It’s Hisashi.” She sighed. 

Toshinori started to say something, but his phone began to ring the second the clock ticked over to nine. “Come to the media room when you’re ready.” He kissed her cheek and took off.

The first thing out of Hisashi’s mouth when she answered was; “It wasn’t me!”

“What wasn’t you?” Inko reminded herself that this was going to be one of the happiest days in her future memories.

“...right. You don’t follow the news.” He sighed. “Do you know you got spotted last night with the big guy?”

“One of his friends came by to yell at him over it, yes.” Inko closed her eyes and courted serenity. “From your tone I’m guessing there’s been a new development.”

Hisashi was quiet for a moment. “Some anonymous internet rando identified you as Vortex.” He said at last. “I repeat, it wasn’t me.”

She hadn’t had the name for more than a few days and it was already causing her trouble. “Toshinori is already meeting with his management and PR team. I’m meant to join them as soon as I’m off this call.”

“Oof, that’s going to be rough.” Hisashi made a thoughtful noise. “Alright, I know I said I didn’t do it, but… I don’t know if they do this out in space or whatever, but sometimes when a parent on Earth wants to teach their kid to swim they throw them into a lake. There are four people who knew the name Vortex before this morning; you, me, the Director, and the Emperor. If I had to guess, and it’s just a guess, then I would say someone who is not me decided you need to learn to swim. I’m not the only person who knows about you and the big guy. This may be how they’re showing their approval.”

“By forcing me to go public?” She closed her eyes and counted to ten in every language she knew to count in. It wasn’t hard to guess who was responsible. She was below the Emperor’s sight line. Asking for forgiveness rather than permission was the Y.U.R.E.I. way. Her money was on the Director. She’d never met the man personally. Few ever had aside from Hisashi, who regularly wished he hadn’t, but he had a way of making his will known.

“I mean… yeah?” He coughed. “I kinda agree with them. I know you’re worried about someone coming after you, but you’re underestimating how difficult we’re prepared to make it on them. Even if you’re not confident in the nation’s ability to keep you on Earth then consider this; the darkest place in the world is directly under the lamp. There’s no lamp bigger or brighter than the guy you’re seeing right now.”

“Engaged.” Inko almost kicked herself, but it was too late. She was falling back into old patterns. Hisashi had been her primary contact, confidant, and reference when it came to integrating into Japanese society; the one person she didn’t have to hide from or put up a front for. She had more people now, but he’d been the first. Of anyone else in the world she could have told, Hisashi would best understand the precipice she’d just jumped off. “He asked. I said yes.”

“Oh my god.” Hisashi wheezed and then jumped up and started swearing. She heard a swatting sound followed by the squeak of his chair as he fell back into it. “I just set my desk on fire. Thanks for that. How did the kiddo take the news?”

“Like all his Christmases and Birthdays arrived at the same time, twice.” Inko replied wryly.

“Well, yeah.” Hisashi chuckled with a fondness that surprised her given his terror at the mere prospect of being asked to parent. “Who wouldn’t?” He sobered. “You know you’re gonna catch some hell, right? Are you ready for this?”

“Not really.” She couldn’t find it in herself to lie. “I’m going to do it anyway.”

“Well, for now if anyone on the big guy’s management team gives you attitude then tell them you’re a black card and text me their name. I’ll scare ‘em later --or I’ll make Kobayashi do it. Kid’s been getting the stick a lot recently. It’s about time for a carrot.” She heard him start typing in the background. “In the meantime I’ll get the tech division to start workshopping a costume. They deserve a fun project. We can pretend you had a suit the whole time.”

“Do I need one?” She didn’t want a costume. Pro Heroes served a vital social function. She didn’t dispute that, but the outfits made her cringe.

“It’ll probably make your engagement announcement easier if you do it in costume. All Might getting hitched to a fellow pro hero in his own age bracket is an easier story for the public to swallow.” Hisashi replied, distracted. “That way you don’t have to apologize for not being a hot twenty-something supermodel later.”

“I am not that, no.” It was a more elegant solution than anything she’d considered, which was not much at all. 

“Don’t say that. You’re the one who just bagged the bachelor of the century.” He snapped at somebody in the background. “I’ll be in contact later with the costume stuff. Go terrify some office monkeys. You’ll feel better.”

Inko let the call end and took a moment to go consider herself in the mirror. She did brush her hair and exchange her shorts for yesterday’s skirt, but didn’t do much else aside from her usual amount of makeup. Whatever face she showed those people on the call was the one she’d be stuck with.

The woman in the mirror was soft, round, and harmless looking. She looked comfortable and friendly. It was probably not the person the people responsible for the horrible acrylic chairs and floor-to-ceiling murals would be expecting.  

‘Screw it.’ She thought. This was the face her boys liked best. It was the self she’d built for herself; pleasing in every aspect. 

They’d just have to make their peace with her. 

Chapter Text

Katsuki’s day started out as total garbage. He woke up to a text saying his boyfriend was skipping the second fucking day of school and it got worse when he showed up to campus only to find out that the Nerd had the right idea when he immediately got a microphone shoved in his face.

Nothing improved from there. Eraserhead made them pick a class president and everyone voted for themselves except one person, apparently, because the Ponytail girl won with two lonely little votes and picked Four Eyes as her VP since there was no runner up and he was so painfully fuckin’ keen for bureaucratic authority. 

Then, during lunch (which sucked because, again, no Izuku and he got mobbed by the three kids who’d been watching him on day one) an intruder alarm went off. At first they thought it was the press, but those guys had taken off about an hour after class started because someone leaked a picture of All Might that was exciting for some reason. The whole student body all ended up locked down in the cafeteria while their teachers combed the campus for the intruder. 

They didn’t find the guy, but Power Loader found evidence that someone had accessed the servers where they kept lesson plans and the facilities schedule. Now the whole school was shut down for the next few days while Nedzu decided whether they had a student trying to cheat in their classes absurdly early in the year or if some external person was trying to predict where the students would be at a certain time.

It was a shitty, upsetting day made all the shittier and more upsetting by the fact that 1. His boyfriend was absent and 2. Shitty Hair, Jugs, Soy Sauce, and Dunce Face were trying to walk with him to the station.

“...all I’m saying is I don’t get why I’m ‘Jugs’.” Jugs was saying as they walked. “I mean, I’m not mad about it. They are pretty nice, but have you SEEN Yaomomo’s rack? Or Asui’s? Or Uraraka’s? There’s serious competition in our class for best cleavage and that’s just the girls. What about Horns? Or Pinky?”

“Pretty sure Yaomomo’s rack is getting too much attention already.” Shitty Hair pointed out and that was honestly the reason why Katsuki had avoided that nickname for her even though it was a pretty obvious trait. The pink girl had the aura of someone who either wouldn’t care or would find it hilarious. Ponytail was made of shier stuff and she was already getting eyeballs where she clearly didn’t want any so Katsuki wasn’t about to throw fuel on that fire.

Usually he didn’t give a shit about other people’s problems, but Grapenuts’ behavior was bothering even him. He’d worked hard and against the strong headwind of Noodleneck and Fingers’ constant bad decisions in order to keep his nose clean so as not to jeopardize his entry into UA. Then he got there and there’s this obnoxious horndog straight out of a D-List 90’s anime hanging out in the top class. It was a fuckin’ insult.  

“Oh, that’s true.” Pinky -he quietly made the change because it was probably easier to say that in a crowd and it had just occurred to him that Izuku was going to make the Not Mad Just Disappointed face if Katsuki ever used that nickname anywhere he could hear it- allowed. “Where was Midoriya today?”

“I heard some kids had to skip because of the press gauntlet.” Dunce Face’s voice was a little garbled because he was playing on his phone while charging it with a cord hanging out the corner of his mouth. “Usually the reporters aren’t allowed near the entrance because of all the legacy students and stuff. Was that what happened?”

“It’s none of your business what happened.” Katsuki growled because he didn’t know and hated not knowing.

“Woah.” Shitty Hair had been walking a little ahead of them and stopped. “I think I found what got the media to run off this morning.” He showed them an article on his phone.

It had a picture front and center of All Might. It had been taken at night so the resolution kinda sucked, but you could see what you needed to. He was in civilian clothes, which was no big deal. People had caught pictures of him before out of uniform, but this time he had a woman with him and that hadn’t happened before in Katsuki’s memory. 

She was soft-looking, kinda heavy, and was facing away from the camera. He still knew that silhouette. He knew that green hair even though it was down. For that matter, he knew that ugly pair of khaki cargo pants All Might was wearing. He recognized those clunky ass boots and that old-man polo shirt with the teeny tiny embroidered alligator on the left chest. Worst of all, he recognized the navy circus tent of a t-shirt the woman was drowning in despite the fact that it did nothing to conceal...

“Oh, wow.” Dunce Face squinted at the screen already leering at where the ginormous collar slipped over her shoulder. “She’s totally not wearing a bra.”

“Geddit, sensei!” Pinky giggled.


He kept his shit together until he was on the train and well off the idiot squad’s radar. Only then did he get his phone out to text the little rat he’d been dating. 

Lord Explosion Murder: Wanna fucking explain this?

He attached a (slightly better, but still upsetting) picture he found on the internet. Apparently a few people had gotten pics last night.

Nerd: ...omg…

“Yeah, no shit.” He growled to himself.

Lord Explosion Murder: You gonna pretend you didn’t know? Is that what’s happening here?

To give him credit, he didn’t lie about it or pretend he didn’t know what Katsuki was talking about.

Nerd: I wasn’t allowed to talk about it.

Katsuki hissed air out through his teeth and only just managed to not explode his phone. Like that made a fucking difference? 

He managed to stay mad for like a whole minute before Izuku followed up with a reply that felt like being drenched in cold water.

Nerd: You saw how bad it got

Katsuki ignored the way his hands suddenly wanted to shake and had to look away despite the fact that they weren’t even face to face.

The thing was, he had. 

It had honestly been freaking him out for a while.

It wasn’t that he didn’t like Skeletor. He was an okay guy when he wasn’t making Katsuki do burpees or taking pictures on his phone while Katsuki was flat on the floor after a conditioning session that made him think fondly of the days when Auntie had been the one in charge of the warehouse.

It was that he could see the little hearts and stars growing in the eyes of his aunt and his boyfriend the longer that walking cadaver hung around. Auntie, in particular, was in denial. She was still doing that thing she did when old dudes started paying her too much attention and deliberately making herself unattractive by doubling down on her frumpy sweatshirts with the cavity inducing cartoon animals on them and her lumpy cardigans --only she wasn’t paying close enough attention to notice it wasn’t working this time. 

Not that she was putting as much effort into it as she could. Auntie Inko had once aged seemingly twenty years overnight just by messing with her makeup and combing her hair flat when their fourth grade math teacher, a seedy chronic bachelor, decided she looked like good material for Wife #3. 

Katsuki knew what her A-Game looked like and she was not bringing it so he could only conclude that it was subconscious self-sabotage. 

Skeletor was clearly dying, but he was going to take some hearts with him when he went and Katsuki resented the shit out of that because he was going to be the one left picking up the pieces.

Only he didn’t die. He rallied in a seemingly impossible comeback and started to look like an actual person that might stick around in a more permanent way. That was sort of ok. He liked how the old man was around Auntie. If she was going to keep anyone around it might as well be someone who liked her dumb pug shirts and peter pan collared blouses. That was frankly all Katsuki felt like he could ask for in a future uncle. 

Moreover Katsuki had, for a brief moment, thought that the old man was going to do the impossible and unseat All Might in the Nerd’s hierarchy of affections. 

Not so much, it turned out.  

Lord Explosion Murder: What the FUCK did THAT to HIM

Given how absolutely frail Yagi -Katsuki hated that he could effortlessly remember the asshole’s name- had started out and the terrifying amounts of blood he used to cough up, Katsuki could maybe sort of understand why Izuku would have hidden the fact that fucking All Might was recuperating on his couch. They’d been so painfully vulnerable to villain attack Katsuki didn’t even want to say it out loud after the fact. 

Any villain showing up at Auntie’s house was probably going to get a nastier surprise than they’d been counting on, but they’d have come loaded for All Might. She was a tougher nut than Katsuki had ever anticipated until he got into the ring with her and was summarily tossed right back out, but All Might operated on a different level. He could change the weather by punching it for fuck’s sake.

Nerd: I don’t actually know. 

Nerd: You wanna talk about this on text or in person?

Stupid question. Of course it was going to be in person.

Lord Explosion Murder: In person. I am headed straight for your fucking house and then we are going to have some WORDS.

Nerd: We’re at his house.


Lord Explosion Murder: what

His eyes widened as he realized what that meant.

Oh fuck, Auntie was dating All Might and they were at the level of sleepovers where you brought your kid. Life was never going to be the same. No wonder Izuku hadn’t been at school. He’d gotten treed by fucking reporters first thing in the morning. 

Nerd: He and mom were up to something last night. They showed up at 4 am with this robot gun dog.


Lord Explosion Murder: WHAT

Nerd: They already named it Basil

An insane tic started up under his eye. What the ever loving shit had been going on over there?

Lord Explosion Murder: FUCKING WHAT

Nerd: I’m sharing my location. I’ll meet you in the elevator in the parking garage.

Nerd: Plz come soon I’m starting to freak out

Katsuki found, through no small level of effort, the hidden freight elevator in the bottom level of one of the tallest high rises in downtown Musutafu. It slid open as he approached to reveal his own personal headache crouched on the floor of the carriage, well and truly past ‘freaked out’ and into ‘vacant eyed twitching’ territory.

He still couldn’t utilize much of their ‘bond’ thing beyond telling where Izuku was, but he could kind of feel the buzz of anxiety rolling off his boyfriend. It felt like it had been cooking for a while too. 

“Alright, loser, I’m here.” He sighed and went to crouch in front of Izuku as the elevator door rolled shut behind them. Honestly, he was surprised this hadn’t happened before considering All Might was living in his house for several months. Maybe it had and he’d only missed it or Izuku had managed to repress it until his mom’s relationship suddenly got too real to be ignored. The adults in his life sure kept him busy enough to pull that off. 

Katsuki selfishly felt a lot better when Izuku went in for the hug and tucked his head under Katsuki’s chin. He didn’t often initiate contact and that bugged Katsuki for a bit until some random startled him one day and he nearly put them through a wall. That had reminded him that he kinda hated being touched without his permission. 

He’d pictured doing the same to his boyfriend and afterwards resigned himself to being the one who started the touching. The alternative was nauseating.

The brain stuff had bridged that gap a little. Izuku pinged him regularly through the day; little ‘I’m here’s and bursts of affection and gentle wordless reminders that punching people didn’t solve problems even though it felt it should. Katsuki was to the point where even going without that was intolerable. 

This was better though and did a lot to dissipate the head full of steam he’d been working on since 8 AM.

He could put up with a lot if he was still the nerd’s preferred safe spot. If All Might ever unseated him from that throne then he’d fucking riot.

“I’m sorry I kept it quiet.” Izuku snuffled as he pulled back.

“We’ll talk about that shit later.” Katsuki grumbled. “Now explain the fuckin’ gun dog.”

“What?” Izuku wiped at his eye with a sleeve pulled over the heel of his hand. “Oh, Basil. Okay. Miss Liberty, can you take us to see Basil?” He addressed the ceiling and a woman’s sweet voice answered him from the ceiling. 

“Sure thing, sugar.” She cooed. 

“Oh!” Izuku’s ear turned red. “Sorry, Kacchan. Miss Liberty is the AI who runs All… Tosh… um, the house. Miss Liberty, this is my boyfriend, Bakugo Katsuki.”

“It’s my pleasure, sweetheart.”

All right. Okay. That… happened. 

“Yeah, okay, hi?” Katsuki squinted at the ceiling. He’d never had a conversation with an AI that didn’t feel like talking to a decision tree. In theory he knew there were ones with enough processing power to be truly emotive, but they tended to operate at speeds that made human conversation agonizingly slow to them so the super-intelligent ones tended to hand communications off to a chat bot no more sophisticated than their narrowly intelligent siblings.

“Hi there, cutie pie.” She chuckled as the elevator began to rise. It was slow at first but smoothly picked up speed. “I can read your face like a book. Yes, I really am synthetic. I can split my attention and this part clocks a little closer to human cognitive speed for interaction purposes. Oh, we’re arriving!”

The elevator opened onto a largely empty floor that seemed to be partly storage. There were some ugly ass stacked furniture in one corner that looked like it had been rejected from a preschool -plastic, bright colors- but there were also a bunch of robots around; a metal android type, two little guys who looked like garbage cans on tank treads, and what had to be the gun dog. It was fuckin’ enormous, big enough to ride and then some, and its entire head was made of guns; thin barrels that clustered together to taper into something like a snout. 

That wasn’t what demanded Katsuki’s attention though. 

All Might was over by the robot gun dog. Some godawful American country song was playing on the speakers overhead while All Might and the fucking robot danced along --if you could even call it that. All Might was sort of shuffling along with his elbows pulled in as he shook his fists every so often while the dog pranced with its two front feet and periodically shook its head to the beat. 

The Current #1 Hero froze, wide eyed and sweating, the second he realized he had an audience.

They all stared at each other while the gun dog dropped down to its feet again and nudged All Might like it couldn’t figure out why they weren’t playing anymore.

Izuku slowly reached past Katsuki to press a button on the elevator and the doors slid shut between them. It spat them out in a palatial apartment two more floors up. Katsuki numbly let Izuku haul him out of the carriage, through an elegant and comfortable looking hallway decorated in black and white prints of foreign cities, past his startled mother who was starting dinner in a kitchen the Hag would kill a man for, and into a little media room or whatever that (most critically) had a door that Izuku could close behind them.

“I fucking refuse!” He seethed the second they were alone. “That is not All Might!”

“It, um, it is.” Izuku started to twiddle his index fingers. “He’s different off camera.”

“That asshole made dad jokes at me for ten minutes yesterday while making me hold a plank!” 

Katsuki’s entire being rejected the idea that ‘I was wondering why this frisbee was getting bigger and bigger, then it hit me’ or ‘Inko-san told me to stop acting like a flamingo, so I had to put my foot down’ had ever come out the mouth of the #1 Top Global Hero.

Izuku cringed -probably at the memory because he’d been stuck in a plank too- and shook his head. “No, that’s him. He’s just… like that.”

The door burst open and All Might skidded inside. “AHAHAHA! YOUNG BAKUGO, WHAT A SUR…”

Katsuki nailed him in the face with the nearest thing to hand, which turned out to be a cushion from the little sofa.

All Might caught it before it hit the ground. “I’ll go.” He said, slowly setting the cushion down and backing out. He closed the door for a whole second before cracking it open again to add, “Inko-san would like you to know you can stay for dinner.” He shut it again real fast when Katsuki turned and snarled. “Leaving!”

Izuku went over to the sofa and stuffed his head under the remaining throw pillow. Katsuki grabbed the one on the floor and joined him because that looked like it was the only sane response left.

They were quiet for a while. Katsuki tried to process it and eventually it did start to fit. He’d never quite figured out why All Might was around when they’d gotten attacked. 

Frankly he’d kind of been distracted by almost dying, but also the cognitive dissonance of being saved by his weedy, mumbly little best friend who had -after clobbering the guy with his loaded backpack- jumped into the fray, grabbed the villain by one eyeball, planted his feet between Katsuki’s shoulder blades and used every last centimeter of his height to drag the villain’s central bits away from Katsuki’s face. 

It had worked to get Katsuki’s face free for a few, precious seconds of air. Then the waves of slime had surged back up around him until Izuku snarled -in a tone Katsuki would never forget- “LET HIM GO.”

Katsuki had kind of known that Deku’s brain stuff had been getting stronger over the years. He even knew there was an element of mind control to it. He’d just forgotten what Deku was capable of. When they were six, Deku made him, Fingers, and Wings go sit in the corner when they’d made Noodleneck cry during a game of Heroes and Villain that got out of control. 

That had been the first time Katsuki’s runaway enthusiasm had gone dark on him. He was mad about it until he was literally forced to sit under the slide for fifteen minutes and ‘think about what he’d done.’ Even a six year old knew what was Hero behavior and what was Villain behavior. He’d been sick to his stomach and quiet by the time Deku’s mind control cut them loose. Wings and Fingers didn’t seem to notice anything had happened and went right back to what they’d been doing, but Katsuki’s heart wasn’t in it after that.

He was going to be a hero. He believed that on the most fundamental level and everyone he knew agreed. Then why had beating up a kid who couldn’t fight back feel so right in the moment?

They’d walked home holding hands after. They were young enough that even Katsuki didn’t think it was weird and he’d been left feeling adrift; betrayed by his own brain, not sure of anything anymore, and desperately in need of some comfort that didn’t come with a side of shouting. 

It was the reason he wasn’t mad about the idea of Deku applying to UA even after he’d been bragging in front of the class. They were extras so he didn’t really give a shit if he looked like a hypocrite in front of them. By that point Deku had gotten so precise and delicate that Katsuki had forgotten there was a brute force option. 

The Slime Villain changed that and Katsuki wasn’t prepared for how that had ended up making him feel. There was a lot of stuff Deku could have done over the years that he chose not to even though there’d been more than a few times when Katsuki had been within centimeters of trying to break his face. The worst thing he’d ever done was remind Katsuki not to be an asshole in a way that didn’t humiliate him in front of their classmates.

Garbage Breath had already been in the process of dropping Katsuki when All Might jumped in to Smash the guy into his individual particles and two sad little eyeballs connected by a tiny lump of brain matter that the police took away in a cat carrier.

Katsuki took a look at the overwhelmed shape of the little secret badass next to him and gave up being mad. Izuku had been dealing with all this weird shit longer than he had and deserved the sympathy. 

He lifted the edge of the cushion to reveal one watery green eye. “Hey, nerd.” He said, grinning nastily. “I got a thousand yen that says you end up with a stepdad before next year.”

“No bet.” Izuku sat up and wiped his eyes. He echoed Katsuki’s smile. “He asked her this morning. She said yes.”

That… wasn’t actually a surprise when Katsuki really considered it. Yagi had just come through the mother of all health scares, Auntie was objectively awesome or terrifying depending on who you were or what mood she was in, they were both old, they didn’t have years to fart around over it, and Yagi was basically Izuku’s dad already just going by their dynamic. Why wouldn’t they have sealed the deal?


“I didn’t hear that.” Katsuki shook his head when Izuku glared. “No. No fucking way did I hear about Auntie getting engaged before the Hag did. You hear me? Tell me again later when it’s safe.”

Izuku nodded like ‘yeah, fair.’ “They don’t have a ring yet.” He lifted Katsuki’s arm by the wrist and wriggled under it with a determined expression that dared him to make something out of it. That was something Katsuki felt like he could get used to. 

So far their relationship had felt a lot like shielding a fire while trying to warm himself in front of it at the same time. Katsuki hadn’t realized how often rando strangers or even people they knew tried to tear his man down until he was watching for it and discovered it was fuckin’ everywhere.

Izuku’s constant stream of nerd exposition had been Katsuki’s lifeline in the days immediately following the attack. When he was alone something in his brain had magnified every unknown noise into an impending attack, a home intruder, or something worse even when he knew it was just the house settling or whatever. Being out in public wasn’t much better. He suddenly had zero tolerance for people moving in his peripheral vision or whispering around him. 

Izuku -still Deku in those days- drowned that shit right out and it felt like he could get back to normal for a little while just so long as the Nerd could keep up his irritable screed about how Braveowl telegraphed his high kicks too much. It was hard to tell when he’d stopped wanting the crutch and started just enjoying hearing Deku speak. It started to feel special; like something only he got to have and Katsuki liked that feeling a lot.

Nine times out of ten, though, Deku’d get interrupted by a passing classmate or a complete stranger saying some passive-aggressive shit that made him clam up for the rest of the afternoon no matter what Katsuki tried. 

Shit was infuriating and made worse by the realization that this had been going on for years and he just hadn’t bothered to notice.

Speaking of…

Katsuki squinted around the room they were in. He’d assumed it was a sitting area or some shit, but it was on the small side for that and there weren’t any decorations like the rest of the apartment, which had been staged to within an inch of its life near as Katsuki could tell. Then he noticed a little study area and --was that a loft? Was there a bed up there? “Hey, nerd, what is this place?”

“Oh!” Izuku turned bright fucking red and at once Katsuki knew what the answer was going to be. “This is gonna be my room… here.”

