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remedies for change

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The birth of a hero always involves ascendence. Perseus with his mirror, Jason and his blessing, Aneas and his favor. 

It is strange, Momo thinks, that it is always the women who are giving and the men who are taking. Momo’s mother ached and fought and wept over her life, the life of her daughter for nine months before her eyes met sunlight for the first time. They had to cut her out, a girl born with war in her blood and knives for words like her mother carries well-wishes. 

Sometimes, a woman is not fit for anything her name suggests. Momo imitates her mother, holding her head back and her shoulders high like they are fit for any of the burdens they support. She learns to change her voice, to sing like a bird and laugh like a fox, each performance better than the last. She understands that her very existence is a miracle, that her ability is a blessing the angels all came to see. At night she sometimes hears them, voices dissonant in their ephemeral song with every verse crueler than the last, an unholy sort of poetry. 

—--

There is a boy at her parents' dinner. Not that there aren’t normally boys - they just aren’t like this. Young, suit and tie tight around his neck, shoes clearly put on by someone else. He fits into the corner like he’s trying to disappear, which momo understands completely. 

She stands before him, only a bit taller. “Hi,”

“Hi.”

“Your eyes are cool,” she blurts, then claps a hand over her mouth. “Sorry! I’ve never seen someone with two-colored eyes before.” 

The boy shrugs. “It’s ok.” 

Momo remembers her manners. “I’m Yaoyorozu. Momo.” She gives a little half-bow, legs still unsteady. She’s not used to heels, but she likes the soft click they make against the floor. 

“Todoroki Shouto.” 

“Todoroki…” Momo hums, then gives a little gasp when she places the name. “Oh!” she bows again. “Sorry, was I interrupting you? I can go.” 

“I don’t mind,” the little boy says, and gestures to her pendant. “I like your necklace.”

Momo touches the silver cross that always hangs around her throat, hardly adorned but for a few simple black glass beads. 

(All are humbled in the face of God. We give up things we think are of value - money, gold, jewels - in face of what truly matters.)  
Yet her mother still decorates her home with precious metals, rare trinkets of astronomical monetary value. 

“It’s my mothers,” she says. “And it was her mothers before. My grandmother’s.” 

The boy nods in understanding and returns to gazing at the milling crowds of people. Momo leans against the wall next to him, noting his tense posture, flickering gaze, and intentionally calm air. 

“Do you want to go somewhere more…fun?” 

Todoroki Shouto blinks at her, owlish and tiny. “Why not?” 

—--

Sundays are the only time she ever sees her parents bow their heads, ego at last humbled in the face of something bigger. How can you measure strength when placed in front of the creator of all things? Momo reads the passages and listens to the sermons and sings with the choir but she cannot help but notice; I can do that, too. He is not the only one who can make something from nothing, who can pull rabbits from hats and knives from His skin. So what about it makes Him so special, and her something small? 

I cannot build the world, she thinks. I cannot create life. 

Momo studies the world around her, the crystal and glass and acrid lies she overhears but never tells, and she begins to think that everyone is so very hungry. All of them are starving, clawing at the walls they have created for themselves and want-want-wanting. They crave money, so they steal from those without any. They desire intimacy, so they find themselves a wife. They long for closure, to be convinced their sins are deserved , so they sit themselves down in those hard wooden benches, and they bow their heads, and they repeat phrases they don’t understand. It is there, in the center of this justification of sin, that Momo first learns what it means to be angry. 

Surrounded by His preachings, surrounded by children who are supposed to think-act- be the same as she, Momo sits and tries not to scream. She breathes, maintaining an ironic sort of detachment that aches in her throat but is better than terrifying her Bible study group. 

“What do you think God meant in this passage?” her teacher asks, a pretty college student that all the girls seem to love. 

(Momo could point out all the flaws of his body, where the brushstrokes show through the canvas. Where his veins show through in his skin, the scar on his ear, the freckle under his eyes. He is no better than any of them.) 

“Resist temptation,” Says one girl.

