Chapter 1: Enough to Break the Glass
Emi Fukukado, hero name: Ms. Joke, took a deep breath before opening the door of Shouta Aizawa’s office. She’d gone through several jokes in her mind that she thought might make a decent ice breaker or 20, and made sure her excuses for being there were rock solid: After the combined practice, she’d accidentally left something important behind, so after school was over and she took her students home, she changed clothes and waltzed right back into Yuuei’s gates. That thing she accidentally left behind? Her heart, of course!
She prepared her brightest smile, and walked in.
“Missed me, Erase-”
He wasn’t in there.
That is, unless her eyes were playing tricks on her and suddenly Shouta was a very small silver-haired girl.
The girl, who Emi guessed to be around six years old, stared at her with huge red eyes, mouth slightly hanging open with shock. Emi laughed awkwardly.
“Did I … get the wrong room?” The girl didn’t answer, instead staring at her with a hint of horror. That was… odd, to say the least. She hoped Shouta hadn’t been telling the girl weird things about her… But that look was a little too scared for Emi’s liking. She pushed those feelings to the side for a moment- it was time for a new approach! “Sorry about that!” Emi grinned, then awkwardly looked at the name plate. It was definitely Shouta’s office, but… after knowing him for nearly a decade, she was definitely sure that he didn’t have a kid, and he wasn’t really the babysitting type.
“I’m the hero with an ever-present smile, Ms. Joke!” Emi extended her hand to the girl, who shrank a little away. Talk about a tough break, maybe this was Shouta’s kid. She softened her smile and voice. “Don’t worry, I’m not scary. You can call me Emi, if you’d like. What’s your name?”
“I’m Eri.” The girl responded. Emi’s smile broadened again.
“You have a lovely name! Eri and Emi… We match, ya see?” Eri gave a small nod. “Eri, do you know where Eraser- ah, Mr. Aizawa is?” Eri glanced away, as if she wasn’t completely sure if she was allowed to speak. “I’ll tell you a secret~” Emi grinned. Eri looked back at Emi, confused.
“He has a meeting, then he’s training with Shinsou, that’s what he said. What’s… what’s the secret?” Eri’s eyes widened slightly, flicking from Emi’s smile to the door and back, as if expecting Shouta to enter the room to scold her, or possibly looking for a quick exit. That didn’t sit well with Emi, but she hid it behind a conspiratorial wink and leaned forward, covering her mouth so only Eri could hear.
“I’m going to marry Mr. Aizawa.”
Eri didn’t really look convinced, but she didn’t seem to mind the secret either way. “Is that why you came to see him?”
Emi nodded, grinning. “That’s right! I was going to ask him on a date tonight! Were you going to ask him on one, too?”
“W-What?” It came out as a confused squeak.
“Is that why you’re waiting for him here? Eraser doesn’t have any siblings that I know of… So he’s not your uncle, right..? A secret love child…? No, you can’t be…” Emi tried mulling over some ideas in her head, but knowing Shouta like she did, everything kept coming up blank.
“He takes care of me.” Eri said softly, interrupting Emi’s loose train of thoughts. Emi was about to respond when the little girl’s stomach growled.
“Not very well, apparently. It seems like old Eraser’s late for his own dinner date.”
“U-Usually, Mirio and I eat together… but he’s… he’s gone home for the weekend, so I…”
“Well, who knows how long Eraser’s gonna take, so how about I be your date tonight? Where would you like to go?” Emi stood up, brushing herself off, and extended her hand to the little girl. Eri glanced at it, then up at her with apprehension.
“I’m… not supposed to go out…”
“Nonsense, I’ll leave a note letting him know where you are. I can’t just let a kid starve, can I?”
Eri took a few moments to think it over, then shyly took Emi’s hand. “Is it really okay?”
“Of course! Besides, with Eraser, it’s easier to ask for forgiveness than to ask for permission. What’s your favourite food?”
Emi took another sip of the milkshake, her face in her hands, gaze on the excited little girl in front of her. She usually had a resting grin, but each story about Mirio and Deku told without taking breaths made it hard for Emi to do anything BUT smile. The light in Eri’s eyes as she recounted the cultural festival and the jokes Mirio would tell her over Lunch-Rush’s gourmet meals made Emi’s heart skip a beat. Ah, to be young again, when the entire world was all new experiences - Emi would give a leg to hear each joke for the first time again. She’d never really considered having a kid of her own, and biologically, she knew it was impossible, but to get to see the world through new eyes… maybe she wouldn’t mind it. Well, she wouldn’t mind spending more time with Eri, at least. She blew the straw wrapping at Eri, which made her laugh in surprise.
“Remember to breathe! How am I supposed to meet the coolest people in existence if you’ve stopped breathing?” She teased, and ruffled Eri’s silver hair.
“R-right! Sorry, I got carried away…”
“No need to apologize! How are you liking your crepe?”
Remembering that she had food in front of her, Eri nodded and took another bite. “It’s good! Do they make apple crepes?”
“I’m sure we can try making some! We can hang out at my house next time.” Emi smiled brightly, hoping that she could pull off that kind of cooking. Her gaze wandered to the window, where she saw a tall man in black peering back at them, specifically at Eri. Her eyes narrowed. “Eri, do you want to take the rest home?” She made sure to keep her tone chipper, but something about that guy really bothered her.
“Yes, please, I-” Eri followed her gaze and froze, her face growing pale. That didn’t escape Emi’s notice. She waved down the server for a box, and gave them the payment. Her eyes didn’t leave the tall man’s for a moment.
“Eri, please listen to me. I want you to go to the bathroom, and don’t come out until I come to get you.”
“Don’t worry. I’ll take care of him. If I don’t come for you in 10 minutes, call Erase- Mr. Aizawa.” Eri stared at her with horror, but Emi only gave her a bright smile. “I told you I’m a hero, right?”
Eri didn’t look convinced. “Miss Emi, I don’t want you to get hurt, too - can we please go?”
Emi took her hand. “Don’t worry, this is a piece of cake for me. Besides - I have to be a really strong hero if I’m going to win over Mr. Aizawa’s heart, don’t I?” She laughed lightly and ruffled Eri’s hair before standing up. “I’ll walk you to the bathroom, okay? You’re going to be super safe, Ms. Joke is here for ya!”
Eri followed her, trembling, and held tightly to the box with her free hand. Emi gave her a bright wave and turned back to the door. Eri reached out to grab her hand again. “Please - please be safe…” She said softly and Emi smiled.
“If I’m not safe, Eraser will save me, so I’ll be floating easy either way. But I’d better not worry him, so I’ll be safe. I promise.”
She closed the door quietly and made her way to the front. The tall man was no longer at the window, but that didn’t mean she was going to be reckless. Emi informed the server to take note of anyone entering or leaving the bathroom, and made sure that Eri would be in good hands. She nonchalantly pulled out her boxing gloves from her purse and slid them over her hands, tightening the cuffs around her wrists. She had a feeling that they’d be getting a bit of use today.
The tall man wasn’t outside the door of the cafe, but Emi didn’t let her guard down. She turned the corner of the building and narrowly dodged a hovering shard of glass aimed for her face.
“Where’s th’girl?” The voice was gravely and low. Emi turned to see the man, a shattered glass bottle in his hand, shards floating around him.
“Do you eat glass as well as throw it?” She dropped her purse and entered the alley, dodging a few more shards. She wanted to gain as little attention as possible, since she wasn’t in her full hero suit and the higher ups would gut her for fighting in public. Not like she always listened too much to them, but she really didn’t like filling out paperwork. “What do you want with her?”
“Ya don’t need t’know.”
Her eyes narrowed and a smirk spread across her lips. Usually, the high she got from fighting kept her in a decent mood, but the idea of Eri being in danger kept a lid on it. Not to mention the time limit she put on herself. “Oh, I need to know.” She tried to keep up the smirk, feeling slightly self-conscious about not wearing her mask. She ducked from another shard, narrowly missing her cheek. “And you’re going to tell me, one way or another!”
She launched herself at him, fists clenched. He dodged narrowly, trying to shank her with the glass bottle, but she punched it out of his hand. As Ms. Joke, Emi liked staying true to her brand, but after enough years, she felt a little stale at coming up with joking retorts while fighting. Her body began to radiate a blue aura as she started warming up her quirk. She didn’t necessarily need to say anything, let alone anything funny to make it work, but she felt like she’d let herself down if she didn’t at least try. She dodged the glass again - there was more of it and it was getting uncomfortably close. She didn’t want to get any cuts if it’d make Eri worry. Glass jokes… glass jokes… Glass half full? Glass houses… Oh, glass puns could get unnecessarily pg-13-
“How much does a polar bear weigh?” The tall man looked at her in confusion.
“ENOUGH TO BREAK THE GLASS!!!” Her quirk smacked him and he chuckled for a moment before bursting into uproarious laughter. His senses and mind grew so numb he barely felt the impact of her fist against his face. He was still laughing as she pulled the tab on her cuffs and released some of the quirk-binding tape. She quickly tied him up and dialed for the police.
It wasn’t much of a cathartic fight, but she had to do what she could with what little time she had left. She sent a quick text to Eri to let her know that everything was fine and that she’d pick her up soon. Upon turning off her phone, realization sunk in and she smacked herself in the forehead. “Ugh, it’s enough to break the ice… God, I’m out of it lately.”
Luckily, a police officer was nearby, and took control of the still-laughing tall man from her. She went back to pick up Eri, who had calmed down after receiving the text. Eri studied her for a moment, then went to hug her tightly.
“See? Not a scratch and less than 5 minutes. You’re always going to be safe with me.” Emi grinned, scooping the girl into her arms. “Now let’s get you back to Yuuei before Eraser has a fit. This can be our little secret, right?” Eri nodded and pressed her face into Emi’s neck. Emi blinked for a moment, the soft affection catching her off-guard, but then the smile smoothed back across her lips and she gently patted Eri’s head.
Emi had Eri back in all grins by the time they reached the campus. Seeing her eyes brighten when she got a new joke, and the laughter it caused made everything seem just a bit brighter. Emi hadn’t even noticed how foggy her mind had been before. The genuine life in Eri’s eyes...it was like a tiny bit of light, and Emi could get used to this.
“Hahaha - EriEri, why did the chicken cross the road?”
“Oh- wait, that might be a little bit dark, haha… oops-”
“Joke. What do you think you’re doing?”
Emi glanced up in surprise to see Shouta’s signature scowl. She laughed awkwardly.
“Eraser! You didn’t tell me you had a kid!” Emi gently set Eri back on her feet, and took her hand.
“I don’t. She’s not supposed to be off campus.” Eri hid slightly behind Emi’s hand, looking guilty. Emi, however, learned to make a rule to not let a guilty conscience weigh her down.
“We just had a little dinner date, don’t worry your pretty little head about it... unless you’re worried about me falling for someone else, of course.”
“Joke- I’m serious.”
“Hi, Serious, I’m Joke.” She flashed him a smile as he sighed in exasperation and walked through the gates.
“How about we talk later? I have some things to ask you.” Despite her smile, her eyes were piercingly serious. Eri glanced up at her, worried. “Besides, Eri was going to show me her room! It must be really cool living on the mighty Yuuei’s campus!” Shouta was silent for a moment, then turned and walked through the campus doors, his ducklings in tow. After they got through the doors, he made sure to walk to the side of Emi, keeping her in his sights.
It was clear that he wanted to say something - wanted to say a lot of things, but he wasn’t sure how much he could say in front of the child, and Emi felt the same. She had to know what was going on with Eri’s existence at Yuuei, and the man who was after her. Plus, she had a fair bit of scolding to do on her own.
“Can’t keep your eyes off me? I’m swooning.”
She grinned at him, but he didn’t flinch. She liked that about him - no matter what she did or said, he was always so serious, and always had a quick retort. She liked happiness, she liked life- but his scowl was always refreshing to a woman who was only ever surrounded by laughter.
Both he and Eri had the same something that drew her in. Maybe it was their genuine emotions. Even if he hid most of his behind a cool mask, he still didn’t give her fake laughter. Eri was young enough that her emotions were practically dripping off her sleeves, but both of their emotions were very real, and that was beautiful to her.
She wanted to see his real laugh one day, too. She knew he was only keeping his eyes on her to make sure he could erase her quirk if she tried to use it on him, but after enough fake laughs induced from it, she wanted to take his breath away on her own, but she couldn’t let him know that. Besides, she liked it when he looked at her.
“This is my room…” Eri said softly. It was a good thing she did, because it seemed like Shouta might have missed it in his efforts to protect himself from a little bit of laughter.
“It’s very… roomie!” Emi smiled at her, but was a little concerned at the lack of… well, anything. There were some drawings taped to the wall, a tv with some DVDs picked up on sale, and a few flowers, but it was mostly empty. More like a hospital room than a bedroom, despite the small attempts at life. “Your drawings are lovely!” Eri smiled back at her, and went to show her some of the crayon sketches.
Emi glanced at Shouta, her eyebrows furrowed slightly, but the moment Eri’s gaze was on her again, she was all smiles. She fawned over the work, and Eri’s messy hiragana, which she explained was from her lessons with Mirio. After a while, Shouta coughed softly and Emi gave her a goodbye hug with promises that she’d come and play with her again.
Emi softly closed the door behind her, and her smile fell.
“Eraser, what’s going on?”
“She’s in Yuuei’s care- She’s not supposed to leave the campus.” He was skirting around the real issues, and Emi knew it. He ushered her into his office, and she took a seat, eyes directly on him.
“You know what I meant.” Her voice was polite, but firm, and Shouta slumped over across from her, closing his eyes for a moment. She knew he was tired, but blinking from Shouta was like blinking from a cat- it was a sign of trust, and she wasn’t about to break that.
They swapped stories, Shouta explaining the circumstances of Eri’s arrival at Yuuei, and Emi told him about the tall man, even though she knew it would put him in a position where he’d be more concerned about Eri leaving.
“I want to take her out again.” Her voice was soft, but clear. He let out a sigh. “I know she’s safe here, but she needs to spend some time outside of that room and your office. It’s not healthy for her to be cooped up inside all the time.”
“I can’t just let you take her out alone, and you need to ask permission from Nezu first either way.”
“Then go with us.”
“I’ll do whatever paperwork it takes, but she’ll be safer with both of us with her, and I doubt Principal Nezu would have a problem with that.” Shouta rubbed his eyes and sighed, knowing she wasn’t one to budge.
“Where are you wanting to take her? I’m not saying yes, remember, I’m just asking.” A grin spread across her face.
“I was thinking a mall - someplace public where any would-be villains can’t make a scene, and somewhere that she can go shopping. Her room is depressing.”
Shouta leaned back and closed his eyes for a moment of thoughtful silence. She liked that, too. She knew he considered himself a man of logic, and was clearly trying to think of the best course of action. She didn’t know if she’d tell him some day, but she trusted that aspect of his personality. It was calculating, and could be quite cold, but it was a constant. The people who usually flocked to her were the kinds of people who were loud and always changing. She didn’t necessarily mind the noise, but peace… was something she didn’t get very often. A small smile touched her lips. She didn’t get to see Shouta very often, but she cherished every moment of it. She’d see him in the news every so often, but that could never live up to the real thing. Her eyes lingered on his face, the scar beneath his eye. It was relatively new, but she hadn’t commented on it before. It suited him, somehow, and she found herself smiling in a daze. She wanted to reach out and touch it.
“I’ll talk to Nezu about taking her out next Saturday. Does that time work for you? Stay with me, Joke.”
She blinked, forcing herself out of her daze. He sighed, obviously rethinking his decision already.
“Yes! You look great!” He sighed and she caught herself. “That sounds great! I will be here!” She laughed awkwardly and excused herself. “See you next Saturday? Lunch, or?”
“I’ll text you.”
“Please do!” The colour rose to her face, and she closed the door and sighed, expecting him to likely be doing the same. She had been doing so well, too, at staying focused and serious... She pat her face a few times until she regained her composure, and walked out.
Next Saturday, she had a date!
Chapter 2: Marriage Pact
Ms. Joke blows off some steam with Pixie-Bob after a crap encounter at the office that feels a little too real to single millennial women.
“Alrighty, looks like that’s a wrap!” Emi grinned at her class, setting down the chalk. “Remember to study up on early hero history - Dandelion was mentioning a pop quiz in the faculty office. Also, remember the paper on what you learned in our combined practice with Yuuei, and no, my love life doesn’t count for filler words.”
“You’re the best, Teach! Dandelion’s quizzes are killer.” Tatami Nakagame chirped up, throwing her backpack over her shoulder.
“So the date’s on?” Yo Shindo grinned as he stacked up his books.
“Yeah, you’ve been real cloudlike, Teach. He agree to marry you yet?”
Emi laughed awkwardly and pulled out her phone. “He texted me over lunch…”
“Ya gotta show us! I bet it’s super steamy, adult love and all that-” Tatami hopped over and glanced at the phone, her bright smile falling slightly.
“What’s up, Nakagame?” Yo set his books aside and got up to join them.
“It just says… ‘1:00 at office’...”
“Listen, Teach, it’s nice to be excited, but…” Shikkui Makabe sat at the edge of his desk, blue arms folded and a concerned expression on his face.
“We are worried that your taste is lacking.” Itejiro Toteki said bluntly from the back of the room, combing his long black hair over his shoulder to adjust more comfortably to his backpack strap. Emi just smiled brightly at her students.
“Chins up, kiddos! You gotta be positive in times like these! He didn’t lose my number or forget to text me!” They exchanged worried glances. Yo set an apologetic hand on Emi’s shoulder.
“You’re still young… you still have options.”
“Hey, hey! What’s that supposed to mean?”
“You don’t have a lot of wrinkles yet, Teach, you can still score a nice guy.” Tatami gave her a pitying smile. Shikkui nodded in agreement.
“I have an uncle who’s still single-”
“C’mon! It’s a date, not a funeral! Why ya gotta be so glum? Focus on your papers and studying! Geez- kids these days…” Emi shook her head with an exasperated sigh.
“Well, let us know how it went on Monday.” Itejiro nodded sagely, and Yo waved before walking towards the door.
“We’ll bring you flowers if it doesn’t go well!”