Katsuki got up and turned around, really looking at the place with that statement in mind. Someone had tried to furnish the place while leaving as much room for customization as they could. The furniture was chosen to be comfortable and go together in a neutral sort of way. None of it screamed Izuku to him, but once they slapped up some giant All Might posters then they’d be in the business. 

“Study group is at your place from now on, nerd.” Katsuki said as he bid a sad farewell to all the rich kid jokes he’d been planning to make at Four Eyes’ expense. He’d have to come up with something else. The Nerd would take that shit personally even if he tried not to. 

“Well, yeah.” Izuku perked up at some thought. “You haven’t seen the gym yet!”

Katsuki frowned. “The what?”

All Might’s penthouse took up three whole fucking floors and the second one had been split onto guest rooms and a gym that was practically an amusement park. He’d thought the warehouse was beyond imagination, but it looked like All Might had taken a picture of that then gave it to a professional with a budget.

Katsuki would have been jealous, except he could have seen Yagi’s agenda from space.

“You know, in Beauty and the Beast she got a library.” He told the Nerd as they kicked off their shoes to go jump on the overhead ropes course.

“He could have stopped at the kitchen. I don’t think she’s even been down here yet.” Izuku agreed who, as usual, got him right away. Katsuki’s leftover aggravation melted away leaving only pleased anticipation of getting onto that little fuckin’ climbing wall over there. 

Chapter Text

Toshinori gave the boys twenty minutes to play in the gym before he went to go supervise with Basil following behind.

He seemed to be forgiven because young Bakugo gave him the stink eye, but didn’t throw anything else. Likely that was the best he could have hoped for. Young Izuku was looking brighter around the eyes and that was a larger relief. They’d dropped a big bomb on him that morning after an interrupted night and Toshinori had been worried that the boy took it a little too well.

Inko had been confident that half an hour of bond time would clear up whatever the kid was stressing over and he was very grateful to find she’d been correct. He was in the unenviable position of knowing just how difficult it could be for a kid when their caregivers suddenly switched the script on them even when it was a good change. He didn’t want that for young Izuku.

They ended up having a good time. He’d shamelessly copied the ropes idea from Inko’s wharf warehouse because, while he loved the old place, they’d been mugged there twice since he started going regularly. Obviously it ended up with the muggers in custody, but what if it happened when he or Inko wasn’t around? The boys could look after themselves, but -call him crazy- he didn’t want them to have to just yet. At least not until they had their provisional licenses.

So far his plan of having a convenient and well appointed private gym in an area of town that didn’t give him agita seemed to be working. They said money can’t buy happiness, but Toshinori was certain only people who had never been poor really believed that. Most of his earnings went to support his charities, but he was still intensely wealthy and never really spent it on much except making his life easier. The gym and the penthouse reno were some of the first things he’d invested in to make it more pleasurable and boy howdy was that gym paying dividends already. Those two little adrenaline junkies were happily wearing each other out and blowing off a stressful day’s worth of steam.

If Basil had imprinted on Izuku, it was fascinated by young Bakugo and followed him around with great determination. It wasn’t at the point of soliciting affection from the teenager, which it wouldn’t have gotten, but it definitely wanted his attention. 

Young Bakugo did stay for dinner after a consultation with his mother. Toshinori noticed that he gave the absolute minimum of information of where he actually was when asking to stay over. “Auntie invited me to stay for dinner.” was apparently all he needed to say though. A final piece of the puzzle Toshinori’d been subconsciously trying to assemble in the penthouse clicked into place as they all sat down to dinner with the boys elbowing each other and Inko mediating with serenity. 

The evening wasn’t totally without worry. Nedzu called to update him on the campus breakin. Someone had definitely been snooping in the facilities schedule. Campus would reopen tomorrow, but the class schedule would be shuffled around. Rescue training was getting bumped back. Urban infiltration training was being rotated to a new field so he had to come up with a whole new exercise and that was going to be a headache. 

All told, it was a good day to figure out that he’d doubled the time on his clock yet again. He’d held his transformation for eight hours so far that day without feeling a tremor. In his heyday he’d been able to hold a flex for sixteen hours. He’d probably never manage that again, but if there was a problem he couldn’t deal with in twelve hours then it probably couldn’t be solved by him alone anyway.

The press mob was still there, albeit smaller after going a whole day with no joy, but this time the Midoriyas escaped out the garage with young Bakugo and Toshinori met them a few blocks away in his truck. 

He dropped young Bakugo off at his house and followed the Midoriyas into their place. 

Meeting with his management team had been every bit as stressful as he’d predicted. They’d loved Izuku, which was no surprise. He had a distinct look, good manners, a winning personality, and managers loved a young hero with a baby face. That conversation went exactly as Toshinori predicted; they’d wait to debut him until the Sports Festival. There was even minimal groaning over the fact that Izuku’s first school-era costume was already designed and produced since Toshinori admitted to have helped him with the preliminary drafts. 

Two of the junior members of the PR team -the ones most likely to get assigned to Izuku as his full time wrangler- were already eyeing each other up while smiling with far too many teeth. 

He wasn’t expecting it though when they took Inko’s arrival with a palpable aura of something that almost felt like relief. She let herself into the media room looking soft, pretty, and not at all like she’d just been on the phone with Akatani; something that always left her most harmless mask looking a little thin around the edges.

Toshinori was only too aware that male pro Heroes who married late in life tended to go one of two ways; trophy wives twenty years their junior or mild mannered single moms. 

They must have been afraid he’d met someone in the first category, but he hadn’t much liked the way his team took it as license to talk over her. Inko let it go on looking more placid and unruffled with every passing minute until one of the younger men on his team, Shimizu Hiro, finally got around to asking her a question and also giving her time to answer it. 

“What is it you do, Midoriya-san?” Shimizu wasn’t exactly condescending, but he clearly had an answer in his head already; preschool teacher, part time florist, blogger, or something in that vein. “It’ll be an important question to answer later on.”

“I’m retired these days.” She smiled the way she did when she was about to get someone and suddenly Toshinori felt a lot less bored and annoyed than he usually did during these meetings. “It wasn’t reasonable to keep working once I had Izu.”

“Oh?” Shimizu perked up a little, as did the other members of the PR team. Inko was still fairly young and early retirement wasn’t a small achievement. He could see them getting ready to spin that into a big positive. “What were you doing before?” 

He was clearly hoping for ‘doctor’ or ‘lawyer’ or something since they’d probably looked into her enough to have already determined that she wasn’t a widow nor was there an annoying ex out there that they’d need to bribe or threaten into silence.

Honestly, the little black card she took out of her pocket then was the least surprising surprise of every bombshell she’d dropped on him since the day they met. It was a revelation in keeping with the high dramatics he had come to expect from professional heroics. He’d guessed that she was a Black Card within a few hours of meeting her so all he really felt was a vague sense of vindication. Technically, he was one too, but his card had been issued specifically with All for One in mind. He’d never been called on to use it again. 

Black Card Heroes all, especially the ones who were no longer active, had a certain way of insisting they were nobody worth bothering with all while projecting the aura of someone you definitely didn’t want to bother with. They were like Underground Heroes, only meaner and more alien; literally, in Inko’s case. They were good people, but hardly ever comfortable people given the things they were willing to do. All the retired Black Cards he’d ever met had some extremely soothing hobby that dominated their time and no visible employment to support it. Raising a teenager was probably less calming than Obake’s gigantic rock garden or Vita’s pottery, but Inko seemed happy with it. 

Agent Akatani’s sudden interest in his business had been as good as confirmation and there was really no other way for her to have legally done the other things she’d confessed to him.

That didn’t mean he hated to see her own it.

His management team took it harder. They went quiet and pale as you might expect from a group of civilians confronted with an imperial executioner; the bogeyman of professional heroics. Japan had come a long way from its feudal roots, but in some ways the nation hadn’t changed at all. 

They quit talking over her and started taking the conversation a bit more seriously, which had led to this nighttime excursion. 

Everyone agreed: the media was going to find her eventually. There was no way around that and it was better if she wasn’t still living in the apartment when that happened. They had the safety and privacy of her neighbors to consider, for one. Toshinori’s fans were unusually respectful of his privacy and personal life, but sometimes big life events were known to change that. The security in the penthouse was better, especially once Liberty was allocating it more of her attention and not leaving it to the automated processes.

The name ‘Vortex’ hadn’t reached the ears of his PR team yet, which proved that it was still just a tiny whisper on the internet. Akatani’s ear would have been much closer to the ground than the average person so of course he caught it first. Still, it meant they’d have to introduce her by her code name in order to get ahead of any reporters who’d want to use it to try and startle an embarrassing sound byte out of her.

Toshinori and Inko hadn’t admitted to being engaged yet. He didn’t want that slipping out and every management team had a leak somewhere, but his managers didn’t need to be told it was serious if her child was involved so they were treating an eventual wedding as a matter of ‘when’ rather than ‘if’.

Tonight they were picking up clothes and anything Inko or Izuku didn’t want strangers touching. A professional moving company that catered to heroes would manage the real move. Packers would come to box everything up into a mobile storage container, which would go through an elaborate shell game of storage units and cross country shipments before being stored somewhere Inko and Izuku could visit to decide what they wanted to keep. The rest would be broken up among thrift stores across the country. 

Was that paranoid? Probably, but it was the reality most people who moved in with a hero above a certain ranking had to live with if they joined households before going public.

Inko tasked him with helping her distractible son pack and he’d known, sort of, that young Izuku had a merch collection that would warm even Mirai’s icy heart. It was small, but carefully curated and Toshinori was not too dumb to realize that being asked by his red-eared future stepson to help take it down from display involved no small measure of trust. 

The bright side was that Christmases and birthdays were going to be real easy for him in future and Toshinori relished the glow he felt at the prospect of having them to look forward to.  

Thank fuck he wasn’t taking down any of the posters or holding one of the little action figures that even he recognized as very old and very rare when the front door slammed open. He was just holding a little box of ancient stuffies when he accidentally puffed up in response to the sudden violent noise. 

He had a whole new startle reflex after so many years of having to be so strategic about how long he stayed flexed for. Thankfully he’d opted to wear one of his bigger shirts for the trip so he didn’t add another casualty to the mounting list in his wardrobe. 

It was Mitsuki-san in the open door holding her son, madder than a wet cat, by the ear. 

They’d met a few times and even did a double date once that went well. He and Masaru had made friends anyway. He was scared of the man’s wife and not ashamed to admit it. This wasn’t the sort of problem you could punch or arrest and he now regretted all the times he’d had a private chuckle when overhearing a fellow pro -someone who shouldn’t have feared anything short of an asteroid strike- fret about the pitfalls and setbacks involved with trying to make friends with their spouse’s friends. It was terrible and stressful, but he had to do it because the other option was being one of those creepy couples with no friends outside their relationship. 

Mitsuki seemed to grudgingly approve of him in respect to his ability to get things down off tall shelves and wear her son out enough that he didn’t make a lot of noise at home. She’d warmed up to him slightly when he’d taken over young Bakugo’s quirk coaching and refused to pay any attention to the weird histrionic woman who sometimes showed up at the warehouse to intimate in non-specific ways that young Bakugo was a latent villain. 

“Inko, you had better not…” She stared at him, wide eyed. He stared right back and wondered if he’d just accidentally screwed them all over. 

Mitsuki released her son. “Nevermind, brat, I found something new to be mad about. Go play with Izuku.” She pointed at him. “Buddy, you had better not be faking right now. That is literally the only way this could get worse for you.”

“It’s him.” Katsuki groused, rubbing his ear, and glared when Toshinori gave him a sad, betrayed look. “Don’t look at me for help, asshole, you dug this grave by yourself.” He stomped off past him to Izuku’s room.

“Mitsuki?” Inko came out of the master bedroom with a few dresses draped over her forearm. “That took less time than I thought.”

“Maybe don’t tell secrets to my kid if you don’t want me to find out.” Mitsuki-san deflated slightly, confronted with her actual friend. Their dynamic was eerily reminiscent of young Izuku and his boyfriend, albeit platonic. “I can read his guilty little face like a book.” She crossed her arms. “I get you not telling me about…” She gestured towards Toshinori so as to indicate his everything. “... this , but you’re gonna get engaged without telling me about it?”

“We don’t have a ring yet!” Toshinori blurted out. Mitsuki gave him a look that was eerily similar to her son’s highest level of scorn.

“It was a spur of the moment thing.” Inko reassured her terrifying friend. “We talked about it just this morning.”

Mitsuki relaxed at once, as though she’d been waiting for the slightest excuse. Suddenly young Bakugo and Izuku suddenly made more sense to him than they ever had before.

He started to back away, intent on going to find somewhere to hide, but Mitsuki pointed at him as he started to make a break for it. 

“Don’t even think about it.” She growled. “Why are you moving them out if this just happened today?”

Again, he didn’t think before answering because he was probably always going to be intimidated by that woman. “You haven’t seen the picture?”

Mitsuki turned to Inko. “What picture?”

Toshinori had the copy on his phone and Mitsuki only tortured him a little bit for making it his lock screen, but even she grudgingly admitted that someone who knew Inko would recognize her from that picture before long and the little apartment complex was nowhere anyone would want to get pinned down by cameras. 

“I still don’t like it.” She had a look to her that suggested what she didn’t like was not being within walking distance of her friend anymore, but knew that was too selfish to say and that was a sentiment Toshinori understood all too well.

“It won’t be forever. The plan is to hold a press conference after the UA Sports Festival.” He explained. “We don’t want to take attention away from the children. Once it’s been announced we’ll be normal and boring and can have friends over again.”

Inko held up her license over Mitsuki’s shoulder and nodded to the back room. “Daring, do you mind supervising the boys to make sure Izuku keeps packing? I’d like to talk to Mitsuki alone for a moment.”

He nodded and made his break. Izuku looked sympathetic when he let himself into the bedroom and young Bakugo looked about his usual level of scornful. 

Between the three of them they got Izuku’s collectibles, electronics, and his private papers packed up. Toshinori was less concerned by the haphazard way the boys picked out what clothes to take; going by Izuku’s (and sometimes young Bakugo’s) favorites rather than what was seasonal. 

They didn’t know it yet, but they were probably both about to get attacked by a stylist. Katsuki would get off without issue since every single article of clothing he wore was designer thanks to Masaru and his hair actively defied styling, but Izuku was probably going to get worked over from the ground up so it didn’t matter what he brought so long as it was something he wanted to have with him. The stylist would fill in the practical gaps. Pajamas, comfort wear, underclothes, and uniforms were the real priority. 

Fortunately the boys were distracted by arguing over this one jacket that Toshinori didn’t really see young Bakugo’s issue with (what was wrong with bright colors?) when Mitsuki squawked in surprise from the other room, but that was the only outburst. They were quiet for a bit longer before a more somber Mitsuki reappeared to collect her son.

“Come on, brat. You’re in the way.” She told him, looking a little tired but less irritable than when she’d arrived. 

“Oh now you care about that?” Katsuki cracked back.

Inko caught his eye from the other room and nodded with a tired little smile. He relaxed. Everything was okay. 

Mitsuki squinted up at him when he and Inko walked her to the door. “You can stay, I guess.” She said grudgingly. 

He didn’t expect to be as touched by that statement as he was. “Thank you.” He said softly. “I look forward to it.”

Thanks to Kacchan grounding him a little bit that afternoon, Izuku felt a little more sanguine about suddenly moving in with his mentor and, um ...gosh. ‘Future stepfather’ was a phrase that was going to take some getting used to. 

They’d basically had a combined household for months before this and Toshinori-san moving out had been weirder than having him around was. Yes, his physical presence made the walls in the tiny apartment close in a little bit, but he had a nice brain to live in close proximity to; something you’d never think about if you weren’t Izuku.

Mom could do what he did, but she had to work at it and often didn’t care to. She found other people’s minds messy, confusing, and stressful. Izuku meanwhile always needed to know what other people really meant because he often struggled with reading tone or body language. He spent so much time ‘listening’ that his internal psychic radio defaulted to ‘on’ so, unlike his mom, it took him effort to switch it ‘off.’

He didn’t like doing that at home if he didn’t have to and he’d discovered he didn’t really have to do that around Toshinori-san. The older hero had a lot of concerns and always carried a little stress, but he seemed to be past the point where setbacks wound him up. He was kind of like one of those big dogs who didn’t move unless they absolutely had to. He had gotten angry twice in Izuku’s recollection and both times back been when a salesman tried to get in the house.  

What was a dad, even? His only frame of reference was Masaru-san and he was more of a quiet backdrop to his loud son and wife. 

It wasn’t like Izuku had conflicted feelings about Hisashi-san. His mom never made any pretences about why his biological father wasn’t in their life and what little he’d overheard of his mom’s interactions with the guy cemented his feelings that Hisashi-san was a nice enough person, but not someone he wanted that particular relationship with. Mom didn’t hide it from him either when Hisashi-san figured out Izuku existed or the fact that his reaction was to panic and run away whenever Izuku might be in the area --except for all the times Izuku picked up on the man following him around in public. Mom said to ignore him until he worked through his feelings, but it was like being stalked by a very anxious tree. Hisashi-san’s brain was the opposite of soothing.

‘Dad’ wasn’t a word that often appeared in his vocabulary; only in the third person, really. ‘Your’ dad. ‘His’ dad. ‘Her’ dad. It had never been ‘my’ dad so the word wasn’t as natural or emotionally charged for him as it might have been for someone else. 

“I always liked this run.” Toshinori-san observed as he helped Izuku hang one of the posters in his collection that he’d never had room for on his walls before. It was a theater sized poster from an animated movie that came out when he was in grade school and he might have been a bit young to see it, but he’d won it in an opening-night raffle. “The illustrator’s quirk factor was in her eyes. It affected the way she perceived color in very interesting ways.”

“Is that why the movie’s palette was like that?” Izuku asked. The movie had gotten some mixed reviews about the visuals. You either loved it or couldn’t stand it. It had All Might in it so grade-school Izuku had loved it.

“Yes, the directors saw the initial submissions for promotional materials, loved the effect, and re-colored the entire movie to match.” Toshinori-san chuckled to himself as he went looking for another box to open. He was surprisingly comfortable with most of his own merch. Some of the lumpy knock-off stuff seemed to bother him when they encountered it in the wild. To be fair, that stuff frequently bothered Izuku too because it was usually ugly. 

Toshinori-san seemed to have a story about every item they unpacked; either about the designers or the charity the proceeds went to fund or how early in his career another notable hero got jealous when his stuff sold better and had a tantrum about it on Twitter that tanked their career for a solid year. 

Izuku had been braced for Toshinori-san to be made uncomfortable by his stuff, but eventually figured out that the merch wasn’t just about All Might to his mentor; it was about the project and the people involved or who were supported by it.

Like most kids, Izuku had dreamed about having merch of his own being the hot new toy or whatever. He’d never actually considered what it would be to have that dream come true.

Also, Kacchan merch. Oh gosh. He was probably going to buy it all.

“Do you ever keep any of your own stuff around?” Izuku asked to distract himself from the fact that none of that was going to happen for ages yet.

“I used to; my first poster, these little kid-friendly stuffed animals, and some things like that.” Toshinori-san  admitted. “There eventually got to be too much and one time someone tried to burn my building down so it’s mostly in the museum in New York these days.”

Izuku wondered if that donation happened about five years ago. “Does that happen often? People attacking your house?” That would get awkward if it happened when mom was home. A bunch of vacant eyed villains turning themselves in at the nearest police station might draw some attention. It’d be really funny though. 

“Not very often.” Toshinori admitted, soberly. “Often enough to be worried about. There’s a reason my management team and I were so eager to get you and your mother someplace secure. The press isn’t the only concern.” He looked down at the box with all Izuku’s Nitotans. “That incident with Nighteye was an aberration. It won’t happen again.”

“Oh, I know it won’t.” Izuku grinned at the startled look Toshinori-san gave him. “I heard Miss Liberty yelling at you when she made you review the security lists.”

“Ah, haha…” Toshinori-san rubbed the back of his head. “...I suppose the whole house heard that, now that I’m thinking about it.” 

“She was really quiet when we first visited.” Izuku was pretty sure that didn’t mean she wasn’t around.

“Liberty doesn’t fully interact with that many people and I wasn’t here all that often after I moved in so she had no reason to devote that much of her attention here. She started to dip in and out more as your mother started to visit.” Toshinori-san’s mouth pulled down a bit at the edges. “She’ll watch people for a little bit before she makes up her mind about them. You and your mother passed otherwise she just pretends to be a personal assistant. She’ll come out for Mirai… Sir Nighteye, rather, sometimes but they don’t get along. They both think the other is too controlling.” 

Izuku thought about it for a moment. “She talked to Kacchan right away.” He pointed out.

“Well, young Bakugo doesn’t hold much back. He’s not hard to figure out and you two are a package deal anyway.” Toshinori-san considered the Nitotans on Izuku’s shelf. “Let me know if you’d like any different furniture in here. I had them keep it pretty tame in here so you can change anything you want.”

He really meant that and, as Izuku read into Toshinori-san’s mood, was kind of looking forward to it as a bonding activity. Izuku hadn’t grown up ever going without anything, but his mom kept a strict budget so he was used to getting summer jobs or little side hustles to fund his more expensive hobbies.

Most people had a little running tally in the back of their head of what their money was doing as part of their daily mental load; how much they spent, how much they earned, and what the difference between that was. Toshinori-san’s wasn’t quite the same. It was there. He just didn’t bother including anything below a certain amount in his calculations . Izuku could kind of pick up on echoes of a time when that hadn’t been the case so it wasn’t that he was bad with money, it was just that he had so much of it that his sense of scale was very different than Izuku’s.

“Are you in my brain right now, kid?” Toshinori asked.

“Um, a little bit.” Izuku confessed and got back a wave of amusement. “Just the surface thoughts. Money is one of the things people lie about, so…”

“Ah.” Toshinori-san rubbed his chin thoughtfully. “We should probably talk about that.”

“O-oh?” Izuku cringed. He was so unused to people who weren’t his mom or Kacchan knowing about his mind reading that he’d kind of forgotten how invasive it could be. The automatic stuff he picked up wasn’t any more revealing than body language, but Toshinori-san probably didn’t know that. “I’m sorry. It’s a habit. I’ll try not to peek.”

“Hmm? No, I meant money.” Toshinori-san shook his head. “Your mom explained a little bit about your mind reading. I’d feel it if you were really prying, right?”

Izuku nodded, relieved. “Yeah, everyone can feel that. Your mind picks up on it and interprets it as pain.”

“Right, so I’m okay with it so long as you’re as careful of my privacy as your own.” There he ruffled Izuku’s hair. “You have been, so I’m not worried. My point was that I don’t want you worrying about material stuff. There’s some big changes coming…” He went a little red and coughed. “...not just the wedding. I’m going to have my financial planner come by once we make the announcement about your mom and I. Before that happens, I want to make sure you understand that you don’t have to hesitate before asking me for something.”

A big image slipped through Toshinori-san’s mental net just then. It was from the perspective of a much younger Toshinori-san overhearing someone who wasn’t his parent, but was maybe his guardian griping to someone else unaware they were being overheard- about how much it cost to feed and clothe a kid in the middle of the world’s longest growth spurt and wasn’t going to amount to much anyway. In the memory, young Toshinori-san shoved a crumpled up permission form and payment slip for a field trip back into his pocket before quietly slipping away. 

The feeling was so visceral and resonated with some of the thoughts Izuku sometimes struggled with that he flinched and tried to cover one ear even though that did nothing to shut it out.

“...are you all right?” Toshinori-san’s mounting concern drew Izuku back into the present.

“Sorry!” Izuku’s entire head flushed hot. “I, um, pick up on intrusive memories sometimes.”

Toshinori-san coughed and looked away. “Ah.” His voice was a little gruff and that matched the annoyed twist to his mouth. He was frustrated; probably with his inability to shed the little dings and hurts everyone picked up as they grew up. It wasn’t the first time Izuku had ‘overheard’ something like that. It was a nigh universal experience, but he was reluctant to bring it up. “Then I’m sorry about that.”

Izuku shook his head. “It happens to everyone.” He said. It explained something of why Toshinori-san had wanted to bring up the subject. He didn’t really like that someone had made that long-ago young boy feel bad for needing the bare minimum. It made him feel restless and unhappy and kind of like Kacchan when someone really needed hitting, but he also liked that Toshinori-san was determined not to repeat that person’s mistakes in his own home. Not even by accident. “Usually you’re really quiet.”

