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But Tomorrow We Love

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Now I'm half a world away from you

But you're always on my mind

There's a million words that I could've said

And you might still be mine

(Million Words - The Vamps)


Musutafu isn’t any different from when Shouto last set foot on the overly crowded streets: the skyscrapers are still towering over his head, still dressed in grey, gloomy hues, seemingly absorbing all the colours in the city. As always, the citizens are hurrying along, walking by each other with big, stiff steps and checking their watches every five minutes, dusting off their tailored suits whenever they rub elbows with someone else, but none of them raises their eyes towards the blue sky - the only splotch of colour in this cage of concrete.

And Shouto still ignores everyone around him, turns a deaf ear towards the muttering and not at all subtle flashes of phone cameras, and walks defiantly slow, hands stuck in the pockets of his trousers, in a city that never takes its time.

The past seven years have changed Shouto’s gait as little as they have changed the look of the city. Having left his luggage in the new apartment - Shouto lost count of how often he’s changed apartments over the course of the past years; none of them ever felt like home, anyway - he boards the train for the hero agency.

Midoriya sent him the coordinates for class A agency’s new building - now much bigger than it was when Shouto left. It’s in the core of the city, near a hospital and several bunkers that assure the civilians’ safety during raids, and it’s where all of his former classmates and close friends work.

Where she works.

Perhaps the city hasn’t changed much, but people are a whole different story, Shouto muses as he rests his forehead against the window of the rattling train and watches the buildings fly by, morphing into undefined shadows. People fluctuate as erratically as the weather, their contours as hazy as those of the passing buildings, and their hearts as hard to make out as the shadows. Splotches of messy colours on an otherwise grey canvas - that’s what they are, for the most part.

In more ways than one, Shouto feels he’s like the city, watching over these woven destinies while his is painted in the same tones of dull grey, as unflinching as concrete. His loyalties lie always with the same people - people he hasn’t seen in years , apart from the weekly video chats and the flood of snaps from Kaminari and Ashido.

A part of him is giddy about the prospect of meeting everyone again. He knows Midoriya and Uraraka are getting married - being named best man is one of the reasons why he came back, after all - and that Kaminari and Jirou got married about three years ago - the obnoxious blond sent him a folder’s worth of sappy pictures. He also knows Bakugou - Lord Grumpy the Almighty himself, as Uraraka jokingly called him on one drunken outing, and it stuck - is the number three hero and curses about it whenever his lovely squad teases him - which is daily, really.

The information, however, has been very scarce about the one person Shouto cares about the most, and that both appeases and terrifies him. He’s pretty sure the simple rumour of her missing him would have been enough for him to book the first flight to the only place he could ever bring himself to call home , and that’s exactly why he needed to cut ties with her.

Yet the other, much more vocal part of Shouto is unashamedly scared of seeing Momo in the flesh again, seeing those obsidian eyes that used to light up when he came home, the smile that sent sparkles dancing in her irises and crinkled the skin around the corners of her eyes, the laugh that bubbled out of her and untied all the knots of insecurity.

He’s afraid of seeing all of that and succumbing to his unchanging heart just to track his eyes over her figure and notice a sparkling golden band on her finger. He can already feel the drop of his stomach, even worse than the one caused by the roller coasters she loves so much, that feeling that his grey world will become black in the blink of an eye.

Daring to think Momo has waited for him is wishful thinking at best and pure idiocy - electrocuted-Kaminari levels of stupidity - at worst. Above all, it’s selfish - they broke up in the first place because Shouto wanted her to be happy, and if a gold ring on her left hand - one that hasn’t been put there by him - makes her smile without any inhibitions, he’s going to accept that.

He is. He has to.

Still, as Shouto makes his first steps out of the station and sees the imposing building with glass windows sprouting out of the concrete, he feels his throat bob and his mouth go dry. Another inner war starts - does he even want to meet her now? Has there ever been a time when he didn’t want to meet her?

Obviously, both answers are “no”, and Shouto feels frustrated with himself as he scans the ID card Midoriya gave him and walks into the hero agency.

She doesn’t even work here anymore, at least not as an active hero - he knows that much. Momo became a teacher at UA within one year of Shouto’s leave, though her reasons mostly remain a mystery to him. She’s always excelled at her job - ranked in the top 20 within her first year out of high school, Creati was headed towards big places.

Shouto swallows another lump in his throat as he talks to the secretary on the first floor. She recognizes him immediately and directs him towards Deku’s office on the fifth floor. As Shouto whirls on his heels to head for the elevator, he hears the secretary contacting Deku and informing him of his arrival, followed by the sound his best friend’s excited voice and a shuffle that tells Shouto he jumped out of his chair to run out and greet him.

Knowing Midoriya, he’ll be all dramatic and teary-eyed, warm handshakes and a truthful “Welcome back”, freckled beams and jittery mumbles. A smile tugs at one corner of Shouto’s lips - he’s missed Midoriya’s homey voice almost as much as he’s missed Momo’s smile.

The elevator’s doors creak open on the fifth floor to reveal a hallway lined with plants, from aloe vera to small bamboo plants and orchids - Shouto recognizes Ojirou’s handy work in the arrangements - and pictures. As Shouto steps out of the elevator, he notices the pictures depict class A over their high school years, then as heroes, and that there are message scribbled on post its and sticked next to each frame. He needs to bite down on a snort - of course most of them are back and forth passive aggressive notes written by Ashido, Kaminari and Bakugou. Of course.

He’s about to reread Midoriya’s instructions of getting to his office when distant voices reach his ears. One of them, boisterous and just as loud as Shouto remembers, is easy to pinpoint as Kaminari’s.

“Get back here, you little-”

The second one is high pitched, as if the speaker is laughing, and foreign to Shouto’s ears. Two sets of quick footsteps - running, albeit muffled by the thick carpet - accompany the “Uncle Kaminari, but you promised!” and the owner of the unknown voice rounds the corner, only to skid to a halt when their eyes meet Shouto’s.

It’s a child, Shouto notices with surprise, no older than seven or eight judging by his height and appearance. He looks - well, he looks like a kid, Shouto supposes, with that aura of innocence around him and big, curious eyes to complete the image. And yet, Shouto can’t help but think the boy is familiar somehow, with raven hair that spills over his forehead, stopping short of covering equally dark eyes painted with curiosity. Tucked behind his right ear is a white bang that the kid now picks at - a nervous gesture Shouto is all too accustomed to.

The child tilts his head curiously, mirroring Shouto’s confusion, but then his eyes widen as a realization dawns on him and his lips peel into a gracious smile, one that crinkles the corners of his eyes and puts dimples in his cheeks, and Shouto’s breath is cut short because-

“It’s Shouto!” the child exclaimes, and Shouto feels his stomach drop like he’s just swallowed a stone.

It’s the same fluctuation as in her voice, the same self-awareness of not pointing your forefinger at someone you’re talking to, the same contagious excitement colouring her cheeks pink, and Shouto finds worrying about a simple ring absurd now.

“Tokiya, son, I’ve told you before, you can’t just-” Kaminari stops himself the moment his eyes follow the child’s - Tokiya, apparently - and his jaw slackens.

Before adults have even the slightest chance to recompose themselves or greet each other - it occurs to Shouto that such social labels are forgotten when there is a child nearby - the little boy takes one tentative step towards a baffled Shouto, then another, slightly more confident one. He links his hands, twiddling with his thumbs, and Shouto can almost see the words sticking somewhere in his throat like they’re in a traffic jam, fighting to escape his pursed lips.

“You’re Shouto, right?”

Taken by surprise and still assessing the situation and uncomfortable feeling tightening its grasp on his heart like a leash, Shouto nods.

That simple confirmation gives Tokiya’s thoughts a push, and Shouto discovers there were more words stuck inside him than a child his age should be able to say without taking or breath - and more than he should even know, he ponders.

“You really are him! I saw so many interviews with you - I think I saw all of them more times than I can count! - so I knew I wasn’t wrong! But the last time Mom and I checked the news you were in France and I didn’t know you were coming back in Japan! Actually, why are you in Japan? Are you staying for a few days? Months? Are you staying forever? And no, that wasn’t an intentional Mulan reference - wait, more importantly, can I get an autograph?”

Each question brings the boy one step closer to Shouto, his eyes sparkling as possible answers and further questions flutter through his mind, the innocence with which the inquiries were laced bringing him closer to endearingly excited than dangerously obsessed. It reminds him so much of Momo it’s painful, and the mention of Mulan, if Shouto properly caught that, only makes the weight in his stomach increase.

Before he can bring himself to answer, the child comes to a sudden realisation and softly gasps, “I don’t have my notebook! I’ll be right back, would you please wait?” Somehow, he finds the time to politely bow before jogging past Kaminari and leaving the two adults to stare at each other in deadly silence.

“You’re back, Todoroki,” Kaminari says almost sleepily, as if this is all a dream he can’t wrap his mind around.

Shouto finds himself in the same predicament, for once. “Yeah,” he eloquently manages and feels put to shame by a child’s speech. He wants to ask who the kid is, why he was calling him “Uncle Kaminari”, why he’s in a hero agency of all places. Kaminari looks like he has a lot to say, too, except that he’s left blindly fumbling for words when he opens his mouth, at odds with trying to string together a coherent explanation.

Behind him, Shouto hears the all too familiar voice of Midoriya talk with a sharpness he only adopts when he’s in a pinch. “Tokiya-kun is here today?” he’s asking.

“Yes,” is the only word the woman he’s with says, but it’s enough to prompt Shouto to turn in their direction, enough for his jaw to drop just like Kaminari’s did earlier, enough for the sinking feeling to completely settle in and to pack a good punch to his guts for good measure.

Her eyes meet his and the clack of her heels against the carpeted floor ceases just a few meters away from him, replaced by the deaf sound of an object falling. When Shouto finally finds the energy to rip his gaze from her mesmerizing eyes, he notices it’s a small matryoshka - a blue one, save for the head split in red and white, just like the one he has resting on his bedside table.

If Shouto took a step, he could probably reach out a hand to cup her cheek, could run his hands through her short hair - when and why did she cut it? Did she get injured again? -, could wrap his arms around her and never let her go again.

“Momo-”

“Mom!” the child’s voice echoes through the hallway again, and he leaps into a run towards the woman he inherited the raven hair and obsidian pools of knowledge and excitement from.

Shouto feels as if his own quirk has frozen him to the floor, and he can do nothing but watch Momo bend down to squeeze the child into a tight hug - the hug Shouto won’t give her, the hug that cuts the thin string of hope he was dangling on, the signal that tells him he’s on a roller coaster that’s only going down. Down down down and it’s all his fault all his fault all his fault-

“Now Tokiya, what did I say about running in the hallways?” Momo’s voice is strict, but coated with a maternal warmth that hurts Shouto in the same way seeing moms cradle the children that hurt themselves on the playground in their arms and kissing their scratches used to. It leaves him feeling like he’s missing something essential, and it’s all he can do not to clench his shirt where his heart is thrumming at an insane rhythm, telling him to get out out out-

“But Mom!” the kid protests, bowing his head as she ruffles his hair, and the white bang he kept tucked behind his ear falls onto his face, obstructing his right eye. “Shouto is here! And I was hoping he’d give me an autograph!”

Shouto can barely hear Momo’s “He is indeed” over the sharp breath he inhales, and when her eyes raise again to meet his, he puts on the best poker face he has, although he doubts she won’t see through it. She’s always read him like an open book, and she always got angry at him when he tried hiding his real feelings.

He just hopes she’ll realize he’s doing it for both of them now.

Momo, for her part, has an expression just as unreadable as the one he’s schooling his features into as she stands back up and straightens her skirt. “It’s been a while, Todoroki-san,” she eventually says with a smile - her smile, the one that touches her eyes and softens her face, the one that melts the edge of her cheekbones. The smile Shouto fell in love with. Paired with the return of his family name and the honorific, it’s a low blow.

But this time around, there’s something the smile is covering - apprehension, discomfort, awkwardness - Shouto can’t tell, and he doesn’t know whether he wants to tell.

“It’s been seven years, Yaoyorozu.” He doesn’t mean to hiss her last name, but he can’t hide the edge in his voice, either.

“Uhm, Shouto-san?” His eyes are drawn back to the kid, who seems to feel the tension in the air, as his voice is much quieter and shakes with uncertainty. “Would it be too much if I asked you for an autograph?”

The innocent request mixes with all of the questions in Shouto’s mind. It’s like a flood, and the downpour soaks him immediately. He wanted - still wants - Momo to be happy above all else. He told her she didn’t have to wait, didn’t he?

And after all, he would have never been able to start a family with her - not with how broken he was, not without a good father model to speak of, no. No, he couldn’t have made her smile without apprehension lingering behind the dimples.

Would her life have had a place in it for him, even if he had stayed?

“No, it wouldn’t,” Shouto answers, kneeling to reach the kid’s eye level. The boy’s face lights up as if a switch was pressed, and he lets go of Momo’s warm hand to give Shouto his notebook.

Shouto’s done this countless times before, but the pen is leaden under his cold fingertips now, and his mind foggy. Once Tokiya gets his notebook back, he holds it gingerly, as if it’s a work of art he’s afraid of spoiling, and looks at it in wonder, softly tracing the kanjis of Shouto’s name as not to smudge the ink.

“Waw,” he barely mouths, and then his eyes dart to Shouto, wide with admiration and honesty. “You’re my number one hero, Shouto!”

Ah, if only Shouto had the energy to laugh at fate’s sense of humor. Instead, he just blinks blankly and listens to Kaminari helpfully supply, “No kidding, your room is basically a shrine dedicated to Todoroki. Your collection is more impressive than Midoriya’s All Might one!”

“I want to argue with that, but I know it’s a fight I’d lose,” Midoriya sheepishly says, rubbing the back of his neck in embarrassment. Shouto looks at him for the first time today, in search of an anchor, of an element of normalcy to decipher this hazy situation he finds himself in the middle of, but Midoriya averts his gaze, almost as if he’s guilty.

Shouto slowly gets up again, dusting off his pants and giving his former classmates a thorough look. It’s not just Momo that changed her appearance - Midoriya’s shoulders are broader and squared, finally filling in the shirts he’s wearing, and Kaminari’s donning a golden band with a black lightning bolt on his ring finger.

Shouto’s eyes flutter to Momo again, as her nervous habit of tucking her hair behind her ear gets the better of her, and notices she wears no jewelry on her hands. Somewhat puzzled, his eyes drift back to the boy who’s still analyzing his autograph as if it’s an irreplaceable treasure, and Shouto lets out a deep sigh.

“Looks like I’ve missed out on more than just apprehending villains,” he eventually says, keeping his voice as neutral as he can. “Midoriya, fill me in?”

His friend nods somewhat apologetically, and Shouto realizes why he’s been avoiding his eyes earlier. He doesn’t blame Midoriya for not telling him about Momo’s son - not even Kaminari made a peep about the little boy who seemingly idolizes him, so he’s sure there are reasons he isn’t meant to dig out behind this obvious silence. Reasons he’s not entirely too sure he wants to dig out.

Besides, calling just to say “Hey, your former girlfriend met someone new and she’s going to have a child with him! Too bad you’re in Europe and can’t see how happy she is!” is something Midoriya is too gentle to do. Not even Bakugou hates him enough to shatter his heart in so many irreparable ways.

Shouto makes his way towards Midoriya, longing for the cold tranquility of his office, seeking not comfort, but a place where his eyes won’t be drawn to the mother and son, where his mind won’t spiral down the road of what-ifs, where he’ll lose himself in work like he’s done for seven years to forget about her.

A tug on his pants anchors him in the now , the painful now in which he’s an outsider, and he looks down to see Tokiya retracting his hand as if he’s been burned. For a second, Shouto’s heart is pierced by the fear that he did indeed lose control of his quirk. A quick glance tells him he’s still suppressing the urge to burn down everything, and the kid peeks at him. “Uhm, Shouto-san?”

“Shouto is just fine,” he answers. Even though Momo wouldn’t use his name, he still wants to hear her voice saying it - even if it isn’t coming from her.

“Shouto!” the boy says, his face melting into a genuine smile. “You didn’t answer my first question! Why are you in Japan?”

Shouto’s eyes dart towards Momo, who’s biting her lower lip as if she’s torn between stopping her son from asking personal questions and - dare he say? - wanting to hear the answers herself.

“A friend asked me to come back for an important day,” Shouto says, surprising himself with how warm his voice is. If nothing else, he’s still got Midoriya, whose eyes are already watery - be it a result of Shouto’s answer or something else entirely, the man can’t tell.

He doesn’t divulge the other reason for being there. He got to see Momo smiling at her son, and that should be enough. She has a family - her life went ahead, much unlike the city’s.

It’s not a reason to be sad.

But it hurts like hell, it hurts more than any injury ever did or will, it hurts more than the scar blemishing his skin and almost as much as having his mother taken away from him. He hasn’t realized until now how tightly he was hanging onto the unfounded and selfish hope that she’d remember his promise.

He’s just a fool, as it turns out.

“And are you returning to Europe after that day?” Tokiya asks, again pulling him out of his thoughts.

Shouto finds Momo looking at him with the same questioning look as her son. “I’m not. I was planning on sticking around,” he answers, his eyes fixed on hers.

Suddenly, she snaps out of the lock he has on her and beckons the boy to come to her, “That’s quite enough, Tokiya.” Then she looks back at Shouto with that undecipherable look he doesn’t know what to make of, “It was nice seeing you again, Todoroki-san, but we should probably leave you to your own devices.” She smiles at Midoriya to make her point, and tightens her grasp on Tokiya’s hand as she adjusts the strap of her bag on her shoulder. “Come on sweetheart, dinner won’t cook itself.”

“Are we having soba?” the boy pipes up, following his mother at the incentive of tasty food.

“You can’t eat soba every day, Tokiya,” she shakes her head at his antics, but a wobbly smile is stretched around her lips.

Shouto feels like jokingly arguing the kid has good taste, but bites his tongue upon realizing that’s not any of his business. As if thinking of the little boy somehow reminds him of Shouto’s presence, Tokiya turns around and waves at him with a grin on his face. “Thank you for the autograph! And for talking to me! I hope you have a nice day!”

“You too,” Shouto says with a nod. As the two disappear into the elevator, Shouto kneels to pick up the matryoshka and recognizes the minute handcraft, the perfect replica of his scar framing the left eye of the doll, the charcoal and ice that stares back at him. Shouto’s fingers encompass the figure as he mutters, “See you around.”

He’s like the city indeed. A city in ruins.

***

Dear Shouto,

Tokiya and I have seen the latest report on the league of villains in Paris, and we held our breaths as we waited for your name to be mentioned. The ten seconds it took the journalist to expose the situation felt like forever, and we both dug our nails into the sofa so hard our knuckles turned white. Only the caption “Shouto - Synonym for Victory?” made us loosen a breath and Tokiya squeezed my hand, saying “I knew he’d do it! Shouto always saves the day!” but I think he was even more nervous than me.

Reading the international newspapers everyday, skimming for news about you - it became a habit. It’s now a contest to see who finds your name first, and the prize is the invaluable last piece of dessert. A wave of relief washes over us whenever we find out you won a battle, and worry gnaws at our insides when there’s no update on the latest raid. When you were in the hospital last month, Tokiya skipped his dinner almost every day, toying with the vegetables in his plate and claiming he couldn’t eat. I couldn’t even blame him - food was the last thing on our minds.

Midoriya dropped by with the news of your discharge about a week after we had gotten word of your admission in the hospital, and Tokiya’s face lighted up like a Christmas tree. He really loves you, Shouto. We painted his room in red and white because that’s his new “colour scheme”, and he practices with his quirk daily in hopes to enter UA on recommendations, like you did.

Sometimes, I let myself wonder what it would be like if you two actually met. I think you’d love him - he’s “charming”, I’ve been told, and while my point of view cannot possibly be objective, I’d have to agree. He has a contagious smile, and he’s always so considerate… I don’t know who taught him about pressure points (my best bet is Kaminari, he claims that’s something you taught him to woo Kyouka) but he offered to massage me a few nights ago while I was grading papers and… it reminded me of you.

Ah, but I’m blabbering! This is nothing but wishful thinking, and the more I imagine what could have been, the more I’m wishing I had protested more vehemently to come with you. But it’s as I used to tell you, Shouto: “we can’t change the past. We can only embrace it, learn from it and look forward to the future.” Looks like I should learn to take my own advice… But what is the future I’m looking forward to? One in which I grow old alone? One in which I'll forever be a teacher and won’t ever partake in missions again?

Don’t misunderstand: I don’t regret having Tokiya, not in the slightest. He’s the best thing that ever happened to me, and I’d do anything for him in a heartbeat. Yet on some moonless nights like this one, when I’m not tired enough to drift to sleep and my thoughts take a veto right, I can’t help but wonder what would have happened if I had been more selfish. If I had realized sooner that I could never forget you.

But don’t mind me and my pointless, answerless questions! Please take care of yourself, Shouto. We’re doing our best here, and our thoughts drift your way every day. I wonder, do you think of us, too? Is it too much to hope you haven’t completely forgotten the girl who fell in love with you and forgot how to fall out of love?

I know I’ll never get a reply, yet I still startle each time I get a new message. You’d think five years of silence and your unyielding attitude would have taught me otherwise, but I guess I never grew out of daydreaming.  Here’s to hoping you did.

Love,
Momo

Chapter Text

I know that you've been hurt
I swear I'm here for good I'll never leave
This is where it starts tonight
If you open up your heart tonight
(Scarecrow - Alex and Sierra)


Momo’s gotten used to this: one of her hands is holding Tokiya’s, while the other is pushing the shopping cart. Half of her mind is perpetually occupied with her son, while the other half is trying to overcome life's hurdles one at a time. That’s how it’s been for the past seven years - a small eternity dedicated to the ray of sunshine in her life, the one person who kept her together when everything else was falling apart.

Him coming back wasn’t within her calculations. When Midoriya showed up at her door in the middle of the night saying he had news, a bad feeling tiptoed around her guts, nestling into her stomach like a dragon that paces around his nest twice before settling down. When he told her she should probably sit down, the dragon started softly wheezing fire out of his flaring nostrils, making Momo break into a sweat. And when Midoriya first checked that Tokiya was fast asleep before finally breaking it to her, Momo felt her entire body burning, and she clutched the armrest so tightly that Midoriya told her she looked like a marble statue and asked her to breathe.

Shouto will always have a place in her heart, but she isn’t sure where he fits into her life. If he even wants to fit anywhere besides the role of “ex-boyfriend”. The thought drags her towards a dark niche of her mind that she’s tried for seven years to avoid falling endlessly into and she shuts her eyes harshly to calm her accelerating heart rate.

As always, it’s Tokiya that breaks her out of the ever tightening spiral of her thoughts with a soft tug on her hand.

“Mom, isn’t that Shouto?” he whispers, raising a hand as if to point towards him and then thinking better of it, he lowers it back to his side.

Momo follows his gaze, the dragon inside her awake and alert now that Shouto’s name has tickled his ears. Her eyes fall onto a well-built man with broad shoulders who’s walking with Shouto’s distinctive gait, but something is amiss - he’s wearing a clumsy wig, his white hair falling out from under its fake black tresses. Momo needs to let the cart go just to stifle the laugh that’s bubbling out of her, and feels her nerves relaxing - even after all these years, he’s still a well-intentioned, awkward dork.

Looking back at her expectant son, Momo smiles, “It’s him indeed.”

“Do you think we should tell him that’s not a very good disguise? Before he exposes himself?” Tokiya asks, already excited at the prospect of having an excuse to interact with his hero.

A part of Momo - the rational part - knows they shouldn’t get too involved with him. They decided to walk separate paths for a reason, and Momo is well aware that the longer she spends with Shouto, the louder and more obnoxious her feelings will become. But the bigger part of her feels like a high school girl all over again, just as eager as Tokiya to take any excuse to talk to him. If nothing else, he used to be one of her closest friends - one she’s been missing for seven years.

Seven years of no contact so they could go on with their lives. Momo argues she did, despite Kyouka telling her she should go out more, mingle with others and start dating someone again. But she’s a mother, and Tokiya takes first place in her life now. Shouto probably has a sweetheart too - it’s unthinkable that he hasn’t met someone worthy in Europe. Someone to fall in love with.

The mere thought hurts, but that means that they’re both mature enough now to resume their friendship, ignoring any lingering feelings - or at least hiding them under a believable act.

“We probably should,” Momo eventually answers, putting the pasta in their shopping cart and letting go of Tokiya’s hand so he can skip ahead.

The boy loses no second in walking over to Shouto - no running, as Momo reminded him earlier today - and stops a few steps shy of his hero, wringing his hands in that way of his that announces he’s pondering what course of action to take. Momo steps next to him, gently patting his back to nudge him forwards. Tokiya sends her a wobbly smile before nodding his head determinedly and taping on Shouto’s hand.

“Shouto… san?” the boy says, drawing the man’s attention to him and recoiling a soon as the words leave his mouth - for how loudly he laughs around Kaminari and Sero, he sure is shy with strangers.

Momo holds her breath as Shouto turns around, taking her son in before tilting his head, “Tokiya, was it?”

That’s all it takes for the little boy to break into a grin, jumping in place once. “Yes!” he beams. “We thought we should probably tell you that your disguise isn’t that good,” he whispers conspiratally, prompting Shouto to bend down to bring his ear to Tokiya’s hands, cupped around his mouth to conceal the secret. Momo hears him anyway.

“We?”

Shouto’s heterochromatic eyes find hers, and that’s all it takes for her to break into a smile, one laced with worries and years of missing him and the lingering love she thought she safely locked away and happiness . “I can’t believe you kept the wig,” she says as way of greeting, because what do you say to someone you used to love - someone you still love - after silence has been the status quo for so long?

Shouto turns his attention back to Tokiya, who’s following the exchange with a quizzical look, and says, “In my defense, your mother chose the wig. I just assumed she had a better grasp on disguises than I did.”

Momo can tell he’s trying to hide amusement under feigned accusations and plays his game, “In my defense, that was back in high school.”

He straightens back up and smiles, one of those rare smiles of his that Ashido describes as “can cure cancer,” and Momo feels her heart skip a beat and reminds herself how bad of an idea this is, only to further ignore her rational side and peek into his cart.

Tokiya beats her to it again, holding up a pack of instant noodles with a very disappointed look. “Shouto-san, I don’t believe instant food has the nutritious value you need.”

Shouto blinks at him almost incredulously, but Momo continues her son’s reprimands before he can recover enough to respond. “Tokiya’s right.” Scanning the cart, she lets out a deep sigh. “Did you plan on buying anything that wasn’t instant food?”

“Mandarins?” Shouto offers, pointing towards the bag of orange fruit. Momo props a hand on her hip, exchanging a meaningful glance with Tokiya and both of them shake her head. Shouto takes a defensive stance, sounding just barely offended. “It’s not like I have much of a choice. I’m terrible in the kitchen,” he says, voice laced with the unshared “you know what I mean.”

Momo feels her heart squeez uncomfortably: has this been the basis of his meals for seven years? Geez, Shouto, she thinks, ignoring the gnawing feeling that this isn’t any of her business. Not anymore.

“Mom says a balanced diet is one of the prime requirements for a hero,” Tokiya confidently says, holding Shouto’s gaze.

He’s as awkward as ever with kids, not entirely sure how to respond to that. Still, Momo feels fuzzy that he tries, because he crouches again so he’s at eye level with Tokiya and earnestly asks, “What do you suggest then?”

Well for starters, you could have dinner with us .

The thought crosses Momo’s mind, but she dismisses it quickly, finding one hundred and one ways it could backfire on her, and even more ways the proximity could throw off the feeble balance she has been working to establish.

But Shouto and Tokiya’s staring lets her know it wasn’t just in her head, and Momo bites her lower lip as a sense of dread curses through her veins. Tokiya looks so happy that she can’t even bring herself to take her words back, and he squeezes her hand with barely contained excitement. “Can he really, Mom?”

“If he wants to, sweetheart.”

Momo raises pleading eyes to Shouto, glancing down at her enthusiastic son. Shouto’s gaze is fixed on Tokiya, with his sparkling eyes and bouncy trepidation, and he seems to have already taken a decision when he meets Momo’s look. “If I’m not intruding-”

“You aren’t!” Tokiya helpfully supplies, and Momo can see how hard he’s trying not to exteriorize the frenzy. “You won’t regret it! Mom bought pasta and she makes the best Italian food, you know?! She says the secret lies in the spices - maybe she could teach you how to cook! You could, couldn’t you, Mom?”

Shouto lets out a low chuckle that distracts Tokiya from his rant, and his eyes widen upon realizing that the hero is actually laughing. “Mom could !” he protests, almost hurt that Shouto could be doubting him.

“I know she could,” he admits, pushing the cart forward as Tokiya follows him. “It’s just - you sounded exactly like her just now.”

“Really? Aunt Kyouka says the same thing every time I rant.” The smile whiters on his face and Tokiya’s voice lowers to a mere whisper, “I’m not bothering you, am I?”

Shouto stops the cart to give Tokiya a stern and honest look. “You aren’t. I think rambles are the product of passion. And besides, I like listening to them.”

If Tokiya could emit light, that would happen about now. Shouto staggers under the intensity of his look, the adoration that is so clearly written all over his face, and searches Momo’s eyes for validation that he isn’t messing this up. Momo feels her insides warm up, the tendrils of heat encasing her heart and she stops breathing for a brief moment, when she notices the simple joy in Shouto’s eyes and the dazzling smile Tokiya is sporting.

She ignores the fuzzy feeling to further inspect the cart and take her mind off the why’s and the how’s. A heavy breath escapes her, and she gives Shouto a determined look. “We’re not keeping anything from here.”

He looks down at this shopping choices with chagrin and tries, “At least the mandarins?”

“Fine, but just the mandarins.”

***

Shouto has no idea how she does it. How does she put on that smile when the hollow in his heart is only growing bigger with each step they take towards her home? How can she so readily allow him into a space that is hers , a space he’s left with the certainty that he’d never be welcomed again?

But above all, how can he withstand getting to know the man that filled the hole he left in her life? He thinks about Iida opening the door and grinning at Shouto with kindness, and his vision suddenly gets hazy at the thought - but Iida would have surely told him about it, so it can’t be. Logic, of course, makes no sense - not now that the image of Tokiya calling Iida “dad” is engraved into Shouto’s mind and his thoughts unravel until there’s only one painful question boring through his every sense.

How can he come to terms with the fact that the Momo-shaped hole in his will never be occupied?

“Shouto-san? Your favourite food is soba too, right?”

The child’s voice jerks Shouto out of his thoughts, and he looks down to see obsidian eyes staring at him with unbound excitement, beckoning the words to flow out of him and drawing him into this world painted in vibrant colours only Tokiya can see. Part of Shouto is surprised at how eager he is to interact with this child, how he doesn’t even begin to resent him or his existence - but then again, he doubts he’d ever be able to hate any part of Momo.

That doesn’t make his innocent questions sting any less.

Shouto hums in answer. “You like soba too, huh?”

Tokiya nods, absorbing any information he can get with the bouncy attitude Momo passed onto him, and Shouto can’t help but envy the man who saw this little boy grow up.

Momo lets out a sigh, “Tokiya, you know you need a balanced diet, and you won’t trick me into cooking soba just because Todoroki-san likes it, too.”

Tokiya’s smile flickers for a moment as he mutters, “It was worth trying” and Momo ruffles his hair lovingly. Just like that, the smile is back and Tokiya looks at his mother, “Can I give him a tour of the house?”

“Sure,” Momo hums, taking a right into a street Shouto remembers as if he was strolling down it just yesterday, one hand holding Momo’s while the other was busy with their shopping bags.

His empty hand suddenly furls around thin air while the other tightens around the familiar plastic handle of shopping bag.

Shouto could walk the rest of the way with his eyes closed: the third block on the right, fourth floor, second door on the left. The familiarity of it all both calms him down and unsettles him - how is he to react to Momo’s newfound family living in a place where he once hoped to start a family with her?

When Momo unlocks the door and Tokiya sneaks past her, loudly declaring, “We’re home!” Shouto’s heart squeezes uncomfortably. He’s waiting for the imminent heavy footsteps making the wooden floor croak, steels himself for the manly voice - Iida’s voice - answering them with a warm, “Welcome back!”

Instead, they’re met with silence from a dark house, punctuated by a meow and the barely audible leap of a feline that jumps into Tokiya’s arms. The boy lets out a giggle and scratches the pet lovingly, “Were you waiting for us, Shou-chan?”

“He really looks up to you,” Momo says apologetically, and it’s then that Shouto realizes the ball of white fur with red splotches is named after him. He’s not sure what the appropriate answer to that is, but he isn’t alloted thinking time either. As Momo shuffles past him to hang her cardigan, Shouto catches sight of all the framed pictures hanging on the wall: most of them are of Tokiya growing up; some have the entire class A in them, either taken right after the graduation or at Jirou and Kaminari’s wedding, and then-

And then there’s one of the two of them, bruised and scratched, sporting unburdened smiles as they look into the camera. Shouto knows that picture all too well: it’s a clipping from the newspaper after their first official mission, a villain raid they were partnered up for. Momo got hurt back then, and her arm was sore and itchy for two whole months, but she was smiling at the journalist anyway, because she had made it. They had made it.

There are no photos of any unknown man, no Iida holding Momo’s hand as she wears a wedding gown - Shouto is a terrible friend for the relief that washes over him thanks to that - and no father is present in any of the family portraits. Kaminari and Jirou are recurring characters in some of them, either playing with the boy or posing for the camera with the silliest face they could muster, in Kaminari’s case.

He doesn’t get to point that out either, because Tokiya gently lowers the cat to the floor and slips out of his shoes to run to the bathroom. He emerges out of there one minute later, rubbing his hands with a towel and saying, “You should wash your hands too, Shouto-san.”

“Of course,” he mutters, still in a daze.

Momo picks up the bags and says, “I’ll be in the kitchen. Tokiya, please do make sure Todoroki-san makes himself at home.”

“Yes, Mom!” comes the bubbly answer, and then his face pops into the crack between the bathroom door and the wall. “Do you want to see my room?”

The correct answer is already written all over the boy’s radiating face, so Shouto nods and follows him, the hint of a smile finding its way onto his face.

Tokiya’s room, Shouto discovers, is the room he and Momo used for storage back when he still lived in Japan, now transformed and repainted to fit a child’s taste. Two of the walls are scarlet red, lined with bookshelves that burst with books, yet still somehow house an impressive collection of Shouto merch and a framed autograph of his.

“Ah, Uncle Deku got that one for me!” Tokiya says, following Shouto’s gaze. So that was the reason behind the sudden request for an autograph Shouto got three years ago - Midoriya had been awfully vague about it - now that Shouto knows the reason, he can’t find it in himself to blame him.

Shouto lets his eyes lazily track the shelves, stacked with notebooks so used their spine is crumbling, numbered just like Midoriya’s notes on heroism. There are so many that Shouto is certain if he took even one thin page out, it wouldn’t fit back in, and they are only interrupted by posters of hero Shouto.

As he raises a hand to press it over the palm raised in the picture, Shouto feels an arrow shoot his heart: all of the pictures in this house are of him as a hero, glorifying the mission he left Momo for. It’s like the entire world praises him for the biggest regret of his life, blissfully unaware by the burning wish Shouto harbours.

He would rather be unknown and be Tokiya’s father, he’d rather watch him grow up and stumble along the way, he’d much rather be in Momo’s life as more than just the shadow of the past.

His eyes lower to the sparkles that dance around the boy, tugging nervously at his white streak of hair, and Shouto’s view suddenly gets glassy. Ignoring the stinging feeling in the back of his eyes, the way his nose itches and the pit that opens inside himself, Shouto crouches so he’s at Tokiya’s eye level and takes him in properly.

Tokiya is every little bit Momo, from the way he raises his fists to cup his face in excitement and the flush that takes over his features when he rants, to his manner of speaking and the constant apologies and need of checking he isn’t bothering the other person. Just like one day, Shouto realized he was in love with Momo - a sudden discovery that Shouto was unable to compute or fight against -, he now finds himself entranced by the boy with eyes of coal, the boy shining like the sun, the boy who was born out of Momo’s love. The boy who has nothing to do with him, the boy who loves Momo as much as Shouto did - and does - and who can shout these feelings out loud, unlike the stuck adult.

And just like Shouto could never fight loving Momo, he is now unable to hate Tokiya, who looks at Shouto like he’s the center of his universe - with the same admiration Momo held for him, despite him never deserving even a fragment of it.

“Shouto-san?” Tokiya says, and the pure adoration in his voice tugs at Shouto’s lips and makes him pinch the bridge of his nose to keep the itching away.

“Shouto,” he corrects the boy.

“Shouto!” Tokiya repeats, the name rolling down his tongue like a prayer. “I want to be a hero just like you! Just like Mom used to be!”

So he knows. Shouto opens his mouth to ask why the past tense, but then realizes it should be Momo who tells him this story, so he changes his mind and asks, “Oh yeah? What’s your quirk?”

“Ice!” Tokiya says and Shouto freezes. “Ice creation, actually! Mom says I’m like Anna with Elsa’s powers because of my white streak! But my favourite character is actually Olaf!”

Shouto ignores the lump in his throat and takes the opportunity presented to him before he actually loses control over his right side and freezes this room, “You watch Disney movies?”

“All the time! They’re my favourite! And Mom loves them too, especially if she had a bad day at work!”

His elation makes Shouto genuinely smile. He crosses his legs as he sits on the carpet, giving the boy his undivided attention and ripping himself from the talons of his worries. “Really? I like them too,” Shouto says, watching with amusement as Tokiya’s mouth curves into a perfect circle that he immediately covers with his hand. “What’s your favourite?”

“Definitely The Lion King!”

The smile is replaced by a frown. “Tangled is obviously the best.”

Tokiya now frowns as well, sitting down himself as if this is going to be a long debate he won’t back out of. “The Lion King has a message about family and discovering your own path, Shouto!” Not the argument Shouto expected out of the toddler, but then he follows up with, “And it has Hakuna Matata!” That’s more like it.

Half an hour later, they haven’t reached a favourable conclusion, even as they moved onto other movies to draw comparisons. When they present themselves in front of the ultimate judge, she looks at the two males with quirked eyebrows and wipes her hands on her kitchen apron.

“Mom, please tell Shouto which is the greatest Disney movie,” Tokiya demands with the seriousness of an adult who is debating the fate of a country.

Momo’s eyes flicker to Shouto, who nods as he repeats, equally somber, “Please do.”

She sets down the pan and turns off the stovetop before saying, “Obviously Hercules.”

The two men exchange a glance before Tokiya says, “So it’s The Lion King.”

“Tangled,” Shouto insists, holding the boy’s intense gaze. They only break out of their staring contest when they hear Momo giggling, the clear sound prompting them to whip their heads towards her. An involuntary smile curls around Shouto’s lips, and from the corner of his eyes, he notices Tokiya is beaming just as well, his love for Momo oozing through his every pore.

“We can continue this educational debate over dinner,” she suggests, unaware of the looks the two give her. Tokiya nods and waltzes around her, opening a drawer to pick up the cutlery. Grabbing three forks and three spoons, he rushes towards the dining table, tiptoeing to properly reach the tabletop and neatly arrange the utensils next to the plates.

Shouto feels stuck in place for a moment, unable to look at the scene unfolding without remembering how he used to do the same for himself, eating in a room he didn’t even bother to turn on the light in, alone save for the buzz of the TV and scanning the internet for information about Creati.

This - the smell of bolognese sauce wafting into his nostrils, the warm light framing the talking mother and son - this feels so much like a proper home. A home Shouto doesn’t belong in.

But then the two turn around to him at the same time and Momo says, “Take a seat,” just as Tokiya draws out the chair for him, and the lonesome buzz of the TV dissipates from Shouto’s mind, the blueish hues of the screen replaced by the light that reflects off Momo and Tokiya’s dark eyes.

Shouto has to pinch the bridge of his nose again before seating himself.

A healthy helping of pasta is placed under his nose, and Tokiya expertly maneuvers the ladle of sauce over Shouto’s plate, beaming at him when he meets his eyes. Once the boy does the honours with Momo’s portion, too, he sits down and claps his hands together, muttering, “Thank you for the food,” along with Momo.

A ritual. A warm meal together. This is family.

This is what Shouto could have had.

This is what Shouto can’t have.

“How did you start the Disney debate, anyway?” Momo asks, pulling him out of these haunting thoughts.

“I told him about my quirk!” Tokiya pipes in, but Shouto isn’t looking at his doubtlessly dazzling smile.

His eyes are on Momo, who stiffens for just a fraction of a second. When she starts chewing again, Shouto concludes it must have been just his imagination.

“What exactly does Ice Creation mean?” he asks, working around a mouthful of spaghetti.

Tokiya’s eyes light up again, and he lets the fork down to link his fingers. “So in order to create ice, I need water, right? But my quirk allows me not only to use the moisture in the air or the water around me, but also the water and nutrients in my body! That means I can bind water with minerals or proteins, which gives the ice a different freezing point and texture and allows me to mold it! May I make a demonstration?” he asks Momo, who nods.

The boy puts a hand over the glass of water, causing its insides to rise into the air and morph into the form of a perfectly crafted octogonal snowflake. With just one touch of his fingertips touch, it freezes into a solid sculpture that drops onto his other palm. He presents it to Shouto, who runs a gingerly finger over its edges, afraid it could be melted by his mere body heat.

“You can have it,” Tokiya proudly declares. Shouto raises incredulous eyes to the eager boy, who only nods and pushes it towards Shouto again. For a ray of sunshine, his skin sure is cold when Shouto brushes his fingertips against it. The snowflake slides into his hand, its glassy texture different from the ice the hero yields, yet its weight feels familiar as his fingers curl around one of its corners.

Inspecting the minute craftsmanship, Shouto recognizes the attention to detail Creati was known for and mutters, “Beautiful.” When he raises his head again, Tokiya is positively dazzling with his toothy grin, and despite the cold creation in his right hand, Shouto feels warm.

“When did your ice first manifest?” he asks, impressed with the mastery of such a complex quirk.

“Last year!”

“Ah, you gave me a real fright back then,” Momo interjects, and Shouto finally turns around to meet her soft smile. “You froze your right hand and didn’t know how to melt it!”

Tokiya giggles sheepishly, “But Rei-san helped me control it!”

Shouto chokes on his food at the sound of the name. One of the boy’s cold hands is hitting back, the other one holding out the glass of water. The weight of the name dawns on Shouto, and as soon as he regains his voice, he mutters, “Rei...san?”

“Yes! She’s this pretty lady with white hair and an ice quirk just like yours, Shouto! I’ll tell you a secret,” he whispers, stealing a glance at Momo before continuing, hands cupped around his mouth and breath tickling Shouto’s earshell to keep his words a secret indeed, “I think she’s actually Elsa!”

Shouto wants to bring himself to laugh, but he can only manage a polite smile before meeting Momo’s look across the face. She mouths “Don’t” and the questions dies on his lips, but the weight doesn’t budge from his shoulders.

The rest of the dinner goes by agonizingly slow, and Shouto only half pays attention to the stories the little boy tells him. He catches mentions of “Uncle Bakugou” - he can’t believe the explosive hero lets a child call him that -, Mister Aizawa and “memes”. The other half of him is watching the perfect snowflake melt away as the pieces of the puzzle fall into place one by one.

When their plates are empty, Shouto realizes his taste buds are numb with the taste of the questions he has yet to pose, and as soon as Tokiya is sent to take a shower and brush his teeth, he takes the plates and follows Momo by the sink.

She doesn’t meet his piercing gaze, but she knows what’s eating away at him all the same. “I knew no one else with ice powers in the proximity and I was scared, Todoroki-san. My son had his arm frozen and was blessed with a powerful quirk he had no idea how to control and I-I was terrified he’d freeze himself to death. Your mother was the only one I could turn to.”

She doesn’t look up at him as she talks, her hands scrubbing the plates thoroughly and the sound of running water filling in their silence. Still, Shouto has to ask the one thing that has been bugging him for hours, “Didn’t he - didn’t Tokiya inherit his quirk?”

Ice quirks are rare, Shouto knows, and the lack of a ring on Momo’s hand, the constant skirting around the subject of a Dad in the boy’s stories, the white streak in his hair - they all add up well. Too well.

For the first time, Momo looks up at him, her eyes soft and holding nothing but affection and regret - regret that drips into her voice and melts his soul with every word. “He did, but his father-” Momo chokes on her words, as if the memory is strangling her. “He couldn’t help us.”

“Do you-” his own words fail him, too, but he still croaks, “Do you resent him?”

She turns off the water tap and holds his gaze. “No. I love Tokiya, and although raising him alone was the most terrifying experience I’ve ever been through, it’s something I’ve never regretted.”

He’d like to ask more, but he doesn’t know how, so he’s grateful when Tokiya rushes back into the kitchen, wearing Shouto pajamas - half white, half red - and says, “Mom, the bath is ready.”

“I should probably go,” Shouto says, turning around to head for the door when a hand tightens around his and he stops.

“Come back soon, okay?” Tokiya says, pleading eyes fixed on Shouto’s mismatched ones. “Until you learn how to cook!”

Momo’s soft laughter breaks Shouto from staring at the boy in awe, “I don’t think you two bickering over Disney movies will teach him how to cook.”

“But he’s wrong, Mom!” the boy protests, still not letting go of Shouto’s hand - a contradiction to his outburst.

And with the tiny hand engulfed in his, cold fingers scraping hot skin, and with the cat rubbing against his left side, Shouto makes a decision, crouches and ruffles the boy’s hair. “Tell you what. The next time I’m coming, I’m bringing Tangled with me, and we can watch it together.” Tokiya’s face instantly lights up like a Christmas tree, and Shouto looks up at Momo, “Is that alright?”

She seems to ponder it for a moment, but when her son raises pleading eyes to her too, she says, “It’s more than alright.”

Shouto nods and gets back up, making for the door. He’s tying his shoes when Momo speaks again. “You can-” he looks at her, and she sends him a sincere smile, “You can come back whenever you want, Todoroki-san.”

Shouto nods, wishing them both good night and taking in the wall of photographs again.

He wonders if he fits in any of those photos without his hero costume.

***

Dear Momo,

It’s been two years, so why do I keep writing these emails that will never reach you? Why do I always hover over the ‘send’ button, imagining you jolting with surprise as you see my name in your inbox and curling your fingers around the sleeve of your sweater, biting your lower lip nervously? Why do I imagine you blushing furiously as you read these lines and imagine me in turn? Why can’t I forget you?

Yoarashi tried dragging me on a double date tonight and after much brooding on my part and way too much yelling on his, I reluctantly gave in. Despite my obvious displeasure with the situation, he called me a ‘killjoy’ and said he missed his chance because of me. What did he expect? I can’t handle small, pointless talks, meaningless chatter to fill an equally meaningless evening.

I never had to do that with you. You somehow seemed to know what I was thinking, and decided to pick my thoughts apart like you wanted to understand every minute detail and then recreate them perfectly. You succeeded, of course. I suppose no one else knows me as well as you did- as you probably still do. Well, maybe Midoriya and Iida, but they weren’t the ones who taught me what it is to love.

I never thought I’d love anyone before meeting you. For the longest time, the mere concept of love seemed a silly myth extracted from a fairytale to me, and I was certain I couldn’t ever love anyone. So why is it that now, I can’t love anyone but you? Why is it that you made love feel not only real, but scary; why is it that your absence physically pains me; why is it that any lips that don’t belong to you feel so wrong on mine? Why does the thought of someone else being by your side make me want to freeze the entire world?

You’d probably laugh if you knew this, but there’s a rumour going around that I may be gay, because none of my relationships last for longer than a few hours. I know not why people categorize first dates as “relationships” and I know even less why they are so critical of me - a few hours is, in all honesty, much more time than I need to figure out that none of them are you , and thus, they aren’t “my type”. If they’re smart, they aren’t funny, and if they’re funny, they can’t stand my stoic nature. I don’t mean to bad mouth them - they’re nice people, but not one of them can fill the hole you left in me, not when its outline so distinctly craves for your figure.

Lately, my scar has been itching - it’s ironic, really, that I have been wearing this proof of a failed romance my entire life, yet seemed to have learnt nothing from it. I know I did the only thing I promised myself I’d never do - I hurt you, Momo. And I know you’re kind to a fault and don’t even consider blaming me, but I do. I know this is all my fault and if I ever see you again, I promise to properly apologize, and to never leave again unless you ask me to.

Do you miss me too, I wonder? I surely hope you don’t, because it hurts like hell, and I’d rather bear the pain for the both of us. If there’s one thing I wish for, it’s that whoever you love now deserves you, and that he spends every day doing the things I didn’t do and saying the things I didn’t say. I hope he tells you he loves you, and that you’re breathtakingly beautiful and amazingly intelligent, because you are, Momo. And because there’s not a day that goes by without my wondering if it’s too late to tell you these myself.

How can I go on with my life, when you are my life?

I miss you, Momo.

Love,
Shouto.

Chapter Text


 

You're the rock in the center of my universe
You're the second and third chance I don't deserve
I can be what I want
But I know who I am with you
(Ghosts - Casey Abrams)


 

Momo collapses on her bed, hugging one of the pillows to her chest as she leans against the bedpost and lets out a long, deep sigh. The look of pure bliss on Tokiya’s face as he fell asleep gushing about his number one hero is still fresh in Momo’s mind, and she smiles at how excited her son can be. It’s not too far from the giddiness that engulfed her when Shouto acknowledged her skills - he is her hero too, after all.

She feels her cheeks warm up as images of Shouto invade every nook and cranny of her mind, escaping from the confines of a strictly locked and consciously suppressed box in the depths of her mind.

Shouto , as stoic as ever, his face an indecipherable mask Momo has forgotten how to take apart - or maybe she’s just afraid to do it. Shouto , warm and cold all the same, bottling up words she’ll never hear again from his mouth. Shouto , with his hair slicked back in that style she loved so much and talking - actually talking - to Tokiya. She was right - he would have loved meeting him! If only-

The buzz of her phone startles Momo, who bumps the back of her head against the bedpost as she jolts, and she tightens the grip on her pillow while checking the Caller ID. A wave of relief (and a tang of disappointment she quickly dismisses) wash over her as Kyouka’s photo takes over the display, and Momo presses ‘Accept’.

“MOMO!” the loud, worried voice of her friend fills her bedroom, and Momo dials down the volume, distancing the phone from her ear. “Momo, I’ve been so worried! Why didn’t you answer the phone?! I’ve been calling you like crazy!”

In the background, Momo makes out Kaminari’s soothing, “See, she’s okay!” and smiles - these two are like the siblings she never had, and she feels guilty for burdening them with her personal drama.

“I’m fine,” Momo confirms, nodding although she knows Kyouka can’t see her. “We just had dinner, so I didn’t hear my phone.”

There’s an almost inaudible sigh at the other end, and then Kyouka breathes, “Kaminari told me. Don’t worry, I gave him a lecture for not butting in and taking Tokiya out of there-”

“And by lecture, she means she stabbed me with her jacks, Yaomomo!” Kaminari wails, quite possibly stealing the phone from Kyouka, because his voice is much closer now. “I call this domestic violence and hope my lovely daughter won’t inherit my wife-”

“I told you, you don’t know if it’s a girl yet!” Kyouka protests in the background, but her voice no longer holds any ire.

“It’s called father instincts, Kyouka honey. I just know . Didn’t I say Tokiya was going to be a boy?” He sounds so proud of himself that Momo chuckles, and she soon hears Kyouka snorting.

“Yeah yeah,” she eventually gives in, reclaiming her phone. Her next words break the spell that raised Momo’s spirits, “Are you okay, Momo?”

It’s a question she herself has tried to answer, but her feelings are a tangled clutter of threads, seams she doesn’t know how to weave back together because as soon as she manages to make out a pattern on one end, the other end starts disintegrating.

She’s filled with trepidation at the thought of Shouto being back. There’s something of the high school silliness left in her, a bouncy feeling that fills her up at the thought of Shouto being so physically close, but it’s quickly subdued by the harsh reality of how out of reach he actually is. They’re separated by seven years of complete and utter silence, and the gap is only widened by their shared past and love.

Love. A double edged sword; an enthralling concept on paper, but a painful reality to Momo. She loved Shouto, and she’s still enamoured with the boy she used to date, but are her feelings only directed to the hazy figure of a teenage Shouto? Does she love him now ?

“I don’t know.” It comes out more like a question in itself, and she hears Kyouka inhale sharply. “I only know that I missed him, and I missed having him around. Having dinner was nice-”

“Wait,” Kyouka interrupts her, and her voice is shaking. “Say that again?”

“I missed him?” Momo repeats, and wonders why the words reverberate against the walls and her room suddenly feels cold and lonely. “I missed having him around.” Saying it aloud is like pouring seven years’ worth of letters into one sentence, and the weight of the words makes her hug her pillow tighter.

“And after that?”

“We had- Oh Kyouka please, it wasn’t like that! We’re just friends-”

“Well isn’t that funny?” Kyouka snorts, and Momo realizes her voice was trembling with anger . “Your ex-boyfriend comes around and you have dinner, but that’s okay, because you are just . Friends .” Her voice is coated with heavy irony, but Momo doesn’t get to talk before Kyouka adds, “And there’s this other teeny tiny flimsy little detail, like the fact that he is the father of your son but that’s not gonna be a hurdle in your friendship or anything, right?”

Kyouka’s voice is steadily rising, and Momo can hear Kaminari’s “Kyouka, please” in the background, but she knows her best friend all too well - she’s mad, and she’s not going to drop the subject until she says all she has to say.

“I call bullshit!” Kyouka yells indeed. Momo flinches, but doesn’t distance the phone from her ear. “You’re really stupid sometimes, Momo, you know that?”

“Does he know?” Kaminari asks this time, voice closer to the receiver.

Momo breathes in and shakes her head. “I think he already has an inkling. Still, I’d appreciate you not telling him yet. I-I have to do that myself.”

There’s a heavy sigh coming from Kyouka, and her voice melts into mellow sadness. “You know we won’t, girl. We haven’t until now - it’s always been your call, and it’s always going to be. But he has the right to know.”

“I know, but what if he feels it’s an obligation rather than a right?” Kyouka starts saying something, but Momo cuts her off, the contradictory feelings in her fighting for the veto right. “You know I couldn’t have told him - he would have abandoned the mission to come back, Kyouka, and I couldn’t let him do that. I couldn’t make him do that.”

“Have you ever considered that maybe, just maybe, he would have liked to be part of it all? That he would have liked to hold Tokiya in his arms when he was barely the size of a bean, and that he would have liked his first word to be “dad”? That maybe he’d still like to be involved?”

Of course she has. She’s dreamed about it so many times, she’s hovered over his phone number so many more times, she’s flipped through the folder with pictures of them more times than she can count. Watching him interact with Tokiya tonight; crouching so they were at the same eye level and never patronizing the little boy; the way his face softened when her son - his son - smiled at him like Shouto was his entire world. It all made Momo realize what could have been.