“We can have a movie night if you get crushed- I got the ice cream!” Tatami seemed back in bright spirits as she raced Yo out the door.
“You really think my charms can’t get through to him? You kids are breaking my heart!” Emi slumped over melodramatically, and Shikkui passed her a scrap of paper as he left the room. She flipped it over to reveal a man’s name and number. “Brats.” She pouted for a moment, but turning on the screen of her phone brought the smile back to her face. 1:00 tomorrow, she’d get to see Eri and Shouta again.
“You seem in good spirits, Fukukado.” Dandelion raised an eyebrow as Emi absentmindedly hummed over grading papers in the faculty office. She shot her older coworker a bright smile and flipped Yo’s test over, the sparkly purple 98 slightly leaking through the page.
“I am!” She put the purple gel pen behind her ear and pulled out a green one for the next test.
“Care to share with the class?” Even though he tried to keep himself moderately quiet, his low voice tended to boom inside Emi’s ear drums. She wondered how a whole class period with him droning on would drain her kids.
“Well, I have a kind of...a date. Tomorrow.” She drew the poop emoji next to Tatami’s half-assed joke response on a question. She knew better than that-
“Oh do you now? Who’s the lucky person?”
“Eraser.” She smiled thoughtfully and Dandelion choked.
“You’re still after that guy? Fukukado, it’s been, what, six years?”
“Listen, he’s not worth it. He’s all scowls and you’re all smiles. You need a guy who you can shoot the breeze with - have a cute little family while you’re still young. He’s-”
“Please stop.” Emi finished drawing a flower on a correct answer and set the pen down.
“You’re all in a little daze because you got to see him last week, but you know he’s a waste of time for you - he’s not interested. It’s just a little crush and you’ll get over him in no tim-”
“I said, please stop.” Emi’s smile was dangerously close to snapping. She tapped the tests together against the desk and put them in a folder for her to finish later.
“Listen, Emi-” Her smile fell as she stared coldly into her co-worker’s golden eyes. She dropped the folder into her bag and stood up to leave. “C’mon, now- at least smile-” She closed the door before he could finish.
Her boots clicked against the concrete at she furiously typed a message, then two messages on her phone. She barely had time to swing out of the way of a street lamp before sending a third, anxiously tapping on the side of her phone while it slowly sent. She draped herself over her car, face pressed against the sedan’s roof as she waited for the reply.
She checked the notification and sighed in relief before flopping into the driver’s seat.
“He said that? Ugh- what trash.” Ryuko Tsuchikawa, hero name: Pixie-Bob, rolled over lazily on her raised slab of earth. She activated her quirk, causing another golem to rise out of the soil around them. Emi punched it in the face. “He’s that old fluffy guy you turned down a year or two ago, right?” Emi nodded, and followed with a right-left hook combo, wiping the sweat off her forehead while Ryuko brought up the fifth golem in their vent-session.
“And he even had the audacity to ask me to smile afterwards-” Emi sidestepped a low blow and kicked one of its legs off.
“What the hell - I swear, guys are the worst. I had a blind date cancel when he realized I wasn’t Mandalay - what kind of jerk even does that?”
“The worst kind?”
“The worst kind! Joke, I’m gonna be single forever- I’ll just die alone underneath a mountain slide or something…” As if to illustrate her point, Ryuko pulled part of the earth slab over her, like a kind of dirt cocoon.
“There are nice women on the HeroDate app, right? Have you tried talking to them?”
“They’re all too complicated - I just want a simple person to touch my butt and buy me Netflix, is that so hard?” Emi raised an eyebrow at her, patting the crumbled golem. Ryuko’s gaze darkened for a brief moment. “You really had a lot of stress to get out, huh, Joke?”
“It’s been a long couple of weeks.”
“So tell me about ‘em- Also, you can’t just leave me at ‘I’m going on a date with Eraser,’ that’s a huge deal. How’d ya get him to say yes?” Ryuko peered over at Emi through her dirt cocoon, and Emi plopped down on the ground, her back brushing against a tree. She wiped away more sweat, but it just left a streak of mud on her face.
“We had a combined class last week, and then I met this sweet little girl-”
“You know about her?”
“We met at the culture festival some time ago. She’s a real cutie - tough news about her circumstances, though.”
“Remind me to go to you instead of Eraser if I ever want any news about his life. He’s all radio silence.”
“No kidding - but the date? You got a date?”
A soft smile touched Emi’s lips and she leaned back against the tree. “We’re going to a mall with Eri - liven up her life a little.”
“That’s cute and all but you’re gonna get alone time with him, right? He’ll use that scarf thing and hang upside down and you’ll kiss in the rain, right?”
Emi threw a part of the crumbled golem at Ryuko, and it harmlessly bounced off her cocoon. “You’re watching too many weird romcoms, Pix.” Ryuko collapsed the cocoon and slab and stood above Emi, leaning against the tree with an odd grin on her face.
“But you wouldn’t mind it- you’re smiling like a kitty on ‘nip.” Emi touched her face, then flushed a bright red. She quickly grabbed another piece of the golem and chucked it at Ryuko, who disintegrated it in an instant with a bright laugh. Despite herself, Emi found herself laughing along with her. “That’s my Joke!” Ryuko leaned over and wiped some of the mud from Emi’s face. “You’ll still remember me when you’re all cosied up to your one and only, right?”
“Pix, you know I won’t forget you! Who else can I go to for my dose of advice and adrenaline?”
“My advice is crap and you know it.”
“Your golems are still fun to beat up.” Emi teased, playfully punching the air. There was a brief moment of silence.
“Ragdoll is getting married.” The words dropped from Ryuko’s lips softly, but Emi didn’t miss them.
“And she didn’t tell me? Her own flesh and blood? I’m hurt.” Emi smiled, but she had an idea she knew what was on Ryuko’s mind.
“Tiger’s quiet about it, but he has partners every now and then, and Mandalay just got into a relationship, and it seems to be going pretty well for them… I feel like I’m being left behind.” She sat down, and Emi followed suit, letting the blonde lean on her shoulder.
“Hey, you’re still young, you have your whole life ahead of you.”
“I’m almost 32.”
“Hey c’mon, Pix - what about being young at heart?”
“Joke, you’re 25-”
“Same thing, you have like… forever in front of you, and you even have a date with that guy you like. You’re actually going places. I feel like my life’s already over.” Ryuko sighed and Emi wrapped her arm around her, and softly lay her head on top of her friend’s. “And soon everyone’s going to be all in their relationships, all happy and stuff, and I’m going to be left behind. What if the gang splits up after they all get married?”
“... You want to punch a golem, too?”
“Pfft, you meathead… Maybe later.”
Emi smiled, but she understood where Ryuko was coming from. Every day, she felt like she heard the same tired story about how she was either ‘still young enough’ or that she was ‘drying up’ and it was exhausting. She hated hearing the comments about getting married while she was still young - from her dad, coworkers, even her students. At first, when she’d see Shouta every now and then she’d joke about getting married, but… It felt like she was being put on a timeline, and it was getting more urgent.
Shouta didn’t deserve that. Neither did Emi - nor Ryuko.
“Hey, want to enter a marriage pact?”
“Don’t you have Eraser?” Ryuko glanced up at her, trying to gauge if she was serious.
“I don’t have anybody. But if things don’t work out with him, you want to get hitched?”
“Joke, you’re an idiot.” Ryuko laughed and Emi grinned back at her.
“Then I guess I’d better make things work with Eraser, or you’ll be the one leaving me behind.”
“How about 35? When I turn 35 and we’re both single?” Ryuko held out her pinky finger and Emi clasped hers in it.
“All of our guests will be your golems.”
“God then I’d better find somebody quickly before Tiger never lets me live that down.”
“Bet?” Emi flashed her a grin and stood up. “I guess I’d better worm my way into Eraser’s heart one way or another or I’ll be 35, out of a marriage pact, and very lonely.”
I love the Ketsubutsu kids so much and can't wait for the chapter when Yuuei and Ketsubutsu have their combined practice.
Also, Pixie-Bob and Joke got a lil too real for me there, hoo boy.
I saw some theory online about Ragdoll and Ms. Joke being cousins and I thought that was super cool. It doesn't play a huuge part in this or anything, but it explains how she met Pixie-Bob at least.
Also, I just want you to know that the line "how about a marriage pact?" was thought of after watching the Bee Movie so those scenes have the same energy. Cinematic parallels.
Chapter 3: Giant Teddy Bear
Aizawa and Joke take Eri on a shopping trip, but things take a turn when they run into some villains with an agenda.
A guess a quick violence and gore warning is in order? I tried not to get too detailed but y'know. Fights have their consequences, but if you made it through Overhaul's arc, then this should be fine.
I like to think that I made up for it by giving Emi a cat.
Emi hated being a morning person. She hated it even more when she spent a late night out, backseat commentating on HeroDate profiles with Ryuko and her internal teacher-clock went off waking her up at 5 am. She closed her eyes, trying to sink back into the dream she left behind, but there were no dice. She sent a silent prayer to whomever might be listening to let her sleep in, but that prayer was shattered with a catterwaul. Emi sighed softly and rolled out of bed, pulling her hair out of her mouth.
“Morning, Tsukkomi…” she yawned, and the puffy black cat stared back at her with a severity that she otherwise only got from Shouta. She mindlessly filled his dish and pressed her forehead against the cool refrigerator door as he ate, hoping that she might get some inspiration to cook from mental osmosis.
Ten minutes of spacing out later, Emi collapsed onto her couch and let her mind drift away.
“Emi, I’ve missed you.” The face was blurred out, but Emi had a good idea of who the voice belonged to. Freezing fingers brushed against her face, throughout her hair. That was wrong- the sun wasn’t supposed to be cold… Golden hair fell in curls onto her face, like tentacles or seaweed. The face was so close to hers that Emi should’ve felt her breath, or the light kiss of her eyelashes. “You don’t think about me anymore, Emi. That hurts. I thought we were partners. But you can’t even remember my face… not even my voice.” The voice turned distorted and low, and the cold fingers grasped at her neck until she could barely breathe.
Emi tried to open her mouth to respond, but the words pushed together into bubbles that popped as water poured in, filling her throat, her lungs -
A searing pain stabbed through her gut and Emi lurched back into the real world, fingers digging deeply into the yellow couch cushions. Tsukkomi grumbled and readjusted himself on her back, kneading into her spine. Emi choked on air for a few moments, then timed herself, taking slow and deep breaths. It wasn’t the first time she’d had that dream.
“Tsukko, you wanna free me?” She asked, rubbing her eyes to remove the sleep. Instead of sleep, her hands wiped away tears. “...Hm…?” She wiped the rest away and sat up, causing the cat to roll off her back.
The clock said 8, even though it felt like it had only been 5 minutes since she passed out on her couch. Emi went to the bathroom and pulled off her shirt. Her reflection stared back at her in the mirror, and she gently touched the scar below her belly button. It was only a dream, only phantom pains- she told herself that several times before getting into the shower.
Emi made sure to get to the school at least 10 minutes early, and was braiding Eri’s hair when Shouta finally met them in the office. He didn’t comment on her appearance, even though she’d spent over an hour trying to curl her hair in a nice manner. It wasn’t perfect by any means, but she put it in a ponytail and she was sure he couldn’t tell the difference any more than she could. But his lack of commentary didn’t bother her because she knew better than to expect anything of that sort to come out of his mouth. Besides, every so often, she’d catch him looking at her, in the way Tsukkomi would whenever she dressed up and he couldn’t be certain if she was the same Emi that fed him and changed his litter box. She chuckled to herself, but Shouta pretended to ignore it. She brought out her phone and pulled up a map of the area before ushering him to look over her shoulder.
“I was thinking Kiyashi Ward Mall- did you want to visit any stores in particular? Have you eaten already?”
Shouta leaned over her shoulder, then scrolled in on her phone, noting the different locations on the map. Emi froze at his touch. She’d been hoping to get him closer to her, but his nonchalance about it made it difficult to breathe. She reminded herself repeatedly that she was an adult and could handle this kind of contact and would not make any remarks that would drive a deeper wedge in between them-
“Your breath doesn’t smell bad, don’t worry about it.” He said offhandedly and she choked. That was not the problem- “There’s a soba place here that’s pretty good.”
“Soba sounds good to me.” She sighed softly as he moved his hand and nearly dropped her phone.
“Eri? Are you ready to go?” The little girl nodded and hopped off her chair, hair already trying to bounce out of its braid. Emi got up and leaned over to brush a loose curl out of Eri’s face and helped her into her jacket- a puffy pink coat that made her look like a small marshmallow.
“I wonder what kinds of fun things we’ll see. The last time I went to the mall, there was a teddy bear that was taller than the ceiling!” She grinned and Eri’s eyes widened.
“Waa- That big? Is that possible?”
“If it’s still there, I’ll show it to you.” Emi buttoned the coat, then took her small hand and led her to the parking lot.
Emi showed Eri how to play with the radio controls while Shouta sat in the back, quietly in his own world. Every so often, Emi would glance at him through her mirror, and once caught him in a small smile at Eri’s laughter from one of her jokes. It wasn’t even a good joke, but she wished she could’ve taken a picture of that smile and framed it on the inside of her mind forever.
The giant bear was still there, albeit slightly smaller than Emi remembered. That didn’t bother the awestruck Eri, though, who excitedly pulled both her guardians along at a surprisingly quick pace for a 6 year old. Emi pulled out her phone and took pictures as the little girl posed with the bear, and Shouta kept his eyes locked on any possible problems. After clearing the area a few times, he leaned in towards Emi, gaze still on Eri, who was delightedly squishing the bear’s paws.
“Thank you.” He said softly, and Emi glanced up in surprise. “For spending time with her… for making her laugh like that.”
“Oh, you softie- you’re going to make me blush-” She grinned at him, but it was all she could do to keep herself from going incredibly flushed.
“Why did you do it? Why Eri?” He glanced at her for only a millisecond before scanning the perimeter again.
“Chance, I guess. I didn’t expect to meet her after all, but I’m glad I did.”
“You aren’t… using her, right?” Emi’s eyes locked on his. Her first instinct was to snap at him, but at the same time, she supposed she knew where he was coming from.
“Of course not-” She glanced back at Eri, and waved with a bright smile before turning back to him. “I didn’t have a mother, so maybe I’m trying to make up for that… Or maybe I just like her. Who knows?” Emi winked, but her chest felt a little tight. Shouta looked like he was about to say something, but Eri sprinted up to the two and took their hands, trying to tug them along to enter the bear’s store.
Hours passed as Eri experienced the bright outside world, dragging a wary Shouta and blissful Emi in her wake. They loaded a few new treasures into the car before deciding to get an icecream on the way back, despite Shouta's belief that it was far too cold. Emi let him know exactly what she thought about that.
The trio sat on the grassy bank of a canal, Emi leaning against Shouta as she lazily combed through Eri’s hair, which had long since fallen out of the braid. The trees were changing colours, deep red leaves replacing the green of summer. Emi wrapped her arms around Eri, keeping her warm as she ate. Shouta finally closed his eyes for the first time that day when Eri made a confused squeak.
“There’s something in my ice cream.” Emi glanced over Eri’s shoulder and pulled out a thin shard of glass. She froze.
“Eraser, we need to go. Now.” She stood abruptly, pulling Eri with her, then setting the girl in Shouta’s arms as she threw on her gloves. Shouta knew better than to question her at a time like this, and dashed for the car, Eri’s half-eaten ice cream cone falling on the ground behind them.
At the top of the canal stood two men in black, faces covered by ski masks. The larger one put away his phone and pulled out a gun, aiming for Shouta’s head. Emi didn’t wait to activate her quirk, and instead flew right at him, punching him square in the jaw. He started to cough up a puff of smoke and she snatched the gun from him, elbowing his throat. Her elbow hit metal and she hissed slightly at the impact. He slid the ski mask up to reveal a massive hole where his mouth should have been, smoke beginning to swirl out of it. He grabbed Emi’s wrists and she could feel the heat pouring from him.
“Eraser-” She called quickly. Shouta’s eyes locked on the man and he activated his quirk, canceling whatever problem was about to come out of the hole. In the meantime, Emi blasted the short man springing after Shouta and Eri with her Outburst and the man began to lose control of his body. While she didn’t have to worry about the large man’s quirk, Emi put her weight onto her wrists and swung forward, loosening his grip. She wrestled her way out and slammed the back of his neck with both elbows. As he fell forward, she quickly pulled out the quirk-binding tape and made sure he wasn’t about to make a come-back.
With the large man down and the smaller man in a fit of hysterical laughter, Emi tossed her keys to Shouta, who was already dialing for the police. She turned to the laughing man and quickly put him out of business with more tape from her cuffs. Shouta had set Eri down outside the car, and was finishing up the call as Emi approached them. “We have two, both have been taped - are either of you hurt?” Eri had tears in her eyes, but shook her head. Emi wiped the tears away with a soft smile. “Then everything’s fine, and we’ll make sure things stay fine until the police get here. Don’t worry, Eri, I’ll always protect you, so put on your brightest smile for me.” She gently poked Eri's cheeks.
Shouta moved towards the smaller captive man, an expression akin to a scowl on his covered face now that he was slowly getting over the effects of Emi’s quirk. “Who are you working for?” He asked coldy and the man met his eyes with a fiercely defiant glare. Just then, a piece of metal caught Shouta’s eye on the ground. He kneeled down to pick it up and out of the corner of Emi’s eye, she noticed a car’s window tearing itself out of the vehicle. It straightened itself out and appeared to form a sharp disc of glass, aimed for the nape of Shouta’s neck.
“Eraser-” Emi launched herself at him and flung her arms around his neck just in time for the glass to slam into them. It pierced through both arms, and she gagged in pain.
“Joke, what-” His voice was muffled against her collarbone, and she blinked through the tears to find the source of the renegade window.
“Two o’clock.” She gasped and he tried moving his head to catch a third man, built like a willow tree. The moment his eyes locked on, the glass fell to the ground and shattered. Immediately, the man turned and bolted.
“Joke, can you move at all?” Shouta asked, and she gritted her teeth. Her brain felt a dark fuzz etching around the corners of her mind, and she shoved it back.