That eased some of the embarrassed tension in the older man’s shoulders. “I’ve never been called that before.” He chuckled. “Well, I’m glad.” He considered Izuku for a moment. “I’m never going to offer you anything I don’t want to deliver on or say things just because I think I’m obligated to make the gesture. That’s not just about One for All. You need a solid support network to get started as a hero. I’m pleased that I get to be a larger part of yours than I’d originally expected. If you need or want something then just ask me.” He paused as something that had the echoes of Izuku’s mom’s voice occurred to him. “I can’t promise I’ll always say yes, but I’ll always hear you out and I won’t get angry just because you asked.”

“Okay.” Izuku squirmed. The idea of asking All Might to sign his permission slips and stuff was weird, but it got a little less weird if he pictured asking the guy who swore him to secrecy after he accidentally broke their couch just sitting on it and had to call someone in to fix it before Mom got home.

Was that what a dad looked like? Izuku had no idea, but he kind of liked it. If he had to pick somebody, then Toshinori-san, when he was being Toshinori-san, was it.

Maybe he could practice it in his head? No one had asked him to make the transition instantly. They weren’t married yet. He had time to work himself up to it.  

A little flicker of something caught the edges of his attention and Izuku frowned at the door. “Mom’s spying on us right now.”

She stuck her head in the door. “I came by to ask if you boys wanted tea.” She said, looking sheepish, and let herself in. “It’s looking good in here.” She observed. “Are you liking it so far?” She asked Izuku.

“Toshinori-san thinks there needs to be display cases.” Izuku pointed to the empty spots on either side of the television. “What do you think? There?”

“For the action figures?” His mom considered the space. “Yes, if you’re not worried about light from the window. I remember that one figurine on your desk that faded so badly.”

Toshinori-san perked up, which was what Izuku had been going for. “They make UV resistant glass.” He got out his phone to show them a catalog listing he already had up, which explained where the very specific mental image he’d been entertaining off and on while they hung posters had come from. “I was going to order some for the media room.”

That got Izuku’s attention. “Are you bringing some of your stuff back from that museum?” That would be amazing, but he would feel really bad for the people who didn’t get to see it after.

“Ahaha, not without a boatload of lawyers getting involved.” Toshinori chuckled. “No, I thought I’d save them for when you and young Bakugo start getting merch deals.” He beamed. “I’m looking forward to this. None of my sidekicks ever wanted merch deals.”

His mom laughed at the noise Izuku made and hugged them. “I can’t wait.” She kissed his forehead despite the steam surely coming out his ears.

Chapter Text

Inko knew better than most how quickly life could change.

Admittedly, she thought as she took in the mannequin in front of her, this was a bit much even for her. 

“What the hell is this?” Hisashi was saying to the designer. They hadn’t been able to send the costume job to R&D. Their production schedule was too far out to accommodate such a last minute project with a deadline before the UA Sports Festival, which happened fairly early in the school year. He was still taking charge of the costume situation and had introduced himself as her ‘manager.’ The distinction between ‘handler’ and ‘manager’ was academic at best so she let him do it. Now she was glad that she had. 

The studio they’d commissioned the costume from was small and just starting out. Inko had liked that at first, but was now learning that there was a drawback to working with someone who didn’t have a reliable professional reputation. 

“This isn’t the draft we signed off on!” Hisashi wasn’t shouting yet, but he’d noticed she was struggling and was doing his best to get the mannequin removed from the room. 

She was glad he had the ability to entertain feelings in the current moment because hers had unexpectedly shut down as soon as they’d wheeled in the mannequin dressed up in the extreme beginning stages of a hero’s costume. 

To be fair to the costume studio, the costume wasn’t actually a set of Jedi robes. It had been clearly influenced by traditional kimono design and it wasn’t the designers’ fault that there was a great deal of overlap between the two. 

The costume was too flamboyant for a Jedi even though it was quite sedate in a brocade of muted shades of green and violet with dull gold detailing. It was fairly obvious that the obi was intended to double as a serious business girdle too and, while it would probably give her something like an hourglass figure, it would hamper her breathing and in turn her stamina.

That wasn’t the problem though.

The problem was that the design was close enough to her old robes to make her struggle for air.

“Well, I do have the toile from my initial idea…” The designer was a person of indeterminate gender and had offered no pronouns so Inko did not care to guess. They were a pale lavender individual with a slender build and four graceful arms. “...but it was a bit dull for a media appearance. People respond to color, not utility! You have to have a brand!”

“How is she supposed to work in a corset?” Hisashi hissed.

“Well, one assumes she already has a costume to work in.” The designer sniffed, looking skeptical. “You said she’s already licensed despite the fact that you can’t provide any earlier drafts of her costumes for me to work from.”

“That one is being retired.” Hisashi reigned himself in with difficulty. “We were commissioning a new one.”

“Well, I suppose…” The designer tapped their lips. “...honestly, I don’t think I can in good conscience accept the commission with that deadline if that’s what you’re using it for. I can whip up something nice for the cameras without trouble, but a combat ready suit can take up to a year for a studio of this size and that’s if I’m not working on anything else, I assure you, I am.”

“This shouldn’t be news to you.” Hisashi’s grip on his temper slipped. “We discussed all of this when I paid the deposit! The non-refundable deposit!”

“Well, I can’t be held responsible if you don’t like the design.” The person sniffed. A thin thread of self-satisfaction rippled through them, loud enough for Inko to catch it. It was sufficiently distracting to take her attention off the mannequin. She took a deeper look into the mind of the person who’d allegedly made that costume for her. The feelings were confusing, but the images and names floating in their mind were not.

“We don’t.” Inko stood up and patted her skirt back into place. She put a hand on Hisashi’s shoulder. “Just have the check cancelled. They never intended to make the costume and they aren’t out of any investment so no harm, no foul.”

“Excuse me!” The designer shrieked. “My time! My materials!”

“You were already paid by both for Miss Mystery and she didn’t like it either.” Inko replied without heat as she collected her bag. The Miss Mystery, affectionately called MissMys by the public, in the designer’s memory was a retired hero who’d been looking for something lighter than her old gear to wear to charity functions that would hold in her aging figure. She and Inko had similar dimensions and coloring. 

The designer wasn’t lying about being overbooked, but also wasn’t averse to drumming up some quick cash with a bit of old stock to hold them over until someone was able to pay their tailoring bill. They would have finished the fitting if Inko had liked the costume. MissMys had been retired long enough that it wouldn’t cause any trouble if a new hero mimicked her style. 

“If you are going to scam your clientele then pick your marks better in the future.” Inko concluded and pressed the designer’s mind just hard enough that they knew she was in there.

Inko tuned the upset person out as Hisashi took over to hustle them out. Her mind was already chewing over the problem. That designer hadn’t been lying. Their mind had shone with truth when they said ‘a combat ready suit can take up to a year.’ They really wouldn’t put a hero out on the streets in anything they couldn’t rely on, which was why Inko was willing to let bygones be bygones. They just hadn’t really believed Inko was a licensed hero.

Thinking on it though, Inko didn’t need a combat suit. She hadn’t bothered with armor even in the war.

Toshinori had insisted on bringing her craft things over to the penthouse since they didn’t know how long it would take the movers to obfuscate the trail their belongings would leave. He was more experienced with this sort of move and where Inko had prioritized clothes for a few weeks and precious mementoes, he’d encouraged her to bring things like the materials for her hobbies and any book with a bookmark in it. 

“Clothes and toiletries are easy to replace.” He’d said. “In a week and a half you’re going to want your knitting project or your sewing kit. That’s harder.”

The little empty room that had once been Toshinori’s second guest room blossomed into a private sitting area and craft room almost overnight. It had a loft like Izuku’s room and just like that she had a quiet space to meditate; something she hadn’t had since giving birth.

The point was; she had a sewing machine and knew how to use it. Even if she went through a couple attempts it would still be cheaper, easier, and have less potential for unexpected trauma than this nonsense. 

“I’m sorry about that.” Hisashi sulked as he buckled himself into the car. “I knew it sounded too good to be true.”

“It was an educational experience.” Inko agreed. “Do you still have time? I’d like to go to a fabric store.”

Hisashi turned around to look back at her. “Seriously?”

“The closest thing to armor I’ve ever worn is an EVA suit.” Inko shrugged one shoulder. “Why start now? All it has to do is look good.”

He barked out a laugh as he pulled out his phone and started searching for a fabric store. “Damn, I miss you.”

Inko cocked her head, confused. “I’m right here?”

Hisashi paused and shook his head. “Not what I meant.” He turned forward. “I miss this. The weird little adventures. Problem solving. Explaining who celebrities are. You’re the only friend I ever had who didn’t ask me to be someone else.”

“Who would you be?” Inko was pretty sure they were getting into emotional territory she was under equipped to navigate. Unfortunately there wasn’t a better person to throw at the problem. 

“Anybody else, I guess.” He shrugged and handed the phone backwards to her. There was a business listing on it that advertised a heroics grade fabrics section. 

“Yes, that looks fine.” Inko considered him for a moment. “I miss you too sometimes; not the sex, but the companionship.”

There was also the trust. She’d forgotten in her eagerness to keep her child safe that Hisashi was an exceptional partner when the bullets began to fly. He didn’t panic or question her. They both had similar stress responses and neither of them were inclined towards surprise at the lapses in each other’s behavior. This was not the foundation a romance could be built on, but they’d been good friends once.

“We probably shouldn’t have started hooking up.” Hisashi acknowledged with a sad twist to his mouth. “That fucked everything up.”

She’d been around teenagers and maybe Mitsuki for too long and automatically responded, “Literally.”

Hisashi barked another laugh and put the car into gear. “All right, let’s get this show on the road.”

The store wasn’t far and Hisashi turned out to be an ideal person to shop with. He cared about colors and how they functioned in an urban environment otherwise she would have bought a bunch of dark gray fabric and called it done. She found a pattern for a knee length coat that looked like it would accommodate a hood and a built in gaiter. She’d be able to throw it over whatever she was wearing and be done with it. 

She was standing in the check out line when her phone booped. It was a forwarded text message from Toshinori.

Toshi: Should I be worried?

The attached picture was a screen grab of a snapchat of Inko frowning at a swatch of cloth clearly in a fabric store with the top part of Hisashi’s head in the shot. The attached comment read: in case you’re wondering how the fitting went.

Inko: When did you two start texting?

Toshi: I’m 48 this year. I have a better chance of getting hit by lightning than making a new adult friendship.

Toshi: I can’t afford to be picky, but he also isn’t what I expected. Why are you two in a fabric store?

Inko considered that and made a mental note to arrange another double date with Mitsuki and Masaru. If he was going to hang around Hiashi there needed to be some sort of quasi-sane counter balance.  

Inko: The studio was a bust. I’ve decided to make something myself. I’ve never needed special clothes before now. 

Toshinori responded with a picture of a television screen. Izuku and Katsuki were in a big sort of industrial building sitting on a pipe looking down at a frustrated looking kid underneath who Katsuki was getting ready to jump down on with a ferocious grin. Izuku, who would normally have been reining him in, was watching with riveted attention.

Toshi: We’re doing hide and seek in pairs. The boys are performing exceptionally well.

Inko: Pairing them up is hardly fair. What did that kid do to deserve that kind of punishment?

Toshi: I’d have expelled him by now if I were his homeroom teacher. This will have to do. 

That was interesting. 

Inko: Why can’t you? I thought all the heroics instructors had the right of summary dismissal.

Toshi: It’s my first year. It’s hardly fair.

Inko: Does that matter? Do you think he’ll make a good hero?

Toshinori was quiet for a while.

Toshi: I think he’ll become the kind of predator I hate most; the kind who hides his crimes behind a cape.

Toshi: Thank you, love. I may be home late tonight. I expect I’ll need to justify this decision.

“That’s a grim face.” Hisashi observed. He read the conversation when she showed it to him rather than try to explain. “Ah. That’s a tough call. He’s not wrong. There’s a lot of pro heroes who think no one is watching them. Sometimes they’re right. A lot of UA graduates are untouchable until they mess up enough times. Even then the media hates reporting on it. There’s a reason why the industry is okay with how few graduates they turn out. They can’t afford to be sentimental about it.” 

Something was tugging at her attention and she wasn’t sure what until they were walking back to the car and passed by a seemingly nondescript five story building. She wouldn’t have realized what it was except she noticed a familiar man in a familiar gray suit just entering the building. The feeling intensified and Inko sighed from deep within her chest.

“Weird space thing?” Hisashi glanced at her over the top of his sunglasses and held out a hand for her bags when she nodded wearily. He’d heard her sigh like that before and the most notable occasion was that time when they’d mysteriously wandered past the secret entrance to Leviathan’s base in the Tokyo sewers while Hisashi was trying to explain the metro system to her. “Is this the sort of space thing where I need to call backup?”

“No.” Inko handed them over and felt bone tired. “I’ll either be building a bridge or burning it. I suppose we’ll find out which momentarily.”

Hisashi shrugged and said, “I’ve got a book on my phone.” He found a bench and sat down with the shopping bags, prepared to camp out for the duration.

That was the difference between him and Toshinori, really. Toshinori would have followed her in. Hisashi was less inclined to be underfoot.

There was no one inside when she entered the building. She could sense people moving around upstairs; three men and a woman. Passing through the blind spots in a group of people’s perception was an old skill she was pleased to see she hadn’t lost.

The members of Nighteye agency were calm and happy for the most part. They had a young man working there who had perhaps never been calm once in his life, but Inko found herself automatically warming to him. It wasn’t hard to figure out why. He was a smaller, younger Toshinori who had been treated a bit more kindly by life. The adults aside from Nighteye were a blue woman in a very brief cropped top and a man in a tuxedo with a… a bug? For a head? It was centipede-like and coiled atop his shoulders in a sort of head shape if you could ignore all the little legs.

That was perhaps the most outre quirk she’d seen yet.

She eventually came to a large office with a familiar name on the door. The inside was almost like setting foot into her son’s bedroom except Nighteye clearly had more budget and better connections than Izuku had enjoyed before now. She’d always expected Toshinori to be made uncomfortable by her son’s fandom collection, but he just seemed to enjoy it and found ways to slip ultra-rare collectibles in without the boy noticing. 

It occurred to her to wonder if maybe Izuku reminded him of better times with Sir Nighteye.

‘I’m going to have to mend fences with this man.’ She realized with a sigh. He and Izuku would make such good friends if she could only figure out how to get him past the barrier of his disagreement with Toshinori. Moreover, Toshinori’s wistful statement about the difficulties making friends as an adult echoed in her mind. She didn’t want him to have to replace anything that had once been his --including his old friendships.

At its heart this divide had happened over the fact that they both believed Toshinori would die and what ought to be done with the time he had left. Inko couldn’t overlook the fact that Nighteye had been the one to advocate for Toshinori taking that time for himself after a career of selfless public service. She would have argued for the same and had no assurances Toshinori would have listened to her either. She hadn’t known him then and she suspected he was a very different person after. 

She wasn’t happy with Nighteye’s behavior in the penthouse, but there was an old saying among Jedi about the proverbial ancient Master who had lived with their anger long enough to learn its true name was grief. 

Didn’t she have first hand experience with what a stubborn asshole Toshinori could be when he decided it was time to dig his heels in? He’d freely admitted the break wasn’t any one person’s fault. 

An illuminated screen caught her attention; Nighteye’s phone was sitting out on the desk and Inko tilted her head to look at his notifications. One was an automated text from the library letting him know his holds were ready for pickup and the other was from Instagram and announced the fact that HbleBble, LeMillionZillion, and Mamadoriya had recently added to their stories. 

Curious, Inko opened up her own phone to see who’d last followed her account. There weren’t many to choose from. Her followers numbered in the double digits and only two people had followed her in the past week. 

One of them was a sixty year old russian man with zero posts and no followers, but was following 1250 other accounts that seemed to belong exclusively to women. The other was TheSpectacle(s) who had about two hundred posts of All Might merchandise acquisitions, followed five accounts, and had three followers. He had gone through her posts to like every single superhero themed bento she’d done in the past two years. 

The office door opened before she had to decide how she felt about that.

Sir Nighteye froze in the entrance. The young blonde man who’d been following him asked “Sir?” 

“There is a guest.” Nighteye shrugged off his discomfort with enviable ease. “Lemillion, bring tea.” He casually blocked the boy’s line of sight when he tried to sneak a peek over the taller man’s shoulder. “Go.”

He waited until the boy was gone before asking, “To what do I owe this visit?”

“The meddling will of the universe.” Inko sighed, sotto voce. Louder she said, “I think you and I need to come to an understanding.”

Nighteye was quiet for a moment. He was far calmer than she recalled from their first encounter. He felt a lot of things in response to her statement, but it was mostly remorse and embarrassment so she was prepared to believe him when he said, “I apologize for my intrusion. I would not have done so if I had known anyone was staying in the penthouse.”

“A call might have ended better.” Inko agreed. He showed her to a chair and she allowed herself to be shown. “What did you hope to achieve with that stunt?”

To give him credit, Nighteye took her question seriously. “Which one?” His demeanor continued to be quite sober.

She cocked an eyebrow at him. She had a teenager. She supervised multiple teenagers. Flipping the question on her was not going to work.

“I intended to make a point.” He admitted, looking away, after the silence drew out a bit too long. “I have never had a report of discomfort from anyone I’ve used my quirk on. I apologize for that as well.” 

Oh no. He was wholly sincere in his apologies. 

Inko felt the last wisps of her irritation begin to fade and she released them rather than try to cling to that feeling. Those two had not been friends for no reason.  

“I accept.” 

The bug man appeared then with a tray balanced elegantly on his fingertips. “Please excuse me.” He set a cup down in front of her and considered her. He wasn’t hostile, but he was tense and on the edges of afraid for his boss. “I don’t believe I saw you come in.”

Inko sat on her instinct to downplay what she’d done. In a few weeks she’d have to stand in front of a sea of cameras in a costume she’d made herself and convince the world that she was the sort of hero they were used to. She might as well start getting practice now.

“No.” She smiled. “You didn’t.”

She might have gone a bit too hard on the intimidation, she realized when both men stared at her in discomfited silence. That was something she’d have to work on.

“Do you need me?” The bug man asked Nighteye.

“No, Centipeder.” Nighteye shook his head. “Thank you. You may go.”

“My son has a similar sensitivity. Do not use your quirk on him either. I won’t be listening to apologies afterwards if you do.” Inko told him once Centipeder had both left and stopped listening at the door.

Nighteye was taking a sip of tea when she said that and she was gratified by the resulting spit take. “A son?” He wiped his mouth, a little wildeyed. An image flashed through his mind, strong enough for her to pick up on; Lemillion, who was certainly not Toshinori’s biological child or if he was neither of them had been alerted to it. “Whose…?”

She rolled her eyes. “Mine.” This probably would not be the last time she fielded that question. “Would it be helpful for me to tell you I’m aware of the succession issue?” She asked that question mostly to move the conversation away from Izuku. 

Something about the man, who seemed to trend towards chilly by nature, cooled further. “Your son is the boy he chose, isn’t he.” His tone was flat and Lemillion flashed through his mind again accompanied by a wash of feelings that Inko couldn’t quite follow. She picked up on the high notes; frustration, fear, anger, and a sense that someone was being cheated. Nighteye wasn’t angry on his own behalf.


Things made more sense now. Inko would have had to be blind and deaf not to notice the paternal glow that surrounded Nighteye when his protege was in the room. It wasn’t even hard to understand why. Lemillion a smaller, peppier Toshinori who looked up to him. You didn’t have to look any further than the walls of his office to know Nighteye still adored All Might.

Though they might have started out that way, at some point Nighteye must have started to care about Lemillion for his own self. Nighteye reminded her of nothing so much as a Knight with their first Padawan. That was as close as you could get to having a nuclear family as a practicing Jedi.

From there she could extrapolate just how he’d feel about the son of his heart being robbed of a prize and sacred duty like One for All. Nighteye knew nothing of Izuku, but he didn’t need to. There was no one but Lemillion he’d accept as the next Pillar of Peace. That title and One for All were woven together inexorably in his mind.  

“...and Lemillion was the candidate you favored.” She answered his question with her own. It was rapidly becoming clear to her that the only way to deal with Sir Nighteye was to mom-zone him; a technique she already employed to great effect with Katsuki-kun. She could not react to his provocations or then he’d control the trajectory of their interactions and it’d end in an argument. If it ended in an argument then Nighteye wouldn’t have to reconsider his own prejudices.

“Is.” Nighteye stood and adjusted his glasses so that they hid his eyes. “Mirio is the only worthy successor to One for All that I’ll recognize.”

“You know it’s not your decision.” She kept her voice kind. It wasn’t like she didn’t understand him. She was the same way about Izuku and Toshinori. “Otherwise you wouldn’t have been feeling sorry earlier.”

Love did make people irrational, Inko acknowledged. It was harder to be annoyed with Nighteye though, knowing that all his boneheaded contrariness came from a place of paternal care. 

“I think it’s time for you to leave.” His voice could have flash frozen the tea in their cups. 

“Hmm, perhaps.” She picked her handbag up off the floor. She couldn’t force him to interact with her, but she certainly understood him better than she had before. This would be a long project. She couldn’t expect instant success, but she was pleased to have learned that it would be worth the effort. “I’ll show myself out.” 

Something did occur to her right then; something she’d noticed during her walkthrough that stood out amongst the usual, comfortable hubbub of day-to-day work in the agency. “By the way, I’m not sure what that table in the big room on the main floor is for, but it makes the young lady working here viscerally uncomfortable. I’m not sure exactly what is bothering her, but you might want to keep an eye on that.”

She started to leave, but was brought up short by Nighteye cutting her off by stopping the door with his hand.

“Explain.” He said shortly. 

Inko frowned up at him. “I can’t write you a novel.” She replied tartly. “All I noticed is that she doesn’t like being around it. She’s instantly unhappy whenever she looks at it.” Inko tried on a few adjectives for size. “She didn’t associate the discomfort with any one particular person or I’d be more concerned.”

“She would have told me if there was a problem.” Nighteye stepped back, but his unshakable confidence was suddenly shaken. He was putting up a good front, but Inko surmised he had something to do with that table. 

She sifted through his mind and was pleased to find there was nothing sexual going on. Inko wasn’t sure what she’d have done if it had been sexual misconduct. That did explain why the girl was so unhappy though. Anything even remotely sexual was a charged subject for women on this planet, but they were also passively discouraged from enforcing their own boundaries.

Nighteye was not a sexual or romantic person. The concepts were a little alien and boring to him. He was capable of connections, just not those types so that maybe explained why he hadn’t picked up on his employee’s discomfort by himself. 

“Would she?” Inko asked. “She’s very young and you’re an older male authority figure that she likes and respects.”

That was a palpable hit. She could feel his anger subside again to give way to his concern. He was still a bit self centered, but Inko suspected he was younger than she’d originally thought. She’d originally guessed that he and Toshinori were about the same age, but Nighteye seemed to be about ten years younger or so; right in the middle of that annoying phase where you made all the mistakes in your life that would later mature into wisdom.

“Who are you?” Nighteye adjusted his glasses again so the reflection of light on the lenses hid his eyes and she decided that was a nervous tic he’d learned to weaponize. “You’re very comfortable with your illegal quirk use.” 

It wasn’t an accusation, per se. She could tell just from his surface thoughts that, no matter how fraught his relationship with Toshinori became, he wasn’t about to turn the man’s significant other in to the police.

“Is it illegal?” That license was heavy in her purse, but she didn’t care to get it out just yet. She felt in her gut that it wasn’t for waving around. Shutting up Toshi’s managers was one thing. They’d needed to know. Maybe Nighteye did too, but she preferred to give him just enough of a hint to let him figure it out on his own.

“I’m familiar with all the professional heroes, active and retired, who live in the city and the surrounding areas.” Nighteye told her.

“I was never in the public eye and I retired sixteen years ago; well before your time, I suspect.” She found she didn’t actually want to lie to the man. There was more to him than his unpleasant surface and she was reluctantly beginning to empathize with him. Like Aizawa, he reminded her a bit of home. Yes, he was superficially obnoxious but redeemable if someone was willing to tell him so. “That will change now, I suppose.”