And that she’s the only one to blame.

“All I’m saying is, don’t decide in his stead, Momo.” Momo can almost see the strained smile her best friend is sporting, tugging at only one corner of her lips and not quite reaching her eyes.

She’d like to sink into the comfort of her warm hug, but instead, Momo pulls the pillow even tighter to her chest and mutters, “I know.” A feather pops out of the pillow, and then another one floats into the air as Momo squeezes it closer.

“Do you want us to come there?” Kaminari asks, as if he can hear Momo’s uneven breathing. “We could make it in about 15 minutes, if I step on it. The city’s empty at this hour and-”

“You don’t have to, really. I’m gonna be just fine, Kaminari-san. I probably need a good night’s sleep, that’s all!” In truth, their warm words, Kyouka’s engulfing embrace, despite her petite build, and Kaminari’s hot chocolate would be welcomed, but he sounds tired, and Kyouka’s pregnancy could do without the extra stress, so Momo gulps on her selfishness and repeats, “Really.”

“If you say so.” Kyouka sounds unconvinced, but her last words are eaten up by a yawn and Kaminari’s low chuckles make it through the phone. “Don’t laugh Pikachu, this is entirely your fault.”

“It’s not! Yaomomo, you were a pregnant lady, did you suddenly crave spinach muffins at 3am?”

Momo giggles, a honest sound that dissipates some of the loneliness of her room. “I didn’t.”

“See Kyouka?”

“That’s because her child didn’t have Denki-genes!” There’s a groan coming from her best friend’s husband, and Momo can picture Kyouka just rolling her eyes as she says, “And this child also demands a lot of cuddles so come on, I’m sleepy! Night, Momo!”

“Good night, Yaomomo!” Kaminari chimes in too. “Don’t hesitate to call, no matter how trivial it is! Kyouka says I give some mean hugs so-”

“I never said that!”

“You said I’m a decent cuddler and that’s the highest compliment in the Kyouka Kaminari dictionary!”

The good natured banter elicits another small laugh out of Momo, but it also makes envy gnaw at the bottom of her heart. She locks that ugly feeling away and chuckles again at Kyouka’s flustered “Whatever”, the call finally disconnecting after another round of goodnights.

In the deafening silence of her room, Momo suddenly feels small and fragile, like the weakest gust of wind could shatter her. She gingerly picks up the small velvet box from her bedside table, running a finger over its outline before flipping the lid to reveal a golden ring with an embedded diamond, which she slips on her finger. Its weight is reassuring, the way it reflects the dim light of her lamp, almost joyous, and the presence it evokes, one of Momo’s happiest memories.

She falls asleep wearing the ring and dreaming of promises.

***

“Iida’s not here?”

“Ah no,” Midoriya rubs the back of his neck sheepishly. “He’s in Kyoto this week. He was really dejected about not being here to welcome you back.”

Shouto mulls over this information. He doesn’t doubt the truth in Midoriya’s words - the boy seems physically incapable of lying. Even so, a shadow of doubt lingers over his heart. “Is he still… angry with me?”

Midoriya bites on his lower lip, “Oh, he’s furious.” Shouto’s stomach sinks at those words, but then a laugh bubbles out of Midoriya and he gives his best friend a quizzical look. “He’s Iida, Todoroki. He can be furious and miss you all the same.”

A breath he didn’t know he was holding in escapes Shouto. “He has every reason to be angry with me. I left without telling you anything - without telling anyone anything, really. Mo-” the word catches in his throat, and he chokes out the name he’s apparently supposed to address her by now “-Yaoyorozu was the only one who knew.”

“Well there’s that, but also…” Midoriya mumbles, his voice trailing off into incoherent ramblings. Shouto tilts his head questioningly, waiting for a single word that would confirm the heavy doubt hanging over him, but his attention is drawn towards the group that comes their way.

The spiky, washed blond hair is hard to mistake, and the heavy stomps that accompany Bakugou’s entrance are a trademark not even seven years can erase. Behind him trail a chipper Ashido and a face Shouto hasn’t seen in a long while - since when did Utsushimi work at the Agency?

People don’t seem keen on letting Shouto ask questions or even properly greet them anymore, as if all their patience ran out in the seven years he was away, because when Bakugou’s eyes meet his and he starts saying a regular “Long time no-” he’s cut off by Bakugou’s fist .

“Man, that felt good!” Bakugou smugly says, rolling his shoulder as if he was the tense one. No “Waw your mug is pissing me off as much as ever, Half’n’Half”, no “So you decided to show up, Icy Hot?”, no, none of that - Bakugou is a man of few words and many punches. Shouto is reminded that even without using his quirk, Bakugou is fucking strong, and his cheek throbs in the place where the angry blond’s knuckles collided with his cheek.

“Bakugou!” Ashido yelps, skidding towards Todoroki to inspect his quickly swelling cheek. “You can’t just punch the number one bachelor, the modelling magazines will sue you!” As always, her concerns are beyond Shouto.

“Not my fault that the dipshit fucking pissed me off,” Bakugou shrugs, glaring at Shouto.

“Still Bakuboo, punching people is a no-go,” Camie coos, placing a hand on Bakugou’s bicep to calm him down.

“Been holding it in for fucking seven years, I think the bastard should be grateful it was just one punch. It’s not like Ponytail has it in her to do it herself!”

Shouto’s heart tightens upon hearing the name and he talks up, despite the stinging in his right cheek, “If this is about Yaoyorozu-”

“Oh look, the slowpoke got it,” Bakugou snorts, taking a threatening step towards Shouto. The look in his eyes is one Shouto hasn’t seen since their UA years, when every fight he had with Midoriya was almost an attempt to kill him, and his eyes looked like those of an angry animal’s.

“Kacchan, no,” Midoriya says as he steps in between the two of them, meeting Bakugou’s glare head-on.

“Out of my fucking way, Deku!” he growls in response. “Don’t pretend you aren’t a motherfucker too, for not having told me the bastard is back. Consider yourself lucky I didn’t punch you-

“Bakugou!” Camie’s voice is firmer than Shouto has ever heard it, and her grip tightens around Bakugou’s arm. “You punched him. That’s quite enough, fam.”

The hero sneers, revealing his teeth menacingly, but takes a step back. “Don’t you think I’m done here, Half’n’Half!”

“Yeah, good to see you too, Bakugou,” Shouto deadpans.

Despite the earlier punch and obvious ire Bakugou holds for Shouto, he snorts, and his eyes soften around the edges, rage subdued by a feeling Shouto can’t quite name. “Just don’t fuck up this time,” he says before whirling around on his heels and walking back to his office.

“Sorry Todoroki,” Ashido apologizes with puppy dog eyes. “But you know, you should thank us for stopping him from boarding the first plane and flying to Europe just to punch you.”

“Huh,” Shouto hums, watching Bakugou and Utsushimi’s retreating figures, still bickering about something. “I guess I do deserve it, though,” he smiles sadly, remembering Bakugou’s words: It’s not like Ponytail has it in her to do it herself! She’s the one who truly deserves to slap him for leaving, for never contacting her again, and who knows for what else.

Tokiya’s face pops into his head, and Shouto reminds himself to rent Tangled for tonight.

***

The door swings open, letting a wave of warmth and the distinct smell of freshly brewed tea wash over Shouto. His eyes fall onto the child with starry eyes, and he claps his hands upon seeing him - something only Momo has ever done before.

“You’re here!” he happily exclaims, but the sheer bliss in his eyes is soon replaced by concern. “What happened to your face? Does it hurt?”

“It’s nothing to worry about,” Shouto replies, touching the patch on his cheek - Midoriya disinfected it and rubbed some sort of oil onto the wound, but it still hurts and makes him feel like he has half the jaw of a whale or something.

“It is if you got injured! Was it a villain raid?” Tokiya asks, taking the coat Shouto has shrugged off and struggling to reach the rack to hang it.

Shouto bites back a smile as he helps the kid, and feels any trace of annoyance at this morning’s events thaw away with the smile Tokiya gives him in return. “No, it was something much less heroic.”

Much like his mother, the kid is an angel and doesn’t push it, instead leading the way to the living room. Shouto slips out of his shoes and follows him, only to be met with another face from his past.

Sure enough, Jirou is lounging on the sofa, her feet kicked over the armrest as she softly strums her guitar. Her purple hair got longer, and it brushes against her collar when she lifts her eyes and scans Shouto’s face. No distinct feeling colours her features, but a small smirk blooms across her lips as she notes, “So Bakugou got you first?”

Tokiya shuffles into the kitchen, leaving the two in an awkward silence that confirms the answer to Jirou’s question. Really, what’s become of the sensible greetings Shouto was raised with? “Nice to see you too, Jirou,” he nods her way.

She chortles, heaving her feet onto the floor to make place for Shouto on the couch. “Been going by Kaminari for a few years,” she says in response, leaning the guitar against the armchair next to her to pick up the cup of tea sitting atop of an open book. “But it’s nice to see you never change, Todoroki.” When he doesn’t make a move to sit next to her she sighs, cupping a hand around the rim of the mug. “Don’t just stand there in the hallway staring at the pregnant lady. Pikachu is away on a mission and I am hungry and you know how cranky I get when I’m hungry so go on, chop chop!”

Shouto’s eyes widen, if only barely, but Jirou catches on. “I didn’t know-”

“Yeah well, there’s a lot of things you don’t know, Todoroki,” she answers curtly. “And I’m only seven weeks in, so it’s not really showing either.”

He knows she’s right, but Jirou’s words sting more than his cheek.

It’s then that Tokiya skips out of the kitchen, and he announces, “Mom said dinner should be done in half an hour!” When he gets no answer, he curiously eyes the two adults and asks, “Did you guys fight?”

Shouto shakes his head as Jirou gets up and groans, “Nah kiddo, but you’re not yourself when you’re hungry. Fish me a Snickers from the kitchen? I know you Mom has a secret stash in the right top cupboard for a fact.”

Shouto wants to chuckle at Jirou’s antics, but then Tokiya seriously chides her, “Mom says sweets aren’t good before a meal!” and Shouto actually lets a breathy laugh escape him.

Jirou glares at him, more annoyed at his laughter than Tokiya lecturing her - is she used to it? “Laugh all you want, Todoroki, but you don’t have a kid inside of you.”

Shouto meets her glare with an impish smile and says, “You’re definitely still Jirou. If you were a Kaminari, you would have electrocuted yourself by now.”

For a moment, he thinks he stepped on a landmine, because Jirou’s unforgiving look is still boring through him, but then she tips her head back and lets a laugh roar out of her, a real laugh like the ones that escaped her when he asked her for dating advice back before he confessed to Momo, and it makes the tension in Shouto’s shoulders evaporate.

Jirou steps closer and slaps his back lightly, poking his sides with her jacks. “Welcome back, Todoroki.” Her smile is warm, and Shouto finds himself smiling back.

“It’s good to be back. Kinda missed not having people make puns at my expense, you know?”

Jirou pokes him again, crossing her arms with a disappointed look. “Oh please, that’s my idiot husband you’re talking about. I’m only fluent in snark.”

For a moment, it feels like they’re back in the old days - good natured banter and Jirou’s trademark smirk, her jacks swirling around her freely and just a bit menacingly. Shouto doesn’t realize how much he’s missed this normalcy. He needed to learn to live without it, and now that it’s back, it feels foreign.

Then Tokiya talks, and they’re reminded they’re adults now. “So Aunt Kyouka, you like Shouto after all?”

Jirou exchanges another look with Shouto before ruffling the boy’s hair, white hair blending with the mass of black. “I don’t think anyone in this house hates him, kiddo. We’ve just forgotten how he fits into our lives.” She then straightens up and picks Tokiya’s hand, leading him to the couch. “We should resume our guitar lesson until dinner’s ready. As for you, Todoroki, if you can sneak me something out of the kitchen, I can talk Bakugou out of punching you again.”

Shouto knows her joke is supposed to ease the weight of her previous statement, but the words ring in his ears.

We’ve just forgotten how he fits into our lives.

As he murmurs a “Thanks” and squeezes himself into the kitchen, he wonders if he can make place for himself into their lives, but also if they have room in his.

***

Momo recognizes his footsteps before he even enters the kitchen, so she begins to say, “Welcome, Todoroki-san,” when she spins around and the greeting dies in her throat. Before she can properly think it through, she’s closed the distance between them, her fingertips grazing the side of his cheek. “What happened?”

He presses a hand over her fingers, flattening her palm so it cups his cheek - and making Momo blush profusely in the process - and only answers, “Bakugou.”

A sigh wheezes out of Momo as her thumb gingerly ghosts over the swelling. “I told him not to do anything rash…”

Shouto shrugs, his warm hand still resting atop of hers. “He’s always had a soft spot for you.”

It’s only now that Momo realizes he’s sulking , holding her hand like he wants to make sure she’s here, and her other hand involuntarily cups his right cheek as she chuckles. Is he actually jealous or is she reading too much into it? Regardless, she says, “Todoroki-kun, you do know Bakugou-kun has been dating Utsushimi-san for about four years now, don’t you?”

His confused look contradicts the “Yeah, of course” that spills out of his mouth.

Momo holds his gaze for just a moment too long, suddenly aware of how close they are and of the fact that they are not dating, which makes the situation much too intimate. She retracts her hands immediately, only to find her right one stubbornly laced together with Shouto’s. Her face burns, and she clears her throat before saying, “Take a seat.”

He obeys her, disentangling their fingers with painful slowness, and Momo watches as his fingers linger - or are they hers? - just a moment too long. When she meets his eyes, it’s like she feels home for the first time in years, and there’s an unspoken complicity in the thumb that ghosts over the back of her hand.

But then her eyes drift to the slowly forming bruise on his cheek, and she tugs on her sleeve, pulling it back to reveal her forearm. Sparks start dancing around it as she focuses on the item she wants to create, and she mindlessly explains, “It’s a cooling balm - it should help with the swelling and take some of the pain away.”

Less than a minute later, the little box drops into her hand, and she unscrews the lid, finally meeting Shouto’s eyes, asking for permission wordlessy. His only answer is a nod, so she peels the bandage off his face and dips her fingers into the aloe cream, smearing his skin with it. Her touch is feathery, but Shouto leans his face into her palm and closes his eyes, a soft hum strumming his vocal chords.

It’s all Momo can do not to melt, but she does feel her heart skip a beat and is forced to face the reality that this is still her Shouto, the one in whose arms she always felt secure and who was comfortable enough around her to let his guard down entirely. Tentatively, Momo tugs at his bangs, making them spill over his brow, and he blinks at her, looking exactly like the boy who kissed her in the library bathed in summer light and dust specks ten years ago.

She doesn’t expect him to speak, doesn’t expect him to say, “You really are my healer, Momo.”

Shouto doesn’t seem to realize what effect his words have on her feeble heart, how close they are to breaking the dam on her emotions. Perhaps that’s why she’s grateful when the door to the kitchen barges open, prompting Momo to finally rip her gaze from his mesmerizing mismatched eyes and take back her hand.

“Mom, Aunt Kyouka taught me a song!” Tokiya jumps with uncontained excitement, oblivious to what has just transpired.

“Todoroki, I thought we had a deal about the food-” Kyouka’s voice trails off when her eyes fall onto the scene. She raises her eyebrows wittingly, eyes flickering from Shouto’s cheek to the box of ointment and then to the guilty way Momo bites on her lower lip.

Tokiya, met with silence, scans the room as well and gasps, “You said it was nothing!” He picks up the cream and gives Shouto a pained look, “You said it didn’t hurt!”

The hero blinks a few times, mildly confused, before answering, “It’s just a swelling-”

“But you have to tell us if you’re hurting!” Tokiya protests, his voice dangerously low.

Momo puts a gentle hand on his back, rubbing circles through his shirt to get her son to look at her. When he does, she notices how glassy his eyes are and kneels. “It’s okay, honey. He won’t have to go to the hospital this time.” Tokiya sniffs back the tears threatening to spill over. “I promise,” Momo repeats, kissing his forehead.

“I’m aborting this mission,” Kyouka dramatically sighs after a prolonged moment of silence. “You’ll be finding me lounging on your expensive sofa and watching The Lion King if you need me,” she winks at Momo before strolling out of the kitchen.

Her plan works, because Tokiya immediately perks up, and he squeezes Momo’s hand before skipping after Kyouka. He does, however, stop in the doorway, throwing Shouto one last look before he softly closes the door behind him.

“What did I do?” Shouto mutters, and he sounds absolutely horrified .

Momo screws the lid back on the box and picks up the knife, returning to cutting the tomatoes into cubes. “You didn’t mess up,” she assures him in a soothing tone. “He’s just worried about you. For the longest time, he’s only known you through interviews and news stories. That time you were in the hospital really got to him, so seeing you injured must trigger bad memories for him.” As the words leave her mouth, she realizes they hold true for her, as well.

“He’s… worried?” Shouto repeats, joining her at the kitchen island and leaning against the sink.

Momo shoots him a piercing look, “We both are.”

Shouto seems to process that information. He picks up a knife as well, curling his fingers around a fistful of garlic cloves and chopping them in silence. After what feels like a small eternity, he murmurs, “I’m sorry.”

Despite not adding anything else until the timer goes off and Momo calls Tokiya and Kyouka for dinner, she knows he’s apologizing for more than he lets on.

***

Dinner is going just fine - Tokiya started talking excitedly about the start of a new school year tomorrow, and Shouto seems entranced by the stories about the little boy’s friends and his sparkling interest for the inner workings of Shouto’s quirk. Warmth washes over Momo as she watches the two interact, Shouto gradually shedding away the awkwardness in favour of exposing the physics behind his ice and fire, and Tokiya absorbs his every word like a sponge.

Yet somehow, Kyouka finds this is just the right time to say, “So enlighten me, Todoroki. Why is it that you’re having dinner with us, like a total loner? Don’t you have a girl or something, Mr. Most Popular of Our Year?”

It’s all Momo can do not to kick Kyouka under the table, but then Shouto answers, and her heart lurches in her throat, “No.”

Kyouka quirks her eyebrows and sends Momo what Bakugou calls a “shit eating grin”. “Oh? So then are the rumours true?” When Shouto doesn’t answer, Kyouka’s teasing tilt gains new weight, “Ohoho, don’t tell me you’re actually gay!”

Momo chokes on her water, yet still catches the death glare Shouto sends a smug Kyouka. When the coughs stop, laughter bubbles out of Momo and Shouto gives her a confused look, one that melts into - dare she say? It’s been a night of guesses - fondness. He’s about to say something when he’s interrupted.

“Aunt Kyouka? What’s ‘gay’?” Tokiya asks, blinking disoriented.

Kyouka laughs sheepishly, like she’s just realized the boy is at the table, and pokes her earjacks together. “Let’s see… it’s when a man likes another man.”

The boy runs the notion through his mind, nodding as he stores it away in a corner of his brain. “Okay, but what if he likes both men and women?”

Momo smiles warmly as Kyouka blinks in surprise, and then she tosses her head back and laughs loudly, “God kiddo, you’re too good.” Wiping tears from the corner of her eye, Kyouka says, “It’s called bi.”

Tokiya nods yet again, resuming his eating thoughtfully. He then turns to Shouto and asks with a  straight face, “So are you gay?”

Shouto is only marginally taken aback, but quickly recovers to say, “I’m not. My tastes are just very precise.” His eye pin Momo as he talks, and her laughter simmers down, her features now dominated by a blush.

When her heart threatens to break her rib cage, she decides this is enough. “Movie time?” she asks, praying her cheerful tone isn’t too forced. “Why don’t you go ahead and set up the movie, Tokiya? I’ll take care of the dishes.”

The boy juts his lower lip out and holds out a hand when Momo makes to take his plate. “No way, Mom! It’s not movie night without you! I’ll help!”

Tokiya jumps off his chair, picking up his dishes to deposit them in the sink, and Momo smiles lovingly as she watches him go, Shouto following closely to help him rinse the dishes and making a sign for the women to go ahead. When Momo attempts to follow them, he shakes his head firmly.

“I swear Momo, your kid’s an angel,” Kyouka whistles as they shuffle into the living room. “You’re setting my expectations unrealistically high.”

“You’ll be fine,” Momo reassuringly says, patting her friend’s shoulder. “They just need love to grow up properly, and God knows Tokiya had it in spates.”

Kyouka throws a knowing look towards the kitchen and whispers, “Looks like the Dad might be enamoured with him, too.”

Momo just shakes her head, but she can’t help wondering if that’s true when happiness encases her, wrapping Momo’s entire being in a warm blanket.

***

“Eugene is my spirit animal, but I can’t for the life of me figure out how he’s got those nice eyebrows. Does he pluck them?!” Jirou sighs as the first lines of the movies kick in, only to be shushed by Shouto and Momo at the same time.

“Aunt Kyouka, I think Uncle Kaminari rubbed off you! You’re talking during movies now!” Tokiya notices, an understanding smile tugging at the corner of his lips. It makes Kyouka pinch his cheeks.

Shouto’s fingers curl around her wrist to make her stop. “I don’t want to miss even a second of Tangled,” he explains, not sparing any extra second on Jirou and whirling around to focus on the movie.

He feels Tokiya curl into himself next to him, hugging his knees to his chest, and tries to figure out whether he’s supposed to wrap an arm around the kid or something. It reminds him a bit of the struggle of watching a movie for the first time with Momo - it was also Tangled, as fate would have it - and how for the first time ever, he felt his limbs were unnecessary, additional weight to an otherwise light soul.

Seeing the colours on screen reflected in Tokiya’s dark eyes and the giddy smile he sports fills Shouto with the same feeling he imagines must be cursing though the King and Queen’s veins when the princess giggles for them, and for the shortest of seconds, Shouto imagines himself holding infant Tokiya.

He feels the weight of the bundle of blankets in his hands, feels Tokiya stirring underneath the fluffy onesie Momo made him wear, and he feels the weight of being a father when Tokiya’s tiny fingers wrap around Shouto’s thumb, barely encircling it.

And then Shouto feels the crushing gravity of having left his own child, and wishes this was all just another one of his crazy theories that made Midoriya choke on his laughter.

Mother Gothel enters the scene yet again, this time to steal Rapunzel, and Shouto catches the way Tokiya’s knuckles sharpen the contour of his fist, knotted into the blanket draped over him. Shouto’s hand is so huge it encompases both of Tokiya’s hands in his, but they fit there naturally, and the kid doesn’t recoil at his touch.

Tokiya leans into Shouto. He finally figures out what to do with his arm and pulls the boy closer.

***

The doorbell rings just as the credits roll, and a yawn ripples out of Tokiya. Momo chuckles lightl as she pats his arm. “Time to take your bath and go to bed, sweetheart.”

Tokiya rubs his eyes with a gawkish fist, and he nuzzles closer into Shouto’s left side. His head is basically buried in the man’s abdomen now, fingers curled into his sweater like it’s his safety blanket. Shouto rubs the boy’s back soothingly and meets Momo’s eyes, “You go get the door. I’ll make sure he gets in the bath.”

Momo nods, kissing Tokiya’s forehead before heading for the door. She has to jump over the feet of a fast asleep Kyouka to get to the impatient person knocking at the door in what Momo is sure must be the rhythm to one of Kyouka’s favourite rock songs.

“Yo!” Kaminari greets cheerfully once Momo welcomes him inside, although a hint of exhaustion colours his voice. “I’m here to see my favourite girls and nephew!” He bends down to hug Momo - it now seems unthinkable that she was taller than him in their first year - and peeks over her shoulder. “I don’t hear the lovely, snark-dripping voice of my wife, so I must ask: what did you do to Kyouka?”

Momo pulls away from his chest, and tilts her head towards the living room. “She fell asleep as we were watching Tangled.”

As if on cue, Shouto emerges into the hallway with a half-asleep Tokiya holding his hand and merely nods in Kaminari’s direction, ushering the child into the bathroom. The boy is too exhausted to notice the presence of his favourite uncle, and soon enough, both him and Shouto disappear behind the mahogany door and the sound of running water fills the tense silence.

Kaminari stares at the door for long enough to make Momo nervous, and when his golden eyes find hers, they’re dead serious. “Did you-”

“No,” Momo interrupts him sharply. “I don’t want to-to force it on him.”

“Yaomomo-”

“I know!” Her voice is knifelike. “I know,” she repeats softer.

Kaminari looks like he wants to say more, but he doesn’t get to, because Kyouka pads into the hallway with groggy movements. Kaminari is by her side in seconds, his arms around her back and his lips on the crown of her hair. “Hi,” he mutters.

“Hi,” she answers back, her voice muffled by his jacket.

“You okay?”

She hums in response. “Momo’s a better cook than both you and me,” she jests, using her jacks to poke his chest so he lets her go. His eyes lower to her abdomen and she snorts, “If I’m gaining weight, it’s clearly because of her cooking.”

He just laughs and places a protective hand around her waist. Momo can’t help but think he’ll make an amazing father, and she tries not to be envious of it. That is, of course, the perfect moment for Shouto to walk out of the bathroom and say, “Tokiya’s awake and bathing.”

His eyes scan Momo, who only offers a wobbly smile in return, and silently thanks Kaminari for the distraction he causes when he says, “You look uhm, ravishing!” Kyouka is chortling and not even trying to hide it.

Shouto gives them both a pointed look. “You can thank Bakugou for that, although Ashido didn’t seem to think violet suits my face.”

“I hear it’s the latest trend,” Jirou snickers. “My hair is finally up to date!”

Momo bites her lower lip and runs at least a dozen ways of preventing Shouto from using his quirk under her roof, but he only says, “You’re starting to become a Kaminari,” which makes her laugh even louder.

Kaminari and Momo exchange a confused look, both eventually shrugging. “Won’t your lady get angry, Todoroki?” Kaminari settles for saying, making Momo take back her thanks. Why must her friends play matchmaker tonight?

Shouto, however, seems unfazed. He holds Momo’s bewildered gaze as he answers, “No, just slightly worried. She’d probably make me sit down and treat me right away.”

With every word that so smoothly slides down his tongue, Momo feels more and more blood rushing into her cheeks, quite possibly emptying her brain entirely, because she finds nothing to say when Shouto slips into his shoes and says, “I’ll be off. Good night!”

“Already punching out for the night?” Kaminari yells after him, but earns no response apart from Kyouka’s contagious laughter.

Momo registers the door shutting behind Shouto. By the time Kaminari smirks and throws her a “You’re welcome, by the way!” she has regained enough of her senses to bury her cheeks into her hands. Kyouka elbows Kaminari for her.

***

Dear Shouto,

I’ve kept telling you about the happiest moments of our lives, such as Tokiya giggling for Bakugou-kun for the first time and the man Uraraka-san called “Lord McGrumpy the Almighty” actually tearing up (of course he denied it all) or about how recently, Tokiya’s using the coffee table to push himself up. Ah, you’d just love seeing the adorable focused look on his face! (I think he takes after you, Shouto!)

But it’s not all rose-coloured. Just today, he wouldn’t fall asleep until I called Kaminari-san over - for whatever reason, being rocked in his arms calms him down and he drifts to sleep unconsciously. (I wonder, would you have had the same effect on him?) It’s probably going to turn into a fond memory to look back on, but I’m so exhausted I can’t muster even the shadow of a smile.

Yet here I am, writing a letter I shall never send. I love our son, Shouto. I truly do, maybe even more than I love you (or that’s just your absence talking). He’s keeping me from falling apart, and I don’t think I’ll ever properly thank him for it.

However, it turns out not even him can keep me from remembering certain things.

I don’t suppose I’ve told you the story of when we cried for you for the first time. I say we because I think Tokiya was crying for me and with me, in a way. I’m probably not making any sense right now… (I don’t expect anyone to understand my blabbering, but you always did, Shouto. Maybe that’s why I keep writing to you.)

I kept telling myself you’d want me to be strong, and that my tears would deny the entire reason of our break-up. I know you used to say “Heroes can cry, too,” yet I kept telling myself “Don’t cry” in your voice, because if I started crying, I wasn’t sure when (or if) I’d stop. I was like a full glass in which you kept slowly pouring water - each drop could’ve been the last one, but you couldn’t predict it.

For about two weeks, it worked.

The day I spilled over started with a normal morning - deafening quiet, even with the music blaring out of the radio, and very cold, despite the warm rays of late February pouring into the kitchen. (You changed my perception of everything, Shouto, and it wasn’t until you left that I realized I could never feel warm again.)

I was drinking coffee and hating myself. Hating myself for not holding on tighter, for not insisting to accompany you more fiercely. But then again, perhaps Endeavour chose Yoarashi-san in my place because of the difference in our skillset (would I have even been of any help in Europe?) I was hating myself for thinking like that too, because I was doubting the countless times you quoted John Silver (I can only hear “You’ve got the makings of greatness in you” in your voice now). I hated myself for hating myself.

But more than anything, my body hated me.

I suddenly felt spit gather in my mouth and jogged to the bathroom, hunching over the toilet and puking the nothing I had eaten that morning. My body started shaking uncontrollably and I was gasping for air, greedily gulping it down, only to vomit it along with the gastric acid (it wasn’t a pretty image).

Even as my mouth went dry, a new wave of nausea shook me and I kneeled on the frozen bathroom tiles, knotting my fingers in my messy hair to keep it out of my face as I gagged again. My other hand was gripping at the edge of the toilet, so white you could almost mistake it for marble. Sweat beads ran down my face in bigger and bigger droplets, gathering around the lines of my jaw and rolling down my neck.

The pain that cursed through me erased any other rational thought - it made my hate disappear, and for a moment, it made me go away, too. For those excruciatingly long moments, I was just a lump of meat butchering itself, and everything about me was grotesque. I’m glad you didn’t have to see me like that.

I kept telling myself it was fine. I was okay. I just had a case of the flu.

But when I stood up and my knees buckled, when I needed to grip the sink to regain my balance and saw my sheet-white face in the mirror, I knew I was lying. Big, silent tears burned down my cheeks and I choked on air, as if I had just drowned and was trying to learn how to breathe again.

When I finally found my breath, it turned into sobs, and I fell like a heap of laundry to the floor, folding in on myself until I could no longer feel any of my limbs. All I could register was a dull ache, one I could not pinpoint or treat with an aspirin pill. I was crying and wailing for no apparent reason, but I knew that even though my body had triggered those tears, they were actually shed for you.

I only thought of buying a pregnancy test after three consecutive days of the same morning routine. When the result came positive, I realized our child was smarter than me - they were crying for their father all along.

We miss you, Shouto. Hurry up back home.

Love,
Momo.

Chapter Text

I'm glad I can't go back to where I came from
I'm glad those days are gone, gone for good
But if I could take spirits from my past and bring 'em here
You know I would
(Maybe It’s Time - Bradley Cooper)


Tokiya skips into the living room, skirting around the coffee table to hug Momo tightly. She loops an arm around him and rests her head atop of his. “What’s wrong, sweety?”

“Nothing!” Tokiya chirps, refreshed after the bath. “This was just the best night! Ever!” He lets go of his mother and pumps his fists into the air to prove his point.

Momo chuckles, handing him the DVD to put back into their impressive Disney collection - gathered during the three years Momo and Shouto dated, either because they made a point out of sneaking a Disney movie into every gift they gave each other or, in the case of Aladdin’s special edition, because they were impulsive buyers.

“I like Shouto!” Tokiya declares as he pushes the case back into its place.

“That has been established,” Momo says around a smile.

“Yes but-” Tokiya stops, twirling a finger around his white bang. “This feels different.” He looks at Momo for approval, and she gestures for him to go on. “I like him because he doesn’t talk during the entire movie, like Uncle Kaminari, but I also like that he doesn’t shush me up like Uncle Iida. And he listens to me without interrupting and he knows a lot about physics - do you think he’d teach me if I asked him to, Mom?”

“I’m sure he would,” Momo answers, stroking his hair back into place. “But Uncle Bakugou might get jealous. We don’t want him to punch Shouto again, do we?”

Tokiya nods determinedly. “I’ll talk to him! I’ll tell him he’s my best maths teacher, although that’s actually you,” Tokiya whispers conspiratorially.

“Did I raise you to be so cunning?” Momo asks, faking concern as she folds the blankets.

“Uncle Kaminari told me flattery is important in order to make friends,” Tokiya answers, stopping from fluffing the pillows on the sofa to impersonate his uncle. The uncanny similarity strikes Momo, and she realizes she might have left her son a bit too much in the presence of Kyouka and her husband.

“Uncle Kaminari isn’t wrong,” she muses, picking up the pillow from his hands, “but it’s important to make a clear distinction between flattery and lying.”

“How’s that?” Tokiya tilts his head curiously.

“Hmm… okay, let’s see.” Momo raises a finger in the air to get Tokiya’s attention, and the boy folds his hands in his lap, listening closely. “Uncle Bakugou goes shopping with Camie-san, for instance, and he tells her anything would look good on her. But then she tries on a dress that doesn’t look good on her at all, yet Uncle Bakugou still says it suits her perfectly fine. Which one’s flattery and which is a lie?”

Tokiya doesn’t ponder his answer much, “The first one is flattery! The second one is lying!”

“And why’s that?” Momo asks, squinting at her son slyly.

This time, the boy takes his time thinking about it. He crosses his legs on the couch and inspects the pattern on the sofa attentively, just like he does when Momo is interrupts their reading sessions to give him a challenging question. Suddenly, he perks up, face set in a determined expression as he answers, “Because lying could have hurt Aunt Camie! If someone had told her she didn’t look nice, she would have blamed Uncle Bakugou!”

Momo tucks his hair behind his ear lovingly, taming his fringe. “Correct. Lies that are told to avoid hurting someone are called white lies, and they are allowed. Still, you need to tread carefully. It’s better not to lie at all, if possible.”

“Do you tell lies, Mom?”

Hiding the truth is not too far off from lying, is it? “I do sometimes,” she admits, but decides not to dwell on the past. She’s terrified of what she could dig up - and even more scared of confronting her son about it. “But I never lie about your bedtime,” she adds, glancing at the clock on the wall.

Tokiya giggles and throws his arms around his mother, nestling into her chest and nuzzling his head in the crook of her neck. “Good night, Mom! I love you.”

Momo kisses the top of his head and pulls him closer, relishing in his warmth and the chamomile smell of his shampoo. She never thought she’d find her crutch in someone so small they could fit in her lap, but the boy with honest eyes and contagious laughter is Momo’s world. When she answers, the words rip out of heart and tickle Tokiya’s forehead.

“I love you too, honey. Very, very much.”

She can feel the content smile that pulls at his round mouth as he retorts, “I love you more.”

“Impossible,” Momo feigns a gasp and coily lowers a hand on his back, until her fingers reach the strip of exposed skin just under the hem of his shirt and she launches a tickle attack at him. Laughter bubbles out of Tokiya as he squirms in her lap, but is outdone by his mother and can’t even strike back. Not even a minute later, he gives up on trying to counterattack and plops onto the couch, exhausted and still gasping, toothy grin and flushed cheeks staring up at Momo.

“That was unfair,” he cries, but Momo only smiles cheekily at him.

“All is fair in love and war, Tokiya. Now off to sleep you go,” she says as the boy straightens up and pecks her cheek before dragging his feet to his bedroom. Momo hears the shuffle of blankets and the click of his bedside lamp.

She stamps out a sigh - the house sure feels empty without the chipper sound of his voice.

***

“Yaoyorozu-kun!”

Momo whips her head around and draws a smile, “Ah, Iida-san! You’re back! Congratulations on your latest mission!”

Her friend catches up to her and offers a hand to take a part of the papers she’s carrying, but Momo just shakes her head lightly. He doesn’t insist - he never does. Instead, he pushes his glasses up his nose and clears his throat. She already knows what follows, so she hurries to ask, “Why are you here?”

“Aizawa-sensei asked me to assist him in one of the training exercises.” Iida glances at the documents she’s holding and tilts his head questioningly, only for understanding to light up his features a moment later. “You’ve been given your first class!”

Momo’s coy smile blooms into a beam. “Yes! Chairman Nezu said being a homeroom teacher would greatly benefit me, and I’m honored he considers me ready for the job.”

“Congratulations,” Iida genuinely says, with the underlying “I expected nothing less of you” he always carries around. “What class did you get?”

“1-B. Vlad-sensei finally got 1-A this year; you should have seen him at the opening ceremony, he looked incredibly happy!” Iida smiles at Momo’s small jest, but there’s a faraway look in his eyes that his glasses can’t hide. The weight of her ring seems to slow her down for a step, and Momo needs to pry her eyes from her friend’s face.

“So, did you see him?”

There’s no established ground-work for his question, yet the foreshadowing feels superfluous. Momo tightens the grasp on the stack she’s carrying and feels the golden band bite into her skin. “Yes,” is all she says, spying Iida’s immediate reaction, to no avail - his face looks like it was set in stone. “Are you still angry with him?” Momo then asks, keeping her tone matter of factly, just like she does when she teaches her students about the Michael addition.

“You know I can’t stay angry with Todoroki-kun,” Iida answers. It’s only at the mention of his name that Momo jolts. If Iida notices anything, he doesn’t show it.

She hums and slows down as they reach her office - chairman Nezu and Aizawa really spoiled her by admitting her so fast as one of the faculty members, so Momo makes sure to do her very best. With the fates of 20 15-year olds in her hands, Momo feels the pressure more than ever, and uses the comforting sun kissed colour of her ring and its familiar shape to soothe her nerves.

“Good luck today,” she wishes her friend as she opens the door to her office, bowing as much as the heavy paperwork in her hands allows her too.

“You too,” Iida responds. His eyes trail her left hand. His bow is stiff.

As he walks away, Momo can swear she sees his shoulders slump, if only barely, yet she calls after him anyway, “Iida-san!” He turns around almost mechanically, and his wistful look puts a lump in her throat. “It was my fault, anyway,” she says.

Iida just nods and makes for the stairs. Momo is left looking at his broad shoulders, weighed down by words he’s too kind to pour out, and bites on her lower lip, incapable both of telling him more and of burying the diamond ring in its velvet box forever.

***

Her shoulders feel tense, the ticking of the clock sounds insistent, the painfully slow scribbling of the red pen on paper is driving her insane. Despite being at it for an hour, the pile of papers she has to grade and documents she needs to look through until tomorrow doesn’t seem to have thinned out at all, yet her breaths get more and more erratic, and her heartbeat, uncontrollable.

Her collar is too tight, her clothes too heavy, and she opens her mouth to breathe in what feels like ice-cold air against her flushed skin. She needs to finish these and to cook dinner and to talk to Tokiya and she shouldn’t worry her son-

Shouto picked him up from school because she couldn’t juggle everything up, she’s failing as a mother and as an working adult; why did Aizawa-sensei recommend her as headteacher-

What if she lets her students down? What could they possibly learn from her when she isn’t even a ranked hero anymore? Maybe she shouldn’t-

The tap of a mug against her table makes Momo jolt, and she looks up only to be met with mismatched eyes filled with concern. “It’s forest fruit flavoured,” Shouto says, and the mere sound of his voice reminds Momo to inhale.

“And we also bought strawberry shortcake!” Tokiya pipes up, emerging out of the kitchen with said dessert on one of the dainty porcelain plates Momo loves collecting but never actually uses unless her parents come over.

“You shouldn’t have-”

“You’re stressed,” Shouto interrupts her. He doesn’t even give her a chance to argue. “I know you are,” he says when she shakes her head and pushes the cup towards her. “Can we somehow help?”

Momo forgot the inflexions in his tone, forgot how low his voice can drop when it’s painted by concern, forgot the way his brow furrows just over his nose, eyebrows barely scrunched together, and she definitely forgot how him simply being there could clear up her cloudy vision and calm her boisterous thoughts.

Focusing on the lines that make up his face gives her mind something to focus on apart from the ever tightening spiral of her thoughts, and she doesn’t realise his hand is atop hers on the warm mug until he gently squeezes her fingers, reminding her to exhale. Her shoulders are still shaking with the overdose of adrenaline, but she feels her worries slowly fading away, melting under the intensity of his unfaltering gaze.

Her eyes drift to Tokiya, who’s jittery with worry, and she cups his cheek, running a thumb onto his smooth skin. “I’ll be fine,” she says, and for once, it doesn’t feel like she’s lying. “But it’ll take me some time to work through these,” she sighs, glancing at the seemingly unending pile she was trusted with.

“That’s okay,” Shouto reassures her. “I can stick around.”

“You already picked up Tokiya-” Momo tries protesting, but Shouto is already talking to Tokiya, asking him what he wants to do. The boy looks delighted by the prospect of Shouto sticking around, so Momo just puffs out a heavy breath and returns to her work, a genuine smile gracing her lips.

For the next few hours, she immerses herself in grading chemistry papers - she understands that quizzes in the first week at school are supposed to keep their students on their toes, always prepared for the unexpected, but it’s taking a toll on Momo. She’s truly grateful for Shouto’s presence, if only because his warmth makes the apartment seem less lonely, and because his deep hums make for a mollifying background.

He’s only been back for two weeks, yet Momo and Tokiya are already used to Shouto’s presence in their lives. Just yesterday, Tokiya picked up white chocolate from the supermarket shelf they usually don’t blink twice at and put it in the cart with the explanation that it was Shouto’s favourite. She’s been cooking his portion even when he wasn’t at dinner. Tokiya’s been taking out three sets of dishes now.

And perhaps Momo should be scared - it’d sure be the logical reaction -, but she can’t bring herself to be anything but hopeful, because when she couldn’t pick up Tokiya from school today, Shouto offered to do it, just like a father would, and because now, he’s doing a puzzle with his son. Because Tokiya deserves a ‘Dad’ and Shouto deserves to spend time with their kid.

When she’s finally done, Momo drops her red pen on the coffee table without capping it, and spreads out the fingers from her right hand, discovering they can barely curl anymore. Her bones crack when she straightens up her shoulders, and she rolls her neck in tired motions.

“No offense, but you’re not very good at puzzles, Shouto, are you?” she hears her son say, and feels a chuckle threaten to burst out of her.

“Yeah,” Shouto mumbles in return, frowning at the piece he’s rolling between his forefinger and thumb.

With catlike moves, Momo joins them and peeks over Shouto’s shoulder. “Ah!” she exclaims, pointing to an empty spot in the top right corner. “That goes there.”

“Mom!” Tokiya yelps. “Are you done?”

She smiles broadly at him. “Yes, thanks to your support.”

“But we did nothing!” the boy protests, disbelief drawn over his face.

“Of course you did. You brought me tea and sweets and kept me company. So thank you!”

Tokiya cuddles up in her open arms and presses his head against her chest. As she strokes his hair, Momo whispers, “Thank you too, Todoroki-kun.” She glances down at the remaining ten pieces on his side and at his innocent smirk - it’s obvious he slowed down deliberately, to keep Tokiya occupied and give her time to finish her work - and adds, “You really shouldn’t have.”

“It’s the least I could do,” he mutters. For a split second, sadness curtains his eyes, and Momo wonders just how much he knows.

He has every right to know everything, not just bits and pieces he needs to puzzle together, but Momo’s a coward.

***

Momo wipes her brow with the towel that rests around her neck and props both of her hands on her hips, looking at the bright ceiling of the training room. Despite not having participated in a mission for well over six years, Momo still keeps her consistent training regimen - she is a licensed hero, after all.

The door cracks open behind her, and she hears a familiar voice exclaim, “Oh.” She turns around only to be met with Shouto, in his training pants and a tank top, only to whip her head around and hide her blush behind her hands. She may be an adult, but that doesn’t make Shouto any less attractive.

“Am I intruding?”

“No,” Momo answers, picking up her bo staff and swinging it once towards the empty room. “I was just finishing up.”

She makes to walk out past Shouto, but he stops her by saying, “Would you like to train with me?” Her eyes must be wide enough to make him point to her staff and add an uncertain, “I haven’t fought with one in a while.”

Her eyes drift from him to her weapon several times, as if she’s watching a ping pong ball jump back and forth, and bites the inside of her cheek. It’s a harmless offer, and there’s no deeper meaning to it, but Momo still takes a moment before saying, “Alright.”

He nods and moves towards the center of the room, waiting for the staff Momo is creating to drop into her hands. “Quirkless combat?” he inquires, earning a nod from Momo and taking the staff from her outstretched hands. He crosses his weapon in the middle with Momo’s and takes a step back.

They both step into fighting stance, the staff propped against the inner hole of their right feet, bending down with the other hand by their hips, and then stare each other down. Momo doesn’t know what urges her to move first to attack - maybe it’s the glimmer in Shouto’s eyes, or the fact that for a second, she forgets they aren’t regular sparring partners anymore - but she catches the smirk on Shouto’s face when she steps into bo stance and thrusts.

He’s immediately blocking her high, with more power than Momo remembers him having. Before he can turn the roles around, she switches her foot and attempts to kick his staff away from underneath, but Shouto is faster, and blocks low without awaiting her offensive. When Momo thrusts again, her staff meets Shouto’s in the middle, and the impact of the contact reverberates into her bones.

She rears and lunges again, but he sticks his right knee out and blocks inside. Momo feels herself grin as she spins and sweeps, advancing towards Shouto as he’s forced to step back, as if in a dance. He’s only using one hand to spin the staff, like it’s a toy in his hands, but it also makes it easier to notice when he’ll switch to attack, and Momo plunges at the same time as him, the snap of their staffs loud enough to make her ears ring.

It’s all a rush from there: Momo pushes Shouto’s staff to the ground and goes for his head, but he ducks; a second swing has her crossing behind, aiming for his legs, but he’s quick enough to jump over her sweeping weapon, nearly escaping. She feels him moving closer, and even with her back turned, knows she needs to go for his face. Shouto’s already there, blocking her inside, in a cross.

It’s like they can predict each other’s moves, so Momo isn’t surprised when he uses the block to push her staff away and thrust, reversing the roles when Momo needs to block high. With a quick move, he goes for her unprotected side, so she spins around, targeting his chest. With an elegant grounded kick, Shouto keeps her at bay.

She isn’t sure for how long they waltz around each other, staffs connecting with thundering impact, but she’s sure the grin on Shouto’s face isn’t just a product of her imagination. When she finally manages to catch him off guard and disarm him, hers is a matching product.

Swiping the staff to his throat in one swift move, she pants, “Checkmate,” and earns a toothy smile as Shouto pushes the weapon down gently.

“Your win,” he declares, his voice gruff from the workout. His shirt is a darker grey where the sweat has accumulated, and Momo feels her own black top soaked. She’s still shaking from the adrenaline rush, her breaths uneven, but it feels good.

It feels like she’s on the battlefield again.

“I missed this,” she admits, and lets the words drip with meanings she can’t quite impart otherwise.

His mismatched eyes zero in on her, and she feels a shudder akin to the one the contact of their staffs caused. “Me too,” he breathes. The words feel so heavy that Momo wonders whether they imply the same thing as hers.

She doesn’t know what to make of it if they do.

***

Dear Momo,

I thought I wouldn’t write to you after I saw you again. I thought I’d get my closure, and that would be that. Clearly, I was wrong - that can never be that with you.

I’m about to ask you a question I fret the answer to, but one that I need to write down anyway, regardless of this email never reaching you and regardless of its answer, because it won’t let me sleep or eat or breathe.

Is Tokiya… is Tokiya my son?

If you’d tell me the answer was a firm ‘No’, I’d probably be relieved. I wouldn’t have to live with myself knowing I abandoned you and my son. Our son. I wouldn’t have to carry the weight of not giving Tokiya a figure to call ‘Dad’, and robbing him of someone he clearly deserves and perhaps yearns for. I wouldn’t have to go on day after day, knowing I’ve forever missed my chance to hear his first word, and hold his chubby little hands in between mine, and be there when his quirk first manifested and scared you to death.

I wouldn’t have to blame myself. Maybe I wouldn’t have to hate myself so much, either.

And yet, a small part of me wishes the answer was ‘Yes’, if only because I’d like not to have to seek out the scumbag that left you and punch him in the nose. If that scumbag is me, you should know I’ve already told myself every despicable word I knew. It’s not like that’s enough to excuse myself.

I don’t expect you to forgive me - I definitely can’t forgive myself - so why did you say you didn’t resent Tokiya’s father? Why are you so kind? Why can’t you hate me?

I lost seven years, Momo, and I lost the entirety of Tokiya . I wasn’t there when you had pregnancy pains, or when you went into labor, or when you had sleepless nights nursing our son. I wasn’t there when he started crawling, or walking, or talking.

I don’t deserve to be his father.

Life taught me that your biological father isn’t always the person you want to call Father, and I’m afraid that’s exactly the sort of “Dad” I shaped up to be. The day I got my scar, I promised myself I’d be a better father when the day came. I promised myself I’d never hurt my child.

It looks like I’ve failed before I even knew I had a son.

This probably amounts to nothing, Momo, but I’m sorry. I promise I’m never leaving again until you or Tokiya tell me to, so would you let me start again? Can I still have a family? Can Tokiya be proud of calling me his Father?

Can I stay?

The answer is probably no, but I’m going to try anyway, because I don’t want to lose you again.

I’m sorry, Momo, Tokiya.

Love,
Shouto

Chapter Text

We're all flawed and we're all perfect
We're all lost and we're all hurting
And just searching for somebody to love
(
Somebody to Love- Kacey Musgraves)


 

“Mom!” a voice Shouto immediately recognizes as Tokiya’s pierces through the training hall, and the little boy runs towards them, Kaminari in tow. “Mom, that was so cool!” he says once he reaches them, balling himself up on his heels.

“He was watching you from the surveillance room,” Kaminari explains.

“I didn’t know you could do that!” Tokiya says, his eyes glowing with excitement. “Mom, you defeated Shouto! Shouto!” he repeats the name, barely above a whisper, as if he can’t quite believe it himself.

Momo strokes his hair lovingly, chuckling nervously. Shouto knows what she’ll say now: “It wasn’t anything” or “He’s out of practice” so he crouches to get Tokiya’s attention and talk before she can, “Your Mom’s amazing. Did you know that she also defeated me in our third year’s sports festival?”

Tokiya’s eyes widen further, sparkling with trepidation to uncover his mother’s past. He turns to pin her with that earnest look dripping awe and wonder only he can muster, and Shouto smiles genuinely when Tokiya asks, “Did you really, Mom?”

Shouto raises his eyebrows in a dare when Momo exchanges a glance with him and can read the amusement in her lopsided smile. “It was revenge for our second year,” she answers.

“You guys were best when you were working together, and not against each other,” Kaminari chimes in, drawing the boy’s attention to him. “Best hero team three consecutive years according to the Top 10s?” Kaminari winks at them. “Bakugou was pissed at you for stealing his spotlight, Todoroki.”

“I think Bakugou and Midoriya-san have amazing teamwork,” Momo muses, depositing her staff in the corner box, where at least a dozen other weapons reside - Shouto recognizes them all as her creation, from the minute craftsmanship to the little signature in her cursive writing that read “Creati”. Momo continues, “After the Osaka incident-”

“You and Shouto were a team?!” Tokiya uncharacteristically interrupts her, hands balled into fists and raised to his cheeks. Shouto eyes Momo wearily, but she only nods. This is how she raised Tokiya - with sincerity and thorough explanations, and this is what she’ll give him now, too.

“Yes, we worked together for a few years.” Before he left. Before he messed everything up. Yet she still finds the strength to smile genuinely while talking about it, “We apparently made a good team.”

“Really?” Tokiya repeats, now studying Shouto for confirmation.

“It would be more accurate to say I was reckless and your mother was there to make sure I wouldn’t freeze an entire building.” Momo’s melodious chuckle weaves with his words. “But yes, I trusted her with my life.” Ripping his gaze away from the boy who drinks his words, Shouto focuses on Momo. “I still do.”

She holds his gaze with the same intensity, and this time it’s her turn to say, “Me too.”

Just when Shouto thinks he may have managed to dig through the endless well of deeper meanings that sparkle behind her dark eyes, just when he thinks he’s reached for that something that taunts him so close, yet so far away, it escapes his grasp like sand running through his fingers.

“Can you tell me the stories?” Tokiya asks, unaware of what he’s interrupting, but Shouto can’t find it in himself to blame the little guy. Instead, he ruffles his hair, eliciting a breathy giggle out of the boy, which escalates into a series of raspy snickers as Shouto’s fingers reach for his chin and neck, and the ticklish child collapses onto Shouto’s lap. Each of his chuckles and broken sentences pull at Shouto’s smile, and he revels in the comforting sound that mends his wounds.

“How about we talk over tea?” Momo suggests, smiling at Shouto and her son. Then, looking over at Kaminari, she adds, “You and Kyouka are welcomed, of course.”

“Oh good,” the man sighs in relief. “She’s always telling me I don’t do the tea right. Your perfect infusion techniques are raising the bar too high for me, Yaomomo.”

She chuckles again, and as Tokiya recollects himself and pulls Shouto up, his little hands wrapped around his left one, dragging him out of the door, he thinks that he’s still broken, still not whole.

But their laughter is healing.

***

Somehow, being dressed in civilian clothes and sipping coffee in a quaint cafe still makes Shouto feel out of place, even with Iida and Midoriya there. It’s a welcomed change from the outings with Yoarashi. Unlike him, these two are quiet, and they don’t shamelessly flirt with the baristas - not that Yoarashi could tell that his blurting out genuine compliments caused cardiac arrest in many of those girls, but still. Shouto appreciates the change.

They’ve been discussing Midoriya and Uraraka’s wedding up until now. Of course, that means Iida brought his planner and exposed the pros and cons of all available venues in the city, and then proceeded to thrust an endless list of menus, flower arrangements, playlists and colour schemes in Midoriya’s face. Saying that the number one hero was overwhelmed was an understatement.

Shouto steals glances at his friend every now and again, but nothing seems out of the ordinary. Iida greeted Shouto warmly, crushing him in an embrace that rivaled Yoarashi’s bearhugs, and asked him a thousand and one questions about his time in Europe, despite their weekly Skype sessions. Shouto wonders if he had memorized the endless trail of inquiries.

But neither of them dare bring Momo into the discussion. At least, not until Midoriya says, “I want Tokiya-kun to be the ringbearer.” He scratches the back of his neck, uncomfortable when both of his friends suddenly pin his with startled looks, “Ochako finds the idea adorable, and I can’t argue.”

“Oh,” both Shouto and Iida manage, and exchange a glance.

“You met Tokiya-kun, right, Todoroki-kun?” Iida asks, with a tone so neutral Shouto doesn’t know what to make of it. He only nods in response. “And?” Iida inquires idly, sipping his black coffee calmly. Shouto wonders if it’s a front.

He muses over his response as he swallows his own green tea. “He’s definitely Yaoyorozu’s son. He’s got that bouncy attitude and contagious curiosity and enthusiasm. But-” he eyes Iida, who nods for him to continue “-he’s also blunt, unlike her, and he only rants when he’s excited. When he’s worried, he becomes awfully quiet.” The similarities are uncanny.

“It looks like you’ve paid attention,” Iida observes, his face still an unmovable mask.