“I- can’t feel my arms. Sorry I’m slowing you down. Forget about me and go get that guy.” She tried saying it as quietly as possible, but it was no use.
“Miss Emi…?” Eri squeaked from behind them and Emi sighed softly.
“I’m going to move you, okay? Just… hold on for a second-” Shouta stood up slowly and leaned Emi against the hood of her car before ducking out and under her arms. He pulled off her jacket and hissed at the sight of them, and it was clear that he was holding back a few choice swears. “Eri, look away.”
The glass had punctured fully through her right arm and scratched the bone of her left. If they hadn’t been there, it wouldn’t be an overstatement to say that his head wouldn’t have been attached to his body anymore. She was losing blood quickly, and he didn’t know how much mere pressure would do if they had to wait for an ambulance. She brushed her head against his chest and he moved closer to support it. The fuzz was making it hard to think, and she could feel the darkness creeping over her vision. It took all of her energy to push it away and keep her eyes open. She forced the corners of her mouth to remain upturned.
“You know why I don’t like working with you?” He whispered, and she grinned.
“You get distracted by my beauty?”
“You put yourself in danger without thinking about it.” He wrapped her right arm in her jacket as tightly as possible.
“Is she going to die?” Eri asked softly, tears falling freely from her already-red eyes.
“Not if the police hurry.”
“Eraser, don’t worry about me- just get Eri to a safe place in case that glass jerk brings friends.” She forced her voice to remain steady and Shouta paused and bit his lip, obviously torn between his choices.
“Mr. Aizawa… Maybe… I can…” Eri’s face was white, but she stepped closer to the two, her eyes darting from both of their faces to Emi’s arms.
“That’s too dangerous.” He gripped Emi’s left arm, trying to apply pressure to keep as much of the blood inside the arm as possible.
“What’s she talking about?” Emi’s voice cracked a little, and it was clear to him that she was struggling to keep her composure and to stay awake. Her arms felt cold, her eyes felt cold, but Shouta felt so incredibly warm. Maybe a quick nap wouldn't matter.
“You don’t have full control of your quirk yet, it’s too dangerous.”
“I don’t want her to die-” Eri sobbed and Shouta sighed.
“It’ll just be a little while longer.”
“Mr. Aizawa please-You can stop me if I go too far, right?” She touched the hem of his coat, teary eyes pleading. He softened, then gently propped Emi up onto the car, away from him.
“Eraser…?” Her voice was small, and her eyes fluttered open as he moved away.
“I’ll stop you before you go too far.” He pat Eri’s head and stepped to the side. The little girl took a deep breath and nodded, taking Emi’s hands in hers. She trembled slightly, and closed her eyes. The horn on her head seemed to vibrate a little and Eri’s eyes fluttered open. She activated her quirk.
The torn tendons reattached themselves and the skin on Emi’s arms slid back into place, leaving no signs of the earlier wounds. Even the blood seemed to evaporate from her torn jacket. The fuzz around her eyes and mind began to retract. Eri gasped and let go, taking a few steps back, and collapsed beside the car. Emi reached for her, but Shouta held her back.
“Give it a few moments to cool down- just in case.”
“Eri?! Eri, are you okay??” Emi called for her, but Shouta didn’t move. After a couple moments, Eri responded, voice soft.
“Is Miss Emi okay? Did I do good?”
“You did very well, Eri.” Shouta smiled softly and released Emi. The woman threw her arms around the little girl and held her tightly, trembling.
There was a siren, and a police car pulled up. Shouta greeted them and handed over the two bound criminals and their information while Emi gently rocked Eri as she began to black out. As he finished his business with the police, Emi fastened the sleeping child in the back of the car. Shouta approached her quietly, and she flung her arms around him, stifling her sobs into his chest. After a frozen moment, he wrapped his arms around her, letting the hero cry for a few minutes. It all felt so surreal to her, touching mortality.
“Sorry. I’m just… a little worn out. Thinking you’re going to die will do that to you.” She whispered when she was done, wiping her tears on her torn jacket.
“Promise me you won’t sacrifice yourself like that again.”
“What are heroes for if they don’t sacrifice themselves every now and then?” She tried to smile, but his glare cut her off. “I didn’t want to lose you.” He sighed and shook his head.
“If Eri didn’t use her quirk, you would have died from blood loss. I know you were putting on a brave face, but with the nearest hospital being at least half an hour away and at the rate the police got here-”
“I know. I’ll thank her again later-”
“We can’t take her out again.”
“Joke, listen to me. They may have been relatively weak goons, but they found her both times she left Yuuei. And you could have died this time. I’m not going to risk it again.”
Emi was silent. It hurt her, but she knew he had a point. She quietly opened the driver’s seat door and got into the car. He walked around and sat in shotgun. Their eyes met for a moment, and she turned on the engine. The only sound was the hum of the engine and soft rock music for a minute before Shouta broke the silence.
“The police are going to interrogate the men we caught tomorrow. They gave us permission to attend.”
“What time?” Her voice cracked.
“7 in the evening, the Inspector doesn’t get in until later.”
“You want me to pick you up?”
“Please. …Thank you, Joke.”
Chapter 4: Gum Wrapper Number
Inspector Naomasa interrogates one of the men who attacked Emi and company while Emi demonstrates her power as a wingman.
I haven't read the spin-off yet so I was mostly BSing Naomasa's quirk. Sorry to disappoint, fam.
“Gum? It’s not a trap.” Emi mindlessly shredded the wrapper from the piece that was already in her mouth, her foot restlessly tapping on the linoleum flooring. Shouta shook his head, and she leaned back in her chair, blowing a bubble. The cat-headed policeman on the other side of her accepted a piece, then checked his phone again, doubtlessly waiting for the inspector’s call. Emi caught a glimpse of his phone, hoping to catch anything about the villain that got away, hoping some new information would put her mind at ease. She knew there wasn’t much she could’ve done at the time, but her ego still stung from letting a guy who would try to decapitate Shouta run free. A notification popped up on the phone and the policeman quickly tried to hide it, but Emi recognized the icon for the HeroDate app right away. She wrote Ryuko’s number on a piece of the shredded gum wrapper with one of her glitter gel pens and passed it to him with a wink. His ginger tabby fur puffed up in embarrassment, but Emi was already back to staring at her favourite person from over another pink bubble. She was about to say something she knew she’d regret when the door opened and Inspecter Naomasa Tsukauchi entered, tipping his tan hat to Shouta and Emi. She waved back with a bright smile.
“Good evening, Ms. Joke, Eraserhead. Sansa, could you bring in Hiroshi Taihou? He’s in cell 143.” The cat-headed policeman nodded politely and left the room. Naomasa removed his hat and jacket and set them aside before facing the two seated heroes. “Eraserhead, you mentioned in your report that they seemed to be targeting Eri, from the Eight Precepts case last month?”
Shouta nodded and explained the circumstances of the attacks, with Emi filling in for her previous encounter. Naomasa gave them a list of questions he planned on asking the prisoner, and entered the interrogation room. He gave them a small nod from the other side of the glass, and took a seat. Emi leaned forward, glancing through the question list. They were mostly basic questions, but any answers were good answers in her book, especially if they meant she could use them to protect Eri.
Sansa returned with who Emi suspected was the man she incapacitated in the parking lot, though he looked very different outside of his ski mask. He was bulky and broad shouldered, built more like a tank than a human. But even tanks fell when you knew the right weak points to hit. He didn’t have much of a face - a bronze plate covered his nose and most of his jaw line. She thought she could see a hinge near where his ear would normally be. He stared coldly at the glass, but Emi was certain he’d only be met with his own reflection. Sansa locked the quirk-suppressant handcuffs’ chain into the table and returned to the room with Emi and Shouta, waking up the computer for notes. He flicked on the recording switch and cued Naomasa through his headset.
“Hiroshi Taihou, I’m sure you understand why you’re here, but for the sake of us all being on the same page, you and your colleagues attacked a family last night, and it wasn’t the first time they were targeted.”
“Ya hear that, Eraser? We’re a family now.” Emi shot Shouta a conspiratorial smile and he pointedly ignored her.
“Since you understand, I’ll start the questioning process. Who are you affiliated with?”
“I need to speak with my law- the Unbreakable Glass Cannons. What the hell did you just do to me?!” The man snarled at the inspector, who seemed unmoved.
“Should somebody tell them about their name?” Emi glanced at Shouta, who was staring at the paper in front of him, even though all he’d written were three words. He seemed bugged by it, and Emi didn’t blame him - she’d never heard of the group before either, but at least they didn’t seem to be tied in with the League of Villains or the Eight Precepts of Death. Though, that made her wonder just how many people knew about Eri.
“Who were you targeting?” Naomasa went on to the next question.
“Overhaul’s kid. The little girl.”
“The Eight didn’t get us the bullets we paid for. Figured we could make our own. What the hell, get out of my head-”
“How many of you are there?” The large man’s face plate moved to reveal the hole again and what appeared to be a string of spit -or motor oil- spat out before it closed again. “I realize that you’re upset, but pouting won’t change anything. If you don’t want to talk now, we can talk again later. Just understand that silence won’t help you out of here, and it won’t help your friends, either.”
“Thank you. And what are their names?” The man’s metal face darkened, and he refused to open his mouth again.
“Sorry that there wasn’t much we could get out of Taihou tonight. We’ll try again tomorrow and with the other men. I’ll email you transcripts.”
“Thank you, Inspector.” Shouta bowed slightly and the two men left the room together.
“At least we’ve confirmed that Eri is their target and they don’t seem to be tied up with the League.” Emi piped up from behind him, navigating a text message on her phone rather than paying attention. As Sansa finished shutting down the computer, she took a selfie with him, sending it Ryuko’s way.
“Joke?” Shouta came back for her as she was hyping her friend up to the police officer.
“Right! Sorry, Eraser!” She shot Sansa a final smile. “Make sure you text her, okay?” She turned to catch up with Shouta, who raised an eyebrow at her.
“Jealous?” She coyly flashed a grin at him.
“Should I be?” She swore she saw the echo of a smirk tugging at his lips and paused. Was he - she felt her face heat up and she quickly glanced away, pinching herself with an awkward laugh.
Outside the station was already dark, and Emi shivered at the sudden drop in temperature, wishing that her jacket hadn’t been shredded the day before. She started walking towards the parking lot, but Shouta stopped her, his grip firm on her wrist. She could barely make out his expression in the light, but even if the sun was out, she doubted she could get anything from it.
“I need to talk with you.” His voice was as solemn as ever, and didn’t betray anything.
“The car’s just over there-” He ignored her and turned to walk towards the street. There was an empty park on the other side, but she couldn’t imagine what he could want with it. He passed a well-lit bench, but stopped at one where the light wasn’t working.
“I need to breathe for a bit… this spot has been a good place to think in the past.” He let go of her wrist, and she gently touched the tips of his fingers with her own.
“Aren’t you cold…?” She shivered and glanced around them, trying to see if she could make out any other people in the darkness. As far as she could tell, they were alone.
“No, I have my- oh.” He sighed and pulled his arm out of one of his coat sleeves, ushering her forward. “I don’t know if it’s big enough, but…” She slipped her arm through the sleeve and flinched in surprise when she felt his free arm pull her waist closer to him. “Try not to stretch it.”
It took a few moments for them to sit down in a way that was comfortable for both of them, and Emi found herself thankful for the dark when she was practically sitting on his lap, head trapped in his scarf, and face completely red. She awkwardly freed herself from the scarf with her free hand, then nestled her face against his chest. How… was his heart beating so slowly? Hers felt like it was racing and tripping and generally making a fool of itself, but his was stable, steady. She tried to steady herself and took slow breaths with each of his heart beats. Somehow, it all felt incredibly nostalgic to her, like she’d done this before. Maybe not the coat, but his heart…
“Eri’s still asleep, but she’ll likely wake up in the next few days, and she’ll want to see you.” His voice was soft as it cut through the silence and a single cricket’s chirps. Emi closed her eyes.
“Will you let me know when she’s awake?” He nodded, but realized she couldn’t see in the dark.
“I will.” His breathing was soft, deep, and soothing. It was silent for a while before he spoke up again. “Did you open your mail this morning?” She mumbled slightly and shook her head. “Ragdoll’s wedding invitations were sent out. It’s next month. Will you be going?”
“Yeah, I’ll go - she’s my cousin, of course I’m going to go… Are you inviting me to go with you?” She teasingly entwined her fingers in his.
“Do you know who she’s marrying?” The question sent shivers down her spine, and she had no clue why.
“A nurse she met while in recovery, right…?” He didn’t respond, and a feeling of dread washed over her. “Eraser…?”
“I’ll go with you if you plan on going.” She pulled away for a moment, trying to see his expression, but it was too dark to reveal anything.
“Eraser, who is Ragdoll marrying?” He responded by pulling her closer to him, resting his forehead against her neck. Shivers ran down her spine, this time from the creeping dread as well as his cold skin on hers.
“When you get home, check your mail. I still want to talk to you about it… And I think we’d both prefer to do it in the dark. For your sake.” He wrapped his arms around her, then stood up before releasing his grip, steadying her on the ground. “We should go home before it gets any later.”
By the time they reached the car, Emi’s hands were so frozen she didn’t realize that Shouta hadn’t let go. The drive was quiet, soft rock playing as each of the two tried to straighten out the thoughts in their minds. After dropping him off, Emi’s mind went on overdrive and she tried to shut it off by turning up the volume and singing along, but with most songs having lyrics about feelings, she kept playing the scene on repeat and working herself up even more.
Flustered upon arriving home, Emi tore open the wedding invite to see a picture of two smiling women locked in a joyful embrace. There was her cousin… and…
Emi collapsed on her couch, tears falling freely, staining the photograph’s golden curls.
She ignored Tsukkomi’s greeting, and gasped for breath, her scar beginning to burn again with phantom stabs.
So that’s what her face looked like. Emi remembered now.
Chapter 5: Welcome to the Family, Listener
Emi remembers her early days, when she first fell for Shouta.
I loved everything about writing this chapter.
Ms. Joke with a flip phone and heelies is my life.
“Good morning, Joke- I missed your smile.”
“It’s only been two days, Arc, geez - you’re gonna make me blush.” Kaori Hikari, hero name: Archangel, seemed to already be blushing, though it was kind of difficult to tell with her constantly-sunkissed skin.
“How’s your father doing?”
“He’s fine- his smile could fight off the sun, I swear. But it’s his stare when he asks about my love life that’s actually killer.” Emi set down her bag and melted into a chair, spinning it for good measure. Kaori smiled softly at her, pulling up another chair to Emi’s desk.
“You’re still a kid, don’t worry about that kind of thing. T-though, if you ever need a date or something… just to help out with your dad, I mean-I could -”
“Don’t worry about it, Arc! I have a game plan!”
“A … game plan?” Emi pointed at the office building across the road with a sneaky grin.
“Eraserhead.” Kaori choked.
“ERASERHEAD?” Emi wasn’t swayed at all by the outburst.
“Yeah! Isn’t he dreamy? All serious and...broody… and … serious…” She smiled wistfully at the building next door.
“I… I didn’t think that… that was your type… You’re… joking, this is a joke, right?”
“He hasn’t laughed at a single joke I’ve ever said… And you should see his expression when he erases my quirk- Arc, I am in love with one person and that person is Eraserhead.” Kaori looked shocked, trying to connect different wires to find out what was going on in Emi’s alien mind.
“What… are you going to do about it…?” She asked, expression overflowing with worry.
“Fear not, my sweet Archangel, I have a plan.” Emi stood up and laughed a triumphant chortle while brandishing her flip phone and Kaori swore she could feel her life flashing in front of her eyes with every button Emi pressed repeatedly to get to a single letter. After an awkward four minutes, Emi’s eyes lit up deviously at the press of the send button.
“What… what did you do…?” Kaori’s eyes flicked from the phone to Emi and back again, but Emi simply smiled and shook her head with a wink. “Joke, please-” The phone’s ringtone laughed and Kaori winced.
“Bingo!” Emi chirped. “God, thy name is Present Mic.”
Hizashi Yamada, hero name: Present Mic, took a sip of his Maple Macchiato and tried to decide if he believed the girl in front of him with the alarmingly bright smile.
“So you’re saying… You want to marry my son. My Aizawa son. My Eraserhead son. My precious son that doesn’t make friends or get out much. That son.”
“Absolutely!” She beamed at him, and he took another long sip. Suddenly she paused. “He… likes girls, right?”
“I doubt it.”
“I doubt that, too.”
“It sounds like I have no chance! I like those odds!” She laughed and Hizashi put his hand out to her.
“Welcome to the family, Listener.”
“Joke is fine.” She clasped it tightly. “So, uh, we do dates? Double dates? I have a single friend if girls are fine.”
“I’m not picky.”
“Guess who has a date~?” Emi took Kaori’s hand and spun her around.
“You, I’m guessing?” She tried not to sound as sullen as she felt.
“It’s a double date.” Emi dipped Kaori and brought her back up.
“Oh, Joke, what’ve you done?” She covered her face in her hands.
“C’mon, you don’t get out much, so I figured it could be a fun get-together for all of us! Outside of the usual hero work, y’know?”
“So did you ask Eraserhead…? He said yes to this…?”
“Eh, what he doesn’t know won’t kill him. That’s why I asked Present Mic! They’re friends, so he’ll probably go along with it.”
“Oh, Joke…” Kaori sighed and the two were saved by the landline ringing. The blonde picked up the phone and forced herself to smile. “Archangel and Joke’s hero office, how may I help you?”
Emi was already tying her hair up with an orange sash and slipping on her boots. She shifted her weight from one leg to the other and back in a little dance of sorts as she waited. Kaori wrote down some information from the call and hung up.
“There’s been a break in at the local bank. Eraserhead was sent to take care of it, but there are robots present, and his quirk isn’t effective against them. He’s fighting right now.”
“Robots are the worst! No senses of humor. I hope my sweet Eraser is holding up.” Emi was clearly on cloud nine. Kaori sighed softly and adjusted her solar panel halo.
As they stepped into the sun, orbs of light surrounded the blonde woman and as though it was second nature, they turned into mighty wings of sunlight, befitting of an archangel. Emi clicked her heels together and orange wheels popped out of her boots.