“Sixteen…?” he started to ask and then coughed as the math caught up to him. “I see.” He cleared his throat. “Then the two of you have chosen to go public.” He stepped and pulled out the guest chair in front of his desk in a mute apology and invitation to stay. She accepted the olive branch. 

“Chosen is a strong word. It’s going a bit faster than we would have preferred.” Inko admitted as she sat down again. “Someone leaked my old code name online and I live in an open air apartment block. Toshinori is worried that the press will try to create a story if we don’t give them one.”

“He’s not wrong.” Nighteye’s tone was a little bitter. “They haven’t gotten a story out of him in decades. How did you two even meet?”

“Serendipity, really. My son dragged him home one day.” It had been such a packed year, but only a year since then. She could hardly believe it. “There had been a villain attack earlier in the day and they bonded over it.”

Her phone boop-booped with a text message and she checked it real quick.

Hisashi: Do I need to come in there?

Inko: No, I think we’re about finished.

Hisashi: Bodybags y/n?

Inko: n

Hisashi: Boo

Hisashi: Then hurry up. The big guy is texting his terrible opinions on utility belts at me and I’m running out of nice.

Hisashi: As your handler, I am vetoing all utility belts.

She snorted and made a mental note to add the ugliest fanny pack she could find to her kit. “I’m afraid I need to excuse myself.” She told Nighteye. “My ride is getting impatient.”

“I’ll walk you out.” Nighteye stood and did just that. His sidekicks whispered as they passed, but neither of them paid them any attention. He stopped a big shy of the front entrance and bowed. He didn’t look in her direction, but rather into the middle distance. “Don’t worry about going too fast.” He said quietly. “Seize every moment.” Then he bowed again, sharply, before turning on his heel and marching away at speed.

“I was not expecting you to walk out of there smiling.” Hisashi observed, looking up from his cellphone game as she approached.

She chuckled and admitted, “Neither did I.”

Later that evening, her phone dinged with a notification from Instagram. Inko checked the app and found that TheSpectacle(s) had posted a new picture.

It was one image -not nearly so lovingly lit or posed as his merch pics- of a table with restraints on it sitting in a dumpster, broken in half with no caption.

She tapped the little heart button and smiled to herself. 

Chapter Text

Once upon a time, Toshinori had started his day with a little light crime fighting. He’d get up, shower, drink a nutrition shake, jump out the window, and be punching bad guys within twenty minutes. 

He remembered those days fondly as he tried to argue with his dog that, no, it could not go to work with him.   

“Go too.” Basil warbled in a deep, barely human-sounding voice. 

This was not what Toshinori had expected when the T3s had asked to give it a Japanese lexicon. He’d thought that meant it would understand Japanese. He’d heard Basil vocalize a little, but he hadn’t realized it was capable of language. Even Inko had been shocked. Apparently they weren’t known to be all that intelligent, something along the lines of a very smart dog or small-ish child, but Basil was smarter than the wardroids she’d encountered before. 

“I’ve heard them communicate in droidspeak sometimes, but Basilisk riders were known to heavily customize their mounts based on what they needed.” She’d shrugged helplessly. “Your parents must have upgraded Basil’s processors. If they were by themselves then they might have wanted it to have better communication and problem solving abilities.”

Basil had lifted its head where it was doing an impression of a napping dog in the middle of the livingroom, having recognized its name. “Smart.” It agreed before putting its head back down.

It didn’t have the cognitive processing power of D5 or the T3s and it only had specific areas of expertise. It liked to play a bit, but mostly ‘napped’ in standby around the penthouse; usually in a spot where it was guaranteed to be in the way. It had always let him leave without issue before and seemed to prefer to stay home so it could  ‘guard’ the house, but when he went for the landing pad that morning it tried to follow him right out.

“What is your problem?” Toshinori hissed before he shot a careful look back into the darkened penthouse. 

Inko was up, but she’d had one of her restless nights and was still a little quiet and preoccupied. She’d startled awake around 2 AM with a wounded noise only to subside back into restless shifting that no amount of soothing would banish. Akatani had warned him that it was probably coming after something upset her during that botched fitting and the man’s instincts were right on the money. Toshinori’d wanted her to sleep in more, but she’d wanted to stick to her morning routine. She was remarkably functional for someone with untreated PTSD so he hated to get underfoot, but he did wish she’d be more gentle with herself on the bad days. 

Young Izuku hadn’t woken up in a much better mood, but he could probably sense something was off with his mother without being told. He’d taken off earlier through the freight elevator, still looking pinched and a little off. Toshinori could only hope young Bakugo would balance him out again before class began.

This was the sort of thing no one told you about living with a bunch of psychics; contagious trauma. 

Inko’s back was to them as Toshinori wrangled with the dog and she tidied up after making the lunch boxes for the day. She said she planned on going back to bed for a while, but he didn’t want to get her worked up. A rambunctious war droid would do that for sure.

“Jedi.” Basil jerked its snoot in Inko’s direction. “Elevated stress. Threat level increased. Stay close.”

What the hell was a Jedi? Was it talking about Inko? The word sounded familiar, but he couldn’t quite place it. He’d have to text D5 later to let him know that the vocabulary the T3s loaded Basil with had some nonstandard additions. He wasn’t about to ask Inko after last night.

“What was that?” Inko wandered over, drying her hands on a dish towel. She looked a little bit better than she had right after waking up, but still a little peaky.

“Basil wants to come to work with me.” Toshinori was surprised to see her look pensive at that and then nod.

“Maybe it’s not a bad idea.” She said. “The Fo…” She stopped and shook her head. “Something is happening. It’s causing a disturbance I can feel. I’m not sure what’s going on. I just know that it’s going to be bad. Izuku was picking up on it too.” She patted Basil’s shoulder and it leaned into the affection. “My biometrics must have put Basil on alert. They have very sophisticated threat assessment modules.”

A cold finger slid down Toshinori’s spine. “The children are going on a field trip today.” He didn’t believe in coincidence.

They’d gone to a lot of trouble to obfuscate when the USJ trip would be, but they still had to hold rescue training for the first years within the first week of classes. Most of the Heroics program lesson plans built off that trip. Suddenly having his very protective and nearly indestructible robot gun dog tag along didn’t sound so disastrous. 

“It’s not guaranteed to be anything we’re involved in.” Inko didn’t sound convinced even as she tried to reassure him. “I would feel better if you had him with you. ”

Toshinori put a protective hand on Basil’s back. “I’m not sure I can.” He admitted. “I’m already running a bit late. I don’t think I can go at his pace. We would have to walk.”

Ink thought about it. “If you call in a visitor’s pass for me then I could drive you both in the truck.” She offered.

“You said you were going to go back to sleep.” He probably wasn’t going to win this fight, but he wasn’t going to just give up.

“I don’t think it’ll happen with…” She made a face, wrapped her housecoat a little tighter, and sort of looked around at something he couldn’t see or feel. “... this going on.”

That unfortunately seemed fair. Toshinori sighed and decided to make an end run around her by ordering dinner in and calling it an early night. He loved Inko with all his heart, but living with her made him realize that he owed major apologies to the people in his life who’d stuck with him when he’d been the one stubbornly refusing to look after himself. He suspected she wasn’t near as bad to deal with as he’d been, but it was still not fun. 

“All right.” He sighed and got his phone out to text Nedzu. “We’ll have to leave soon then.”

She pulled him down for a kiss, which did a lot to sweeten his morning. “I’ll be fast.” She promised.

Nedzu took the news that Toshinori’s murder robot wanted to come to school with him suspiciously well. 

Nedzu: Send me a picture of it, if you will?

‘It’ being Basil.

He was quiet for a moment after Toshinori complied.

Nedzu: Can it communicate why it wants to stay with you today, specifically?

AM: Inko-san had a bad night and is exhibiting ‘elevated stress.’ She thinks Basil is reacting to her. 

Nedzu: Bring it.

Toshinori frowned. He wasn’t about to argue with being given what he’d asked for, but…

AM: Thank you. I may be running a bit behind to catch the buses in that case. Inko-san will drive us directly to the USJ in my truck.

Nedzu: Excellent. Bring her too.

All right, that was a bit much.

AM: What’s going on?

Nedzu: Potentially nothing, but I’d rather be prepared than not. If she comes in costume then the students won’t even question it.

AM: That would be difficult since she doesn’t have one anymore.

Nedzu: Would she be willing to stay in the area with whatever gear she still has?

Toshinori went to stick his head into the bedroom. Inko had changed into a fluffy sweater with a winking unicorn face on it and a pair of jeans; the sort of thing any person would wear to run a quick errand. This had the potential to get real weird if everyone’s bad feelings ended up coming to fruition.

“The principal is asking if you’d be willing to hang around the USJ after you drop Basil and I off.” He paused, trying to think of a good way to phrase the second half of the request. There wasn’t. “Armed.”

Inko paused in the middle of tying up her hair. “Really?” She hurriedly pinned her bun in place. “Did he say what he was worried about?”

“There was the break in.” Toshinori pointed out. “The facilities schedule was the thing they spent the most time with.”

“Alright.” Inko held her hand and her handbag flew into it. She reached inside and pulled out the lightsaber.

Toshinori abruptly remembered where he’d heard the term ‘Jedi’ before. She’d called her laser sword the ‘traditional weapon of a Jedi.’ Toshinori had just forgotten about it under the onslaught of all the other revelations he’d gotten that evening. 

He could understand Basil’s agitation better now. Inko had said her abilities weren’t all that unique among the people who had them. The droid must have had an algorithm in that ‘threat assessment module’ that accounted for the presence of a friendly Jedi and knew to use their mood as a litmus test for ambient danger.

He went back into the livingroom and banged Basil a few times on the side the way it liked. “Good boy.” He said quietly.

“Yes. Good boy.” Basil agreed and went to go wait patiently by the freight elevator.

Izuku discovered his biological father had the day off like this:

“Hey, is that Ass Face’s car?” Katsuki grumbled, looking back through the rear window of their bus. 

Sure enough there was a black van following them at a short distance driven by a lanky man with bushy hair and a pair of sunglasses. 

“Yeah, that’s him.” Izuku sighed. 

They’d both gotten really good at spotting the man, given the number of their dates he’d crashed in recently. Izuku was fine with letting him do whatever, but Katsuki wasn’t so calm about the matter. 

“The fuck is he planning on doing?” He asked and then frowned. “Nevermind, I just spotted the binoculars. Get a fucking hobby, freak.”

“Woah, woah.” Kirishima looked over. “Did I hear you say someone was following us?”

Kacchan jerked a finger at Izuku. “His bio-dad just found out about him.” He grunted, responding to Izuku’s instinct to turtle up when a Cool Kid™ started talking to him.

“Mom offered to introduce us.” Izuku hastened to assure his classmates who went from vaguely alarmed to definitely concerned. “He’s… a little weird. She says to ignore him until he’s ready to talk. He’s harmless.”

“That isn’t normal.” Kirishima observed.

“He ain’t normal.” Kacchan confirmed and Izuku was low key excited to see those two starting to develop a dynamic. 

He’d been briefly worried about Kacchan hanging out around someone as nice and, um, hot as Kirishima. It turned out Kirishima was super duper straight though and had a kind of hero worship/rivalry/crush thing with Ashido going on. Kacchan, meanwhile, spent a lot of time wishing Kirishima would put a shirt on. He was reluctantly warming up to the idea of having the other boy in his space and making noises at him though so Plan ‘Get Kacchan a Non-Toxic Peer Group’ seemed to be taking care of itself. 

“How did he not know about you?” Uraraka asked with the innocence of someone who’d grown up in a very tight knit and loving nuclear family; a place where babies were planned for and welcomed with unadulterated joy. Her brain was a great place to be even under stressful conditions. She was wall-to-wall nice even if she had to break someone’s nose. Between her and Iida, Plan ‘Make Friends Who Aren’t Your Boyfriend’ also seemed to be going well. 

“They broke up before mom realized I was happening.” He explained. “He travels a lot so it was hard to get in contact with him after.”

“Oh, are they going to get back together?” Uraraka startled at the laugh that escaped Kacchan, sort of like a backfiring car. “What?”

“No, um, she’s seeing someone else now.” Izuku coughed. “They’re happier being friends again anyway.”

“She traded way up.” Kacchan translated and leaned back with his arms over his chest. “I’ma let the air out of his tires when we stop.”

“No, you’re not.” Aizawa-sensei made his way to where they were seated. “Here’s a life rule for you; never make it harder for annoying people to go away.” He fixed Izuku in place with one black eye. “Are we about to have a problem?”

“No, sir.” Izuku started twiddling his index fingers. He knew Eraserhead wasn’t mad at him. The teacher seemed to genuinely like him sorta, which was weird and new and incomprehensible. Having his teacher’s full attention was still really intimidating. “He keeps his distance. Mom says he’ll knock it off soon.”

Aizawa-sensei didn’t seem convinced, but he did go back to the front of the bus. Unfortunately, that exchange reminded him that he still had that itchy bad feeling he’d woken up with. Mom had explained it to him while Toshinori-san (... dad? This was even harder than he thought it would be) was in the shower since it was a Force thing and they’d agreed that the Force sounded a little crazy to anyone who couldn’t feel it.

There was no way to tell if the distressed ripples pulsating through the Force were the result of someone’s actions nearby, a natural disaster, or what. Not every bad feeling he got would be about him or anything he could control. They had to go about their regular day and just stay ready for things to go pear-shaped. 

Toshinori-san… Dad… All Might was waiting at the USJ entrance with Thirteen when they pulled in and Izuku couldn’t help but relax a little bit --until he spotted Basil hanging out in the background with its sensors activated and periodically scanning their vicinity. 

Then he really started to worry.

Inko had just collected her tea latte at the cafe down the road from the USJ entrance when the little disturbances she felt in the Force all morning coalesced into one big warning klaxon in her head. She had a faint Force bond with Izuku as his parent. It was fading as he grew and started to become his own person, but not enough for her to miss his sudden surge of alarm and subsequent pain.

“Hey, my phone just lost reception.” Someone -a young man at a nearby table- commented with vague annoyance. 

“Mine too.” Another person sitting with him grumbled. “It’s probably the local tower.”

‘Bet you it’s not.’ Inko thought as she tossed her drink straight into the trash, grabbed her purse, and started to make her purposeful way across the street. 

The entrance to the Unseen Situation Joint was abandoned when she got there, which was a major red flag. Fortunately the security gate had its permissions cached locally so her visitor’s pass worked. Otherwise she would have had to sacrifice time breaking in. 

Once she was in, she was close enough to hear the sounds of fighting; crashes, shouts, and an enraged wardroid. That last was especially hard. It had been so long since she’d heard such a thing that she was blindsided by how it made her feel. She grabbed her nerves by the throat and set them aside. 

It was going to be awful later when everything caught up, but for the moment she didn’t have the luxury of giving in to the darkness trembling at the edges of her vision.  

One thing you never realize about war before you’ve been in one is how fast the fighting goes. It seems like eons from inside, but if you are the reserve forces racing in to help then the hours slip past like heartbeats. It was a long run and she almost felt like the ground was rolling backwards under her feet.

Most of the ruckus seemed to be going down in the big central plaza, but Inko could see evidence of smaller scuffles off in the distance. Basil was yowling in the plaza. He would either be with Izuku or Toshinori. So that’s the direction she ran in.

A big black thing punched through the geodesic dome covering the central plaza. Inko only got half a glimpse of it before it passed beyond sight. It looked big, ugly, and faintly surprised. 

Inside the dome was chaos. The ground was littered with people in costumes. They were all fortunately too old to be the students. She didn’t spot Izuku right away, but she could see Toshinori who was in costume, fighting a bunch of smaller people, and madder than anything.

A costumed person she didn’t recognize was laying face down on the ground with the back torn out of their suit. Underneath was no kind of flesh Inko had ever seen. She hoped it responded to Force Healing or otherwise she wasn’t sure she’d be able to help.

Aizawa-san was still on his feet, but badly bloodied and cradling his arm. It looked like the skin had been flayed from his muscles and tendons there. There was a big smear of blood on the ground that suggested he had only just peeled himself up from there.

Basil was over by a patch of shore that led out to a sort of man-made lake with a fake shipwreck in it. There were sinister looking people with aquatic quirks there, but bound together with little purple ball things and they were NOT happy about it. Basil made a threat noise when one of the main combatants, a lean person in their early twenties with a costume made out of hands, turned away from Toshinori and charged at Basil.


No, he wasn’t charging Basil. He was going for the three kids hiding under Basil’s belly. The war droid dropped its head and shoulders to meet the man head on. He got his hands on the edge of the droid’s battering crest and made a noise of irritated shock right before Basil got his nose up under the man and sent him flying.

The Hands villain landed a short distance away and caught himself on a rock, which crumbled into dust under his touch. The villain stared at his dirty hand and then Basil in irritation.

Inko could have told him that Basilisks were armored in beskar when they weren’t made out of it entirely, not that he’d know what that meant. It was the toughest alloy known in civilized space, but the people of Earth hadn’t discovered that process yet. That villain could probably destroy it given enough time. That assumed he survived long enough to do it. They’d given Basil orders to avoid killing hostiles whenever possible, but any minute now it was going to decide that man would be less annoying if he stopped breathing.  

A shot rang out through the dusty air and Inko heard someone scream. When she followed the direction of the sound she saw a bald person with fleshy antennae for ears struggling away from a little splatter of blood where the sniper (she guessed it was sniper since she couldn’t see anyone with a gun and the deep thunderous retort of the shot sounded like the big mass driver weapons she’d seen people use on Earth) shot them in the leg. It wasn’t bleeding enough to endanger the person’s life. The gunman had just winged them, but quirks with secondary mutations frequently hid a clue about their nature in the appearance of their host. 

Like that, she understood who the gunman was. Hisashi had been stalking Izuku again and for once it had been helpful instead of just annoying. He’d tagged people of interest for her that way before or flushed them out of hiding. He must have spotted the hole Toshinori's larger opponent had left in the dome and decided to make use of it.

Inko pointed. The antennae villain dropped and passed out cold. Immediately her phone and several other phones in the area began to wail; confirming that the jammer was out of commission.  

Another shot rang out. This time Hisashi was after the Hands villain; herding him away from Basil and the kids and back towards Toshinori, who had finished up with the small time annoyances trying to keep him pinned and seemed only too happy to go have a similar ‘chat’ with their ringleader.

There were plenty of metaphorical fires burning, but the biggest one looked to be the person in the space suit. Toshinori was fine and she’d had the T3s leave Basil some conditional programming on the side that unlocked its ion canon in circumstances very much like these. Nothing was getting near those kids. 

Inko skidded to her knees next to the fallen teacher. They were still breathing, but she wasn’t sure if ‘bleeding’ was the word for the black smoke-like materials leaking out of the hero’s suit. It felt like bleeding in the Force so she decided to treat it as a traumatic wound and started to pump raw life energy into the flagging person under her hands. It was the kind of healing you never did off of the battlefield or a critical emergency. The patient was saved, yes, but you ran the risk of reversing old corrective surgeries. She’d have to worry about that later.

The wound under her hands solidified into a slightly tougher substance that still wasn’t quite flesh, but wasn’t billowing away like before either. She felt the fallen hero stabilize and then begin to breathe more easily as they slipped out of unconsciousness into regular, restorative sleep. This part she knew well. They would sleep until they were ready to wake up. 

Eraserhead, meanwhile, had limped over to her and was starting to bark orders. “You need to evac… what are you doing?” He scowled as she grabbed him by the chin and yanked him down to her level in order to examine his face. Someone had bashed his poor head in. He had road rash all up and down his right side. His cheek was fractured. His pupils were different sizes. It was a miracle or sheer stubbornness keeping him upright.

“You’re concussed.” Inko diagnosed him aloud. “Hold still.”

He was not in near as bad shape as his fellow teacher given the fact that he was walking around, but internal bleeding was a concern in situations like this. Inko checked under his ‘hood’ to find that yes, he was bleeding internally. Badly. No cerebral hemorrhaging, thank goodness. Although it was a very near thing. He was headed for a long hospital stay if she didn’t do something fast.

He exhaled like it was being punched out of him as she blitzed him with life energy. The damage was minutes old and closed like it had never been there, leaving Eraserhead blinking and dazed. 

“Get the kids out.” Inko told him. “Don’t engage with anyone if you can avoid it. You’re going to be loopy and your reflexes will be off for a while. Sleep as soon as you possibly can. It’s the only thing that will help.”

Students were starting to find their way back to the central plaza. Inko spotted Katsuki-kun among them. Thank heavens.

Inko got to her feet as the big double doors slammed open to reveal a winded boy in heavy armor and a line of ticked off pro heroes. Nedzu must have been ready to move. Inko didn’t have a good sense of how long it had been thanks to the adrenaline, but they couldn’t have wasted a single moment.

Things happened very quickly after that. 

One of the teachers had a big weird looking gun, but they were a far superior marksman to Hisashi. He shot out both the remaining villain’s legs before a… a thing appeared to shield him with its amorphous body. Inko couldn’t even call it a person because its presence in the Force defied description. It was living. It was dead. It was neither, but somehow it still moved. Everything about it was abhorrent to her. 

The Force, which had never reached out to her before in such a way, came crashing down on her in a mute demand for her to do something, anything.

By the time her ears stopped ringing, the thing was gone and it took the ringleader villain with it. 

“Mom!” Izuku came running over. “Mom!”

“I know, darling.” She caught him by the cheeks to look him over, but he fortunately wasn’t hurt; just damp and smarting. Then she added, in basic: “We’ll talk about that thing later.”

“Okay.” He spotted someone over her shoulder. “Kacchan!”

Inko released him before he could tear himself free. The boys collided at the half-way point between them and if they were trying to keep their relationship on the down low at school then they’d probably just outed themselves. 

Eraserhead was unconcerned when she checked his mind. Granted, yes, he had other priorities. None of the downed villains were restrained. He rolled his shoulders, trying to reconcile that with what he knew about her quirk before he dismissed it as a problem for later, got a roll of hero tape out of his pocket, and started hog-tying people.

The teachers dispersed without a word to follow Eraserhead’s example and also go after the kids who hadn’t made it to the central plaza by themselves. Inko couldn’t sense anyone in distress that wasn’t also an adult person within range so the kids had largely taken care of themselves. 

Principal Nedzu came over to her and because she was in a state of high tension she checked his mind before speaking and was startled to realize that he didn’t think in Japanese. Not everyone thought in words, but some things slipped through as mental vocalizations. Nedzu thought mostly in pictures, the mental sense of mathematics, a language she didn’t recognize, and occasional bits of Galactic Basic.

Well, that would explain why he looked like no mammal that could be found on Earth. She didn’t recognize his species, but there were millions of sentient species in the known galaxy alone.

“Is there a comfortable place where we can move this person?” She asked in quiet Basic as she went back to the fallen teacher.

“Dear me! It seems I’ve been caught!” Nedzu replied in the same language -he didn’t sound particularly worried- and then switched to Japanese. “I hear sirens. Paramedics will be here shortly. Did you stabilize Thirteen?”

“Is that their name?” Inko asked and nodded. “They’re healed. Eraserhead too. They just need to sleep it off. I’ll have to follow up with them later to make sure there aren’t complications.”

“Eventually…” Nedzu’s beady black eyes followed Basil as it stomped after Izuku. “’re going to have to tell me where you found a Basilisk. I thought they’d all been impounded.”

“That is a long story.” Inko wasn’t about to reveal Toshinori’s secrets, but she also wasn’t convinced he could successfully lie to someone like Nedzu.

“It certainly would be. I look forward to hearing it.” Nedzu squinted over towards Toshinori and, ah. He’d spotted her and was heading over.

He didn’t seem to have taken much, if any damage. His costume had been ripped a bit on one sleeve and there was a streak of blood on his face perilously close to his mouth. 

“How are Thirteen and Eraserhead?” He asked quietly. 

“They’re fine for now.” Inko groped in her purse and came up with a packet of moistened towlettes. “Why are you bleeding?” She fussed.

“It’s not mine.” Toshinori mumbled as she scrubbed it off.

“All the more reason to not swallow any.” She crumpled up the wipe to try and hide the way her hands were shaking. “How bad was it?”

“Far less than it could have been.” Toshinori told her. His mouth was a flat unhappy line. “You missed the crazy guy monologuing. They knew I’d been injured. They were counting on being able to wear me out.”