“Repent thy sins,” offers another. 

“Be honest with Him.” tells the third. 

“Yaoyorozu?” asks the teacher. “What do you think?” 

And she knows what is expected of her now, the recitation of prose and the hum of some sweet hymnal, but god if she isn’t so sick of this.

Yet she fixes that same smile to her face and tilts her head, and says “Resisting temptation is the most accurate. It ties back to Eve and the apple in the Garden of Eden, and how the folly of a woman doomed mankind.” 

“Very good, Yaoyorozu.” the teacher says, and she sees the glares and side-eyes the other girls throw at her. 

(Isn’t it funny, she thinks, that it all happened because of the women? It is the fault of the mother that her son’s blood was spilt, yet it was the father who taught him to use the blade in the first place. They take the fall and they don’t complain, and it leaves something bitter in Momo’s throat. What have I done wrong?

—--

“Momo,” her mother calls one day, skirt trailing above her ankles, hair always fixed, face immaculate. “I want to talk to you.”
So she says, obedient, and sits with her ankles crossed in the chair set in front of her mother’s desk. Regal, resigned, beautiful. A woman of all of twelve. 

“Do boys touch you?” her mother asks suddenly. 

“What?” Momo forgets her manners. “Sorry, mother.” 

But her mother doesn’t seem to notice her mistake, instead plowing forwards. Determined. “That came out wrong.” She taps a pencil over her finger, and the sound - the mannerism, the sort of nervous tick that her mother rehearsed out of her body - is the loudest thing in the room. “Do they sometimes -” she hesitates, again, and Momo is bewildered. 

“Say, if you’re in gym, will they grab you? Here?” she gestures to her chest area, to the same space on Momo’s far less developed body. 

Momo shakes her head no, and her mother nods in vague understanding. “Will they - will they sometimes call you things? Or shout after you?”

“No,” she says again, because it’s true. The boy’s sort of threats are very different - a crude drawing on her desk that she smears away with her sleeve, the swapping of her uniform shirt for something smaller, constant comments on how short her skirt is. 

“Okay,” her mother says. “Good.” she leans back, expression distant, and Momo realizes she’s been dismissed. 

In the doorway - “Don’t speak of this to anyone.” 

“All right.” 

And she doesn’t. 

—--

There isn’t a ‘first time,’ per se, but in its place there are a hundred small collisions of fear; Momo goes out on her own and feels the ghost of a hand over her waist, but when she turns, he is too far to have touched her. She is grabbed when reaching for books in the library, she is yelled at when crossing the road, she is followed down the street by a man on a bike as he screams, threatening to fuck her against a wall and then smash her head in. 

Momo Yaoyorozu is thirteen when she adds a new word to her vocabulary; something to mean indignity, embarrassment, humiliation. The night she watches the evening news and sees a defendant go on record and tell the jury, tell the judge that she was asking for it. She provoked me! She learns that people - that men - can and will get away with anything. 

It is in the nature of shame to ache and fester and rot, and Momo decays. She walks to the hallowed halls where her Lord may offer his guidance, and she begs at the altar for forgiveness. Allow me this penance, she whispers. Tell me what to do. How do I make up for this? Because if there was one thing school did not teach her, it was that her body is not her own. She is not quite property, perhaps not yet, but she does not belong to herself. 

At night, when she is meant to be submissive; knees folded and hands clasped as she whispers secrets to a man whose existence has yet to be proven to her, Momo gives up a piece of herself. 

“If I am not my own, and I am not to be for any one person, then who am I for?” 

(Yourself. I will be your hands and I will be your eyes, but you are your own.) 

God doesn’t answer, because he never does, and Momo gets sick of asking Him questions when He will not grant her answers. She does not belong to the one, but the many - to everyone but herself. And how do you reclaim something that was never yours to begin with? 

—--

“Straighten your back.” 

Momo’s spine uncrumples. Her shape held her name, before, but now it holds only this; a command. An instruction, because that is all she knows how to do. 

“Did you read the study I gave you?”