“Race ya there, Arc!”
The bank was only a block away, and Emi always thought that any villain with half a brain cell would avoid a building that was so close to two different hero offices. She rollerbladed around the street corner as Kaori sped through the sky, and it struck her how incredible her partner was. They were still coming up with a team name that rolled off the tongue more than just their names, but truth be told, Emi thought Kaori could hit the top ten heroes with a quirk as powerful as hers was - she just needed the confidence to take the spots by the reins. And befriending other heroes wouldn’t hurt. It’s why Emi didn’t give her any naming ideas. As much as she loved the partnership, she wanted Kaori to rise as an individual.
The bank was already in an uproar with multiple large robots wreaking havoc, so Emi didn’t spend as much time scouting as she usually would. She clicked her heels and the wheels retracted, letting her quietly sneak into the bank, looking for civilians in trouble. Kaori didn’t need to sneak. She stepped boldly into the building and immediately activated her quirk. Beams of light surrounded some of the robots and acted as cages, burning anything that touched them.
Emi rescued a group of workers from a destroyed room and quickly covered the first floor. Most had already been cleared out already, and she assumed that was in part due to Shouta’s work. She raced up the flight of glass stairs, taking them two at a time before she reached the second floor. The first thing she noticed was a crumpled figure underneath a glass beam.
“Eraser!” She called and he made a sound that was a mix between relief and torment. Emi liked to think that’s how he perceived her appearances most of the time.
The glass beam was heavier than it looked, so Emi bent down next to him and pushed up on it using her whole body. “Can you move at all?” He tried dragging himself out from under it, hands covered in glass shards, but stopped suddenly. Emi tried turning to see why he’d stopped, and was faced with a large, box-shaped robot, easily tall enough for a person to stand in, with heavy legs that could crush a thick log in one step. She put all her weight into throwing the glass beam out of the way and scooped Shouta into her arms before kicking out her wheels and blading out of what would’ve been a very bad time as the robot stepped over the place that he used to be lying.
She kicked out the wheels again and ran outside the robot’s line of sight, ducking behind a teller’s window. “How’re you feeling, Eraser?” She gently pulled out a shard of glass and he winced.
“My leg’s seen better days, and the doctors will probably kill me for it.”
“Then I guess I’ll have to come save you again.” Her smile could outshine the sun, and Shouta was not living for it.
“I’d prefer to die.” He said coldly, but added a soft “thanks for getting me out of there.”
“Eraser, I’ve saved your life 4 times so far - not that I usually keep track - so I was thinking about how you could repay me, and I want to get hitched.”
“Excuse me, what.” She glanced over the counter to make sure the robot was still far enough away, and returned to him, gently pulling out another few shards of glass. He hissed slightly.
“I’m in love with you- we should get married.”
“Absolutely not.” She stifled a laugh, but then a smile spread across her face, a soft one that lit up her eyes.
“You’re amazing, Eraser.” His eyes narrowed, obviously unsure of how to respond. “You should hold me - I’m going to get us out of here.” She scooped him up again, holding him bridal-style, and he quickly, though disapprovingly, put his arms around her neck.
“I swear you’re going to be the death of me.” He sighed and she kicked her wheels into gear.
Emi bladed past the robot and jumped the stairs, skidding along the railing. Downstairs, each of the robots had been perfectly cubed by Kaori’s quirk, and she was busy tying up a couple of people who seemed to have been piloting the robots. Emi skirted past her and warned about the one remaining upstairs. Kaori nodded and finished locking the villains up before floating up the steps, light pulsing around her.
“She’s incredible.” Emi smiled, and Shouta coughed uncomfortably.
“You can set me down now.”
“Why? I want to hold you forever.”
“That makes one of us.”
“You were the only one injured - I can carry you to the hospital.”
“I’d rather walk.”
Emi laughed brightly and walked over to one of the receptionist chairs that was still standing and gently propped him up into it. He sighed in relief.
“Eraser…?” She looked away, scanning the area, and he gave a noncommittal mumble in response. Her gaze flicked back to him, and that new, soft smile was back, and he didn’t know what to do with it. “I’m not joking. I’d like to marry you one day.”
“Why don’t you focus on being a hero right now.” His expression, his tone of voice- none of it changed, but Emi felt something squeeze in her heart.
“You should see her in action, Mic! She’s so incredible! She can picture anything in the world, and make it out of light. She’s like a sculptor! But a really crazy strong one!” Emi’s face was absolutely shining, affection dripping out of every pore in her body, and nobody could miss that. Kaori blushed and wouldn’t meet anyone’s gaze. Hizashi grinned and nodded, but it was clear he had about as much interest in Kaori as an eel with a motorcycle, and if anything, she had even less interest in him. The two were polite about things, but it was pretty clear that Emi could read Greek better than she could read romantic relationships. Somehow, it struck Hizashi as appropriate that she’d fall for his relationship-deaf roommate.
“So what made you decide to become a hero, Archangel?” He sent her a reassuring smile, and she awkwardly fidgeted with her napkin.
“With a quirk like mine… I didn’t really have a choice. D-don’t get me wrong, I love being a hero, but… I wish I could’ve been an ordinary school teacher, or nurse, like my sister.”
“You can always do both - Eraser and I are both taking classes right now so we can end up teaching.”
“How incredible! I just got out of school, I can stand to wait a while before getting back into it.” Emi laughed. “Eraser, you didn’t tell me you planned on being a teacher! Where do you want to teach? I bet you’ll be an amazing teacher.”
“Yuuei.” He notedly ignored the rest of what she was saying.
“That’s really incredible! You’re incredible.” Her laugh grew rather awkward.
For being a double date, half of the party tried their best to remain silent, but for the remainder, Hizashi and Emi swapped stories about their best friends, ignoring their awkward silence. As the sun began to set, Kaori began to fidget even more uncomfortably, and Emi placed her hand over her’s.
“Thank you so much for hanging out with us! I had a really fun time! I hope you did too- But it’s getting kinda late.” She smiled brightly and stood, holding Kaori’s hand to comfort her.
“Does the night time affect your quirk? Is that why you never take night shifts?” Shouta asked, and Kaori tensed up. Hizashi pat his back a little harder than necessary.
“C’mon, Eraser, don’t keep young women out late, that’s not a good look.” His voice was cheerful, but he gave a warning glance that didn’t escape Shouta’s notice. “Kaori, may I drive you home?”
All three people looked at him in surprise, not expecting the invitation, but Kaori shocked them even more when she shyly accepted.
“How am I supposed-” Shouta started but Hizashi shut him down.
“Why don’t you and Joke ride together?” One glance at Emi’s beaming smile was enough to seal his fate.
“Don’t worry, I’m a safe driver!” She reached for his hands and he awkwardly attempted to move away.
“Have fun, you two!” Hizashi grinned and offered Kaori his arm. When they were out of earshot of the fawning Emi and exhausted Shouta, Kaori stopped.
“Why did you really want to take me home?” She asked softly. He gave her a reassuring smile.
“Unlike Joke and Eraser, I can actually read the air.” She didn’t know whether to look offended or agree with him. “How long have you been in love with her?” She froze, then sighed softly.
“Since she was my intern. About 3 years now.”
“Love is cruel, isn’t it?”
“Does that mean you’re in love with Eraserhead?” She glanced at him and he choked.
“God, no, could you imagine him in any sort of relationship? I have a sensitive heart, you know.” Hizashi laughed.
“I’m glad they seemed to get along! I was worried for a bit there!” Emi grinned at Shouta as he pulled on his jacket.
“I doubt anything will come of it.” He said dryly, and she took his hand, causing him to flinch away. “Why are you-” He struggled to find the words he wanted. “...Like this? What kind of joke is it that you’re trying to pull?” Emi met his eyes and held them for a few moments before he glanced away again.
“I told you. I’m not joking. I’m in love with you.”
“My heart decided it. Would you like a list, though? Of all the reasons?” He shrugged coldy.
“No. I don’t think I could get your reasons anyway.”
Chapter 6: A God That Became Human
Still in the past, we learn more about Archangel.
Arc is a disaster and I will always appreciate her for and despite it.
“I’m so glad you and Mic became friends!” Emi chirped, swiveling around in her chair. It was a slow day in the office, so she and Kaori were trading stories over the finished paperwork.
“He’s loud, but kind.” She smiled softly and gazed at the screen in front of her, scrolling through vacant apartments. “How about this one? It has a sky light.”
“Maybe we should build a house that’s only windows.”
“I suppose it’s a little over budget…”
“Nevermind, a house that’s only windows would be creepy. We could look at some near Eraser’s place!”
“I’d rather not.” Kaori stopped scrolling as a large factory building appeared in her search. There weren’t any windows, and she froze up, looking at it.
“Arc? What’s up?”
“Maybe we shouldn’t get an apartment together.”
“Hey what’s this about? You’re getting all gloomy on me! Snap out of it, Arc!”
Kaori lifted her knees to her chest and rest her chin on them.
“Joke… I don’t think I should be a hero.”
“Arc, c’mon, what’s got you down? You’re an incredible hero! Your quirk can do anything! You took care of all those robots in 5 minutes flat!” Kaori didn’t meet Emi’s eyes.
“I wish I was born with my mother’s quirk instead of my father’s. Then I could save people like my sister does. It’s not a flashy quirk or anything, but it’s a warm one. They can take away anybody’s pain… But mine only causes pain.”
“You know that’s wrong! You’d never hurt anybody, and your quirk’s crazy cool! You can make anything with it!”
“Joke? What if I told you that I have hurt people… and my quirk only made it worse.”
“Arc…?” Emi touched her hand and Kaori balled it into a fist.
“You see that building? Without the windows… There was a villain who was using it as a hideout. It was an old factory, so not too many people would visit it… And it was falling apart, so it was too dangerous for kids to explore… I was in my civilian clothing… My halo was at home, but it was daytime, so it was fine… But then I heard crying from the factory. I thought… ‘Somebody must be in there! A Hero should save them!’ … But I was the only hero there. I should have been a hero.” Kaori buried her face in her legs. “I’m not a hero… I walked into the factory and froze. It wasn’t dark. The lights were on… But there weren’t any windows. I couldn’t see the sun, and I felt- I felt human .”
“I don’t understand.” Emi’s voice was soft, but she couldn’t stop the tears from dripping down Kaori’s face, streaming down from her knees into her boots.
“Humans don’t understand… The terror that comes from facing your mortality. Eraserhead can’t understand how terrifying he is - one look and he can make the gods fall. If I snap my fingers, I could bring down the world… but in that building… just a few steps in and I became human.” She took a deep breath before continuing, visibly trembling in the office chair, despite the sun beating through the windows at her. “There was a little boy. He’d gotten himself trapped under some machinery. If I wasn’t a human, I could’ve made it disappear. Or rather… I didn’t think I could do anything, because in that moment, I wasn’t a god. You probably would have walked in and saved him in seconds. You’re really brave for a human with a small quirk.”
Emi didn’t respond. She knew that in comparison to Kaori, who could bend the sun to her own will, a quirk like Outburst didn’t mean anything. It certainly hadn’t been enough to get her into Yuuei, but she’d worked around it. She trained until her muscles tore, and she still didn’t stop. She took up boxing against people with super strength. She would usually lose, but she was always getting stronger. Emi, a human with a quirk that was only useful in specific situations, became a pro hero, and an expert in quick detainments. But Kaori, with the power of a god, found herself useless.
“What happened?” Emi finally asked, green eyes locked on Kaori’s trembling figure.
“The villain came out, and I ran. I dialed the police, but the kid didn’t make it. He would have if it had been anybody else. Even a quirkless civilian could have saved him, but I didn’t.”
“That was a long time ago, you’re stronger now-”
“I’m not. I’m still afraid of becoming a human.”
“But you have me now! We can make it through together, Arc! We’ll be the perfect crime fighting duo the world has ever known!”
“I’m going to resign.” Kaori stood up and removed her solar-panel halo, holding it tightly to her chest. “You don’t need to call me Archangel anymore. It probably won’t matter anymore, but...my name is Kaori.” She left the building while Emi was still dumbstruck.
“Eraser…? It’s me, Joke. Don’t hang up! I need your help. Arc’s gone missing. She walked out of the office yesterday and nobody’s heard from her since. No, she didn’t go back home, and none of her stuff is missing… I know it hasn’t been 24 hours yet, but I’m worried about her. Yes, she’s strong, but- she’s… not that strong. Eraser, I’m worried that she might do something she shouldn’t… She was really down when she left, and she had a guilty conscience... You’re the only one I can go to. Nobody else takes me seriously. Please, I’m scared to do it alone, Eras- Thank you! I owe you one!”
Chapter 7: A Mother
Eraser and Joke team up in the past to search for Joke's lost partner.
It was getting dark by the time Shouta and Emi were able to track Kaori. She hadn’t been answering her cell phone, and each time they hit the voicemail, Emi would get more distressed. She tried to keep a cheerful face, but it had gotten bad enough that Shouta exhaustedly offered to hold her hand. Finally, Emi called up her cousin, Tomoko, who used her Search quirk to locate her. The colour drained from Emi’s face as she searched the address to find the old factory.
She recounted the story Kaori had told her to Shouta as she anxiously drove to the factory. He was silent, but Emi knew deep down that he probably agreed with Kaori that she should give up her hero position.
Emi was out of the car nearly before she’d parked it in the wet grass. She bolted for the rusty door and was about to fling it open when Shouta stopped her.
“I know you’re worried, Joke, but don’t lose sight of everything happening around you - there could be traps, among other things.” She took a deep breath, then nodded.
“You’re right. Sorry, Eraser.” Suddenly, she noticed a small blue flip-phone on the ground. She opened it, and a text message appeared with the address of the building on it. The next text said ‘pay for your crimes.’ Emi froze and slammed the phone shut. “What the hell is going on?” She cursed under her breath.
Shouta slowly opened the door in front of them. The inside was dark, and the two put on their night vision goggles before sneaking through the door. It certainly looked abandoned, but Emi believed in Tomoko’s quirk above nearly anything. Kaori had to be here somewhere.
They scouted the area, briskly searching through dusty cubicles and rusty machines for any form of life. A deep engine sound whirred from above them and the two exchanged glances. Only a few moments later, Shouta discovered a stairwell and they quietly raced up it. The second floor door was locked, so they tried the third floor, which swung open with a loud creak. The two froze for a moment, then slid into the dark room. They split up, exploring each corner of the room when the engine roared again, this time directly below them. The floor rumbled, and the two met up back in the middle of the room.
“You don’t think-” Emi whispered and suddenly there was a crash as a huge metal claw pierced through the floor right next to them. Emi grabbed Shouta’s hand and pulled him out of the range of the claw. For a moment, they stared in horror, trying to understand what was going on. The claw retracted, and a musty bit of light shone through the hole in the floor.
“Is that… our entrance?” she whispered and the claw shot up again, this time grabbing Emi’s foot. It yanked her down with it before neither she nor Shouta could respond. Shouta took this time to hop through the hole, sliding down the claw to deliver a heavy kick to the machine. It sputtered, but didn’t seem too harmed by the motion.
“Joke, grab my hand-” He called from behind her and she tried to move in the claw’s clutch to see him. It didn’t budge, but she tried swinging around, wincing at the tightness around her ankle. He caught her hand by chance and dug his heels into the linoleum flooring, pulling with everything he had. Emi felt like she used up the last of her luck when her foot slipped out of the boot before it got torn off. She crashed into him, but he was braced for the impact, and used the momentum to slide behind a pile of rotting boxes. They took in their surroundings while panting for breath.
The claw was attached to a machine that was built into the floor, and it appeared that they were just barely out of its attack range. There didn’t seem to be anyone else on the floor, and internally, Emi swore at her naivety. With a quick attempt at using Outburst, she confirmed that there wasn’t anything piloting the claw from inside it. It seemed to be automated to respond to sound. And even worse, it still had her shoe.
They decided to scope out the rest of the scene, but there didn’t seem to be anything they could use to their advantage. She clicked out the wheels in the boot she had left, and in an attempt to avoid anything that could cut open her foot, she attempted to use her weight to utilize the boot as a skateboard of sorts to get to the stairway. She shook the handle, but it was locked. She started grabbing things and slamming down on the handle, trying to destroy it entirely. Shouta was keeping an eye on the claw, which didn’t seem to respond to the sound of metal. After some heavy hits, the handle broke off, leaving a rusty hole in its wake. She forced the door open, and the two ran back to the stairs.
“Level four it is, then.” Emi sighed and Shouta held out his hand.
“Just this once, since you lost your shoe.” She grinned and he scooped her up.
“So this is how you felt at the bank. I’m jealous.” He ignored her teasing and started up the stairs. Looking at the floor, she was incredibly thankful that she wasn’t walking bare footed amidst the nails and glass. He set her down outside the door to the fourth floor and opened it. Luckily, it didn’t give them any trouble. Unluckily, the scene before them left them too stunned for words.
In the middle of the floor, Kaori lay, hands resting on her chest. Emi rushed to her side, barely side stepping some nasty looking screws.
“Arc?” She whispered hoarsely, trying to keep back the tears. There was no response. No pulse. But she looked oddly peaceful. Her skin… was very cold. That was wrong- she was practically a part of the sun- how long had she waited here, a terrified mortal? There was a noose in a neat pile next to her, but the evidence didn’t line up. There didn’t appear to be any wounds other than a rope burn around her neck, but then how did she get down…? She turned to look at Shouta, who was a few feet away. At his feet was the mangled body of a man, tied up in what appeared to be barbed wire.
“Oh. This is troubling.” The two whirled around to see a short woman, a beak for a nose in the doorway. “I didn’t prepare for guests.”
“Did you kill Arc?” Emi asked softly, trembling.
“How rude. I did not. I’m not a villain. I’m a mother.” The bird-like woman stared at them, and Emi had a feeling she was more than slightly unhinged. “‘Arc’ killed herself, as penitents for her crimes.”
“What- what crimes?” But Emi felt like she knew already.
“Joke, we need to get out.” Shouta whispered in her ear, and started to pick her up, but a metal spike came flying at his hand. Luckily, he dodged it in time, but Emi didn’t move, her dazed expression locked on Kaori’s body.