“I’m glad they got an ugly surprise instead.” She felt her jitters start to ease. Izuku was safe. Katsuki-kun was safe. Toshinori was both safe and victorious. 

“A very ugly one.” The corner of his mouth quirked in a mirthless smile. “I’m worried about that big guy, though. He screamed ‘bioweapon construct’ to me.”

Was Earth’s level of technology anywhere near that yet? She sure hoped not. Bioweapons were so gruesome and difficult to control that even the ancient enemies of the Jedi would hesitate to use them and they’d hardly ever balked at anything. 

“Perhaps Midoriya-san would appreciate some privacy.” Nedzu observed and Inko realized he was watching her hands; specifically the fine tremors wracking them that she was not even slightly in control of. 

Time sped up again as the first responders hit the scene and Inko got hustled off to one of the control buildings. She’d assumed that she’d be interviewed eventually, but Hisashi showed up smelling faintly of gunpowder, parked himself in the door frame, and would not budge for anyone except the teachers. 

She sighed and got comfortable on her hard little plastic chair. It was going to be a long day.

Chapter Text

Another picture of them got out. 

This time Nighteye sent it directly to Inko’s DMs on Instagram. It was a screengrab from an article full of wild speculations about All Might’s mystery girlfriend. The picture showed her going after the blood on Toshinori’s face and was captioned in the article with ‘Things they don’t tell you about dating a Pro; they get blood on everything.’

The angle suggested it had been taken by Nedzu. He must have decided it would be helpful in some labyrinthian way. 

Nighteye had drawn an arrow pointing to the blood and a question mark.

Inko rolled her eyes and replied.

Mamadoriya: He says it wasn’t his.

TheSpectacle(s): ...that doesn’t make it better.

Mamadoriya: No, I wasn’t reassured either. 

It wasn’t any special insight granted to her by the Force, but she could still feel the questions Nighteye wanted to ask but felt like he couldn’t for some reason.

She took a picture of Toshinori, asleep on the other end of the couch under a comically undersized throw blanket with his mouth open as he drooled illuminated by the blue light of a paused movie, and sent it.

Mamadoriya: He’s fine.

The Spectacle(s) responded with a phone number and a terse, ‘please text me.’

Inko: What’s bothering you?

She was proud of herself for not adding ‘now.’

Nighteye: How is he sleeping like that? 

Inko: Loudly. 

She would suspect him of having an apnea with how loud the man snored, but it only happened if he slept anywhere except in bed.

Nighteye: You can’t live with him and not know. 

Inko: I do know, but I won’t be discussing it. If you have questions then you should ask Toshinori.

Inko considered her phone. She’d wondered how much Sir Nighteye knew about Toshinori’s recovery. Hisashi had told her that he’d spread word about his recovery among ‘the people who needed to know.’ That, upon reflection, was probably Hisashi’s definition of ‘who needs to know’; i.e. basically no one. It would have been up to Toshinori to tell his personal confidants and at that point he’d been so isolated that… maybe he just hadn’t felt like he had anyone to tell. 

Inko: I think he would like to see you. 

Nighteye: It would end the same way as last time.

Inko: Sometimes we can ignore contentious subjects for a little while in the name of maintaining our relationships. 

Granted, that was not something Nighteye would do of his own volition. He was not the peacekeeping sort. She could almost picture the face he was surely making as his brain threw up logic errors. 

Nighteye: Why were you there?

She rolled her eyes again and sighed. That woke up Toshinori and he blinked blearily at her. 

“I wasn’t sleeping.” He informed her. “You don’t have to pause the movie.”

“I’m sure you weren’t, darling.” She agreed and smiled as his eyes slid shut again. He was snoring again within seconds. 

By ‘there’, Nighteye meant the USJ and Inko had been doing a very good job of not thinking about it. It had been a couple days of bureaucratic hell as Hisashi refused to let her be interviewed by anyone. Members of Y.U.R.E.I. apparently did not talk to the police. It had never been an issue for her before because she was not the type who got caught. Also, Y.U.R.E.I. had been a younger agency in those days without a stable of rules to fall back on. The Black Cards didn’t exist then. 

She hadn’t had any problems with her work for them, but the noise and chaos of the USJ incident had awakened something in her that had been sleeping for a long time. She was spending more time in meditation than usual as a consequence as she worked on her own newly over-sensitized threat responses. She’d done it before after settling on Earth -gently retraining her body to stop reacting as though they were still in the war- and had thought it was a permanent repair. No, apparently it would come back at the slightest provocation. 

Izuku had the resilience of youth, but his anxiety had been through the roof since they were finally released by the authorities. He was only just starting to come back down with the application of time, careful counseling, and his own meditations.

Inko: I would prefer not to speak about that. It was an unpleasant day.

Nighteye: Are you receiving counseling?

The lights flickered on overhead and Izuku stuck his head in. “It’s getting late.” He told her. “Toshinori-san’s sleep alarm is about to go off. Looks like he beat it.” 

Toshinori sat up. “I wasn’t asleep!” He said and then squinted at Izuku. “When did you come in, my boy?”

“Just now.” Izuku got his phone out. “Is school closed tomorrow too?”

“Yes, the investigators want one more day to examine the physical location of that data breach.” Toshinori yawned, kicked off his teeny tiny blanket, and got up before holding a hand out to Inko. “Looks like we’ll have to finish the movie tomorrow night.”

“Guess so.” Inko let him pull her up. 

She forgot about the conversation for a while as they got ready for bed. Toshinori’s nap was enough to keep him from dropping right off like he usually did and they both sat up in bed. Well, he was sitting up. Inko lay on her side with her head pillowed on his thigh. She found she liked this aspect of romance. It was peaceful and grounding. 

She was reminded, though, when she opened Instagram to check her feed.

“Another picture was leaked of us.” She told Toshinori and handed him her phone so he could see it.

“Hmm, I liked that other one better. We’ll be hearing about that in the morning.” He grumped. “Who is ‘TheSpectacle(s)’?”

“Sir Nighteye is on Instagram. He followed me and I followed him back.” She showed him their conversations. “I think he’s worried about you.”

“Not just me.” Toshinori pointed at the last message she’d left on read. “That’s a positive sign. He only nags people he’s interested in.”

“That’s hardly nagging.” She took her phone back. 

“That’s how it starts.” He was quiet for a moment. “Do you think there’s any point in trying? I can’t see how we’ll ever get past the issue of my successor.”

Inko considered the matter and what she’d seen of Nighteye’s mind. “I think the person he wants to have One for All most of all is you.” She glanced up at his stricken face. “Does he know you’re better?”

Toshinori’s hand crept towards his side. “No.” He admitted. “I meant to tell him, but then for a while I thought it wouldn’t make a difference. Afterwards it was too awkward.”

She poked him in the leg. “Tell him.”

“Inko.” Toshinori started to weasel out of it so she poked him again.

“Tell him.” She repeated.

“All right, all right.” Toshinori tossed the book he’d been pretending to read on the nightstand and reached for her. She allowed herself to be pulled up to the head of the bed. Being manhandled by someone wasn’t something she would have foreseen herself enjoying, but here they were. “Have you considered counseling?”

“Who would I talk to?” She asked. It wasn’t that she’d never thought of it. Even among the Jedi Masters there was almost always another, senior master to seek guidance from. It wasn’t quite like therapy, but it served a similar need. She just hadn’t ever met anyone on Earth she trusted enough to be a therapist. “I’d have to spend too much time lying about myself to get any benefit from it. There’s a certain level of cooperation necessary and some of the things I have to talk about stretch the bounds of credulity.”

“I’m pretty sure Akatani would find you someone if you asked.” Toshinori was no more merciful with her than she’d been with him. “I’ve seen Y.U.R.E.I. do something similar for the other retired Black Cards I’ve met. It’s not an easy thing to deal with alone.”

“Hmm.” Inko tried to picture the sort of therapist Hisashi might pick out. “That sounds like it would end in disaster.”

Toshinori made a reluctant noise of agreement. 

Neither of them found sleep easily that night.

His managers actually liked the picture to Toshinori’s consternation because it made Inko look approachable and still like a person with the caliber of nerves necessary to be around a top ranked Pro Hero.

‘Those pictures are telling the right story for leading up to the press release.’ Shimizu said in the teamwide discussion. He was a surprising convert to Inko’s cause. Apparently he was the kind of person who reacted to being frightened by growing some respect and admiration. ‘This’ll make it less of a shock when she shows up in costume standing next to All Might. If she doesn’t have a personal manager then we should probably draw straws. I’ve already gotten three appearance requests from pretty reputable shows and they don’t even know who she is yet.’

Toshinori was catching up on his emails while he waited outside a food truck for four triple-decker gochujang bison cheeseburgers that he needed on a spiritual level given the nature of his next appointment. 

Inko wasn’t wrong. She hadn’t called him a coward, but he could draw the conclusion on his own just fine. 

He’d been putting this conversation off for too long. Even the meeting had been arranged through Liberty, who had liked that not at all. Still, she was willing to trust Inko’s judgement.

They were meeting at Nighteye agency. Mirai had plenty of quiet rooms where they wouldn’t be overheard. Toshinori just needed to eat some of his feelings beforehand. His appetite was finally slowing down. He was almost back up to his peak weight class, but it looked like he was about to pack on some additional muscle mass. It was almost reassuring to understand that this was normal for someone who’d evolved to thrive in heavy gravity. He honestly could have used this when he was in his thirties and still having growing pains, but he’d take a late revelation over none at all.

“Order up for Yagi!” The young lady at the register handed over his giant stack of sandwiches. This was something he loved about living in a world where most of the young adults were Q5 or later. No one batted an eye at what he ate. High calorie quirk demands common. It hadn’t been that way twenty, thirty years ago.

He destroyed two of them before he got to walking. Nighteye agency wasn’t far, but the appointment was soon and he’d been finding excuses to drag his feet all morning. He’d lingered over English homework with young Izuku. Then he’d let himself be distracted by Basil and a surprise visit from D5. He liked the protocol droid and hadn’t gotten to visit with it much. Liberty ended up chasing him out the door. Maybe it was so he wouldn’t miss his meeting, but he got the impression that she also wanted to visit with the droid and he was in the way. 

Toshinori was rounding the corner near Nighteye agency, getting ready to finish his last burger passing by a fabric shop that did something to explain how Inko and Mirai had ended up in each other’s orbits without him knowing about it, when he came face to face with a familiar pair of yellow eyes.

They stared at each other for a minute.

Mirai had his phone out and a folio under one arm. He looked like a salaryman on his lunch break. Jesus.

“I’ll need to call you back.” Mirai said into the receiver before ending his call. “What is that?” He glared at Toshinori’s burger.

“It’s my lunch.” Toshinori held it out of reach.

“That is not part of your diet.”

It shouldn’t have surprised him that Mirai had been on a research bender about what you could and couldn’t eat after a gastrectomy even if they weren’t talking anymore. Technically he could have had a cheeseburger back then too, but digesting it would have given him a boatload of side effects. 

Toshinori had an odd urge right then. He could only blame Inko for being a bad -or perhaps very good- influence on him. Because he took a big bite of his sandwich right in front of Mirai.

“I don’t know what you’re trying to prove right now.” Mirai pushed up his glasses in a little gesture of annoyance. “You’re the one who’s going to suffer later.”

“I won’t, actually.” Toshinori turned a little to wolf down the rest. 

Mirai had pulled his glasses completely off and was staring when Toshinori turned back. “What do you mean?” He asked, sounding a little faint.

Toshinori patted his stomach. “I got a new one.” He said. “I got a few new things, actually.”

Mirai kept staring. After a while he turned sharply away, put his glasses back on, and said, “...we should take this inside.”

Mirai showed him into the most boring, nondescript Hero Agency Toshinori had ever set foot in. It looked like an office building and matched Mirai’s aesthetic flawlessly. 

No one was around, which made sense. It was prime patrolling time and he’d be out there too except for this meetup and the fact that the HPSC had nervously confirmed what he’d come to suspect; that he interfered with the livelihoods of lower ranked heroes whenever he went out.

A year ago he wouldn’t have taken that very well. A year ago his job was all he had left. 

Today, though... oh no, he had to spend time with his family. How terrible.

They went into a conference room and Mirai closed the door behind him.

“Explain.” He said in a voice like doom incarnate.

“I got some help from Y.U.R.E.I.” Toshinori had spent a long time deciding what story to tell his old compatriots. In the end he didn’t really want to get into the whole ‘aliens’ thing and Inko was determined to keep that part of her past private outside a few people. Anyway, Y.U.R.E.I. was a good scapegoat. They had an eerie way of pulling magic bullet solutions out of empty air when they could be bothered to get involved at all.

Mirai looked skeptical and it wasn’t unjustified. Y.U.R.E.I. was impossible to work with if you didn’t have Akatani around ruthlessly smoothing the path. Their motto was ‘Victory Through Any Means’ but it should have been ‘Sounds Like a You Problem.’ 

“Since when did they decide to become helpful?” He asked                                     

“They want Inko to come back to work.” Toshinori was a little disappointed when Mirai didn’t react. Inko probably hadn’t told him anything, but she must have left him enough breadcrumbs to figure it out himself. On purpose, no doubt. “She’s the one who grew my replacement parts and performed the surgery so cut her some slack.” He deliberately flexed and shot up to his working height. It was a habit, but he switched over to his working voice too and boomed. “A replacement lung, stomach, and about a foot of intestine! I’m nearly back to where I was before the injury!”

That did seem to startle Mirai --either that or it was the fact that Toshinori was suddenly shouting. He dropped his flex and stuffed his hands in his pockets. 

“That isn’t possible.” Mirai’s voice was shaking when he found it, but steadied. “You were skin and bone ten months ago just like you were in my vision.”

“Oh, ah. Yes. About that.” Toshinori cleared his throat. “I’ve --also had a second opinion about the…” He coughed again. “...prophecy issue. I found a specialist.”

“A specialist.” Mirai spat and drew himself up to his full height which was impressive, but still a few inches shorter than Toshinori. “There’s no such thing! You think I haven’t looked? My parents and I spent years trying to find someone to help explain my quirk.”

“She would have been very difficult to find.” Toshinori admitted and then immediately wanted to kick himself as Mirai zeroed in on that pronoun.

“She.” He stepped back. “You mean Midoriya-san is your ‘specialist’ on top of being a surgeon,  transplant specialist, and whatever it is you have to be to walk into my office through a building full of pro heroes without even getting caught by the security cameras?”

“Haha, yes.” He rubbed the back of his head in pleased embarrassment. He hadn’t done too badly for his first time out the gate, had he? “Did she really?” He was going to have to get the rest of that story once he got home. 

“Of all the times for you to suddenly develop the ability to talk to women…” Mirai turned away and took off his glasses in order to rub his eyes. “...I have never been wrong before. I would dearly love to start now, but how possible is that?”

“According to Inko, it’ll get more likely the further out you go and the less you know about your subject. I know you don’t like looking too far ahead so you might not have had the opportunity to notice.” Toshinori went over to stand beside his old friend. “She said that your quirk probably takes into account everything you know or have the information to predict. If she’s correct then I’m guessing that genius intellect of yours has really reduced your number of false positives.”

“Don’t.” Mirai jerked away. “Don’t try to give me hope if you’re not sure.”

Alright. He was going to have to use one of his trump cards. Toshinori had expected it would come to this though. “Do you want to take another look?”

Mirai glared at him. “What are you trying to accomplish?” He asked. “Your girlfriend made it very clear what would happen.”

“Consider this my explicit consent.” He was ready to believe. He just needed to get Mirai on the same page. So he elbowed the man like he used to and said. “Go ahead.”

One of Mirai’s eyes flickered purple very briefly as he glared and rubbed his arm, but he shut his eyes almost at once and staggered back like someone had shone a light directly in his face. “I can’t. You’re like her now. The same thing happened in the penthouse. I can’t see anything.” He wheezed and scrubbed at his eyes. “It’s like looking into the sun.”

That… that could mean any number of things. Either his future was unchanged and Mirai just couldn’t see it anymore or it had changed and Inko’s presence in his life meant that no part of it could be predicted anymore. 

He was kind of banking on that last option. 

“Sorry, I didn’t think of that.” Toshinori spotted a tiny mini-fridge over by the window and sure enough, just like their old agency, it had ice packs in it. Civilians want water during meetings. Heroes want ice therapy. He brought Mirai one for his eyes. “Apparently her quirk contraindicates yours.”

“...and vice versa, it seems.” Mirai took himself over to a chair and collapsed it in. “How interesting to know I have a natural enemy.”

“I wouldn’t say that.” Toshinori chuckled. “More like a sister you never knew about.”

Mirai removed the ice pack to glare at him.

Toshinori started counting off points on his fingers. “She hates attention. She thinks costumes are stupid, but she’s too polite to say it your face. She’s got an evil sense of humor and you’d never know it until she’s laughing at you. Her temper sneaks up on you too. The calmer she gets the more trouble you’re in. Does any of this sound familiar?”

“No.” Mirai lied. “I was an only child.”

Obviously, but Toshinori didn’t point that out.

You’d never guess how emotional Mirai was until you really got to know him. He had a bulletproof poker face, but his loyalty -once given- couldn’t be shifted. He was still giving Toshinori his time even after everything that had gone down between them and he was willing to bet anything that Mirai still had his ultra-rare All M merch collection on shameless display somewhere in this building.

“You already like her.” Seven years ago Toshinori would have bopped him on the head for emphasis. It was pretty clear to Toshinori that Mirai had not benefited from their separation any more than he did. Someone had to let the air out of his balloon every so often and his sidekicks weren’t up to the task. “Quit lying. I saw your texts.”

“She’s showing you her texts?” Mirai had never dated past highschool, long enough to acknowledge he hated the entire process, but he probably knew enough to recognize that as a warning sign in a relationship. Usually it was one partner being forced to share their conversations though. This was different. She just showed him stuff she didn’t feel like explaining.

“Yeah, I don’t think she knows that’s not normal.” For his part, Toshinori liked the artless gesture of trust and tried to reciprocate in kind. “She’s… got a complicated background.”

“She would almost have to.” Mirai set the ice pack aside. “I won’t change my opinion regarding One for All. Nedzu has shared videos from the first years’ training sessions with me. Midoriya isn’t even using what he’s been given. How can you accept that?”

Ah. Toshinori tried to sit on the proud feelings bubbling up inside. 

He was actually very happy with young Izuku’s performance so far. He was a good problem solver and the kind of teammate that was easy to work with. That was something some people didn’t learn even after graduation.

Everyone in the first year classes had some sort of character flaw to work past; be it ego, a lack of confidence, misplaced passions, or something else harder to define. Young Izuku struggled with confidence a bit, but Toshinori understood his particular issues with imposter syndrome better than anyone else possibly could have. He knew what it was like to hide a diagnosis of quirklessness.

Izuku had no idea how well he was doing.

“He doesn’t have it yet so --pretty easily.” Toshinori itched behind one ear to hide the way he always wanted to smile when he was reminded of the fact that pretty soon he’d have a family; a public family. 

He stopped though when he noticed the stricken look on Mirai’s face.

“I’m back in fighting condition, Mirai.” Toshinori explained gently. “The only reason I’m not on the streets is because I committed to three years at UA. I’m drowning in grading and course planning most nights. Young Izuku has the right conditioning, but now that we have the luxury of time I want to see if he grows anymore.”

The next part was a little harder to say. He’d always let people think that One for All was the quirk he was born with. Mirai and Nedzu knew a bit more. They’d been involved with his final showdown with All for One and that old monster sure liked to run his mouth. They knew it was an old quirk that had passed through multiple people, but he hadn’t shared with them just how much of a distinct entity it had become over the years.

“It’s not really up to either of us anymore.” He said. “Do you remember what I told you about the vestiges?”

“No, since you hardly told me anything.” Mirai frowned. “You said that there were echoes of the previous holders of One for All and you used to dream about them.”

“More than that.” Toshinori admitted. “When I was younger I would see them sometimes. They weren’t malicious or anything. They just watched me. I didn’t see them again once the quirk settled… until now.”

It had only been a few brief flickers of black in the corner of his eye, but the longer he spent around his heir the more they appeared. That morning though, he’d seen one of the black silhouettes watching young Izuku during morning warm ups; which for Izuku was running up one wall and seeing how far across the ceiling he could get without falling. 

The shadow had the thin, sickly look of the original One for All. It had turned to him and winked one of its luminous white eyes. Toshinori had felt a sort of wistful paternal approval then that didn’t belong to him before it vanished. 

“I’ve been seeing them around Young Izuku.” Toshinori turned away with his hands shoved in his pockets. “I think it already made its decision. I wouldn’t try to put it anywhere it doesn’t want to go. It’s jumped hosts before.” Granted, it had done that when its current host was in danger of dying. He wouldn’t put it past One for All to do it on purpose.

“I thought you said it was a quirk.” Mirai got to his feet, concern had washed away all his anger. “That sounds more like an intelligent symbiote.”

“Well, it’s got the memories of seven people uploaded into it, more or less. Eight, eventually.” Toshinori shrugged. “Inko thinks it was actively fighting my decline in health over the past few years. The doctors missed something after that fight with Toxic Chainsaw --or the fight before that. I had this thing growing in my wound. We thought it was just scar tissue, but it was manufacturing microscopic bits of poison and injecting them into me. Young Izuku was the one who noticed it and figured out One for All was quarantining the poison. That’s how I met his mother. He dragged me home to make her look at it. All he knew for certain was that something was wrong.”

He rubbed his side thoughtfully.

“Recently I ran into a group of suspiciously well funded villains who seemed to know that I’d been struggling. Given that and everything else, I’ve decided against passing on One for All for the time being. Whoever these people are either were involved with All for One or someone who was. This isn’t the time to get children involved.”

He was expecting pushback and was surprised when he got none. 

“Perhaps.” Mirai was frowning in thought. “I would like to hear more about that bioweapon. Are you sure that it was Toxic Chainsaw?”

That had been Toshinori’s first big fight without Mirai on the team and after he’d been released from the hospital. He’d been in a lot of pain, upset about losing his most trusted confidant, and in total denial about both. That had made him reckless and a little stupid. It would have been the perfect opportunity to slip something past his guard.

“Reasonably.” Toshinori allowed. “It’s in the same vein as his abilities --especially if he shot up with Trigger. That crap still pops up sometimes. I never liked his reasons for attacking New York. He didn’t get anything out of it except jail time. He’s not a planner, but I’ve heard that he used to  take commissions.”

“That would require a mastermind with a very long view.” Mirai pointed out quietly.

It would and Toshinori had only ever met one person with that sort of terrible, abiding patience. All for One was dead --in theory. With all this going on, Toshinori wasn’t so sure of that anymore. 

“All the more reason to hold off for now.” Toshinori looked around. “I like your place.”

“No you don’t.” Mirai snorted. “Quit lying.”

“I like it for you.” Toshinori nodded, acknowledging the hit. “I’ve been keeping up with your work. You’ve built up a solid investigative agency.”

“Likewise.” Mirai turned away. “The penthouse is slightly less terrifying than it was when you moved in.”

He couldn’t help his wince. “Yeah, I… wasn’t able to keep a firm hand on my managers’ reins in the past few years. I’ve been having to clean up a lot of things.”

More than he cared to discuss, really. His charitable-giving officers hadn’t been vetting everyone soliciting donations from him as well as they could have. He was surprised to find out he’d been supporting a number of causes that were antithetical to his own values. His merchandisers had an embarrassing number of outstanding invoices. They’d always been Net30 on the dot, but in recent years it was more like Net90 or -worse- Net ‘Of course the check is in the mail, why would you doubt us?’ He hated stiffing his contractors.

His company had lost people since he’d re-started performing spot checks on the people who weren’t regularly in his line of sight. He hadn’t found evidence of anything worse than some slacking off, but he’d still had to hire some internal watchdogs just to make sure things got back onto track and stayed there. Liberty was getting in on the action too; watching the watchmen, as it were.

“That’s quite clear. Your spring line was a mess.”

Toshinori huffed a laugh. “I already heard that from my kid, although he did try to spare my feelings.” He didn’t realized he’d goofed until Mirai failed to respond and the silence took on a hideous quality. Toshinori’s whole body flashed hot. “I! I meant!”

Mirai’s expression was unreadable. “Midoriya-san said you weren’t the father of her child.”

He hadn’t been aware that was in question. Toshinori hadn’t lived in Japan for thirty years and Inko had never left the island.