Momo nods. On the Discovery and Chronology of Quirks, J.W Lenz. She read all 250 pages of it, data and all. 

“Summarize it.”

Momo clears her throat. “Lenz’ report documents-”

“Ah-ah,” her mothers’ hands on her back again. “Shoulders. Fix your spine.” 

But - how far back to bring her shoulders? How far must she stray from herself, her true self; unique through each stretch mark on her hips and line on her palm, to please this woman? Every crease has been folded and unfolded for Momo to origami-twist herself into whatever shape of a girl she needed to become. Academic daughter, prodigal child, she who carries a name that is to be made bigger. 

“You have the dress I gave you?” 

Momo hums a response and her mother nods her approval. “Again.” 

So Momo begins relaying the words she memorized, sums and data tables and names that every school child learns and forgets by the time they’re twelve. But not Momo - she never forgets. 

As she speaks, her mother nudges at her hands - flat at your sides or folded in your lap. Demure, quiet, non-resistant. 

How far do I bring back my shoulders? How high do I raise my head? When do I know to speak back, or be silent? Every question her mother has an answer for, but the answers are never just given to Momo - it’s an exchange. And in return, Momo never learned to take up space, to use the same voice that repeats facts and names like other children speak of their favorite shows. The seams of her body were sewn by hands that were not meant to stitch, and now the question is her. 

Let me figure this one out myself? Momo clears her throat and begins again, and again, and again. “Lenz’ theory details the history of quirks from their discovery to the contemporary era,” 

(Be quieter, Momo. But do not be small, because to be small is to be unseen. Men will always want things from you, and in turn you will learn how to become them. Some prefer you brash, but some like you soft. Some will crush you between their palms and chew you up and spit you out again until there isn’t enough of you left for even the birds to eat. Some will pick over you and pull at your hair, your skin, the way you write your name. Some will want to possess you; some will want you to give yourself up. 

The key now is choosing how to let go of the self. Will you be a film reel, an animation, some ancient statue lit from within? You must not only be looked at; you must be seen. You must let them see you, and be vulnerable without losing anything of value. 

Remember, they all want to see you as a martyr. They all would rather see your body in the gutter than onstage, in the streets, on a billboard. There is nothing a man likes better than a dead girl, because dead girls can’t tell stories.) 

—--

Momo glides through whoever’s gala it is (she knows, they’re her parents' new business partners, investors in her father’s latest line of support gear) holding steady despite the atmosphere. Exhaustion hangs heavy about her bones, burnt down from a day of quirk overuse and working with her mother. To get into U.A she couldn’t just be good - she had to be perfect. Women were always held to a higher standard than men, and Momo is no exception. Anything but. Practiced curiosity, practiced beauty, practiced practiced practiced. Nobody sees her flaws better than Momo herself. 

Red and white hair catches her eye - “Todoroki,” Momo calls, shoulders back and head held up. “How have you been?” 

Shouto doesn’t smile, exactly, but his expression softens. “Well enough. What about you?” 

Thirteen. Less than two months from the Entrance Exams. Not quite children, but too far from adults. Momo offers a demure, controlled smile, and says; “Studying, mostly.” 

“How responsible.” 

“Thank you.” 

Momo trails off, words half caught in her throat - I miss when we were nine and you would talk to me. I miss when I felt like I could trust anyone. I miss I miss I miss, what don’t I miss? 

Shouto offers her a hand, suit and tie matching her black cocktail dress and kitten heels - young royalty, young gods - and asks; “Wanna get out of here?” 

God , yes.” 

The terrace is quiet, and while the murmurs and gossip of the event can still reach them, the distance provides a level of security. Insurance. Momo watches Shouto pull a lighter from his breast pocket and twirl it around his fingers - rebellion is in the small things. 

“I think that’s sacrilege, you know.” 

“Excuse me?” 

“You used God’s name in vain.”

Her hands automatically move to the cross pendant always around her neck. “It was unintentional.” 

“And I was joking.” Shouto smirks.