“I did,” Shouto confirms, staring his friend down. There’s something left unspoken, something Shouto is both afraid and unable to ask. The words are building up inside him, choking him. He’s only sitting a chair away from Iida, but he feels so much further, further than he felt back in their third year and harsh words punched harder than fists, further than the thousands of miles between Paris and Musutafu.

“Tokiya-kun told us he really likes you,” Midoriya suddenly smiles, a smile playing around his lips. “Not just you from the interviews, but that he likes spending time with you.”

“He also said you suck at puzzles,” Iida adds, cracking a smile that makes Shouto’s smile line wrinkle in return.

“Did he really… say that?”

Both Midoriya and Iida are looking at him now, eyes slightly widened at how his voice just broke. Shouto himself isn’t sure why that happened - his world isn’t falling apart. Quite the contrary - the spring air wafting through the open window in the cafe has never been so warm, so refreshing.

Midoriya nods, adding, “He was really excited.”

Shouto carefully places the cup on the mahogany table and stares into the dark green surface in which ripples now dance. His voice is foreign to his own ears, weighed down by his heavy feelings, but every word is genuine. “He’s so small, I sometimes wonder if he’ll break if I touch him. And when he smiles at me - at first I thought it was Momo’s smile, but it’s different. Tokiya’s smile - it’s broad despite being tremulous, like he’s sharing a part of his soul with me every time he allows me to see it.”

He doesn’t know what looks his friends are giving him as he continues, squeezing his left hand into a fist, “When he takes my hand, he always has a goal in mind.” Shouto finally looks at Midoriya and Iida, but only sees their pursed lips through a hazy curtain. “He says I’m his hero, but I think he is mine.”

The hand that pats Shouto’s back is too large to be Midoriya’s. “Treasure him properly,” Iida says around a brittle smile that Shouto reprocicates. “Take care of both of them.”

There are no punches thrown this time, but it hurts all the same.

***

Shouto doesn’t know what he was expecting from this class reunion Iida invited him too, but he surely didn’t account for everyone staring at him like he grew a second head. It’s even more startling than during his first year at UA, and Shouto’s beginning to regret his decision when she walks in.

“Sorry I’m late,” Momo huffs, brushing short strands of stubborn hair that keeps falling into her face behind her ear. “I had to drop Tokiya off at my parents’, and Mom insisted on staying for tea and-” she stops herself abruptly, realizing she’s mumbling. With a sheepish smile, she nods at her friends’ greetings and takes a seat opposite Shouto, gratefully accepting the menu the waiter holds for her.

As she’s browsing through it, Shouto takes the opportunity to track her face with his eyes, to admire the way her eyelashes cast shadows on her cheeks and the ebony hair clouds her vision. No matter how much time has passed or will ever pass, Shouto has no doubt that Momo will remain the most beautiful woman he’s ever laid eyes on.

Perhaps he’s been staring at her too intently, because she raises her eyes and a smile ghosts over her lips as her hand waves over the rim of the menu. He waves back from across the table, which makes the corners of her eyes crinkle with a smile, and Shouto needs to look away to keep his hand from reaching for hers to intertwine their fingers.

“How’s my favourite nephew?”Kaminari asks, slipping into casual conversation and winking at Shouto as if the half and half man can thank him later.

“Oh, he was absolutely delighted to know all of his heroes will be gathered around one table,” Momo answers, still skimming through the menu.

“You should have brought him!” Ashido chimes in, clapping her hands together in delight. “I miss my cinnamon roll, Yaomomo! You can’t keep him all for yourself!” she juts out her lower lip in a pout.

“He’s her son, Mina,” Kirishima says - since when were they on first name basis? And how come he is now immune to Ashido’s puppy dog eyes?

Just how much did everyone change?

“I asked him if he wanted to come,” Momo muses, closing her menu, “but he said I should have more fun, and that he missed his grandparents.”

“Kid’s got a point,” Jirou says, sipping her lemon water. When Momo raises her eyebrows questioningly, Jirou sighs in exasperation, “Girl! You haven’t joined a girls’ night out in forever! And now you’ll need to hold back for months anyway ‘cause I am not joining an outing with gossip without being allowed to drink alcohol.” She gives Kaminari an accusatory look.

“Stop that!” the man whines. “You know you love our daughter as much as I do!”

“You don’t fucking know if it’s a girl!” Bakugou taps his beer bottle against the table with an ired groan - it seems this conversation has been held at least a dozen times before.

“Thank you!” Jirou claps, her jack pointing at the angry blond.

“You’re all against me and Kyouka junior-”

“We’re not naming her Kyouka jr!”

“I support you, Kaminari-san!” Momo says, gently patting his arm. It’s then that Kaminari collapses onto her shoulder, fake crying while his wife rolls her eyes and Momo smooths his hair into place. She mutters, “There there!” with a smile playing around her lips as Bakugou just grunts and kicks Kaminari under the table.

Maybe not that much has changed, after all.

A semblance of balance is restored to the table as the waiter comes to take their orders. “I’ll have a salad and a soda,” Momo says as she hands back her menu with a smile.

“And by that, she means the salad will go next to your best Cordon Bleu and that she’ll take cheesecake and tea for dessert,” Shouto interjects. He feels Momo’s widened eyes on him and shrugs, “This is why you’ve lost weight. You need lipids and proteins for your quirk, Yaoyorozu.”

“I’m not an active hero anymore,” she stammers, still watching Shouto with that incredulous look - he’s not sure whether it was caused by him still remembering her order by heart or by the fact that he contradicted her.

After he instructs the waiter to get him the same but replace the forest fruit infusion with green tea, Shouto leans over the table and pins Momo with a look that admits no talk-back. “Monday, during practice, you couldn’t hold your block for more than twelve seconds. You’re still a hero, Yaoyorozu, and you need to act like one.” He suppresses a smile when she bites her lower lip, speechless, and leans back into his chair. “Don’t lecture me about my diet when you don’t take care of yours.”

There’s a snort Shouto recognizes as Jirou’s. Her jacks poke him and she snorts, “Good one, wonderboy!”

Shouto allows himself to smirk victoriously at that, and gives Momo an innocent look when she glares at Kyouka and then at him. Her eyes soon melt into that fondly amused look though, and a sigh escapes her. “You’re paying,” she says eventually, tilting her head in a taunt.

“What kind of gentleman would I be if I didn’t?” Shouto easily responds.

Bakugou then groans, and Shouto becomes aware of the fact that people are watching him like he grew a third head. “Spare me the mushy shit,” Bakugou seethes, only to be elbowed by Sero.

“Jealous you couldn’t bring the Queen with you?” he asks with a smirk.

“She was super sad to not be in town for this, said she wanted to see everyone.” Bakugou slips his phone out of his pocket and grins - weirdly enough, it doesn’t look threatening for once.

“Is it Camie-san?” Momo asks, raising her eyebrows in a way Shouto thought only Jirou capable of. Bakugou grunts, but his menacing threats die in his throat upon seeing the excitement that glimmers in her eyes. She’s nothing short of adorable, and Shouto really shouldn’t be thinking about this, he shouldn’t be dwelling on the way her smile puts dimples in he cheeks, he should not-

“Todoroki-kun?” she asks, face painted in worry. “Is everything alright?”

It’s not. It’s not alright that he still knows her order by heart and that he’s mesmerized by her smile and that her voice makes his heart leap and that he could lose himself in her eyes and that-

“Yeah,” he clears his throat as if that can somehow give his disjointed thoughts and words fluidity. “I’m okay.”

“If you say so,” she mutters, tilting her head unconvinced.

You have to tell us if you’re hurting, Shouto .

How can he tell them he’s hurting to be with them?

***

It’s bittersweet, watching them stumble in the vast sea that love is again, and only being an outsider again, but it’s a fate Iida has resigned himself to. It’s always been Todoroki, and he knows that. He and Yaoyorozu are good for each other - he knows that too.

But it still hurts, it hurts that he never really stood a chance. He does sometimes think he would have treated Yaoyorozu better - he wouldn’t have left, and he would have been the best father he could have been. He would have watched her favourite movies while cradling her into his safe arms and he would have listened to her rant. He would have picked Tokiya up from school and solved puzzles with him. He would have stood by her side to hold her hair as she puked and would have cooked for her during her pregnancy months.

But he wouldn’t have been Todoroki.

He leans his head against the cold tiles of the bathroom walls and draws a long breath, fogging his glasses. There’s a message from Midoriya from two minutes ago, still blinking unanswered on his phone screen. Do you need someone to talk to? it reads.

The truth is that he does. But he can’t, because he’s barely holding in the stinging in the back of his eyes, like he’s some bratty kid who’s crying over a toy he can’t have. He hates himself for that.

His phone vibrates again, and Iida startles. He’s not sure he wants to read it, but his messenger is insistent, so Iida unpockets his phone and blinks at the luminosity of his screen.

do you want to see my newest babies? i’m pretty sure they’ll make you fly, Iida-kun~
also i may have overdone it with the coffee and i can’t sleep so do you wanna marathon the avengers? please say yes i’ve already rented all the movies and i don’t wanna watch them alone!!

Iida rereads the messages from Hatsume and a low chuckle escapes him. She can give him a serious headache, what with the lack of self-preservation and her incapability of taking a break, but her genuine excitement can also be endearing. She’s been a good friend to Iida at ungodly hours of the night, letting him pour out incoherent words over sleazy cups of steaming coffee.

Hatsume is oily fingerless gloves and haphazard hair and oversized goggles, but she’s also comfort and quiet words and warm hugs, and Iida types back Is it okay if I arrive in 30 minutes?

Not even a few seconds later, he receives an ok! and lets the back of his head bump against the tiles again. Todoroki is back - is that his signal to move on?

When he returns to the dining hall, he sees Yaoyorozu laughing at the foam mustache Todoroki got after drinking from Kirishima’s beer, and something in his chest squeezes before finally letting go. It’s bittersweet, but Yaoyorozu looks happy.

It’s time Iida makes himself happy.

***

Shouto didn’t picture tonight like this. Momo laughed almost the entire time, and most of that was not at him, but for him. High school stories were dug out, Aoyama needed to remind everyone that he asked out Ashido with cheese and she declined, Uraraka and Midoriya were embarrassed by fake toasts for the happy couple and Kaminari and Jirou filled him in on how their wedding went.

But what surprised Shouto the most was that Momo, head on her shoulders Momo, rational and very much sober Momo Yaoyorozu, agreed to him taking her home. He asked because he had nothing to lose. He won everything.

“It’s been a while since I last did that,” she admits as Shouto eases the car into the parking lot and she unfastens her seatbelt.

The driver gives her a sideway glance, trying to assess her tone. She seemed neutral, so he dared ask, “So what Jirou said-”

“Was true,” she completes with a faraway look. “My free time was all Tokiya’s.”

The walk up the stairs is quiet, as all Shouto can think about is that this feels so much like their first date. Back then, he also walked her to her dorm, watching the way the dim lights of the hallway caught in her raven hair and glistened in her obsidian eyes. Back then, he stopped in front of her door just as he does now, waiting for her to unlock it and feeling an inexplicable force pull him in and-

“There was one more reason why I saw no interest in dating anyone after you left,” she adds, her hand on the knob and one foot already inside her apartment. Shouto doesn’t know what to say to that, but he doesn’t get to think it through, either.

Momo raises herself on her toes in a split second and presses a gentle kiss to his left cheek, cupping his other cheek with a warm hand. It’s soft, the touch of her lips feathery, the smell of her Chanel perfume wafting into his nostrils, still the same.

“Thank you for tonight,” she breathes, meeting his eyes with a look that holds too many meanings for Shouto to read in just one second, and then the door closes and his knees buckle. Raising a hand to the place where the touch of her lips still ghosts, Shouto buries his face in a hand and pulls at his hair, slumping against the closed door.

What was that supposed to mean?

***

Momo is really digging her own grave, she knows that. She tries focusing on the rhythmical clack of her heels against the pavement to wipe the image of Shouto’s confused face out of her mind. What was she thinking, jeopardizing their friendship and the feeble balance she’s been building for years like that?

She’d dwell on it more - she’s spent an entire night tossing and turning in bed, trying to get the smell of him and the touch of his skin out of her mind, but she just can’t seem to. Her obsessive thoughts are interrupted by the loud sound of a crash which shakes the ground, as if a building has just collapsed.

She’s so close to Tokiya’s school.

Momo runs like her life depends on it, runs towards the misty cloud of debris as she feels her heart lurch in her throat, each step bringing her closer to Tokiya’s school. Her thoughts are swirling, spiraling out of control, and all she can do is pray that Tokiya’s fine and that she’s not too late and she’s running and her heel breaks and she keeps running through the fog that blinds her and makes her choke and-

“Mom!”

Momo whips her head around, searching for the source of the voice. She knows it’s Tokiya’s, could pick it from a hoard of a thousand other voices, but he sounds so scared and strangled and where is he-

“Mom! Over here!” he calls again, and Momo finally sees him with at least twenty other kids, huddled together as adults hold crying children to their chest, protected by a wall of ice and trapped away from harm’s way next to a huge building.

Ice.

“Tokiya!” Momo calls as she sprints towards him and engulfs him in a hug. “Oh honey, you’re alright! Are you hurt?” she frantically asks, kissing his forehead again and again.

“I’m fine! But Mom, Shouto-” his voice cracks, and Momo finally looks at the scene of destruction, towards the threat the ice was supposed to shield them from.

It’s all a storm of shreds of ice and debris, but Momo can distinctly make out his red hair, and her breath hitches. “Shouto protected us, but he’s outnumbered, Mom!” Tokiya sobs in her chest, fisting his fingers in her shirt. He’s trembling, and Momo can tell he’s more scared for the hero on the battlefield than he is for himself.

Pulling him slightly away from her, Momo braces her hands on his shoulders and fixes him with a stern look. “Tokiya, do you trust me?” The boy nods, letting one hand go of her to wipe his teary eyes. “I need you to promise me something, then.”

“Mom, what-”

“You need to promise me, Tokiya,” she says with a stern look, “that whatever happens, you will not follow me. You will wait here, until Shouto and I come back, alright?”

“Mom, no!” the words rip from Tokiya’s throat, from his heart , but Momo can’t stay on the sidelines, not anymore. His nails dig into her back as he buries his head in her chest, shaking it fervently. Sobs ripple through him and Momo hates seeing him like this, but she needs to get out there, she needs to do something.

“Do you promise me?” she repeats, unyielding and unflinching.

Tokiya sniffs, “I love you.” He softens his grasp on her and meets her determined expression with a brittle voice, “I promise.”

Momo hugs him again, tightly, not ever wanting to let him go. “I love you too, Tokiya.”

Kissing the top of his head once more, Momo straightens up and jumps in.

***

Dear Shouto,

I never thought I’d be scared of you coming back. Well, I was right: I’m not scared. I’m terrified.

Terrified that you’re here to turn my world upside down again, in the most beautiful way possible, and that I don’t deserve that. Even more terrified that you’re here as a passerby to my story, a story that has always been about us , Shouto. Terrified that I’ll fail to write the happy ending again. Terrified I won’t give you a reason to stay.

I’ve never seen Tokiya happier than tonight, Shouto. He fell asleep with the words “It’s really Shouto” etched on his lips, and I… I don’t know how that makes me feel. I’m so confused. Are you here just for Midoriya and Uraraka’s marriage? Are you really here to stay? Could you be…

Could you be here for me?

That’s too much to hope for, I know. And besides, even if you were, I’m not alone anymore. I have Tokiya, and it’s either you accept us both or you don’t love either of us. He’s already accepted you wholeheartedly, Shouto, and will love your every defect and treasure your every quality. He’s already done that for me, loving me when I could only hate myself.

Will you love him, too?

Are you here for the excitement of the roller coaster ride? Then again, you hate roller coasters, don’t you?

But tell me Shouto , did you buckle up or are we both just going to free fall?

Love,
Momo

Chapter Text

Grew up believing love was a grudge
And home was a place where you lived with your guard up
People keep saying memories fade
Mine are all drunk and they just keep calling
(Long Distance Runner - Matt Nathanson)


 

Falling

 

In his three years of studying at UA, the library has become Shouto’s refuge. It’s a tranquil place where he can lose himself in numbers and books that speak of distant pasts, a place where he can watch specks of dust filter through the rays of sun, a place where he can forget he’s Shouto Todoroki, if only for an hour or two.

And it is, of course, also the place where he often meets a certain Momo Yaoyorozu.

Their meetings are almost like unspoken promises. Sometimes they arrange them under the name “study sessions”, although they mostly involve Yaoyorozu excitedly browsing through thick books and Shouto stealing glances at her. Sometimes, they accidentally bump into each other and then land at the same desk, quietly working through their assignments.

Their rendezvous always take place in this quaint corner hidden by heaps of books on all possible subjects - most of them are on chemicals and weapons though, and Shouto has often found himself stuck with the difficult task of ungluing Yaoyorozu from the pages of an encyclopedia upon the library closing for the night.

She’s lost in pages describing the newest discoveries of overseas scientists now, too, her eyes focused on the tiny font and her mouth ghosting words she tracks with a finger. And Shouto - well, Shouto is lost watching her.

The realization doesn’t hit him like a truck, neither does it feel heavy on his shoulders. It settles in his gut comfortably, like he’s been subconsciously aware of it for a while now, but is only dressing it in words as he watches her lips curl into an understanding smile and her fingers nimbly turn the page.

He likes Momo Yaoyorozu.

In retrospect, he should have seen this coming. Everything - all their training sessions, with beads of sweat glistening on her brow as she pushed her staff to his chest and smirked in victorious glee, all of the Ennichi festivals that had Shouto opening up to her and irrationally believing her comforting words, because whatever she said with that knowing twinkle and warm smile had to be true, all the times Shouto gave up on watching the sky light up with fireworks in favour of watching the boom of colours reflected in her eyes, all the shopping trips Momo convinced him to embark on, despite the dull ache in his muscles from training with Midoriya or much needed sleep after cramming for the exams, just because watching the dimples that dug in her cheeks when tasting a plethora of tea sortiments was guaranteed to put a smile on his face - everything built up to this.

Shouto is overwhelmed by plain black hair and plain black eyes that, on her, look anything but plain. He’s overwhelmed by her , and not because she’s beautiful and smart - which she is; Shouto has no doubt she is the smartest, most beautiful woman he’s ever laid eyes on - but because when he’s with her, he feels like he’s the man he’s always wanted to be.

Because Yaoyorozu doesn’t just make him feel whole, or complete him, or any romanticized notion of the sort that Shouto has grown tired of reading for his Japanese classes. No, it’s because Yaoyorozu doesn’t pull him towards herself, but rather pushes him towards himself, prompting him to rediscover parts of his being in a new light, and does that all with a smile he easily reprocicates.

He’s not in love with her - not yet - but knows he could easily fall.

For once, he’s not in control of a situation, but it’s a strangely reassuring sort of novelty. The unknown seems cast in a soft glow as long as she’s by his side.

He only realizes he must have been staring when Yaoyorozu’s eyebrows furrow slightly, a line creasing her otherwise perfectly smooth skin. “Todoroki-san? What’s wrong?”

Her book lies abandoned on the desk, and her eyes roam his face worriedly. Concern soon melts into confusion and tinge of curiosity - there’s always a tinge of curiosity swarming in the obsidian pools, and maybe that’s what pulls him in - when his fingers brush against her cheek in a shy question. She nods, but for once, she doesn’t look like she has a plan.

Shouto doesn’t have a plan either, yet his body seems to move on its own. His hand tucks a few stubborn curls behind her ear, her skin hot under his cold fingertips. And then it just kind of happens, without too much of a preamble or any unnecessary words. Their noses bump, and Yaoyorozu lets out an amused breath as she tilts her head to let their lips meet. It’s short, and chaste, and her lips must be electricity because they leave Shouto’s skin tingling, but he misses the sensation as soon as he pulls away.

Shouto can count the times he has seen Yaoyorozu at a complete loss for words on one hand: when he told her he voted for her as Class President, when his father’s agency offered her an internship in their second year, and when she defeated him in their last sports festival. He adds this moment to that short list, because Yaoyorozu, flushed cheeks and teeth grazing her lower lip, just looks at him as if she’s trying to wake herself up.

Shouto wishes he would have at least thought of what to say or do after having kissed her, and his limited experience is of no help, either. Before he can make a lame confession, however, Yaoyorozu closes whatever distance he had put between them, seizing his lips in a less sloppy and much more assertive manner.

Finally figuring out what to do with his left hand, Shouto brings it to cup her other cheek, and lets out a hum when her nails scrape against the back of his neck, at the roots of his messy red and white hair. Their breaths mingle in the almost nonexistent space between them and Shouto discovers that kissing Yaoyorozu requires more concentration than he could have anticipated, because not only is she full of surprises, like the little chuckle she breathes into his mouth, but also because his fire quirk keeps prodding at his mind to activate itself.

A flame that licks his left ear forces Yaoyorozu to pull away with a giggle. Her hands cover his, fingers weaving with Shouto’s as he presses his forehead against hers and drinks her in.

There are no words needed, and Shouto wonders whether she had known before him that she was falling in love with him.

That he was also falling for her.

Graduation

It’s just like movies portray it - or at least the movies Ashido made them watch in the common room, Shouto ponders. He doesn’t really consider himself a film connaissor. The pink sakura petals and sobs that fill the inner court of UA feel just like those depicted by his classmate’s movies, though.

Even so, he feels awfully unprepared for graduation. It’s not because he’s afraid to part with his classmates, or because he dreads never seeing them again - after all, Shouto is packing up his things to move in with Midoriya and Iida as soon as next week. If anything, he fears he may see some of the loudmouths he’s studied alongside with too often.

It’s not because he’s apprehensive about the future, either. Shouto has known that he was going to be in the heroic industry ever since his quirk manifested and Endeavor shoved him in the training room at the age of five, and he’s known he was going to be a hero ever since the sports festival in his first year.

No, Shouto is afraid of what he’ll say . Certain occasions demand certain words, and Shouto finds himself lost in the neverending sea of terms and phrases, trying to fish out those concepts that can put three years of his life into neat drawers, which are to be closed today and looked upon with nostalgia. And despite how infinitely huge and vastly terrifying this ocean is, Shouto comes out drenched, yet empty-handed.

He’s discussed this with Yaoyorozu already, and her voice rings in the back of his mind. “There’s no ‘right’ thing to say, Todoroki-san. You just need to speak from your heart - I’m sure your honest words will reach the others. I know they’ve already reached me .”

So Shouto takes a deep breath and ignores Ashido’s loud and only half-dramatic sobs, tunes out Bakugou’s growls and Kaminari’s jokes, and says, “Thank you, everyone.”

It works like a spell that steals sounds from this image brimming with energy. Shouto eyes his classmates warily, afraid that he already messed up with just those three words. It’s only when he meets Yaoyorozu’s warm smile and slight nod that the tension leaves him, and he draws a simper, causing her smile to brighten.

“Todoroki-kun!” Midoriya and Iida say at once, the first one with rivers trailing down his cheeks, the second wildly wiping his eyes. There are a few other broadway-worthy responses, from Ashido fake-fainting in Sero’s arms, to Kaminari straight up looping his arms around Shouto’s neck and yelling, “My man!”

Apparently, those three words also hold enough power for Uraraka to start crying, and in the mess that is created when everybody rushes to hug her so she won’t accidentally make herself float in embarrassment, Shouto finds himself next to Yaoyorozu. “You were right,” he whispers as they watch Iida unconvincingly attempt to restore order among the former 3A students.

Yaoyorozu nods, her knuckles brushing against Shouto’s. “It came from your heart,” she says simply as Shouto intertwines their fingers, and her warmth seeps through his left hand. Maybe the reason why he doesn’t fret the future is that he has her by his side.

A gasp bursts the bubble of quiet and calm Shouto was enveloped in, and he snaps his head towards Hagakure. The girl must be pointing at them, given her outstretched hand. “Yaomomo!” she yelps, skidding closer to them.

“Well, I guess that’s it for our little secret,” Yaoyorozu mutters, giving Shouto’s hand a squeeze as a deep blush dances over her face. Several pairs of eyes are fixed on them now, and Shouto tightens his grasp around her hand, hoping that gesture is enough of a statement for their relationship. He really doesn’t want to know what questions flow behind Ashido’s dark eyes and Hagakure’s invisible ones.

“You-you’re dating!” Kaminari screeches, pointing to their joined hands as if that’s ultimate proof that a legend is reality, his eyes wider than teacups.

“Try screaming louder, dumbass, I’m sure the chairman hasn’t heard you!” Bakugou growls, slapping the back of his head.

“I actually heard,” chairman Nedzu nods as he passes by and throws a “Congratulations” over his shoulder, leaving both Shouto and Yaoyorozu to mumble a dumbfounded “Thank you?” and stare after his retreating tiny form in awe. Three years studying at UA, and Shouto still can’t pick their principal apart.

The news of their relationship stirs up class 3A again, and Iida gives up after three minutes of trying to stop Hagakure from pounding on Ojirou’s chest in annoyance, because he had apparently pieced it together already and “dared to keep her in the dark”. Rubbing the bridge of his nose tiredly, Iida says, “I expect you to deal with the mess you’ve instigated, Vice President.”

Yaoyorozu chuckles sheepishly.  “I’m sure they’ll let it go soon,” she says, but doesn’t even seem to convince herself.

Iida smiles a little at that, letting out a deep breath. “At least I don’t have to cover you two up anymore,” he slaps Shouto’s back as he says that, giving him a sad smile that Yaoyorozu doesn’t catch. “Cherish her,” he adds quieter, only for Shouto to hear.

“I will.” Iida begins to walk towards a bickering Bakugou and Kaminari as Shouto calls after him again, “Thanks, Iida!” His friend just raises a hand over his shoulder and walks ahead, back in his Class President persona.

“You were pretty obvious though,” Shouto hears Sero tell Yaoyorozu. “I saw you two sneaking to this museum date once, and I was wondering if you two knew it was a date.”

“It was kinda cute,” Ojirou adds, scratching the side of his cheek.

Yaoyorozu turns around, giving Shouto a look before she answers, “We weren’t dating yet when we went to the museum.” Ojirou and Sero exchange a glance, sighing as one.

“You two were so obvious!” Jirou crosses her arms, but her face is melted by fondness, and she can’t help but smile upon taking in Yaoyorozu’s happy expression. Shouto is sure Jirou’s about to hit them with snark - he told Yaoyorozu of his theory that this is Jirou’s real quirk and she laughed so hard they were thrown out of the library - but Kaminari talks before Jirou has a chance to shoot.

“I’ve been hitting on you for the past year and a half, but this was obvious?!” he exclaims, disbelief painted across his face as he raises his hands to the sky in despair.

Shouto notices Jirou’s throat bob as she stammers, “You-you were hitting on me?!” Somehow, she manages to coat her voice with even more intrigue than Kaminari’s. “You like me?!”

“This is not how I imagined confessing to you,” the blond sighs, scratching the back of his neck in a rare display of nervousness. “But yeah, I do. Kinda have for a while now,” he adds, almost as an accusation.

Shouto feels Yaoyorozu stifle a giggle, and she diverts everyone’s attention from the two blushing teenagers by saying, “Do you all need to be somewhere now or could you spare some time to go to a cafe?”

“A cafe sounds nice, ribbit.”

“Sure,” Uraraka also adds, wiping her reddened eyes with her sleeve.

“Why not?” Kirishima says, teaming up with Ashido to drag a grumpy Bakugou with them.

Shouto lets himself be pulled by Yaoyorozu, too, and feels a smile tug at his lips as they walk out of the imposing UA gates hand in hand. The first time he’s walked through them, he was alone and wearing a frown that didn’t quite fit him. Three years later, he stumbles out of the gates, pushed from behind by a pink-cheeked friend who threatens to make him float unless he hurries up, urged on by a freckled face and a man with unusual hand gestures, and he’s holding his girlfriend’s hand whilst a smile dances on his face.

Maybe this is why Shouto isn’t scared of the future.

Birthday

Shouto wakes up to a scream, and quickly jolts to awareness to see a disheveled Jirou clutch her pajama top above her heart, her hand frozen on the light switch and her jacks threateningly pointed in his direction. They loosen a breath at the same time, and Jirou lowers her jacks, but doesn’t seem too relieved to see his face.

“You broke into our apartment,” she says, arms crossed and foot tapping the floor.

Shouto always forgets that she is not a morning person. “You hide your spare key under the mat, Jirou, and that’s like the number one place any robber-”

“You broke into our apartment,” she repeats, entirely disregarding his heartfelt advice.

“Momo gave me a spare key,” Shouto says, fishing it from his pocket. “But you may still want to change your hiding place because lemme tell you-”

“Just move in with her already!” she groans, walking past him and promptly dismissing his words yet again to step into the kitchen and violently pull the fridge door open.

Shouto trudges his feet after her and picks up the glass of milk she slammed on the table in front of his usual seat, warming the liquid with his left hand as he downs its insides. Jirou drinks hers cold as it is and drops her cup in the sink upon finishing it. “Why don’t you just move in with Kaminari instead?” Shouto asks.

She continues rummaging through the fridge, unphased. “There’s no way I’m willingly leaving the best roommate ever,” she answers, grabbing a korean yogurt and thrusting it in Shouto’s face. “She always buys my favourite stuff, and this fridge is never empty. Do you know what living with Pikachu would be like?”

“A mess?” Shouto offers.

“Precisely. Yaomomo raised my standards too much, Todoroki.” She pokes a straw through the yogurt as she scrutinizes him from head to toe. “Can’t say the same about her boyfriend standards, though. I can’t believe my Yaomomo is dating a burglar!”

“You’re being awfully hospitable with this burglar,” Shouto answers, nonplussed, accepting the strawberry yoghurt she holds out for him and wrestling a spoon from the neat drawer where Momo stores the cutlery.

“Well, you are Yaomomo’s burglar. And you give some mean massages,” she grins, slumping on a kitchen stool as she smack her lips in delight at the sweet taste of her breakfast. “So, why am I cursed with your lollipop hair brushing against my coffee table first thing in the morning?”

Shouto gulps a mouthful of his yoghurt before replying, “Her birthday was yesterday. And I-” he stops, shaking his head. “I’m sorry.”

“It was an emergency, Todoroki,” Jirou says, any ounce of sarcasm or wit now gone from her voice. “Don’t blame yourself for having to save lives on Yaomomo’s birthday. She isn’t holding it against you - if anything, she wanted to join,” she chuckles a little, dispelling the tension that has been building up in Shouto’s shoulders.

“Still-”

“Todoroki,” Jirou says, as if she’s suddenly realizing something. Her eyes linger over the collar of  his hero costume, and she squints. “Don’t tell me you came here right after-”

“It was the least I could do,” he shrugs, his shoulders stiff from his uncomfortable sleeping position. “Momo deserves the world.”

“And you deserve a proper bed.” Jirou rocks on the back legs of her chair, hitting the sink with her backrest. “You’re such a lost cause for someone supposedly cool.”

“And you’ve been spending too much time with Kaminari. His poor puns are rubbing off you.”

“Never!” she fake-gasps. “I have a reputation to uphold!”

A teeny chuckle simmers at his lips, and Shouto notices the matching grin on Jirou’s face, despite the only lights in the kitchen being those provided by the rising sun through the holes in the kitchen blinds. It’s weird, this banter he has with her, but it also makes Shouto feel at home, and he indulges in the playful punch on the shoulder she gives him as she digs into the fridge again.

The kitchen door opens again, and the neon lights flicker to light as a sleepy Momo, still rubbing her eyes, shuffles into the cramped space. She lets out a small yelp when her eyes catch Shouto, and he abandons his chair to scoop her up in his arms and spin her around, eliciting another yelp out of her.

“Happy belated birthday!” he wishes her, barely above a whisper. Her giggles reverberate against the kitchen walls, and she kisses his cheek softly.

Anniversary

Shouto already knows she’s there, even before he notices her shoes by the door or her hat resting on the hanger. It’s in the hints of Chanel she leaves in her trail, and in the soft laughter that stems from the kitchen. Her voice is mingled with Midoriya’s and Uraraka’s, but Shouto has no difficulty picking it up and letting it wash away both the tiredness of today’s interview and the dread of tomorrow’s photoshoot.

“Ah, Todoroki-kun, welcome back!” Midoriya says as Shouto steps into the kitchen, nodding towards his flatmate and his not-yet-but-soon-to-be-or-so-Momo-says girlfriend. Uraraka waves back, her face buried in a cup of tea that must belong to Momo’s collection, given the rich smell and swirling tornado of colours.

“Welcome home!” Momo smiles widely as he pecks her cheek and takes a seat in the chair next to hers, gratefully accepting the cup she has prepared for him.

The tea is lighter in colour than hers, and Shouto can quickly tell it’s thanks to the lemon she added - just as he likes it. After the first sip warms his throat, Shouto smiles back at her, “I’m home.”

“Oh Todoroki-kun, are you here to take her away?” Uraraka finally talks, a pout on her lips as she pleads, “Come on, you gotta let Yaomomo spend more time with us! She was just teaching us the ways of tea!”

“She taught you that back in high school, too,” Shouto points out.

Uraraka chuckles sheepishly, “I was half-asleep after the training sessions with All Might.” She claps her hands together, careful not to touch her pinkies. “Sorry, Yaomomo!”

“It’s alright,” the other woman waves her hand as if to dismiss her friend’s worries. “I love brewing tea anyway! But we really have to go if we want to catch the movies.” She shows Shouto her watch to prove her point, and they get up at the same time, sharing a smile. “I had a lot of fun today, Uraraka-san, Midoriya-san! Thank you for having me over!”

“You know you’re always welcomed, Yaoyorozu-san,” Midoriya says warmly, ushering Uraraka to get up and see their friends off. “You can come whenever you want!”

“Especially if you’re cooking lasagna again,” Uraraka chimes in, earning a pointed look from Shouto. “She’s a much better cook than any of us, don’t even try to deny it! Besides, you get to eat her food more often, Todoroki-kun, and that’s just unfair!”

“A balanced diet is important for any hero-” Momo begins, and Shouto can tell she has at least a dozen arguments off the top of her head.

He puts a hand on her lower back and says, “-because the nutritional value of their meals determines physical abilities within a person.” She beams, nodding as she puts on her hat and pushes her sunglasses on. It’s a minimal disguise, but with her hair braided instead of captured in her usual high ponytail, it does the trick.

“So, you’re off to the cinema?” Midoriya asks in an attempt to overshadow Uraraka’s giggles as Todoroki pulls on his wig. It doesn’t help that Momo has a hand stifling her chuckles, too.

“There’s a rerun of the Disney classics at the local theatre,” Todoroki answers, dismissing the laughter that bubbles out of the two women. Red and white hair is not exactly common, and he doesn’t care that the wig makes him look silly if that allows him to spend a tranquil anniversary with his girlfriend.

“They have all of the forgotten jewels!” Momo claps her hands excitedly, her laughter dying down as trepidation resurfaces. “There’s Atlantis and Brother Bear !”

“And Treasure Planet ,” Shouto adds.

“What?” Momo spins around in a split second, her face painted in horror, as if she had just scored under 100 on a surprise test. “I didn’t see that one, Shouto, I’m so so-”

“It’s okay, I already booked the tickets.”

She flashes him a dazzling smile, and despite wearing sunglasses, Shouto knows it reaches her eyes. Before he can push the glasses down to see the way sparkles waltz in the obsidian pools, however, Midoriya says, “So you’ll be glued to your chairs the entire day?”

“Yes. Please don’t destroy the house in my absence,” he deadpans. Midoriya gives him a pained look, but Shouto insists, “Without Iida here, anything can happen.”

“Don’t worry, I’ll be keeping an eye on him!” Uraraka pumps a fist in the air as she puts on her best determined face, and Shouto bites his lower lip. Her conviction only serves to increase his worries.

Still, just for today, he can take a break from fighting crime and his roommate’s obvious crush, and he can focus on listening to Momo ramble about colour symbolism and Disney humor.

***

“Absolutely worth the muscle ache,” Momo declares as they stroll through the park, the breezy July air caressing some rebellious strands that won’t stick to her braid. Shouto hums in appreciation, listening to the enthusiasm dripping out of her voice as she rehashes her favourite plot points. His interventions make her laugh, and the sound melts the crisp breeze, tugging at Shouto’s lips.

It’s not like the world suddenly becomes a better place when she’s there, but she does bring out the best in everything. And that’s why Shouto feels brave enough to suddenly say, “Move in with me?”

Momo gives him a confused look, “Move… in? As in ‘get an apartment’? Together?” Each word adds a hue of darker red to her cheeks, and Shouto smiles widely as he nods. Words fail Momo as she starts mumbling, “Sure, it would be more efficient and you’re a very neat flatmate but this is a big step and - oh we’d have to divide chores and set a bathroom time limit and ah, Jirou will need to find a new roommate-”

“Is that a yes?” Shouto squeezes her hand gently.

Her eyes flicker with that glint of curiosity that has always pulled Shouto in. “Yes!”

Insecurities

Shouto picks up the bag from the clerk, holding it out of Momo’s reach. She pouts at him, crossing her arms in an act she definitely learnt from Jirou. Which reminds Shouto that he should have a talk with her one of these days, because he does not appreciate the supplies of instant food - supplies he slaved over convincing Momo that they were a “worthy acquisition”, might he add - thinning out with Jirou’s every visit.

“Let me help you,” Momo points to the five bags he’s balancing to make her point.

“Help me by buying less?” Shouto jokes, handing her two of the bags and linking his now free hand with hers.

She puffs her cheeks and scrunches her nose - Shouto knows she’s aware of how adorable that is, and she’s using it to one-up him. Still, in their three years of dating, he’s found no way to counter her attacks. “But the coat looked so good on you!” she protests in that cute drawn-out voice.

“Flattery will get you nowhere,” he tries, but she only grins at his attempt.

He’s sure she has more to say, but her attention drifts to a kid sneaking underneath their joined hands and sticking out her tongue at her brother, who almost knocks Momo down as he storms past her feet to catch up with his smug sister. Their parents rush towards Momo and Shouto, the father apologizing profusely as the mother runs after “the little rascals”, as she endearingly calls them.

“It’s alright,” Momo assures the man with a polite smile. “They seem lovely!”

“They’re a handful,” the father laughs. “But they’re also the light of our eyes. You’ll see when you have your own.”

Momo smiles brightly at that and waves him off, but Shoto feels frozen in place. You’ll see when you have your own. The words play over and over again in his mind, a grim reminder of both his past and his future.

He loves Momo, and there’s no doubt in his mind that he wants to spend the rest of his life with her - the velvet box that pokes at his hips though the material of his pocket at all times, waiting for the right moment, is proof enough. But he’s absolutely terrified at the thought of becoming a father , of becoming his father. It’s scarier than putting his life in danger daily, scarier than the thought of a villain hurting Momo. He doesn’t think he can take being the one who makes her shed anything but tears of happiness.

“Shouto?” Momo asks, waving a hand before his eyes. “Are you okay?” He hums, drinking in her dark eyes and trying to wash away the ghastly thoughts haunting his mind. “For a moment there, you looked lost.”

He gives her a faint smile and squeezes her hand, tugging her towards the exit. “I was just lost planning how to prevent you from buying the entire mall,” he jests, earning an annoyed huff from Momo.

As long as he’s holding her hand, he’s sure he can’t lose himself.

Mission

The room is awfully quiet, and the usually smiling face of the number 2 hero is set in a determined expression, lips tightly pressed together. Shouto isn’t the type to fidget, but Yoarashi, sitting in a chair way too small for him, is, and his nervous fiddling only makes Shouto grow even more apprehensive.

“So, are we waiting for anyone else?” he spits out, squinting at Hawks.

“Just two more minutes,” the older pro muses, checking his watch. Time flows in slow motion, and Shouto only grits his teeth. The envelope that called him to this soundproof conference room buried within the confines of one of Musutafu’s biggest hero agencies has been weighing on his mind for an entire week, and the mysterious aura surrounding this mission doesn’t do anything to ease his nerves.

The iron doors - they feel more like gates, keeping Shouto prisoner - open to swallow up a large figure Shouto knows all too well, red hair and broad shoulders carrying the title of Japan’s Number 1 hero. Behind Endeavor, the doors close with a click of the locks.

He doesn’t bid them good morning or demand any sort of introduction as he sits down and motions for Hawks to start. Shouto feels his throat bob as he focuses on his senior, exchanging one wary glance with an equally puzzled Yoarashi.

“Everyone in this room is sworn to secrecy. The mission we’re about to disclose is top secret, and should be treated not as national, but international emergency. Apart from the four of us, there are exactly two other people who know the details of this plan: the retired hero, All Might, and the President of the International Hero Alliance. No one else is to find out, apart from your families, and they should only know the essential.”

“What is the essential?” Shouto snaps, glaring at the hero talking in a grave tone.

“The essential,” Hawks says, linking his fingers and propping his chin atop them, “is that we don’t know when or if you’ll come back alive.”

Shouto isn’t sure if it’s Yoarashi’s quirk acting up or just the chill in the man’s voice, but he feels the hairs on the back of his neck stand up. “Once we tell you of this, you will have 48 hours to decide if you want to back out of this plan. Your answer will be final.”

“Just tell us already,” Yoarashi says, his voice hoarse.

It’s Endeavor’s turn to talk, “Interracial marriages and immigration caused the spread of quirks all over the mapamond. They were weak at first, but there was a sudden spike in the number of registered quirk-users in Lyon, France.” He points on the world map spread on the table in front of them - Shouto should have guessed it wasn’t just for decoration. “We’ve been keeping an eye on it, but the real cause kept getting swept under the rug. Until-”

“Until?” Shouto questions, already feeling his breakfast stir in his stomach.

“Until it was too late,” Hawks completes. Shouto is so sick of his dramatics, of the way he uses that deep voice to instil uncertainty in the two younger heroes.

“What’s late?” Yoarashi grits out, just as tired of skirting around the issue.

“There’s a League of Villains on the rise in France. And in the rest of Europe, we fear.”

Shouto exchanges another glance with Yoarashi, who says, “With all due respect, I fail to see how that’s any of our problem. Once they started registering quirks, they surely were aware of the rise of heroes and villains alike and should have been prepared to-”

“Unless,” Shouto cuts in, a terrible hunch making his guts twist, “unless what remained of Japan’s League of Villains fled in Europe, looking for cover.”

He tastes bile on his tongue when Hawks says, “Bingo.”

“And you want the two of us to go, because we’ve dealt with them before,” the wind hero says, wide-eyed. “But that’s insane - two people is nowhere near enough to put up with them, not when they had time to gather their forces and plan-”

“Which is why we need the element of surprise on our side. Japan can withstand losing you two - Europe may just be saved if you decide to say yes.”

Shouto hates the logical words of his father, hates that he feels like this is his duty - like he could have prevented this had he done a better job in high school - hates that he knows he won’t walk out of these gates without hearing everything there is to say.

He takes a deep breath and says, “The last time we fought them, we were roughly 40 people, and it wasn’t nearly enough to crush them.”

“Which is why you’ll have back-up from all over the world. Each country has selected three heroes to partake in this mission, with quirks diverse enough to ensure its success. We were asked to contribute with quirks of raw power,” Endeavor says, with a look that reads, “Are you telling me you’re weak?”

Shouto levels against it, ‘If we’re talking raw power, Midoriya is obviously-”

“Obviously going to be noticed if he leaves,” Yoarashi completes, his words drawled out by the realisation that suddenly hits them both. “Neither Todoroki nor I accept too many interviews, and we’re both ranked in the top 20 heroes -”

“-And you’re both raw power,” Hawks adds with a satisfied smirk. “We also considered Creati, since her quirk is versatile and incredibly useful, but she’s a much beloved hero here.”

“And rumor has it that she’s in a stable relationship,” Endeavor adds. “Our aim isn’t to break families apart,” he adds with a remorseful smile, and Shouto bites his tongue until he feels the metallic tang of iron. If only his father knew… Would he now be at home, drinking Momo’s coffee if his father knew who Creati’s mysterious love interest is?

“You said there are three heroes,” Shouto deadpans, quirking an eyebrow questioningly.

Endeavor meets his look with a somewhat resigned half-smile-half-grimace. “Sounds like the perfect pretext for retirement, doesn’t it?”

Shouto doesn’t blink - he isn’t even sure he’s breathing anymore. He just stares at the man who spent the past years proving he’s earned his spot, the man who has just recently been reunited with his wife, the man who’s going to put his life in danger just like All Might once did.

Shouto bites on his tongue harder.

“Tell us the rest,” he says, leaning on his elbows to look at the map spreading out in front of them.

Promise

He looks at her like it’s the first time he sees her.

The bedside lamp bathes her in a warm yellow light that catches in her hair like it’s a halo around the raven locks spilled on the pillow. Her bare skin looks like porcelain, and Shouto runs a finger along her forearm, his touch ghostly, as if he’s afraid she’s an illusion that would break if he as much as opened his mouth.

His finger stops when it reaches her jawline, trembling from more than just Shouto’s cold touch. He’s almost afraid to continue, and he gulps before brushing his thumb against her cheek. He’s met with big, slightly puffy eyes, and he just presses his lips against her fanning eyelashes, wondering how he’s going to find the power to leave her tomorrow when her eyes are filled with so much love and she melts against his lips so readily.

“This really is it,” Momo whispers, placing her hand atop of his and tracking his calloused knuckles. She draws a faint smile and pokes the creases forming on his brow. “We decided this together, Shouto. We’re going to act as strangers from tomorrow on,” she says.

He wonders how she can say that without her voice cracking when they’re tangled up in each other as if none of them ever wants to let go. “I just want you to be happy, Momo,” he mutters, his words tickling her skin.

He wants her life to go on, he wants her to have a family one day, he wants her laughter to mingle with that of a kid’s with raven hair and stars in his eyes. And Shouto doesn’t know if he can give her that. More than the guilt and obligation he feels in regards to his mission, more than his wish to mend his relationship with his father and return him alive to his mother, who can still smile at him and love him, more than all of that, Shouto knows he has to go so he won’t destroy Momo’s life.

He has to go now, before he ties her to a life of forced smiles and broken laughter, and he has to go before she realizes that he can’t be the one that makes her happy. That he’s still broken, and that he’ll never be the husband she deserves, or the father their child should have.

But Shouto has always given her a choice - three years ago, when he kissed her in a dusty corner of the library, he gave her the choice to pull back; two years ago, on their anniversary, he gave her the choice to go home or crash at his place; last year, he gave her the choice to end each day by listening to Jirou’s guitar or by cuddling up in his arms.

And this time, he gives her the chance to walk out of his life forever, or to stay. He knows she’s smart enough to take the right decision, and he’s a fool in love.

He doesn’t get down on one knee. He doesn’t even have much of a speech, really. He just watches Momo’s eyes grow wider as they fall onto the open lid of the velvet box he fishes from the nightstand, and she jolts to a sitting position, knotting her fists in the sheets she wraps around her bare chest. The soft diamond lily catches the dim light of the lamp and Shouto watches its reflection in her glassy eyes.

“Shouto,” she whispers as he sits up besides her and clears his throat.

“I don’t know when I’ll be back, or if I’ll even be alive in a month, but I do know I’ll always be thinking of you. So if you’ll have me,” the words catch in his throat, and she uses her thumb to wipe the tears hanging off his lower eyelashes, ignoring hers. “If you’ll have me,” Shouto repeats, “I’ll be yours, Momo Yaoyorozu. And I’d love nothing more than to make you Momo Todoroki.”

A sob ripples through her, and Momo nods as words, for once, fail her. He slides the ring on her finger carefully, solidifying an unspoken promise, and wonders for how long she’ll be wearing it. Her lips burn when they crash against his, and there’s a foreign urgency in the way she kisses him, like she’s trying to make up for God knows how long.

The words “I love you so much” fill the space between them, but Shouto isn’t sure if she breathed them against his lips or if it was him who mouthed them, or if they were even said at all. He knows, however, that he’s in love with her in a way he’s never been before and will never be again, and he brushes her hair behind her ear as he kisses her again.

***

His side of the bed is empty and cold, and his things are gone.

Momo curls her fingers in a fist and curls into herself, rolling onto the sheets that smell like him and over the creases that scream he was there. The cold metal of the ring bites into her skin, and she swallows the stinging in the back of her neck.

Shouto is gone, and her life goes on.


 

I know your leaving in the morning, when you wake up/
Leave me with some kind of proof it's not a dream, oh
(Paramore - The Only Exception)

Chapter Text

So I'll hit the lights and you lock the doors
We ain't leaving this room 'til we bust the mold
Don't walk away, don't roll your eyes
They say love is pain, well darling, let's hurt tonight
(OneRepublic - Let’s Hurt Tonight)


Momo rolls up her sleeves as she runs, pulling the long staff out of her arm inch by inch and urging her feet to go faster . She can see the villain get closer as Shouto fights what looks like a giant, and she uses her now completed staff as leverage to propel herself in the heat of the battle, landing right besides Todoroki and pushing her back into his as she thrusts the staff at the thinner villain who was attacking him from behind - a cowardly move, but one that would have costed Shouto his life.

“What the hell?” Shouto huffs, pushing back against Momo and thus giving her the needed momentum to throw the villain a few good meters away from them. In seconds, Shouto has them encased in an igloo of ice, and his bewildered gaze is on her. Emotions shift through his face so fast that Momo can’t pinpoint them, and she clears her throat before he can settle on a clear feeling himself.

“We don’t have much time until they go for the civilians to force us into action,” Momo notes, wiping her brow and unbuttoning her shirt to expose more skin for creation. Immediately, sparks fly around her abdomen and she drops down one matryoshka after the other.

“Is Tokiya safe?” Shouto wheezes as he pins the matryoshkas onto her belt and then proceeds to fasten them around his. His face is covered in scratches and dried blood, and Momo forgot how frightened she felt with every new scar she tracked on his body.

“Yes, thanks to you.”

“Then why the hell are you here?” he seethes, grabbing both her shoulders and shaking them slightly. His face eventually stuck with anger, and his voice pierces through Momo like a dagger. “Why are you throwing yourself in danger’s way-”

“To make sure you don’t die!” she interrupts him, holding his burning gaze without as much as stuttering. “I’m done with sitting on the sidelines, Shouto!”

He stares into her eyes, searching for something to use against her, but Momo doesn’t give him anything to work with. When the giant’s fist pounds on their ice walls, announcing them their time is running short, Shouto sighs, “You take the slender one - he’s the brains of this operation. The giant only works according to his orders, as far as I can tell.”

“Okay,” Momo concedes as Shouto’s left hand begins heating up the ice, and she creates two daggers to sheath on her belt and a rope - the essentials. “What are their quirks?”

“I don’t know,” he pants as the first opening gives them a view of the debris still floating around. “The buff one is just a heap of brainless meat with only raw power to his name.”

Momo ponders the information as more and more of their protective wall is melted and the giant’s fist makes its way inside, almost crushing her. Shouto pushes her out of harm’s way in time, collapsing on top of her on the ground, his arms wrapped around Momo’s head protectively.

“Do we have a plan?” she yells as he scrambles back up and she follows suit.

“Yes,” he huffs, sending a jet of fire the giant’s way. “Don’t die!’’

“Brilliant,” she exclaims, familiar indignation at Shouto’s reckless nature floating around her nostalgically. He grins in passing  ashe engages in combat with the “heap of brainless meat”, leaving Momo to stand before a lanky man.

She picks up her staff and faces the deranged smirk on the face of the toothpick like villain she’s fighting against. He looks like he’s out of an american comic, slender fingers pressed together as his grin only grows wider, distorting his face into a barely recognizable recollection of two eyeballs, a nose, and many yellow teeth. Momo shudders and steps into her signature fighting stance.

“This is perfect,” the villain laughs maniacally, and the sound sends shivers down Momo’s spine. “Just perfect!” he repeats, rubbing his hands. “I thought we’d get the all time favourite Shouto, but Creati is coming out of retirement for us, too?” He laughs again, and Momo knocks out Bakugou’s animalistic growl - he’s particularly fond of delivering it whenever Midoriya stutters in front of Uraraka - and replaces it with this one as a winner for most disturbing laughter. “I think we’re going to become pretty important, little brother!” the man says, earning a growl from the giant Shouto is fighting.

Momo grits her teeth and takes a step back. “Do me a favor,” she says as she launches towards him, “and shut up!”

***

Something doesn’t quite fit in this puzzle, and as Momo dodges another kick aiming for her head, she attempts swinging her staff at his feet again. Before she can, however, a gust of wind coming from the giant Shouto’s battling blows her away, and she huffs her annoyance.

Every one of her attacks has been dodged with help from this guy’s “little brother”, as he so lovingly puts it. Their teamwork is good - too good . As soon as she’s even remotely close to landing a blow on the guy, the other villain interferes in some way, despite Shouto’s best efforts of caging him. It’s almost like he can predict her moves - except if he could, this lanky villain she’s decided to call Viral - Tokiya has her watching too much anime - wouldn’t have been so surprised by her arrival.

He inches in on her again. “My my, have your years as a teacher softened you, Creati?”

She thrusts her staff at him. Another annoying thing about Viral is that he’s chatty . “What about you? Can’t you do anything without your minion’s help?” she offers, just to stall him. Her eyes scan his every move, her ears absorb his every word - there has to be something giving away his quirk.

“You obviously grew up without siblings,” the man says breezly, jumping back when Momo thrusts her staff again. “Careful with that thing, you might hurt me,” he mocks.

Momo grins bitterly. “Sorry, but that’s sort of the point.” Out of the corner of her eye, she catches Shouto’s blocks of ice being smashed by relentless fists, and she grits her teeth again. Quickly reaching for her belt, Momo pulls out a dagger and aims.

It’s intercepted by a hand, almost as big as herself and earthy in colour, and a moan of pain rips through the giant. It’s almost like he’s throwing himself in danger’s way without his will, like he’s being controlled-

It can’t be.

She smirks as the missing puzzle piece fits in nicely, and zooms out onto the full picture. It’s flawless.

“Shouto!” she yells, and the other hero meets her victorious gaze. “I’ve got it!”

“I’ve always hated smart heroes,” a hiss tickles her earshell, too close to comfort. “They’re such nuisances,” he clicks his tongue at the same time as Momo turns around, but it’s too late.

***

The lumpy hand wraps around her, and Momo screeches as she’s lifted into the air at the same time as Shouto’s cry rips out of his lungs. “MOMO!”

“Oh, so she’s your weakness?” the villain she was fighting singsongs, as if the situation slightly amuses him. “A little tighter, brother.”

Another yelp leaves Momo as the villain’s finger curl around her body, clutching her in an iron grip, and Shouto feels his blood boil. This can’t be happening, not to Momo, not on his watch. He roars as he sends a fruitless wave of fire the giant’s way, who only grunts in displeasure as he puts it out with a sneeze.

“Don’t lose your cool now,” the other villain chimes in. Shouto can’t be asked to give a damn about reason or consequences or any pointless taunts now - all he knows is that he needs to get to Momo, and he needs to do it now .