“I’m… not?” His voice cracked. “Ah…”

“What did you do?” Mirai advanced on him. 

“She said yes?” Toshinori retreated, but there wasn’t far to go. Mirai got him by one of his bangs and hauled him down to face level so there was no escaping the furious tic under his eye. Toshinori blurted out, “Do you want to be my best man? Wait, crap, that’s not how I was going to ask…”

Mirai pinched his sinuses and let him go. “Yes, obviously, but you two aren’t even public yet.” He squinted as something caught up to him. “You’re doing a western ceremony? Midoriya-san seemed like a very traditional type of person to me.”

There weren’t wedding ceremonies where Inko came from and Toshinori had been raised aggressively agnostic. Neither of them had a relevant tradition and kimonos gave Inko unnecessary stress, apparently, so their only real option was a big western to-do. 

“She likes glitter and ribbons.” Toshinori chuckled. “There’s nothing more sparkly than a western wedding dress. That was a yes?”

“As I said, obviously.” Mirai drew himself up stiffly, but Toshinori detected a note of pleasure in the turn of his mouth. “You have my congratulations. What? Stop!” He growled as Toshinori threw an arm over his shoulder, got him in a headlock, and gave him a noogie while laughing.

The conference door opened and a blonde highschooler stuck his head in. “Everything all right in here… Sir?” He squinted at the tableau in front of him before his eyes popped wide open in the expression Toshinori had come to know well.

Mirai threw him off. “Why are you like this!?” 

“Ha, you still like me.” Toshinori chuckled and hooked a thumb at the boy. “That your intern?”

“Why is anyone’s guess and also yes.” Mirai gestured. “Mirio, come in and meet an old friend of mine.”

“Sir.” Mirio whispered with a frozen smile. “That’s All Might.” He said it like he wasn’t sure Mirai knew and started oonching back out into the hallway. 

What an amusing kid! No wonder Mirai liked him so much.

Chapter Text

Nighteye: I hear congratulations are in order. 

Inko gave Toshinori a look. They were hanging out in the living room sending each other things on Pinterest. Toshinori was sending her place settings. She was sending him costume components. She had the main part worked out and was stuck on peripherals. “You told Nighteye about the wedding?”

“I panicked.” He gave her a doleful look. “He agreed to be my best man though.”

She thought about it, trying to remember all the titles and jobs that went into a western style wedding. “Which one is that again?”

Toshinori simplified it for her. “He’s my Mitsuki.”

“I can see that.” He probably hadn’t meant that in the general sense, but she could still see it. 

Inko: Thank you. 

Nighteye: have you set a date?

Inko: Maybe once he settles on a venue.

Inko had few thoughts about the wedding. She had a tenuous grasp on what ought to happen, but she had pictured something far more streamlined than what Toshinori’s vision. She was more interested in the being than the getting. They’d come to an agreement. Toshinori had a group chat with Mitsuki and Masaru. Sometimes Inko checked in on it so she knew what was going on. Otherwise they left her out of it  

Nighteye: Good luck with that. 

She smiled at the screen and very deliberately added him to the wedding group chat.

Toshinori checked his phone when it notified him and winced. “That wasn’t very nice.” He said. “He and Mitsuki-san are going to eat each other alive.”

“Five thousand yen says she can take him.” Inko replied sweetly.

Toshinori considered that for a minute and then held out his hand to shake on it. “You’re on.”

Nighteye: I have questions about the thing you excised from him.

Ah, they came to the real reason Nighteye was texting her.

Inko: I’ll answer what I can.

Nighteye’s questions were thorough. Inko granted him that. She could answer all of them, but not all of them in Japanese and so had to explain around certain terminology she was missing when a Google search failed to turn up an equivalent term. He didn’t seem to notice or didn’t comment if he did. 

The harder questions went like this and she elected not to answer them at all.

Nighteye: How did your son identify the problem? He’s a telekinetic. 

Inko: Is he? I’m so pleased to know.

Nighteye: You are a telekinetic too, according to the public database.

Inko: So I am.

Nighteye: A very minor telekinetic who can only move small objects in one direction.

Inko: That is what it says. 

It went on in that vein for some time until Toshinori took the phone away and made her get ready for bed. 

“I’m glad you two are getting along.” He told her as they lay down. 

“What conversation were you watching?” Inko wanted to know and he just laughed at her.

It didn’t end there as Nighteye and Toshinori started to ease back into each other’s lives. He started showing up around the penthouse again --sometimes under duress she suspected, when Toshinori hauled not only Nighteye but also young Lemillion into the gym one day while she and Izuku were working on some focus exercises.

Toshinori greeted her with a kiss to her temple. “Are you sure this is ok, love?” He asked quietly, eying Izuku who was sitting cross legged in mid-air with five sandbags floating around in a reasonably steady orbit.

“It’s perfectly fine.” She paused, winged Izuku with the stinger pistol, and turned back to the conversation. Izuku’s sandbags dipped a few centimeters, but pulled back up and continued to circle him. Good boy. “The more distractions the better. He needs more challenge than he’s getting right now.”

“No, I don’t.” Izuku said without opening his eyes.

Lemillion trotted over looking very interested. His mind was all but singing ‘new friend, new friend, new friend!’ and Inko felt a little embarrassed by all the adult dramatics that had been going on over those two when Izuku’s mind started doing a similar, albeit more reserved chant.

She and Nighteye met each other’s gazes and silently acknowledged that they were probably stuck with each other from that point on; might as well be friendly. 

Then he and Toshinori started talking about arcane wedding things and Inko went back to tormenting her child with Lemillion’s, his real name turned out to be Mirio, enthusiastic assistance. 

The other faculty members groaned as Toshinori’s phone bleeped out the first few bars of the opening sequence from ‘ALL-M Safety Heroes; The Animated Series’; his custom notification for young Izuku because he’d apparently been a huge fan when he was in grade school and Toshinori kind of liked the impossible colors the kid turned whenever he overheard it.

They didn’t like any of his other custom phone sounds either so he ignored them and shielded his phone screen as he went to check his message.

Toshinori had to go to some trouble to obfuscate his contacts because he worked with a bunch of nosey screen watchers, but he was pretty sure at least some of them knew who that tone signified.  

Kid: I spotted him.

Kid has shared their location; Dan-two-in Bookstore.


He set his grading book aside and stood. “Excuse me, I need to run an errand.” He told the others, who waved him off with the sole exception of Eraserhead who followed him into the hallway.

Aizawa didn’t mince words. He was suspiciously peppy after Inko had fixed him up at the USJ. Toshinori had noticed the man favored his left arm a little bit like he was hiding a rotator cuff injury before that day, but not afterwards. “If you’re dealing with Midoriya’s goldfish tail then tell him I will break both his legs the next time I find him creeping around one of my class sessions.”

“You caught me.” Toshinori chuckled. He was still getting used to the sound of his own honest laugher -lower and raspier than the way he laughed for work- but it was starting to feel less like it belonged to a stranger. “I’ll pass it along.”

That was a lie, but only because he’d figured out that threatening Hisashi into not doing something was like signing a blood pact that he would.

“Hmm.” Aizawa stared at him for a moment, channeling his inner serial killer by the look of it, before turning back into the staff room. 

Young Izuku had gone off with some friends after class. Toshinori was pleased to see the boy’s social circle opening up. The other kids seemed painfully curious about him, but seemed as respectful of his social anxieties as a teenager in Heroics could be. Young heroes couldn’t resist a friend-shaped enigma.

Come to think of it, adult Heroes weren’t much better at it. 

The kids who’d been at the USJ were very quiet once they got back from their impromptu break, but they’d shed that nervousness with the resilience of youth. Very few of them had been in the central plaza; young Izuku, young Asui, and young Mineta to be precise. They’d been dumped in the Shipwreck zone when the Mist villain separated the class.

If it had just been young Asui there then things might have gone differently, but she wasn’t. Young Mineta’s presence had been helpful during the encounter once Izuku was able to calm him down enough to help, but afterward the boy became a persistent thorn in Toshinori’s side.

Young Mineta had not been expelled on Toshinori’s recommendation. The youngster’s apparent belief that he was bulletproof wasn’t wrong. Toshinori had reviewed his file after receiving Nedzu’s annoyed judgment on the matter. While Mineta had gotten into the program on his own merits he also came from money; a lot of money. His grandfather had made a large gift to UA upon his grandson’s acceptance, but it came with stipulations. The main one was that if Mineta was ever expelled then the gift would need to be repaid.

UA was a private institution that hemorrhaged money on a good day. The school only just kept ahead of the income provided by their endowment by relying on such donations. Usually it worked out since the school refused to compromise on admissions. Even the recommended students had to pass an entrance exam to get it. That wasn’t usually the case in other schools, but UA and their sibling school Shiketsu had to worry more about people trying to buy their way into the school. Not every UA alum was immune to bribery. That was on top of all the background checks their students had to pass. The screening process wasn’t foolproof. If an incident didn’t get reported then their AI staff didn’t always catch it, although their success rate was pretty good. If young Mineta had any indiscretions prior to UA it had stayed offline or his grandfather had hushed it up. 

Nedzu was ready to cut a check, but since it concerned the school’s income the matter wasn’t only up to him and the Board of Trustees didn’t really see why a few complaints from the girls was such a big deal when they were in the program that needed cash infusions the most. 

Still, Toshinori’s recommendation was a huge black mark against the boy. He, after all, was a pretty big donor himself. Right now the Board was either greedier or needier than they were uncomfortable, but that could easily change if the boy continued to act out. Mineta was on probation and had Eraserhead breathing ice down his neck at every opportunity. 

The problem was that young Mineta knew who was responsible and had decided to pay Toshinori back by doing just about anything that wasn’t against the rules, but might still cause him trouble gossiping.

It wasn’t lost on Mineta that Basil, who had been billed to them and the media as Toshinori’s intelligent support robot, prioritized Izuku’s safety and in the aftermath of the incident it had even accepted orders from him. He hadn’t said anything that would harm young Izuku. Afterall, he wasn’t angry with his classmate, but he’d gotten the other students buzzing.

No one had initially connected Hisashi’s van following the bus to the support sniper who showed up part way through the fight in the central plaza. They’d initially thought he was Snipe, but young Yaoyorozu made an offhand comment about the difference in the report of the two different weapons. That kid was too observant for Toshinori’s peace of mind, but she was also on a short list of students that Aizawa had made it clear he would cut Toshinori over.

Toshinori was getting flack for having favorites already, but Aizawa would probably kill someone for young Asui or Yaoyorozu. He seemed to like the quiet ones and the ones who didn’t know how good they were.

Curiosity was brewing in 1-A about young Midoriya. Inko’s presence on the field didn’t help, but not too many people had gotten a look at her before Nedzu had her hustled under cover. So far no one had been brave enough to get within biting range of young Bakugo in order to satisfy that curiosity. He was proving to be an excellent dog in the manger when circumstances called for it. 

Regarding young Bakugo and Izuku’s relationship, they weren’t out exactly but people still knew. Young Bakugo wouldn’t know subtlety if it walked up and introduced itself. From what Toshinori had overheard the young people talking about though, the general opinion among their peers was that Bakugo had scored way out of his league and knew it. That, rather than the fact that young Izuku was a terrible liar, was the reason they thought he was prone to chasing people away if it looked like they were asking too many personal questions.  

Toshinori also suspected that young Izuku was helping anyone who was too enthusiastic to take a gentle ‘no’ for an answer mind their own business. He had a lighter hand than Inko did. Rather than giving orders, he tended to ask distracting questions. Toshinori had seen him do it once to young Ashido by responding to a question about Basil after he’d declined to answer the two questions before it by wondering out loud what the lunch special was. She’d echoed the question blankly and then was suddenly seized by the need to know; so much so that she forgot about her original questions. 

It looked like they’d be able to keep a lid on their home situation until the Sports Festival. By then Inko and Izuku would be all the way moved in and afterwards young Izuku would acquire the social armor that came with being All Might’s soon-to-be step son. 

Toshinori found young Izuku was out with young Bakugo, but also young Uraraka, Iida, Kirishima, Kaminari, and Ashido when he found the bookstore. They were hanging out by the magazine racks and talking about some of the covers.

Hisashi was sitting across the street at a cafe, pretending to read a newspaper, and watching with a sort of sad look about him; like he wanted to go over, but didn’t know how. 


He hadn’t spotted Toshinori. People, not even highly trained agents, didn’t often look up and Toshinori had let himself gently down onto an open balcony from the roof of the building the cafe was in. 

Toshinori -now flexed- dropped down behind the man far less quietly, scruffed him by the back of the shirt, and tucked him under one arm like a struggling football. “Let’s have a talk!” He boomed happily. 

“What?!” Hisashi kicked and Toshinori stepped out of the cafe patio so he wouldn’t accidentally clip one of the other diners. Hisashi saw the direction they were heading and said, “Oh, no. No, no, no!”

“This is for your own good.” Toshinori told him, softer than before; closer to his own voice. “It’s getting weird, man.”

Young Izuku turned, went bright red, and covered his face with both hands. “I gotta go, guys.” He mumbled through his fingers.

“Is that All Might?” Uraraka asked and then noticed the pale faced man under his arm. “ that who we were bait for? Isn’t that your weird bio-dad?”

“Bait?” Hisashi stopped struggling and squinted at Izuku, then at Uraraka. “Weird?” He said, like he had any right at all to be offended. 

“He knew you were there the whole time.” Toshinori let him know. “Now you two are going to have a chat and afterwards there is no more stalking, got it?”

“C’mon.” Bakugo got Iida and Kirishima by the collars. “Time to clear out.” He and Izuku shared a meaningful look before herding their classmates off.

“There’s a park over that way.” Izuku pointed. 

Toshinori found a quiet gazebo and took himself out of earshot, but close enough to overhear shouting. Forcing the meeting was one thing, but they needed to talk by themselves even though Toshinori was kind of dying to listen in.

He wasn’t the only one, it turned out. Toshinori noticed a bush shaking a little bit and emitting annoyed hissing whispers. Surprising nobody, there were a bunch of teenagers hiding behind it when he went to go check. It was the whole group from before and the whispers were from Iida (trying to make them leave) and Bakugo (also trying to make them leave but with violence.)

They looked up at him with guilty little faces and he cocked an eyebrow back before pointing towards the path out of the park. He followed for a bit to make sure they actually left and then headed back to find Izuku sitting alone in the gazebo. He didn’t look too unhappy about things, which Toshinori took as a positive sign.

“How was your talk?” He asked.

“He spent a lot of time talking around the fact that he doesn’t want to step on your toes, but he still wants a relationship.” Izuku replied, fetching his backpack from the ground. “We exchanged numbers and are going to try texting.” He chewed on his lip for a second before asking, “I’m not that weird, am I?”

His expression said ‘say no.’

“No.” Toshinori didn’t even have to think about it. “That kind of social dysfunction is the result of years of intense effort, my boy.” 

“I was just noticing some similarities between us is all.” Izuku shrugged one shoulder. “So I started wondering if there were others I didn’t.”

“I can’t think of anything you wouldn’t have picked up from your mother first.” Toshinori could reluctantly see how those two had gotten on back in the day. They were a little cat-like when it came to things like morality and consequences. He suspected she’d modelled some of her Earth-specific behaviors on him back when she hadn’t had a better reference and some of them stuck. Young Izuku would have picked them up from her in turn, but he was pretty sure the kid wouldn’t like hearing that. 

Even so, he was naturally more empathetic than Inko and Hisashi combined. He picked up on social cues better. If he was like the other young people Toshinori had known then he’d start pulling away from his mother’s dynamic soon and forming his own. This anxiety was probably just the first stages of that change. He was fine. 

“I guess.” Izuku shrugged again. He checked his phone. “We should probably head home soon. The other split up and Auntie Mitsuki made Kacchan go home.”

Toshinori checked the time and, yup, it was getting to be about that time. A text message from Inko came in just then asking him to pick up some salt on the way home. One day he was going to get her to use the concierge service for little errands in addition to the big ones, but for the moment he kinda liked being asked. 

“Your mother’s given us an errand. I’ll need to stop at a corner store on the way back. Do you want to go ahead of me?” He told Izuku.

“Oh! I have to go back to the bookstore.” Izuku perked up as something occurred to him and he started back the way they’d come. “I forgot to pick up my reference book. There was a little grocery next door.”

“Good, good.”

Young Izuku got his book while Toshinori got the salt. Walking back to the penthouse seemed easier and less claustrophobic than taking the bus, that is until both their phones blatted out a shelter in place alert. Toshinori got Izuku by the back of his jacket and lifted him up out of the sudden crush of foot traffic. He stepped into a gap between two buildings. It wasn’t quite an alley; just big enough for some trash cans and someone to smoke in, going by the cigarette butts on the ground. Izuku hung from his grip, trusting as a kitten, as he tapped madly on his phone. 

“It’s a villain attack.” Izuku reported. “Looks like the Tetrad tried to rob an ATM vault truck. “

Ugh. Toshinori didn’t often have strong individual feelings about villains other than his old nemesis, but the Tetrad -a set of quadruplets whose quirk networked their brains into a single awful intelligence- came real close to being on his personal shit list. There weren’t many heroes who didn’t hate their guts due to the fact that the Tetrad loved nothing more than collateral damage; the more blood the better. 

The annoying part was how fast they worked. They were usually long gone by the time a hero could respond to the commotion. This was a golden opportunity --and he was going to have to let it pass. He had Izuku with him.  

“Give me the shopping bag.” Izuku held his hand out as Toshinori set him down.

Toshinori had, in fact, been about to crouch down so he could piggyback the boy out of the red zone. 

The shopping bag slipped out of his grasp and floated into Izuku’s hands. “You’ve got about four minutes before they vanish. I’ll stay here or nearby if I have to move.”

Half a block away someone cried out in pain. 

Toshinori leveled a finger at him. “No heroics and I don’t want to see a scratch on you when I get back.”

Izuku rolled his eyes. “Dad, go!”

He didn’t need telling twice, but he was halfway through tying up the Tetrad’s third body before he realized Izuku hadn’t called him ‘Yagi-san’, but he didn’t have time to dwell on it because the fourth body swung some debris at his head.

When he did get back (after an eternity spent debriefing the police, making a pretty face for the media while pretending not to hear any questions about his mystery girlfriend, and making sure he hadn’t been followed) he found Izuku dealing with a police presence of his own.

There was some guy sprawled at his feet, passed out cold, with a knife on the ground not too far from his hand. One officer had a foot placed lightly on the back of the villain’s wrist in case he woke up before someone wearing gloves could bag it.

“Gosh, I don’t know what happened.” He said with wide-eyed innocence. “He was about to mug us and then he just passed out.” He looked around and whispered loudly to the officer taking his statement, like butter wouldn’t melt in his mouth. “He was acting really erratic and then he passed out.”

There was a young couple sheltering a little deeper in the alley. One of them, a young woman, piped up. “Yeah, it was the weirdest thing. He was babbling then his eyes just rolled back in his head mid-word.”

“He might have hit his head during the big attack down the street.” Her boyfriend suggested, sounding like he was grasping at straws. “I saw a bunch of debris go flying. Head injuries can take a minute to show up, right?”

That probably explained why the guy wasn’t already in cuffs. He was already down so there was no reason to risk moving him until someone could safely put him on a backboard. 

“Probably or somebody quirked him to act up.” The officer sighed. “Otherwise I’m not sure why he thought it was a good idea to rob someone while All Might was half a block away and five other responding heroes were closing in. We’ll move him once we’ve got clearance from an EMT so make sure you stay back. The hospital will check him out.”

Said EMT hustled past Toshinori and got to work. The cops waved Izuku and the young couple off with instructions to make sure they picked up the phone if a call from the precinct came in. 

Izuku spotted him and came trotting over. “I’m not scratched and I didn’t go looking for trouble.” He defended himself.

“Where’d those two come from?” Toshinori couldn’t argue with the boy, but he suspected that they were the ones who’d brought trouble with them. 

“They ducked in after you left.” Izuku made a face. “Knife guy followed them. His brain was all jumbly. I think he might have been quirked for real.”

“It’s likely. The Tetrad will usually have decoys and distractions set to go.” Not anymore, if Toshinori got his way and he usually did. That was probably another reason the officers had been so careful of the mugger. He was probably going to wake up with a migraine and missing time.

Toshinori squinted up at the dying light before crouching down. “Hop on. There’s enough going on that I think we’re fine to take a shortcut.”

Izuku did his own check before stuffing the shopping big into his backpack and climbing up onto Toshinori’s back.

He’d never been so happy to see the penthouse once they arrived --until they got inside and Mirai was sitting on the couch with a cup of tea in front of him while Inko watched something on his phone with her eyebrows up somewhere in the vicinity of her hairline.

“Oh god, what now.” He groaned. He knew that face Mirai was making. That was the ‘I know it’s not your fault but everything is on fire anyway’ face. He’d missed Mirai keenly during their estrangement, but not that expression. 

Inko showed him the phone. There was an HTube video on the screen. The clip was grainy security footage, but it had audio. On the screen a big guy Toshinori recognized as himself dropped a scruffed teenager on his feet just beyond the chaos in the main street. There was a brief semi-audible exchange, but the mic caught Izuku’s annoyed “Dad, go!” perfectly. 

Thank god it cut off there and didn’t show the subsequent mugging. The caption read BREAKING NEWS: ALL MIGHT IS A DAD MIGHT!!! so it was a friendly poster and he or she probably wasn’t going to put up anything that might get Izuku in hot water for illegal quirk use. 

“Ooooh my god.” Izuku whimpered. “I didn’t… I mean!” 

Toshinori patted his back. “We already talked about that, son. I was happy to hear it.”

Izuku made a strangled, but kind of happy noise. “I was gonna say it after the wedding. On purpose!”

“How’d you get over here so fast?” Toshinori wanted to know, eying Mirai. He was used to having Mirai constantly in his business as a sidekick, but he had his own agency to manage now.

“He was already over when his Google alert went off.” Inko ratted Mirai out with a beatific smile that she turned on the man in question. “Go ahead. Tell them about the bet you lost.”

Mirai gave her a cranky look and pushed up his glasses. “My sidekicks want to attend the Sports Festival this year in support of Lemillion. I told them if they could close two of our open investigations then I would clear their schedules for the day.” He grimaced. “Bubble Girl and Centipeder bet me they could clear three, which seemed unreasonable so I agreed on the condition that if they failed then they’d make it up with double overtime. They agreed that, in the event that I lost, I would make them all lunch boxes. Personally.”

“So, what, they finished that same afternoon?” Toshinori guessed, having been on the losing end of such bets with Mirai himself, ironically. You’d think the man would know better given some of the stunts he’d pulled back in the day.

“They closed four .” Mirai agreed dully. “Two serial card skimmers in the surrounding area, a shoplifting ring, and a mid-tier fence.”

“Hah!” Toshinori barked a laugh. “Karma.”

“Yes, yes.” Mirai sniffed. “There’s a reason I didn’t go to you for sympathy. Midoriya-san kindly offered to help me menu plan.” He turned to regard Izuku, who was still covering his face with both hands and steaming in embarrassment. Mirai still seemed a little awkward around him, but given the fact that young Mirio had all but adopted the boy he seemed resigned to being a friendly adult. Toshinori would have bet real money that it helped to see just how hard Izuku worked, which was the real reason Toshinori kept dragging Mirai and young Mirio over for play dates training sessions. “I wouldn’t be concerned by the video. The resolution isn’t enough to identify you.”

Izuku’s phone chose to ding just then ...and then ding again. He got it out and read aloud. “Hey, Deku, is this why no one ever got to meet your dad?” He said woodenly. “It’s from Kashima. He’s literally the least observant person I know.”

Toshinori hadn’t met young Kashima, per se, but he’d seen Izuku interact with the boy some once or twice when he tried to come over to hang out when his other friend wasn’t available. Young Bakugo had been over at the apartment already and the fall out got loud. He didn’t really like using the phrase ‘dumber than a bag of hammers’ in reference to a child, but young Kashima was even dumber than that. If he’d made the connection...

“I’ll call my publicists.” Toshinori decided out loud.

Chapter Text

Izuku walked into class the next morning with all the social media apps culled from his phone and belly full of dread. 

As predicted, the room went silent as he slunk in trying to hide in Kacchan’s shadow. 

Fortunately Aizawa-sensei dragged himself in shortly after Izuku did so no one had time to work up to any questions, which Izuku realized had been his teacher’s goal the whole time.