“My Arc would never…”
“Joke, you need to snap out of it!” Shouta called, and stared intensely at the woman, erasing any quirk she might have been using. He suspected her to be the one behind the spike, but he also couldn’t be certain if there wasn’t another person with the spikes and she could be altering Emi’s mind. Not for the first time, he cursed his lack of multiple sets of eyes.
“She killed my son.”
“You killed my Arc.” Emi’s voice grew cold and she launched herself at the woman. Shouta glanced at her in surprise, and in that second, when Emi’s fist collided with the woman’s face, a metal spike ran through Emi’s gut, cleanly passing through her body. She coughed, and a splatter of blood fell out of her mouth.
“Joke-” More spikes appeared, but with a glance, they all fell to the floor. “Joke hang on-” He rushed to bind the woman, then knelt down and gently scooped Emi into his arms. As he did, her hand let go of Kaori’s for the last time.
He ran down the steps with the dazed Emi in his arms, and out the door. As soon as he was out, he called the police, putting it on speakerphone as he got to work on Emi, carefully using the quirk tape in her cuffs to tightly seal the wound. She didn’t make a sound throughout the process, staring at an invisible hand she no longer could hold.
Chapter 8: Laughter and Lipstick
Back in the present, Emi has to deal with an unruly coworker.
I will forever be in love with all of my Ketsubutsu children, they are so good.
I am in awe of how good they are.
“For the final question… Makabe, could you read your answer? Yours was very insightful.” Emi gave her student a warm smile from her seat on top of her desk.
“If you have an injured civilian as well as a rampaging villain, your first step should be to assess the damage that might be done by either choice you make. If the civilian is in a stable condition, then you should get them to safe ground or a medic if one is nearby, then focus on the villain. However, if the civilian is in critical condition, you must focus on minimizing threats to their health. This dilemma can usually be helped by working in pairs or groups-” There was an angry shout outside the door, and Shikkui paused, glancing at Emi to gauge whether or not he should continue. She got up and smoothed the wrinkles out of her skirt. She didn’t have plans, but after that last night and the accompanying dream, she needed to even out the awful feeling in her chest with peach lipstick and a classy knit turtleneck. She recognized the angry voice as belonging to Dandelion, and sighed as she swung open the door.
Dandelion paused in his rant at the stone-faced Shouta, held up by his collar.
“What do you think you’re doing?” She asked, tone cold and even, but eyes flashing with anger. Dandelion dropped Shouta, and Emi caught his elbow so he wouldn’t fall.
“This Yuuei snob was loitering outside of your classroom-”
“You mean, this guest was politely waiting for class to finish ?” She gestured at the guest pass around Shouta’s neck. “And instead of talking like a normal person, you decided to attack him and disrupt my class?” Her voice was dripping with ice, and her students all peered on, shell shocked by the new expression their usually joyful teacher was showing. Dandelion puffed up, his face flushed an unusual shade of purple.
“Listen, Emi, I know you like this scum, but he’s been leering at us this whole time-”
“Don’t you dare talk about him like that. You’re tarnishing Ketsubutu Acadamy’s name with your actions. ...And don’t call me Emi.” Her tone was even, but her grip on Shouta’s arm tightened, her knuckles white.
“Just because you’re sleeping with him-” She slammed the door in his face.
It was silent for a few moments, but her head buzzed with a heat she never expected to feel. Then, she straightened up and fixed Shouta’s collar, brushing away the wrinkles Dandelion had inflicted.
“I sincerely apologize for my co-worker’s remarks. His words don’t reflect any of the views shared by our school and were entirely unwarranted. I’ll bring it up with the faculty.” Her voice was soft, but clear.
“Teach, you’re so cool!” Tatami burst, a huge grin on her face. Emi took a deep breath, and smiled back at her students.
“I didn’t know you could make that face, Teach- even you can be scary sometimes.” Yo laughed.
“Forget Icyhot - I’ve fallen for you hard!” Tatami added, laughter bubbling from her mouth.
“To stay so cool in front of Mr. Aizawa, too, when you were all wild at the exam-” Shikkui made eyes at Itejiro, who shook his head.
“She’s gotten to spend some time with him since then, so of course her energy has dropped. You know how she gets in new situations.” Itejiro explained in his normal quiet manner, and Shikkui grinned.
“Sorry about the intrusion, and no harm was done.” Shouta’s expression didn’t seem to betray anything, but there the touch of an awed smile when she wasn’t looking at him.
“You’re certainly all dressed up, though - don’t tell me you were planning on proposing and that idiot messed it up.” Emi grinned at him and fixed his tie.
“Not likely.” His tone was dry, and her smile brightened. That was the kind of Shouta she fell for. “But I could say the same to you.” He added under his breath.
“When your heart is hurting, there are two ways to cover it up: Laughter and lipstick.” She grinned, and he nodded to himself.
“So you saw the invitation.”
“Aren’t you two cozy- you look like my parents.” Shikkui flashed them a grin, and Itejiro shot him a deadpan stare.
“If that’s the case, then you’re adopted.”
“Hey now calm down, we have just a few minutes left of class, so we’re going to use them.” Emi shot down the students’ laughter and returned to the podium. “Pass up your papers from the Yuuei course. As far as your tests go, if you want to earn back some points, write two paragraphs on each question you got wrong. Your scores don’t matter as much as your understanding of the subject. I want you all to be successful heroes, not just grade-A students.” She smiled at them and glanced at the clock. “Also, if past experience is anything to go by, I’d say you’ll have a rough pop quiz in Dandelion’s class tomorrow, so study up. I’ll see you tomorrow.”
“Ugh, can a guy be any more petty?” Tatami groaned, and handed Emi the small stack of papers.
“Sounds like we got caught up in a one-sided love affair, and our grades will be the ones at stake.” Yo sighed.
“I’ll do my best to protect you guys, but just hang on for now.” Emi tapped the papers together and put them in a green folder, smile stickers decorating the cover, and placed it in her bag.
“Thanks, Teach, and if you’re gonna break a guy’s heart, can you break one that doesn’t give us pop quizzes next time?” Tatami winked and left the classroom, jogging lightly to catch up to Yo.
After they all left, Emi let out a long sigh.
“So you’re the resident heart breaker of Ketsubutsu Academy?” Shouta sent her a smirk, and she shook her head.
“Ya gotta take me while you can, Eraser- I’m a wanted commodity.” She flashed him a grin, then stood up and stretched. “So what brings my favourite person to my favourite place today?” She walked over to him and teasingly touched his cheek. “And clean shaven, no less. You’re the real heart breaker here.” He didn’t move, but his eyes locked onto hers and a shiver ran up her spine.
“Eri woke up.”
“So you ditched class to come see me?”
“All Might took them outside to do an exercise for the last hour so I caught the train…”
“You really do need to think about getting a car again, though I don’t mind being your taxi if I get to see you every day.”
“In this economy? I’ll walk.”
She touched his hand with a small smile, and he held it for a few moments before letting go.
“Can’t let anyone think I’m getting soft.” He shot her a smirk and for a second she forgot how to breathe.
“You? Soft? In my dreams.”
“I’d bet. Where are you parked?” Emi choked and tried to pull herself together long enough to learn how to breathe again before they left the classroom.
Eri’s eyes lit up as Emi entered her room, and she leaped from the bed into her arms.
“Miss Emi, you’re okay!” She smiled brightly and Emi kissed her forehead, leaving a peach smudge of lipstick on her skin.
“It’s all thanks to you, Eri- you’re incredible.” She swung her around, then set the girl down before rubbing off the lipstick with the inside of her sleeve and a small laugh.
“I was scared, but I was more scared of losing you, so I had to be brave!”
“You’re the bravest person I’ve ever met.” Emi knelt next to her and tucked a lock of Eri’s hair behind her ear. Eri’s eyes widened and it looked like she was fighting back tears before she flung her arms around Emi again. Emi wrapped her arms around the small girl and stroked her silver hair. She glanced up at Shouta, and saw the ghost of a smile on his lips and she returned it with a warm smile of her own. “Eri, have you ever thought about being a doctor? With a wonderful quirk like yours, I’m sure you could save thousands of people.”
Eri stared at her in shock, then looked at her hands. “You...think I could save people?”
“You saved me.” Emi squeezed her hands gently, and a small smile spread across Eri’s face.
“I’d like that.”
The two chatted and joked over a number of things while Shouta busied himself with reading over the update sent by the inspector. His eyes narrowed as he took a few notes, then looked over at the girls enjoying themselves. “Joke?” She glanced up at him. “You’re going to be needing new gloves, right?”
“Oh, you’re right, I don’t know how I forgot.”
“Get a measurement of your hands, and I’ll put in the request for some new ones. We have a support class student with a talent for that. You may recognize her from the sports festival.”
“You’re wonderful, Eraser - I love you!” She flashed him a smile, and their eyes met for a moment and held. His mouth was slightly open, as though he was going to respond, but then he closed it again and looked away. She felt her cheeks growing hot. It wasn’t like her to feel embarrassed or second-guess what she said, but she didn’t know how to read his lack of a retort. Eri glanced at the two in the sudden silence, confusion written on her face.
“What’s wrong?” She asked softly, and when Shouta didn’t respond, Emi waved her off with a light laugh.
“It’s nothing- could you help trace my hand, please?” Redirecting her attention seemed to help, and once they were done with the drawing, and Emi put some notes on it, Shouta took the paper and left.
“I’m sorry he didn’t say it back.” Eri’s voice was soft and Emi blinked in surprise.
“That he loves you.” Emi laughed lightly and pat Eri’s head.
“That’s okay. I didn’t expect him to.” She gave Eri a sweet smile and pulled out another paper for them to draw on. “I still have a long way to go before he falls for me.”
“I don’t think so.” Eri reached for a red crayon.
“What makes you say that?”
“When you got hurt, he looked… really sad. But today, I saw him smile.” Eri started writing a hiragana a , and Emi glanced at the door, her face brighter than the crayon for a few moments until the flushed feeling passed and her face reset into a small smile.
“I hope you’re right, Eri.”
Chapter 9: A Serious Problem
Eraser and Joke try to understand each others' feelings.
As it grew dark, Emi and Eri said their goodbyes, and Shouta followed Emi out the doors of the school.
“At least you’re wearing long sleeves this time.” He said quietly, and Emi reached for his hand.
“I’m still cold. Hold me?” She smiled coyly, but that smile vanished as he took her hand.
“I’ll think about it.”
“How cruel…” She chuckled. “At least when you clearly shot me down I didn’t feel strange afterwards…” She paused, and laughed awkwardly. “Please forget I said that.”
They left the school and drove back to the police station, empty for the night. They walked along in relative silence before they got to the same, dark bench as the night before, streetlight still off. Emi’s heart felt heavy as she sat down, bracing herself for the inevitable discussion about the wedding. Quietly, gently, Shouta wrapped his arm around her.
“I remembered Arc’s face.” She whispered into the night sky. “I’d forgotten it. I didn’t even realize I’d forgotten it.” He didn’t respond for a few moments and she let out a soft breath. “I’ll go if you go. To the wedding, that is.” she whispered, squeezing his hand.
They both expected tears, but nothing came. Just silence and the soft beating of their hearts. Finally, Shouta broke the silence.
“Joke, could we talk? Seriously, with no games. I need to understand something.” She glanced at him in surprise, then nodded.
“I want to understand how you feel about me.” She froze, her grip on his hand tightening.
“How I feel… about you?” Her heart started to race, and despite having said it a thousand times before, she couldn’t get the words out. In the dark, she couldn’t read his expression, but she could imagine his cold stare piercing her. “I…” She choked, and he withdrew his arm from around her. She felt so close, but couldn’t quite reach what she wanted to say. When she finally did, her words were quiet and tremulous. “I… want to be with you. Forever. I don’t want to lose you again.” She closed her eyes and hung her head. “I wish I could put it into words that did it justice. I think about you, when I’m doing tiny things, and I want to do them with you. Just… watching the news… cooking… filing taxes…” She laughed awkwardly. “My heart skips a beat when I think about you. I feel stupid about it, about how badly I want to hold your hand, and about why my chest fills with pain when I think about you smiling…” She trailed off and glanced at him, wondering if she was supposed to continue.
“That sounds like a serious problem.” His voice was cold and distant.
“You said no joking!” She sighed and pressed her forehead against his shoulder.
“I think I can understand some of that.” He said softly and wrapped his arm around her again, fingers weaving through her seafoam hair. Her heart skipped a few beats. “I would like to spend more time with you…” He seemed to be walking on glass as he selected his next words.
“But I don’t think I can love you.”
She froze, staring at him with a pained expression that she knew he couldn’t see.
“Don’t get me wrong, Joke, it’s not you.” He sighed and looked away, trying to find the words to make the cut less deep. “I care about you. More than I want to, honestly. But I don’t think it’s possible for me to feel that…chest pain, or my heart skipping… I don’t think I can feel those. It sounds rather painful, so I don’t necessarily want to feel them, but… I think I want to love you, but I can’t.”
“I don’t understand.” She choked quietly, and she felt a frozen tear prick at her cheek.
“I don’t either. I want to, though.” He turned to her, and let go.
“Eraser…?” She coughed on his name, a small squeak.
“May I-” He began, then paused. “I would like to try something. There’s something I need to know.” His hands cupped her face and she froze.
“Era-” He pressed his lips against hers. In the dark, he was a little off, but the next time, he hit the mark. Stunned, she didn’t move, and he pulled away slowly.
“You taste like peaches… is that normal?” She caught her breath with a sharp gasp. “Joke?”
“Call me Emi.” She flung her arms around him and kissed him frantically, like she didn’t believe he was real. He made a surprised sound, but that got muffled behind her lips. As she kissed him, he slowly wrapped his arms around her waist, pulling her closer to him.
When she finally gasped for breath, he murmured “Shouta.”
“Shouta?” She whispered against his mouth and he made a small sound. “I’m in love with you.” He didn’t respond.
After a few minutes, the kisses calmed down so the two could breathe. Shouta leaned back on the bench and held her against his chest. Somehow, his heartbeat was steady, even as hers raced, and he couldn’t tell if that confirmed his suspicions. Neither of them understood it, or knew what it meant, but slowly, as the cold sank in, hers slowed as well, trying to match the soft beat.
Before Shouta left the car, he leaned in once more for a final kiss. The taste of peach lingered on his lips as he opened the door to his apartment.
“We’re watching a scary movie, want to join?” Hizashi piped up from the couch, nestled in his boyfriend’s arms.
“No. Keep it down though, I’m about to go to sleep.” Hizashi glanced up at Shouta as he passed by and immediately paused the movie.
“You’re going to want to shower, first.”
“Why?” Shouta’s voice was cold, and Hizashi grinned at him, leaning back against his boyfriend.
“So she finally got to ya, after all these years?”
“I don’t know what you’re referring to.”
“I’m assuming it was Joke, but I didn’t realize she wore lipstick.” Shouta swore and Hizashi’s smile broadened. “Looks like my son’s finally grown up.”
“I’m not your- this doesn’t leave the room.” Hizashi waved lazily from the couch.
“Don’t worry, lover boy. Your secret’s safe with me. It… was Joke, right? You didn’t suddenly get caught up in a sleazy affair with some random peach girl, right?”
Shouta sighed and closed the door to the bathroom.
“I’m so proud of him.” Hizashi grinned and unpaused the movie.
Present Mic deserves the world. I don't have a design or name picked for his boyfriend yet, but they've been dating a few years. He's Mic's editor as a radio host. Y'all are welcome to contribute ideas if you have any, for when I do make this a comic.
Chapter 10: The Unbreakable Glass Cannons
Eraser and Joke have a hard time learning to concentrate before they scope out the Glass Cannons' lair.
A couple weeks passed as the police searched for the remaining members of the Unbreakable Glass Cannons. Shouta and Emi kept their unconfirmed relationship behind closed doors, though most people could tell that they had grown surprisingly close over their time back together, as though they were making up for the lost moments in their years apart. Emi was a familiar sight now at Yuuei, and even a few students from other classes knew her name. After a meeting with Ketsubutsu Academy, she and Dandelion were on steadier terms and her students weren’t as worried about pop quizzes. After work, she’d often study with Eri, helping catch her up to other students her age while also giving her special classes on anatomy, to help her understand her quirk when she would be able to comfortably use it in the future.
There was a soft knock on the door as Emi braided Eri’s hair, a partially finished worksheet on the floor in front of them. Emi took a bobby pin out of her mouth and slid it into place. “Come in.” She chirped, and Shouta opened the door, a bag in his hand. “Oh, a present? Looks like it’s somebody’s lucky day.” She grinned, and he pulled out the gloves and handed them to her. She turned them over, fascinated. The colours were the same, and there were still cuffs with quirk binding tape wound within them, but there seemed to be metal sheets in between layers of fabric, and a slight spring sewn into the knuckles rather than her usual padding. Also, there was an additional compartment in the cuff. Upon pressing it, a small yellow bead popped out. She raised an eyebrow at Shouta.
“Hatsume told me that if you throw that bead hard enough to break it, it’ll create a small explosion.”
“I wonder what would happen if somebody bit one on accident.”
“How about we don’t bite it so it’s not a problem.”
“Party pooper.” Emi puffed out her cheeks at him but he ignored her.
“You can’t try them out here…” He tapered off before finishing.
“But…?” She ushered him to continue and he glanced at Eri on Emi’s lap. She took the hint. “Eri, sweetheart, I’m going to go out for a bit with Mr. Aizawa, is that okay?” She tickled Eri’s cheek with the tip of her braid and the little girl giggled, getting up.
“It will be more than just a bit.”
“My lucky day.” She gave him a wink which he also pointedly ignored.
“Please be safe, Miss Emi.” Eri said softly, but she was smiling that small smile that Emi worked hard to implant in her mind.
“No worries, I’m in good hands!” She slid on the gloves, which fit surprisingly well. “And good gloves as well…” She grinned and waved at Eri before leaving with Shouta. They were out of the campus building before he paused, pulling out his phone. “So what’s the secret?”
“We found the Glass Cannons.”
“We’re going to go fight them, right? You and me, or..?” She brightened up, a fire in her eyes that slightly unnerved him.