Momo relaxes. “You? Joking? Is the world ending, or…” 

“I don’t think so. What does the Bible say about the apocalypse?” He leans against the railing. 

Momo hesitates. “Um. War? I think it kills, like, one-third of the population. Then plagues, obviously. And famine.” 

“Been skipping out on church lately, Yaoyorozu?” 

She brightens. “Yes! I’m using the recommendations exam as an excuse to not go so that I can study more.” 

“Impressive. Who would think-”

“Momo?” her mother says, aghast as she breezes onto the balcony. “I’ve been looking for you everywhere! There’s someone you need to meet -” she freezes, looking between her daughter and Todoroki. Then she sighs, grabbing Momo by the wrist to take her back inside. “I told you, you two can hang out as long as you’re not alone. People talk, Momo.” she hisses. “Be responsible.” 

Momo twists in her mother’s grip, freeing herself for just a moment. “Shouto!” She calls. “See you at the exam!” 

Her mother spits something about behavior! But Shouto nods, and then he disappears behind the swarm of people. 

—--

Proof of life , Momo thinks, staring at herself in the mirror. This is proof of life. 

A new scar crosses her side, no longer than four inches but pink and garish in the mirror. It aches, burning whenever it brushes against her uniform, her pajamas, anything at all. Heroes have wounds, she knows. They have scars. But Momo cannot afford scars. Since Bakugou’s rescue it has improved little, even with Recovery Girl’s quirk. 

Momo resists the urge to cry, biting her lip as she traces her fingers lightly over the scar. It hurts, she thinks. And then, how pathetic. She has calluses on her hands from learning to use her staff, and a cut on her thigh from where her uniform tore during training the day before. How is this any different?

It marrs you, her mother’s voice whispers. Image is everything. Momo touches the cross around her neck, wondering what sort of God would take the one thing from her that means the most. 

“Yaomomo?” 

Momo whirls around, hastily tugging her shirt back down. “Yes?” 

Jirou rounds the corner. “Everything alright?”

“Yes!” Momo tightens her hands into fists behind her back. What they want to see. “Of course.” 

“Are you sure?” Jirou asks, voice soft in the empty locker room. “Because -” 

“I’m fine, Jirou.” she snaps, harsher than intended. Jirou looks taken aback, and Momo immediately feels bad. “Sorry,” she adds. 

“It’s okay,” Jirou says. “Ready to go back to class?” 

“Yeah. I am.” 

“You know, they’re making udon for lunch today,” Jirou tells her as they head down the hall. “Which I hate, but I know you love. How does that sound?” 

“Good. It sounds good.” 

—--

There is an eloquence to Jirou that momo struggles to translate. Every language has a word for beauty - many have more than one. Nearly every language has a word like delicate, or soft or kind. Momo has dedicated countless hours to her studies, to memorizing formulas and numbers and the composition of matter. She knows things, knows things most kids her age can’t even begin to understand. 

Momo frowns as she stares at the back of Jirou’s head. In the margins of her notebook, she draws a table with three categories; lust, attraction, and attachment. The formulas for love. 

Lust - testosterone, estrogen. 

Attraction - dopamine, norepinephrine, serotonin.

Attachment - oxytocin, vasopressin. The language of the mind, the coding of the heart. 

For Momo, language is always almost meaning something; words fall short in the most literal way possible. Her mother’s God is indigo and salt, he is blood-soaked stone and wheat in the fields. But her mother’s God is not the same as Kami, nor is he Zeus or Jupiter or anything of the sort. Her mother is as distant as a storm past the horizon, as the future Momo reaches for every day to make her proud, as distant as - 

As indigo hair and pale hands holding a guitar, singing to someone that isn’t her. 

Romance languages’ words are always similar. Distance, distancia, distanza. In Japanese, they say kyori, but the meaning is dependent on the context. 

Would the meaning be the same if it were Momo sitting next to Kaminari, if it were her laughing with him, showing him a new song, sitting in the common room teasing him over an assignment? 