But before he can create a block of ice to bring him to her level, a loud and deep groan of pain tears through the charged silence, and Shouto looks up to see the villain’s hand open as he staggers back, knees buckling. The impact of him falling makes the ground shake, but the only thing Shouto can focus on is Momo’s falling figure, closer and closer and he’s almost there and-

Her weight crashes into his outstretched arms, but she’s warm and breathing and Shouto sighs in relief. Momo, for her part, blinks at the impact, looping an arm around Shouto’s neck to regain her balance when he attempts to put her back down. Her knees wobble, and Shouto wraps an arm around her waist, whispering, “It’s okay. I’ve got you.”

“Nice catch,” she says, looking over to the fallen giant and the lanky villain rushing to his side. Shouto follows her gaze.

“What did you do?” he questions as she gently pushes his arm away, taking a confident step forth on her own.

“I may have impaled him,” she answers matter of factly. “But we’ve got more important things to worry about. Their quirk - I think I know what it is.” Shouto nods, sparing the regrouping duo another glance and sending a wall of spiky ice their way. Hopefully, it’ll keep them busy enough for Momo to explain her plan.

***

Tokiya’s eyes are focused on his mother, never once leaving her as she struggles in the villain’s fist. He’s also the first one to notice the sparks that flow around her skin, and when the pointy end of a sword makes it through the villain’s skin, he recognizes his mother’s creation immediately.

His eyes are wet and his nails carve indents in his clenched fists as he watches the fight unfold. He’s pretty sure he doesn’t breathe until Shouto catches his Mom, and he only blinks when she stands up on her own.

Tokiya wishes he could do something - anything - to help, wishes he was stronger so he could be out there, defending his mother, wishes his ice could be even more spiky and dangerous than Shouto’s. All he can do, however, is turn around to his teacher.

The man’s jaw slack as he follows the gut-wrenching display of power. Tokiya tugs on his pants, snapping the man out of his daze. His teacher blinks, as if he forgot the boy was there, and his voice breaks as he ask, “Yes, Tokiya-kun?”

“I think we should alert the police and the other heroes, Sir.”

***

Shouto made “don’t die” sound easier than it actually is. If Momo’s hunch is right, however, he may just know what to do.

“Oi!” he calls to attract the giant’s attention. The brainless monster gives him a muddled look and Shouto smirks. One second of his attention is all Shouto needs to surround the two of them in a wall of fire, safe from the prying eyes of the brains of the operation and Momo, who’s going to finally end it.

“Let’s see how you deal with fire,” Shouto says to himself, and uncaps the matryoshka grenade. Momo has always had an inclination towards the beauty of the objects she crafted, Shouto thinks as he throws away the doll resembling him and effectively blinds his opponent.

***

Momo watches the wall of fire engulf Shouto and his “sparring partner”, and turns her attention back to Viral, trying her hardest to tune out Shouto’s screams. They scratch her ears like the sound of riffles, so she covers it with her own voice.

“You can’t control him unless you see him, right?” The villain jerks, and Momo uses his stunned immobility to create another staff. “It didn’t add up - your synchronisation, and the way he seemed hell bent of hurting himself only to protect you. Unless,” she points the staff to his jaw with a determined look, “you were controlling him. You had no quirk because your brother is your quirk.”

The Viral-lookalike stares at her for a beat longer before breaking into his trademark deranged grin. “Marvelous,” he singsongs. “So now I get to take the smart one out - it’s a fight I’m worthy of, don’t you think so?”

Momo doesn’t grace him with an answer, instead thrusting the staff in his chest. He dodges, pulling short twin blades from their crossed sheathes on his back. He licks his lips, sending a wave of nausea through Momo, and charges forth, forcing Momo to block high. The metal of his blades crashes with the strong wood, and his swords make slashing noises as she fends him off, eventually managing to kick him back with the sharp heel of her shoe.

He winces in pain as he falls back, and Momo smirks - who knew heels could come in handy? Her smugness only survives for a moment, as she soon is pushed back with more force than his constitution lets on. One of his blades knocks her staff out from her grasp, and before Momo can reach for her remaining dagger, he pins her to the ground, pushing his blade against her throat.

The pressure of the cool metal pushes into her main vein, and Momo gulps as his sickeningly sweet breath washes over her. “I guess that’s my win then.”

Momo faintly registers Shouto calling her name as she meets the villain’s confident smile with an unfaltering smirk of her own. She’s got nothing but a bet she rides on - her bluff is a logical ruse. If Viral bites into it, she stands a chance.

His eyes widen as Momo pushes her luck and says, “I wouldn’t be that certain.” For a fraction of a second, his fingers slack around the hilt of his swords, and the sharpened blade stops biting into her skin. It’s all she needs to reach for her dagger and stab its hilt into his stomach, using the momentum to flip their positions. As soon as she’s pinned his arms to the ground and discarded his swords, Momo creates quirk nullifying cuffs and locks them on his wrists.

“A tip,” she huffs as she hears the police sirens close in on the scene. “Overconfidence is even more dangerous than self-doubt.” He groans when she presses her knee to his chest to immobilise him.

It’s only when the police collects him that Momo dares loosen a breath, and her eyes fall on Shouto, who is helping the officials fix the restraining garments on the giant. The roar the villain let out when Shouto took him out was so deeply painful that it turned Momo’s stomach upside down, so she’s grateful that Shouto is fine. Sure, he’s scratched and his costume is ripped all over, but he’s alive .

Momo’s steps carry her towards him before she knows it, and she overhears him talk to the lanky villain who’s being carried towards one of the police cars. She thinks maybe the distance distorts Shouto’s words, because she hears him say, “You were wrong. She’s my strength .”

Thankfully, there’s no time to dwell on his words. He meets her look with a shy smile, and before she knows it, Momo’s only one step away from him. “We did it,” she whispers.

His anger has melted away, washed by relief and exhaustion. “Yeah,” he mutters, reciprocating her victorious smile with a wince of pain when he stretches a cut on his cheek too much. Momo’s fingers instinctively brush against his wound, and Shouto says, “It’s nothing.”

“Still, you should get it treated,” an unfamiliar voice says, and Momo jerks back. Shouto catches her hand in his as they turn to face the policeman, a man barely older than them, who gives them a polite smile. “Thank you for your hard work, Creati-san, Shouto-san. The paramedics are over there.” Seeing as neither of them makes a move to be treated, the policeman adds, “The civilians-”

“Tokiya!” Momo and Shouto yell at the same time, earning a confused gaze from the uniform man. “My son,” Momo clarifies.

“All the civilians have been led to safety by Sugarman,” the policeman scratches the side of his cheek. “We could contact him-”

“I’ll call Sato-san myself,” Momo concludes, gratefully receiving the phone the man offers her. She’s memorised all of the contacts in her agenda for a reason.

***

The alcohol stings, and Shouto recoils a bit at the cotton piece, soaked in it, that Momo presses to his cheek. She cups the side of his face with a hand to keep him still as she properly disinfects his wounds, and Shouto leans unwillingly into her touch. Her hand is scratched and bruised, but this warmth is proof that she’s alive.

The nurse’s office is empty, so Shouto’s words reverberate against the walls. “What were you thinking?” His voice is tight, like the words he’s forcing out are strangling him, and their echo weighs heavily on their silence. Still, he wills himself to say, “Why did you jump in?”

“What was I supposed to do?” Momo snaps back, her hand leaving his cheek. “Coop up and watch you throw your life away? You were outnumbered , Shouto!” His name sounds like it’s strangling her, too, and Shouto squeezes his eyes shut to calm down.

“This is my job , Momo,” he hisses. He needs her to know how his blood froze when he saw her squashed by that giant fist, and that all he wanted to do when he caught her was to never let her go again.

“I’ve been watching you do your job for seven years now.” Momo barely ever raises her voice, so when Shouto hears the desperation in her tone and the way each word breaks near the end, only for her to swallow it up and spit out the next, goosebumps bloom on his arms. “For seven years, I’ve been watching you on TV, God knows how many miles away from you, unable to do anything but shuffle through news channels and Internet sites, hoping to hear about you!” The words pour out just like the tears streaming down her cheeks - hot and unstoppable. “I’m sick and tired of doing nothing, Shouto!”

“Do you think it was easy for me?” he seethes, his rough hands closing around her shoulders. His voice is even higher than hers, and his words whip both of them. “I haven’t seen you in seven years, and three weeks after I’m back, I see you with a blade pressed to your throat, Momo! I don’t know how I haven’t burned the bastard alive!”

His own eyes are glassy, and something wet and salty reaches his lips. Momo’s hand is back on his cheek, her thumb wiping away his tears, and Shouto is overcome by the relief that she’s alive and here and worried for him . Before he can think better of it, he pushes her into his chest and mutters, “I just can’t lose you, Momo. Not again.”

Her breath hitches, and for a moment, Shouto thinks she’ll push him away. But then she lets out a sob that tugs at Shouto’s heartstrings and breaks a few chords, and her hands reach around his waist for her nails to dig into his back, forcing Shouto to take the step he wanted to keep between them. He buries his forehead in the crevice of her neck and whispers, over and over again, “I’m sorry.”

“Don’t be,” she says, her voice muffled by his jacket. It’s only now that she realizes she’s shaking, and her voice trembles when she breathes, “I was so scared. When you built that wall of fire around you, all I could hear were your screams and I-”

Shouto hugs her tighter. “I was scared too. You were reckless, Momo.”

Her laugh is softer than his words. “Pot,” she mutters into his chest, and Shouto can’t help the chuckle that escapes him, because using old sayings to call him out is such a Momo thing to do.

Once again, Shouto doesn’t want to let Momo go, and he breathes in the smell of battle - dried blood and debris and ashes - off her skin, holding her until she stops trembling and then hugging her until she pushes him away.

She doesn’t.

However, the door rattles open, and Momo’s head stirs to look at the newcomer. As soon as Shouto registers the small boy’s figure, he lets Momo go, and she rushes to him, kneeling by his side and covering him in kisses. “You’re fine,” a peck on the forehead, “oh thank God,” the nose, “I was so worried ,” the cheek. “Are you hurt? Are you hungry? Are you-” each question comes with a new kiss, until Tokiya stops her by throwing his arms around her throat and nestling into her chest.

“I should be asking you all of that, Mom! I was so worried, and-” his voice cracks like glass. Momo cradles him closer, swaying him gently as the sobs rip through him. “When that thing grabbed you I was so scared ,” he pants, rubbing his reddened eyes against her shirt.

Shouto crouches next to them, ruffling Tokiya’s hair lovingly. He doesn’t know whether he’s entitled to saying this, but seeing him so ravished breaks his heart. “You tell her, Tokiya. She won’t listen to me,” Shouto says soothingly.

Tokiya’s head shots up then, and the wriggles out of his mother’s embrace to throw himself at Shouto. “You scared me too!” he sobs, wrapping his little arms around Shouto’s broad back. The man blinks at the sudden gesture, his eyes fluttering briefly to Momo as she only nods, biting her lower lip as tears still roll down her face, seemingly tamed now.

Uncertain if he’s doing this right, Shouto’s right hand wraps around the boy’s back - he’s so small Shouto can wrap him in his arms with only that one hand. But when the boy snuggles into him further, Shouto brings his second hand around his shivering body and places it on his head, vowing to himself he’ll never let anything bad happen to Tokiya and Momo.

Shouto feels warmth envelop them as Momo slides her arms around the two of them, kissing the top of Tokiya’s head and giving Shouto a reassuring smile that thaws his worries away.

They’re still an awkward tangle of limbs, teary smiles and sobs when someone uncomfortably clears their throat. Momo and Shouto look up without bothering to move at Kaminari’s electrifying smile. “The press are basically trampling us to get to you,” he thoroughly inspects the messy hug pile again, spotting Tokiya’s head in the middle of it, “But I guess I can fend them off a little longer.”

“Thanks,” Shouto draws a smile at Kaminari’s thumbs-up. “They’re gonna be a handful.”

“Haven’t done an interview in a while,” Momo hums, wiping away at her eyes. “Back me up?” she jokes, a smile playing around her face as she finally gets back up and offers Shouto a hand.

He grabs it, picking Tokiya up with him as he pulls himself up. “Always.” Glancing at the boy who fell asleep in his arms, he stifles a small chuckle.

“He must be exhausted,” Momo chimes, brushing the hair from the boy’s face tenderly. “He always falls asleep after he cries.”

“He takes a lot after you,” Shouto offers as he wraps the boy better in his arms, taking in the way Tokiya’s chubby hands are still linked around his neck, and how his even breath tickles Shouto’s chest.

“Hm,” is all Momo answers. “I’ll ask Kaminari-san to look after him while we deal with the press.”

Shouto follows Momo with slower steps, as to not wake up the peacefully sleeping child. He can’t suppress the urge to kiss his forehead, and his heart oozes with love when Tokiya stirs to lean into the touch of his chapped lips.

***

The kettle whistles with the boiling water, and Rei gingerly pours it over the tea leaves, inhaling the steamy air smelling of mint and green tea - her favourite blend. It’s a rather peaceful day in the Todoroki household, with the usual after-lunch tea, when Fuyumi yelps.

“What is it?” Enji’s head perks up from the newspaper, worry laced in his rough tone - one might mistake it for annoyance, but Rei has spent enough time next to him to know Enji never means what meets the eye.

“Mom, Dad, you have to see this!” Fuyumi calls again from the living room. Rei and Enji exchange a glance and wordlessly agree to join their daughter.

The TV is open, and Fuyumi shushes any of their questions by pointing her finger to the images on screen. Rei’s eyes widen marginally when she notices her youngest son on screen, and next to him-

“Is that Creati?” Enji asks, puzzled. “Isn’t she an UA teacher now or something?”

“Shh, Dad!” Fuyumi brings her finger to her lips and tugs on Enji’s arm to make him sit down next to her. On screen, the journalist addresses Momo, who looks just as professional as ever, her face set in an amicable smile.

“Creati, you haven’t been seen in action in almost seven years. Ever since your son has been born, you’ve been unable to appear on the stage of heroism, so why the sudden change? Are you now able to overcome the hurdle of motherhood?”

“She has a son?” Enji is still befuddled. “But-”

“Shh,” both Fuyumi and Rei now say, and Rei takes a seat in the adjoining armchair to watch Momo’s response. The black-haired hero stiffens at the journalist’s words, but her smile doesn’t falter, not even when her words drop to a temperature Rei can only reach using her quirk.

“My son has in no way hindered my career. As for my resuming hero work, I have not yet decided. As you know, I am a homeroom teacher at UA, and I cannot abandon my students. Today, I just happened to be in the vicinity of an attack, and I decided to help. Is that not a hero’s duty?”

“Yes of course,” the reporter scrambles to regain his footing under Momo’s unforgiving gaze. “Can we expect a return of the number one hero team in the future?”

“As Creati has already stressed, her involvement in future raids is uncertain,” Shouto says, his tone matching Momo’s.

“You can, however, rest assured that the heroes are always doing their best to protect the citizens. Our aim is to create a safe environment and nurture future heroes.”

Momo’s words are followed by a short line from the flustered journalist before the camera pans away from them, back to footage of their fight. Rei sips her tea quietly as she watches the video of Momo falling from a deadly height, and her heart ramps up as she braces for the impact of the collision, only to see her son catch her at the last moment. There are a few more shots of walls of fire and Momo wielding a bo staff, swinging it to force her opponent to his defeat.

“That’s a good fight,” Enji quietly muses, unpocketing his phone to search further footage of the attack. “I didn’t know Creati was retired though-”

“I thought Yaoyorozu fought with Shou-chan before he moved?” Fuyumi says, confused. “Whenever I brought her up, Shou-chan would change the subject, so I assumed he hated her, or something,” her voice drops near the end of that sentence.

“No,” Rei says, clinking her teacup to its matching support. “I doubt those two can hate each other.”

Enji looks up from his phone to give his wife the same questioning look Fuyumi pins her with, but Rei just resumes sipping her tea and watches the fight unfold on screen, wondering when Momo will bring her grandson to visit again. She found a book she is certain Tokiya will enjoy.

***

Dear Shouto,

Tokiya has been crying harder than usual today. I guess he somehow knows that exactly one year ago you left, and he misses you, Shouto. We both miss you.

I just managed to put him to bed - it’s been three months since he fluttered those pink eyelids in front of this entirely new world, and he’s been meeting each new day with a bubbly laugh - well, unless it’s time to sleep. He’s such a curious child, grabbing everything he can touch, that I think he just hates having to part with the mysteries of this world for even a few hours.

I discovered that telling him stories helps. Especially stories of you - those make him blabber and giggle, and he falls asleep with a peaceful smile on his face. He loves the one where we go to the amusement park and you literally freeze in the roller coaster, it makes him choke on his own laughter. It’s the sweetest sound ever - I think he inherited your laughter, Shouto.

Tonight was a bit different - he cried no matter how many of his favourite stories I told him, to the point where I was contemplating calling Kaminari-san over. But since it was already past midnight, I couldn’t possibly do that, so I decided to start rocking Tokiya around the house, hoping the gentle sway would make him sleepy.

It worked, in a sense. His crying magically ceased when he saw that picture of the two of us after our first raid. Do you remember? We had a hard time working around that slime villain, and by the time the police came, I had a broken arm and you had a permanent scar on your abdomen. Despite that, you were more worried about being the “hand crusher” and promised to never hold my hand again - you only kept that promise for a few hours.

I’m sorry, I guess I’m just being emotional. It’s 2am, and I should probably try getting some shut eye before Tokiya gets hungry and wakes up again. I promised myself I’d be strong for the both of us, but sometimes, I can’t help but wish you’d come home already.

We love you and we miss you, Shouto. Take care of yourself, please!

Love,
Momo

Chapter Text

Cuz it's you, who, takes care of everyone else
You, need to allow me to help
You, are appreciated
'Cause it's you who somehow is always the first,
To, take care of me at my worst
(Rixton - Appreciated)


Momo tucks in a still sleeping Tokiya, kissing the top of his head before turning the light off and gently closing the door behind her. She doesn’t make it to her own bedroom, collapsing on the couch in the living room. Her muscles fight her if she dares twitch even one finger, so Momo drops her head on a cushion and groans. She’s really out of shape, and now that the adrenaline rush has thawed out of her body, she feels the toll the fight took on her.

Bruises peek from under the sleeves of her pajama, and Momo feels a dull ache in her arms from blocking the attacks of the villain - apparently, he calls himself Viral indeed. Who would have guessed cosplayers took it this far? - and vows to train more often. After a well deserved night of sleep, that is.

She’s dozing off when her phone beeps, and Momo reminds herself Yaoyorozus don’t curse, no matter the circumstances, as she makes to pick it up. Her muscle scream at her to get back to the comfortable position she was in, but the caller is relentless, and she doesn’t want her ringtone to wake up Tokiya.

When she sees the ID, she realizes she made a capital mistake.

“Good evening, Father,” she says as the call connects. “To what do I owe this-” she checks the time as she tries to stifle a yawn “-unusually late call?”

“We have TVs, Momo,” her Father answers, and he sounds equal parts amused by her drawly voice and concerned at whatever the news channel broadcasted. “I’m just checking up on my princess. She’s apparently a Sleeping Beauty.”

“I’m sorry,” Momo almost bows, although she knows he can’t see it. Only the pain in the small of her back stops her. “Today was… rough.”

“I know.” His voice drops an octave, and Momo can read the worry in it. “Someone filmed it and Momo - that was incredibly reckless. Your mother and I were both so scared. You could have-” he can’t finish that thought, and Momo wishes she was there to wrap her arms around his hunched back. “Terrible things could have happened,” he eventually says.

“I’m sorry,” she mutters.

Her Father sighs. “Is it true that you jumped in out of your own will?”

He doesn’t reprimand her, but Momo still feels defensive. “I did, but I couldn’t just sit on the sidelines! Shouto protected Tokiya and he was outnumbered and well I-”

“I’m not saying you didn’t do the right thing, Momo. I’m just saying you were reckless doing it.”

“Is everyone calling me reckless today?” she puffs, but a smile still tugs at the corners of her lips. Her Father has always had a way with words, and it was through his constant objective assessment of her work that she arrived where she is today.

“We’re all truthers,” he jokes, and Momo can hear the grin in his voice as he uses one of the words Tokiya invented when he was four. “But Momo,” he says, suddenly serious again, “are you and Shouto-?”

He doesn’t need to end that sentence for Momo to know what he means. “No. I don’t - I’m not sure where he stands in this entire situation. Truthfully speaking, Father, I’m not sure where he wants to stand.”

“I’d reckon someone who saves your life cares for you deeply, my daughter.” Momo swallows, only to find her mouth drier than a dessert. “You should probably tell him, you know? Tell him you don’t know what to tell him, if that’s what’s eating away at you, but tell him nonetheless. He was once an important enough part of your life to know everything, and we honor affections of the past.”

“Yeah,” Momo manages. “I’ll - I’ll talk to him.” There’s a long pause before Momo says, “Father? Do you think he’ll hate me for it?”

“Is that how little you think of him?” her Father asks back, and Momo smiles.

“No. I trust him with my life.”

“There you go, then.” His voice is laced with tenderness, and Momo’s smile widens. “And from what I saw today, I think he trusts you with his life, too.”

Momo bites her lower lip as she remembers Shouto’s words from their training session, and she nods. “How’s Mother?” she suddenly asks, the thought haunting the shadow of a smile she’s sporting. “Does she still-”

“She doesn’t hate him, Momo.” She loosens a breath, because her Father is never wrong about these things, but her heart still aches. “She’s just hurt, and I don’t know what it’ll take for her to forgive Shouto,” he adds with a sigh. “He only left us a letter before leaving and well, you know your Mother.”

“I do,” Momo almost sighs herself, but a yawn swallows it and her voice is drawn out by her Father’s chuckles. “I’m sorry, I’m just exhausted.”

“That’s to be expected. Sleep tight, my Princess. Kiss Tokiya for us.”

“Mhm. Good night, Father!”

The call disconnects, leaving Momo to stare at the screen flooded by message notification. They’re mostly from Kyouka, who wants to make sure that she’s unharmed - as much as possible - and that Tokiya is safe and sound, from Uraraka, apologizing over and over again for not being able to help, although she was in the vicinity - not that it’s her fault, seeing as she had her hands full with a puppeteer quirk herself - and from Sato, who offers to drop by a cake the next morning to help replenish her lipids.

Momo replies to the messages before finally heaving herself from the couch and diving into her soft bed. She sets the alarm clock for the following morning before turning off her phone, but a new message lights up her screen, and her heart skips a beat.

Shouto (22:36)
Are you home safely?
Is Tokiya still asleep?

Momo types in “Yes, we’re home and he’s out like a light. Are you home?” quickly, and waits with trepidation his next text.

(22:37) Yeah.
(22:37) Thanks for saving my butt today.

A chuckle leaves Momo at his bluntness, and she replies, “Thank you for saving me, too.” She doesn’t mean just today. A thought occurs to her then, and she adds, “Would you train with me again? I feel like I’m out of shape.”

(22:39) Of course.

A satisfied smile stretches her lips just as another yawn ripples out of her. As if reading her mind, Shouto replies, Good night, Momo. She types back “Good night, Shouto!” before finally letting sleep take over.

***

“Honey?”

Tokiya doesn’t respond upon the first call, and Momo peeks worriedly into his room. It’s rare to find him cooped up at his desk - most of the time, he chooses to read in the living room, saying he’s quietly supporting his mother as she wrestles with boring, yet tiresome household chores. Then again, he’s a growing boy, and Momo respects his need to be alone - it doesn’t worry her any less, however.

Tapping twice on the creaked open door, Momo notices her son jerk to attention, snapping the book he was intently reading shut and zeroing in on his Mom. His eyes are hazy, like he was focusing so hard on something that he needs a moment to remember where he is and who the woman standing in the threshold is.

He sheepishly asks, “Mom?”

“Dinner’s ready,” she says, swallowing her worries and drawing a soft smile. Tokiya grins at her like she just gave him the best news of the day, and jumps off his chair, stumbling a bit to regain balance as he walks past her. “Wash your hands first!” Momo calls after him, and nods to no one in particular when she hears the water running.

Still, she can’t ignore her gut feeling telling her something is wrong. As she turns off the lamp on Tokiya’s desk, she notices the book he was so immersed in belongs to her study - it’s on lipids and their properties. Next to the thick book, ice sculptures, partially melted as well as freshly created, line Tokiya’s desk. They all represent the same flower - a lily - but Momo can tell they were differently crafted, as Tokiya used more or less of his minerals and body fat to mold the minute details in the ice.

Mmo’s eyes fall on the open notebook sitting in the middle of the desk, and she smiles gently as she notices his cursive writing and drawings - they’re centered on her and Shouto’s fight. Tokiya is a hard worker, and it’s only natural that witnessing such a fight would stir up something within him - Momo just wishes he wouldn’t close himself up about it.

At the dinner table, Tokiya eats more than he usually does, but he looks like he enjoys the food less. Momo can’t help but sneak glances at the unusually quiet boy, and winces each time he hums an answer to her questions instead of diving into full on blabber. Eventually, she takes a deep breath and says, “You look pale, Tokiya.”

He jerks when Momo’s warm hand rests on his frozen forehead. “Tokiya Yaoyorozu,” she says in a chiding voice, feeling the boy stiffen under her touch, “have you been overusing your quirk?”

“No?” it sounds like a question, and he recoils under the feeble credibility of it all. “Sorry, Mom.”

Momo sighs, getting up from her chair to crouch next to her son’s seat and place her hands on his shoulders. His breathing is slow, a bit shallow, but Momo chalks it up to the sleepiness coating his eyes. “Tokiya, I’m not mad at you. Wanting to improve is admirable - but please, don’t overwork yourself, sweetheart. It’ll only make you feel worse, trust me.” He nods, but he’s chewing on his lower lip like there’s more to it. “Can you promise me something?”

“Always, Mom.”

“Then promise me that if something’s weighing down on you, you’ll tell someone about it. It doesn’t have to be me - talk to Aunt Kyouka, or to Uncle Bakugou. Talk to Shouto, if it helps you. But don’t bottle it up, alright?”

Tokiya tilts his head slightly, like that’s a weird thing to ask for, but nods anyway, and his eyes clear up a bit as he hugs his mother back. He’s cold - colder than usual. Momo makes a mental note to bring him a cup of tea later.

She forgets about the whistling kettle when Tokiya falls off his chair and freezes the legs of the table.

***

Shouto is about to unlock his door and kick his shoes off in favor of a hot shower when his ringtone slices through the silence of the apartment building. His first impulse is to ignore it - he can’t be bothered to return to the agency if he forgot his hero costume there again, and he can’t think of anyone else calling him this late.

The caller is adamant about getting through, though, and completely disregards the bleary exhaustion that envelopes Shouto as he turns the lock in the key. Annoyed, Shouto glances at the clock - 4am is no time for an ordinary call. Reluctantly, he slides his phone from his pocket, only for the tiredness to wisp away, replaced by concern and a rush of adrenaline.

Momo isn’t one for practical pranks.

The moment the call connects, her breath hitches and the words pour out of her like a dam has been broken. “I’m so sorry, Shouto, but I don’t know what to do. It’s Tokiya - I think he’s been overusing his quirk and his temperature dropped and there’s a flu epidemic so the doctor won’t pick up and you’ve got an ice quirk so please-”

Shouto’s already slipped back in his sneakers and locked the door behind him when he says, “I’m on my way.” Deciding the stairs would be quicker, Shouto takes them two at a time, fishing the car keys from his back pocket. “What are his symptoms?”

“Hypothermia. Low temperature - it’s usually 35 degrees, but it fell to 33 now. When he got up from his chair, he almost tripped, and his speech is a bit slurred. He’s shivering, and I covered him up in blankets but he’s freezing them and my warmers won’t work but if I try massaging him, I might cause cardiac arrest and-”

“It’s okay, you’re doing okay,” Shouto says as he turns the keys in the ignition and presses the gas pedal. In the background, there’s a muffled moan of pain, and Momo soothes Tokiya with gentle “It’ll be fine, honey, just hang in there”. Each soft wince pierces through Shouto’s heart, and he hits the speed limit as he heads for Momo’s apartment.

“I’ll be there in ten minutes. Don’t hang up.”

***

He’s there in seven minutes and a half, mentally apologizing for all the rules he broke on the way but not finding the energy to really care about his driving licence. When Momo opens up the door, phone still pressed to her ear, Shouto can tell her hoarse voice wasn’t just deformed by the electronic device - her eyes are red, like she’s been rubbing them in an attempt to hold back from crying.

“He’s in his room,” she says as Shouto ditches the shoes by the entrance door and practically leaps towards Tokiya’s bed.

A glance is enough to tell Shouto he has, indeed, been overusing his quirk - a thin layer of frost is slowly spreading from his toes to his upper body, having already reaches the knees, and his breath creates white puffs of steam in the air, which means -

“Momo, do you know how to create air dehumidifiers?” he asks, dropping to his knees next to Tokiya’s bed and rolling his sleeves up.

“Yes, it’s calcium chloride. Why-” her gaze falls on her son’s shallow breathing, and she suddenly understands. “He’s using the water in the air to feed his quirk.”

“And the water in his body,” Shouto notes, inspecting Tokiya’s chapped lips. “Fuyumi-nee used to do this when she was little, and I know what Father did but-” Shouto gulps, giving Momo a pleading look. “I’ll have to use my quirk.”

“Yes,” she says without a second of hesitation - there it is again, that blind trust she puts in him, that certainty she has that he’ll never harm her - or her son. Her entire attention is now on the small box materializing out of her abdomen.

Shouto grits his teeth as he presses his left hand to Tokiya’s soles, using every fiber of his body to control the output of his quirk. Slowly, the ice begins to melt away, evaporating with a sizzling sound that makes Shouto cringe. Tokiya squirms, and Shouto mutters, “I’m sorry” as he continues melting the ice. He says it again and again, as if that could erase seven years of missing in action, an year of not teaching him how to control this quirk that outpowers him and the pain the boy must be feeling now.

When he’s finally gotten rid of any ice and surrounded Tokiya with a dozen air dehumidifiers, Shouto puts his hand on Tokiya’s forehead, leaving behind warmth as he tracks it over his throat, his chest, his arms. His body fights against it, small ice crystals blooming around the corners of his mouth, but Shouto melts them stubbornly.

Trying to make him drink any liquids proves to be a challenge too, as any water that gets into his system turns to ice on his lips. Shouto doesn’t let his hand be engulfed by flames as he thaws the flakes, but he feels like he’s burning Tokiya all the same.

It’s only when his temperature has somewhat stabilised and he has fallen into a fitful sleep that Shouto loosens a breath, but he doesn’t take his hand away from Tokiya’s chest. His heart drums steadily under Shouto’s fingers, reassuring him everything is fine, but he can’t help but think the boy’s snow white face looks almost lifeless. The mere thought sends shivers down his spine, fear weaving its intricate web over Shouto’s heart.

“Do you want some tea?” Momo mutters, her voice reminding Shouto that she has been kneeling on the other side of the bed the entire time. Her hand is smoothing Tokiya’s hair idly, as if she needs to touch him to remind herself he’s fine, too, but she plasters a wobbly smile on her face nonetheless. “We should let him sleep.”

Shouto nods and follows her into the kitchen, leaving the door to Tokiya’s room partially open and assigning the cat to guard him. Quietly, he turns the light off and casts a glance at the white bed the boy is tucked in - it’s almost like it was made of ice.

Momo is quiet as she pours water in a kettle and draws out teacups from the cupboards. Shouto doesn’t dare speak, not when the boy’s wince of pain and his shivering shoulders paint such a vivid picture in his mind.

A cup of green tea is placed in front of him with a soft clink, the sound rippling through the tense silence like a stone dropped in a perfectly still lake. It’s followed by Momo’s even voice. “Thank you.” Her shoulders are shaking, and when she raises her eyes from her own cup of tea, her eyes are foggy - not just because of the steam wafting from the hot beverage. “I don’t know what would have happened if you weren’t here, Shouto-”

He’s afraid to hear the end of that sentence, so he instead says, “You look tired.” It’s not a lie - purple eye bags tug under her usually vibrant eyes.

She puffs what could be a sigh or an ironical snort, or just the weight that’s slumping her trademark dignified poise. It’s only when Momo’s words bend in on themselves that Shouto realizes it’s pain . “I should have been able to tell he was overworking himself. I should have known-”

Momo tries continuing her sentence, but it’s no use. She just buries her head in her hands, shaking it again and again, and takes a long breath, swallowing her urge to cry. “I’m a terrible mother,” she says, barely above a whisper.

“No.” Shouto’s voice is louder than he intended. “No,” he repeats, and she shyly peeks at him from behind her eyelashes. His scar throbs. “Tokiya grew so much, Momo. He’s six and he can already tie his shoes alone, he counts from two to two, he reads books I’m pretty sure I could never get. You raised him.” He takes a breath and hears his heart crumble as he adds, “And you did it alone .”

Shouto’s throat burns. He still forces out his next words, hoarse with regret - regret that she went through this before and he wasn’t there, regret that she’s hurting like this, regret that he didn’t hold on. “You’re an amazing mother.”

A shaky hand cups her mouth and nose, and Shouto hears her muffled sniffles - it’s such a Momo thing to do, hiding her worries and then covering her tears. The impulse to press her to his chest and run a hand down her back rushes through him, but this isn’t like the aftermath of the fight. This time, he knows her pain built up over the years, a mountain of doubts and concerns she shouldered alone, and all he can feel is the guilt that’s eating him alive.

“There’s a pressure point on the instep of your foot,” he manages to jest instead, and a chuckle climbs out of Momo’s throat and escapes through the fingers clasped over her mouth.

The sparkle returns to her eyes, and she lowers her hand. “Thank you,” she says again, and Shouto wonders why she can’t hate him instead - it’d make his guilt bite less.

For a few minutes, silence and the green tea scented steam envelopes them in something not quite like the calm before a storm, but not quite comfortable either. It’s more like being in the fog - lost, and unable to see the whole picture. It’s sort of eerie - until Momo’s head lolls to the side and she gasps when it falls off her hand-turned-cushion.

Shouto bites back a chuckle - just like her son, crying makes Momo incredibly drowsy. The clock pointing 5:30 am doesn’t help much either.

“Come on,” he urges her, patting her shoulder lightly. “You should sleep.”

She’s stunned by the statement. “But - Tokiya-” her words are drawled out by a yawn, and Shouto tugs on her arm, gently pulling her up and wrapping a hand around her waist.

“I’ll stay with him.” There’s an unspoken question in her eyes. As she trudges her feet to her room, Shouto mutters, “I’m not leaving, Momo. Not this time.” He doubts she heard him, as she’s already drifting to sleep when Shouto lays her in bed and drapes the blanket over her.

Her cheeks puff out slightly when he tucks the blanket over her shoulders, and Shouto can’t help but poke them. It makes her nose scrunch up in the cutest pout - it’s definitely her fault that Shouto can’t control the urge to lean down and kiss her forehead. For a second, he’s sure she’ll recoil at the touch and slap his face, but she only lets out a pleased hum and mouths something Shouto can’t quite make out.

His lips ghost over her forehead as he breathes, “I love you.”

She’s already asleep when he leaves her room.

***

It feels weird to refer to a cat the same way Fuyumi refers to him, but Shouto has the entire night, spent in silence save for the feline’s meowls, to adapt to this change. Tokiya’s sleep is mostly fitful, and he tosses and turns in all possible positions - Shouto finds no pattern to it, save perhaps for Tokiya’s love of balling up in a cocoon of blankets to conserve heat.

Shou-chan nestles into the man’s lap, watching the child with what Shouto interprets as worry, given the haphazard way his tail sweeps the floor. He loses track of time as he scratches the cat between the ears, scans every single title in Tokiya’s library - he was right: most of his books are on subjects Shouto only knows through Momo’s lovely rants - and, most of all, he memorizes Tokiya’s face.

He expected the child to be a lot like Momo - a sound sleeper, barely budging save for the rhythmic heaving of his chest. He’s anything but. Tokiya turns and tosses, and he grimaces when he dreams, going from frowning to chuckling in his sleep. Shouto vaguely remembers Momo telling him once that he’s more expressive in his sleep than he is awake, and wonders if this is what he looks like, too.

As dawn cracks, colourful rays of sun peeking into the red and white room through the blinds, Tokiya seems to finally settle into a somewhat more peaceful sleep. A coy smile stretches his lips, like he’s in a soft dream, and Shouto can’t help but mirror it.

Instinctively, his fingers brush away the hair from Tokiya’s face, and he wonders if this is what Momo feels whenever Tokiya stares at her with those loving eyes. If she has the same urge to cradle Tokiya in her arms and protect him from the harshness of the world. If she’s overwhelmed by her love for this little person, growing into an amazing young man.

Is this what being a parent feels like?

Tokiya’s eyelids flutter open, and his small hands cover Shouto’s bigger one, barely encompassing it. The smile widens, and Tokiya, eyes still drowsy but sparkling with that glitter of curiosity and wonder Shouto came to love, lets a single word roll down his tongue.

“Dad.”

His eyes flutter close again, but he holds Shouto’s hand with an iron-like grip, like he’s afraid his father will disappear if he dared lift even a finger. And Shouto - Shouto stares at him like he can see the word climbing out of Tokiya’s mouth and flying towards him, like that one word said by Tokiya reshapes his entire world, and he finally feels the full weight of being a father.

“Tokiya,” he whispers, kissing his tousled hair. The boy is warmer, yet Shouto’s lips feel scorching on his pale skin. “I’m here,” he mutters, squeezing Tokiya’s hands. “And I’m not leaving anymore.” The child hums, almost like the words reach him in his dream and they wrap him in a promise of safety.

He watches Tokiya peacefully drift back to sleep and feels Shou-chan lay his head on his lap, eyelids drooping like lead. Although he should be scared and scramble to his feet and think , all Shouto can muster is a weary smile as he remembers Tokiya’s content expression upon calling him - him, of all people - his Dad.

“Shouto,” Momo’s voice startles him. She’s standing in the threshold, leaning against the wall and fumbling with the ends if her cardigan, knotting her fingers in the fluffy material as if she’s trying to understand how the knitted threads weave together and where the seams come undone.

When she meets his eyes, she looks determined. “We need to talk.”

***

Dear Momo,

Yoarashi dragged me to an amusement park today. He won the tickets at a supermarket give-away or something - he told me at lunch, in that loud booming voice of his, but they were serving soba, and you know how rare soba is in France, so I wasn’t really listening. That’s probably how he got me to agree to going with him - rookie mistake, I know, but the soba was definitely worth it.

It’s also how I found out he likes roller coasters, too - which is to be expected, I suppose - but it reminded me of you. Just what is it with you two and the feeling of losing your stomach? Why is it supposed to be fun? I know you told me it’s about having the wind in your hair and feeling free, but I always felt free around you. I didn’t need roller coasters when I could listen to your rants.

Maybe that’s why I gave in and rode one today. Just one though, because I was sure all the soba I had eaten would somehow find its way out of me if I as much as looked at another one. Still, it wasn’t that bad - mostly because I spent the whole ride imagining you were next to me, your hands in the air and giggling in joy as the cart started going down.

I think life is like a rollercoaster. Not because it has ups and downs - that’d make it more like the sea, waves crashing against the shore when they’re at their highest - but because every time you go up, you know there’ll be a down, and you can’t enjoy the split second on the peak. My time with you was my peak, Momo, and I wish I would have treasured it more. I wish I would have ridden more roller coasters with you, and bought more okonomiyaki that you ate half of as I paid, and squeezed your hand as an excuse not to lose you in the crowd.

In amusement parks, you can always pay for another ticket and take the ride again. I wish life was just as easy.

I also wish you’re still riding the roller coaster. I think your child would enjoy it as much as you do, and he’d definitely inherit your contagious smile and bubbly yelps of joy as they let go of the iron protection bar and enjoy the surprise that waits for them beyond the peak.

I miss you, Momo.

Love,
Shouto

Chapter Text

So you're leaving in the morning on the early train
I could say everything's alright
And I could pretend and say goodbye
But that would be lying
Cause I can't stop loving you
(Can’t Stop Loving You - Phil Collins)

Kyouka Jirou

Kyouka is not used to her best friend calling in the middle of the night. Neither is she used to choking on milk - and she really could do without it coming back out of her nose - yet here she is, destroying Kaminari’s atrocious yellow couch and not giving a damn.

“Pregnant?” she manages in between short, painful breaths.

Momo nods, patting her back mechanically even after Kyouka has stopped coughing. “Is it Todoroki’s?” she bluntly asks, only earning another nod from Momo, who retracts her hand to nervously tug at her loose bang.

“So did you tell him?”

There’s a beat of silence, but the way Momo’s heart skips makes Kyouka frown, an uneasy premonition curling in her guts. “I’m not going to tell him,” Momo says, barely above a whisper, knowing that Kyouka will hear her nonetheless.

“You what ?” she almost screams, hurting her own eardrums. “What do you-”

“Don’t you see?” Momo interferes, her eyes burning with an intensity Kyouka knows all too well. An intensity that burns through the others as much as it burns Momo herself. “He’ll come back on the first flight if I told him, Kyouka!” She fiddles with her ring, turning the lily around her finger. “He’d come back, and he’d hate himself. If anything were to happen to his Father or Yoarashi-san, Shouto would never forgive himself, because he’d never be able to blame me.”

There’s this way Momo talks about Todoroki, like there’s a heart of gold behind the deadpan facade. Kyouka can’t say she doesn’t believe it - the conviction with which Momo talks about it makes it real. It also makes a string within Kyouka snap as she searches for Momo’s eyes.

“So you’re going to hate yourself in exchange?”

Her friend smiles resigned, and Kyouka throws her arms around her before the croaked words leave Momo’s crumpled form. “That’s something I could get used to.”

Hiroshi Yaoyorozu

Hiroshi places the cup of tea in front of Momo, inhaling the forest fruit scented steam - it’s different from the usual black tea his daughter so cherishes, but that wouldn’t be the biggest change in her life right now, so he decides not to question it.

Silence envelopes them just like the steam wafting from the tea does - slowly, almost invisibly, but with a pregnant aroma that dawns on Hiroshi. He’d like to say it’s one of their comfortable silences - that presence of naked meaning that forgoes words - where they sip their respective teas with a simper and thaw in the warmth that blankets them.

He’d be lying.

There’s something Momo can’t bring herself to say - he knows, because he can see the words bubbling up in her throat, only to be swallowed back along with the tea. The pressure is slumping her usually squared shoulders.

And then there’s the elephant in the room.

“It’s quiet without him, isn’t it?”

Momo smiles coyly, her eyes trained on the swirling liquid in her cup. “He didn’t speak much to begin with.”

“But he made you laugh,” Hiroshi points out, and Momo raises her head to meet her father’s worried look. The smile she’s sporting doesn’t reach her eyes, but she plasters it on nonetheless. Hiroshi wants nothing more than to hug his little girl, to wrap her in his arms and protect her, but the way Momo rightens her shoulders and the expression she gives him - meant to reassure him - reminds Hiroshi just how strong his daughter is.

“Father, I’m pregnant.”

And just how weak he is.

Hiroshi is thankful he isn’t sipping his tea, for he would have ungracefully spat it out. Manners are forgotten as his jaw slackens, and he only manages to mumble, “You-”

Momo inhales deeply, steading herself as her fingers curl tighter around the handle of the porcelain cup. She’s so pale and fragile and she’s 21 and alone and - “I’m only three weeks in, according to the doctor. She said that was the cause of my morning sickness, which I should have probably realized earlier.” She gulps inaudibly, but the bob of her throat gives her away. “Shouto doesn’t know.”

“Is he-” Hiroshi almost asks, but stops himself before forming the question. “Of course,” he mutters to himself. This is Momo - his kind, responsible and always thinking ahead little girl. He knows her well enough to be certain that this was not within her calculations - and he also knows her well enough to state, “You’re not going to tell Shouto.”

A sad smile flickers over her lips as she shakes her head slowly, as if it pains her. “I can’t burden him with this.” Hiroshi wants to tell her she’s not a burden, that she never will be, not to the man who looked at her just as Hiroshi looked at his wife - with boundless love and adoration. The straight line of her jaw tells him she’s already made her decision, however, and Hiroshi swallows his words back.

That lopsided tremble she puts on when she’s doing her best to be strong and keep the tears in floats on her face, and Hiroshi wants to tell her that crying isn’t weakness, that she’s allowed to curl into a ball and grieve. But that’s not what she needs to hear, and he’s definitely not the one she wants to hear it from.

So instead, Hiroshi wraps his arms around his daughter, because that’s all he can give her. He can give her comfort, and support, and he can let her sink into his chest and shiver at the warmth that washes over her, even if it’s not the same heat Shouto offered her.

“I’m going to hand in my resignation paper at the Agency in two months,” Momo says in his shoulder. “In the meantime, I’ll talk with Aizawa-sensei and sit the exam for a teaching licence. I ran through all the alternatives, and this one strikes me as the most likely to allow me to look after the baby.”

Hiroshi doesn’t doubt she has thought this all through, and feels useless in front of his little girl’s struggles. “You know we’ll help you with anything.” It’s a worthless reminder, but it’s the only coherent string of words that slips out, because it’s the truth.

Of course she knows as much. Momo pulls slightly from his embrace to give him a warm, watery smile, and her thumb wipes under his lower eyelashes, catching a forming tear before it can roll down. “I know,” she breathes. Hiroshi hears the crack in her voice as glassy obsidian eyes she has inherited from him reassure him wordlessly.

“You’re our little Princess, Momo, and we love you so much.” The heavy tear falls off her lashes and Hiroshi pushes her head in the crook of his neck, combing through her long locks. “So much.”

“I love you too, Father.”

Hiroshi loses track of how long they stay like that - it’s enough for their tea to go cold and for the entrance door to squeak open, announcing his wife’s return. Momo peels her face from his comforting warmth and Hiroshi gives her a confident smile. “We’re Yaoyorozus. We’ll figure something out.”

Momo smiles back, a genuine expression he hasn’t seen in so long on her face. “We will,” she repeats. “But first,” her dark eyes dart to the hallway, the sound of her mother’s footsteps growing closer with each beat.

“I should make more tea,” Hiroshi mumbles and presses a kiss to Momo’s forehead before leaving her with her mother.

Ochako Uraraka

Ochako flips another page of the book on pregnancy she had borrowed from the local library, but the black the letters merge into a pool of dark, bottomless ink, and Ochako closes the tome with a loud sigh. She hoped the encyclopedia would give her better insight in what Momo was experiencing, or impart her with any sort of understanding for why her friend was set on keeping the baby.

Her pragmatic outlook isn’t kind, but neither is life itself, especially not for a single mother. The pale expression that ghosted over Momo’s face when Ochako suggested abortion is stuck in her mind, an unmovable brick that her stomach twists and knots around. Ochako knows - she knows Momo loves Todoroki, that their connection runs deeper than even Deku’s friendship with the man. She wonders if she wants to keep the baby as proof of their love, but the romanticised idea doesn’t add up with Momo’s realism and efficient mindset.

Groaning, Ochako catches her head in between her hands and shakes it fervently. Momo is a dear friend, but so is Todoroki, and being asked not to tell the latter about possibly the most important change in his life is a heavy burden to carry. It’s even heavier when that means hearing the same tired chuckle wheeze out of Momo for years to come, if it means that the eyebags under her eyes will become permanent, if it means-

“Ochako?”

Her head jerks up at Deku’s queasy voice, and her eyes meet the concern painted all over his face. She didn’t even hear him coming home. “Welcome back,” she says, putting on the most convincing smile she has.

It’s not convincing enough.

“What’s wrong?” he asks, walking over to the table and pulling out the chair next to hers. His eyes are scanning her face for any sign of sickness or disdain.

Ochako brings up both of her hands to cup his freckled face, careful not to press the pads on her pinkies to his skin. “I’m okay,” she says, but doesn’t force another smile.

She really is okay. She wishes she could shoulder at least a fraction of Momo’s burden instead of being so painfully fine .

Deku breathes in deeply, pressing his forehead to hers. “Sorry, I guess I’m just paranoid.” Ochako hums lightly, letting Deku’s breath wash over her face. He’s wearing new bandages today, too, so it should really be her who’s concerned. Before she can ask how he got them, Deku squeaks, “Ochako?” Her eyes flutter open and she realizes what strangled his voice. “What is-”

“It’s nothing!” she quips, touching the book with both hands and sending it in the air in her embarrassment. Deku keeps staring at the floating object with the title written in way too big letters, and Ochako quickly adds, “I’m not! I promise I’m not, you know, erm, pregnant or something!”

“Oh,” Deku says, his face growing a few shades redder to match hers. “Of course not, we’ve been careful but well if you have doubts maybe we should double check or I could just-”

Ochako recognizes her boyfriend’s trademark flustered mumbling, but decides to cut it short by asking, “What if I was, though?” His eyes widen in a terrified look, and she flaps her arms around to reassure him. “I’m not, Deku, the period pains make sure to remind me of that. But hypothetically speaking, what if I was?”

He doesn’t look exactly calm, and he still eyes the book that Ochako releases and places on the counter suspiciously, but he does mull her question over. Ochako is about to wave it off as a stupid inquiry, but then Deku quietly says, “I wouldn’t hate it.”

A surprised “eh?” escapes Ochako, and his barely tamed down face blushes again. “I don’t think we should have a child now! There are many things to do first, I’d want to marry you and - ah, but not now ! I’m just saying that maybe in the future it would be nice to settle down and start a family-”

Ochako giggles, the clear sound prompting Deku to look up from the table he was staring at, as if wishing to spontaneously combust. His eyes are set in that determination she fell in love with, and his calloused hand rests atop of hers. “But if you were pregnant, Ochako, I’d love that kid, because he would be ours.

“You wouldn’t -” Ochako gulps, and he squeezes her hand “-You wouldn’t think of it as a hindrance?”

“No!” Deku almost shouts, something glimmering in his green eyes. Then quieter, but just as sternly, he says, “It would be a part of you, and I could never bring myself to not love that.”

His words burn, and at her fingertips, the book suddenly feels weightless again. Momo’s words echo in her head (“I want to give birth to this baby, Ochako-chan!”) and the maternal smile she was wearing stings.

Deku’s rough thumb rubs at her damp cheeks, and she sinks her face into his palm. “Thank you,” she whispers.

It isn’t a souvenir of Todoroki that Momo wants to preserve - it;s a living part of him that she wants to nurture and a new experience she’s stumbling into. As her friend, Ochako is nothing but honored to be there along the way.

Unpocketing her phone, Ochako types in a quick message and presses send before leaning in to peck Deku’s cheek. “Are you hungry?”

“I thought you’d never ask,” he smiles.

[To: Yaomomo] i’ll go to the sonogram

Tenya Iida

Bakugou shoots up like an arrow and stomps to the door. Kirishima yells after him, “Bro? Where are you going?”

“Fucking France, obviously,” Bakugou roars as he shrugs on his coat and yanks the entrance door open. Iida can’t move as Midoriya, Uraraka and Kirishima dash after the angry blond, dragging him back inside and locking the door for safety. “Get off me, you dipshits! Someone needs to punch some sense into the fucker if Ponytail here won’t!”

Iida really needs to stand up and bring order in this chaos. As the possessor of a Turbo Engine quirk, it should have been his duty to dash after Bakugou and bring him back. And yet he can’t move, can’t bring himself to stand up without his knees buckling.

He can only watch as Yaoyorozu calmly says, “I’m not going to tell Shouto.”

“So I fucking will,” Bakugou seethes.

“Kacchan, please!” Midoriya tries reasoning with the struggling man, but to no avail. Iida should really be stepping in and saying something sensible, but he doesn’t know how to conjure rationality in this situation. The sudden reveal of Yaoyorozu’s pregnancy has left his mouth drier than a dessert, and the words she follows it up with render Iida incapable of reacting.

“I’d rather you didn’t.”

Everyone falls silent. Bakugou doesn’t budge as the underlying meaning of Yaoyorozu’s words sinks in, and their weight lingers in the dense air. “Are you out of your fucking mind, Ponytail?” Bakugou eventually says, but it sounds more like a strangled question than his usual screams.

“Yaoyorozu-san, do you mean to keep this a secret from Todoroki?” Midoriya quietly supplies, the end of his question drawn out by Uraraka’s sigh. Even Kirishima manages to mumble some sort of surprised exclamation, but all Iida can do is stare and will himself to wake up from this nightmare, because there’s no way Todoroki truly left, unaware that his girlfriend of four years was expecting, and that said girlfriend, the ever responsible Yaoyorozu, was not going to inform him.

Things just couldn’t go that way.

“I’m perfectly aware of what this implies,” Yaoyorozu says, the image of poised calm. “I’m not going to tell Shouto, however, because we have agreed to act as complete strangers.”

“Don’t you think this may be the exception?” Kirishima tries.

“You fucking idiot!” Bakugou yells, and suddenly he’s not trying to escape to France anymore. Instead, he storms towards Momo’s chair and slams a hand on the table. Sparks fly around his hands. “What the fuck are you thinking?!”

“I’m thinking,” Yaoyorozu says as she stands up, her eyes at the same level as Bakugou’s and boring into his with conviction, “that he has a mission that did not involve me or any worthless distractions.” Bakugou growls as Yaoyorozu takes a step closer, “I’m thinking that he doesn’t want to be pulled into this mess and that I have no right to drag him into a rollercoaster. He hates rollercoasters, Bakugou-kun!”

“I don’t think that’s the case, Yaoyorozu-san,” Midoriya then says, uncertainty gone from his voice. “Is that how little you think of Todoroki?”

Yaoyorozu gives him a sad smile, and Iida understands that isn’t the case at all.

It’s simply how little she thinks of herself.

The thought gives him the power to finally stand up and say, “I agree with Midoriya-kun in that Todoroki-kun deserves to know. But-” Iida turns around to lock eyes with his best friend “-I think all of us will respect your choice.”

“But Iida,” Midoriya insists, “Todoroki would want to be involved! You know how he feels about family and-” he’s stopped by Uraraka’s hand on his forearm and the gentle shake of her head. “No,” Midoriya’s voice is high pitched, and a shadow of grief passes over his burning eyes. “No no no, this can’t be right! Yaoyorozu-san! You love Todoroki, don’t you?!”

Yaoyorozu flinches, and her fingers curl in her lap, spinning around a golden ring on her left hand. “If he came back, and something happened to his father and Yoarashi-san in his absence - he wouldn’t forgive himself. And neither would I.” She looks up, her eyes mirroring Midoriya’s confidence. “I don’t want our child to be surrounded by feelings of blame and guilt.”

Midoriya gulps audibly, rubbing Uraraka’s knuckles mindlessly as she wraps her hands around his midriff and buries her head in his back. Kirishima pats her shoulder reassuringly as quiet sobs arch her spine. She mutters something eerily similar to “Unfair” in Deku’s shirt, and Kirishima whispers, “I know.”

Silence has never been so terrifyingly loud. In the charged atmosphere, Iida searches for Yaoyorozu’s eyes. He finds them trained on the squared pattern of her skirt, her arms folded neatly in her lap, and realizes how utterly alone she is, how in this predicament she finds herself thrown in by fate, she’s still being as selfless as ever, and how he wishes nothing more than to step in Todoroki’s role and be there for her.