“If what we have is anything to go off of, there are 4 members of the Cannons left. There’s a hacker, who I assume is the one that’s been keeping tabs on Eri, and she shouldn’t be difficult to fight. Then there are siblings that both have quirks that allow them to manipulate glass. I’m assuming one of them is the one who hurt you last time.”
“I’ll kill him for trying to cut my favourite head off my favourite body.”
“Down, Emi.” He ignored her fighting spirit, and she laughed brightly. Her blood was definitely starting to get ready for battle. “The last member of the Cannons is going to be especially problematic if we don’t handle things well. She’s their leader, Taihou’s mother.”
“The guy you took down. The one they interrogated.”
“Right, that Taihou.” Names were never Emi’s strong point.
“Her quirk is similar- she can shoot cannons from her hands and mouth.”
“They really put two and two together for their name, didn’t they.” Emi said dryly. “So who all do we have on our side?”
“The Inspector has a small police faction ready that will be on standby should we need support.”
“They should stay on standby. I don’t like a bunch of unfamiliar faces if I’m planning on using my quirk. It’s just another thing to think about.” Emi unlocked the car and swung in. “Anybody else?”
“Just us, though Edgeshot’s agency is nearby in case of any surprises.”
Emi smiled to herself. “So an afternoon beating up thugs with my darling, how romantic.”
“I’d use a different term.”
“Just because I like kissing you doesn’t mean I’m your boyfriend.”
“You like kissing me?” Emi flashed him a cheeky grin, and he ignored it.
“I wouldn’t do it otherwise.” Somehow, that caught her off guard and she glanced away, hoping he wouldn’t notice the extra colour on her cheeks. She turned on the car and she caught his smirk out of the corner of her eye. He definitely noticed. She turned to shift out of park, and his hand on hers stopped her. She glanced over in confusion and he took the chance to kiss her. When he pulled away, her face was beet red.
“Really? Right before I start driving? You know I’m not going to be able to focus now.”
“We have to swing by your place anyway for your costume. It’ll wear off.” He smirked and leaned into his hand, facing the window.
“You’re such a jerk.”
“Isn’t that who you fell for?” She gaped at him like a fish with bright red scales. She sputtered for a moment, trying to piece together a reply.
“I- yes? I mean- what? You’re- you’re teasing me?”
“How the tables have turned.” He leaned back in the seat. “We have time, but you should probably think about driving.”
“You’re distracting me.” She grumbled and put the car into drive.
As Emi changed, Shouta played with Tsukkomi. She caught him smiling a few times and had to stop before her heart gave out. “We should come up with a plan in advance so I know what to bring.” She called, twirling her gas mask on her finger. She looked through her cabinet. Laughing gas, tear gas, knock out gas… And there were the little explosives in her new cuffs… But she didn’t know if Shouta had a gas mask of his own. She felt hands on her waist and she was about to shriek in surprise when Shouta wrapped his arms around her, resting his chin on her collarbone.
“What do you have?”
“For someone who says he’s not in love, you really can’t keep your hands off me.” She shot him a teasing look.
“Why do the two have to coincide?” He asked, reading the labels on the mason jars full of different coloured bombs, each with a smile drawn on. She lifted her hand to his cheek and turned his face towards hers.
“It would be incredibly convenient for me.”
He smirked. “I like the way you said that.” She turned back to the cabinet and sighed.
“Do you happen to have a gas mask? Or should I just fight with what I have on me?”
“We’re expecting four people who haven’t been professionally trained. As long as we stay focused, we should be fine with what we have.”
“Stay focused, right.” She gave him a sassy side eye. “How much time do we have before we’re supposed to meet at the station?”
“You have more than enough time to get focused.”
“It’s not me I’m worried about.” She sighed and he lightly nipped her neck. She froze, the colour rising to her face.
“That makes one of us who isn’t worried about you, then.”
“Are you even Shouta? Did you get replaced or something? Or is this just a weird mood you’re in now that you’re not as repressed? We’re supposed to be preparing for a fight, and you’re-” She stepped away from him, and the two shared a strange look.
“I thought this was what you wanted.”
“I do- I mean- I’m just.. Adjusting. This is weird, and I don’t fully understand why you’re acting like this. I don’t dislike it, I just- I’m confused.” She shook her head and he reached for her hand. She watched as he laced his fingers into hers.
“Stop thinking about it.” His voice was back to his normal dry tone, but that only messed with her mind more. She shook her head, slapping her face with her hair.
“You can’t just tell me to stop thinking about it, I want to know!” He sighed, then wrapped his arm around her waist. She was about to push him away when his thumb slid over her scar.
“I’m distracting you. That’s what I’m doing.”
“For the next few weeks, I want you to only think about us. ” She froze. In any other situation, she’d probably be delighted to hear that, but in that moment, she wasn’t too sure.
“Shouta, please don’t keep me out.” Her voice was soft, and his hand moved from the scar to the back of her head, bunching the strands of seafoam hair between his fingers.
“You’re reckless, and I’m going to do what I can to keep you from doing anything you’ll regret later.”
“What’s this about? Shouta, I need to know- we’re partners, aren’t we?” He gently pressed her face into his scarf.
“I’ve been thinking a lot. Remembering… And you get reckless when you’re hurting, and…”
“So this is about Arc, isn’t it.” Her voice was flat. “Because the wedding’s coming up.” He was silent for a moment.
“I want you to stop thinking about her. You could jeopardize us if you decide to get self-sacrificing again, like that time with the glass.”
“Shouta, I fell for a person who was always consistent and honest with his feelings, even if that hurt sometimes. We’re supposed to trust each other enough to say how we’re feeling so that there aren’t any misconceptions.” She moved her face so she could stare at him, but his expression was unreadable.
“Emi, if you think I was being honest with my feelings, you clearly don’t know how much I was holding back.” He drew closer to her and she stepped back, brushing against the wall. He held her hand up to his lips, kissing the palm, and his eyes locked on hers. Her stomach flipped. He slid her hand to his cheek, then put his hand against the wall, eyes never once leaving hers, like a snake that caught a mouse. But he wasn’t a snake, and she wasn’t a mouse. She pulled him into her arms and they stayed locked together for what seemed to be a lifetime, every so often gasping for breath in between long kisses that left them light headed. If it weren’t for the wall supporting them, they would have collapsed long ago.
A phone call finally forced the two back to their senses, and they stumbled apart. Shouta answered, trying to sound like he wasn’t catching his breath.
“Yeah, we’re on our way. Sorry for the delay..” He hung up and brushed his hair out of his face.
“More than enough time to get focused, right.” She tucked a fly-away bang back into her bandana and tugged on her gloves. He shrugged and pulled his goggles over his eyes.
“I miscalculated a little bit.”
“Are you sure this is the place?” Emi asked Inspector Naomasa, face in hands as she leaned over the hood of the car. He put away his phone.
“According to our reports, this is the place.” They peered at the cathedral. It didn’t seem like the kind of place that’d be used as a villain’s hideout, no matter how temporary. It had a friendly-enough sign claiming services were at 10 and that everyone was welcome.
“Considering we’re working with the Glass Cannons, maybe the, y’know, glass-blowing factory next door would make more sense?” Naomasa ignored her and instead gave her a pager so they could call the police in with a touch of a button.
“One way to find out.” Shouta stepped forward and walked to the large oak double doors, stained glass dully reflecting his expression. After a moment’s glance, he put his hand on the door’s handle and cracked it open. Emi quietly sprinted to catch up to him, attention locked on any sign of movement. However, there wasn’t any. The door creaked slightly, and she winced at the sound. The room they entered was a sanctuary, and even though it was dark outside, the moonlight peered in through the stained glass, leaving a soft mixture of reds and blues on the wood flooring.
The two split up and walked down the outer edges of the pews, stepping close to the wall to avoid additional creaking. The room was silent, empty, and then they heard a loud noise somewhere below them. Exchanging glances, they made their way toward the back of the sanctuary, where there was an innocuous door. Opening it lead to a flight of stairs, where the two could hear the sound of voices.
“God, you idiot , Shad. Give us away, why don’t you. You can be the clean up crew once we’re done with the heroes. Couldn’t finish them off the first time and left Hiro and Grasshopper, so of course you’re gonna mess it up again here.” It was the voice of a very angry woman, bright and sneering.
“Lay off, Hariko, it was an accident. And I got one, just not the one I wanted to get.” His voice was sullen and rather whiny. This was the punk who tried to kill Emi’s Shouta? Her grip tightened on the wall beside her, knuckles white under her gloves. The two began to silently sneak down the steps, hugging their perspective walls.
“Not according to Mari, looks like she’s doing just peachy .”
“Both of you, be quiet. I heard something.” There was a low voice, metallic and husky.
The two heroes watched their breathing, trying to stay as still and silent as possible.
“C’mon, Mama Taihou, it’s no big deal. Whenever the rats want to come out of the floorboards, we’ll welcome them with open arms. Not like they have a choice.” The angry woman, who Emi assumed to be Hariko, started to calm down, voice dripping with a lazy malice. If she remembered correctly, Hariko was the name of one of the glass quirk siblings, which made “Shad” Shadosa Hahen, her younger brother. That left Kanouka Taihou as “Mama”, the leader of the Glass Cannons and a relatively unknown mob boss with a quirk that allowed her to shoot cannon balls from most of her extremities. After the interrogation, they learned that she used the natural metals in minerals from her body to form the cannon balls, which meant that she could run out of resources, if given enough time. As far as Hiroshi Taihou knew at the time of his interrogation, the siblings didn’t have any known weaknesses in their quirks, but their poor teamwork could conceivably be used against them. That left… Mari Wesuto, their hacker. She didn’t seem to be in the vicinity, which made sense. Her quirk allowed her to hijack camera feeds, but that wouldn’t be helpful in the heat of battle.
Emi and Shouta made it to the base of the stairs, crouching carefully. The room in front of them was the same size as the sanctuary, set up for a Sunday potluck, with tables and folding chairs in rather disorganized rows. They didn’t offer any cover, but appeared like they’d make things more difficult to slide through the chaotic mess. The tables were mostly empty, but there was a kitchenette with rows of vases and glass cups sitting on the counter at the other end of the room. The lights were dimly lit, with several bulbs burnt out, giving the room a tiny bit of warmth in an otherwise quite sterile white-walled, white-linoleum environment. Leaning against the walls were stained glass pictures, recently removed from their nails. That was rather disconcerting to Emi, who had a feeling she knew why they were removed.
In the kitchenette were the bodies belonging to the three voices. Emi immediately recognized the large metal woman as Kanouka Taihou. She looked very similar to her son, with sliding bronze plates making up the most of her face, though her eyes were much darker, lacking a sclera, making it look as though they were only two sharp almond-shaped pupils. Because of that, Emi couldn’t be certain where she was looking. Kanouka took a bite out of something, likely filling her metal preserves.
The other two bodies belonged to the siblings, Shadosa and Hariko, though they didn’t look very similar. Shadosa was long and willowy, but stood with a bit of a sullen droop to make him appear smaller than he actually was, while Hariko looked to be relatively small, but held herself in a manner that made her appear taller. Her eyes, heavily coated in green eyeliner, were staring straight at them, a smirk on her black lips.
“And here the little mice are.” She purred, and the other Glass Cannons perked up, following her gaze. Spotted, Emi and Shouta stood, his hands on his binding cloth and eyes locked on Kanouka’s, keeping her from firing at them.
“I’d say we want to talk, but I’m a little salty about you trying to kill my partner and kidnap my child, so I suppose I’ll let my fists do the talking for me today.” Emi smirked from behind her mask.
“Gross, what a sappy couple. Sorry to let you down, but we’ll be taking Overhaul’s brat over your dead bodies.”
“You have to kill us, first.”
“That’s the intention.” Hariko leaned forward, and all of the glassware on the counter flew up, then smashed into the walls, raining shattered glass around the room. “Watch your step.” Her cold smirk widened, canines flashing in the reflected light.
Emi tried to gauge the distance between them. She needed to be closer to activate her quirk, but the glass everywhere was worrying to her. She suddenly felt a nostalgic wish that she still had her old boots with wheels. She wasn’t allowed to think on it for very long before the large stained glass paintings started floating in front of them, likely controlled by Shadosa. It seemed like they weren’t able to get too close to them, but the reflecting light and moving blocks of colour were sure to be a distraction to Shouta, who was struggling to keep his eyes locked on Kanouka. Emi deflected a few thrown shards from Hariko with her gloves, the metal laced into the fabric protecting her skin.
In a blink, a large cannon sailed through the air, leaving Kanouka’s arm with a strong kickback. Shouta grabbed Emi by the waist and hoisted her out of the way while she covered him from more of Hariko’s shards, flung like throwing knives at the two. They slammed into one of the stained glass paintings, shattering it into more future ammo from Hariko, despite their intentions to escape the cannon blast. Shouta erased Kanouka’s quirk again after a few smaller cannon balls narrowly missed their dodges, but more stained glass swung about, blocking his view. The two tried wading through the sea of tables and chairs, but the three quirks kept them from getting close enough for Emi to end things. After another cannon blast knocked over a table and Emi’s gloves were starting to tear, Shouta pulled her behind a fallen table for a brief moment of freedom from the barrage of glass and cannonballs.They each had a few scratches from rogue shards, and he pulled a part of a vase out of her glove. She hissed under her breath.
“My eyes keep messing with me- they’re blurring out right now.” He scowled and she looked at his goggles. There was a tinge of movement in them, and she quickly pulled them off of him, throwing them as hard as she could right before the glass inside them could pierce his eyes.
“They’re smarter than their friends.” Emi glanced out from behind the table and a small cannonball, nearly a bullet, shot her mask, knocking off one of the smiling faces. “Could you erase the glass girl’s quirk? I need just enough time to get close, and she’s holding me back a lot.” She pressed the button on her cuff, dispensing a few beads, and handed some to him. He nodded.
“Don’t try to do anything funny, Joke, just activate Outburst as soon as you can.” The table was beginning to quake under the weight of the shards slamming against it, and Emi returned his nod.
“See you on the other side, Eraser.” She grinned, but she knew he couldn’t see it from beneath the mask. They split up just in time for a cannonball to break the table in half. Emi scampered to the right while Shouta hung left, and as his eyes caught Hariko, several shards aimed for Emi’s vitals fell to the ground harmlessly. Emi launched a bead right as Kanouka opened fire. Emi had never had the best aim, she was always much more comfortable being up close and personal with her fists, but luck was on her side when the cannonball hit the bead, causing it to explode in a shower of sparks and smoke, blowing everyone back. Without wasting a moment, Emi sprinted into the cloud, launching herself over some tables to clear the distance. She could hear ragged coughing coming from the cloud, and felt some relief that the cannon hadn’t damaged her mask so badly that it didn’t do its job. A blue aura surrounded her as she punched somebody in the face, then that aura spread like wildfire to engulf the three Glass Cannons.
The choking laughter and pained wheezes that rose in response softened the adrenaline blast in Emi’s brain, and she let out a deep breath that she didn’t realize she’d been holding. As the cloud of smoke cleared, Emi tied the three up, making sure that they wouldn’t be using their quirks or fighting back any time soon.
“We got them, Shouta!” She laughed, exhilarated by their success. She turned, and the serotonin shock faded as quickly as it came when she noticed Shouta’s crumpled up body collapsed against the wall. She skidded over to him. “Shouta? Eraser? You okay?” His eyes were closed, but his breathing was normal and he waved languidly at her.
“Good work, Em, I just… hit my head in that blast. You go find the hacker, I’ll call Naomasa.” She sighed in relief.
“Take it slowly, okay? There are medics on standby, they’ll check you out.” She pulled a rogue shard of glass out of her glove before gently stroking his cheek, wiping away a bit of blood from an earlier attack from Hariko.
“Be careful, Em.” Her heart skipped a beat, but she covered it with a small laugh.
“Wait for me, Sho, I’ll be pissed if you do something stupid like go dying on me.” He smiled. It was a small smile, but it floored her for a moment. She clutched her chest for a moment, waiting for the tight feeling to subside, and then turned and left as he pulled out the pager.
She searched the kitchenette, and found a small door that appeared to open into a closet at first, but hid another door behind it. It was locked, but with the right amount of pressure, it gave. A teenage girl with wide grey eyes like targets and a twitching rabbit nose stared at Emi from behind a few computer screens. She was visibly trembling.
“Are you Mari Wesuto?”
“Is… Hariko alright?” She asked softly and Emi took a step forward.
“She’s with the police now. Why don’t you come with me, we don’t have to make things difficult.” Emi used a gentle voice, but the girl stepped away, nearly tripping on her chair. There was another staircase at the end of the small room, likely an escape. Emi kept her eyes locked on Mari, holding her hands up to show that she meant no ill will. Mari’s eyes flashed from Emi to the staircase and back.
“It’s okay, we won’t hurt you if you give up peacefully.” Emi removed her mask slowly to show her gentle smile. “With a quirk like yours, you can be rehabilitated and brought back into society, here, take my hand-” Emi reached out slowly to the trembling girl. Mari looked at the outstretched glove and noticed a small shard of glass. In a flash, she pulled out a gun and shot at Emi.
“I won’t go without Hariko!” The bullet grazed Emi’s shoulder and she winced, but ran for the girl, who was hastily adjusting her hand on the trigger before pulling it again. It hit deeper into Emi’s shoulder, but she bit back the pain, quickly slamming the girl into a tight hold, the gun falling from her trembling hands.
Emi bound the girl and brought her out, teeth clenched from the pain in her shoulder. The police were already taking care of the other Glass Cannons, and Emi walked to Shouta, who was waiting for her where she left him. He stood carefully, making sure to move slowly enough that he wouldn’t fall forward, and she pressed her face into his shoulder.
“I heard the shots, don’t worry me like that next time.” He stroked her hair and she closed her eyes. The pain was dizzying, and she felt a creeping fuzz wrap around her brain, her eyes, her wounds. “Emi, you alright?” Maybe it’d be okay to stay like this a while longer. “Emi? Stay with me, Em-” The dark fuzz engulfed her.
Chapter 11: Learning to Smile
An epilogue to the past, Emi has to learn how to live without her partner.