Izuku’s relief, however, was short-lived.

“Normally we’d be picking talking about the upcoming Sports Festival today, but since it’s suddenly relevant…” He announced once roll call and announcements were over, “...we’re going to be doing a special class on managing social media and the press as a public figure instead. Midnight is taking over.” He pulled his sleeping bag out of the podium and lurched into a corner. “Don’t wake me up unless something is on fire.” He told them before zipping in and immediately falling asleep.

It must have been a rough night on patrol. He seemed to actually be asleep rather than just faking it like he usually did.

Izuku couldn’t look at their sub when she strutted in and introduced herself. Normally he had a decent tolerance for people with their body parts on display, especially if they were like Midnight-sensei and actually pretty covered up, but he’d woken up to all his message accounts full to capacity that morning then he’d made the mistake of reading some of them.

Most, nearly all, were along the lines of ‘IS ALL MIGHT REALLY YOUR DAD?’ but some…

“All right, my darling youths, we’re gonna start by ripping off a bandaid. Going by all your gleaming little faces, I’m going to assume you’ve seen the video clip about your classmate that went viral last night and are full of questions. We are going to talk about that very briefly.” Midnight announced. “Afterwards, the subject is gonna be deader than dead. You get my drift?” Her megawatt smile got a little extra toothy. “I’m going to give Midoriya-kun the opportunity to answer some questions about what’s been happening since last night -if he wants to- because this is a valuable learning opportunity even if you don’t know it yet. If he doesn’t want to answer a question then the question doesn’t get answered and you all are going to find a way to be okay with that.”

She paused and looked over the classroom. “Real talk, kiddos: every single one of you is probably going to be the subject of a media frenzy one day. Almost every graduate of UA gets their fifteen minutes of either fame or infamy. It’s going to be hard and uncomfortable. You’re going to feel like you’re under a microscope. So keep that in mind when you formulate your questions.” She turned to Izuku. “Are you okay with answering questions?”

“Haaaa….” Izuku wheezed and looked around the classroom. They didn’t look mad or mean. He had experience with what that looked like. Well, Mineta looked kinda mad, but he had a weird feud going on with All Might so maybe he should have expected that. They just looked intensely curious except for Asui and Todoroki, who defaulted to chill even when the chips were down. “...I guess?”

“That’s great.” Midnight looked like she wanted to pet his head. “Tap out if you need to. I’ll start. Describe, in as much or as little detail as you like, your experience after that video clip went viral.”

“Um, I…” Izuku took a deep breath, rolled his shoulders, and told his anxiety to go sit in the corner the way he usually had to for meditation practice. “ all happened really quick. I started getting messages from people I knew from middle school within a couple of hours. Someone told me to make all my social media accounts private, but I wasn’t fast enough and strangers -friends of friends, I guess- still got through the privacy algorithms.” He turned red and covered his face. “I, um, had to take nearly all the apps off my phone. Most of the messages were just people asking if I was me, but others…” He trailed off, sounding strangled. His nerves failed and he buried his head in his arms, trying to find the words.

“It was pictures of people’s junk.” Kacchan answered for him, still simmering with fury over it. They were some of the last messages he’d gotten. Miss liberty had figured out it was because around four AM that morning someone from his middle school gym class had shared a picture of him wiping his face with the hem of his shirt and apparently his stomach was exciting for some reason because his face was barely in it. “With a side of creepy offers to hook up.”

Midnight grimaced. “I’m sorry to hear that.” She said and turned to the class. “That’s the first thing you little ones need to know about the public. Nine tenths of your interactions will be normal and boring. That last tenth is where the freaks hide out. Normally you first years don’t have to worry about this kind of thing unless you catch a lot of attention during your first Sports Festival. Once you do start building a fandom and getting attention, you’re going to watch to start looking into a professional social media management service. They proof and post your statuses for you. That may sound like something you can handle yourself, my little kittens, but the real value is having someone else comb through your DMs to filter out unsolicited sexual messages and monitor anti-fan activity. It’s great, they send you little digest emails of the good stuff and set you up with dummy accounts so you can still browse your feed in anonymity. Once you’re graduated your agency will take care of that stuff.”

Yaomomo held up her hand slightly ahead of everyone else and Midnight pointed to her. “Midoriya-kun, are you allowed to talk about whether the video is true or not?”

Izuku could have kissed her except he seemed to be super duper monogamous bordering on sex averse with one lone Kacchan-shaped exception. That wasn’t something he’d expected to learn about himself. “Not really.” He admitted. “There’s gonna be a press conference eventually.”

“Ok.” She said, “One more question, how secret is your other parent? The guy who was following our bus.”

Izuku shrugged. “We’re not going to bring him up because it's make his job hard, but he’s not a secret. I finally got to talk to him the other day. It turns out he’s part of a government anti-terrorism task force and got a last minute tip about the USJ. The other times he showed up it was because he was worried about copycat offenders, but his department couldn’t spare the man hours so he was doing it in his spare time. He didn’t mean to scare anyone.”

That was kind of a lie. Hisashi-san had been following him around before that, but the USJ thing was true. Izuku was glad to know that his biological father didn’t actually drive around with an M24 in the back of his car all the time.

He was pretty sure Hisashi-san didn’t do that.

Kaminari’s hand shot up. “Is the green haired lady your mom?” He blurted out and Jiro leaned over to nail him in the back of the head with one of her ear jacks. 

“He literally just said there’s gonna be a press conference.” She told him. Her parents were notable musicians so Izuku supposed that if there was anyone who knew keeping your mouth shut because of family stuff then it would be her. “That means he can’t talk about it.”

“About the video!” Kaminari defended himself. “This is different.”

“Um, it’ll be about that too.” Izuku wanted to throw him a bone so he gave up what he could.. “...if that helps any.”

“Oh, man!” Kaminari grinned. “If she is then my moms want to know if she has an official fan page because they’re gonna sign up.”

“Probably not. Sounds like she used to be one of those government heroes.” Jiro observed drolly. “Where else are you going to hook up with someone on a domestic terrorism task force?”

Izuku would have been surprised that she’d made that connection, but he’d found out that ‘domestic terrorism’ was what they called anything that sat in the uneasy space in between ‘the Pro Heroes can handle it’ and ‘call out the military.’ It covered a lot of territory and the task force members were all people like Hisashi-san; i.e. super competent, but also total weirdos.

“Reign it in, kittens.” Midnight clapped her hands. “Question time is now over. If I catch anyone bothering Midoriya about it afterwards then I’m going to hand you over to Eraserhead. It’s been a while since he’s made anyone puke from running suicides and I’m sure he’s looking forward to the opportunity to correct that. Now, you may have heard me mention ‘anti-fan’ activity…”

Izuku sunk into his seat with relief as the lecture moved on. Most of what Midnight-sensei had to talk about was stuff that Toshinori-san’s crisis-specialist had talked to him about the night before. She’d told him to delete his social media apps and not to look at his messages before they assigned him his own manager, but he hadn’t listened so he only had himself to blame.

Aizawa-sensei got up around the time Midnight-sensei was winding down and took over to explain some of the things that would be going on in the wings during the Sports Festival. 

He wasn’t sure how he felt about the event. Izuku was looking forward to competing and seeing Miro-senpai in his second year events, but everything was going to change after that. His mom and… and his dad would be going public. He was going to end up in a spotlight he suspected he wasn’t quite ready for. 

He felt a little nudge then, so faint it almost didn’t register. Izuku looked at Kacchan with his eyebrows all the way up. That was new!

Kacchan glanced over his shoulder and poked him again through their connection. 

...that was right. He wouldn’t be by himself, would he?

Izuku sent happiness back through the bond and Kacchan’s ears went red before he faced himself forward again with a jerk and red-tipped ears.

Inko reviewed the resume in front of her. Unlike the other applicants, she was holding this appointment in her craft room. The resume was perfectly acceptable -boiler plate, even, as she understood such things- save for one thing.

“D5.” She said, gently. “I would love to have you as part of my management team.” She hadn’t expected to have a ‘team’, but it seemed that Izuku’s wranglers would be folded under her umbrella until he was of age or had his own license so it was hardly ‘her’ team at all, which was the only reason she was comfortable with the hiring budget outline Toshinori had casually dropped into her email earlier that week. “You didn’t have to go through the entire application process though. You could have just asked.”

“This is how it is done by the locals, mum.” D5 replied. “The T3s may prefer to ask for forgiveness rather than permission, but I like to keep things orderly.”

Ah, yes, the T3s. She hadn’t realized they’d all but moved in until things started mysteriously fixing themselves around the penthouse before she or Toshinori could get to them. She found them totally not hiding in Basil’s corner of the third level. Liberty was in cahoots with the two brats and let them in and out as they liked because they claimed to be Inko’s ‘property.’

She’d have been more disturbed by that claim, except utility droids as old and complex as the T3s were only ever someone’s ‘property’ if it helped them get away with something. The high level of intelligence and problem solving necessary for them to do their jobs had the side effect of making them chaotic little shits at the best of times. The T3s were good at heart, but they mostly did what they wanted. Inko had no legal ownership of them. AI had full civil rights in Japan, but Liberty had only needed the excuse. She too mostly did what she wanted.

“I was expecting you to move in with them.” Inko admitted. She had been a little disappointed when it hadn’t. She hadn’t realized how much she’d missed the company of her old crewmates. They were from a time when she’d still actively avoided attachment, but she seemed to have gotten attached anyway. 

Toshinori hadn’t been quite so pleased with the T3s sneaking in, but he also loved having the droids around so he had only lectured them a little bit while they feigned sad, contrite beeps; the synthetic equivalent of crocodile tears considering the fact that they’d do it again if they had to. 

“Well, to be honest, mum.” D5 sighed. “I was enjoying independence and my employment with the Director, but he gave me a hint recently that he is going to attempt to retire again and this time he expects to be successful.”

“Oh?” Inko blinked. “He tried before?”

“This will be the fourth attempt. He is somewhat overcommitted and looking to step back from a few of his projects.” D5 tilted its shiny metal head in acknowledgement. “The problem is that he’s an extremely popular leader. He was intercepted during previous retirements and restored to office. I think he was proud enough of their efforts to stay a little longer, but this time he is quite determined and given the candidates for his replacement, I’ve elected to leave the program.”

“Well, then.” Ink folded her hands in her lap. “Let’s discuss salary requirements.”

Droids didn’t have quite the same needs as human staff. Money was helpful, but his current apartment was on the Y.U.R.E.I. campus so he needed help finding a new place. AI needed more cosigners and deposits than a flesh and blood person though. They were hashing that out and Liberty was apparently snitching to Toshinori because he stuck his head in the door to interject, “Would one of the guest suites work for you?”

“Oh, sir, no. I wouldn’t dream of…” D5 started to object.

“The circuit breaker on that level may need to be upgraded to handle an additional provisioning station.” Liberty interjected. “The T3s report ready to start work.”

“Could you get a project outline from them before they start cutting into the walls?” Toshinori asked. “Thank you, Libby. There anything else I can help with?” He looked back and forth between them. “No? I’ll get back to my grading then.”

“If you stayed in one of the guest suites then you could see Izuku and Liberty more often.” Inko offered in the most esoteric Corsucanti dialect she knew just in case Liberty had picked up enough Basic to eavesdrop on them.

“Oh, well, that is very compelling.” D5 demurred. “I do miss being around civilized people. The Director is an excellent employer, but even he has his moments. I much prefer it here.”

“I’m glad to have you back, old friend.” She patted him on the shoulder.

“I am glad to be back, mum.” It agreed. “You seem much happier than before. I am happy to see it.”

“I am.” Inko had known it, sort of, but hadn’t really internalized it. She was happy despite the risks she was taking, tying herself to a prominent public figure. Izuku was old enough that she had less to worry about from Temple recruiters, assuming they ever came to Earth again. 

Her instinct to hide and stay hidden had been easing in recent years. By the time Toshinori came into her life it was mostly a habit, but not entirely. Now, though, she was starting to wonder if that instinct had been her own or if it had been guidance from the Force. It didn’t always come as a blinding vision. The Force could be subtle. 

She was still chewing over that thought after she’d sent D5 on his way to give notice and arrange to have his things moved. 

Her phone rang about an hour later with a number she didn’t recognize, but she did recognize the voice on the other end when she picked it up.

“I see you’ve poached my secretary.” Nedzu greeted her in Basic, sounding pleased about it rather than upset.

“Is it poaching if you herded it in my direction?” She asked, somehow not surprised that Nedzu was the elusive Director. They had a similar tone even though she’d only ever spoken to him through the medium of Hisashi. It would explain why she’d been treated so well when she first arrived if a fellow non-native was in charge of Japan’s abnormal emergency response unit.

“Perhaps not.” He allowed. “I’m glad to formally make your acquaintance, Master In’Ko. I understand you’ll be taking over D5-N6’s living arrangements?”

“Toshinori-san has offered it one of the guest suites and the other droids are keen to have it back in their collective.” She considered her next question carefully. “In your opinion are the 4E and 5F happy where they are?”

The surgical droids were designed to be very codependent, but only with each other. Still, she hadn’t expected them to be happy to see her. She hadn’t expected the T3s to happily move themselves in with her either, but they had and made it pretty clear that they weren’t leaving unless she did. 

“They’ve been installed at the UA campus, as a matter of fact.” Nedzu chortled. “Kobayashi passed on your suggestion to integrate them with a surgeon and our resident doctor is getting to the point where her fine motor skills aren’t what they used to be so the timing was good. The T3s hooked up a monitor to translate for them before decamping to your place. They’re quite happy now, but would appreciate a visit from you every so often.”

“Of course.” Inko agreed, a bit startled. The surgical assistants had never once requested her presence, but… it had been a long time, hadn’t it? “I’m happy to make some time. Thank you for looking after them.”

“It was my pleasure. I was happy to have the company.” Nedzu’s tone turned slightly wistful. “My homeworld designs and exports droid brains so we all live hand-in-paw with synthetics. It was good to have a reminder of home for a while.”

“Where is home?” She still couldn’t quite place his species.

“Nowhere you’ve ever heard of, I’m afraid.” Nedzu replied. “A client state of the Bothans. We look enough like one of their phenotypes that we’re usually lumped in with them by other species. I’ve been in political exile longer than even you have been alive. Now, going by your accent I would say you’ve spent a great deal of time in the Jedi enclave on Dantooine. I was always curious to know if you were one of the Revanchists.”

Inko had never sensed any hostility from Nedzu so this probably wasn’t a trap. To be honest, the so-called Revanchists had been more popular in the Republic than the Jedi order when she left Republic space. “Yes and no.” She admitted. It was one of those seemingly minor distinctions that didn’t matter to outsiders, but made a big difference to the people involved. “I defected later. I was a member of the Jedi Council and spent a bit longer trying to persuade the other Masters to commit to some form of aid for the Republic forces. I did serve in the Republic military, but never directly under Jedi Revan.”

The Revanchists -those Jedi who had left the order in open solidarity with Jedi Revan to fight in the Mandalorian war- were a tight knit group and didn’t serve in the support fleets. They were deployed with infantry and the gunship armada. Some served in military command under Revan, who was named the Lord High Commander of the Republic forces.

She and the Revanchists never quite got along although they had similar goals and ideals, but they thought she was reporting back to the Council and she found the Revanchists had become a cult of personality during an alarmingly short period of time on top of already being young and reckless. Revan himself was alright, she supposed. She didn’t much care for his melodrama and the mask he wore was a constant unhappy reminder of the atrocities they’d both witnessed on Cathar considering he’d taken it off the body of the Mandalorian objector they’d found at the mass grave site there, but he was a brilliant strategist and military commander. 

Inko had command of the Nike and then later a medical support fleet during the battle of Malachor V --not that the Mass Shadow Generator that the Republic deployed there had left behind many lives to save. Just a broken group of planetoids where there’d once been a planet all loosely held together by strange gravitational eddies and surrounded by the wreckage of ships -both Mandalorian and Republic- in numbers beyond counting, crewed only by the dead.

Her fleet had been ordered to hang back by High Command. Hospital ships were high priority targets, but Inko was never sure how much truth was in that justification and never thought to look into the minds of her former compatriots to check. Even that distance wasn’t enough to cushion the horror of millions of simultaneous deaths. Inko wasn’t affected like some of the others who were closer and more involved in the action, but she still carried the weight of that battle with her and perhaps always would. 

“I see.” Nedzu hummed to himself. “I see.” He was thoughtfully quiet for a moment longer. “Akatani tells me you’re looking for a counselor.”

“I’ve had… issues recently.” Inko admitted. “I expect you saw it during the USJ incident.”

“The psychogenic tremors.” Nedzu agreed. “Post Traumatic Stress passes over no one. Then you know that this isn’t the last time you’ll be in a triggering environment, given your son’s future career and the decisions you’ve made in regard to your fiance.”

“I’ve accepted it.” Inko wondered where this line of questioning was going. 

“Do you have some time this afternoon?” Nedzu’s tone shifted to a cheery upbeat note. “I’d like to introduce you to someone.”

The place Nedzu directed her to was in fact on the UA campus and curiosity drove her to go. Classes were in session, but she came in through the visitor’s entrance and did not end up seeing many students. 

To her surprise, when she found the office number Nedzu provided her with, a Bothan answered the door; a big, big canid. Most Bothans she’d known were under five feet tall, but this guy was six and a half easily. At first she thought he must have been a human with a mutagenic quirk, but he greeted her in growling, heavily accented Basic. 

“Master In’Ko, welcome.” He stood aside to wave her inside. “The principal isn’t here yet, but please have a seat. His words were mostly understandable, but he periodically had to growl or huff a bit in between words like he was stretching out a cramp in his mouth. The noises sounded suspiciously like the vocalizations that made up Shyriiwook.

Bothans could apparently interbreed with other mammalian species. She wondered if she could possibly be looking at a Bothan/Wookie hybrid. He had the height and frame of a Wookie, but the longer snout, sleeker fur, mane, and pointed ears typical of a Bothan.

She glanced at the nameplate on the door. It read: Hound Dog, Lifestyle Guidance Counselor. “Thank you.”

“I think I’m the one who owes you thanks.” Hound Dog said as he settled himself in one of the soft chairs that took up the lion’s share of the space in the room. There were bookshelves and a small workstation, but it was clear that the room had been designed for conversation instead of paperwork. Hound Dog peeled back one of his sleeves to reveal a gnarly patch of scar tissue under one bicep. “Battle of Dxun. The medics afterwards said that if anyone else had been working on me then I’d have lost the arm.”

“I…” Her face flamed with embarrassment. “...forgive me, I don’t recognize you.”

“Why would you?” He asked. “It was war. The reserve encampment was overwhelmed with casualties and someone started shelling us about halfway through the procedure. No time for bedside manners; just the next task.”

The door opened again to admit Nedzu and a little robot with a tea service. “Good, good. You two are getting acquainted!’ He got them all set up with a cup, which Inko was dearly grateful for.  “Now, Master In’Ko, I think you may have guessed why I invited you here. Inui-kun specializes in cognitive behavior therapy. He is also, as a fellow veteran, uniquely qualified to act as a counselor if you’re interested in working with him.”

“How did you end up here?” Inko looked between the two of them. “The astrogation charts I used to find this planet were gathering dust in the back of the Temple archives. I never found another set.”

“Ah, that would be my fault.” Nedzu admitted with an embarrassed little cough. “I mapped hyperspace lanes when I was a young thing and happened to locate this world. I was fascinated by it; a thriving, high technology society that had only just barely achieved spaceflight! And they were humans!” 

“Earth was probably a lost Seperatist colony.” Inko understood his feelings, but was reluctant to get excited about it. Lost colonies such as Earth rarely had happy origins. Humans were one of the most common species in the known galaxy. They were everywhere, but seemed to come from nowhere. There were plenty of old human societies, but archeologists could find no evidence that they’d actually evolved on any of those settled worlds. They just sort of showed up in the fossil record one day, more or less in their final evolutionary form. Those worlds had been settled for tens of thousands of years though. Earth’s historical record only covered the last five thousand years or so. 

The Republic wasn’t universally beloved by its inhabitants and sometimes unhappy groups of people would club together for a colony kit and shoot themselves out into the unknown regions. Usually they died, but sometimes their descendants would crop up generations later and they didn’t always know that their origins weren’t terrestrial. 

“I thought so as well!” Nedzu agreed. “I still wanted to study it, but…” There he sighed unhappily. “ homeworld is full of hyper-ambitious and very intelligent schemers. I was embroiled in a losing fight with a rival clan that meant I needed to leave my home --and known space just for good measure.”

“Our families go back.” Inui-san added. “He left word and coordinates with my mother in case any of us ever needed to leave as well. My family died during or shortly before the wars and Nedzu was all I had left so I came looking and ended up settling here.”

“How did you end up in charge of Y.U.R.E.I.?” Inko was a little stuck on that point. She appreciated the way he’d apparently shielded her and made a path for her to integrate into Earth society, but she was surprised that the Japanese government had handed control of such an independent agency to an extraterrestrial. Did they not know what he was?

“Ah.” Nedzu cleared his throat. “That’s a bit of a story. I am technically not the Director, but I have been acting his stead for many years. My welcome to this world was slightly less warm than yours. Y.U.R.E.I. was very different in those days and I crash landed in an escape pod when my ship experienced a malfunction in low Earth orbit. I hadn’t intended to land on the surface just yet. I was doing reconnaissance, looking for the best place to insert myself.” His thoughts took a dark turn and Inko got the impression of a laboratory, knives, injections, a clinical voice describing something for a recording, and a nasty little man with nasty little eyes. “I was captured and held for experimentation for a time. Eventually I got loose.” He smiled and for a second Inko could taste blood in the back of her throat; a little echo, perhaps, of what had happened to the original Director before Nedzu stepped into his shoes. “I hope I can trust your discretion.”

Given what she’d gleaned from his memories with just a casual skim, Inko had no issue with what he’d done. If you took a sentient person captive and abused them then you deserved what you got once they were loose no matter what your reasons were.

“You have nothing to fear from me.” She promised.

“Glad to hear it.” Inui-san rumbled. “I don’t normally see patients outside the student body, but I’m happy to make an exception for you. We have a lot of options. I know you’re keeping your head down right now. Earth’s spaceflight tech is a joke, but their comm network smokes anything they have in the core systems short of the quantum entanglement holoprojectors. We can hold sessions over the phone or do video calls.”

Inko left campus with an appointment in her calendar and her head spinning. 

She’d known other people of the galaxy washed up on Earth sometimes, but the last one she’d met had been Dr. Mercury. That encounter had ended on a very different note.  

Izuku and Katsuki-kun were hanging out in the living room when she got home. They were technically doing homework, but their books were abandoned on the table and Izuku was paying on the couch with his head pillowed on Katsuki’s thigh. Katsuki had one hand resting on Izuku’s face, covering his eyes.

“How bad was it?” She asked after ascertaining that her son was passed out in an anxiety nap.

“Eh.” Katsuki shrugged one shoulder. “They were gonna mob him, but the teachers stomped the brakes hard before they could. They had Izu answer some questions, but the class rep kept anyone from asking too much. He’s fine. It was just a lot today. They announced the Sports festival and we all got cornered by some extras from the Gen Ed classes.”

“Thank you for looking after him, dear.” She dropped a kiss on the crown of his head and enjoyed the way he turtled up like he hated it, but secretly soaked it up. “Do we have you for dinner?”

“Yeah. Yagi wants to do some balance practice and Ma said it was okay.” He glanced her over. “You okay?”

Oh dear. She must look very unsettled if Katsuki-kun was picking up on it. “I finally found a good counselor.. and… well.”

“Now you gotta go.” Katsuki looked away. “It ain’t so bad.”

He was trying to make her feel better. Inko smiled and patted his shoulder. “Thank you. I’ll remember that.”

Inko let herself into the craftroom and went to consider the dressmakers’ mannequin she’d set up in the middle of the room, which held up her costume. 

Not long now.

Chapter Text

“This is fancy.” Inko observed, squinting at an actual champagne chiller set into the console underneath the gigantic window in their VIP viewing station. It was a generously sized little room set about halfway up the stadium walls directly across from the MC station. They had an exquisite view of the fields, but also two view screens in case there was anything they wanted a close up of. She wondered if they’d have to pay for it if they recorded the whole thing from multiple angles.   “We don’t have to drink that, do we?”