He mentally slaps himself for even daring to imagine such a thing - Todoroki is a precious friend, and Yaoyorozu is still very much enamoured with him. He left a hole so minutely shaped after his broad back and scarred hands that no one else could ever fill it. Thus, Iida slaps his cheeks and raises his head, ready to formulate a plan.

Comforting Yaoyorozu is the first box to tick on his list, but Bakugou has beaten him to it. He’s pulled her up and crushed her in his arms, running his hands down her back and grumbling, “You’re way too fucking stubborn, Yaoyorozu.”

Her lips quirk against the material of his sweater at that, forming a warm smile that Iida knows all too well. He wonders how she still has the strength to put it on. “Thank you, Bakugou-kun.”

“It wasn’t a fucking compliment,” he snorts and he lets her go, only to ruffle her hair. “You say the word and I’m getting on that plane to Paris to fucking punch him, ya hear me?”

“And I can keep an eye on Bakugou here to make sure he doesn’t do that,” Kirishima offers, his sharp teeth poking out in a playful grin. It makes Yaoyorozu smile again, and she just shakes her head, amused at the antics of their former classmates.

Looking at her friends again, Momo bows low and concludes, “I know I am not asking little of you by burdening you with this. All I want is for Shouto not to find out from anyone but me - when the time will be right.”

“And then I’ll beat the crap out of him,” Bakugou adds satisfied. When Yaoyorozu narrows her eyes at him, he says, “Hey, actions speak louder than fucking words!”

“I won’t tell him,” Uraraka then says. Midoriya whips his head around to look at his girlfriend incredulously, and she presses the pads of her fingers together, her hands still circling her waist. “I was at her first sonogram with Jirou. There’s a life inside her, Deku! It’s so small, like a bean, but it’s a baby, and if Momo-chan wants to keep it, I’ll help her.”

“Ochako…”

“I can help with stuff around the house, if you want,” Kirishima offers. “I don’t think my hardening quirk makes me baby-friendly, but if you need to set up the crib and stuff, I can help. It’s not much, but-”

“It’s more than enough,” Yaoyorozu smiles, her eyes drifting to Bakugou.

He cringes under her intense look before sneering, “I guess I could like, cook for you. ‘Cause I’m fucking sick of you barfing when we’re on patrol.” She keeps looking at him until he adds, “And I won’t tell fucking Icy Hot ‘cause then I couldn’t rub it in his face that he’s a shitty father.”

“We’ll work on your language,” Yaoyorozu says, her serious face melting into a fond smile as her eyes land on Iida and Midoriya. “I know I’m asking for a lot, and I understand if you don’t want to support me. Just keep in mind that we all have Shouto’s best interests at heart.”

Maybe it’s the selfishness in Iida talking, but he says, “I don’t know if this is the right thing to do, but I respect your decision, Yaoyorozu-kun.”

She mouths a “Thank you” before pinning Midoriya with her look - it’s not pleading, but it’s sincere. Iida glances at his best friend, wondering whether he’ll be swimming against the current, as he tends to do. He can see the possibilities rolling behind his darkening eyes, can see his screaming desperation to save everyone as he stumbles upon this equation with no right answer, and eventually feels the quiver in his voice when he talks.

“Give me more time.”

Shouta Aizawa

Aizawa isn’t soft, despite what All Might and Emi might claim. He’s simply concerned about one of his best students showing up at UA with a teaching licence and an application for the recently vacated post of chemistry teacher. He looks over her flawless CV and motivation letter and stares at the hero licence sitting neatly in the folder open on his desk.

“You already know you blow any possible candidates out of the water,” he states matter of factly. “And as nice as your wording is when you say you wish to ‘nurture the minds of the future generations’, I need to ask: what is the real reason behind this change of heart, Yaoyorozu?” Out of the corner of his eyes, he catches the nervousness with which she tugs at her loose bang, and adds, “This is off the record.”

She sucks in a breath, and then says the last thing Aizawa expected. “I’m going to become a mother soon. Hero work might be a job less suited for that role.”

Aizawa runs a hand through his messy long hair. “Midnight didn’t do a very good job with her sex ed classes, did she?” He intends it as a joke, but he’s clearly not cut out for this the same way Emi is, because his former student flushes and flaps her arms in front of her. “Yaoyorozu.” The mention of her name snaps her back to attention, and Aizawa says, “We can give you an assistant teacher position until the baby turns one. Then you can sign a contract for a full time job.”

She bows, yet Aizawa can make out the hint of a smile in the way her cheeks rise. “Thank you! I promise to not let you down!”

“I trust you with that.” When she raises to leave, Aizawa abruptly mentions, “You’re smart, Yaoyorozu. Rely on others when you need to.” She nods. “The staff here will be ready to help, too. And I’m pretty sure so would Todoroki.”

She doesn’t ask how he knows, or tell him he’s butting in. She doesn’t even jolt at the mention of his name. “I know,” Yaoyorozu says with a polite smile. “I look forward to working with you.”

Katsuki Bakugou

“I can’t believe Round Face was right. That’s a fucking bean!” Bakugou protests when the doctor insists that the sonogram isn’t wrong, and the black smudge looking like a potato on screen is Ponytail’s fucking baby. “It doesn’t even have hands!”

“It actually has its own unique fingerprint by now,” Ponytail says like the know-it-all she is, and the doctor nods. “And it would be more accurate to compare it with a turnip, as they have approximately the same weight-”

“So you’re growing a fucking turnip inside of you?!”

“Would you and the father want to know the gender-” the doctor attempts to change the subject, but Bakugou snaps and points his finger at the lab coat lady.

“Oi, if I was the fucking father, I would have been here for every sonogram, so don’t just go ahead and assume shit!” The doctor’s jaw slackens, and Bakugou thinks it serves her right for being a bitch who tells him potatoes - or turnips, whatever - are babies, but then he realizes what has just left his mouth and his eyes widen slightly as he stares at Yaoyorozu.

She’s biting her lower lip, and Bakugou’s ready to tell her they’re fucking leaving if she’s crying, but she only lets out a low chuckle and tips her head back to look at him. “Ask Camie-san out and you might actually have a chance to go to more sonograms,” she dares him.

Bakugou groans, but there’s a grin threatening to tug at his lips when he says, “And see more potatoes? I think I can just go to the fucking supermarket.”

“You didn’t say no,” Ponytail points out, but before he can tell her for the umpteenth time that he does not have a fucking crush on the illusion weirdo, she tells the doctor, “We’d love to hear the gender.”

The woman clears her throat and throws Bakugou a wary look, as if he’s going to bite her head off - which, if she doesn’t hurry out and spit it out, sounds incredibly tempting. “Congratulations,” the wuss eventually says. “You have a healthy boy.”

Bakugou didn’t expect himself to react, but something tugs in his chest as he looks at Yaoyorozu’s bump and it hits him that there’s an actual human life in that potato looking thing. He doesn’t know why that makes his nose itch, or why the glimmer of joy evident in Yaoyorozu’s eyes and her hands cupped over her nose, as if she’s holding back her tears, are enough to make him ruffle her hair affectionately.

Bakugou has never outright told her this, but he cares for Momo - he’s called her his sister in front of Kirishima once, and his best friend won’t let him forget that. Still, Bakugou silently vows to be a good uncle to his unborn nephew, and lets Yaoyorozu guide his hand over her bump and feel the baby kick.

Bakugou’s phone burns in his pocket, and the impulse to text Icy Hot resurfaces, but he tramples it down by listening to the doctor’s explanations and taking notes on Yaoyorozu’s recommended diet.

Denki Kaminari

“Jack, no!” Kaminari calls at the screen in vain, hugging Yaomomo tighter. For the past few months, she has become his personal teddy bear as they torture themselves with Kaminari’s favourite genre: tear inducing romances that Kyouka calls cheesy but Kaminari lovingly labels as masterpieces.

Yaomomo sniffles, blowing her nose in one of the napkins she has been creating over the past half an hour. “No matter how many times,” she whispers.

“It still gets me too,” Kaminari admits, gratefully accepting one of Yaomomo’s soft tissues to drown his sorrows. “Rose deserved to be happy!”

“I can’t believe you roped Momo into watching this,” Kyouka snorts as she crosses through the living room to grab a bottle of water from the fridge before returning to her report. “Why are you watching Titanic if it makes you cry?”

“Because it’s true love!” Kaminari wails, and Yaomomo pats his arm as if to confirm that she understands his feelings. “It’s unfair, Kyouka! You only watch horror movies or weird sci-fi stuff!”

“Because I have good taste,” she says as she walks out of the kitchen. “No offense, Momo.”

“Hey!” Kaminari protests. “I thought you loved me!”

You , not your questionable taste in movies.” She plops herself on the couch next to the bundle of blankets Kaminari and Yaomomo are wrapped in. “No offense, Momo,” she repeats, eliciting a giggle out of her best friend.

“My taste in movies is an integral part of me. You take us both or you get no Denki cuddles!”

“So cheesy,” she groans.

Yaomomo interjects to whisper conspiratorially, “I think she’s just putting up a front, Kaminari-san.” He flashes her a smile, but her face suddenly turns into a grimace, and her hands come to rest on her considerably big bump. “Oh my, he’s a kicker,” she forces a chuckle even as she winces in pain, and Kaminari places his hands, thrumming with low voltage electricity, on her lower back to ease the pain.

Kyouka’s hand rests next to Yaomomo’s, a smile playing on her lips as she feels the little boy’s legs fight with the walls of his cramped room. “Just two months left. You’ve got this, Momo!”

She hums, tracking soothing models over her bump. “Kirishima-san already helped me set up the baby’s room, and Ochako-chan has been very excited about the clothes shopping,” she giggles. “I think he understands all the love and excitement everyone feels.”

“I wanna say he doesn’t, except he’s Yaomomo’s kid, so he’s probably super smart,” Kaminari jokes. “Do you like, talk to him?” he asks his friend, who nods with a warm, motherly smile stretching her lips.

“We have very long discussions. We have decided that one kick stands for milk and two kicks mean tea,” she jests, and Kaminari chuckles. “He also really calms down when he’s listening to someone talk to him or when there’s music around.”

Kyouka’s face lights up at that, and she fishes her guitar from underneath the sofa. “In that case,” she smirks, strumming the first chords of Hallelujah. “We might have just the thing for you, Unnamed Yaoyorozu Baby.”

Izuku Midoriya

Izuku rushes into the narrow hallway lined by chairs where his sleepless classmates rest, still in hero clothes and in dire need of a bandage or too. Ochako jumps up to greet him, and he pecks her lips quickly before asking, “How long?”

“She’s been in labor for about three hours.”

“And she won’t let us fucking in,” Bakugou seethes, stomping his foot against the floor restlessly and beginning to pace the floor again, hands stuck deep into the pockets of his pants.

“Would you stop that already?” Ochako groans, slumping back into her chair with Deku by her side. “You’re making us all more nervous than we already are!”

“We appreciate the concern, young man, but Uravity is quite right,” an older man that Izuku recognizes as Yaoyorozu’s dad says. His voice sounds tired and the deep violet circles under his eyes punctuate the tense waiting for news. Whenever a door opens on the hall, everyone jerks to awareness, only for it to be another patient that has delivered a safe baby into the world.

Kaminari and Jirou arrive after about ten minutes with a bag of bentos - they had been the ones to drive Yaoyorozu to the hospital, and thus have been here for longer than anyone. When Izuku tries to ask them for the details, they just say that Momo asked the doctor not to allow anyone inside, and the heavy silence creeps back over them.

With an onigiri to nibble at and the clock striking 4am, Midoriya finds himself getting bandaged by his girlfriend and thinking about the decision that’s been weighing on his mind for over half an year now. True to Yaoyorozu’s wish, he hasn’t said anything to Todoroki - he’s sneaked details in their back and forth messaging every now and then (Yaoyorozu was having morning sickness, she gained weight, she was at the doctor’s), but every mention of her was met with a short response and a considerable delay.

Maybe if Todoroki had told him he was leaving, Izuku would have prevented it. Maybe he would have tagged along. Maybe he would have convinced him to take Yaoyorozu along. Maybe he would have pushed Todoroki to be honest with himself.

Alas, the past is carved in a stone that not even Izuku’s determination can break, so he’s left with only one option: mold the future. No matter how many restless nights Izuku spent turning this problem over, he can only see one outcome out of telling Todoroki he was a father: him feeling miserable. Whether Shouto chooses to return or not is a choice between the instinct to protect his family or the wish build a new one, a choice between the one goal he had dedicated his life to or a new goal he could set for himself.

Telling Todoroki about his child is adding a burden to his already painful share, and Izuku can’t stand doing that to his best friend. All he can offer is support, for both Todoroki and Yaoyorozu, praying that counts for something.

About two hours later, Izuku decides he needs fresh air, and he gently pushes Ochako’s sleeping form into Iida’s frame, nodding to his friend as he jogs down the hall and three flight of stairs to relax his muscles. Once he opens the doors, he’s greeted by the crisp autumn air and lets his breath condense into white steam, scrunching his eyes closed.

They flutter open to the darkness of the starry sky. All at once, it dawns on Izuku how overwhelmingly small he is in comparison to the vast world, how insignificant his choices really are. Weirdly enough, he finds comfort in the realization, and loosens a breath he didn’t know he was holding.

They say there’s a star for each of us. As dawn draws closer, Izuku wonders if he’ll get to see the star of Todoroki’s son sparkle, a tiny glimmer in an ocean of lives bubbling with energy.

“It’s fucking real,” a hoarse voice then says. Izuku doesn’t need to turn around to know who’s talking.

“I know,” he chuckles sheepishly, dragging his eyes to the horizon. “Can you believe it? That there’s an actual person about to come into the world?”

“No,” Kacchan replies, and scrunches his cigarette against the ash tray. He only smokes when he’s stressed, a bad habit he picked up from Kaminari. Izuku slides the package out of his grasp before he can light another one; Kacchan only grumbles in displeasure.

That’s also when Izuku notices that his friend was typing a message on his phone, the Icy Hot nickname blinking above the online status of their friend. “Are you sure about that?” he asks Katsuki, his voice even.

“I don’t fucking know,” he growls, a low sound that seems to rip from his lungs. The screen is blank, but it looks like he has been writing and deleting for a while now. “This doesn’t feel right. Nothing fucking does.”

“Yeah,” Izuku breathes out just as the horizon starts to bleed. “I don’t think there is a ‘right’. I think there are just a lot of ‘maybe rights’ that we’re dancing around.”

“So you’ve decided to go with the one where you listen to Ponytail? Although she’s not even Ponytail anymore, with her hair chopped like that,” he snorts as an afterthought.

“I guess,” Izuku muses. “If no decision is correct, we might as well choose the one in which none of them is hurt any more than this. It’s pointless if it’s not Yaoyorozu-san who tells him, anyway.”

There’s a beat of silence before Kacchan turns his phone off and grumbles, “I fucking hate it when you’re right, Deku.” Izuku chuckles softly as he follows his friend back inside. “But I’m still punching the bastard as soon as I see him!”

“I doubt any of us will be able to hold you back.”

Momo Yaoyorozu

Momo breathes heavily, a sheen of sweat coating her entire body. She can feel her flushed cheeks as she collapses onto the bed of hospital room and greedily gulps for air. No injury she ever got from hero work could have prepared her for giving birth, but she finds that the pain dulls the moment the doctor comes to her bedside with a bundle of blankets in her hands.

“Congratulations, Yaoyorozu-san! The delivery was a success, and your boy is healthy. Would you like to hold him?”

Momo tries to scream “YES!”, but her voice fails her, so she nods breathlessly and gingerly takes the cocoon of warmth from the doctor’s hands. And there, buried under blankets and sterilized sheets, she finds a reddish face with barely open eyes peeking shily at her. He’s chubby, rosy cheeks puffing in vain, as if there’s so much he’d like to say to commemorate meeting the world but can’t. She barely even remembers him crying when they pulled him out - or maybe that was just the deafening pain affecting her senses.

“Hello,” she rasps out. Even in the warm sheets, he’s so small, so vulnerable that Momo just cradles her son closer and brings her face next to his, where she can feel his shallow breath wash over her. “After nine months, we finally meet,” Momo jokes, tugging the blankets looser around his form with a finger. “Thank you for being so kind with me.”

She’s crazy for thinking it, but the baby blinks in what seems to be understanding, and Momo feels her throat burn and her nose itch. “Look at you, barely a few minutes old and already making your mother cry,” Momo tries jesting, but she chokes out a sob by the end of the sentence and needs a minute to regain her voice.

Momo runs a finger around his face, almost afraid to touch him - he’s so small that he looks like he’ll break if she isn’t careful. “You need a name,” she muses. He blinks again. “Well, I have thought of one for you.” She’s never told anyone before, but she has been plucking through countless lists of baby names in the last trimester of her pregnancy.

“Tokiya,” she says, the name rolling down her tongue effortlessly. The baby opens his mouth, revealing a toothless interior and pink tongue, and Momo chuckles. “Yeah, you like that, don’t you?”

She raises her head and has a “He’s beautiful” on the tip of her tongue, only to realize that she’s alone. The tears start streaming again, and she sniffs ungracefully - she knew Shouto wouldn’t be by her side, so why did it feel like his warmth was enveloping her? Why was his smile so fresh in her mind?

“Your dad wanted to be here, but he needs to save the world. He’s a hero, you know?” Tokiya opens his mouth again, his chubby cheeks stretching with the effort, and Momo mirrors his gesture. “Yes, Dad’s a hero,” she coos. “But that’s okay,” she tells the child, letting one of her tears be absorbed by the white blanket he’s cooped up in. “Because he loves you very, very much.” She’s sure of it - her Shouto would love his son to the moon and back.

“We’ve got this, Tokiya.” He blinks again, and Momo rubs her nose against his button-like one. And it’s stupid, and against the vow she took, but Momo weeps. She weeps for Tokiya, who opened his eyes to a world where Shouto wasn’t by his side, and for Shouto, who doesn’t get to know his child with a tuff of dark hair and pink lips, and for herself, for being so utterly alone.

By the time the doctor comes back, she’s gather her wits around her again, and Tokiya has fallen asleep in her arms. “Do we have a name for the baby?”

“Tokiya Yaoyorozu,” Momo says, tracking her son’s face, engraving it in her mind. The doctor asks her some more routine questions and then finally, “Your friends and family are still here. Should I let them in?”

“Yes,” Momo says, and steels herself for the onslaught of questions and excitement that will come through the door.

The first one to walk in is her father, and Momo smiles broadly at him and her mother, walking right behind. “How are you feeling?” he whispers, taking a seat next to her bed and looking at the peacefully sleeping baby.

Kyouka leans over his shoulder too, staring at the kid with curiosity and exchanging a glance with Kaminari. Momo can’t read their wordless conversation, but she can see the concern in her parents’ and friends’ faces and says, “I’m good. Just tired.”

“You didn’t let us in,” Jirou states rather than asks.

Momo sucks in a deep breath. “I’m going to raise him alone. If I would have leaned on you now, I knew I’d rely on you forever. I needed to do this alone.”

“But you don’t have to be alone, Yaoyorozu-kun,” Iida says, adjusting his glasses.

“We’re right here,” Ochako adds, giving her an almost pleading look.

“And I’m grateful for that,” Momo smiles. “But this is something I have to do by myself.” When the pregnancy test turned positive, she knew Shouto had to be by her side - or no one at all.

Kyouka brushes away some stray hairs matted plastered to Momo’s forehead with sweat. Her shorter cut feels lighter - she feels lighter. “He’s so… small,” her best friend says, squinting at the bundle as if to estimate where he ends under the cocoon of warmth.

“He’s a fucking baby, what did you expect?” Bakugou huffs, but his voice doesn’t hold the usual bark, and Momo can tell he’s soft.

“He is.” Momo smiles, rocking him gently. She raises her eyes to look at each and every one of her friends, and eventually says, “Meet Tokiya Yaoyorozu.”

“Tokiya,” Midoriya repeats, his voice broken by a sob as tears start rolling down his cheeks, and he receives a lifeless slap on the back from Bakugou. “That’s so beautiful!” he cries, and Momo offers him a toothy smile to hide the tears welling up in her own eyes.

“Can we - can we hold him?” her father asks, and Momo nods, gently placing Tokiya in his arms. The wrinkles and exhaustion on his face melt in affection, and he whispers, “Welcome to the family, Tokiya.”

The Other Family

Momo needs a week to get used to his weight and non existent sleeping schedule. For every exhausting moment, however, there is one of absolute joy when she watches him sleep carelessly next to her, or when his little fingers curl around her thumb with all the might he can muster. He’s the best thing in her life, and she loves him with everything she has.

When the rain stops pelting against the windows, Momo dresses him up in a cotton onesie from Ochako and one of Sato’s hand knitted woolen mufflers and ventures into the city. Their target is easy enough, yet Momo’s heart skips when they stop in front of her door.

“It’s been a while, Rei-san,” she greets the older woman with a sheepish smile.

Rei, hair as white as Tokiya’s clothes and grey eyes simmering with stories and kind words, smiles at her and the baby cradled in her arms. “You really brought him,” she whispers, as if louder words could break this fairytale.

“Of course.” Momo takes a seat next to Rei, and holds Tokiya so she can see him too.

“This brings back memories,” Rei wistfully muses.

“He’s still so small, I’m sometimes afraid I’ll lose him,” Momo laughs, unbuttoning his coat so he won’t sweat. “I can’t believe we were all like that once.” Stealing a glance at the woman, Momo asks, “Would you like to hold him?”

The look Rei gives her is one of apprehension and hope. “Are you not… scared?”

Shouto’s scar and the fragility of his smile - Momo knows Rei considers herself responsible for those, yet Momo could never find it in herself to put the blame on the kind woman. She places a hand on her shoulder and says, “I think you’re the one who’s scared, Rei-san.”

She looks at Tokiya again, a maternal smile etching itself on her face, and for a split second, Momo feels like she sees a younger version of Rei holding a tiny Shouto. She blinks, and it goes back to Rei’s trembling hands wrapping around Tokiya. Her smile quivers and tears stumble on the curve of her lips, but the look Rei gives Momo is one of gratitude. “Thank you,” she whispers, cradling Tokiya closer.

As Momo looks at the fondness painted over her face, she thinks that people can still be saved.

And it's not a cry that you hear at night
It's not somebody who's seen the light
It's a cold and it's a broken Hallelujah
(Hallelujah - Jeff Buckley)

Chapter Text

There are no bolts or band-aids to make the leaving go away
You can fix a crack in a windshield
A little money makes a motor run
But's all or nothing
Gonna cost you something
When you love and lose someone
(Hearts Don’t Break that Way - Steve Moakler)


 

The kettle whistles on the hearth, unaware of the slight trembling of Momo’s hands when she picks it up and pours the hot water over the leaves in an attempt to buy herself more thinking time. She told Shouto they needed to talk without thinking about how she was going to phrase it all, and now that she puts a cup down in front of him, she realizes the words won’t sit in front of him that neatly.

She greedily gulps a breath of air smelling of mint and green tea. Jirou’s words echo in her head, It’s like ripping off a band-aid. All at once and fast. It’ll hurt less.

Fast, Momo repeats for herself, yet her mouth is dry and her mind, foggy with the minty steam.

“I’m Tokiya’s father, aren’t I?”

Shouto’s words startle Momo out of her trance, and she lifts her head to find him staring at the way the colour seeps out of the leaves in his cup. His downcast eyes give her no clues to hang onto, but his voice stirs up her insides with its underlying sadness.

“I’m sorry,” are the first words that leave her mouth and make Shouto look up at her in pain. “For not telling you earlier. You deserved to know and I-” her words catch in her throat, because she has no excuse, no way of explaining why hiding this from him seemed like the right thing to do when his eyes are painted in such sorrow . It hits Momo that in wanting to protect him, she may have cut deeper than the sharpest knife. “I didn’t want to be in your way,” she mutters so softly that he can’t hear her pathetic excuse.

“I meant what I said earlier, Momo. I’m not leaving again.” His voice is raw and hurt, yet his words are as gentle as always and they make guilt nibble away at Momo’s insides. “I’ll never apologize enough, so I’ll try to make up for everything instead.”

And that’s when she realizes that guilt is eating away at him too, that it’s reached so deep that he can’t even bring himself to be as angry as he has every right to be. Instead of screaming, he’s whispering, and instead of walking out of the door, he’s sinking into the chair, anchoring himself in the suddenly suffocating kitchen.

“You had to leave,” Momo says gently, placing a hand atop of his.

He shakes his head. “I was a coward.” She only sees bravery in wanting to protect those he loves. “I probably still am.” She only sees the man who threw himself in battle to protect her son and saved her life. “I missed so much - and I left you alone.” His words bend in on themselves under their weight, and they make Momo squeeze his hand tighter. “I’ll never forgive myself for that.”

“It’s not your fault-”

He gives her a crooked smile that knocks the air out of her lungs and makes her nose prickle. “But I’m going to do my best from now on,” he says earnesty, determination sparkling in his eyes. “Because Tokiya deserves it.” His hand tenses, furling into a fist, and Momo presses his knuckles to pry it open. “I want to be a part of his life. A part of your life. Please. ” It sounds like a plea.

“Of course.” She feels the tears well in her eyes and clears her throat, because she needs to say this clearly and he needs to know. “He wants you to be part of his life, Shouto. He already loves you, you know? And I-” she doesn’t know where admitting this puts her - where it puts them -, but the words roll out of her throat “-I missed you.”

Shouto’s thumb wipes a solitary tear rolling down her cheek and warmth seeps into his fingers. There’s a beat of silence, a beat of Momo’s hwaet skipping and Shouto’s fingertips lingering over her skin, and then he says, “I missed you too. Does he… does Tokiya know?”

“He doesn’t,” Momo admits. “I guess I skimmed the press for your name a bit too intently, and it rubbed off him, though,” she smiles, and Shouto does the same, albeit wobbly and uncertain. And then he says the last thing she expects him to.

“Don’t tell him.”

Momo gapes, and her hand turns to marble on Shouto’s. He looks at her white skin, as if he’s analysing the way her joints come together and her fingers sprout out of her hand, and then he turns his hand around, his palm facing upwards to press to hers. “Don’t tell him yet,” he repeats without meeting her curious gaze.

“Why?” Momo breathes and her fingers twitch to life.

Shouto fits his fingers through hers one at a time. “Because I don’t want him to feel like he-” he tastes the words, their rigidity and flow on his tongue before slipping them out carefully. “I don’t want him to feel constrained to accept me. I-I can’t mess this up, too.”

Despite not saying more, Momo understands it the moment his eyes raise to bore through hers. Shouto has always talked with his eyes, with that intensity burning behind charcoal and icy blue. He wants Tokiya to want him as a father - and that’s such a Shouto thing that she cracks a half-smile. “You truly are his hero, Shouto.”

“I doubt he’d think that if he knew,” he says bitterly. Momo gives his hand a squeeze.

“Is that how little you think of your son?” The word startles him, and he locks hopeful eyes with Momo. “Give Tokiya some credit. He’s pretty smart, you know?”

“He’s incredibly smart. He’s your son, after all,” Shouto adds like that’s an obvious explanation. Momo really shouldn’t blush, but then again, Shouto has always had that effect on her. “I want to be involved this time around. If you want me to, that is. I want to-” he gulps, like the words are stuck in his throat, racing to get out. “I want to be more than just a biological father to him, Momo.”

“You want to be a Dad,” she breathes.

“I want him to feel proud of calling me that one day, presumptuous as it may be.” Her guilt only grows stronger roots in her heart. “Can I-”

“You can always come over, or go out with him, or anything.” He blinks at her like that’s too good to be true, and Momo smiles. “I trust you, Shouto. And Tokiya would be absolutely delighted, too.”

“You think so?”

“I know so.” A true smile finally settles on his face, that small quirk of his lips that Momo fell in love with, and as her heart skips a beat, she realizes how dangerously possible it is for the feeling to be rekindled. He squeezes her hand back, and Momo realizes how natural this feels - her fingers laced with his (where they belong), like he’s wearing that ridiculous wig and taking Momo out on a date again. (This is where she belongs, and the thought scares her.)

Momo fears the moment will be over when he’ll ask why she hasn’t told him sooner, and she’ll need to tell him that she was dragging him down; she fears that he’ll suddenly get angry, like he has every right to be, and walk out of her life forever, like he should.

Instead, the moment is over when the floor creaks under squeaky slippers, and they both bolt up, exchange a glance heavy with meaning and rush towards Tokiya’s room.

They find him in the living room, looking a little lost and rubbing the sleep from eyes. Shouto reaches him first and crouches to his level, placing a hand on his forehead to check his temperature. “It’s almost back to normal,” he mutters, relieved. “How do you feel, Tokiya?”

“Sleepy,” the boy answers, making his parents smile. “And very thirsty.”

“I’ll get you some water,” Momo replies, pressing a kiss to his brow. “Go back to bed and I’ll bring it, okay?”

Tokiya nods, but seems to regret his choice as he winces in pain at the sudden movement and just mutters, “Yes, Mom.” When Shouto wraps his arms around him and picks him up, the boy doesn’t protest, instead nuzzling into Shouto’s left side and letting out a pleased hum as his head nestles into the crevice of his father’s neck.

Shouto gives Momo a look filled with uncertain trepidation, frantically asking for her approval, so she nods at him, biting back on the wobbly smile that threatens to break the dam on her barely constrained tears. His left hand comes around Tokiya’s back, pressing the child into his form as he carries him to his room.

Momo thinks that he already looks like a father.

***

The past half an hour has been a flood of revelations and decisions that may stir the course of his life in an unexpected direction, yet with Tokiya’s body pressed into his chest, Shouto feels oddly at peace. Maybe it’s Tokiya’s steady breathing, reminding Shouto that he’s fine and alive - being a hero taught him those are words that can’t be taken for granted -, or maybe it’s the way his fingers curl around the hem of his shirt to anchor him in a ball of safety.

Shouto almost doesn’t want to let the boy down, almost ponders holding him in his arms for the rest of the night - or morning, if the clock ticking away on the wall is anything to go by. When Tokiya stirs lightly in his arms, though, Shouto realizes he might not be the most comfortable mattress and gently eases him under the covers, tucking them right under his chin.

Even with the task accomplished, Shouto lingers a moment longer, kneeled in front of his bed, letting it all sink in. Tokiya is his son , and if he tries hard enough, Shouto can see the resemblance in the dimples poking at his cheeks or the more obvious white bang that spills over his forehead. He can see it in the uncanny love for soba and the decor of his room, in the uneven handwriting that is in no way Momo’s, and wonders just how much more he’ll discover if Tokiya will allow him to stay.

“Shouto?”

It’s barely a thread of voice, yet Shouto whips his head around and finds the boy fighting sleep with stubborn blinks and attempting to sit up. “Does something hurt?” he asks in a frenzy, his hand instinctively going for Tokiya’s forehead.

“No, it’s… it’s not that.” Shouto’s hand falls back to his side as Tokiya begins to fiddle with his white bang. It’s a gesture that mirrors Momo’s anxious habit of tucking her hair behind her ear, even now that it’s been cut short, and Shouto patiently awaits the words to crawl out.

When they don’t, he offers Tokiya a beginning to chain his thoughts to. “Your Mom said you were overusing your quirk.”

His tone is neutral, but it startles Tokiya all the same. “I thought that maybe… if I was strong enough…” His eyes meet Shouto’s with an uncertainty the man knows all too well. “That maybe Mom wouldn’t have those cuts on her arms and you wouldn’t have been hurt. That maybe if I was stronger you wouldn’t…” his hand falls limply into his lap and his eyes follow suit. “You wouldn’t have had to protect me.”

It’s like deja-vu, Shouto thinks. He hasn’t voted for Tokiya, but that doesn’t make his feelings any less genuine when he ruffles his son’s hair, and asks, “Tokiya, do you know what’s the most important thing a hero needs to have?”

“Bravery?” It comes out as a crooked, somewhat surprised question.

“It’s the desire to protect,” Shouto counters, running his fingers through soft black locks. “That day, I jumped in because you were there. I was able to fight because I wanted to protect you. The one giving me strength was you , Tokiya.” Shouto’s fingers skim over his cheek, tipping the boy’s chin up so he can see those obsidian pools glistening with unshed tears. “You may not have seen it in the midst of the fight, but in those moments, when I was overwhelmed and overpowered, it was your shouts that kept me going.”

Tokiya’s lower lip trembles ever so slightly and his cheeks are dusted with pink, but before the tears can overflow, Shouto opens his arms in invitation and Tokiya leaps at the chance, sinking in his embrace. “You have the power to inspire people, and that’s the making of a great hero in you, Tokiya,” he whispers as he strokes his hair into place.

And maybe it’s stupid and cliched, but in that moment, with Tokiya nodding against his chest and his tears pooling into Shouto’s shirt, he feels like a piece of a tetris puzzle has shifted in its rightful place. Stroking his back, Shouto adds, “You’re my hero, Tokiya. Never forget that.”

Just like Momo said, crying exhausts Tokiya. Before long, the boy’s chest begins softly rising and falling in his father’s arms, and Shouto gently tucks the covers over his sleeping form again and loses track of time as he engraves the image of a sleeping Tokiya into his mind, filling the gaps of the time he has lost.

Walking out of Tokiya’s room at the break of dawn leads Shouto to discover a reading Momo perched on the couch in the living room, nestled next to the lamp and curled around a fluffy blanket, a bottle of water forgotten at to the foot of the armchair. Shouto shuffles closer, knowing that she won’t be startled from her trance-like state, yet moving slowly anyway to preserve the quiet peace of the morning.

The sensation of the couch dipping under her when Shouto sits down is what makes Momo look up from the printed pages and a smile blooms around the corners of her lips, reminding Shouto of just how crazy beautiful she is. Even in the dead of the night, her hair seems to be messy in an elegant way, a strand of midnight hair falling over her face to frame her high cheekbones and contrast her porcelain skin. The way she self-consciously tucks it behind her ear and the way she scoots over to make more place for Shouto also reminds him of how screwed he is, because love is an understatement for just how much he treasures every mundane movement she does.

“Did you two talk?” she mutters, drawing his eyes to hers.

“We did,” Shouto nods. “He’s… he’s amazing, Momo.”

Her lips peel into a proud smile at that, a childish beam that reflects her happiness. “Isn’t he? When he was three, he decided he was going to learn how to read so he could grade papers in my stead to allow me to play with him more. He was so disappointed to learn that reading wasn’t the only requirement to be a teacher,” she giggles, the sound so clear and so compelling that it makes Shouto chuckle a little.

“Tell me more,” he says. What he means, however, is, Let me relive those moments. Teach me how to make a time machine and let me start again. Tell me what I’ve missed and what I can still be here for.

And so she does, until the sky starts bleeding purple, which gradually melts into blue, and the early rays mingle with the light of the lamp that sheds a yellow halo over the forgotten book. Shouto has a hard time ripping his gaze away from the way her lips curve with every word that leaves her mouth in melodious intonations, and he mentally slaps himself because falling for Momo all over again is perhaps the most dangerous thing.

It’s not like he can stop himself from being drawn in by her voice and healing smile, though, and it’s not like he minds it all too much.

***

Hiroshi Yaoyorozu is very strict about the way he starts his day. That is, he gets up at 7am, spends 15 minutes in the bathroom, then wraps a blue robe around his satin nightwear and trots down the imposing staircase linking their bedrooms to the living area. At 7:20, the newspaper is picked up from the mailbox and delivered on the kitchen table, alongside a cup of strong coffee and his reading glasses.

This morning doesn’t display any signs of being any different. The scent of coffee greets him as soon as he opens the door to the dining area, and he’s halfway through reading the front page of the daily edition when something unusual happens: the door rings.

It’s not like the Yaoyorozu’s don’t have guests. Quite on the contrary, they often play the role of hosts, welcoming business partners and friends alike. They are not ones for unplanned visits, however - all the more so when they happen at the break of dawn and with no beforehand preparation.

As such, Hiroshi decides to deal with this surprise guest himself and makes for the door with equal parts bewilderment and curiosity. Little did he expect opening the door to find a head of carefully split in the middle red and white bowing low, and even less could he have predicted that the young man’s first words would be complete and utter silence.

Hiroshi scratches the back of his neck as a smile tugs at the corners of his lips. He doesn’t let it break through his voice when he says, “To what do we owe the pleasure?”

“No words can convey how sorry I am, and I’m not here to make excuses for myself. I’m here to make things right,” the man says, and Hiroshi gives in to the smile that stretches his lips.

“Stand up, son.” His right hand rests on Shouto’s shoulder as he slowly, unsurely lifts his head to meet Hiroshi’s expression. “Come on in. It seems like we have quite a bit to talk about.”

***

“So you told Shouto,” Rei says, stealing a glance at Momo’s clasped hands before taking another sip of her green tea. “How did he react?”

“I think he was… sad.” Rei can’t bring herself to tell Momo that her eyes look just as sad as Shouto’s must have as she continues, “I think I robbed him of something he wanted to be a part of, Rei-san. Although at the time I was certain - no, I thought I was doing the right thing.”

Rei hums. “But there’s more to it, isn’t there?”

Momo hesitates for a moment before saying, “He didn’t… run away. He said he wants to be here for Tokiya. For me,” she adds in a softer voice. “Why won’t he run away, Rei-san? Isn’t he scared?”

Another hum as her lips crook just barely and Rei says, “I think you’re the one who’s scared, Momo-chan.”

The words reverberate in the silence that follows, until Momo cuts through it with a giggle she unsuccessfully attempts to stifle with a hand. “Touche,” she manages, wiping at the corners of her eyes. “I’m scared out of my skin.”

“Then maybe you need to take a leap of faith and see where that takes you,” Rei muses. After all, she took one herself.

***

“So, I suppose Momo told you,” Hiroshi says as he pours another cup of coffee for Shouto and places it with a clink in front of the man - he still looks like a boy in the Yaoyorozu’s eyes, though. Shouto only nods. “What do you think of Tokiya?” Hiroshi asks as he sits back in his chair, newspaper forgotten and glasses neatly folded over the front page title.

“He’s incredible,” Shouto says without missing a beat. “I wish I had been there to watch him become who he is today,” he adds in a more quiet voice, but not with less sincerity.

Hiroshi runs his finger over the rim of the cup. “I won’t lie to you, Shouto. I certainly wish you had been there, too. I wish Momo hadn’t been alone. But ,” he stresses, raising his eyes and pinning Shouto with an intense look, “it was her decision.”

“I thought I couldn’t be the one to give her a happy family”, Shouto then says, “so I ran away when the chance presented itself. There’s no excuse for that. Momo shouldn’t have needed to make that decision. I was a coward.”

“So was she,” Hiroshi calmly counters, watching Shouto startle. It’s not his place to tell him of his daughter’s feelings, so Hiroshi only adds, “She didn’t think she was good enough, so she stepped down.”

“She was never not good enough ,” Shouto frankly says, and Hiroshi is reminded just how unabashedly direct and aimlessly honest the boy is. The fire that burns behind his eyes warms Hiroshi, and he thinks that his daughter did indeed find someone who cherishes her properly. It’s all a father could ask for, really.

“That’s something you’ll have to tell her yourself.” You’re the one she wants to hear it from, is left unsaid, but not unmeant.

Shouto looks like he wants to say more - like he wants to ask something - when a barely controlled voice pierces through the coffee scented air of the dining area.

“What’s going on here?”

Ichika Yaoyorozu, usually kind and hospitable, has schooled her features into a collection of sharp lines and unforgiving angles, and her chocolate eyes are pinning Shouto with a pain that has been molded into ruthlessness by the years. Shouto, for his part, doesn’t let the fire in his mismatched eyes die out as he stands up and bows low, even lower than he bowed before Hiroshi.

“I thought you didn’t know when you were coming back,” Ichika says coldly, passing by him to pour herself a cup of coffee as if he wasn’t more than furniture. Having been married to her for over thirty years and having been her friend for even longer, Hiroshi knows her feigned ignorance only masks hurt.

Shouto, however, doesn’t.

“Yaoyorozu-san, I am not going to pretend like the past seven years haven’t happened at all.”

“Then why are you here at all?” Ichika says, finally turning around to meet Shouto’s determined look as he stands up. “Why do expect us to accept your presence once again - how can we know you won’t leave an even bigger hole - how-” Ichika Yaoyorozu is strong, but she’s also kind to a fault, and her words break like glass. “We cared about you, Todoroki-san, yet all you left was a meager letter.”

Shouto flinches at how powerless and crumpled her words sound. “I’m here because I don’t plan on leaving ever again.” Shouto Todoroki is perhaps the only man Hiroshi knows that can make words sound like a promise set in stone. “Momo gave me a second chance, and I’m not going to waste this one.”

Ichika is left wordless, if only for a moment. “Do you love her?” Hiroshi then asks.

“Both her and Tokiya, more than anything,” Shouto answers without skipping a beat.

It elicits a healthy roar of laughter out of Hiroshi, making both Ichika and Shouto eye him weirdly and easing the tension that was so dense it could have been cut with a knife. “Excuse my rude manners, you just sounded so sincere and unembarrassed.”

“I was sincere,” Shouto says befuddled, reminding Hiroshi of some soap opera main character declaring his adoration for his star-crossed lover and waking up another chuckle in the older man’s throat. It dies down when his wife talks again, her voice only a quiver.

“Then why did you leave?”

“Because I was scared,” Shouto says with that painful honesty of his. “You have given Momo a happy family to grow up in - a place to call home, and a pocket of safety to always return to when everything else went west. I didn’t-” he gulps, like the words are racing the get out but none of them can’t quite convey what he needs them to, so he pushes them back and sorts through them. “I never had that, so I didn’t know how to built one. Didn’t know if I could build one. When I left, I thought I was giving Momo a chance to be happier and-”

“Why just a letter? We cared about you, Shouto!” Ichika almost sobs. “We are your family , too!”

The man smiles sadly, “Because I cared about you , too. I couldn’t stand the thought of making both you and Momo wear that same face, Ichika-san. It was awfully selfish of me-”

“Yes it was!” the woman says, tears now fogging those chocolate eyes. “You didn’t give us a chance to stop you-”

“If you would have begged me to stay, I would’ve. I think that’s why I was so grateful that Momo didn’t, and couldn’t risk telling you personally for fear you would.” His nose crinkles as he adds, “But my absence might have been even worse than my presence-”

“Of course it was! For heaven’s sake, Shouto, we never thought you’d make Momo unhappy,” Hiroshi shakes his head as if he’s scolding a child. “ She chose you , and we trust our little girl. Don’t you ?”

“With my life,” Shouto replies with his characteristic sincerity, and Ichika finally breaks into a smile as she wraps the boy in her arms and crushes him in an embrace that seems to want to make up for seven years of lacking warmth. Hiroshi loops his biggers arms around the two of them, giving Shouto a reassuring smile.

“Never leave with just a letter again,” the Yaoyorozu woman says as her tears overflow and trace her cheeks with infinite patience. Shouto hums as he seems to be focusing on not letting himself be overwhelmed.

His self-control reaches its limit when Ichika adds, “We missed you. Welcome home!” and he buries his head in the crook of her neck, attempting to hide the one tear that escapes anyway.

***

Dear Momo,

I still wonder what would have happened if I would have stayed. I’m a fool for it, I know, but sometimes I think that maybe, just maybe, I could have learnt how to make you happy. Sometimes, Mom’s words ring through my mind, and I think that maybe, I would not have turned into my Father.

I’ve managed to not think about this for a few days now, which is a new record in my books. Today, however, I rescued a little kid, and I was reminded of just how inapt I am when dealing with children - he was hanging onto my jacket as if it was his lifeline, yet I could only muster All Might’s trademark line, “It’s fine, because I am here.” Even so, his parents thanked me so profusely that it hit me just how much their life depended on the life of their son, and I wondered if every parent feels that.

If I would have faced my fears and stayed with you, if we would have started a family, would that have been us?

You probably don’t remember - it was so long ago, and it wasn’t a life-changing moment or anything - but one time, when we went shopping, two children bumped into us. As their father apologized to us, he said “we’ll understand when we have our own”. It’s been haunting me ever since, the thought of becoming a father that won’t understand, a heartless bastard that will only make you miserable.

You trusted me so much, Momo, and I only let you down. I don’t have the right to imagine what could have been, much less to even hope that it could be, but this email will never be sent, so perhaps I can indulge myself just this one time. Just this one time, let me imagine a future in which we move in a house in the suburbs, with a swing and a big garden, and we grow old together. Just this one time, let me imagine what our kids would look like and how we’d play with them.

Just this once, let me tell you that I love you, Momo, and that I miss you.

Love,
Shouto

Chapter Text

Settle down, it'll all be clear
Don't pay no mind to the demons
They fill you with fear
The trouble it might drag you down
If you get lost, you can always be found
Just know you’re not alone
'Cause I’m going to make this place your home
(Home - Phillip Phillips)


“Good job, kiddo!” Camie says with a bright smile, ruffling Tokiya’s hair lovingly. The boy blushes in delight at the praise, his feet dangling over the side of the sofa - reminiscent of the way her and Bakugou’s pomeranian wags his tail happily when they arrive home. When he smiles at her like that, teeth poking at his lower lip and eyes lit up with childish wonder, Camie can’t help but think that she’d love having a kid like Tokiya.

It’s a subject that her and Bakugou don’t bring up too often. They’ve been so focused on their careers that they haven’t truly had the time to think about settling down or starting a family. Besides, it’s probably not their style - they’re spontaneous and unpredictable and sorta reckless, and that’s part of why Camie loves Bakugou.

But she’s also an aunt to this starry eyed angel, and that makes her ponder how it would feel to be a mother .

The doorbell rings and she shoots up, startled, cutting the thought from its roots before she can truly water it with words that would concretize the idea into something scarily palpable. “I’ve got this,” she calls towards the kitchen, earning a “Thanks” from Momo and a grunt of approval from Bakugou.

What she doesn’t expect is to swing the door open to reveal a now-not-bruised Todoroki who blinks in surprise upon seeing Camie. Her voice weavers as she searches for the right words - an apology is in order for Bakugou punching him, she supposes. Or perhaps she should punch him herself?

“Hello,” Todoroki awkwardly manages.

“Yo, Todofam!” Camie snaps out of her thoughts, bringing two fingers to her forehead in salute.

Upon hearing the familiar voice, Tokiya rushes past her and then abruptly stops a step away from Todoroki, shifting his weight from one foot to another, as if he’s not entirely sure what to do, his hands twitching by his side. To Camie’s surprise, Todoroki is not as dense as she remembers: he crouches to Tokiya’s eye level, opening his arms to allow the boy to nestle into his chest.

The smile that blooms onto Tokiya’s face is so genuine and filled with a happiness so raw that Camie scratches the thought of punching Todoroki. Instead, when he releases Tokiya with a last squeeze that packs just ow much the boy means to him, Camie tackles the man down, wrapping her arms around his tensed form. She feels him scrambling to regain his footing, his arms floating around her body, as if he’s afraid she’d vaporize if he hugged her back, and suppresses a giggle.

Instead, she decides to conceal some strategic advice under the mask of affection. “There’s incoming danger, Todoroki,” she whispers in a warning tone

Camie releases him only to be met by a confused face and chuckles. It’s only when Todoroki hears Bakugou’s footsteps that his face colours in understanding. Camie slyly taps his forearm, “He won’t punch you with Momo-chan here.”

“Oh for fuck’s sake,” Bakugou greets as his eyes fall upon the visitor. “Oi Ponytail,” he immediately calls towards the kitchen, not once taking his eyes away from Todoroki’s, “you have an intruder. Can I beat him up?”

“It’s not an intruder, it’s Shouto!” Tokiya cries, taking Todoroki’s hand in his reassuringly.

“Bakugou-kun, we have discussed your language and display of violence before Tokiya’s eyes already,” Momo sighs as she exits the kitchen herself, folding the cooking apron she was wearing just a minute before. “Besides, Shouto is welcomed to visit whenever he wants.” As she talks, a small smile etches herself on her features and she nods her greetings.

“See Bakuboo, you were being rude,” Camie playfully chides him, pinching his baby cheek - Bakugou claims to hate it, but the baby fat rounding his cheeks is the cutest thing Camie has ever seen. His protests are weak, and she revels in the small chuckle that escapes Momo at their antics.

“Iida was right. You really did get tamed, Bakugou,” Todoroki honestly states. If she didn’t know any better, Camie would say he’s blissfully innocent - except she is fully aware of the pleasure both him and her boyfriend find in provoking each other.

“The fuck did you say, Icy Hot?!”

“Language,” Momo and Camie simultaneously say.

“Uncle Bakugou, do you not like Shouto?” Tokiya questions, putting a stop to the heated staring contest going on between Bakugou and Todoroki, the former’s attention now focused on the kid holding his father’s hand. Camie feels the blond relax as he brings a hand to the back of his neck and his shoulders slump.

“No, I don’t,” he bluntly responds. “He’s always acting like a smartass when he’s actually a coward. The only reason I tolerate him is cause he can actually be useful in a real fight, but I’d rather not see his mug more than I have to,” Bakugou sighs, now looking at Todoroki. “And I still want to punch you.”

“I deserved that one,” Todoroki calmly replies, not averting his gaze from Bakugou’s determined look. “But I won’t give you a reason to punch me again.”

Camie can feel the tension in the air, thick enough for a knife to slice through it, so she claps her hands to dispel the heavy atmosphere. “Touching reunion yall, but I’m, like, starving .” There’s no room for arguing as her fingers clasp around Bakugou’s wrist and she drags him towards the kitchen, humming happily.

“You’ll join us for dinner, won’t you?” Camie hears Momo ask Todoroki.

Bakugou tenses up again, a growled “No” ripping from his throat. Camie spins on her heels and gives him a pointed look. “He’s doing his best, Katsuki, so you should behave, too.” The use of his first name catches the usually explosive man off guard. “For me?”

He rolls his eyes, but Camie can see the tinge of pink that colours his ears and smiles at how cute Bakugou can truly be. “You won’t get off my case, will you?”

“Nope,” she idly answers, popping the p .

“So annoying,” he groans, his fingers lacing through hers as he lets himself be dragged into the kitchen without any further resistance.

***

“I had a suggestion.”

Bakugou remembers the last time he heard those words from Icy Hot’s mouth and decides to cut him short. “We are not going to the aquarium again, cause the last time we went there, you spent three fuc- freaking hours watching some fuck- freaking penguins.”

Todoroki has the audacity to give him that befuddled look of his which pisses Bakugou off so much. “I wasn’t going to suggest the aquarium. Also, I wasn’t inviting you.”

“You what , you bast-”

“What did you have in mind, Shouto?” Ponytail peacefully asks, shooting Bakugou a sideways glance that warns him to refrain from using curse words. He gulps his insult with another bite of his absolutely fucking delicious mushrooms, throwing daggers in Todoroki’s direction.

“Disneyland,” the bastard says, whipping out three tickets to prove his point.

And then, as if his words are fucking magic , all the other weaklings at the table get starry-eyed and start swooning .

“You-you actually got tickets ,” Ponytail says, her hands balled in fists raised to her face in excitement as she leans in closer, inspecting the piece of paper like it’s a fastpass to heaven or something. “Shouto, I can’t believe this, this is perfect-

“We’re going to Disneyland?” Tokiya says, his face perfectly mirroring Yaoyorozu’s, down to the excited blush taking over his cheeks and the way he lifts himself from his chair just slightly. “I want to ride It’s a Small World! And the teacups! And there will be mascots, can we please take pictures with them? Oh and if we stay until the closing time we can see the castle lighting up! I only saw it in videos but I heard it’s amazing can we-”

“Bakuboo!”  As if dealing with the Yaoyorozus wasn’t enough, Camie is now invading his personal space and jutting her lower lip out in that pout she knows he’s fucking powerless against. “We have to go, too!”

“What?”

Her eyes sparkle with childlike wonder. “I’ve never been to Disneyland before!”

“But you don’t even like animation movies that much,” he argues, attempting to push her away but only managing to make her latch onto his arm like a koala.

“But I love amusement parks,” she stresses. He doesn’t give in, holding her gaze seriously - crowded places are a pain in the ass, with all the people recognizing and rubbing elbows with them. Bakugou would much rather spend time in their apartment, really, but Camie won’t go down without a fight. Sure enough, she puts on her puppy dog eyes and pleads, “Pretty please , Katsuki?” He really hates it when she purrs his name like that, making his heart do unhealthy somersaults. “We haven’t been on a date in forever .”

That’s the first valid argument she brings up tonight. Closing his eyes with a sigh, Bakugou already knows he’s lost the moment her face lit up like a Christmas tree at the idea. Camie thrives in places bustling with people, and seeing her smiling face is worth the discomfort of it all. Opening his eyelids to fix her with a stern gaze, Bakugou says, “We aren’t going with the Icy Hot bastard.”

Camie positively beams, and Bakugou wonders if he’s always been this weak to other people’s happy expressions or if it’s just her. “It’s a date, then! This is going to be Instagram worthy fam, I tell you!” she hums as she happily sinks back into her chair and fishes for her phone.

On the other side of the table, Tokiya and Yaoyorozu seem equally excited about their trip. Despite himself, Bakugou thinks that for the first time ever, Todoroki might be good for them.

***

“Backpack?”

“Check!” Tokiya answers, trepidation evident in his voice as he laces his shoes.

“Cap and blazer?” Momo asks as she picks up her own purse, rummaging through the snacks and medicine to make sure she didn’t forget anything essential.

“Check and check,” Tokiya says, waiting for his mother to put on her sunglasses and hat.

“Smile?” Momo pokes Tokiya’s cheek, eliciting a small giggle out of her son. “Then we’re good to go!” she declares, opening the door. Tokiya runs out past her and jumps in place as he waits for her to lock and check the door, hopping down the stairs ahead of his Mom.

Momo watches his endearing enthusiasm with a small smile. It’s truly a sight to behold, the way he takes off down the stairs but stops at the end of every flight, turning back and bouncing on his heels as he waits for her to join him. As they exit the building, Tokiya pushes the heavy metal door himself, heaving at the effort but giving Momo a proud beam when he succeeds.

The sun has barely risen, so they’re met by a chilly breeze that mussels Tokiya’s hair and blows away Momo’s straw hat. She makes to run for it, but someone else catches it for her, and her eyes track muscular arms and a trademark unbuttoned shirt atop a blue slim fit to meet mismatched eyes.

“Shouto!” Tokiya yelps in delight.

“What are you doing here?” Momo asks, slightly amused by the small bow he gives her as he offers her hat back as if it’s a precious object to be handled with care. She curls her hands around the knitted straws but doesn’t avert her gaze from his mesmerizing eyes, waiting for an explanation.

“I figured you might need a ride,” he says around a smirk, straightening himself. It’s now that Momo notices the dark blue car parked in the driveway and feels her heart flutter. A memory she’d long since forgotten resurfaces - that of Shouto offering her a ride after he got his driving licence and her laughing that he’s reckless enough to land them both in the hospital. In the end, he brought her to the beach just as the sun was sinking into the sea and she created a blanket for them to nestle into as they watched the stars flicker to light one after the other, as if controlled by a cosmic switch.