Emi didn’t look away from the window when the hospital door opened. There were footsteps, and out of the corner of her eye, Shouta stared out the window as well.
“Pathetic.” His voice was icy, and he closed the curtains before one of the reporters in the crowd could notice them and take a picture. Her cloudy gaze was still locked in the same spot, now covered with white fabric. He pulled up a chair and sat in it, replacing the white fabric with his chin, stubble sprinkled across it. A lone tear rolled down her cheek. “You in there, Joke?” He wiped the tear away and she flinched back into the world. “Good morning to you, too.” He sighed, putting his hand on his chin. “You ready to go home? Your dad was calling me like crazy earlier. The apple doesn’t fall too far from the tree. He has your room set up, if you need some time out of the city.”
“I don’t think I can go out there.” She said softly, glancing back at the covered window.
“I don’t blame you.” He studied her face for a few moments. “You look awful. You still haven’t been getting any sleep?” She shook her head.
“I keep seeing her whenever I close my eyes. I should’ve stopped her, or gone with her, or-” Shouta pressed her face into his chest, staining the dark fabric with muffled tears.
“Stop that. It wasn’t your fault. That woman… The police said she calls herself Shrike… She’s the one who killed them. Apparently the man was a serial killer that had been evading the police. It’s likely that he was the same one from Archangel’s story. Shrike definitely did her research in catching him, if the police couldn’t.”
“If I got there earlier, if I didn’t waste so much time calling, if I had just stopped her from leaving-”
“That doesn’t matter anymore.”
“It doesn’t matter to you because you never cared-” Emi spat out the words, then bit her lip. He stared at her, expressionless as a drop of blood passed under her teeth. “I’m sorry, I-”
“I’m not right, I didn’t mean-”
“No, you’re right.” She froze, staring at him in horror. “Archangel avoided me like the plague. She avoided most people, for that matter. You spoke highly of her, but most heroes would disagree. Before you came, she didn’t care about anybody but herself. She had a god complex of sorts- that’s what held her back in the popularity rankings. Yes, she was powerful and efficient, but she let that get to her head, and it showed. I wasn’t surprised that she let the boy die. A person like that should never have become a hero.” His eyes were piercing into hers, but she couldn’t look away. “She liked you because you thought the world of her no matter what she did.”
He paused for a moment, then continued, cold stare drilling into her. “It’s the same with me, isn’t it? You decided you would like me, and you’re still going to like me even after I’m done telling you this.” He paused, glancing away from her, leaving her frozen in place, tears starting to run down her cheeks. “Hopeless people like you annoy me the most. Stop feeling sorry and think for yourself.”
“Why… why would you say that?!” Emi sobbed, and punched his chest. The weight of the swing threw her off balance, and she lurched forward from the hospital bed. He caught her before she could fall, but that didn’t protect her wound from reopening. He sat on the bed and cradled her in his arms as she choked on her sobs.
“I can’t stand it when you have that look, like a lost puppy.” Shouta whispered into her hair. “It’s okay if you hate me, just… get that expression off your face.”
They sat like that, losing track of time as she wept in his arms, until his steady heartbeat lulled her to sleep. A doctor came and left, and Shouta called her father, letting him know that it would be another day until Emi could come home. Visiting hours came and past, but the doctor didn’t interfere, glad that his patient had finally fallen asleep.
The next day, Shouta snuck her out the back of the hospital, away from the ever-present press. He draped a coat over her head and carried her to a small sedan, wheelchair already packed into the trunk. Emi’s father took her, thanking Shouta a thousand times as he helped her into the car. Emi’s eyes followed Shouta as he left, and then remained locked on her hands for the rest of the car ride. All she could think of were his words the day before. She couldn’t tell if she didn’t believe him or didn’t want to believe him. To her, Arc was as bright as the sun, but there were small things about her that made Emi question herself, and she was starting to seem more and more like a tiny bit of light rather than the entire sun.
Her father spoke non-stop throughout the ride, making jokes and teasing her about her apparent lover that she hadn’t brought up at their last weekend together.
“And don’t worry about the surgery, I’m sure you could adopt a kid in the future, I can be an adopted grandpa-”
“Papa?” She finally spoke, and he nearly drove the car off the road in surprise.
“What is it, pumpkin?”
“I don’t think I remember how to smile.” Her voice was soft, her arms tightly pressed against her stomach. He gave her a glance before staring sadly at the road ahead of them.
“Give it time, Emi, give it time.”
Another few months passed before Emi saw Shouta again.
She left the registrar office of the local university and the two collided. It took a few moments for things to register for the two, but then Emi broke into a bright smile.
“If it isn’t my darling Eraser!”
“I see you’re back on your feet.” He said, looking her over.
“What can I say? My love for you got me through it.” She laughed brightly, but he wasn’t having it.
“You don’t have to lie to me.” His words were sharp, but the smile stayed frozen on her face, as though if she allowed herself to have any other expression, she couldn’t be sure that it’d ever return.
“How rude, to make up for that, you should marry me.”
“Not going to happen.” He shut her down quickly, and her smile became just a small bit more real. “What are you doing here, anyways?”
“Registering for classes! I’ve decided to become a teacher.”
“Are you trying to copy me?” His voice was dry, but she shook her head, unbothered.
“No need to be so condescending, Eraser, I made this choice on my own.” She glanced at her hands, and the smile threatened to fall. “I thought about it… With Arc… I don’t want anybody else to turn out like her. I don’t know if I’ll be a good teacher, but… I want my students to grow up into heroes who people can rely on.”
“That’s surprisingly mature coming from you.”
“You’re going to make me blush! I hope I’ll get to see you around. You’re in your last year, though… you’ll be my tutor, right? We can have study dates.” She winked, and he glanced away.
“You’ll be fine on your own.” He started to walk away, and Emi reached for his hand.
He was just slightly out of reach. She smiled softly and turned around, starting to walk away.
"I’ll see you again someday, Eraser.”
Chapter 12: July Noon Sky
Emi and Shouta go to Ragdoll's wedding, facing their fears and feelings along the way.
“How’s your head doing?” Emi adjusted Shouta’s tie and he reached up to touch it, but was stopped by Hizashi.
“I just finished your hair, don’t you dare mess it up!” Shouta’s roommate snapped.
“Mic’s still talking, so I’d say my head’s seen better days.”
“You’re killing me, Eraser! My whole heart is falling to pieces!” Hizashi wailed, and Shouta gestured at him to illustrate his point.
“Shouta, how could you leave him like this?” Emi took Hizashi’s hand and he gave a melodramatic sigh.
“I suppose I’ll just have to invite my man over to heal me, since you’ll be gone all night…”
“That’s fine.” Shouta said and raised his hand to his head again before Emi stopped him.
“So you will be gone all night. Lucky kids.” Hizashi wagged his eyebrow with a huge grin on his face and Emi flushed a bright red.
“I’m sure you’ll survive without me.” Shouta wasn’t moved by the insinuation.
“They grow up so quickly.” Hizashi wiped a phantom tear from his eye then pulled out his phone. “Say cheese before you leave me forever, okay?”
“You’re not taking my picture.”
“How many times can you break my heart in one night?” He took a few pictures anyway, even with Shouta’s back turned from him.
“We’d better get going, I don’t want us to be late. I always love seeing you, Mic.” Emi smiled and Hizashi gave her a tight squeeze.
“Take pictures! Congratulate Ragdoll for me! Catch the bouquet! Keep Eraser in line! Stay in school! Don’t do drugs!” Emi laughed brightly.
“No promises.” She sent him a conspiratorial wink and he pretended to melt.
“And remember to have fun!” She pretended to think that one over.
“Don’t burn the place down while I’m gone.” Shouta cut in, guiding Emi out the door before she and Hizashi stayed talking for any longer.
“No promises.” Hizashi sent them off with a wink.
“Recovery Girl sure is incredible.” Emi smiled and rubbed her shoulder, covered for once in a lacy sleeve to combat the chilly autumn air. “It hasn’t been very long, and I already don’t remember where the bullets hit.” Shouta wrapped his arm around her, nearly hiding her in his coat.
“I swear, you have a quirk, you should use it more often. If you had, you wouldn’t have needed to see Recovery Girl at all.” She leaned into him.
“I didn’t want to make things more difficult. She was a scared little girl, Shouta, and she really could have a bright future ahead of herself…”
“So you let her shoot you?”
“I did not let her shoot me. I just failed to notice the gun until it was too late.” She squeezed his hand. “But what about your concussion? Are you sure you’re alright? You’ve been taking the medication for it, right?”
“I’m fine, just don’t throw any more of those little bombs at me.”
“I wasn’t aiming for you, but…” She grinned conspiratorially. “If I ever need to blow you away again-”
“Shut up.” She laughed, and he released her from the coat. She turned to face him with that ever present grin and he paused for a moment.
“What is it?” She caught his gaze and he glanced at her peach lips before looking away.
“I don’t want to have to clean myself off before the wedding.” She stared, then snorted with laughter.
“It’s a new brand, want to try? It claims to be kiss proof.” He didn’t look entirely convinced, but that didn’t stop him from pulling her into his arms in the apartment parking lot. After a few breaths caught in between mouthfuls of each other, he pulled away, his expression mixed.
“You don’t taste like peaches this time.” He sounded rather disappointed. She handed him a small tube of chapstick with a laugh.
“We can change that next time around.” She turned away and they nearly ran into Inspector Naomasa and All Might, staring shutter-shocked after leaving their car. Shouta’s face paled, then Emi awkwardly laughed, breaking the silence.
“Lovely day, isn’t it? Would love to stay and chat but… Have a nice day!” The two men silently returned her wave as she pulled a frozen Shouta to her car.
“I… had a feeling it was something like that.” Naomasa nodded to himself and All Might looked like he’d seen a ghost.
Shouta closed the door behind him and buried his face in his hands.
“I’m going to die.” He whispered and Emi suppressed a laugh.
“You’re doing just fine. It’s not like we were going to be a secret forever, especially not after Mic found out.”
“It’s not that- I just-” He shook his head. Emi started the car.
“It’s that they saw us kissing? Like a couple of teenagers?” She raised her eyebrow and he sighed.
“I have a reputation, Em.” She laughed and left the parking lot.
It took an hour to make it to the venue on the mountain, but it felt much shorter with the nearly constant stream of chatter. Usually, Aizawa was closed off, but he started to open up as they swapped stories about the time they spent away from each other. She smiled as he told her about his experiences that she’d only heard about from the news stations. They all seemed incredible, but she believed every word that fell from his lips. She had some wild stories of her own, but nothing to the extent of the things he’d lived through in just the past year alone. With each word, she felt days of the past stitching together until they had never spent a day apart in the past 8 years. Her heart felt soft and warm, and she almost wished that the peaceful drive would never end.
The paved road turned to stone and soil and Emi pulled into the parking lot of the Wild Pussycats’ office, covered in bright golden and silver streamers and balloons. She breathed in the pure mountain air, and smiled brightly.
“Joke! Eraser!” Emi turned to see Ryuko’s bright smile, waving from the entrance.
“Pixie! It’s been too long! How has the hunt been going? Are your golems suited for a black tie affair?” Emi teased, running up to embrace her friend. Ryuko gave her a wink.
“I suppose it depends on how tonight goes.”
“It sounds like you have a story to tell!” Shouta hung back as the two women gossiped in hushed whispers and less-hushed laughs. He scoped out their surroundings, noting the few cars arriving. Despite the popularity of the Pussycats, it seemed like it would be a small, tightly knit affair. Emi waved him over with a bright smile and he approached.
“Eraser! I heard the good news! When’s the wedding?” Ryuko laughed and Emi gave him a mischievous grin.
“We don’t have a date set.” His voice was cold, but the lack of rejection caused Emi’s face to burn brightly.
“Woah! You weren’t joking?” Ryuko grinned, then laughed as she noticed Emi’s face.
“I just need her signature at the courthouse. We can figure out the wedding later.”
“S-Shouta, what’s this?!” Emi squeaked, and she thought she detected a hint of a smile behind his smirk. Ryuko laughed brightly.
“Who knew you were the jokester, Eraser! I hope my plus one isn’t a serial killer, so you don’t mess up my marriage pact!”
“Who said I was joking?” His smirk broadened and he put an arm around Emi’s waist. She flinched a little, then melted.
“How cruel! Remember to invite me! If a certain someone doesn’t show up, I’ll dress up a golem to by my date, so make sure it’s an outdoor wedding.” As if on cue, a car pulled into the parking lot with a familiar policeman behind the wheel. “Oh god, forget the golem.” Ryuko muttered with a slight blush and hurried off to meet up with Sansa.
“So that’s what you were up to during the interrogation. Lucky guy.” Shouta’s voice returned to his usual deadpan, and he glanced at Emi, who was struggling to keep herself together.
“Why would you tease me like that?” She finally cooled down enough to pout at him.
“If you can’t handle it, don’t dish it.” He said simply.
Ryuko returned, positively vibrating with energy as she held Sansa’s hand. He looked a little puffed up from embarrassment, but altogether quite pleased, and her smile could stab a person and they would thank her.
“This is Sansa!” Ryuko chirped, as if they weren’t the ones who introduced them.
“We’re acquainted.” Shouta said, trying to sound polite. Emi flashed the two a smile.
“I’m glad it worked out! And he isn’t even a serial killer, as promised!”
“Thank you, for... the gum wrapper…” Sansa’s voice was soft and low and he trailed off, trying to steady himself. He had a quiet charm to him, and Emi felt a tinge of pride for her friend.
“You had a Wild, Wild Pussycats background on your phone. I just happened to connect some dots.” She winked at him and his fur stood on end.
“You- you saw that…” He glanced away, not noticing Ryuko’s expression of pure adoration, smile frozen on her face as she clung to his arm. Emi had a feeling that she wouldn’t be letting go anytime soon.
More people were arriving and the four walked together to the location of the ceremony, an outdoor pavilion riddled with more streamers and balloons. Emi smiled to herself as she took a seat in the back, pulling out her phone to take pictures to send to her father.
“It’s so refreshing to have an outdoor wedding…” She sighed dreamily to herself. Shouta glanced at her and a mischievous grin spread across her lips. “I’ve had enough of glass to last a lifetime.”
He snorted under his breath. Was that considered a laugh?
The wedding began with soft music from the outdoor speakers. Hizashi would’ve been horrified, but the mellow atmosphere seemed fitting somehow, even knowing Tomoko’s excitable personality.
Tomoko walked down the aisle, a spring in her step and a brilliant smile on her face. She was practically glowing, and Emi wished that the pictures she sent her father would convey that vivacious beauty. However, her hand wavered and she lowered the phone when Tomoko’s bride walked down the aisle.
Her name was Sayuri, but all Emi could think about was her sister, Kaori. She felt Shouta’s hand on hers. Long, golden curls bounced off her back with each elegant step she took, her white dress brushing against the folding chairs as she passed. She was a little paler than Kaori had been, but their facial structures were nearly identical. A soft smile sat on her full lips. Had Kaori been smiling when-
Shouta squeezed Emi’s hand, bringing her back from her trance. She smiled nervously at him before looking back at Sayuri. She had beautiful eyes. They looked like a July noon sky. What had Kaori’s looked like? Before they closed forever? Were they green? Or gold? Emi couldn’t quite remember, but she knew they were different. She latched onto this, and replayed it in her mind.
The woman in front of her was a stranger. They were meeting for the first time, even though she looked like somebody Emi used to know. Her July noon sky eyes were proof of that.
Shouta took the picture for her.
The wedding proceeded, and Emi fought off the fuzz in her mind with the image of those eyes, gazing with a mature softness at Tomoko, their fingers laced together at the altar.
Emi wondered if Kaori would have ever gotten married like this, holding hands with the love of her life, basking in the sunlight. Kaori should have stayed in the sunlight.
A lone tear rolled down her cheek, and Shouta gently wiped it away. He’d been staring at her this entire time, trying to read and react to the subtle changes in her expressions. Emi leaned her head against his shoulder, glad that they were in the back, where nobody would see her tears.
“I’m sorry I’m a mess.” Emi whispered softly to Shouta once the wedding was over. She gave him an awkward smile. “Do I look it?”
He wiped away a bit of smudged mascara. Most of her makeup had surprisingly stayed in place. “You look beautiful.” He responded and she felt her face heat up. She still wasn’t used to this. She wondered if he was just saying that to distract her again, like all the other times he made a move. It was probably some “logical ruse” of his, to keep her focusing on anything other than the past. He noticed her fallen expression and gave her a soft kiss where he’d rubbed away the mascara. She wondered if his lips tasted like salt.
“Wow, that’s a new look! You weren’t kidding about any of that stuff earlier!” Ryuko shot them a bright grin from the seat in front of them. She’d been cuddled up to Sansa the entire time, but finally tore her gaze from him when she noticed the two behind her whispering.
“I told you I wasn’t joking.” Shouta shot Ryuko a smirk, but Emi wondered about that.
Most of the people were moving slowly towards the reception in the office, and a few heroes stopped by to greet the group on their way, a couple expressing confusion or delight at the idea of Eraserhead and Ms. Joke finally getting together. She noticed that he didn’t deny it, and despite her joking around with her fellow pro heroes, the laughter didn’t fully meet her eyes. This was what she’d always wanted, and yet- she felt a slight bit of dread in the back of her mind, like she was being played for a fool. As the spots cleared out, Emi and Shouta stayed behind to move the chairs, ushering Ryuko and Sansa to go on without them and to save them seats.
“How are you feeling?” Shouta asked when it was just the two of them.
“I’m…” She didn’t look at him, trailing off.
“Let me know whenever you’re ready to join the others. Take your time.”
“Shouta…?” Her voice was small, but he responded with a small hum. “You don’t love me, right?” She felt his stare piercing into her. “I’m just… your friend with benefits, right?” He sighed softly.
“It’s more complicated than that, Em.” Her heart melted at the nickname, but crumpled at the rest of his words. “I… feel… something for you.”
“But it’s not love.” The words dropped from her lips with a dead weight to them.
“It’s not… romantic love... Or sexual love for that matter.”
“You just like kissing me.”