“No, it’ll just get put away until next year.” Toshinori put a hand in the small of her back and pulled her in close. “Do you like it?”

She smiled up at him. “It’s lovely and private. Everyone will have plenty of elbow room. Thank you for reserving it.”

“Haha.” He chuckled and rubbed the back of his head, both pleased and embarrassed. “I always wanted to rent one of these booths when I was a kid, but after my career took off I never seemed to be able to make the time.”

“You’ll be getting to hand out the medals too.” Inko agreed. 

Given who her son was, she’d seen every single Sports Festival during the past fourteen years on television so even she couldn’t miss the excitement and significance of that honor. 

She leaned her head on his chest as she watched the stadium begin to fill through their window. Izuku and Katsuki were somewhere waiting to walk onto the field. Mirai-san would be joining them later once his sidekicks got done with the festival booths outside. She’d invited Hisashi, but he’d been called in to work and it was a missing persons case that involved possible child trafficking so he went. He made her swear to get him pictures. 

Maybe it was for the best. She wasn’t sure she was ready to have Mirai and Hisashi in a room together, much less be trapped in there with them when they inevitably realized their personalities were diametrically opposed. 

Speaking of the devil, Mirai let himself into the booth with a clear plastic bag of stacked festival foods. Most of it went to Toshinori, but Inko was pleased to receive a tray of takoyaki, chicken skin gyoza, and a chocolate covered banana; none of which she’d ever had before. Mirai seemed to have been listening when Toshinori explained what the stalls they’d walked past were selling.

Inko hadn’t expected to end up liking Mirai as much as she ended up doing. Removing the barrier of Toshinori’s successor had a curious effect on the man. Being around Toshi softened him up. He was more patient and empathetic. Toshinori meanwhile focused a bit better if Mirai had been around recently. She could see now why they’d been such a formidable team. 

Toshinori had been unfortunately accurate about all the fussing, though. Somehow Mirai found out about the return of her tremors and kept sending her web articles about possible therapies to discuss with Hound Dog. She didn’t understand what the bother was about. They’d only shown up the one time and she knew how to deprogram that bit of her stress response. 

Still, she understood where it was coming from.

‘Love languages’ was a concept Mitsuki had introduced her to recently. She knew Inko was not entirely neurotypical and a lot of their friendship had been slipping Inko tips and assistance whenever she thought Inko might not pick up on something by herself. Hound Dog agreed, which had come as a slight surprise although even he couldn’t say for sure if she’d been born that way or if it was a result of early childhood conditioning.

Love languages were supposed to exist within the context of a romantic relationship, but Inko found it to be a concept with wider applications in terms of human interaction.

Mirai’s acts of service were small, but numerous once she knew to be looking for them. His idea of making friends was apparently not making nice, but bringing you tea and fighting your battles until you either gave in or floated away. 

“Thank you.” She smiled softly. “How is Mirio-kun? Is he excited?”

“Palpably.” Mirai replied, taking his seat and poking at the console to adjust their cameras. “The support company pulled through with a custom gym uniform for him. He’s beyond happy to not have to compete in costume or a standard uniform like last year.”

“Oh, he would be, wouldn’t he?” Inko hadn’t connected Mirio to one of the big scandals of the previous year’s festival. The news casters and amateur videographers had been warned to be very careful with their angles, but a certain young man had still ended up on live camera. The recordings were edited with modesty blurs, but anyone watching the live feed like Inko had would’ve been confronted with all of Mirio-kun; full frontal exposure. She assumed the support company in question had not worked out how to make his clothing phase with him by that point.

Toshinori kept a straight face, but she could still feel the glow of his happiness. It seemed one of his private charities, which had been more neglected in recent years, supported low income Hero students with special needs. The officers in charge of that program had been focusing on tuition grants in the absence of specific guidance from him; getting bodies into seats, making sure they had their basic supplies, and metabolically appropriate meal plans. They hadn’t been doing a bad job, but they were all civilian people and so had gaps in their understanding of the needs of scholarship student heroes; something that Toshinori had been able to fill in before his accident and was happily back at. 

The events always started out with the First Years walking onto the field. That ceremony wasn’t repeated the same way for the second or third years, who only ended up on camera once their representative made the sportsmanship pledge because otherwise people tended to notice how much smaller the upper level classes got from year to year.

“Who is that boy?” Mirai asked with deep skepticism after Katsuki-kun gave his ‘speech.’ His audible thoughts were trying to match him to Izuku. Mirai knew full well that was Izuku’s boyfriend, but he was having trouble reconciling that with the reality of Katsuki-kun. 

The funny thing was that Mirai had warmed up to Izuku seemingly overnight. Part of it was the fact that the boy adored each other and Inko knew better than anyone else that affection was contagious; see the examples of Katsuki-Kun and Mirai himself. Part of it was the fact that Mirai and Izuku had a lot in common. The main reason seemed to be that Mirai had two weaknesses; cute things and cheerfully determined people. Izuku was both.

A lot of his thoughts felt like math and the equations going on in there at the moment looked like this: (small, green, acceptable) - (loud, spikey, cocksure brat) + (cheerful, blond, the brightest future) = (superior match).

“Mitsuki-chan would snatch you bald.” Inko informed him. 

Mirai’s only response to her reading his mind again was a slow blink. He was a bit like Toshinori and once he got past the initial shock; he actually preferred her lifting things straight out of his mind rather than being forced to explain it. “She could try.” He replied blandly. 

He and Mitsuki were already mighty foes. She’d added him to the wedding group chat as a joke, but the joke ended up being on her. There was nothing Mirai liked better than planning something. Mitsuki had her own powerful opinions, but Mirai had followed all of Toshiori’s wedding pinterest boards and had accepted them as the word of God. They were currently gridlocked over a venue; a high class traditional inn with a banquet hall or a walled garden. Inko didn’t have the heart to remind them that the choice would come down to which one was available and they were arguing over literally nothing.

Mitsuki and Masaru had managed to get a pair of seats right by the arena by reserving them around the time Katsuki-kun started taking his mock exams. It was technically a better view and they’d decided to stick with it.

She pressed into Toshinori’s side during the first event; the obstacle course. She knew fully well that Izuku could handle nearly any threat his own size or even a bit bigger. It’s just no one had told her how big the so-called ‘zero pointer’ droids were. Even the smaller ones who swarmed in after them were similar to solidly sized security droids.

Izuku was right however. The zero pointers were very poorly balanced, but it seemed to be a deliberate design choice; perhaps to get the children into the mindset of looking for exploitable flaws in their opponents. If so, Inko approved. 

She watched, both fists clenched, as her boys made an excellent showing. Katsuki-kun was made for this sort of race. Todoroki-kun, who she only knew through hearsay, was doing an excellent job as well. He reminded her of someone, although she couldn’t place who. Iuku, though, was closing the gap. She could feel him boosting his own velocity through the Force, but he’d sacrificed time to pick up a broad bit of robotshell that he was carrying with him strapped to his back as he nimbly darted over the canyon obstacle.

“How is that working?” Mirai asked. “The rope isn’t shaking under him. Did he stabilize the entire thing?”

“It’s resting in a V-shaped support.” Inko guessed. It wouldn’t hold up if someone swatted him off the rope, but the Force barrier Izuku was using was enough to support a few minor balance corrections and that was all he needed. He’d been on rope courses and balancing bars nearly every day for his entire life.

“Very clever.” Toshinori smiled.

They all winced when they realized what the metal plate he was carrying was for and the land mines propelled the boy right into first place. 

In retrospect, Inko approved. There was always some explosive element in the Sports Festival usually towards the end and there’d been a couple of kids she remembered who used them to good effect in past years. Izuku would have been paying very close attention and he’d made good use of that knowledge. 

Katsuki-kun got him into a headlock as soon as they cleared the finish line. Katsuki took second when his sheer outrage gave him a second wind, but his anger was fighting with laughter. He didn’t necessarily distinguish between his success and Izuku’s anymore. He mostly seemed mad about the landmines.

One of the people looking to skid in just under the wire to be included in the next round was a pretty young girl with her shirt open for some reason. Unfortunately she also seemed to have a passenger clinging to her backside. Inko wouldn’t normally involve herself in other people’s business but she could feel the girl’s mounting, tired upset all the way in the stands. This had been going on for a very long time and stood out in her mind like a bruise, but somehow being exploited academically was worse for her than her many, many memories of small hands where small hands ought not to be. 

Inko tilted her head and the boy was torn free, knocked back a few feet, and passed up by three or four of his other opponents putting him out of the competition for good. Neither Toshinori nor Mirai seemed to notice that she’d interfered. 

Mirai bopped a fist into his open palm. “Sugar Glider.” He realized out loud. “She used a similar move four years ago when the final terrain obstacle was an air cannon gauntlet.”

“I don’t remember that one.” Toshinori frowned in thought. “That might have been one of the years I missed.” He did not elaborate on what might have occupied him during that time.

“She’s that Indie with the skin wings who works with Jetstream sometimes.” Mirai adjusted the camera feeds for a wide view of the area. “She suborned one of the canons and used it to shoot herself over the finish line.”

She seemed to recall Izuku making a very big deal over something like that. 

The next battle was something called a ‘cavalry’ battle and everyone got headbands corresponding to their placement in the obstacle race. Katsuki-kun grabbed ahold of Izuku’s elbow as the rest of their year zeroed in on him as their number one target. 

It looked like a juvenile show of preference from the outside, but as Inko understood it their Force bond would give them a lethal edge in this sort of competition. Three kids attached themselves to the boys right away; one from their class (the one Katsuki-kun went into jealous conniptions over, if Inko hadn’t missed her guess), a girl from support who was decked out in her own custom gear, and a boy with red hair that Inko didn’t recognize. 

They were a well composed team; the redhaired boy was an excellent defense player and the pink-cheeked girl could remove the effects of gravity from the entire warhorse. Izuku’s mindreading, Katsuki’s ability to read Izuku, and the support girl’s jetpack pulled them through the cavalry battle in the end when they spent the end of the competition up in the air out of everyone else’s reach. 

They had a close call when some of the kids from 1-B went after Izuku’s group early on before they were airborne. One of the kids in that warhorse could make excellent barriers, but Izuku seemed wariest of their team leader and at one point used his telekinesis to lift that entire warhorse team up off the ground and threw them overhead into Todoroki’s warhorse.

The surprise twist came at the end when, after the bracket tournament was announced, several kids recused themselves from the competition.

“A mind controller.” Mirai interpreted. “The purple haired one. Interesting.”

Interested, Inko reached out to touch the boy’s mind and to her surprise his head whipped up and he turned around trying to spot who was contacting him. “Oh my!” She sent him the equivalent of an apology and withdrew. 

“Something the matter?” Toshinori asked when she smiled to herself.

She hadn’t encountered a Force sensitive native to earth before. They existed, of course, but the ability faded without use. Untrained Force users lost the ability as they got older. The boy’s quirk was close enough to Force Persuasion that it must have maintained his connection to the Force.

“He’s more than that.” She slipped out her phone and texted Izuku.

Mom: Could you apologize for me to the purple haired boy? I touched his mind and startled him. I was just curious.

Izu: And he felt you?

Izu: Wow. 

Izu: Ok. I’ll tell him.

There was an intermission of sorts then. They broke for lunch. The boys came by to eat and catch some rest ahead of the final event. There was a good chance the boys might end up fighting each other and they seemed to be dealing with it by staying attached at the hip until the last moment. Lunch break was followed up by some other purely fun events that were optional for the children and the opening events for the upperclassmen, but the tournament came all too soon and with it an odd sense of foreboding.

“I don’t like that look.” Toshinori commented as she shifted in her seat. Mirai was, thank goodness, off sitting with his sidekicks to cheer for Mirio-kun where Mirio-kun could see him.

“It’s not the same.” Inko reassured him and almost believed it herself. Still, she appreciated his large arm around her shoulder. “...but it’s something.”

Toshinori’s reply was a low, discontented rumble that implied he was going to take any interruptions to this festival personally.

Ironically, Izuku’s first opponent was the boy with Force Persuasion and that went --perhaps as well as you could expect when a teenager with one lone trick up his sleeve faced off a nearly fully trained Force adept. The boy’s quirk wasn’t entirely like Persuasion she found out when Present Mic described it for the stands. He had to fulfill certain conditions to use it, but she was certain that could be overcome with appropriate training. 

She was a bit torn on the subject of Shinsou-kun. She’d told herself that Izuku would be her final padawan and he Temple-influenced instincts said he was too old to start, but Shinsou-kun was enough of a Force adept that he’d eventually experience the same growth milestones as a Jedi. How cruel would it be to leave him to face all that alone?

That was assuming he was willing to have anything to do with either her or Izuku after today.

Izuku didn’t quite laugh in the boy’s face when Shinsou’s quirk failed to work on him. There was no audio from the ring, but Shinsou’s shock and dismay was visible for all to see. The boys talked for a bit. Shinsou got heated, but Izuku stayed calm and friendly. Interestingly, Shinsou seemed angry on the surface and part of that was due to frustration, but inside he wanted to be liked and to be helpful. Something Izuku said to him seemed to penetrate, although Inko wasn’t sure quite what. They put up their fists and settled in to punch it out the old fashioned way. 

Izuku took it, but Shinsou was a nasty little brawler -the type who valued results over putting on a good show- and so he made his opponent work for that victory. When they left the ring Shinsou left to the sounds of the entire Gen Ed student body cheering for him and a stunned expression as he looked around, trying to process it. 

Both her boys ended up winning their fights. Katsuki was paired off against Uraraka, the girl with the gravity quirk, and won only by a much narrower margin than he should have. The Master in her was displeased to see one of her students walk into a fight so heavily weighted in his favor it was almost offensive and then only make it out by the skin of his teeth, luck, and his opponent’s one mistake. 

The girl had an excellent strategy -one Katsuki shouldn’t have fallen for given how often he’d trained against not one but two telekinetics- and utilized the noise and distraction of ‘explosion’ to quietly assemble a drop trap overhead. She had good instincts, but they needed to be tempered by experience. Her plan would have worked, except she said something right before triggering it and gave Katsuki a clue about what was about to happen.

“Ahhh.” Toshinori covered his face with one big hand as Katsuki blew the debris away and Uraraka passed out from quirk overuse. “I think I know what my next lecture’s gonna be about.”

“Don’t call her out on it in front of her peers. They were all watching. They know.” Inko told him. “Psychological manipulation is a valuable skill. She’s just starting out.”

Her fiance gave her a droll look. “Young Uraraka did just fine up until the end. I was going to lecture about the importance of looking up, but yes. You’re right about that too.” He made a thoughtful noise. “The younger heroes are all about the banter and that’s good. It’s marketable, but they don’t use it the way they should. I wonder if I could get Sleight of Hand in for a guest lecture?” He mused. 

“Would anyone ever tell you no?” Inko teased.

“You.” He replied with a fond smile. “Mirai. Young Izuku. Young Bakugo, constantly. It’s lovely.”

Like most parents involved, Inko was mostly paying attention to her son’s matches and the matches of the children she knew. That was essentially Katsuki and one other boy, who she didn’t really --but she was pretty sure she’d known his father once.

Todoroki Enji was not a black card, but he partnered with Y.U.R.E.I. every so often when he needed more bodies or subtler allies than his own agency could provide. It was a mutualistic relationship and he was one of the few people who’d ever been introduced to her as herself back in her early days on Earth. Hisashi hadn’t often let other people talk to her or if he did then he introduced her as an observer, a junior admin, or something else boring and forgettable. 

It had been that experience that taught her the value of being overlooked, actually.

Dr. Mercury, an exiled Kaminoan that even other Kaminoans found to be repellant and unstable. His real name was Dokka Markari. He’d found his way to Earth somehow and decided to make a retirement project out of solving the mystery of Quirks. Most people knew of him as a serial killer; a ‘torso’ killer, to be precise. He did fit the description as Inko understood it although his motivations surely differed. Kaminoans didn’t really have emotions that were as intense as those of most other sentient species. 

When Dr. Mercury took a victim it was because he needed a new research subject and when he left a mangled corpse on display it was to warn off someone who’d been sniffing around his lair; sometimes a hero, sometimes the police, sometimes other villains. The mutilations were all post-mortem and performed on a ‘test subject’ who’d already expired. From his perspective it was all very neat and tidy. Dr. Mercury hadn’t considered the native humans on Earth to be people, really; just a bunch of jeering natives little better than animals with interesting genes. He saw no problem at all with his behavior and truly believed he was just integrating with the norms of Earth --and that meant he would never stop. 

Inko had been brought in when someone managed to catch a picture of Dr. Mercury in the middle of a body dump. Hisashi had gotten into the annoying habit by then of showing her pictures of any extreme quirk mutation that crossed his desk to see if they were another alien. He’d been as surprised as she was when one actually turned up, much less a Kaminoan. They were reclusive and secretive on a good day. Most people had forgotten they even existed. 

Todoroki had been a younger man then and proud, but he was also so offended by Dr. Mercury’s murder spree that he was willing to forgo the receiving public credit for that takedown if it meant the killing would stop. They hadn’t known exactly where Dr. Mercury was hiding beyond a general neighborhood, but they knew he would pick up and move if hero activity got too close to his base so Todoroki went out and picked some villain fights in the right area to flush him out of hiding. It worked.

When Markari left that night, Y.U.R.E.I. was waiting and so was Inko. 

Todoroki the younger was much more delicate looking than his father, which wasn’t hard. Endeavor was a large man. The ice quirk made less sense, but in some ways heat and cold were two faces of the same phenomenon. Inko watched his fight with idle curiosity, noting that he was likely to fight Izuku next if she was reading the brackets right.

Having learned her lesson with Shinsou, she stayed in her own head.


The boy seemed awfully angry; angry in ways that a young person born into privilege in a reasonably peaceful and prosperous society really shouldn’t have been. He reminded her of the young Republic recruits who’d come from worlds overrun by the Mandalorians. He had that same exterior serenity; one that belied a fury raging within the fragile cage of their bodies. It sometimes peeked out through their eyes. 

Most of those young people were dead; burned down to ashes in the service of vengeance.

Mirai let himself in just in time for the semi-finals. “Mirio-kun won his events.” He reported with a seemingly bland tone while his mind glowed with approval.

“How wonderful!” Inko smiled. “You’re just in time. Izuku is up next against Endeavor’s boy.”

“You remembered a hero’s name without help?” Mirai was actually surprised. Give him due credit, once he’d started to figure her out he’d finished in record time. 

Toshinori piled on. “Should I be worried?”

“Not unless he’s changed substantially in the past seventeen years.” Inko replied, unbothered. The Todoroki Enji she remembered was a pompous ass. She was surprised he had a family at all, but arranged marriages still happened in Japanese society so maybe that was how he came to have children.

“Oh good.” Toshinori chuckled and redirected his attention to the field. “I can’t predict who will win this one. It’ll come down to who uses their quirk better and they’re both very clever.”

Inko comfortable mood evaporated when the boys walked out onto the field. Todoroki-kun was still a still, deep pool of untapped fury --but so was Izuku. 

“Did something happen during the intermission?” Mirai leaned forward to zoom in on the children’s faces. He looked and felt worried --in part because he’d never seen Izuku angry before. 

She folded her hands in her lap and concentrated on the action. 

Izuku’s mouth was a grim line, but his heart was a different story she realized. He was angry, not for himself, but for someone else. This wasn’t anger. It was wrath. The distinction was academic to anyone but a Jedi. 

He was intense. He was laser focused. He was going to wreck somebody’s day and the bits and pieces Inko was skimming off his mind suggested they might well deserve it.

Todoroki-kun, meanwhile, had made the mistake of dismissing his opponent before they’d even gotten started. Inko didn’t need mindreading to tell her that. It was written in every line of his body. This fight was a motion to Todoroki and he was going through it. His goal was on a more distant horizon. 

“Todoroki-kun is going to lose.” Inko could feel it in her bones. His problem wasn’t skill or determination. It was something else harder to define. Like Aizawa and Mirai as well, to be honest, he wasn’t open to seeing the world as it was. He’d already decided who the people around him were and what they were capable of. It was possible for someone to barrel ahead like that for a while without being noticeably challenged and it seemed like Todoroki-kun had, but a Force adept was a very bad opponent for that type of person.

Having your paradigm upset could be traumatic or liberating. She hoped it was the latter for Todoroki-kun because she could not foresee Izuku leaving the boy to continue on as he was.

“It’s a bit early to call it.” Toshinori’s good mood faded a bit as he took in her serious face. The children were talking a bit on the screen and she’d be interested to learn what was said later.

Inko shook her head sadly. “No, he lost before he ever set foot in the ring today.”

Poor boy.

Things were getting heated on the field as they began to fight. Izuku started out pushing his opponent through the Force. Todoroki used his ice to brace himself, but his abilities were strong enough that he could do that and attack at the same time. Izuku was getting a bit knocked around and Inko wondered when, exactly, he was going to actually start fighting back. 

The tide turned in an instant. 

Todoroki-kun seemed poised to win as he lashed out with a big wave of ice, but Izuku didn’t retreat that time. He had his head cocked like he’d just figured something out and dodged again, much faster than he had before. He was finally pushing himself.

Izuku said something then, Inko wasn’t sure what, but it penetrated Todoroki’s thick hide and he charged for once without the use of his quirk intent on punching Izuku’s lights out. His movements were slow, though; sluggish, even. It was as if…

“Ah.” Mirai reached the same conclusion she did. “His quirk is giving him hypothermia. No wonder he’s been going for the instant kills. He loses stamina the longer his fights go on.”

Izuku clocked Todoroki-kun good just then and sent him flying; not far enough to leave the ring, but he landed on his back. When he picked himself up though, something had changed. Heat began to ripple off his left side. The ice accumulating on his right melted into steam and a familiar crazy-ass grin spread across his face as Todoroki-fun finally took the brakes off his quirk.

“Oh, I see the resemblance now.” Inko chuckled, feeling fond despite herself. She could feel the change in him; shackles of rage falling away in the wake of something he’d forgotten, but found unexpected strength inside. 

The next part happened very fast. With his quirk back in balance, Todoroki-kun flooded the ring with ice followed up by a wave of fire. This was his best effort, something he’d been withholding from the program and himself. 

Izuku didn’t even try to avoid it. He stood, looking almost peaceful as he held up a hand and dissipated the whole thing with a wave.

The silence left in the wake of Todoroki-kun’s aborted elemental assault was deafening. Even Todoroki-kun stood rooted in place unable to comprehend what had happened or stop Izuku from telekinetically lifting him up and dumping him outside the ring.

Present Mic actually stuttered as he switched gears to announce Izuku as the winner. That triggered a deafening wave of applause and cheers.

Mirai slowly took his glasses off. “That wasn’t possible.” He said. “The boy is a telekinetic.”

“It is.” Inko wasn’t in much better shape, but for very different reasons. She glanced at Toshinori who wasn’t as upset as Mirai. He knew that Izuku’s abilities didn’t follow the same rules as quirks, but that was a bit much even for him. “All temperature is motion.”

Cryokinesis and pyrokinesis were both advanced skills not taught to padawans, but Inko had made a critical error.

It was a well known fact among the proctors and creche teachers that children, especially Force sensitive children, learned best from each other. Most people believed the Creches were meant to create a sense of family among all Jedi and that was a little bit true, but some archivists and scholars argued that the ancient masters had started raising the younglings together for other reasons as well. 

Most quirks utilized the Force in some way even when the quirk user themselves wasn’t a Force Sensitive. Every living creature had the potential to use the Force. The difference between a Force Adept and a regular person was the ability to perceive it. 

Inko had sent her precocious apprentice in to learn alongside the best and brightest that Earth had to offer. Was it any wonder that his own understanding had grown by leaps and bounds out of sight?

That was not a padawan standing on the field, accepting his due adulations and waving for the camera. 

Inko wasn’t the only one who thought so either. She could feel the weight of the Force gathering around them, taking notice of a young person standing at the gates of adulthood. 

“We may be in for a rough evening.” Inko said quietly, for Toshinori’s ears alone.

Trials were usually something arranged for a padawan by their masters to mark their transition from an apprentice to a fully fledged Jedi. It wasn’t a practice unique to the Jedi. Ancient traditions of Force Adepts were known to do the same thing --mostly because if they did not or if they waited too long then the Force would conduct its own trial. 

Inko had waited too long and her son might pay the price for it.