Heat takes over her face at the memory, giving away the affection she still holds for the past. Swiftly covering her blush with the hat, Momo watches as Tokiya excitedly runs towards the car to inspect it, comparing it tirelessly to Kaminari and Bakugou’s vehicles.

“It’s not exactly a carriage, but I think it’ll do for Disneyland,” Shouto says, closer than she remembers him being. He makes another half-bow, this time his hand outstretched as if he is courting her - Momo must be delusional, for there is no other explanation for how intimate this all seems to her. She feels bold enough to accept, gingerly placing her hand in his and letting him lead her to the car, opening the door of the passenger seat for her.

“Too bad you can’t pull back the chair, My Lord,” she teases him and is blessed with one of his rare chuckles.

“I’ll do better to think of it in the future,” he answers in kind, helping Tokiya in the back seat. Momo is just about to remind him of the boy’s seatbelt when she notices Shouto fastening it in the mirror and bites down on a smile.

Once Shouto is back in the driver’s seat, he turns the keys in the engine and brings the radio to life. To both Momo and Tokiya’s surprise, the familiar tune of Part of Your World floats through the car, and Tokiya immediately stars singing along.

Momo steals a glance at Shouto, whose eyes are trained on the road. The curve of his lips doesn’t betray him, but the crinkles around his clear blue eye do - he always talked with his eyes - and Momo can’t help but smile as she frees her voice to join Ariel.

When the last notes of the melody die down, Tokiya exclaimes, “This is going to be the best day ever!” The excitement laced in his words is evident, his sparkly aura already reverberating in the small car. Momo turns around in her seat to reciprocate his smile, so wide that it seems to overtake her entire being.

Unbeknownst to mother and son, Shouto is smiling as well, a warmth long since forgotten spreading through his chest like a pool of ink simmering with stories yet to be told.

***

“We’ve… passed through here before,” Shouto dully notes, looking at the map he and Tokiya are holding as if it’s the most complicated crossword in the world. Then again, Shouto has never been good with words, which could plausibly extrapolate to his abismal interpretation of a map, Momo ponders.

What Momo didn’t expect was that their son would inherit Shouto’s disastrous space-orientation, clear in the way he squints at the map and says, “Maybe we’re holding this upside down?”

In reality, they are holding the map 90 degrees to the West. How the colourful attraction names marked on the piece of paper haven’t clued them in on their mistake yet, Momo can’t quite tell. She decides to keep it for herself and fishes out her phone to snap a quick picture of their focused faces while they attempt to elucidate the mystery of the cursed map, as Shouto has dubbed it - Tokiya nodded energetically in approval and frowned at the paper even further.

Their little detour - and by that, Momo means an entire loop through Toontown - has at least allowed her to stop by every food stall, scouting the best sweets to share with the two later. She has also caved in to her desire to buy matching mouse ears for Shouto and Tokiya and is now waiting for the perfect time to slide them on their heads.

For now, though, she decides to be a kind soul and save them from the misery painted all over their faces. Peeking between their hunched forms, she points to a spot situated in front of Donald’s Boat. “We’re here,” she says, pointing to the building behind them to prove her point. “Chip ‘n Dale’s treehouse is over there,” Momo repositions the map and her finger tracks the paper as she talks, eventually rising from it to point to her right. “So that’s the road we’ll take.”

Shouto and Tokiya stare at the map again and then at her, eyes filled with admiration. “That’s amazing, Mom!” It’s really not, but Momo feels bad about being the one to tell them that, so she just ushers them ahead, using this chance to sneak the mouse ears on their heads. As expected, they look absolutely adorable.

“What’s this?” Shouto’s hand moves up to touch the fluffy black ears and he eyes Momo wearily. “Is this what I think it is?” Then, exchanging a glance with Tokiya, he nods and the child takes out matching pink ears and signals for his Mom to bow and take off her hat so he can properly adjust them.

“When did you even buy these?” Momo asks, caught off guard when Shouto snaps a picture of her. “Violation of privacy!” she cries, as if she hasn’t just done the same.

“I prefer calling it my new background picture,” he says slyly, showing Momo the photo depicting a blushing version of her, smiling happily at her son. Turning the camera back on, he shifts the device to Tokiya, who flashes a smile and a peace sign like Camie has taught him.

“We got them while you were talking to the vendor from that donut shop,” Tokiya answers her earlier question. “Do you like them? They’re like Minnie’s!”

“I love them,” Momo says, squeezing Tokiya’s hand. “Thank you! They’re a perfect disguise,” she conspiratorially whispers, making Tokiya giggle.

As if to prove her wrong, Momo hears her name being called and turns around only to come face to face with a grinning Kaminari dragging his very much amused wife behind. He immediately bends down to hug his favourite nephew, crushing Tokiya in a warm embrace. “What a surprise, Kaminari-san, Kyouka!” She looks over at her best friend and tilts her head curiously, “And unexpected, frankly. You didn’t tell me you had plans this weekend.”

I didn’t,” Kyouka stresses, jabbing a finger in Kaminari’s side. “My idiot husband did.”

“You act as if you haven’t just been laughing on the Jungle Cruise!” Kaminari mocks being shot through the heart at Kyouka’s words.

“That’s cause you were yelling like a lunatic,” she says, chortling at the memory. “I can’t believe you were scared like that by a tree . A tree , Denki!” Kyouka seems to be choking on her own laughter as Kaminari protests that the tree in question was scary .

“But why are you actually here?” Shouto asks, making his presence felt and pushing Kaminari to launch into a long speech about how much he has missed his friend. “You saw me two days ago,” Shouto points out skeptically.

“That’s two days too long!” Kaminari cries.

“He won the tickets,” Kyouka says unphased, answering Shouto’s previous question. “Denki made this bet with Sero and Kirishima that he could win a supermarket lottery and apparently, he really did.”

“My latent talent has finally bloomed!” Kaminari proudly declares.

“It was pure luck,” Kyouka waves her hand dismissively, dispelling her husband’s claims.

“So, where are you headed now?” Momo asks.

“The biggest rollercoaster around, I guess.”

“No!” Kaminari sharply cuts Kyouka off, and she turns around wide-eyed. “You can’t ride a rollercoaster when you’re pregnant , Kyouka! Think about out baby girl-”

“You don’t know it’s a girl. And the doctor said I can continue my hero activities throughout the first trimester, so why would rollercoasters be off limits?!” she crosses her arms, facing Kaminari with a stubborn expression Momo knows all too well. Exchanging a look with Shouto, they both nod, knowing they have to put a stop to this soon.

“I’m not letting you put yourself in danger, Kyouka! You know I’d rather you didn’t do hero work either-”

“And what, waste away at home like a housewife? I’m a hero, Denki-”

“You’re also a mother now-”

“I don’t like rollercoasters,” Tokiya shily interjects, pressing his back into Momo’s legs as he feels all the attention shift onto him. “They’re big and scary, so could we perhaps go to Peter Pan’s Flight instead?”

“I don’t like rollercoasters either,” Shouto states, attracting Tokiya’s attention and offering him a small smile. “So I think Fantasyland sounds good.”

“It’s decided then!” Momo claps her hands in delight, dispelling the tension that has built up over the past few minutes.

Kyouka’s brow relaxes and she nods. “Yeah, that’s a fine idea, Tokiya. Let’s go!” Despite her even voice, she doesn’t spare Kaminari a second glance, and Momo can tell she’s still mad.

***

It’s a quiet day.

It actually is, despite Kyouka’s sharp tongue and Shouto’s smart replies, until the earth shakes and Momo spots an unsettling presence in front of one of the shops. The nearby cries of the vendors clues her in on the situation - a textbook theft. Analysing her surroundings, she spots a high pole sticking out from one of the merry-go-rounds in Fantasyland and formulates a quick plan. Locking eyes with Shouto, she says, “Leave this to me. Take care of Tokiya!”

And with that, she jumps in.

White, strong ropes, the likes of those her teacher always used in combat, roll out of her arm, and Momo uses them as a lasso, aiming at the pole she noticed earlier. Using the momentum to change her trajectory, she charges towards the man that caused the commotion, knocking him to the ground before he has the chance to even think of using his quirk again. As soon as her body hits his, though, she realizes she used too much force and is going to crash in the other civilians, so she braces for the impact-

That never comes.

Instead, she finds herself gliding down an ice slide and whips her head around to see the thief trapped by strong chains of ice. “That was reckless,” the ice user tells her, extending a helpful hand. Momo gratefully takes it, standing up and dusting herself.

“I’m really rusty,” she sighs, giving Shouto a crooked smile.

“I’m always open for practice,” he offers as they walk towards the man who caused the commotion and Momo starts creating quirk-nullifying shackles. “Kyouka took Tokiya and Kaminari called the police, so this should be all,” Shouto says as he snaps Momo’s creation around the man’s wrists.

Except it’s not, because they’re suddenly flocked by bystanders and realize at the same time that they blew their cover. Exchanging a glance, they also realize this is going to be a long day.

Their salvation comes in the form of Kaminari, approaching them with a very much excited Tokiya holding his hand. “That was amazing, Mom!” the boy says, running up to her and crashing into her arms. “It was like you were flying! And Shouto used his ice so neatly, too!”

The crowd takes a step back as Shouto crouches to ruffle the boy’s hair, and then thins out even further to allow Kaminari and Kyouka to take hold of the thief. “This was supposed to be a day off,” Kyouka sighs, rolling her shoulders back. “I demand a refund on my lost practice time, Pikachu.”

“How is this my fault?” Kaminari huffs, pretending to ignore the smile curling around his wife’s lips as they slip into playful banter. All around them, Momo can hear mutters about the JackBolt couple, as they are known to the wider public, and supposes the attention shifted off them the moment Kaminari took the thief off their hands.

She meets Shouto’s eyes and knows this is their cue to escape.

***

Shouto adjusts the Goofy cap Tokiya chose on his head and bites back a chuckle. It’s been so long since either him or Momo had to put on childish disguises in order to enjoy a peaceful day out that he’s forgotten how embarrassing it is - and also how little he cares, because Momo laughs at the stubborn white and red hair that sticks out from underneath his cap.

“We need sunglasses,” Momo says matter-of-factly, pretending to ignore the excited smile curling her lips.

“Mom’s really enjoying this”, Tokiya notes as she hums her way into the accessories corner of the shop. “Do heroes always have to wear disguises like this?”

“Sometimes,” Shouto sighs. “You know, Tokiya, being a hero can be plenty tiring.”

“But it’s also cool!” his eyes shine as he faces Shouto with unfiltered honesty. Then, as if realizing something all of a sudden, he waves his hands in front of him. “Ah, I didn’t mean it as a joke regarding your quirk! I really thought you and Mom were amazing out there! If only I could control my ice like that,” he trails off, looking down at his hand with a yearning so intense Shouto can only compare it to Midoriya’s desire to improve.

Suddenly squeezing his hands into a fist, Tokiya looks up and says, “Could you teach me?”

Right at the same moment, Momo returns with three pairs of Zootopia sunglasses, her own rabbit shaped ones already resting on the bridge of her nose. “We have to get these!” she informs them, voice thinned out by excitement.

Still processing Tokiya’s words, Shouto doesn’t protest as Momo pushes fox-shaped sunglasses on his nose, trailing behind her and Tokiya as they head for the counter.

***

It’s way past midnight when Shouto unbuckles the belt protecting Tokiya’s sleeping form and cradles the boy in his arms. The child’s head lolls onto his shoulder, white hair splaying haphazardly on the soft material of Shouto’s shirt and mixing with black tendrils as the man attempts to walk slowly as to not wake up his son.

His son. It still feels so new , so warm , and Shouto is still not quite sure he deserves to feel such happiness as he did today, but he’s determined not to let this chance run through his fingers. He’ll sink his teeth into it, if need may be, and never let go.

“He must be exhausted,” Momo softly whispers, her words floating in the chilly night air. Shouto can still see a trail of the fireworks that lit up the sky over the castle sparkle in her eyes as she parts Tokiya’s hair. “It’s a good thing he doesn’t have school tomorrow.”

Shouto hums as he follows her up the stairs, afraid any word he might mutter would wake up the peacefully sleeping child. Momo speaks for him instead, “Thank you. For tonight. For everything.” He eyes her curiously, a quirked eyebrow the only question lingering between them. She shakes her head and mutters, “Nevermind.” Then, to keep herself busy - maybe to avoid his still puzzled look? - she rummages for the key in her purse and turns it in the lock.

Shouto steps inside after her and feels like he just came home .

***

“You could sleep here, if you want,” Momo finds herself saying as Shouto steps out of Tokiya’s room and closes the door behind him quietly. The words echo in her ears as soon as she frees them into reality and she realizes just how wrong they sound. “I mean, it’s pretty late for you to drive back and you must be exhausted-” she trails off, feeling her face burn.

“It’s alright,” Shouto responds. His lips twitch in a half-smile - if Momo’s face wasn’t red before, it surely is now. He steps closer to her, until he’s so close that Momo must tilt her head to meet his eyes and needs to remind herself to breathe. “I had fun,” he whispers, and Momo feels his breath wash over her. It smells like mint and cotton candy.

She searches for words, but only finds a myriad of ways to describe the mesmerizing colour of his eyes. Eventually, she breathes, “Me too,” and takes a step closer, her hand brushing against his, warm skin skimming ice cold nails. Her fingers instinctively curl around the place her golden ring usually resides, but find it empty - she can’t possibly wear it around him , after all.

Their hands brush again, but this time, it’s because Shouto leans in. His nose almost skims the skin of her cheek - at this proximity, Momo can feel the difference in temperature between his two sides. And she may be an idiot for thinking it, but Shouto’s hand cups her cheek like he’s asking for permission.

She nods.

His voice quivers as he breathes, “Momo, I-”

And then Shou-chan meowls and the moment is effectively destroyed, because the sound reminds Momo that they’re adults and have responsibilities now, that she’s a mother and can’t simply act like a teenager in love all over again and risk losing everything, that she doesn’t even know if Shouto really harbours feelings for her or is acting out of guilt.

So she takes a wobbly step back, and feels the instant cold that envelops her when Shouto retracts his hand.

“I should probably go,” he mutters. Momo can only nod again.

She leads him to the door in silence, watching as he puts on his shoes - he still slips his foot in first and adjusts the laces later - and his jacket - buttoning the last button first - and turns the doorknob. Before he leaves, though, he turns around one last time, presumably to bid her goodnight.

Except his lips press to her cheek instead, quickly but firmly, and his parting words are, “I also had my reasons.”

And with that he leaves.

Momo leans against the closed door for support, a hand touching her scorching cheek as she slides to the ground and buries her face in her palms. Shou-chan meowls again, jumping in her lap and nudging his nose against her thumbs, but Momo can’t bring herself to peel her hands away.

What was that supposed to mean?


It smells of night - that cold, fresh smell that fills your lungs in painful gasps and whips away at your face. The lamp posts shed yellowish circles of flickering light around the grey support poles, but Iida purposely avoids them. His head is ducked so his ears sink into the warmth of his scarf as he takes long strides towards Hatsume’s apartment-turned-lab.

“I’m going to make this work. I’m going to be a good father.” The determined fire burning in Todoroki’s eyes is remarkable, yet it makes Iida feel so cold that not even his knitted scarf can warm him up. He knows what’s rushing through his veins, can distinctly feel the nasty feeling that makes his insides twist, but decides not to name it. Names are powerful, and Iida doesn’t take chances.

He’s acting like a bratty kid fleeing to his mother’s side when things get rough, he knows. And yet, as he opens the unlocked door to Hatsume’s apartment - he’s long since learnt she won’t answer him even if he knocks -, he feels like he is the mother. How the woman can live in this complete and utter chaos is beyond Iida.

“You’re here!” she calls from behind an endless pile of empty cups of noodles that she’s currently arranging into an imposing castle. “Takeout should arrive any minute now!”

“Hatsume-kun,” Iida sighs, peeling his jacket off and contemplating where exactly to hang it. Discovering that the hangers have been transformed into a new robot of sorts, he opts for folding the coat over his arm - he knows better than to touch Hatsume’s work in progress. “Takeout isn’t healthy.”

“Healthier than instant noodles,” she points out nonchalantly, clapping in delight at the finished construction.

Stomping out another sigh, Iida decidedly states, “We’re going to clean.”

Hatsume deflates like a popped balloon. “Because that’s your coping mechanism?” she drawls out, crossing her arms.

“Because this place gives me a headache,” Iida counters calmly, beginning to sort through the stacks of clothes abandoned over the floor. “A clean environment is key to-”

“-a clean mind,” she quips, dropping her hands. “I know, I know. I’ll help you, but if you touch my babies-”

“-I’m done for,” Iida smiles - it’s been so long since he’s genuinely smiled that it feels a tad strained. “Duly noted.”

And so they clean.

Iida dodged Hatsume’s question earlier, but cleaning really does soothe him. It makes him feel like, if he can put every single thing in order, his thoughts and feelings will follow the pattern and sort themselves in clear-cut drawers that he’ll then push into a huge library and label accordingly. He knows Hatsume isn’t like that, but he appreciates her picking up the litter and empty packages.

They soon fall into casual chit-chat - what happened at work today, did Bakugou blow his gauntlets again (Hatsume can’t wait for the answer to be yes so she can get an excuse to work on a new model), did Kaminari buy more pink stuff for their yet unconfirmed daughter? And then, all of a sudden, Hatsume breaks the pleasant nothings with a pressing question.

“Do you believe in exorcism?”

“What?” Iida blanks, chopping the air with his hands. “I mean if you are referring to a quirk, I could do some research into it, however-”

“That bag is moving,” she simply states, pointing towards an empty bag of chips that is, indeed, sliding across the floor. “If it’s not a spirit, then it’s a cockroach, and that’s honestly even worse.”

Iida gulps - her words, of course, hold an undeniable truth. “Hatsume-kun, could one of your creations save us?” She bites her lower lip and shakes her head in slow motion, the frightening reality of the situation creeping up on them.

Iida is a hero - he can deal with this. Slowly, as to not scare his target, he takes a step closer, then another, and raises his foot. Hatsume whips out her phone. “Data gathering,” she mouths as she slides over to her camera to film the scene of the crime.

Except it never comes. The doorbell rings, their stomachs growl, and in her rush to get the door and eat something other than cup noodles, Hatsume steps on their target, delivering a deadly blow. The lack of data is forgiven upon sniffing the delicious scent of the chinese takeout, and Iida smiles, amused by her sudden change in demeanour.

Now that the place is clean - or at least acceptably tidy, by Iida’s standards - they sit on the tatami mats and hunch over the carton boxes of fried chicken, resuming the story of how Uraraka almost revealed her wedding dress to Midoriya. Hatsume’s laughter fills the place and Iida finds himself chuckling at her own experience with Midoriya, who wanted to arm his wedding tux - just in case someone decided to crash the wedding.

The pain in his chest is momentarily forgotten, a dull ache ringing in the back of his ribcage, and Iida thinks that maybe he should make himself a tape of Hatsume’s contagious laugh and energetic voice and play it on rainy days.


Dear Shouto,

Every year, I forget about Father’s Day. I’m probably just tricking myself, but I can’t trick Tokiya. His kindergarten reminds them every year, without fail, that they need to shower their fathers with love - and I can only imagine how alienated he must feel, how out of place he must be when he has no one to give his handmade card to.

He’s a child, and he’s brimming with curiosity, yet he only asked me once about his father. He wouldn’t ask me where you are, or why you left, or who you are. All he asked me was “Does Dad love me?” I said, “Yes” without skipping a beat.

How could you not?

Tokiya nodded and hugged me, and that was the end of it. I think I’m being unfair to him, just as I am to you - you have the right to know each other, and I’m keeping you apart. It tears me inside, Shouto, wondering what could have been, what a romantically optimist part of me still wants to be.

But everyday, it gets harder to even muster the courage of putting ink on paper. Words are powerful, and written words might just as well be stone. I’m feeding my own illusions by even entertaining the thought of one day dialing your number and telling you everything.

If one day, my number lit up your screen, would you answer?

I never throw them away. The cards, I always save them. What for, I can’t tell, but  they’re all stacked in the same drawer as this notebook that shall never see the light, crowded in the crook of a dusty book you forgot here when you left. Just like these letters, those cards will never reach you, but they exist, proof of love and timeless waiting. Because if you ever decide to come back, you’ll have a place to come home and a family to welcome you here.

We miss you Shouto. More than you can imagine.

Love,
Momo

Chapter Text

For all the air that’s in your lungs
For all the joy that is to come
For all the things that you’re alive to feel
Just let the pain remind you hearts can heal
(Paramore - Hate to See Your Heart Break)


 

“So let me get this straight,” Kyouka says, mustering every ounce of energy into keeping a straight face. “He almost kissed you.” Momo nods, watching as Kyouka’s grin grows despite her biting her lower lip to blood. “And then he settled for kissing your cheek while delivering a very mysterious, Todoroki-esque confession .”

“I wouldn’t call it-”

“And you wonder if he likes you?!” Kyouka ends with roaring laughter, ignoring Momo’s protests of “It wasn’t a confession!”. “I wish I was allowed to drink ‘cause you two are the best soap opera. Ah, this feels like high school all over again. Will Todoroki give me massages in exchange for information about your favourite cafes and bookstores again, I wonder?” Kyouka hums, a teasing smirk that Bakugou has accordingly dubbed “a shit eating grin” tugging at the corners of her lips.

“Kyouka!” Momo wails, hiding her scorching face in her hands. As if it wasn’t embarrassing enough having to recount the recent events, her best friend was now teasing her as if they were teenagers again. “It shouldn’t be like this,” she sighs, fiddling with the golden band on her left hand.

“It wouldn’t be like this if you womaned up and told him how you feel.”

“That’s precisely the problem,” Momo mutters, dropping her hands down to look at Kyouka. “I don’t know how I feel.”

If there is one thing that hasn’t changed through the years, it’s that Kyouka is still a certified drama queen. As such, she rolls her eyes and facepalms - for good measure -, then drops her head into her outstretched palms to make sure Momo gets just how deep in despair she has sunken. “Please tell me you haven’t reverted back to an oblivious doofus, because I live with one and I doubt my tolerance levels could take a second hit.”

Momo stifles a chuckle and mirrors Kyouka’s gesture. “Rest assured, I won’t shorten your lifespan. It’s just-” dropping the act, Momo stares into her cup of cappuccino and weighs her phrases carefully. Words are weapons and she feels unarmed. “I am aware that I still harbour feelings for Shouto. However , I keep wondering if it is the memory of the Shouto I once knew that I am chasing or if I’m infatuated with this new person. I’m wondering whether he’s acting out of guilt or if his feelings are genuine. I’m wondering if I can afford to take the risk just for my own selfish desires, when I should be considering what Tokiya wants and how he feels about Shouto’s place in our lives. I’m wondering-”

“You’re overthinking, ” Kyouka stresses, putting a hand over Momo’s to stop her descension down the ever-tightening spiral. “It’s really simple, Momo. Live a life with no regrets. You’ve already regretted letting him go once - are you ready to make the same mistake again?”

It’s logical. It’s easy. Momo should really listen to Kyouka more.

She squeezes Kyouka’s hand back and jests, “Are the pregnancy hormones making you wiser?”

Kyouka smirks and leans into her chair, profound look replaced by the “casual banter” expression that makes the tick in her jaw dissolve. “I don’t know about that, but I can tell you they’re making me hungry as hell. This child has Denki’s appetite and I don’t appreciate it.” Suddenly, her face morphs into mortification as a realization dawns on her. “She’ll want me to cook , won’t she?”

“You don't know if it’s a girl,” Momo jokes, making Kyouka huff.

“Believe me, Pikachu made so many incantations and prayed to all of the shrines in the city. It’ll be a miracle if it’s not a girl.”

***

Laughter punches Shouto in the face, and he blinks a few times in front of an uncharacteristically giggling Midoriya. “Well. That isn’t the response I was expecting.”

“I’m sorry,” Midoriya wheezes, wiping a tear off his lower eyelashes and trying to regain his normal breathing. “It’s just - I used to be the one seeking advice when it came to asking Ochako out, so the role reversal is funny.”

“Getting interrupted by a cat is funny?” Shouto tilts his head quizzically, but he can’t help mirroring the smile that stubbornly creeps back onto Midoriya’s face.

“This is why Ochako and I don’t have pets,” he smirks, earning a very suggestive look from Shouto. “We’re engaged ,” Midoriya stresses, mocking exasperation despite the small flush that takes over his cheeks. He hides it by pulling off his hero costume and blindly fishing for his civilian clothes in his locker - it’s really an All Might shrine more than anything else, but Midoriya stubbornly insists it’s a regular locker . “So anyway, what happened to the Todoroki-trademark ‘You like her, you kiss her’ approach?”

Shouto ruffles his hair as he mumbles, “It isn’t as effective the second time around.”

He can hear Midoriya still choking on his chuckles, his attempts at clearing his throat completely unfruitful. Eventually, he sobers up enough to say, “Well, I can testify that she’s brightened up ever since you came back, Todoroki.” Shouto lifts his head to meat green eyes set in determination. “Her laughter was… hollow over the past years. She didn’t date anyone after you left - Ochako was actually complaining that even the girls barely saw her at their monthly get-togethers.”

Shouto feels guilt shoot through his veins at his best friend’s words. Softer, so softly that Shouto wonders if Midoriya wants him to hear at all or is simply venturing into mutter-territory, he adds, “Whenever we met, she’d look guilty and ask me if I had news about you. I think she never stopped loving you, Todoroki.”

Neither did he. “Then why did she step back?” is what comes out of his mouth instead. “When she told me I was Tokiya’s father, she apologized - and before you tell me, I know she was apologizing for keeping me in the dark. Yet I can’t help but wonder if she is sorry that I’m the father-”

A hand landing on his shoulder stops him, and Midoriya offers the most sincere smile he can muster - the one that makes his eyes glisten with oncoming tears and speaks even to his enemies. “She isn’t. She wouldn’t still be wearing the ring if she was.”

“She-” Shouto feels the words clog in his mouth, but he manages to mutter, “Momo still wears it?”

Midoriya’s hand slides off Shouto’s shoulder to scratch at the side of his cheek as he tries synthesizing all of the data he has into accurate numbers - it’s a look Shouto used the see every time they went shopping and Midoriya gave way too much thought to which cabbage to buy. “About 16 days per month? Roughly,” he adds with a frown, as if he’s disappointed in his calculations.

Shouto fels a smile crack through his concern. “I’ve never seen her wearing it.”

Midoriya blinks and then chuckles again. “Well Todoroki, not all of us wear our hearts on our sleeves.” Shouto isn’t sure what look he’s wearing, but it prompts Midoriya to add, “You know, Yaoyorozu’s probably even more confused than you. She’s always rationalizing everything, trying to objectively determine the best course of action. You’re more…”

“Impulsive?” The smile definitely settles on Shouto’s lips. “Yeah. Thank you, Midoriya.”

“Don’t do that,” his friend replies, his attention back on the buttons he missed when putting on his shirt.

“Do what?” Shouto asks, unbuckling the belt that made him notorious as “The Five Pee-Pee Man” and whipping his head around to the other hero.

“Thank me.” Shouto wants to say that it’s genuine, but Midoriya beats him to it. “It makes me feel guilty about keeping you in the dark all these years.” His eyes are downcast, but Shouto can tell just how much this is eating away at him from the quiver in his voice. “I know it’s no excuse, but it didn’t feel right for me to be the one to tell you. I was scared , Todoroki. Scared of making the wrong choice. Scared that I wouldn’t be able to save either you or Yaoyorozu. One hell of a hero I am.”

Shouto can see the way his eyebrows knit under the mess of curly hair and feels another painful tug in his chest. Midoriya is his best friend and one of the kindest people he knows, and Shouto hates seeing him beat himself up over something so out of his control.

“Midoriya.” His friend finally looks up, and Shouto meets sad, honest eyes. “You’re right - it wasn’t your call to make. This is between Momo and I. That’s all there is to it, but I’m glad to be able to talk to you like this.” The green-haired gives him a wobbly smile, and Shouto finds that this is the right time to add, “I’m also counting on you to punch me if I’ll ever hurt Momo and Tokiya again, because Bakugou sure doesn’t hold back.”

“That’s Kacchan for you,” Midoriya chuckles, and the tense atmosphere dispearses. “He has been planning that one punch for years.

“That makes it much less impressive. It was a fairly normal punch,” Shouto shrugs, as if his face wasn’t tinged with purple for a few days. Midoriya’s laughing again, the sound not distorted by Skype or the phone line, reminding Shouto just how much he has missed this - his best friend, silly moments spent poking fun at each other and his calming presence. It makes Shouto’s lips twitch in one of his rare smiles, the unsettling feeling in his guts melting away.

It’s then that his phone rings, and Shouto shuffles through his bag for it. “It’s Yaoyorozu, isn’t it?” Midoriya asks with a knowing smile once he finally finds the device and takes in the caller ID. Shouto arches an eyebrow and only gets a, “You were smiling” in response. “Go ahead and answer, I’ll be waiting outside.”

As Midoriya closes the door behind him, the line connects and Shouto hears Momo’s somewhat agitated voice on the other end. “Shouto? Is this a good time?” She’s not frantic, but he can’t help but remember their last call and concern for Tokiya floods him like an effective poison.

“Yeah, is everything alright?”

“Ah yes,” Momo answers and Shouto breathes again. “Sorry for calling you on such short notice, but I happen to be in quite the bind.”

***

“There are leftovers in the fridge, so feel free to warm those up for dinner.”

“You still don’t trust me in the kitchen,” Shouto accuses her. She has every right not to, after having almost burned their apartment to the ground - twice - in the past, but living on his own for seven years meant he got a semblance of basic knowledge when it comes to cooking. More often than not, though, both him and Endeavour ended up at Yoarashi’s place, taking advantage of his kindness and edible meals, so he doesn’t feel that hurt by her insinuation.

“Wouldn’t you rather spend time with Tokiya than in the kitchen?” she friendly offers - always a diplomatic half-truther, Momo.

“Anything else I need to know?”

“He takes a bath at 9:30 and his bedtime is 10. He might be ecstatic about your presence, though, so it’s not the end of the earth if he goes to sleep half an hour later,” she smiles. “Don’t let him drink right before bed, or he’ll be creating ice flowers in his sleep.” Well that certainly sounded like a very Tokiya thing to do.

“Alright,” Shouto nods, steering the car into a left lane that leads to UA. “Tonight is Disney night, isn’t it?”

He sees Momo’s eyebrows rise slightly in the rear mirror. Her voice sounds surprise, “Yes. Though I don’t know if I’ll be back until then…” she trails off.

“Isn’t that why I’m here?” Shouto offers as he slows down into a parking lot. “Do you have any clue why Aizawa-sensei requested your presence so… suddenly?”

“No,” Momo shakes her head. “But I’m pretty certain it’s a logical ruse,” she smiles as Shouto holds the door open for her. “You really didn’t have to drive me here.”

“It looks like I’m a chaperon today anyway,” he shrugs, sparing a look at their two friends, who remain waiting in his car.

Momo giggles, leading them away from Jirou’s teasing smirk and Midoriya’s suggestive eyebrow wiggling - it’s a missed attempt at imitating Uraraka, but at least he tried. “Still, thank you,” Momo says as they walk towards the all too familiar gates. They shine with the same polish Shouto remembers, imposing even after all these years.

Shouto feels something cold pressing into his palm, pulling his gaze down to find his fingers curled around a key. “For taking care of Tokiya. And for being here.” There’s something Shouto can’t pinpoint in Momo’s eyes, something lurking in the obsidian depths that have always fascinated him. He can’t help but feel like it’s a hint he’s supposed to take, but loses himself in the images reflected by her eyes instead.

The skin around her eyes crinkles with a smile, and Shouto wonders how long he’s been staring as he gulps and nods slowly. “Well then,” Momo says, lingering just a beat too long before rattling the gates open. “I’ll see you later, Shouto.”

“Yeah. See you later,” he manages. Even as she’s walking away, he finds himself entranced by the way her hair bobs around her face and the distinct click-clack of her heels on the pavement. He lets his mind wonder, imagines driving her to work everyday and having the key in his pocket become a familiar weight.

When he settles back into the driver’s seat, he ignores Jirou’s whistle and listens to the engine’s purrs instead. What he can’t ignore is her teasing, “Where did your Casanova act vanish?”

“Somewhere in the process of becoming your designated driver,” Shouto easily replies as he pulls out of the parking lot. He finds that Jirou’s - no, he can’t bring himself to call her Kaminari; the clingy and goofy labels plastered on that name simply seem misplaced on the snarky woman - brand of sass hasn’t changed, and it’s a constant he gladly welcomes back in his life.

“Ah, but according to Pikachu’s romantic flicks, chaperons have the best shot at winning the rich ladies’ hearts,” she hums, leaning into the backseat.

“I thought you absolutely refused to watch romance?”

“I’m pregnant,” she simply replies, like that explains everything .

Shouto decides not to question her further - he has learnt to pick up from Jirou’s tone when the discussion is over - but Midoriya holds no such knowledge, so he awkwardly says, “I doubt that’s how it works.”

“Yeah well wait until Uraraka’s expecting and craving spinach crepes at 2am and then come back to me.” Even though his eyes are trained on the road, Shouto can practically see the triumphant smirk on Jirou’s face and the blush creeping onto Midoriya’s.

The rest of the ride to Midoriya’s place is more of an excuse for Jirou to lazily extend her jacks to the radio and monopolize the position of impromptu DJ. When a rock song she particularly loves comes up, she turns the volume up to “my ears are bleeding but my voice is louder” levels, and Shouto thanks corporate working hours for the empty streets, because he doubts they’d be able to make the ten minute ride to Midoriya’s modest apartment without turning everyone’s heads around.

“That was… fun,” Midoriya weakly manages as he walks out and bids his goodbyes. “I’ll see you at the tux fitting,” he tells Shouto once he can hear his own thoughts again.

Shouto nods and turns the keys in the ignition once again, setting the course for the Kaminari household. To his surprise, the music stops and Jirou leans forwards, elbows resting cheekily on the two front seats. A glance spared in her direction tells Shouto she looks dead serious, and he remembers her wearing the same mask when holding the “treasure Yaomomo properly or I’ll start my collection with your head” speech. Thinking back on it, maybe he should have driven her home first to avoid risking the “quality alone time”.

“Todoroki,” she says in that glacial voice she usually uses to level off with Bakugou. “I didn’t think I’d need to ask you this, too, but I need to make sure.” Here it comes , Shouto steels himself. “Did you also revert to your high school oblivious self?”

He blinks and slows down for a red light, spinning in his seat. “What?” he eloquently demands.

“I’m asking you whether you’ll be a dense asshole dancing around your obvious feelings or if you’ll do something about the sexual tension lingering between you and Momo?” she spits with the grace of an elephant and clicks her tongue - for good measure. “I don’t have the energy nor the booze to watch you two stumble like Bambi learning to walk.”

Shouto blinks, the light turns green and he finds his voice. “I appreciate the concern, if I can call the displeasure in your voice that.” She grunts something that sounds eerily similar to “Smartass”. “Some more trust would be much appreciated.”

“You’re adults, so why do you act like children?” Jirou sighs, pressing her forehead against the passenger’s seat headrest. “Just take her on a date or something!”

“We’re parents and Tokiya comes first,” Shouto replies. From the corner of his eye, he catches the sober look on Jirou’s face. “I’m not going to reignite my relationship with Momo if Tokiya doesn’t want me around.”

“The kid loves you, Todoroki,” Jirou says softly, the snark forgotten. “He grew up wishing he was like you.”

“He grew up wishing he was like the hero he saw on TV and heard about in your stories. I don’t know if he wants me as a Father.”

There’s a beat of silence, and Shouto wonders whether Jirou is listening to his heart drum away in his chest. “You’ve changed, Todoroki.” It comes out as a proud conclusion and Jirou offers him one of her rare genuine smiles, untainted by contempt. “For the better.” Shouto feels himself smiling back - he knows Jirou doesn’t say things she doesn’t mean.

The rest of the ride has Jirou playing songs she knows he likes, jabbing him with her jacks to prompt him to sing along. “Louder Half’n’Half, I can’t fucking hear you!” she yells in a gruff voice that’s meant to imitate Bakugou’s, and Shouto dissolves into barely contained chortles as she keeps yelling at an imaginary band.

When he finally parks in front of her block, she unbuckles her belt and declares, “It’s been a pleasure, but keep this between us.” He arches a quizzical eyebrow and she rolls her eyes, “Pikachu would totally guilt trip you into being my actual chaperone if he saw you, and I think you’d rather spend your precious time driving Momo and Tokiya around.”

“Thanks for the heads-up,” Shouto says as she steps outside. Jirou gives him one last glance, almost as if wishing him good luck, and Shouto nods promptly, watching her figure disappear between the double doors of the establishment.

He sets the navigation system for the address Momo has entrusted him with and sets out to pick up his son.

***

He should have considered how to introduce himself before he knocked, he really should have. Hearing the shuffling of slippers closer, he resigns himself to his fate and steels himself for the door that is flung open. There’s a beat of silence and then-

“Shouto?”

He bows in front of the lady, remembers Momo mentioning that her name is Kawamoto and really hopes he won’t mess this up. “Good evening! I apologize for suddenly dropping in like this, but Yaoyorozu was unexpectedly called at work, so I am here to pick Tokiya up.”

“Oh, right. Yaoyorozu-san did call, informing me that a friend would be here for Tokiya-kun. I just assumed it would be Earphone Jack or Ground Zero. But please, do come in!” she says politely, and Shouto finally dares look up. The woman who welcomed him is shorter than Momo, with light blue, almost transparent hair framing a kind face. The same warmth that radiates from off her figure envelops the house, resonating with voices of two children who barge out of a nearby room.

He instantly recognizes the mop of dark hair with a white bang and crouches to Tokiya’s eye level. “Shouto!” the child calls in surprise, rushing to wrap his short arms around his neck. Shouto has gotten used to these warm hugs, to rubbing the boy’s back as he presses his cheek against his neck and nuzzles into his chest.

Breaking away, Tokiya looks around in confusion. “Where’s Mom?”

“Last minute work-call.” Shouto can sense Tokiya deflating at the words and ruffles his hair lovingly. “But it’s okay, because she’ll be home later tonight. In the meanwhile, we can work on your homework and watch Treasure Planet. How does that sound?”

Tokiya hums, excitement colouring his face again. “That’s going to be fun!”

“Yeah,” Shouto hums back. With one last pat on the head, Shouto stirs him towards the room he came running out of and beckons, “Come on, let’s get your things.”

As Tokiya scrambles for his things and his friend follows him with loud exclamations of “Is that really Shouto? THE Shouto?!” , the Shouto is pulled back into smalltalk by Kawamoto. She offers him something to drink and proceeds to tell them what the kids have been up to.

Soon thereafter, Tokiya returns with a yellow ChargeBolt backpack and begins to undo his shoelaces and slip into his trainers. Shouto proudly watches him manage to tie perfect bows all alone, his heart only soaring further when Tokiya’s small hand sneaks into Shouto’s much bigger palm, and he declares, “Ready!”

“Do you have everything?”

Running a mental checklist, Tokiya finally pipes up, “Yes!”

“Alright. Thank you for looking after Tokiya,” Shouto bows and his son follows his example. “Pardon the intrusion!”

“Oh, it was our pleasure,” Kawamoto waves him off. “Tokiya and Haru are such good friends it would be a pity not to let them play more!”

“See you again, Haru,” Tokiya waves as Shouto thanks them again, and then they’re out in the chilly evening air. “Today was fun!” Tokiya pipes up as they walk to the car and Shouto fumbles for his keys. “Haru and I invented this game-”

All the ride back, Shouto listens to stories weaving together to paint a colourful day, and finds that he enjoys these childish games more than Jirou’s singing voice.

***

Preparing a child for bed turns out to be a much more complex quest than Shouto could have anticipated.

The first surprise comes in the form of Tokiya asking for movie snacks, which turns out to be a very precise amount of popcorn and cheese crackers - it’s nothing like what either Shouto or Momo are fond of, and Shouto makes a mental note to question Kaminari about his son’s sudden preferences - he has a sneaking suspicion the blond must be involved, one way or another.

The second hurdle is preparing the actual movie watching conditions, which involve lights turned down low, but not all the way because “Shou-chan is afraid of the dark!” and no more or less than three blankets and four cushions, arranged in what Shouto remembers Sero calling a pillow fort.

The actual movie is a pleasant experience, with Tokiya snuggling into his side and only breaking the silence every now and then to ask Shouto, “Is Silver a bad guy? He looks kinda scary” or to squeak, “Oh no!” when the story reaches its climax. His hands curl into fists, bunching Shouto’s shirt tightly, and the man finds himself wrapping a protective arm around Tokiya and rubbing calming circles in his back.

The real adventure, however, is disguised under the simple notion of brushing one’s teeth. Tokiya comes running out of the bathroom with his mouth opened widely and stops in front of Shouto expectantly. “Is something wrong?” the clueless adults asks. “Does it hurt?”

“No! You need to tell me if it’s white enough!” Shouto must look entirely lost, for Tokiya supplies, “Mom always checks my teeth to see if they’re white enough! If they aren’t, I need to wash them again.”

“Oh.” Shouto isn’t sure what qualifies as ‘white enough’, but he does his best to ensure that Tokiya’s teeth are as white as they get. Just to be on the safe side, he has Tokiya brushing them for thirty more seconds - you can never be too prepared.

And then he’s in bed, wearing half white half red pajamas and waiting for Shouto to tuck him in to sleep. “Mom’s not home yet,” Tokiya notes with a small pout.

“She’ll be here when you wake up tomorrow morning,” Shouto confidently says, though he can’t help but worry about the late hour and Aizawa’s motivations. Then again, he trusts his teacher and knows that Momo can more than handle herself. Wrapping the blanket up to Tokiya’s chin, he presses a chaste kiss to his forehead and turns off the lamp. “Good night, Tokiya.”

“Good night!” the child calls back. Shouto stops in the doorframe, watching him turn on his side, and feels anchored, like a boat that has been sailing for years and has finally found its destination.

He decides to explore the bookshelves in the living room while waiting for Momo. Most of the shelves still hold Momo’s encyclopedias and stunning collection of Japanese and western authors, but there’s an extra shelf that Shouto can’t remember. Sliding one of the thick tomes out from its cramped slot, he realizes why - they are photo albums.

Tokiya’s photo albums.

Pictures of him as a chubby baby, pictures of him wearing a panda onesie, pictures of a sleeping Momo cradling Tokiya in her arms, as if they’re each other’s lifelines, pictures of Tokiya sitting and then crawling on all fours and then stumbling through his first steps and then Shouto can’t see the rest because his vision is blurry and a quiet sob ripples through his form.

Knowing he’s lost six years of his son’s life is painful, but seeing undeniable proof of it reaps Shouto at his seams. It makes him wish to invent a time machine so that he could be the person pressing the button on the camera, it makes him fold in on himself like a heap of laundry and catch his head in his hands.

It hurts to look at them. He can’t look away. Momo has eyebags in all of the photos, and Shouto gets a glimpse of that hollow smile Midoriya was talking about, of the loneliness in her eyes and the exhaustion in her slumped shoulders.

And then there’s Tokiya, small, baby Tokiya who grew up without the chance for “Dad” to be his first word, toddler Tokiya who went to kindergarten and needed to withstand hearing other children talking about their fathers and being picked up by them, kid Tokiya who only had his Mom as a safety blanket.

It all comes crashing down to crush him with the force of the realization that that it’s not just him who missed so much, but them , too.

And it breaks him.

There’s the sound of a door cracking and Shouto forces the album back on the shelf, trying to get a hold of himself. When he sniffs and someone calls his name, though, it’s not Momo.

“Tokiya? What’s wrong?” his voice comes out hoarser and less confident than he intends.

“I needed to go to the bathroom,” the boy says, tilting his head and padding closer to Shouto. Is it too late to rub at his undoubtedly red eyes? “Did you have a bad dream?” Tokiya offers understandingly, his fingers touching the dampness at the corner of Shouto’s eyes gently.

“Yeah,” Shouto croaks.

Bathroom break forgotten, Tokiya sits cross legged in front of Shouto and waits. When the adult doesn’t explain himself, the boy adds, “Mom says it’s better to talk to someone than keep it bottled in.” That sounds exactly like what Momo used to tell him when he jolted awake in the middle of the night, heavy breath and slicked in cold sweat that matted his hair to his forehead.

Just like Momo used to, Tokiya takes his hands in his tiny ones and gently prompts, “What did you dream about?”

Shouto weavers, but eventually gives up in front of the honest pools of obsidian that stare at him with patience and unbound affection. Taking a deep, shuddering breath, he begins, “I dreamt that I was gone for seven years and everything changed. When I came back, everyone had lives of their own, while I-” his heart sinks like a dead weight, but Tokiya squeezes his hands reassuringly, keeping him afloat “-I was stuck in place. I missed so much - friends getting married, starting families, building homes. And I couldn’t reverse time.”

Tokiya nods, and it’s as if he understands. Shouto can practically see the gears turning behind his eyes and can pinpoint the exact moment when he finds what he’s looking for, face lightening up and bottomless eyes shining. “It’s like the prince in the fairytale! He found a land of never-ending youth, so when he returned home, everything had changed. His parents were dead and his friends were old - but you aren’t old , Shouto!”

He smiles at the comparison, squeezing Tokiya’s hands back. “But everything has changed.”

“But your friends are still alive and they’re here. You know, Mom and I always skimmed the news for your name, so it feels like we know everything about what happened to you. Maybe it’s just you who has to learn about us!”

Tokiya seems absolutely thrilled about his discovery, so Shouto can’t help but ask, “How’s that any different?”

“Well it’s much easier! I can fill you in on everything that happened, and Mom can tell you about the hero world, and then it’s like nothing has changed!”

Tokiya makes it look so simple that Shouto feels like an idiot. While reality might be more complex, there is truth in what the child says - as long as he is by Shouto’s side, this is a leap of faith worth taking.

“Does that make you feel better?” Tokiya says, and Shouto realizes he’s been silent for too long.

He squeezes his hands and presses his forehead to his. “Yeah. A lot better. Thank you, Tokiya.” The boy’s face breaks into a smile, and Shouto is once again flooded by warmth. He never knew he could love someone with all of his body, with his heart and the tips of his fingers and his entire chest.

Softly, as to not dispel this glow, Shouto asks, “What are your nightmares about?”

There’s a thoughtful hum in the back of Tokiya’s throat. “Fighting with Haru, mostly.” There’s a pause as he adds, voice trembling, “I also have some where you lose, and the villain is grinning victoriously as he presses his knee to your chest. And then there’s one… I never told Mom about it,” Tokiya whispers, like he’s breaking a rule.

“You don’t have to tell me,” Shouto whispers back.

Tokiya’s hands twitch in Shouto’s grasp. “I feel like it’s okay to tell you,” he mutters, locking eyes with his father for a heartbeat. For a while, Tokiya seems to be turning the words over in his mind, like he’s not entirely sure how he should pair them or roll them out. Eventually, he manages, “I dream of Dad,” and Shouto’s breath catches in his throat like a butterfly in a spider’s web.

But the dam has been broken, and Tokiya talks without stopping, and Shouto’s heart crumbles with each word, “I never see his face, just his back. He’s tall, taller than Mom, and he’s got broad shoulders that he sometimes carries me on. He’s home and Mom is laughing - really laughing, not that thing she does when her eyes are sad-” a hollow smile “-and we’re all happy. But then one morning I wake up and he’s not home-” I’ll never leave again “-and Mom is crying-” I’ll let Bakugou punch me if I make her cry again “- he leaves without saying anything and then I wish he didn’t come home at all.”

Tokiya’s shivering, and Shouto acts before he thinks. His hands wrap around his fragile form, crushing him against his chest as the boy whimpers, “But what I’m really scared of is that he’s leaving because of me .” The shivering turns into trembling and Tokiya’s voice dies out as he repeats, “Because of me.”

Shouto doesn’t waver as he says, “Nobody would be able to leave if they knew you, Tokiya.” He feels the child’s nails digging into his back and holds him closer, until there’s no gap left to close. “ Nobody ,” he stresses, hanging onto the word like it will save them both.

“But-” Tokiya tries whispering, only to be choked by a sob.

“Whoever left you is an idiot,” Shouto spits out. “The biggest idiot on this entire planet.” Tokiya puffs something between a faint laugh and a sob. “But nobody is enough of an idiot to repeat such a mistake twice.”

Tokiya raises his head from the safe haven of Shouto’s chest. “You mean that?”

“Of course,” Shouto replies, smoothing his hair behind his ear and running a thumb over Tokiya’s cheek. Tears roll down his cheeks in beads, and Shouto hates himself for being the cause of Tokiya’s pained expression.

A sigh of relief washes out of Tokiya, but it’s strangled by another sob as he says, “I asked Mom… if Dad loves me once. And she said he does… But what if she lied? Even Mom lies sometimes?”

“I for one know I’ll never leave you, Tokiya. Not unless you ask me to. Because I do love you,” Shouto croaks out, and he knows the words are real, heavy and grounding him to the fate of this child, who hangs onto his every word with a hungry desperation, and Shouto wonders for how long he’s been bottling up these worries. Kissing his forehead, he adds, “That’s a promise.”

They stay like that for what seems like hours, bed times and bathroom breaks forgotten. Exhaustion wraps around them, the sting at the back of his eyes and the familiar weight of Tokiya in his lap lulling Shouto to sleep. He’s almost dozed off when Tokiya murmurs, “You’re warm.” His voice is muffled by Shouto’s shirt, damp with tears that are both his and Tokiya’s. “Sometimes, I wonder what it would be like if you were my dad.”

Tokiya is almost asleep and probably delirious, yet his words are enough to break what was left untouched of Shouto’s heart. He cradles the boy to his chest, hugging him tightly enough that not even Sato’s force would be able to break them apart. “I would have made many mistakes,” Shouto offers, barely above a whisper.

“Forgiveness yields kindness,” Tokiya drowsily mutters. Shouto recognizes Momo’s words and feels a feeble smile tug at the corners of his mouth as he hums in approval. “Or at least so Mom says,” Tokiya stammers through a yawn.

“Your Mom sure is wise,” Shouto murmurs. Tokiya is already asleep, and he soon follows.

***

The house is quiet, but the light of the lamp stubbornly flickers in the living room, like a beacon in the middle of a dark, muddy sea. Slipping out of the painful heels, Momo tiptoes down the hallway and stills in the doorframe.

Shouto’s hair is spilling over the backrest of the couch as his chest slowly rises and falls with each shallow breath, wrapped in profound sleep. And in his arms, safely tucked away from the harshness of the world, Tokiya is splayed like a lazy cat. His head lolls over Shouto’s left shoulder, cuddling in the warmth his father exudes, nose nuzzled in the comforting scent of home that Shouto carries around.

The sight is painfully domestic and breathtakingly real all at once. It’s warm.

Momo is engulfed.

She watches them for a long time, ignoring the exhaustion that courses through her veins and the stubborn ticking of the clock. It’s only when Shouto shuffles uncomfortably that she realizes he’ll get a backache if he sleeps in that position, and sore muscles aren’t exactly what a hero needs on the battlefield.

Reluctantly, she shakes him awake, nudging his left shoulder as gently as she can. “Shouto,” she mutters in his ear when he doesn’t respond to her pokes. That seems to work, as he cracks open one eye and idly blinks the sleep away. “I’m sorry to wake you up, but you’ll get stiff shoulders.”

He grunts and takes a minute to remember where he is and what he was doing. When his eyes fall on the sleeping boy in his arms, a coy smile melts the edges of his face and he heaves himself off the sofa, carrying Tokiya to his room before collapsing onto the couch once again.

His head lolls onto Momo’s shoulder, startling her. Shouto absentmindedly rubs his forehead against her sleeve, messing with his perfectly parted hair, and Momo can’t help the chuckle that escapes her when he wrinkles his nose childishly at the strong scent of her perfume.Shouto has always looked like a cat while sleeping, a lazy feline yearning affection.

Momo knows they’re walking a thin line on the verge of a cliff, knows that any wrong step could have them both falling into the unknown. Even so, she recklessly allows her fingers to part Shouto’s hair back into red and white heaps. Just like a cat, he almost purrs , a low moan in his throat as he leans into her touch and she keeps playing with his hair.

It makes her tingle all over.

“How was the meeting?” Shouto croaks, making Momo jerk just slightly. She was certain he fell asleep, but he doesn’t batt her hand off, so she takes it as a sign of quiet approval.

“It went alright,” she murmurs, gently continuing to part his stubborn tendrils. “Aizawa-sensei asked me if… if I wanted to get back to hero work.”

Shouto shifts so his half-closed eyes peek from underneath his mop of messy hair. “What did you say?”

“That I’d think about it,” she hums.

Shouto snaps his head from her gentle grasp, fingers curling around her wrist. “You should do it if you want to.” Determination burns in his eyes as he adds, “I’m here now and I can look after Tokiya, too. I mean, if you want me to.”

Sleepy Shouto has always been less secure, but not any less honest. His mismatched eyes bore into hers with an intensity only he can muster, and Momo thinks that whoever said heterochromatic eyes are confusing has never met Shouto and his unwavering desire to get across what words can’t through the sheer depth of his gaze. The corners of her lips twitch upwards as she says, “I know.”

Shouto holds her stare for a beat longer before giving in to the sleep fighting to take him over. He drops her wrist gingerly and collapses back onto Momo’s shoulder and she resumes tracking a mindless pattern through his hair, listening to his even breathing. Leaning back against the cushions lining the couch, Momo turns Aizawa’s words over and over in her head in tandem with curling Shouto’s bangs around her fingers.

Maybe, just maybe, she can still be a hero.

***

DAD, I LOVE YOU! COME HOME SOON!

Tokiya Yaoyorozu, age 5

Chapter Text

Well if we crave a change,
Why not start today?
And scream it out loud
Wild Wild World - Set it off)


 

“These aren’t crepes, Shouto, they’re pancakes . The consistency is different,” Momo huffs as he flips their breakfast on the other side, waiting for the “light brown, not yellow!” colour to spread through the batter. “Pancakes are thicker,” Momo points out.

“So why don’t we stick to the one dish I can cook?” Shouto deadpans, reaching for the plate of towering “almost successes”, as Momo has kindly deemed his failures.

Because, ” she stresses, sounding mildly amused, “you need to learn how to cook. It’s part of the parent requirements.”

“Can’t I be the parent that does all the house cleaning? I have a feather duster and everything.”

Momo sticks out her hip and crosses her arms, giving him that no-comeback look - the same look she used to give him when he would tighten his grasp around her waist and refuse to get up from bed, despite the alarm blaring on the nightstand. It all seems so far away now, and Shouto yearns to hold her like that again, to feel her back pressed into his chest and her hair tickling his chin-

“As endearing as that sounds, Tokiya still needs a balanced diet and you’re burning the pancake.”