“I won’t deny that. Emi, it’s not you. I promise. I don’t think it’s possible for me to feel either of those things for anyone, no matter how hard I try.” Her mouth felt dry, trying to connect the dots to understand what she meant to him. “If I could… I think I would have married you years ago.” She gave him a confused look, mixed slightly with hurt. He tried to run his hands through his hair and she softly stopped him from messing up Hizashi’s work. “Now… I don’t necessarily mind the thought…” He trailed off.
“Mind the thought…?” She asked, hand still on his.
“I do care for you. I want…” He was struggling again. “I want to stay with you. I’d like you to be Eri’s mother. With me.” She was silent, trying to put two and two together. She wanted that, too, but-
“Your words keep conflicting, Shouta.” She let go of his hand and pushed a curl behind her ear.
“I know, and I’m trying to understand things myself.” They were silent a few moments, and she shifted her weight from leg to leg.
“I… don’t mind all of it. I think that’s part of the reason why I fell for you in the first place. I felt… safe, knowing that you didn’t want me. It meant that I didn’t have to hold back as much. I could flirt and tease you all I wanted without the worry that you’d want something I couldn’t give you.” She subconsciously brushed her hand against her scar. “I know it’s selfish, but… I still want you to love me. Kisses are nice, but… I just… worry. That I’m not enough, that I’m being used, or … that I’m wasting my feelings.”
“I do love you - in a way- It’s just, weird. It doesn’t have a word that I know of. It’s more than family or friendship, but different from how you feel for me. It’s not...passionate, or excited, it’s just-different.It’s more… peaceful, it’s more… I want you to be my partner, not just a fling or crush or friend with benefits or any of that.”
“You do… love me?” Her voice cracked.
“God, yes- I love you, I-”
“Then stop making it complicated.” She leaned up and pulled him into a deep kiss. He didn’t hesitate, wrapping his arms around her waist, pulling her closer to him, fingers sliding up her back, into her hair, thumb brushing against her neck, her cheek- She had a point. When she caught her breath, he kissed her throat before returning to her lips, thanking some nondescript deity for her lipstick being kiss-proof because he wanted to kiss her until it had rubbed off entirely.
Maybe they didn’t need a word for it, the feelings that jostled with each heartbeat - hers erratic and passionate and his smooth and even.
There was an awkward cough and the two tore away from each other, wide-eyed and panting. Ryuko didn’t meet their eyes, awkwardly moving the bouquet from hand to hand.
“I didn’t mean to interrupt, but… People are already getting seconds at the buffet, so…” She flashed them an impish smile. Emi forced herself out of her shell-shock to laugh- it was a bit higher pitched than normal, but she coughed and it lowered again. Shouta had his hand on his neck, eyes locked on the trees surrounding them, trying to force down his mad blush.
“Sorry about that- We just, uh- You caught the bouquet! Right? Congratulations!”
“I doubt it means anything if you’re skipping the reception to get cozy while I’m on a first date.” Ryuko winked, and the atmosphere softened a little. “Unless Sansa likes proposing on first dates…”
“Calm down, kitten.” Emi teased.
“Oh yeah, Sayuri was looking for you earlier, so you might want to meet up, congratulate her on joining the family and all that. She’s a good kid, I’m glad Tomoko chose her.” Emi tensed up slightly, but made sure that Ryuko didn’t notice.
“I’ll find her, no worries, so you can get back to Sansa.” Emi covered it with a teasing look and Ryuko flushed happily. Emi wondered how much of that was alcohol.
“Right!” She scampered off, and Emi sent a glance to Shouta.
“It’ll be alright.” He said softly, and she nodded.
“Right... Just… can you…” She took his hand in hers and he squeezed it gently.
“I will.” The corners of his lips slightly curved up, likely in an attempt to make a comforting smile, though it looked a bit more menacing than he probably meant to. She found it endearing, and gave him a quick kiss on the corner of his mouth.
Sayuri had her back turned to them when they approached, finishing up a pleasant conversation with another doctor. She had a charming smile, and kept twisting one of her golden curls around her finger. She had a small laugh, like bells. Everything about her felt peaceful and warm.
She wasn’t Kaori.
She turned and smiled in surprise at Emi, and gave her a soft hug in greeting.
“Ms. Joke! You’re Tomoko’s cousin, right? She’s told me so much about you!” Emi returned the hug. “And you’re Eraserhead, I assume.” She held out her hand to shake his.
“You can call me Emi- we’re family now, after all.” Emi smiled at her, holding back a tinge of fear. She just needed to remember the July noon sky eyes. She wasn’t Kaori.
“You’re less spunky than in the stories.” Sayuri laughed. “Is it a hero thing? In the costume, you have an image and outside of it, you have a different one?” Emi laughed awkwardly in return.
“There’s definitely something to that.”
Sayuri looked her up and down with that same pleasant smile. “Kaori thought the world of you.” Emi choked and Shouta quickly steadied her. “I don’t want to bring up any bad memories, since this is a happy day, so I won’t - But, I wanted to thank you. I know she could be... difficult... but she always lit up when talking about you. That smile is the one I always think about whenever she comes to mind, so I wanted to thank you for that. So, thank you, from the bottom of my heart.”
Emi’s chest felt tight, and she held it back with a quick nod.
“Thank you… Sayuri.” Her words were small, and the bride quickly squeezed her hand.
“I hope we can become close friends in the future!”
“I’d… I’d like that too.” Emi gave her a soft smile, this time allowing it to reach her eyes.
Sayuri was swept away by another guest and Shouta pulled Emi away, her gaze softly lingering on Sayuri’s golden curls.
“Are you feeling better?” His voice was quiet, and though it was deadpan, she found comfort in it. She nodded, that soft smile still touching her lips.
“Yeah, I am.”
They couldn’t find Ryuko or Sansa, but her purse being left at a table with a few too many empty alcohol bottles gave them a decent idea of what likely transpired.
“Good luck, Sansa.” Shouta closed his eyes in respect for the fallen soldier and Emi snorted before letting out a hearty laugh. She noticed a small smile on his lips as she wiped away a tear. “There’s the Joke I know and love.”
“So you admit it?” She coyly grinned at him.
“I thought I already did that.” His voice was deadpan, and she felt her cheeks flushing.
“That means the next step is for us to get married, right?”
“I wonder.” He looked away and her smile spread. She hadn’t realized just how out-of-sorts she’d been ever since the dreams started, but now, with the wedding over and Sayuri’s kind words, Emi felt a sense of freedom she forgot she had, like a tiny bit of light was piercing through the shadows of her mind, reminding her who she was. She was the smile hero, Ms. Joke, and she wasn’t supposed to let a guilty conscience hold her back from laughing. The past was in the past, and it was up to her to carve her way into the future, and she wanted to face that future with Shouta by her side.
An alternate summary would be "Shouta doesn't know how to explain what 'pragma' love is to Emi, and keeps overcomplicating things.
I love the different kinds of love there are that people don't often hear about. I imagine Emi feels a mixture of romantic and 'ludus' love for Shouta while his is mostly 'pragma' in return. But they wouldn't know these words, so they wouldn't use them haha, so I'll just keep 'em as a little hint in here for those who might like to know more. <3
Chapter 13: Grinning Pancakes and Apple Crepes
All's well that ends well.
The sun had long since set by the time Shouta and Emi returned to her apartment. Tsukkomi rubbed against their legs, feigning cute meows for food. Shouta fell for it hook, line, and sinker, but Emi knew the cat better than that. She filled his food dish and retreated to her bedroom, letting her curls down for the first time that day. Most of them had already straightened themselves out. She fumbled with the hook at her neck for a moment before thinking better of things.
“Shouta? Could you please help me out?” There was an affirming sound from the kitchen, and Shouta returned, noticeably furrier than before. He wiped the fur from his hands onto his pants and she directed him to her back, holding her hair out of the way, though a few seafoam strands escaped her loose grip. He freed her from the hook at her neck, then unzipped the dress, showing a small amount of surprise for how low the zipper went. He paused as she pulled her arms from the sleeves, then brushed his fingers against the scar on her back. She tried to glance at him, but his expression was unreadable.
Slowly, gently, he wrapped one arm around her waist and the other around her stomach, pulling her back into his chest. He rubbed his thumb in small circles against the other side of the scar that came out her gut.
“It’s… smaller than I remember.” His voice was soft.
“Its had 8 years to close up.” He leaned his face against her neck.
“I still dream about that night. And the things I said to you afterwards. I should’ve never let down my guard - I should have never-” She turned in his arms and gave him a gentle kiss, her hands stroking his cheeks, already peppered with stubble after he shaved that morning. Their eyes met, and he returned her kiss. The air was different from at the wedding. The passion had melted away to a calm warmth that they let themselves bask in for what felt like a small eternity.
Tsukkomi broke that bubble by rubbing up against Shouta’s legs. Emi glanced down at him with a raised eyebrow. “Playing favourites, I see. You flirt.” She grinned at the cat, then glanced back to Shouta, who had a soft smile on his face. Her heart melted.
By the time she’d changed into her pajamas, Shouta was coated in even more fur.
“Sorry about my little shedding beast. He’s trying to claim you.”
“He’s claimed me. Sorry, Em.” Shouta teased, and Emi laughed - at first in surprise, then genuinely.
“I’ll find something you can change into. I love you, but I’d prefer to sleep with you without getting fur all over the bed.” She grinned, then realized what she said and blushed. He stood up with a raised eyebrow. She turned from him to scour through her closet, looking for oversized clothes, and tossed him a pair of pink sweatpants. He gave them a look that would’ve likely been a sneer in other days, but came out to general acceptance in that moment. Emi had a harder time finding shirts, since she couldn’t be completely sure of his size, and didn’t know how the large difference in their chests would make up for his shoulders. She tugged out a t-shirt, then glanced at him to gauge the size differences. She froze, a blush creeping up her face when she noticed that he’d already removed his shirt, and looked surprisingly good in her pants. Shouta noticed and crossed his arms, a teasing smirk on his face.
She nonchalantly turned back around and hung up the shirt. “Sorry, Sho, you’ll just have to make do.”
He responded by stepping towards her, gently pushing her into the closet with one hand and holding the clothes out of the way with the other. She tugged him in after her with a laugh, and wrapped her arms around his neck, leaning in to give him soft kisses. He nipped her lip lightly and pulled away, the t-shirt now in his hands.
She sighed as he pulled it on, and buried her face in his back as he adjusted the sleeves.
“It’s winter, don’t you sigh at me.” He teased.
“It can’t be winter already, the sun was out today.”
“It looks like it came early this year.” She leaned away from him and gazed out the window at the falling snow, shining in the dim street lights. He flipped the light switch and the only bit of light they could see was what bounced off the snowflakes. Emi felt his fingers lace into hers and glanced up into his shadow. He pulled her close to him, leaning his forehead against hers, and he swayed slightly.
“I know you were looking forward to dancing at the reception, but-” She silenced him with her lips, freeing his hair from the half-bun and letting his waves brush against her face.
“I love you.” She whispered, and he kissed her back.
“I love you, too.”
“I’m sorry, Emi. For everything I’ve done. I really did make a mess of things, didn’t I?”
Emi reached out, her hand passing through the golden curls. Kaori turned, a soft smile on her face and tears in her dark brown eyes. She brought her hand to Emi’s cheek, wiping away a tear that Emi hadn’t realized had fallen. Her hands… were so warm. This was right. Kaori was the sun. Emi tried to speak, but her soundless voice wasn’t able to cut through the thick air. Kaori leaned in and kissed her forehead. “I love you… but it’s time for you to move on.”
Emi woke up with her back pressed against Shouta’s chest, his arms tightly wound around her. This… was real. She sighed softly and wiped away a small tear. After a few moments, she peeled herself from his arms, trying to be gentle enough that he wouldn’t wake up. He looked so peaceful there, and she wondered how many times she’d get to wake up like that in the future. She hoped she could have that for the rest of her life.
Shouta wandered into her kitchen, lured by the smell of sizzling bacon and Emi’s rendition of ‘Fly Me to the Moon,’ with most of the words forgotten and changed into something nonsensical. She shot him a bright smile and scooped the egg out of the frying pan with her spatula, laying it gently on stop of a pancake, diced strawberries poking out of the fluffy pastry. She gave him a better look when he kissed her good morning. He looked… incredible. His hair was messier than ever, but he actually looked well-rested for once. Her heart skipped a beat. He looped his arm around her waist and leaned over her shoulder, brushing his lips against her neck as he studied the grinning pancake - eggs for eyes and a long slice of bacon upturned into a smile.
“It looks like it has the chicken pox.”
“Don’t be rude - he’s a teenager.” She teased and he took her hand with the spatula in it and turned the bacon smile upside down into a bacon frown.
“ Now he’s a teenager.”
The pancake teenagers tasted wonderful - the taste magnified by sharing it with Emi’s favourite person. The taste was also magnified by the syrupy kisses they shared while doing the dishes.
Emi’s phone rang and she answered it to her father’s voice, excited to discuss Ragdoll’s wedding with her. Shouta gestured at the bathroom and she nodded.
“The towels are in the side closet- Sorry, what was that, Papa?”
“Towels?? Does my little comedian have a lover?!” She twitched in surprise, then laughed awkwardly at her father’s boisterous passion.
“Mayhaps she does.” She teased, which gave him the chance to unleash an onslaught of questions, scoping out his child’s love life with the audacity of a gossipy old hen.
Shouta shot her a raised eyebrow, and she batted her eyelashes at him. Silently, he went to his wallet and pulled out a piece of paper.
“Yeah, you remember Shouta - Aizawa, Eraserhead. The- yeah - I, uh, talk about him kind of a lot…” She tried muttering the last words so Shouta couldn’t hear, and she couldn’t tell if he didn’t catch it, or if he was pretending to ignore it.
“That’s my girl, you have the same tastes as your father. When’s the wedding?”
“We’re not-” Shouta handed her the piece of paper and she unfolded it, taking a few moments to comprehend the formal text on the page.
She hung up, staring wide eyed at Shouta.
“Winter break is coming up, and Yuuei’s campus is going to be closed, so Eri will have to be kept elsewhere… I wasn’t kidding when I said I wanted you to be her mother. But, ah… You have to be married to adopt, so…”
“You- weren’t joking…” A sob caught in Emi’s throat as she looked over his signature.
“Have I ever been one to joke?” She flung her arms around his neck, kissing him like she didn’t believe he was real. A small laugh rang from his throat.
That was the least romantic way she could have imagined getting proposed to. A paper, nonchalantly handed to her after breakfast while she was on the phone. But somehow, that was the most Shouta-like proposal she ever could’ve imagined. He grinned at her when he finally pulled away, her phone ringing agitatedly.
“The towels are in the side closet - got it.” Her head felt light and fuzzy, like nothing in this world was real. She wiped away her tears, laughing, and answered the phone.
“You know how you said you wanted grandkids? There’s… someone you’re going to want to meet.”
“Aaaand, that’s a wrap, kids. Make sure you stay safe over break, and keep up your exercises. I want you to come back spunky and spirited, not whimpering at morning stretches.” Emi flashed her class a bright smile, then went to pack her bags.
“Can’t get away soon enough, Mrs. Aizawa?” Yo grinned at her and she fought back the happy flush at hearing her new name.
“No time to chat with us kids when you could be cuddling up with your hubby?” Tatami sighed romantically.
“I guess I’ll have to break the news to my uncle one way or another…” Shikkui rubbed the back of his head with a blue arm before slinging his bag over his shoulder.
“What’s your uncle like, anyway? Not that I’m interested, but my sister asked-” Itejiro was stopped with an excited slap to his back.
“Would that make you my Uncle Itejiro?”
“I take it back. My sister can die single.”
“I’ll see you kids in a few weeks.” Emi laughed. “You can tell me when you get back how it’s like being an uncle.” She gave Itejiro a wink and he seemed to melt a little.
“That would be an actual nightmare.”
Tatami rushed up and gave her a goodbye hug, followed by the rest of the class. A soft smile touched Emi’s lips. She was going to miss these kids when they graduated.
“Make sure you invite us to the wedding - you can’t just get hitched at court like that!” Tatami grinned with a wave and raced out of the room, a holler of freedom on her lips.
“Congratulations, Fu-Aizawa.” Emi turned in surprise to see Dandelion at her door. “I’m on my way home now but, make sure he treats you right.” He gave a small wave and continued walking. She supposed that was better than she would’ve otherwise expected.
Emi opened her door to small hands flung around her, and she laughed brightly, scooping Eri into her arms. Shouta glanced up at her from the counter with a small smile, cubing an apple.
“You’re Shouta.” She walked over and kissed his cheek before covering Eri’s face in little kisses. He rolled his eyes at her lame joke.
“We followed your recipe, but figured you would want to be here for the actual cooking part.”
“Mr. Aizawa dropped the flour but I helped him clean it up. He looked like a ghost!” Eri chirped happily.
“My heroes.” Emi rubbed her nose against Eri’s laughing face before gently setting her back on the floor. “Time to pull up the stool so you can see how a master makes apple crepes.” She took a glance at the batter, then added a touch of salt to it before whisking it up and pouring a bit into the frying pan. Eri brought up the stool and stood on it, peering into the frying pan. Shouta pulled her back a little bit, keeping her out of range of any possible problems. He stroked her silver hair, then his hand fell to Emi’s waist and he glanced over her shoulder at the way she slid the batter in the pan.
“I guess I’ll have to take notes if this turns out well.”
“It’ll turn out well, I’m a master, didn’t you hear?” She gave him a mischievous grin.
“I believe you.”
Her heart raced a little at his tone. Dry, deadpan, soft.
She flipped the crepe.
Eri’s eyes widened and she brushed against Emi’s arm.
Emi wondered if this was a dream. Everything felt so warm and soft and right . She wiped away a small tear before Eri noticed. Shouta’s hand rubbed against her shoulder in circles.
As Eri rushed to fill her crepe with a variety of toppings, Emi poured more batter into the pan. Shouta’s lips brushed against her hairline and she smiled, a small blush touching her cheeks. This was real.
“Don’t burn it, Mrs. Aizawa.”
Thank you guys so much for sticking with me and my first story! <3 Your comments and support mean the world to me!
For the song that kept me through this, check out It's Like a Tiny Bit of Light by Dima Lancaster and Hikaru Station.