Sometimes the distance is just that - the space between two people. And sometimes, that isn’t meant to be crossed. 

—--

Sometimes she feels like a child again, sitting on the terrace with Shouto as the night air pours into their lungs like something gracious - something holy. She feels forgiven, light and sweet and gentle. 

They do not speak - they do not need to, but when they do, if they do, words flow freely between them like Momo learned to pull Russian dolls from her body. Simple and quiet, trustworthy. 

Shouto leans against the terrace, head dangling over the edge as he allows the wind to ruffle his hair like smoke. His beauty is striking only in an aesthetic manner, and sometimes Momo wonders why she does not see him as anything more than a friend. 

“Can I ask you something?” she says suddenly. 

Shouto rolls his head up, the motion languid. Slow. The air is thick, and Momo feels it begin to tug words to her lips, truth from her lungs. “Sure.” 

“Do you like Midoriya?” 

Shoto blinks. “What?” 

“It’s just-” and she hesitates, because how else do you approach such a thing? What confidence can be maintained when touching on something so unfamiliar? “You look at him differently. More - gently. And you trust him too.” 

Shouto just stares at her, mouth flapping open and shut like a fish. 

“You don’t have to answer. I’m just curious.” She curls herself tighter, trying to seem small. Overlook me. “Sorry if I made you uncomfortable.” 

“You didn’t,” Shouto says, then clears his throat. “I just - I wasn’t expecting it.” 

Momo hums in understanding, hair unbound. “Do you? Like Midoriya, I mean.” 

“I- hm.” Shouto sits down, fingers tapping against the concrete. “I don’t know. I think -” 

He takes too long to answer, and Momo brings herself to ask; “Think what?” 

“Can I kiss you?”

Momo finds herself completely stunned before she feels all of her blood rush to her face, and she struggles to maintain a neutral expression. “You’re going to ask? ” she blurts. 

“I- yes,” Shouto says, evidently confused. “Of course.” 

“Why? Not about the asking, but about the kissing.” 

“I’m curious,” he tells her. “I’m - I’m trying to figure things out.” 

“Okay,” Momo agrees. “I trust you.” 

“I trust you too.” 

Unsure, Momo leans in a little bit. Shouto clasps the back of her head with his hand, gently pulling her forwards until their lips meet. His hand trails through her hair and comes to rest at the nape of her neck, and Momo relaxes a bit. Shouto’s lips are soft, albeit a bit more chapped than her own, but he smells like fancy shampoo and a little bit like a laundromat. But it’s…weirdly wet. And awkward. What does she do with her hands? In all of her other kisses, she was being guided - someone else showing her where to touch, how to breathe, how to move , but now -

Momo breaks away. “Sorry,” she mutters, not meeting Shouto’s eyes. “This is…” 

“Weird,” he finishes. “I get it. It’s sort of uncomfortable.”

“Yeah.” she agrees, relieved. “I’m glad we agree.” 

“Why don’t we just-”

“Never speak of this again?” 

Shouto sighs in relief. “Yes. Thank you.” 

“No problem.” Momo hesitates before continuing. “So, do you think you like Midoriya?” 

Shouto groans, pulling his hands over his face. “Honestly?” He peeks through his hands. “If I didn’t know before, I know I do now.” 

Momo laughs. “I get what you mean.” 

He sighs, resting his hands over his chest. “I have a question for you now.” he side-eyes her, and Momo feels the weight of Shouto’s gaze drape her. But his way of seeing has always been different, and Momo realizes that this is more than just being looked at. 

Distantly, a part of her is wondering why him? Why now? Why not when she was ten, or twelve, on her knees in submission and compliance. Fear is the language of her life, of her blood. It was taught to her before anything else. 

“Do you like Jirou?” 

Momo does a double-take. “What?” 

“I asked, do you-”

She motions for him to be quiet. “No, I heard you. I’m just -” Confused. Scared. “I’m not sure what I’m supposed to feel,” she admits. “For her, or for anyone.” 

“That makes sense.” Shouto nods his understanding. “Have you thought about it?” 