“Shit,” Shouto mutters, adding the “black, not light brown” pancake to the ever growing stack and glaring at the empty plate reserved to “edible dishes”. “Maybe I just don’t have the cooking bone.”

“Oh come on, Shouto! You’ve watched Ratatouille , anyone can be an artist.”

He squints at her as she pours another helping of batter in the pan. “The actual conclusion is that not anyone can be an artist, but an artist can rise from anywhere.”

“Well then, I’ll make an artist rise out of you. I trust you, Shouto.” Her smile is blinding. Shouto can’t look away.

“A terrible decision, really,” he mutters, eliciting a giggle from her. Momo moves away to grab a cartoon of milk from the fridge and he calls, “What are you doing? You can’t leave me unsupervised!” She only laughs again in response, fishing for maple syrup in the cupboard as Shouto groans and prays he’s flipping the pancake at the right moment.

When Momo returns to his side a minute later, he’s already on his second pancake. “See, you can do it!”

“I was forced to survive on my own by your betrayal ,” he quips and Momo laughs again. He could get drunk on the sound alone.

They’ve been in the kitchen for almost one hour now, but the electronic clock blinks only 6:30 am. Despite it, Shouto doesn’t feel even a bit tired - maybe it has something to do with the talk he had with Tokiya last night, or with the fact that he blurrily remembers Momo draping a blanket over him and brushing his hair away from his forehead with feathery touches.

Cracking an egg for the next challenge - scrambled eggs are nothing to scoff at -, he asks, “Have you given Aizawa’s suggestion more thought?”

There’s a pause before Momo says, “I’ve always wanted to be a hero. That much hasn’t changed.”

“Is it because you’re worried about Tokiya? I can change my patrols around to pick him up from school and spend evenings with him-”

“There’s that,” Momo interrupts him. “But I’m also a homeroom teacher, and I can’t simply abandon my students. And,” she averts her eyes almost bashfully and runs a hand down her face. “This is so pathetic,” she mumbles, “but I’m scared. I haven’t been in any missions in years. I might fare even worse than you do in the kitchen, Shouto.”

“Hey,” he weakly protests. She points out the eggshells that sneaked into the mix to prove her point and he stubbornly picks them out with a spoon. Still, he won’t let her drop the subject, especially since he can see how it’s eating away at her and casting a shadow over her usually glowing eyes. “Be that as it may, you’ve jumped in before and saved me, proving just how exceptionally capable you are. You figured out the villains’ quirks immediately and were able to quickly find a way to deal with it.”

Pinning her with the most determined look in his repertoire so she knows just how much he means it, that he’d vote for her again at the drop of the hat, Shouto continues, “You’re a hero , Momo. It’s simply who you are.”

Her face colours an adorable shade of pink and she bites her lower lip nervously. “I feel like I’m out of shape.”

“I’m always open for practice,” he counters.

“You’re really not leaving me with any escape routes, are you, Shouto?” A smile plays around her lips even as she puffs. She breathes in deeply, nodding just once, steeling her resolve. “I’ll do it. I’ll be a hero.”

Shouto smiles back and holds out his fist for her to bump. As their hands meet, he suddenly realizes, “Bakugou is going to be incredibly pissed when we take his and Midoriya’s spot as the best hero team.”

Momo chuckles at his childish enthusiasm, and it makes Shouto feel warm all over. “We allowed them to enjoy the spotlight for way too long. But we can’t be the best hero team on an empty stomach. Don’t blow the kitchen while I make a phone call?” she smirks. Shouto just rolls his eyes, but can’t keep the smile away as he watches her walk away with a spring to her step.

***

Ochako hums as she watches both Tokiya and Momo munch on her favourite strawberry mochi and steals one more sweet treat for herself. “These are delicious!” Tokiya exclaimes, his eyes glistening as he wordlessly asks his mother to take another.

Momo nods, helping herself to one more piece, too. “Ochako-chan, these are indeed very tasty, but you didn’t have to!” she says, the pleased hum that escapes her as she sinks her teeth into the mochi saying otherwise.

The woman giggles. “Well you see, it’s not without ulterior motive, Momo-chan.” Her black-haired friend tilts her head curiously. “I have a favour to ask of you.”

“Oh?”

“Deku and I have been toying with the idea for a while and I hope it’s not too much to ask for, but… would it be alright with you if Tokiya were the ring bearer?” Ochako’s eyes flicker to the boy who tilts his head questioningly. “It’s the person who carries the rings to the altar.”

As soon as the words slip out of her mouth, Tokiya’s face lights up like a neon sign and he chirps, “Can I actually do that?!”

“I’d love it if you did,” Ochako nods. She really should expect Tokiya jumping up from his seat to hug her tightly and plead Momo to let him do it, but it still makes her feel fuzzy when his small arms wrap around her torso and she nuzzles her nose into his hair. “Thank you, Tokiya.”

The boy squirms in the hug to look up at her, lips peeling into a toothy smile. “I love you, Aunt Ochako, so I want to help!”

“Then we’ll need to get you fitted for a handsome tux,” she smirks, ruffling his bangs lovingly as warmth engulfs her. Ochako really worries for her health when the kid pecks her cheek and her heart swells to twice its normal size, threatening to break through her ribcage, but she can’t help the large smile on her face as Tokiya settles comfortably in her lap and they start looking through magazines and web pages.

The rest of the evening is spent with Momo helping her in the organisation department - Ochako never knew flower language ran so deep, nor did she think about the effect the colour scheme would have on the mood of their guests, but Momo waltzes through these concepts so effortlessly that she feels a little silly. She does her best to take notes as Momo talks, all the time reminding herself of the calming weight of Tokiya’s presence in her arms.

Ochako makes it home later than Deku, which is an achievement in and of itself, given how prone to overworking himself her fiance is. She finds him sprawled on the couch, exhaustion written in the way his legs numbly hang over the edge and he barely flinches upon the sound of the door opening. Despite his fatigue, Deku manages to look up and sketch a smile, and Ochako slips out of her shoes and collapses over him on the couch.

His chuckle tickles her earshell. “Welcome home,” Deku mutters as he wraps his arms around her and Ochako sinks into his chest, pressing her ear over his heart. The steady beat has always grounded her, reminded her of what she fights for and what she’ll always come back to.

“I’m home,” she breathes, closing her eyes for a brief moment. “How was work?”

“Exhausting,” he snickers, because Deku loves challenges to the point of self-destruction and Ochako knows nothing will ever hold him back from giving it his all. That’s something she loves about him, after all. “Kacchan and I needed to jump into a raid downtown. The villain could manipulate his own blood into a sword or a shield. It was a bit horrifying, honestly.”

“Let me guess,” Ochako interrupts him, angling her head so she can see his eyes. “You had to blast your way through it?”

He laughs at her smirk, the sound clear and vibrating through his chest, shaking Ochako with the sheer force of it. “This is precisely why Kacchan has started calling you a Devil-Woman,” Deku says, tightening his grasp around her waist reassuringly.

“Are you sure it’s not because I’m marrying you?” she teases, pressing her cheek against his green shirt and flattening a palm over his toned chest. Deku hums thoughtfully and she pokes his cheek around the mischievous smile. “A price I’m willing to pay,” she sighs dramatically.

“Oh, the sacrifice,” Deku intones in a snarky tone that Jirou has patented. A deep, comfortable silence settles between them as Ochako keeps tracking the small squares of different shades on his shirt and he tucks her head under his chin. She enjoys these moments, these calm pockets of time in which they recharge and enjoy simply being .

When Deku talks, his chest rises slightly and his voice echoes deep in his throat - Ochako feels his words in every sense, and wishes to stay like this forever. “How was your day?”

“Hm,” she manages, too comfortable in the warmth he exudes to bother wrecking her brain for words. His gentle nudge prompts her to say, “‘Twas alright. Momo agreed to Tokiya being the ringbearer.”

“That’s great,” Deku says, and Ochako can hear the smile in his voice. They’re both attached to the Yaoyorozu child, with his quirky smiles and soft-spoken words.

“Yeah,” she hums quietly, letting her thoughts wonder again. It’s only after a few minutes that Deku asks what’s on her mind, and she curls into herself, now fumbling with the hem of Deku’s shirt. “It’s just - I used to think I’d never want kids, y’know? Because we live in a harsh world, and the thought of not being able to protect my own children terrified me.”

She stops, not entirely sure how to phrase her thoughts. Deku presses a soft kiss on the crown of her hair and she clutches her fingers in a fist. “But Tokiya - he gave Momo’s life meaning, other than saving the world and being a hero. I think - I think he makes her see an entirely different world.”

“You’d like to have a child,” Deku says, his voice as soothing as the circles he runs into her lower back, where he knows her stress accumulates when the tension is too much.

“Mhm, one day. I’m not saying we should jump into this now or anything but, one day, yeah.”

“Ochako.” Even her name sounds serious when Deku says it with that determined edge to his tone and fire burning behind his green eyes. “I’ve told you before, but I’ll say it as many times as it takes. I’ll always love every part of you.”

“I know,” she muses, pressing a kiss on his collarbone. “But what about you? Do you want this - a family ?”

“You are my family,” he stresses. “And I - well this is pretty silly,” she recognizes the insecure quiver of his voice and presses another kiss to his exposed skin, “but I’ve been wondering about it for a while now. Imagining you with our kid, playing with them, telling them stories before sleep-”

Ochako lifts her head to meet Deku’s sheepish gaze. “You never told me.”

“We were busy,” he defends himself.

“I’m never too busy to talk about our future.”

He tucks her rebel hair behind her ear and smiles. “You know now.” She can’t help but smile back and brushes her lips against his before settling back against his warm chest.

“If I get through these wedding preparations alive, you’re going to go through hell with my pregnancy cravings, Izuku,” she teases.

He chuckles, muttering, “Whatever my lovely wife demands,” and Ochako smiles into the crook of his neck. “That is, if Iida decides that a tux that suits me exists on this planet,” Deku almost groans, and it’s Ochako’s turn to chuckle. “I promise not to let him get involved in choosing Tokiya’s suit for the wedding.”

“Very wise, my dear,” Ochako laughs in the quiet of their apartment. It’s going to be noisy soon - she never thought that’d be a relaxing thought to entertain.

***

“Mom?” Tokiya asks, peeking over the edge of The Wizard of Oz shily. There’s something lurking behind his usually clear eyes, and Momo momentarily abandons grading chemistry papers on alkynes to give him her undivided attention. “I think I might have made Shouto uncomfortable,” he says quietly, so quietly.

Momo caps her red pen and moves onto the couch with him, parting the hair on his forehead in rhythmic motions. “Why do you say that?”

“I told him-” he stops abruptly and bites his lower lip, a nervous habit Momo is aware he has inherited from her. When he looks back up at her, he looks scared , and Momo feels the back of her stomach drop. “I told him I sometimes wished he were my Dad,” Tokiya barely whispers, as if he’s just broken a taboo.

Momo loosens a breath she hasn’t realized she was holding and smiles. “Why would that make him feel uncomfortable?”

Tokiya’s eyes widen in surprise. “I don’t actually know.”

“If anything, it’s a compliment,” she adds, and there’s hope glimmering instead of that unsettling feeling in her son’s eyes. “Did he act any differently after that?”

Tokiya shakes his head, then stops, as if he remembered something. “He said he loved me. Do you think that’s true?”

Her heart does real gymnastics upon hearing the boy’s words, but Momo does her best not to let it show. “Shouto is painfully honest,” she answers, letting a grin curl the corners of her lips. “And besides, you’re quite the charmer.”

A genuine smile colors Tokiya’s face at that. “I am,” he proudly declares, and Momo dissolves into giggles.

“Ah, where is the humility I raised you with, Tokiya?” she chides him, but it holds no power, especially not when he immediately says, “But you keep telling me that!” The argument is fair, and Momo is satisfied enough with the smile reflecting in the child’s eyes that she lets it slide and pulls him in a tight hug.

Still, Tokiya’s words echo in the back of her mind, and she asks, “You really wished he was your father?”

Tokiya tilts his head from the embrace so he can meet his mother’s eyes and responds with childish honesty - a sincerity that definitely runs in the Todoroki blood -, “Yes. He’s really nice - I mean, he did buy tickets to Disneyland!” The explanation has Momo suppressing a chuckle. “And he makes you smile, Mom!”

A slight blush burns Momo’s cheeks as she chokes out an, “Eh?!”

“You seem really happy when Shouto’s around! You do that thing where you smile and your eyes crinkle, you know?” This kid - there’s something almost knowing in the tone of his voice, and Momo doesn’t know whether to laugh, be worried or both. “And I think he’s pretty talkative around you, too.”

She tries not to be speechless around her six-year old son. Instead, Momo manages to gather a very mother-like reply from an emergency kit in the back of her mind and says, “Quite the observation spirit you have there, Tokiya.” The boy’s grin is radiant. “Lend it to me so I can spot all the mistakes in these papers I have to grade.”

“But then I wouldn’t enjoy Dorothy’s adventures as much!” he protests, pointing to his still open book. Momo has to agree with his point, and lets him nestle in her arms with the book as she plucks through the remaining stash of ungraded exam sheets, trying her hardest to keep his poignant words out of her mind.

***

“Coffee emergency!” Hatsume declares, dropping more than placing two sleazy mugs of said caffeinated infusion on the crowded plank of wood that she lovingly refers to as a “table” - it’s anything but, Iida points out, and she brushes him off like his concerns for the state of her apartment are trivial. (They aren’t.)

Iida has gotten used to the smeared oil leaving dark smudges on the cups, so he takes no offence in pulling out an impeccable napkin and wiping the mugs clean. “Might I request the details of this emergency?”

“Apart from the two hours of sleep I’ve been running on for the past two days?” Hatsume says breezily. Iida cringes, because he knows she isn’t even joking. “Because you look kinda out of it and coffee gets you to talk.”

She doesn’t glue her eyes away from the swirling dark liquid, but Iida feels the weight of her words anyway, tying him to this chair and this ‘table’ and not letting him run away. “Sharp,” he mutters, not entirely sure whether he’s talking about her intuition or the knife that has metamorphosed into her hands and that she’s now using to cut herself a hefty slice of pumpkin pie.

“I need to be, when you’re as ermetic as my grandma’s jam jars.” Hatsume unceremoniously drops a piece of pie in front of him and then lounges back in the wooden chair. Iida can tell she’s waiting for him to talk, but he’s not entirely sure what he’s supposed to say.

So, as per usual, he inhales the strong scent of the coffee and stops thinking. Iida’s thinking all day round, weighing thoughts and decisions, pros and cons, dos and don’ts. He has at least a third of his brain on patrol, keeping thoughts he isn’t supposed to voice on a leash and letting others go for a walk around his mind before caging them again.

It’s exhausting.

Around Hatsume, who never shows such inhibitions, it’s easy to let the guards rest and free all of the prisoners. “I’m a terrible friend,” is the first thing that comes out.

“No you aren’t,” she counters. “Bad friends don’t marathon Star Wars over the weekend just because their mechanics had the sudden urge to.”

“Bad friends have feelings for their best friend’s object of affection.”

“You make it sound so poetic,” Hatsume puffs and finally looks up. People don’t hang around her long enough to notice the way her smile morphs into a frown and her eyes shine with something other than excitement of the prospect of experimenting on new heroes. It’s chilling. “Pretty sure both Todoroki and Yaoyorozu know,” she says matter-of-factly and Iida chokes. “You’re not exactly subtle.”

Even as she activates one of the robots to clap Iida’s back rhythmically, she doesn’t take her eyes off him, and he feels the intensity of her look bore through his very soul. “You think she knows?”

“Yaoyorozu is smart,” Hatsume shrugs. “And you’re pretty easy to read, Iida. Then again, I spend unhealthy amounts of time with you in the wee hours of the morning,” she winks, and the teasing spark is back in her eyes.

“I want to let go,” Iida then says, and it’s like breaking the dam. “I’m happy for them, and Todoroki is good for her, and I know he’ll stay this time and that he’s doing his best to make up for what he lost and that he hates himself for ever leaving, and I want to let go ,” he says in one breath, his usual eloquence gone. His arms are limp on the table. “I just want to let go.”

Hatsume’s fingers brush his knuckles, and Iida looks up. She usually wears gloves, so the feeling of gentle, moisty hands is new, as is the way her eyes melt, something that has less to do with pity and more with gentleness, less with feeling sorry for Iida and more with wanting to help. “Then do.”

There’s no safety net, nothing but a void caving open, and Iida’s not entirely sure if anything’s even waiting for him at the end of the tunnel.

“It’s fine if it’s scary,” she says, so uncharacteristically soft and understanding that Iida wonders if she ever felt the same way. He gets his answer when the wood of her chair scratches against the tiles of the floor and her lips press against his.

Somewhere in the blur of touching lips and muffled whimpers, it occurs to Iida that he should probably push her away gently, but his brain stopped working roughly around the time Hatsume dug her nails in the nape of his neck and bit his lower lip, a strangled noise vibrating in the back of her throat and settling in Iida’s chest comfortably. So instead of pulling away, he cups her cheeks and pushes himself closer, ignoring The Line.

And then he’s kissing her. Iida’s kissing his best friend, and it’s a terrible terrible idea.

Off the top of his head, he can name at least six reasons why he should pull away now, but his treacherous hands knot in the mess of pink locks she probably hasn’t combed this morning, and his heart skips a beat when her nails scrap against his scalp, tugging at his short hair to make up for the height difference.

It’s somewhere in between trying to remember how to breathe and questioning if he even can suck in air when he’s this closely pressed to another living body that he wonders if the ease with which he parts his lips has something to do with the fact that the sound of Hatsume’s laughter reverberates in the back of his mind, when he’s shopping or filing paperwork or going to bed.

He’s not sure which one of them pulls away first, but Iida uses the time to regain his breath and pant, “This is not a good idea.” Brilliant , he thinks to himself, knowing that whenever his brain cells will kick back into gear, he’ll find a thousand and one reasons to regret his life choices.

“I know,” Hatsume says, and she looks as excited as she does when she’s working on her ‘babies’. “But we need to start somewhere if we want to figure out improvements and updates.”

She’s talking like a mechanic again - Iida has known her long enough to know that this signals she’s made up her mind. “I’m going to hurt you,” he still tries.

“Have you not seen my shields? Best in Japan, I’d say.”

“I still haven’t completely let go.”

“It wouldn’t be any fun if you did.”

She’s grinning like a lunatic, and Iida just sighs and lets his head fall back. Somewhere in the back of his mind, a disloyal voice whispers that this was unavoidable. That he couldn’t hang onto the past forever, and that he would have had to give in to the warmth spreading in his chest when Hatsume laughs and the comforting weights of her head against his shoulder when she dozes off during his documentaries sooner or later.

She fists her hands in his collar and Iida looks at her, at the determined golden eyes ticking like precise clocks, at the eyebags he grew fond of, and thinks, Catch me. “I’m not poetic,” is what comes out his mouth instead.

Hatsume throws her head back and laughs, and it feels like sunshine filtering through a blanket of rain clouds. “Poetic is boring.”

And then he pulls her back, and she tastes like coffee and pumpkin pie and oil, and Iida shoves away the thought of how unhealthy that must be and loses himself in the labyrinth that is her messy hair, kept in check only by the strap of her goggles.

He doesn’t really want to be found.

***

Kaminari opens the door with a smile mirroring his nephew’s, which translates to an incredibly large grin threatening to rip their faces in two. As soon as he does, Tokiya sneaks in and launches himself into his Uncle’s arms, tackling him in one of their welcoming tickle wars.

Shouto stares at the scene unfolding before his very eyes with a puzzled look, only to be snapped out of it by Jirou saying, “Don’t mind them. They act like bears every time they see each other.”

Momo laughs, and Shouto takes that as a good sign. “Can we really entrust Tokiya to a bear?” he asks the lady of the house as Momo gives her Tokiya’s backpack, containing a change of clothes and various games - Shouto knows because Tokiya has given him a thorough rundown through every single one of them on the car ride here.

“You can’t,” Jirou rolls her eyes, like he’s missing the obvious. “Which is why you’re entrusting him to me .”

“The pregnant wife of said bear?” Shouto skeptically asks, earning a jab from her jack - really predictable yet still painful.

“Just because I’m starting to show doesn’t give you the right to be a smartass, Todoroki.” Her words are dampened by the smile she’s sporting.

It’s then that Kaminari pipes up, “She’s just using the pregnancy as an excuse to stuff her mouth.” His words cost him a certain bruise in the arm as Jirou relentlessly jabs him. “Hey, stop that! We don’t want our daughter to grow in an aggressive environment!” he pleads, catching her jacks with one hand as he uses the other to rub the injured place.

“Are we sure we want to leave Tokiya here?” Shouto mutters, loud enough for Momo to hear over the couple’s bickering.

She laughs again, “They’ve always been like this, but they’ll make good parents. Tokiya’s in safe hands.” Shouto knows this - after all, Kaminari gave him a debriefing on Tokiya’s allergies and food preferences before their Disneyland outing, and Jirou is constantly checking on Momo’s health and stress levels.

Crouching so she’s at Tokiya’s eye level, Momo beckons her son to unglue himself from Kaminari’s side and give her a hug. “Listen to your Aunt and Uncle, alright?”

“Yes!”

“Don’t give them a headache, okay, honey?”

Jirou snorts, “As if your angel of a kid actually could.” Momo laughs back, lovingly ruffling Tokiya’s hair as she lets him go.

Shouto still feels like this is unfamiliar to him, but he leans down to hug Tokiya too and say, “We’ll see you in a few hours.”

***

Momo furls her fingers into a fist around the belt and counts down with the red light to distract herself. Without the golden ring to twist around her finger, she feels bare and vulnerable. The taste of iron fills her mouth as she keeps biting on her lower lip, yet she can’t stop the grating feeling in her guts . What if Aizawa only called her to tell her the offer is off, because she’s not good enough a hero, and what if she’ll let everyone down, and what if-

“Momo,” Shouto calls, and it snaps her back into the now. She doesn’t turn around to look at him, keeping her eyes trained on the blinking red light. “I still think you excel at this sort of thing.”

He says it like it’s a fact, and Momo can’t stop the sudden blush that takes over her face. It’s illogical, the way a mere sentence can make her worries vanish, but that’s the power Shouto’s always held over her. Leaning her head against the backrest of the passenger seat, Momo lets out a shuddering breath. “I don’t have a plan this time around.”

Her eyes dart towards Shouto’s minuscule smile as he presses the acceleration pedal. “But I have your back. That’s why we make a good team.”

“Yeah,” she says and it feels like a pebble making ripples in the pond.

***

“Undercover work,” Shouto echoes, meeting Aizawa’s eyes. His teacher has more wrinkles than Shouto remembers, and his eyebags have grown eyebags of their own, but there’s still the edge to his look that makes Shouto feel like he always needs to be on his toes.

“I see,” Momo muses next to him. “With Kyouka taking maternity leave soon, our best spy will be gone. You’re meaning to make up for it by having the surprise factor on our side, since they won’t know I’m back.” She looks up from the spot on the table she was eying intently and smirks. “A logical ruse.”

Aizawa smirks right back, and it holds that chill that Shouto will never grow accustomed to. When his former teacher pins him with an expectant gaze, Shouto steels himself. “I know.”

“It’s nice to see I don’t have to spell it out for you this time,” is all that Aizawa offers as he opens a yellow file. “Now let’s get this over with; Eri booked tickets to the movies and she’ll kill me if I’m late.”

***

This time? ” Momo questions over her straw. When Shouto gives her an obviously faked confused look, she flicks a fry at him. “What did Aizawa-sensei mean back there?”

“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” Shouto says with a look that wants to be innocent but only manages to be illegally cute, because he’s pouting and it looks so much like Tokiya’s pout that it makes Momo almost squish his cheeks. “I do know, however, that wasting food is bad,” he counters, picking up the lone fry now resting on his tray and munching thoughtfully. “I shall not allow my son to play with his fries.”

Momo almost rolls her eyes, reminds herself she’s an Yaoyorozu and spent way too much time with Kyouka, and pokes his cheek with her straw. “I shall not allow my son to eat fast food in the first place. And don’t change the subject.”

“Now that’s just unfair, you can’t keep Tokiya away from the delight of oily food and calories on bread,” Shouto shoots back, catching her straw in between his teeth and stealing a sip of her Sprite. “Ah, I should have ordered this instead of the Fanta,” he muses, completely blind to the way Momo’s hand stiffens on the cup as he wraps his fingers around her wrist and brings the beverage closer.

“You’re still changing the subject,” Momo weakly says, focusing all of her energy on willing her blood to circulate somewhere other than her cheeks. It’s a failed mission.

“That’s something for Aizawa and me to know.” Momo lets out an unladylike puff and pretends not to waver under the intent look Shouto gives her. He lets go of her wrist then. Cold air rushes around the ghost of his fingers on her exposed skin.

“I need to ask you something,” he says, eyes set in that serious look he gets sometimes, the one that always puts a bulge in Momo’s stomach and makes her stand a bit straighter in her seat. “I - Tokiya.” The word catches in his throat, and Momo almost takes his hand in hers before remembering that, of course, they are in a public place and their disguises are minimal. So she settles for putting as much encouragement as she can into her smile and waits.

“Tokiya asked me to help him with his quirk. Train him,” he says like it’s a curse.

“You should,” she whispers, yet Shouto starts as if she yelled in his ear.

“But-”

“I know,” Momo says, and there’s as much bewilderment as there is fear in his eyes. “I know. But you’re not him, Shouto.” His fingers curl around her sleeve and tug loosely - Momo feels the tug in her heart. “You’re you, and I want Tokiya to learn how to control his quirk. I want him to learn it from you.”

“Why?” he croaks. Like glass.

“Because I trust you,” Momo says, and she might as well have pushed a button, because Shouto’s hold on her sleeve tightens and something glimmers in his eyes - something usually tucked away between the folds of his chest.

“Why?”

Momo decides she doesn’t really care if the rowdy teenagers take sneaky photos of them and laces her fingers through his. He doesn’t jerk, but his eyes dart towards their woven hands. After the surprise subsides, something warm settles in, and his muscles relax.

“I don’t know.” Her trust in him has long since overstepped the boundaries of the logical - what started as admiration and confidence in his skills and decisions morphed into an instinctual trust that Momo has not once questioned. “I just do.”

Shouto shakes his head - whether to chase away a thought in his mind or at her words, Momo can’t quite tell. “That’s reckless,” Shouto says, a playful tilt to it.

She chuckles. “We have established that I’m reckless in these last few weeks, haven’t we?”

And then he’s smiling and squeezing her hand, and Momo doesn’t want to name the something that wakes up in her and engulfs her whole being, but she can’t ignore it any longer either.

***

Shouto blinks at what he can only describe in one word. Chaos.

“We really shouldn’t have left Tokiya in the care of a bear,” he mutters. Momo seems equally entranced by the absolute mess that the living room of the Kaminari household is as she nods dully. “I can’t even tell what they were trying to do.”

“A pillow fort, last I checked,” Jirou says from the middle of the room, comfortably nestled in the midst of at least half a dozen cushions and blankets. Her snark really is mellowed out by the sight of her lazily lounging in a haven of softness - the cute musical notes patterns enveloping the pillowcases only work against her.

“Mom! Shouto!” the telltale excited voice comes from somewhere beyond the sheets that have been hung up to mark the entrance to what must be the infamous fort. A head of black peeks from beyond the improvised curtains, hair sticking up in all directions. “Uncle Kaminari and I built this!”

The blond’s head pops up above Tokiya’s. “We did,” he confirms solemnly, pride seeping into his voice. “It’s equipped for all your needs.”

“Impressive,” Momo says, a spark to her voice as she takes it all in. “May I join you?” she asks and Shouto knows he lost this battle, because her eyes lit up like she has stars lurking in them, and now half the night sky is swimming in the pools of obsidian. When Tokiya nods, she all but runs into the fort, and Shouto just slumps on the ground next to Jirou.

“You’re so whipped,” she snickers. He almost shudders at how not-menacing it sounds.

“I don’t want to hear that from the person lounging in the - what even is that?”

The remark doesn’t even tick her off. “A pillow bed, according to Pikachu and the sunshine kid. Surprisingly comfy. You should try it, maybe you’ll feel less like a pining idiot.”

“I hope your child is Kaminari reincarnated and that they inherit his full sappiness,” Shouto deadpans, and Jirou elbows him in the thigh, because apparently, she can’t even be bothered to sit up, regardless of what he says.

“I hope you ask Momo on dates and let your kid with us often enough that he becomes Denki reincarnated.”

“Shouto, they even have food !” Momo pipes up, peeking from behind the curtain, positively brimming with excitement, her hair sticking up in all the wrong places, just like Tokiya’s did earlier. Cute. “You have to come see!” she trails off, as if Shouto wasn’t already standing up, ignoring Jirou’s knowing smirk and heading for the quote-unquote fort.

It’s childish, and Shouto’s 27 and a father, and he can’t keep the smile off his face.

***

Dear Dad,

I scored an 100 on today’s kanji test! Mom said she’s really proud. I want to show it to you, so hurry home!

Love,
Tokiya Yaoyorozu

Chapter Text

Would you believe me if I said that I was scared of everything too?
All the sincerity, the remaining times
All your answers are in this place you found
In your Milky Way, inside your heart
(Magic Shop -  BTS)


 

June comes with sunrises observed from the kitchen window as Shouto slowly works his way from almost empty plates of edible pancakes and omurice seasoned with eggshells to dishes good enough for Momo to eat without faking the pleased hum, until one day she says, “Shouto.”

“What? Did I put in salt instead of sugar?” he whirls around in a panic, trying to remember which container he grabbed.

Momo chuckles, light and beautifully. He loves her laughter. “No no, you did fine. I was actually thinking you’re doing well enough to cook meals for Tokiya now.”

“Really?” 

“Really.” She’s giving him those smiles that make her seem like she’s made out of laughter, and it’s all Shouto can do to control the sudden urge to feel the stretch of her lips beneath his own. “You’ve leveled up,” she jokes, stirring the straw in her glass of orange juice.

“That only means I have a harder level to beat ahead of me.” Off days spent with Kaminari trying to defeat bosses in video games in the dorms and then later in Momo and Jirou’s apartment have taught him that much. “What is it? Steaks? Grilled fish? I’m ready to take this challenge head on,” he says, pointing towards his apron to reinforce his point.

“Cook breakfast for us.” Somehow, that’s harder than having to deal with the oven. His expression must be a dead giveaway, for Momo chuckles. “It’s not a five star meal, Shouto.”

Tokiya will eat it. I can’t poison him!”

“So you can poison me?”

“You know that’s not what I mean,” he deadpans, digging out the grater from the cupboard.

“I know,” Momo hums as she passes him the cheese. “My point was that I have yet to land in the hospital from your cooking, so neither will Tokiya.” A fair point - logical, as everything Momo does is - yet not enough to soothe Shouto’s nerves.

It’s then that the final blow is delivered, in the form of Tokiya’s small, sleepy voice carrying over the sound of the cooking hood, “Morning!” The boy pads into the kitchen clumsily and lets Momo pick him up in her lap. “We’re having pancakes? Yes!” Sleep flies away as his face lights up with excitement - Shouto is certain that his balanced diet doesn’t usually include fatty breakfasts.

“Shouto said he’d be cooking for us,” Momo says around a mischievous smile, sealing the argument once and for all. She flutters her eyelids innocently when Shouto gives her an unimpressed look.

“Yay! Can we try putting maple syrup on it? Aunt Kyouka says that’s delicious! Oh but I also really like Nutella and I know Uncle Bakugou likes his pancakes with raspberry topping!” Shouto can’t help but snort and Tokiya puffs his cheeks, “It’s true! He made them for Uncle Kaminari once and I saw !”

Shouto and Momo nod sagely as Tokiya trails off, describing an array of possible toppings, of which the Yaoyorozu household only owns maple syrup and honey. Tokiya holds the jars victoriously over his head as he waltzes around Shouto, waiting for the meal to be ready with chants of, “I can’t believe Shouto is cooking for us!”

And that pretty much settles the matter of taking over the cooking.

***

Shouto counts Yaoyorozu’s breaths and decides that he started falling somewhere between the fourth and fifth, when her head lulled sleepily on his shoulder as if that was the most natural thing to do. He keeps counting until he reaches 120, keeps his mind busy from processing the burning feeling in his chest.

“You’re kind creepy when you stare like that,” Jirou whispers, head poking from behind the passenger seat and eyebrows raised too high for someone who wasn’t supposed to know anything. When Shouto keeps quiet, she adds, “Whipped.” He can’t exactly talk back - less to do with not wanting to wake Yaoyorozu up, more to do with not knowing what to say.

So he keeps looking at Yaoyorozu, hears Jirou sigh like she does when watching Ashido’s romantic flicks and closes his eyes. When he opens them again, it’s raining outside and Momo’s still sleeping on his shoulder, wrapped in his sweater and smelling like lavender and home.

Shouto kinda wishes the rain and the car ride would last forever.

***

“Should we call it a day?” Shouto’s voice is muffled by the towel he rubs over his face.

“One more time,” Momo says, determination obvious in both her voice and her face. She’s pulling her hair in a short ponytail, reminiscent of her trademark style - her hair has been growing out, falling into her face as she reads or trains.

Shouto shakes these thoughts as he takes a swig of his water and steps into a fighting stance, honing his skills to predict Momo’s each movement. They’ve been training like this ever since she’s stepped back into the hero world, and although her missions mostly involve intelligence gathering and smart decision taking, she’s always prepared for battle.

It’s perhaps sitting on the sidelines and absorbing the information of countless heroes’ moves and missions, or coming into contact with her students’ diverse fighting styles, but Momo’s moves have a fluidity that’s new to Shouto, a practicality morphed into elegance that spells out Creati . He finds that following her every movement is even more thrilling than taking down villains.

One more time turns into one more hour, and Momo only agrees to wrap up the session when Kirishima clears his voice through the speakers. “Uhm, Bakugou brought Tokiya here. They’re - Bakugou, no explosions, bro!

Momo and Shouto exchange a half-worried-half-mildly-exasperated glance and head for the showers as fast as humanly possible, determined not to let their son learn more about nitroglycerin and curses than necessary.

***

His shirt swallows her whole, reaching well below her waistline. She makes to tie it in a sideways bow when Shouto finds himself saying, “Don’t.” Momo tilts her head, half-amused, half-curious. “It looks good on you,” he mumbles, voice drawn out by Momo’s giggles.

“Is this your weakness?” she teases, tugging at the loose hem of the sweatpants she borrowed from his wardrobe. Shouto supposes his face must be a dead giveaway, for Momo raises a hand to stifle the laughter - and fails spectacularly. “From now on, I’ll just show up wearing your clothes on our dates.”

“Sounds good to me,” he shrugs, going for nonchalant but only managing mildly embarrassed. Momo laughs again, like her every fiber is made out of chuckles and bright smiles, and stumbles into a hug. The sleeves of his top flop around her fingers like gloves two sizes too big for her slender fingers. Shouto kisses her, tastes the giggle off her lips and feels it shake her shoulders just slightly.

As far as dating goes, Shouto doesn’t have much experience, but he’s pretty sure getting stranded in one’s apartment by a snowstorm is supposed to be romantic and filled with anxious waiting (at least according to Fuyumi’s stories). The way Momo flaps the sleeves around and her giddiness when Shouto uses his quirk to make hot chocolate, despite the power being down, would have one believe otherwise.

Still, when she nestles in his arms and they start talking in hushed voices about nothing and everything, about trips in the mountains and skiing, about heroics and fears, about the world and where they stand in it, but never about them , because that’s something so solid that they don’t need to mold it with words, Shouto knows he wouldn’t change this for the world.

Years later, stranded in a conference room by the biggest snowstorm Paris has seen in decades, Shouto finds himself longing for childish snickers and lukewarm hot chocolate, yearning for cold hands cupping his face and whispers muffled by sleep and cotton shirts.

***

“The Zaitsev rule states that elimination will occur at the most substituted carbon atom, hence in this example-” Momo is cut off by the sound of her cellphone and frowns. She rarely gets calls during school hours - moreover, the caller ID doesn’t strike her as familiar. “Excuse me,” she tells her class as she steps out to take the call.

“Is this Miss Yaoyorozu speaking?” an official voice asks from the other end, sending a trail of goosebumps down Momo’s spine. Her thoughts immediately drift to Tokiya and she feels the hairs on the back of her neck raise, feels the adrenaline rush through her veins as the voice adds, “This is the Musutafu Central Hospital-”

***

White, Momo discovers, is a very unsettling colour. It’s like a blank canvas for all the wounds and blood spurts, it’s the colour of mourning and surviving, the colour of gowns and beds and walls and everything becomes a sea of white and Momo crashes into a white coat, apologizes and knocks on a white door.

The worst part about hospitals is when you’re not the one lying in the bed, when the oxygen mask covers someone else’s face and all you can do is stare and pray and talk to them, as if your voice were enough to break through the invisible wall you can’t touch, as if it could reach out and shake them awake, as if you could do anything .

Momo stares and prays and talks for thirty-two hours before Kyouka forces her to go home and shower, a feat catalysed only by Midoriya promising not to leave Shouto’s side until Momo comes back. He’s been there for over twenty hours himself, but looks like he’s waited for forty, eyes sunken and face grubby - not that Momo looks any better herself.

“It’s all my fault,” Kaminari managed in between sobs. It was all he managed for the first hour or so, crying into Jirou’s shirt and clutching at her shoulders as if she were his lifeline. “I thought - It looked like it was over and - let my guard down - stupid stupid - as if I was a newbie or so - useless useless useless-”

“You didn’t pull the fucking trigger,” Bakugou said, so not annoyed that it startles even Kaminari. “I was there too, dipshit. We couldn’t have seen it coming.”

Momo nodded, hand running circles into Kaminari’s back. “He’ll be fine.” It came out thin and somewhat strangled. “Shouto will be fine. He knows better than to leave without saying goodbye.”

Leaving, even when saying goodbye, hurts more than taking a bullet, Momo discovers less than a year later.

***

She makes it there in half the time Google Maps predicted, at the expense of one of her heels breaking and the nurse side eyeing what must be a disheveled look, but Momo can’t bring herself to care much about that now. As she waits for her turn at the register, she taps her finger against her forearm and urges herself not to create matryoshka dolls.

“I’m here for Shouto Todoroki,” she says before the nurse in charge can even wish her a good morning. When she opens her mouth, Momo predicts the question and adds, “Momo Yaoyorozu. I’m his emergency number.”

The nurse takes her ID and nods. “Room 105, first floor, second on the right as you exit the elevator.”

“Thank you,” Momo sighs and it’s like half the weight of the world falls off her shoulders when the nurse adds, “Don’t worry Madam, he’s not in critical condition.” The kind smile on her face gives Momo courage, and she brushes her hair out of her face and walks into the elevator a bit straighter.

The last time she was in a hospital, her father had a kidney taken out. It wasn’t her worst experience in a hospital, not by a long shot, but there’s something about seeing your loved ones in white gowns and pale faces that gnaws at your insides, makes your heart thump uncomfortably and your palms sweat.

It’s what she feels now too, especially as the doctor standing outside Shouto’s room briefs her on his situation. She tries to keep out the image of Shouto in bandages, his face covered by an oxygen mask and tubes - way too many tubes - connected to machines that register his vitals, tries to pretend it doesn’t haunt her nightmares when she reads the news about his latest missions.

“He just pushed himself too much - rest is all his body needs right now, and he’ll be as good as new,” the doctor finishes, and Momo bows and braces herself for the white gown.

Relief. Walking into the room with Shouto sitting on the hospital bed, looking out the window with a somewhat bored expression fills her with relief, and she lets out a sigh that feels like a puncture wound. Having to give him an admonishing look when he whips his head around is a whole different story, but it’s a skill she’s acquired through six years of parenting, so she manages to keep a poker face when Shouto looks up with a confused face.

“You haven’t changed your emergency number,” Momo says by way of hello and takes a seat in the chair next to his bed.

“Oh,” is all he has to offer, and then, “I’m sorry.”

It’s really, really hard to be mad at him and his lack of self-preservation when he looks so pouty, when Momo is still drunk on the euphoric feeling of him being alive , when he was gone for so long that she came to think she would be able to protect him if only she was there , but was proven wrong. So instead of chiding him, Momo lets out a deep sigh and buries her head in the crook of his neck, breathes in the antiseptic and the homey scent he exudes and loops her arms around his neck, lets the warmth seep in and remind her this is not for granted.

“For getting hurt or for worrying me?” she asks against his skin, feels his arms around her waist and indulges herself.

“Both,” Shouto mutters into her hair, and she believes him. “It’s nothing life-threatening, though. The doctor said I just overused my fire quirk and fainted.” He sounds nonchalant about it, but Momo knows he’s just trying to soothe her. Heroes overdoing it has often led to burnouts - like in All Might’s case. Shouto is all too aware of it.

Instead of lecturing him, though, Momo pulls away just enough to meet his eyes and says, “Well don’t do it again, because Tokiya and I will be very worried about you.”

Her words sink in one crinkle at a time, until Shouto is fully smiling and shaking his head as if to convince himself this is real. “Yeah. It won’t happen again.”

Momo mirrors the smile and listens to him retelling her the details of the mission.

***

“You don’t have to spoon feed me,” Shouto deadpans, giving Momo the same look her little cousins do when she coos at them and they protest with words of, “I’m a big boy now.” It’s almost endearing, except for the bandages wrapped around his head and the cast on his arm.

“Says the one who can’t use his right arm,” she counters, offering him another spoonful of soup. Shouto frowns but swallows.

“You’re babysitting me.”

“I’m worried about you.” It comes out sharp around the edges. Shouto winces, and Momo lets down the spoon. “It’s-”

“I’m sorry.” It’s not what he has to say, nor what Momo needs to hear. It’s their best shot.

“You didn’t want to get yourself into the hospital, I presume.” He smiles faintly, and Momo sighs. “We’re heroes - we know this is part of the course. But having it actually happen, it’s - it’s terrifying.” More than Kyouka’s horror movies or the feeling of being unable to breathe. It’s like having a part of yourself cut out and not being able to tell what’s missing, like being empty but not knowing what could fill you.

Shouto’s arm is around her and Momo realizes she’s crying when he says, “I’m here” and she almost misses it under the sound of her sobs. “I’m here now,” he says again, and the last word is filled with both relief - of having survived - and anxiety - of not knowing what lies ahead.

Being a hero is more about the now than the then , more about the scars then the wounds, more about living than the hiccups in life. Momo is starting to understand this.

***

Shouto is out of the hospital, but that doesn’t mean he doesn’t wince when Tokiya hugs him a bit too tightly and with too much concern, or that he doesn’t clutch his sides on instinct when Jirou bumps into him. Momo notices it all, the pained smile he gives his sidekicks and the heavy pants in their training sessions, because Shouto Todoroki is nothing if not stubborn, and he categorically refuses to give up on their weekly sparring, despite the sweat beads that gather on his temples.

“You’re pushing yourself,” she tells him when he tries to nonchalantly grab a shopping bag from the cart and ends up hissing in pain instead. He opens his mouth to respond, but she shuts him up by saying, “Don’t lie to me, Shouto.”

He swallows his words like they’re bitter medicine and scratches the back of his neck. “I feel really useless. Midoriya put me off my shifts and I can barely help you with housework-”

“Resting isn’t being useless,” Momo says sharply, picking the last bag to place it neatly in Shouto’s car. “Think of it as a self-restraint exercise and let your body heal.” She’s not sure if it comes out as a plead or a threat, and Shouto’s blank look doesn’t help her crack through either. Eventually, Momo sighs, “If you want to keep yourself busy, you could pick Tokiya up from school and help him with homework.” Shouto keeps quiet, so Momo tilts her head quizzically, “You don’t want to?”

“No!” he responds so fast that it’s almost comical, shaking his head frantically. “That’s not it at all. I’m just… That’s stuff he’s always done with you.”

“You think he’ll reject you?” Momo asks slowly, understanding downing on her. “Shouto, no. He loves you.”

Shouto has always talked with his eyes, eyes that are now fogged with worry and something deeper, a pain Momo can’t put her finger on, hurt she’s only seen in Rei’s grey eyes the moment she held Tokiya in her arms for the first time. It makes something crack in her voice as she repeats, “Tokiya loves you.”

He nods, but Momo’s shoulders still feel heavy.

***

“Are you afraid?”

Shouto looks up from his laptop, expression blank as he tries to register what Momo asked. “Of what?”

“Meeting my family.” Silence is an answer in itself. “You know my parents already love you and while my Great Aunt can be a bit nosy, she does make the best cheesecake I’ve ever eaten. Oh and Aunt Ingrid is simply the sweetest, she’ll want to knit you a sweater and-”

“I’m not good with kids,” Shouto suddenly says and then bites his lip, like he’s just let something he’s been hiding since forever carelessly slip out.

“You don’t know that,” Momo softly says, trying her hardest to keep a poker face. It’s comical yet endearing, how worried he is about her little cousins rejecting him. “You did fine during your assignment in high school.”

“I was known as the five pee pee man,” Shouto says and that proves to be the drop that fills the glass, for Momo can no longer contain her laughter. “It’s not a laughing matter,” her boyfriend protests, but Momo can only tip her head back and mentally apologize to her Mother for breaking the Yaoyorozu rules of ladylike behaviour. “Momo,” he pleads, catching her wrists and pinning her with his look. “I’m serious.”

“As I am. You can’t know they won’t like you unless you meet them.”

She can see him turning the idea over in his head and grins at his sigh. It’s not like he had any chance of winning. “Fine,” Shouto concedes, and Momo pecks his cheek. “But if I say pee pee, you need to come to my rescue.”

Momo laughs, laughs, laughs.

***

For about a week, things follow their habitual course: Shouto picks Tokiya up, Momo cooks dinner while they do homework, they eat together and sometimes watch movies until Tokiya falls asleep squashed in between them and Momo and Shouto spend at least half an hour more discussing Disney movies in shushed voices. Rinse and repeat.

The day things stray off course is only marked by Tokiya saying he isn’t really hungry and getting up from the dinner table earlier than his parents. It’s sudden and it has Momo swallowing a lump in her throat as she follows him and knocks on the door to his room.

“Hey,” she says softly, cracking it open and glancing at Tokiya sitting at his desk, already absorbed in the book Rei borrowed him. “Is everything alright, honey?”

Tokiya looks up, half a smile and clear eyes and says, “Yes. I just wasn’t hungry.”

“The last time you weren’t hungry you collapsed,” Momo reminds him matter of factly and steps into his room, sitting on the edge of his bed. For a while, she just takes him in, tries to pick apart the bad premonition gnawing at her insides like she picks at the hem of her jeans and stamp it out, but to no avail. “Shouto’s food isn’t bad,” she says then, absentmindedly.

Tokiya flinches. “It’s not,” he admits with a mutter.

Momo leans in. “Tokiya?” His eyes linger on the book, too still for him to be reading. “Remember what you promised me?”

The word promise seems to work as a switch - Tokiya’s head snaps up and he finally meets Momo’s eyes. He’s an Yaoyorozu alright, honoring any vow he had taken, be it one he regrets or not. “That I wouldn’t bottle it up?” Momo nods sagely. “I won’t, Mom.”

“Okay,” Momo says and gets up. Tokiya seems surprised by the abrupt end of the conversation. Momo just smiles. “If you can’t talk to me, I’m sure Aunt Kyouka would listen, too.”

Tokiya bites down on his lip as he always does when he’s deep in thought and Momo closes the door behind her softly, letting him munch on the thought.

***

“I trust you, Shouto.”

He kisses her jaw and she digs her nails deeper into the nape of his neck. “Not like that adds pressure or anything,” he mutters against her ear, and Momo shivers from the puff of hot air, from his words, from the proximity. Shouto kisses her again, whispers, “I’ve got you” in her mouth, against her skin.

“I know.”

***

“He did talk to me,” Kyouka says two days later, lounging on Momo’s sofa and biting down on the straw attached to a now empty milkshake. “Your kid is very smart, but that’s nothing new. Dying of curiosity to know what was eating away at him?” Kyouka teases, a smirk spreading lazily on her lips.

“No,” Momo shoots back with a smile. “There will always be things he won’t be able to tell me - I just hope he’ll trust someone else in those moments and ask for help, because that’ll be his strength.” She stares down in her cup at her rippled reflection and watches the worry line on her forehead deepen. “It’s got something to do with Shouto, doesn’t it?”

“Your accuracy is sometimes scary,” Kyouka confesses, forcing herself into a sitting position which can only mean one thing - she’s getting serious. “The kid’s always had you and only you - you can’t blame him for needing time to adapt.”

“I’m not,” Momo shakes her head. “I think we all need time to adapt. It’s just a bit sudden.”

“Do you really think so?” Kyouka’s voice is far from chiding - her soft tone has Momo raising her head to meet calm eyes and an understanding smile. “You probably can’t tell, but from the exterior, it’s easy to see you’ve been warming up to Todoroki. You spend a lot of time together and - don’t deny it now - you still have feelings for him. Kids feel these changes.”

“Spoken like a true mother,” Momo jokes before focusing back on her tea. “I just hope I’m making the right decision.”

“You’ve always trusted Todoroki,” is all Kyouka offers.

It’s enough.

***

Nothing puts a relationship to the test like Mario Kart - Camie’s words, that Momo chuckled at. She’s coming to understand their gravity now, with the remote clutched in her hands and Shouto as her opponent. Kaminari is cheering in the background and she can faintly hear him elbowing Kyouka and saying, “Told you they’d love it.”

“Yes,” Shouto mutters under his breath as he overtakes Momo at a curve. She grits her teeth and speeds up until they’re back at the same place, fighting for an advantage of even an inch.

“You’re too competitive,” Kyouka sighs, lounged in an armchair and flicking her jacks around after having dropped out. “It’s just a stupid game.”

“And they’re a stupid couple,” Bakugou points out. “It fits.”

“You’re just sour because you lost to Todoroki,” Kirishima laughs and earns a jab that should really be in the punch category.

“Fucking whatever,” the blond seethes just as Momo reaches the finish line a milisecond before Shouto and drops the remote in relief. “Ponytail whopped his ass anyway,” Bakugou smirks, reaching over a fist for Momo to bump.

“I demand a rematch,” Shouto says and Momo lifts an eyebrow. “It was beginner’s luck.”

“Are you underestimating my technique?” she asks, mildly offended. Behind her, Sero and Kaminari fake-gasp.

Shouto looks cocky as he closes the distance between them until their noses brush. “Perhaps.” The gasps are real this time.

Momo squares her shoulders and tightens her grasp on the remote. “You’re on, Todoroki Shouto.”

***

“Do you want to read?” Shouto asks once he’s done washing the dishes and turns off the tap, turning to look at Tokiya who’s still drawing at the kitchen table.

The kid startles, looking like a deer caught in the lights. His answer comes after too much deliberation to be natural, “I’m kind of tired tonight.” With that, he gathers all of his crayons and shuffles out of the kitchen a little too fast, a little too wobbly.

Shouto exchanges a glance with Momo before following Tokiya out of the room and knocking at his door. “Can I come in?” Shouto asks from behind the plank of wood, his heart racing a mile a minute but his tone flat. Tokiya’s faint “okay” is all he needs to crack the door open and slip inside the room painted in white and red.

It’s weird just how out of place Shouto is in a chamber that was supposedly modeled after him.

“Hey,” Shouto says, sitting cross legged on the floor in front of Tokiya’s drawings. Out of the corner of his eye, he catches the clumsy sketch of a woman with black hair and kind smile and understanding settles in like falling snowflakes - slowly and in layers. Looking at Tokiya’s face, Shouto feels peace envelop him, and the words roll steadily off his tongue. “Are you afraid I’m taking your mother away?”

Tokiya startles, but doesn’t meet his eyes.

“I’m not,” Shouto says. It registers as solid. “She will always be your mother, and she’ll always love you more than anything else in this world.”

Tokiya looks up then, his face torn between disbelief and the need to hear more. “But. You’re much more - you’re a hero, Shouto! You can protect Mom when I can’t, and you can even cook and set up the table, so-”

It all makes sense to Shouto now - Tokiya’s sudden lack of appetite, the abrupt end to the daily hugs, the usual sparkle in his eyes dimming. Guilt takes over again as he pulls Tokiya close and engulfs him in one of the embraces he’s missed so much. “I’m not replacing you, Tokiya. You’re you, and no one can do that better.”

“I don’t hate you,” he mutters in Shouto’s T-shirt. “But I get this really unpleasant feeling and I don’t know why and I want it to stop-” he’s sobbing now, so Shouto backs off enough to see his face and caress his cheek.

“I know you don’t.”

“Aunt Kyouka said it’s called jealousy.”

“It might be,” Shouto nods, thinking back to his first night and the dinner he had here, to the alienation he felt when he saw a row of pictures he wasn’t in, when he saw a child that had his quirk but only knew him from the newspapers. “You’re not a bad person for feeling that way,” he says when he sees the tears welling in Tokiya’s eyes.

“I don’t like feeling this way,” Tokiya whimpers.

“Hey,” he says softly, makes Tokiya look at him with a gentle poke and smiles. “You may not believe this, but I’m sometimes jealous of you, too.”

“You are?” Tokiya’s voice catches in his throat and Shouto smiles again, smooths the white bang behind his ear and sits on the red carpet. He used to hate the colour until Momo told him it’s her favourite, until she started threading slender fingers through his bangs and wondering at the firey colour of his hair.

It’s a matter of perspective, she told him.

“Yeah,” Shouto says, hooking Tokiya on his answer. “Back in highschool, and after that, your mother and I were partners.” He rolls the word softly, tries not to wince at the past tense. “It’s a special sort of trust. When I saw her with you, it felt like she was sharing that same bond with you - trusting you with her life.”

Tokiya blinks as the words sink in. “But I’m not a hero.”

“You’re my hero,” Shouto says. “And I’m pretty sure you’re hers, too.”

The boy sniffles and makes to rub his nose with his sleeve, stopping right before committing the impolite crime. Shouto uses his own sleeve to blow Tokiya’s nose. “Even if I can’t save her?” he says against the soft cotton of his father’s shirt.

“Not all heroes wear capes,” Shouto offers, and Tokiya cracks a smile. “And not everyone needs to be saved from villains. Some heroes have a relentless smile, and that accounts for more than you can imagine.” Silence stretches between them, brings them closer as Tokiya’s breathes even out and his shoulders fall into a steady rise-and-fall. “Are we cool?” Shouto asks eventually.

Tokiya looks up with a giggle, frost blooming on his fingers. “We’re cool.” It undoes a knot in Shouto’s chest as the kid coils up against him, arms snaked around his neck and nose nuzzled in his shirt. “Shouto?” His voice reverberates against his skin, and Shouto takes in the uneasiness in it. “Can you still teach me? How to control my quirk?”

“I can.” He pulls away enough to see Tokiya’s eyes and adds, “But remember that your quirk doesn’t define you.”