“Have I - thought about it?” 

( I know what the Bible says. I know what I’ve heard every Sunday since I was born. I know what sin means, and I’ve done my best to repent for every one I’ve committed.)  

“I have,” she muses, hand going to her pendant. “I think -” 

(But God, why should I repent for this? Have I hurt anyone? What damage have I dealt? I have said your prayer every night since I was able to speak. I have been good. I have been kind. I have done the best I can with what I’ve been given, so why-) 

Why ?” Momo whispers. “I know. I know. She is beautiful, I know.” 

(Your curses seared into my heart, my hands, my head. I know what happens to sinners. But why am I the one to be punished? Why not them? Surely it is the fault of the man who sharpened the sickle and put it in the hand of the woman, rather than she who cut the wheat. She who spilt the blood, made the body.) 

“Oh God,” She whimpers. “What have I done? ” 

(Penance is due and I know of men who have more coin than I and worse sins than any of mine, but it is I who ends up in confession.) 

Shoto puts an arm around her. “What have I done?” Momo repeats. “What have I done?” 

(It is not a sin to fall in love, but it is one to love the wrong person. Momo holds more regret than trust in her hands, and it all flows away like water. Like blood.) 

—--

“Yaomomo!” Jirou calls, catching up to Momo on the way to the cafeteria. “Hey! Been a while, hasn’t it?” 

Momo fiddles with the strap of her bag. “I suppose.” 

“Yeah…” Jirou trails off, fiddling with the strap of her bag. “Hey, um, there’s a party tonight. Wanna come?” 

“...Sure.” 

“Great!” Jirou squeaks. “Oh! Eight PM, my place. Bye!” she relays, and promptly runs off. 

Odd, Momo thinks, and tries not to consider the implications of a party at Jirou’s. There is no expiration date to the wound in her. No limit. 

Momo knocks on Jirou’s door, and it swings open almost immediately. “Hi!” the indigo-haired girl says. “C’mon, c’mon!” She tugs Momo into sitting next to her, perched on the bed while her other friends perch about the room. The atmosphere is warm, gentle, and Momo doesn’t know how to react; it’s all so much more casual than the other parties she’s been to. But a few jokes from Kaminari and some drinks from Mina (which are definitely alcoholic, but they’re not bad.) have her loosening up enough to be leaning on Jirou’s shoulder as she hums a song unfamiliar to Momo, gently passing a hand through her hair. 

“Hey,” Momo slurs, warm from the drinks and the comfort. “Are you ‘n Kaminari - are you, like, dating?” 

The hand freezes for half a second, then resumes. “Why would you think that?” 

“You seem like it.” 

“Like we’re together?” Jirou asks, cautious as always. 

“Mm-hmm,” Momo hums, leaning into the touch. “You’re really nice.” 

Jirou snorts. “Thanks. Why did you think me and Kaminari were dating?” 

“You spend a lot of time together,” she murmurs. “You’re always with him. And you’re always laughing, too. You seem happy.” 

“Yeah?” Jirou is quiet for a moment. “We’re not together.” 

“Good,” Momo affirms, the alcohol making her brave. “‘M glad.” 

“What would you do? If we were together, I mean.” 

“Cry.” 

“Cry?” Jirou sounds alarmed. “Why would you cry?”

“Cuz you’re pretty,” Momo admits. “And you’re nice. And I really like you.”

“You really like me?” Jirou moves back as Momo sits up, smiling in the half-light. “So go out with me, then.” 

Momo smiles wider. “Go out with you?” 

“Yeah,” Jirou tucks a strand of hair behind Momo’s ear, leaning in closer. “Go out with me, pretty girl.” 

“Okay,” Momo agrees, and then Jirou kisses her and she swears it’s like a puzzle piece falling into place. A black hole love story, but Jirou took the melted wings that held up her dreams and set them alight again, allowing them to resume course. Icarus falls no longer. Jirou is beautiful, and she is gentle, and Momo is sure that this is sacred.