“Okay,” Tokiya says with that seriousness he’s inherited from Momo, the one that rivals Iida’s strictness. It quickly melts into a coy smile though, as Tokiya sinks deeper into the hug and repeats, “I’m sorry.”

“You shouldn’t be. It just means you love your mother this much.”

“But I love you too,” Tokiya says, too fast and unwavering for it to be a lie.

Shouto tries to keep his voice flat and ignore the itch in the back of his throat. “Me too.”

***

Momo pushes herself off the wall and walks back into the kitchen quietly, biting down on the smile that threatens to break her face in two.

***

Dear Shouto,

I wish you were here to see Tokiya grow up. You’d be so proud of him! He can already tie his shoelaces all alone and he asks these questions that leave even me speechless. Today, he wanted to know why bugs don’t fall off leaves - did you know they have sticky secretions to help them stabilize themselves?

He reminds me so much of you, in the way he rushes to help me set the table or tries surprising me with a new drawing when I’m stressed out from work. If only he had a steady income, I think he’d buy me honeycomb like you used to, and I wouldn’t be too surprised if he chose the same sweets shop you were addicted to. Then again, he is your son, so I shouldn’t be this surprised.

For a while, I was really confused. “Am I trying to fill the hole Shouto left?” Thoughts like this one were crossing my mind, and then I would chide myself, because it’s unfair towards Tokiya to think like that - he’s his own person, and he is irreplaceable. Choosing between him and you - I could never do that. Both of you are special to me in different ways - love really is such a general, allencompasing term.

Tokiya made it easier for me to cope with losing you - no one could heal what’s been broken, no matter how much Camie insists band aids can fix anything - but he did stitch the wounds. Sometimes, I wonder how you’re holding up without Tokiya - how anyone can hold up without someone like him, truly. I’m probably biased, though.

When - If you come back and meet him, Shouto, I think you’d love him to the moon and back. I think somewhere deep down, you already do.

Love,
Momo

Chapter Text

And now after all my searching
After all my questions
I'm gonna call it home
(This Is Home - Switchfoot)


 

“I was wondering when you’ll come.”

Momo can’t say she’s surprised. “I suppose you know why I’m here.”

“Oh please,” Mei says, her eyes sparkling as she slides out a file from the insanely high pile on her desk - it never fails to impress Momo how the mechanic knows the place of each and every page in the chaotic mess reigning in her lab - and flips it open. “Your quirk is fascinating and it would have been a waste not to think of ways to improve your costume!”

A chuckle involuntarily escapes Momo as she’s handed over the incredibly detailed sketch. “You truly are the best,” she muses as she scans the new elements to be added to her costume. It’s practical and light, giving her both the support and freedom of movement she so needs in her job. After humming and nodding to herself for a few minutes, she finally looks at Mei and smiles, “As expected of Mei-san: no loopholes.”

The grin on Mei’s face is contagious. “This costume has been waiting for you to come out of retirement, Creati! Actually, we’ve all been waiting for that.” The casualty of the words leaves Momo speechless.

Mei does her the favor of filling the silence, “To be fair, I’ve always known you’d come back. It’s the pull of it all, of saving people and making the world a better place. It’s never called to me, but I’ve seen it in Iida, that need to be needed. You two are much more alike than people think.”

There’s something knowing yet questioning in Mei’s eyes, and Momo has a hint what it could be. “It’s true,” she says, and then, “It’s why we could have never worked - what Iida needs is someone reckless and adventurous, someone to pull him out, not drag him in. That someone isn’t me, Mei-san.”

She tilts her head from side to side, leaving Momo to wonder whether she’s swaying to a song in her mind or assessing that statement. “I don’t know if I can make him let go,” she says eventually, so quiet that Momo almost misses it.

“I think you could,” she says and means it. Mei is like a butterfly: colourful and attention grabbing, but also quick to fly away. A ‘blink and you miss it’ sort of person - one to demand your energy and give it back twofold, to ask for nothing and give everything. Momo smiles and confidently repeats, “I’m sure you can.”

Mei laughs then, the seriousness melting away with every giggle. Clapping her hands, she exclaims, “Costume time, Creati! You’re supposed to make me focus here!”

Momo laughs too and ducks her head, focusing back on the reason of her visit.

***

“You’re getting the hang of this,” Shouto says, high fiving Tokiya as he completes another lap on his brand new bicycle. When Shouto found out the bike was sitting unused in Momo’s storage room (a gift from the Yaoyorozu family head that somehow never got a chance to teach his grandson how to use it), Shouto took it upon himself to give the boy lessons.

“It’s fun!” Tokiya peeps up, jumping down the bike to drink some water and catch his breath. “But I still don’t see what this has to do with training my quirk, Shouto!”

The hero smiles and rufles Tokiya’s hair lovingly - it’s as soft as his and as stubborn as Momo’s, which is the perfect combination for the worst bed hair and only serves to add to Tokiya’s charms. “It has everything to do with it,” Shouto says, kneeling so he’s at eye level with the kid. “You see, controlling ice is all about balance - inner and outer balance. Mastering bike riding should help improve that.” And it’s a good excuse to spend time with his son, but that is better unsaid.

Tokiya chuckles, “That sounds so much like something Mom would say.”

It catches Shouto a bit off guard, the accuracy of the statement bringing flashbacks to surface. Momo taught him how to ride a bike when they were second years, hiding in the practice room after school because Shouto was embarrassed at how all his classmates possessed this simple skill. Because he never had a father willing to rip two hours of his training time to teach Shouto how to keep his balance on two wheels. Because bike-riding was never a necessity so it wasn’t needed. 

In the back of his mind, Shouto can’t help but wonder if Momo kept the bicycle locked away on purpose, waiting for him to go through the storage room and bring it back to light. It’s a silly thought, of course, but it makes Tokiya’s gummy smile more meaningful, gives this frame of time a golden hue.

“Do you like it?” Shouto shouts as Tokiya pedals away at full speed, and the child yelps in delight. Shouto remembers it all - the first time feeling the wind whip his face, the shaky feeling of the two wheels beneath him, Momo’s voice in the background, shouting encouragement as he dared to go faster and faster.

Somedays, Shouto doesn’t have the will to get up. Some days, he opens the cupboards, looking for something to eat at dinner, sees the instant soba stacked in the back, and can’t muster the energy to even want it. Some days, Shouto looks at the kids staring at him like he’s a superhero when he’s only human and feels hollow, feels his chest cave open with longing for something he can’t name, feels his guts twist when he didn’t even eat, feels feels feels without knowing why .

Tokiya’s laugh echoes down the street, his incoherent shouts of joy filling up that pit inside Shouto and giving him the energy to jog after his son.

It’s not perfect - some days, Shouto feels like he’s made out of guilt and regret - but nothing ever is. As long as he has Tokiya by his side, smiling and laughing and squeezing his hand, he’s sure he can pull through.

***

Family movie nights are supposed to be safe - and they mostly are, ending up with Tokiya dozing off in between his parents and Shouto carrying him to bed as Momo boils the water for tea; Shouto and Momo usually end up talking late into the night, about everything and nothing, about Tokiya and his latest passions, about their friends and coworkers about the heroworld and never about them, fingers curled around the steaming mugs and toes pushed into the soft fabric of the cushions. Walking this thin line is gymnastics, but they’re comfortable enough around each other to overlook one missed step.

Family movie nights are mostly safe, until they aren’t.

The first danger factor is the sheer presence of the cushions. Coupled with Tokiya’s latest sleepover at Haru’s, who kindly enlightened him on the miracle of pillow fights, they turn out to be quite the lethal weapon. Momo finds that out first hand when Tokiya throws a pillow between her and Shouto all of a sudden, grinning widely.

Momo locks eyes with her son and matches his grin. “Don’t think you can declare war on us and get out unscathed,” she says in a deep voice - an imitation of her father’s pirate impersonation. Tokiya chuckles and ducks behind the sofa strategically.

Momo elbows Shouto, giving him a look that says Just play along . And so he does, adopting a gruff voice he quite probably heard a villain used to say, “You brought our wrath upon yourself out of your own free will, Tokiya Yaoyorozu.”

Thus starts the pillow fight, filled with grand lines about justice (coming from Tokiya) and one liners from various anti-heroes Momo and Shouto have fought throughout the years. They only break character once for Tokiya to say, “Mom, it’s unfair if you keep creating pillows! I can’t beat that!”

As soon as Momo concedes, the tables turn around: Shouto teams up with his son, proving he has been a spy all along, and they disarm Momo, forcing her to surrender. A painful defeat, but Momo has faced one too many situations when luck wasn’t on her side and thus knows just what to do to get herself out of such a rut: in this case, tickling Tokiya is her ticket to freedom.

The apartment is too small for Tokiya’s full laughter, the sound the best treatment for Momo’s stress and daily worries. She bathes in her son’s happiness as he squirms under her touch and Shouto joins as well, tickling a particularly sensitive spot on the inside of his foot. When Tokiya’s breathing becomes panting, Momo ceases her attack and kisses his brow softly. “Off to bed with you now,” she muses in his hair, her breath tickling Tokiya yet again.

“But Mom,” Tokiya tries arguing, dragging the o and completing his pleading with puppy eyes.

“Sorry honey, but it’s way past your bedtime and you have school tomorrow.” He still looks disappointed and Momo hates that look on his face, so she smooths his hair and promises, “We’ll play tomorrow, too.”

Tokiya’s eyes light up and he trudges to his room - albeit still reluctantly - stopping in the doorway to bid her and Shouto goodnight. Once the door has been shut and the light coming out from underneath the threshold has disappeared, Shouto picks up a forgotten pillow and throws it in Momo’s lap, causing her to roll her eyes.

“You’re being more childish than your son,” she tells him, but it holds no bite - how could it when Shouto’s smiling so genuinely? His face is bright and his gums are showing and it does unspeakable things to Momo’s heart - being an adult apparently doesn’t invalidate acting like a girl in love.

“I don’t see what’s wrong with that,” Shouto naturally replies, proceeding to throw another pillow, and then another one, until Momo bites on her lower lip and on the pride of being a responsible adult and attacks back. Shouto’s smile grows into a smirk. “You were saying?” he cheekily asks, catching the cushion Momo aimed at him effortlessly.

“I never said I wasn’t,” she says around a grin. Shouto chucks the cushion at her probably cocky expression. Momo deflects, but it’s too late - Shouto anticipated it, and now he’s got his fingers clasped around her wrists. The next thing she knows, Momo is lying on the carpet of her living room with Shouto hovering above her, his face mere inches apart.

From this distance, Momo could count his eyelashes - if she wasn’t distracted by the closeness, that is. There’s so much of Shouto, so close, and Momo forgot how there are actually arrows of green in his blue eye and specks of golden dust in the other one, and how he still has some baby fat on his cheeks that made her lose to her urge to pinch them the first time she got a bit tipsy, and how his jaw is strong and well defined and try as she may, she could never draw it accurately. There’s so much of Shouto, so close, and it’s overwhelming and Momo - well, Momo holds her breath and stares.

It could be seconds or an eternity before they unfreeze. Shouto comes to his senses first, scurrying back to his feet and muttering, “Sorry” as he holds a hand out to help Momo up.

“It’s alright,” she says.

What she means, though, is that this is gymnastics and they’re close enough to overlook a missed step, but with every mistake, it gets harder and harder to look the other way.

***

Tokiya has seen the practice rooms before, but actually being inside one eaves him feeling somewhat nervous. He tugs at the hem of the shirt he suddenly feels too small for and mutters, “Woah.”

“Believe it or not, a hero spends more time here than he does on missions, actually fighting villains,” Shouto tells him, but it’s all a blur to Tokiya’s ears. He’s trying to adjust to the sheer size of the place, to the air conditioning, to the way his voice echoes against the walls. It’s a lot to take in - so much that he almost misses Shouto’s question. “What are the basics when it comes to ice-handling?”

Tokiya takes a moment to collect himself, “I use the water around me or the liquids inside my body and bring them at zero degrees. If I add other substances, the freezing temperature changes, so I‘m still experimenting with that.”

Shouto nods. “That’s good, but there’s a catch: pressure.”

He quietly watches Tokiya wrap his mind around it; the boy bites his lower lip in thought, his eyes suddenly lighting up, “The freezing temperature changes with the pressure!”

“Correct.” Shouto raises his left hand, a thin veil of ice covering his fingers. “Something they don’t tell you at school is that your quirks aren’t magic. You aren’t just turning moist and water into ice, Tokiya. You’re subconsciously slowing down the molecule movement to create a solid, which means you can also control pressure.”

With each word, Tokiya feels himself lifting on the balls of his feet. “That’s what Mom does, too! Could she create ice then?”

“In moderate amounts, yes. Unlike you, though, she only uses what’s in her body, so dehydration would be a real danger.” Tokiya nods sagely. “Now that’s easier said than done, so today we’ll focus on pressure and temperature control.”

***

Momo is still laughing, despite Kyouka’s slightly irked expression. It doesn’t help that Kaminari’s positively beaming by her side, humming not quite quietly. “You’re both the worst and I have no idea why you’re my closest friends,” Kyouka declares with a puff of annoyance.

“I’m sorry,” Momo manages, stifling the chuckles with the back of her palm. “It’s just - I never thought four months of chanting ‘It’s a girl’ would actually work, you know?”

“I’m offended that you didn’t trust my father instincts,” Kaminari declares, looking anything but offended. If Momo didn’t know any better, she’d say his face is emitting light right about now.

“I want to say I’m surprised,” Kyouka sighs, “except I’ve been living with Denki for so long that nothing surprises me anymore.”

“I’ll take that as a compliment,” Kaminari cheerfully says, eliciting another giggle out of Momo and a deep, exasperated sigh from his wife.

“Leaving that aside,” Kyouka says in an attempt to steer the conversation back to its original track, “we need to go shopping now. Baskets and all that stuff.”

“Baby cribs,” Kaminari nods. “I was thinking pink-”

“Absolutely not .”

“It’s a girl!”

My girl. It means no pink.”

“Purple?”

“God no.” Kaminari opens his mouth to talk back, but Kyouka shuts him up. “If you buy a purple crib, you’ll want to stick to this colour scheme and buy her only purple clothes. Do you know how hard it is to find those are? Do you think I steal your hoodies for no valid reasons?”

Momo has assisted to enough of their bickering sessions to know that both parties can come up with a surprising amount of evidence to support their point, no matter how trivial, so she decides to put an early end to it. “How about white? It’s a non-gender colour and everyone loves it! Besides, it has a calming effect on the baby.”

Kyouka rubs at her temples. “Thank you, voice of reason. Can we talk about the real problem here, though?” Momo nods, putting her cup of tea down to give her friend her undivided attention. “Motherhood,” Kyouka stops and gulps. “What’s it like?”

“Do you mean giving birth or… what comes afterwards?”

“Afterwards,” Kyouka says, poking her jacks together. “Giving birth is biological. I’m pretty sure my body will know what to do, and the doctors will be there too. But what comes next - raising a baby, satisfying their needs without spoiling them - I know nothing about it.”

She sounds terrified, more so than Kaminari is of spiders, and Momo places a hand over hers, Kaminari linking his fingers with Kyouka’s other free hand. “That’s also biological,” Momo smiles, but it does nothing to dissolve the frown poking at Kyouka’s brow. “It’s not a recipe. You just - you figure it out in time. Do’s and don'ts, likes and dislikes, you learn them one at a time.”

“And besides, I’m here,” Kaminari says, pressing a kiss to Kyouka’s temple. “And I’m amazing with kids.”

Kyouka snorts and it reaches her eyes. “How you can be this confident will always be beyond me.”

“If this baby is anything like you, I know how to tame her,” Kaminari simply says, earning himself a stern glare. “Just kidding,” he quickly adds, ducking as to avoid Jirou’s jacks. “Honestly Kyouka, confident is the last thing I am. I’m just-” he scratches the back of his neck “-I’m really excited to meet her and cuddle with her and just generally shower her with love.”

Kaminari’s words are naked in their sincerity, and they reach Kyouka in a way that Momo’s advice could never, like they pierce through everything and settle exactly in the hole in her chest. Momo retracts her hand and gets up to pour herself more tea, giving her friends alone time.

She’s not jealous of them, but she’d be lying if she said it doesn’t make her feel incomplete when she watches them. Ever since Shouto’s left, she’s been missing him and, by the very semantics of it, she’s been missing a part of herself. It’s like a phantom pain somewhere in her chest, ringing dully every night.

***

“You know, the apron really does make me feel like a housewife,” Shouto notes as he stirs the rice in the pan, adding the carrots he’s just sliced to it.

Momo chuckles, wiping her hands on her own apron and flipping the sizzling meat over. Tokiya’s on a school trip - they just got off a call after being told that he collected no less than 6 beautiful rocks (where Momo is supposed to make them fit in his overly crowded library remains a mystery to humankind) and that the sunset is very pretty in the mountains - so she’s not sure what Shouto cooking dinner with her means. It could be inertia. It could be more.

Momo is afraid to ask.

“Is it the pink?” she asks instead, because banter is known territory, banter is safe.

“It’s the ‘Best Mom’ message on it,” Shouto deadpans.

She laughs. “It was a gift from Tokiya- one that Kaminari probably had a say in, but that’s beside the point.” Momo fishes three plates out of the cupboard - call it force of habit. Putting one back in the stack, she sighs. “It’s rather quiet without Tokiya around, isn’t it?”

Shouto nods, and Momo wonders just how quiet his apartment is. “It’s been a day and I already miss him,” he admits, sounding entirely sincere. “He just makes everything so much… better.” 

Momo bites down on a smile and hums in agreement. “Actually, about Tokiya. I had a favor to ask of you.”

He looks up from where he’s stirring the vegetables and tilts his head - an invitation. “You do remember our summer training camps, don’t you?” Like anyone could forget them. Shouto nods. “I’m a head teacher so Principal Nezu asked me if I could attend it and look after class 1-B. It’s part of my duties and well, to be completely frank-”

“You want to go,” Shouto finishes for her, smiling.

“Yes,” she confirms. “But that would mean leaving Tokiya with someone for a week. I’m sure my parents would love looking after him, but I was thinking - and you don’t have to accept or anything, it’s mostly a suggestion, but - uhm-” The more she talks, the more she realizes that this is a huge responsibility to dump on Shouto, who’s slowly slipping into the role of a father day by day, not yet certain of what’s right to do and treading carefully with each step. “I was thinking maybe you’d want to look after him,” she finishes quietly and averts her gaze.

Shouto doesn’t reply immediately, but when he does, Momo startles. “Do you think he’d be fine with that?”

“You talk like you don’t know him,” Momo smiles, relieved that that is his only concern. “It’d be a good opportunity for you to bond,” she gently prods, noticing the line in Shouto’s shoulders.

“You wouldn’t let me alone in the kitchen, but you’d leave me alone with Tokiya?” he says it as a joke, but there’s nothing funny in his eyes.

“I trust you.” She wonders how many times she has to say it before he stops looking so surprised, stops giving her a look that pleads her not to lie, and she has to nod reassuringly.

“What if I screw up?”

“There isn’t anything that can’t be undone.”

Shouto hums in thought and turns off the stovetop. “If the kitchen somehow gets burned down, you brought it upon yourself.”

Momo laughs - more in relief than at his joke, more because the rigidness in his posture melts away than because he’s funny - and reaches for the honey stored on the highest shelf - means of protecting it from Tokiya; the kid simply adores dipping anything in honey and as much as Momo understands his sweet tooth, she knows the importance of a balanced diet. Her fingers make to grab for the jar, but fail - she’s pushed it too far back the last time in her overzealousness.

She feels the body heat before Shouto’s hand enters her field of view, his fingers reaching for the jar with ease. It’s almost absurd to think that he was only one centimeter taller when they met, but now he towers over Momo like it’s nothing. And honestly, dealing with his height alone would have been fine, but now they’re close enough that Momo feels his perfume - she gave him a bottle of Calvin Klein once as a gift and he’s been wearing the brand ever since - close enough that his chest presses against her back and she wonders how many new scars he hides underneath the shirt, close enough that it’s dangerous again.

And then he pulls away and Momo wishes he had done it faster and not at all at the same time; he pulls away yet she can’t find her words; he pulls away yet she feels the ghost of his touch lingering around her and wraps her hands around her arms to keep it at bay.

“When are you leaving?”

Shouto’s words shake her awake. While answering his questions about Tokiya’s to-do-list, Momo wonders how he can act this nonchalant when her heart is racing like crazy.

***

Dear Momo,

I’ve been thinking about this lately, whenever I return into the quiet and darkness of my apartment. If I could turn back time, or if I were to make that decision again, what would I have done? Stayed - or left? This sort of question has been weighing down on me lately - or maybe it would be more accurate to say that not the question itself, but the answer is what’s eating away at me.

Because the answer is ‘I don’t know’. It’s almost a paradox, I suppose. Every waking hour I am filled with regret - regret of not having been there for you and Tokiya, regret of not having met Tokiya earlier, regret of not having been the father I should have been - the father I was supposed to be. I’m thinking if I’m stepping in my Father’s footsteps, repeating his mistakes when that is the last thing I want to do.

And even so, I don’t know if I want to turn back time.

Because if I turned back time, would we still have been graced with the miracle that is Tokiya? Would I still be refusing to talk to my Father? Would I have screwed up what we had? Would I still be this happy?

That’s the problem, I think: I’m happy. I’m so happy that I’m wondering if I have the right to feel this much joy, so happy that I don’t dare disturb this feeble balance. I’m afraid that if I let myself touch you, or hold you in my arms, or kiss you the way I’ve wanted to for so long, I’ll destroy this, this pocket of peace and happiness we have right now, and I’m terrified.

So please, just for a little longer, let me conceal my feelings. Please pretend you don’t see the way my eyes linger on you or how I inch closer when we’re in a crowd. Let me be selfish just for a little while longer.

I promise I’ll tell you soon.

Love,
Shouto

Chapter Text

And all I can taste is this moment
And all I can breathe is your life
And sooner or later it's over
I just don't wanna miss you tonight
(Iris - Goo Goo Dolls)


 

The truth is, Shouto can’t act nonchalant at all. 

At least not on the interior. Every time he as much as brushes his hand against Momo’s, there’s a plethora of feelings and questions racing through his mind at top speed, their competition to make it on Shouto’s face so fierce that none surfaces at all. As such, Shouto remains his aloof self, perfectly concealing the chaos inside and completely incapable of controlling the wild rush of emotions - honestly, it’s just Momo’s fault.

It’s also her fault that a simple hug drives him insane. Friends hug, and it means nothing. His brother hugged him last week and all Shouto felt was a rush of annoyance at how loud Natsuo could be right next to his ear and a tinge of affection for his sibling hidden under a long since mastered poker face.

Somehow, hugging Momo is different from all of the other embraces Shouto has received over the course of time.

In her defense, it’s a leaving hug, an “I’ll see you soon, take care” hug, the type of which people give at airports and railway stations. In this case, they’re in the doorway of her - once theirs - apartment, and Momo will only be gone for a week, yet Shouto doesn’t want to let go.

She’s too close and too far at once, and Shouto desperately wants to hold on forever - to not lose her again - and to push her away - because she’s tiptoeing near the thread that holds his feelings in place, and Shouto’s been suppressing them for so long that they’re bound to pop up like a jack in the box, shall anyone prod at them.

“Take care, Shouto,” she whispers before pulling away and taking Tokiya in her arms for a last kiss. The boy’s still sleepy, but he insisted on waking up at the break of dawn to see his mother off - and frankly, Shouto can’t blame him. “I’ll be back before you know it. Be good to Shouto, okay?”

Tokiya nods and pecks her cheek. “Take care, Mom. Call us often!”

“I will,” she reassures him, hugging him close one last time before handing him to Shouto. It feels surprisingly natural, taking Tokiya from Momo’s hands and suddenly, being entrusted with taking care of his son sounds more like an adventure than the possibility of failure. Momo flashes them a bright smile and puts her hand to her forehead in salute. “Wish me luck, boys!”

“Good luck,” Shouto and Tokiya chant together, waving at Momo as she walks down the stairs and watching her from the kitchen window until she disappears from view. “So,” Shouto asks once Momo has melted into the cityscape, “do you want to go back to sleep?”

“I’m not sleepy,” Tokiya says, trying to hold back a yawn and failing adorably at it.

Shouto chuckles and ruffles his hair. “Breakfast it is then. Cereals?”

“Cereals,” Tokiya nods in agreement.

***

“Something good happen?” Shinsou asks, sitting himself on the opposite side of Momo and digging into his rice diligently. Momo tilts her head questioningly. “You were smiling to yourself.”

“Oh,” she offers. “I suppose so. Things are… as they should be,” she finishes with a coy smile, chewing on her meat.

Shinsou furrows his brows but doesn’t pry any further. “As long as you’re happy, Yaoyorozu. It’s good to have you back on missions,” he adds with the ghost of a smile, and Momo can’t help but feel warm. “Earphones did a good job when infiltrating, but the lack of snark is a welcomed change.”

“Look who’s talking,” Momo chuckles.

It’s good to be back.

***

“Shouto?” Tokiya calls from the hallway. One second later, his head pops in the crack between the bathroom door and the wall - Shouto can see his reflection in the mirror - and he analyses his father’s face with a confused look. “What are you doing?”

“Shaving,” Shouto says, realizing only seconds later that he has no way of knowing what that is. “My chin and cheeks get all grubby if I don’t shave.”

Tokiya runs a hand over his face and says, “Mine are smooth.”

“That’s because you’re still a kid,” Shouto says, watching the cute proud spread on Tokiya’s face. “When you get old and your back starts hurting, you’ll also have a beard.”

That makes the child smile as he climbs on his bathroom stool to reach the sink properly. “You kinda look like Santa like that,” he giggles, poking at the foam that covers the lower half of Shouto’s face.

Grabbing the shaving foam bottle and covering Tokiya’s chin with a matching white beard only takes seconds. Tokiya stares at Shouto through the whole process, a bit puzzled and a bit unsure of how the ticklish foam fits with his image. “We’re matching,” he eventually says with a cheeky grin, taking some of the foam off his own chin to cover Shouto’s nose with it. “If it were red, you’d be Rudolph!”

Tokiya looks all too proud of himself for that remark, and Shouto can’t help but chuckle and run a hand through his hair affectionately. “Shaving is much more fun in two,” he jokes. He fills his cupped hand with water and splashes Tokiya’s face, washing the last bits of the substance clinging to his jawline. “But as much fun as this is, we have a mission.”

“I don’t like shopping,” Tokiya mutters.

“Neither do I,” Shouto admits, remembering the countless times Momo dragged him to the mall to try out clothes, only to them dismiss them ruthlessly - what annoyed her remains a mystery to Shouto to this day; she looked stunning in anything. “But your Mom asked us to, and we both know neither of us can refuse her anything.”

“That’s true,” Tokiya sighs, defeated.

Shouto smiles at him reassuringly. “We’ll pull through. Can’t be worse than looking for a tux with Iida.”

~~~

Shouto was so very, very wrong. Buying clothes for a child is much more challenging than making Iida agree to a tux will ever be.

The reason for that is mainly that Tokiya happens to be a growing boy caught between two sizes: one that fully engulfs him, to the point where his fingers seem to have been devoured by his sleeves, and another that makes him seem like the preacher of some hippie cult. Needless to say, Shouto isn’t exactly happy with either of the options.

“Mom usually buys the bigger size and has the sleeves shortened,” Tokiya helpfully supplies when Shouto won’t stop glaring at a particular T-shirt.

Sighing, he acknowledges this to be H&M’s win and stuffs said clothing item into the mockingly empty shopping bag. “Did Fuyumi-nee have such a hard time buying me clothes?” he mutters, mostly to himself.

Tokiya picks up on it anyway. “You have an older sister?”

“Fuyumi-nee. She’s a teacher,” Shouto nods absent-mindedly.

“You must be close if she bought you clothes.” There’s no malice or underlying meaning to Tokiya’s words, yet Shouto can’t help but wince. “I wish I had a sibling.”

Shouto looks down at the kid, six and selfless like his mother. “You do?” he hums. Something in his chest clenches at the wistful look in Tokiya’s eyes. Longing for something you’ve never had - Shouto knows that feeling all too well.

“Sometimes,” Tokiya says. “It was always just Mom and I, so I thought maybe it wouldn’t be so lonely if I had a sister or a brother.” Shouto wants to apologize, but swallows his words for fear of making it worse. And then Tokiya turns to him, beaming, and says, “But you make Mom happy!”

It stops him dead in the tracks, the honesty in Tokiya’s voice. He deserves no such praise when he’s sure he’s the reason why Momo doesn’t look as vibrant in the photos hanging in the hallway, when the reason Tokiya felt lonely in the first place is him. “I-” his throat feels parches. “I-well. I care about her,” Shouto finally manages, the words far from properly encompassing the scope of his feelings.

Tokiya blinks, as if what Shouto’s saying were obvious. And maybe it is - after all, he is unapologetically blunt. “Shouto?” Tokiya bites on his lower lip, looking exactly like Momo when she’s nervous about speaking her mind. After a moment of silence, he says, “Nevermind,” and sneaks his hand in Shouto’s as they continue their shopping.

***

Momo leans against the bark of one of the older trees around the campus, breathing in the fresh mountain air and the scent of wood on fire. The sound of music and bickering is carried over to her secluded spot, and Momo can’t help but think Tokiya would enjoy this - the landscape, the chitter chatter of heroes in training, the grueling schedule and rewarding dinner.

“He’s going to be like them before I know it, isn’t he?”

Aizawa steps out from the shadows, handing her a cup of sake and nodding. His presence often goes unnoticed, but Momo has had him as both an opponent and an ally and has learned to sense him - something to do with the scent of cedarwood that lingers behind him and with the way shadows seem thicker around him, distorsed to fit his lanky silhouette.

“He’s gradually growing into his own person, and it’s both beautiful and terrifying to watch,” Momo admits, thinking of how empty a house without Tokiya feels - suffocatingly silent, closing in on itself like a wound.

“Can’t do anything about them growing up,” Aizawa muses. Eri is eighteen going on nineteen and seems to already have half of the world in the palm of her hand, yet Momo can’t help but remember the scared girl she met back in highschool, the girl whose eyes shone when she was offered an apple like it was the best gift on the planet. Now, Aizawa is running out of ideas for what to get for her birthday. “But that’s not what you’re scared about, is it, Yaoyorozu?”

Her teacher has always made her wonder if she was an open book. “I’m scared of many things,” she says and tries not to look behind. The woods were engulfed by darkness that night, and her temples throbbed with the effort of running and recalling all the parts of a transmitter at the same time. “I still get the headaches,” Momo whispers.

“So do I,” Aizawa confesses, and Momo tries not to look at him like he just grew a second head. From the snark in his words, she fails. “Just because you get older, it doesn’t mean the nightmares stop.”

“It’s reassuring to know you’re only human too, Sensei,” Momo half-jokes, sipping her sake.

Aizawa shakes his head. “What happened back then - it was inexcusable on our part.” Momo tries to deny it, but Aizawa holds out a hand to stop her. “I’m not saying we could have known beforehand. But we were caught by surprise - so sure we were out of danger’s way that we couldn’t smell the danger right under our noses. Letting your guard down is the last thing a hero should ever do.”

The campfire glistens in his eyes and Momo allows herself to look back. The forest seems alive only with the sound of birds serenading each other and cicadas singing their lullaby. “That experience shaped who we are as heroes. I wish none of us would have gone through it - I wish Bakugou-kun hadn’t been kidnapped and that we wouldn’t have had to rescue him - but I don’t regret it.”

Aizawa doesn’t look at her as he sips his sake. Momo follows his gaze towards where the students are now playing tag and wonders if they know that their whole lives will be a game of tag. Chasing your goals, chasing villains, chasing moments of quiet and peace - it’s all a game of tag, and somedays you just want to hide forever, but you’re always found and dragged back into the race.

“I’m scared of being found,” Momo says out loud. “Because that means I’ll need to make a decision, and I don’t know if I’m ready for another leap of faith.”

Somehow, Aizawa seems to know what she’s talking about - he’s always known. “The one you don’t trust is yourself, isn’t it?” She trusts Shouto with her life. “I know you’re not a teenager anymore, but being reckless isn’t so bad. From time to time.” Aizawa draws a smile as he finally looks at her. “My students are never to hear me say that.”

“Perks of being a teacher?” Momo chuckles, clinking her sake cup against his. The beverage burns down her throat and settles warmly in her insides. “I’ll keep that in mind.”

***

Tokiya rushes to the tablet and plays the video again, scrolling to the minute of interest. Shouto bends over his shoulder and whistles lowly. “We were supposed to put the eggs first?” the boy asks the adult in charge. Shouto is actually just as clueless as the kid, but he pretend to be in full control for the sake of the cake.

“I don’t think it matters,” Shouto shrugs. “We’re mixing them all anyway.”

“I really hope this will be delicious!” Tokiya says, pausing the video yet again and bouncing on the balls of his feet as he watches Shouto knead the dough. “I want to give Haru the best cake for his birthday!”

“I’m sure he’ll appreciate it,” Shouto says, opting not to mention how they should have just ordered a cake if they were going for the best . It’s too late now. Besides, the gleeful look on Tokiya’s face makes it worth being covered in flour and having a coughing fit because of it.

They spend the next two hours playing and replaying the youtube tutorial, skyping Sato when they feel they’re on the verge of ruining all their hard work - and thus giving Sugarman a good laugh - and stealing bits of dough while waiting for it to grow. It’s only once their dessert is safely in the fridge and the frost has been tested that Shouto and Tokiya release a sigh and fist bump each other.

“We did it!” the boy beams, jumping in place and chanting the words of victory over and over again. Shouto watches him with an endeared smile and takes off his apron - it’s actually Momo’s, but he supposes that a successful cake makes him worthy of it.

“We sure did,” he says, not quite believing it yet. “Maybe I have a hidden talent for baking,” Shouto muses, but takes back his words when Tokiya gives him a look of disbelief. “Point taken, I’m still better off as a hero.” The kid nods in approval.

Shouto opens the fridge, looking for a treat to reward their hard work and asks, “ Do you want ice cream?”

“I don’t really like ice cream,” Tokiya says. “Maya-chan says that’s weird, because everyone likes ice cream. Am I weird?”

“No,” Shouto shrugs, continuing his search for something to suit Tokiya’s palate. “You have an ice quirk, so cold desserts probably don’t attract you as much as they do others. I don’t see why that would be weird.” Something finally catches his eye in the back of a shelf. “Is pudding alright?”

“Yes!” Tokiya pipes up.

Shouto wonders what else makes Tokiya unique - random habits or preferences that may seem weird to others, but only serve to make Tokiya that much more fascinating to Shouto. “Now that I think about it, Fuyumi-nee isn’t that big of an ice-cream fan, either. She has an ice quirk, just like you.”

“Really?” Tokiya’s eyes are sparkling. “What does she like, then?”

“She loves lava cake. Makes Natsu-nii bake it for her whenever he visits,” Shouto cracks a smile at the memory of his brother’s desperate look when Fuyumi handed him an apron and practically pushed him into the kitchen. Not even his wife could save him from Fuyumi’s urges.

“What’s lava cake? Wait, you have a brother, too?!”

And thus, the evening is spent looking up tasty desserts online and talking about Shouto’s siblings and their more than childish tendencies. It feels like looking through an old photo album and bringing it to life, and Tokiya absorbs every last word like a sponge. Shouto loves it.

***

“Did you somehow grow taller? Are you eating well? What did you do today?” Momo can’t help the flood of questions upon seeing Tokiya on screen, having to bite her lower lip to shut up.

Her son looks amused. “It’s only been four days, Mom. I couldn’t have gotten taller!”

“Technically,” Momo insists, “you grow taller every day. It’s just unnoticeable.” Tokiya laughs and Momo needs to stifle a chuckle in turn. It’s good to see he’s in high spirits - and she has a feeling Shouto is at least partly responsible for that. “Did you have fun at Haru’s party?”

“Loads of fun!” Tokiya says, opening his arms widely for emphasis. “His mom also said our cake was really good, didn’t she, Shouto?”

“She did,” the man confirms, sounding just as proud as his son. “We should open a bakery and name it Chez Todoroki. ” Momo giggles and Shouto gives her an unimpressed look. “You laugh now, but you’ll beg us for discounts later.”

“We’ll give you 50 percent off your first purchase,” Tokiya seriously says.

“Where did you even learn how a business works?” Momo chuckles again, leaning against the sofa in the common room and adjusting her earbuds. Outside, the teachers are still laughing and drinking each other under the table - Miss Midnight is winning and no one is even pretending to be surprised anymore.

Shinsou walks in about ten minutes later, in the middle of Tokiya telling her about the birthday party, and raises a hand in salute. He sinks into the armchair next to her and gestures for her to go on as he dozes off, but not before greeting Tokiya and Shouto and raising a curious eyebrow at the hero’s presence.

As long as you’re happy, Yaoyorozu, he seems to say again.

It’s been so long since Momo’s been completely at peace that she forgot what it feels like, but she supposes Shinsou is right - she’s happy now.

***

Sleeping in Momo’s bed feels wrong. It brings back too many memories - of when that bed was theirs, of his leaving, of him coming home after the midnight patrol and finding Momo fighting sleep to greet him. So for the past week, Shouto’s been crashing on the couch and trying to pretend the bed doesn’t exist.

That’s why he hears Tokiya shuffling into the living room, not long after Shouto tucked him in and kissed him goodnight. Propping himself on his elbow, Shouto sits up and whispers the boy’s name. “What’s wrong?”

Tokiya doesn’t answer, instead sliding under the covers next to Shouto and pressing against his chest. After a week, Shouto has discovered that Tokiya loves spreading his legs so he takes up the entire bed, but now, he’s curling into a ball, holding onto Shouto’s shirt like a koala. “I miss Mom,” he whispers, burrowing his nose further into the cotton of Shouto’s pajamas.

Shouto cradles him closer, wrapping a hand around his torso and rubbing soothing circles into the small of his back - a habit he developed through Momo’s panic attacks, something he’s noticed her take over, too. Tokiya melts into his touch and mutters, “You’re warm.” It sounds like more than just an observation.

The cat - it still feels weird calling him Shou-chan - jumps on the already cramped couch and settles at Tokiya’s back, nuzzling its nose into his hair reassuringly and purring a lullaby.

It’s always been just Momo and Tokiya, and Shouto doesn’t know if he can fit in between them, but with Tokiya snuggled into his chest and holding onto his shirt like it’s his lifeline, he thinks he doesn’t need to. He found his place next to them, and it gives him the force to pull through each day.

“Honestly,” Shouto mutters as Tokiya’s dozing off, “I miss her too.”

*** 

As soon as the students are out of the bus and picking up their bags, Momo climbs down into UA’s parking lot and is almost knocked down by the force with which Tokiya runs into her. She kneels down to hug him properly and kiss his cheeks, suddenly drowned by just how much she missed him.

He beats her to saying it, “I missed you, Mom!” Tokiya nuzzles his nose into the nape of her neck and Momo smiles as she runs her fingers through his hair.

“Me too, sweetheart.” Pulling away to get a better look at him, she says, “Did you give Shouto a hard time?” She already knows the answer to her question - Kyouka nicknamed Tokiya angel for a reason- but it’s worth it for seeing his pout.

“I saved him from a lizard!” Tokiya proudly declares.

“It’s true,” a manly voice confirms, and Momo gets back up to be met with heterochromatic eyes boring into hers. “It was a threat to my life, but Tokiya here was quick to catch it and free it.”

“Is that so,” Momo says, lost between trying not to laugh and not to be overwhelmed by how much she has missed him , too.

“Aizawa-sensei!” Tokiya suddenly exclaims, storming off into the man’s open arms. The teacher picks him up with a heaved sigh, “When did you grow so much? You’re going to be taller than your mother soon.”

As the two chit chat, Shouto quietly says, “I got your bag.”

Momo looks down at the red suitcase in his hand and smiles. “Thank you. For everything.”

“It was my pleasure. He’s - he’s amazing, Momo,” Shouto says, sounding entirely like his breath was taken away. “ You’re amazing. Keeping the house clean, cooking and taking care of him?”

“And going to work,” Momo points out, amused.

“You’re incredible,” he repeats. The way he says it makes her blush. She turns to look at where her son is now surrounded by her students, all of them pampering him and posing excited questions. She’s about to say they better get going when she feels someone playing with her hair and hears Shouto say, “You’re wearing it up in a ponytail again.”

He’s batting at it like a cat playing with a thread of wool, and Momo giggles softly. “What are you doing?”

“Trying to figure out the physics of your hair,” Shouto seriously responds.

“You’ve spent too much time with Tokiya,” she says, but still leans into his touch, his fingers now pulling at the hair tie and combing through the unruly locks.

“You’re beautiful,” he says, quickly biting on his lower lip as if that slipped out without his will.

She’s not sure what she’s supposed to say to that - she’s never known how to respond to his compliments, not even when they were dating. He often made casual remarks that had her flusteredly hiding her face in Shouto’s hoodie, to the point where Momo suspected he enjoyed seeing her blush. Now, however, it seems to be more of a slip-up than a premeditated sabotage.

Thankfully, Tokiya saves her from having to answer by excitedly hopping over and telling Momo how cool her students’ quirks are.

They’re only postponing the inevitable, but Momo plays along for now.

***

“Can you pass me the salt, Dad?”

Momo startles at the innocent request, eyeing Shouto warily. He doesn’t seem to notice as he casually gives Tokiya the requested item, and the child thanks him. It’s so natural that Momo wonders just what they’ve been up to over the past week - and where they’re going next.

She hides her smile with a mouthful of fish and tries to wash down the warmth enveloping her with a glass of water.

***

Dear Shouto,

Ever since you’ve come back, people took to telling me I look happier. Just today, the owner of the convenience store around the corner asked me if something good happened. It made me wonder just what happiness is, and whether mine relies on you.

You know I’ve always been a preacher of “you make your own happiness”, and I stand by that. I do believe you cannot control anything or anyone besides yourself, so how you react to the surrounding world is what defines your happiness. It’s an abstract concept, so these may sound like empty words, but I’ve lived by them for so long that I don’t know how to break them apart anymore.

Yet when it comes to those you love, the rules get bent. Tokiya makes me happy simply by being, by greeting me with a wide smile day and day again. Kyouka makes me happy by virtue of being my best friend - she says it’s in the job description and that I should stop being cheesy.

You make me happy in a different way, and it scares me. It scares me that the smile you put on my face is bright enough to make other people notice it, and that the same can be said for Tokiya. I’m scared of you leaving again, although I know the first time wasn’t your fault and that I encouraged it.

But most of all, I’m scared of not giving you enough reasons to stay. The world is a really scary place when you don’t trust yourself, Shouto.

I’m ready to take a leap of faith, though. You’re worth it.

We’ re worth it.

Love,
Momo

Chapter Text

For I'm so scared of losing you
And I don't know what I can do about it
About it
So tell me how long, love, before you go
And leave me here on my own
I know that, I don't wanna know
Who I am without you
(Agape - Bear’s Den)


 

“Is everything okay, Todoroki?” Midoriya frowns with concern, putting the steaming cup of coffee on Shouto’s desk. “You look tired.”

“Did you know that taking care of a child is more draining than being a hero?” Shouto deadpans, too tired to muster the energy to even pick up the energizing drink. Tokiya has been nothing short of angelic, but still - making sure the house doesn’t look like a jungle, striving not to starve and entertaining him? “I don’t know how Momo did it for so long.”

“You always know just what to tell the groom-to-be, don’t you?” Midoriya huffs, sipping his hot chocolate. (Everyone thought he’d grow into liking coffee after he became a full-fledged, exhausted hero. He didn’t.) “It can’t be that bad.” Shouto gets the distinct feeling he’s saying it mostly to encourage himself.

“Get back to me after you’ve spent a whole day playing Go Fish and baking the perfect cake and then we can talk.”

“Both you and Jirou have a knack for reassuring people,” Midoriya mumbles grimly.

Poking her head into their office, Jirou muses, “I heard my name. Did you summon me?” The stupefied look on their faces makes her snort. “I’m not gonna behead you, the hormones aren’t that bad. So, what’s Half’n’Half scaring you with?” she asks as she lets herself into the room, hopping on Shouto’s desk as if it’s her second home and expertly ignoring his glare.

“Parenthood.”

“In that case he’s not scaring you, he’s being realistic. It’s terrifying, ” Jirou nods sagely, rubbing her bump absent-mindedly. Midoriya shoots her a somewhat uncertain look. “But I think it’s worth it,” Jirou muses quietly.

Shouto nods along. “It is.”

“Especially when your kid’s an angel,” Jirou snorts, slipping back into comfortable sarcasm. Shouto gives her a Look, the type which Jirou just gets because neither of them are fluent in feelings but they seem to have found common ground in irony and disbelief. “ You have no idea what it’s like to have a kid with half of Denki’s DNA. She’s already kicking like crazy!”

“Are you sure she’s not just taking revenge for all the times you poked Kaminari with your jacks?” Shouto asks, earning one of the infamous pokes himself. “Please make sure your mother suffers for this betrayal,” he whispers conspiratorially in the direction of Jirou’s bump, rubbing at his injured arm.

“I know I said I wasn’t gonna behead you, but don’t test my boundaries,” Jirou hisses.

Shouto shrugs. “You don’t have any of those anyway,” he says and ducks before the predictable attack can hit. Turning back to Midoriya, Shouto says, “Your child isn’t a Kaminari so it’s safe to assume there won’t be any aggressive tendencies on its part.”

His friend looks mildly exasperated as he shakes his head. “I’m not having a child, I’m getting married . My biggest concern right now is finishing up the playlist for the reception,” he sighs, rubbing at his temples tiredly. Midoriya always looks sort of exhausted, but the eyebags under his eyes seem to have grown eyebags of their own just for today.

“Maybe you need a day off,” Jirou muses, seemingly noticing how drained Midoriya looks, too. “I remember planning my wedding was a pain in the neck. I kept crashing at Momo’s to whine about the press and shit.” She sounds understanding, haunted by memories of the past that Shouto would rather not dive into. It’s a reminder of how much he’s missed, and the scab on the wound hasn’t fully healed just yet.

Midoriya slumps into his chair and sips Shouto’s coffee on accident, grimacing when the bitter taste floods his mouth. “I want it to be perfect.”

“It’ll be as long as you don’t collapse,” Jirou notes, patting the hero’s back comfortingly. “Believe me, Uraraka has been brighter ever since you proposed to her, and that is a fact. You have no idea how many floating papers Ashido had in her living room the day Uraraka gave us the news.” Midoriya draws a genuine smile and Jirou hops off Shouto’s desk with more agility than a pregnant woman should have. “Besides, we’re throwing her a bachelorette party, so you’d better ask Todoroki here to do the same for you. Or actually,” Jirou wrinkles her nose as she gives Shouto a once-over, “you’re better off asking Bakugou to organize it for you.”

“What’s that supposed to mean?”

“That you wouldn’t know what fun is even if it hit you in the face,” Jirou smirks and Shouto knows it’s payback for earlier. They’re back to deuce.

Maybe Shouto would have come up with a snarky line to that if the time was given to him, but, as fate (wearing Mina Ashido’s designer heels and styled pink hair) would have it, he is not graced with either time or a quiet morning. Maybe he’s just asking for too much when he wants to drink his coffee in peace.

“Todoroki!” Mina calls as she strolls into his office, Momo in tow. From the look on Momo’s face, she’s been trying to reason with Ashido long before she stalked into Todoroki’s (rather quiet) morning routine, but she shoots him a wordless sorry anyway. “Babysit Tokiya on this Sunday so we can party!” she says, not so much a plea as an order as she braces both hands on his desk, dropping a magazine as she does so, and meets his unimpressed look with determination.

“Party?” he tilts his head, looking at Momo for explanations.

“Uraraka’s bachelorette party. But as I was saying, I’m fine with leaving early, Ashido, it’s really not-”

“Nonsense!” Ashido protests. “You haven’t partied with us since forever , girl! I miss our nights out...” By the end of her argument, her voice has dropped to a murmur, a quiet question and a harsh blow for Shouto all at once. It’s like fate really does want to keep reminding him of the past today.

“I can look after Tokiya,” he says into the silence left by Ashido’s observation. Momo opens her mouth but Shouto talks before she gets a chance to protest, “Really, it’s alright. I love spending time with him anyway.”

“I knew we could count on you, Todoroki!” Ashido perks up again, taking one of his hands in hers as she excitedly fumbles around. Momo smiles, bemused, and gives Shouto a quick nod of thanks that he doesn’t feel he deserves.

He looks down from it, looks anywhere but at Momo, really, and his eyes fall on the magazine Ashido dropped a few moments ago. It’s - It’s Momo. On the cover. It’s Momo on the cover. He runs a thumb over the bolded title ( The Hero Gossip ) and the subtitle (Creati - Back to the Hero Stage) and forgets about avoiding Momo’s eyes.

“That’s embarrassing,” she mumbles and it’s her turn to avoid Shouto’s eyes.

“She also got ranked as the number one heroine this month, didn’t you?” Jirou teases good naturedly - so different from the way she talks to Shouto - and adds, “Look at you, hogging the spotlight.”

“I voted for you,” he slips out, almost involuntarily, and it’s like they’re 15 again with the way Momo looks at him, cheeks flushed and eyes incredibly big. “Because I think you excel at what you do,” he says, voice quiet and feeling a bit silly as Ashido whistles lowly. He can’t bring himself to rip his gaze from Momo’s smiling eyes, from her still flushed cheeks, from the surprised curve of her lips.

“Thank you, Shouto.”

***

It feels like a trip back in time, with the ethereal glow of the paper lanterns, casting circles of diffused light like a halo around them, with the soft music trickling out of every stall and the sea of colour rushing around the festival in waves of pink and red and yellow. Women are walking around wearing yukatas and intricate hairstyles - Shouto still couldn’t properly tie Momo’s hair in a ponytail the last time she allowed him to manouvre a hair tie, but granted, that was years ago. Shouto likes to believe he wouldn’t be terrible at it now .

He feels a bit out of place, in his shorts and plain blue shirt, and wonders if the ocean blue yukata his mother bought him after graduation still fits. Tokiya’s hold tightens on his hand and he looks down at the kid marvelling at the festival, mouth agape and a thousand little lights reflected in his eyes, and Shouto thinks this is his place after all.

When Momo asked him to watch over Tokiya, he didn’t expect they’ll end up at the Ennichi Festival. Shouto forgot the festival was on that very same day - or maybe he just decided to ignore the fliers advertising the summer event, because for seven years Shouto would come to an empty apartment, hauntingly echoing the sound of his bare footsteps, and pretend to ignore the date, because for seven years Shouto pretended the Ennichi Festival only existed in a pocket of time where Momo was by his side, smiling with a thousand little lights reflected in her eyes.

Ever since he came back, he pretended a lot of things didn’t exist outside of that pocket, yet Tokiya somehow tripped him, dragged the memories out of their safe with a laugh and made Shouto relive all of them with the boy by his side. As such, Shouto finds himself pulled into the midst of the crowd, stopping to engage in a fish scooping competition with a six year old, sharing steaming fish buns and trying out almost all the food stalls (except for the ice cream ones).

The sun has completely disappeared when they finally find a seat on the quiet stairs looking down at the festival, armed with takoyaki and yakitori. From up here, the sea of colour looks more like a mass of undefined points, colliding haphazardly, melting into each other under the hazy light of the paper lanterns hanging overhead.

“You know,” Shouto muses in between bites of takoyaki, “your mother and I used to come here every year.” He can feel Tokiya’s eyes on his, curious and somewhat intrusive, but he keeps his eyes glued to the stalls, to the quiet buzz of traditional music and the yukatas blending into the night. “It was tradition.”

“Why did you stop?” Tokiya asks, a bit too empathetic for a boy who’s supposed to be six going on seven and know nothing.

Shouto’s eyes lose focus but he keeps staring ahead. “I left.”

“Why did you leave?” Tokiya asks again.

Shouto finally looks at him, a thousand lights in his eyes, and swallows back the knot threatening to climb into his throat. “Because I was scared. I was scared - that I wasn’t good enough, and that I was making the people I cared most about miserable. So when the chance arose, I left.”

Tokiya blinks, a thousand lights in his eyes, and Shouto wonders if he understands. “Are you still? Scared?”

He cracks a smile. “Terrified,” Shouto breathes, hand reaching up to tousle his son’s hair. “Absolutely terrified. More so than of villains. But-” he drops his hand and draws a genuine smile, the sort which always had Momo saying that they were on the verge of extinction “-but we’re all scared of the unknown.”

“What do you mean?” Tokiya asks, carding a hand through his mussed bangs.

“I mean, you’re always scared of things you haven’t tried, right? The only way of knowing whether something is really terrifying is trying it out.”

Tokiya beams. “Like with haunted houses?”

Shouto laughs and pops a takoyaki ball into the boy’s mouth. “Exactly like with haunted houses.” Tokiya munches thoughtfully before flashing his father a grin and jumping to his feet, eager to try lighting up a paper lantern himself and this , Shouto thinks, is worth trying.

***

Momo makes it home way past midnight. She’s had that perfect amount of wine that doesn’t make her tipsy but puts her in a good mood regardless of small inconveniences such as the strap on her sandals weakening in a warning to go shopping for new footwear. As she abandons her shoes at the entrance, she registers the buzz of a laptop from the living room. Before investigating it, though, she cracks open the door to Tokiya’s room and drops a kiss on his forehead, watching fondly as he curls into her touch and hugs the hippo plushie tighter.

Slowly, Momo sneaks out of his room and makes her way to the humming laptop, now making out the famous I’ve Got a Dream song from Tangled, which means-

“Disney marathon?” she asks from the doorframe, drawing a sheepish smile as Shouto pauses the video and looks up. “Can I join?”

He nods and scoots over. “I didn’t hear you coming back,” he says as she sits down next to him, folding her legs underneath her.

She hums. “Didn’t want to wake up Tokiya.”

Shouto nods again. He looks a bit worn out - not physically (Momo hasn’t ever heard Shouto complain, not even after grueling training sessions that left them both breathless), but like he’s had a lot on his mind. She knows that look because she’s seen it in the mirror more times than she cares to count, painting dark bags under her eyes and poking a frown in between her brows. She places a hand over his and waits.

“How was the party?” he finally asks.

Momo beams. “Fun. Really, really fun. I think I missed it - hanging out with the girls just like we used to in high school. No work talk, no pressure, just randomly chatting about everything and nothing, you know?”

Shouto nods, smiling gently at her excitement. I love your rambles , he used to tell her. It could just be her imagination, but she sees the words in his eyes and hears the walls echoing them like a tale of old. “I’m glad.”

“What did you two do?”

Shouto looks down at her hand over his and mutters, “We went to the festival.” He doesn’t need to say more - the Ennichi Festival has always been theirs , an unwritten fact, tradition. His fingers slide through hers, pressing on her knuckles, and something hot tingles in Momo’s fingertips, in her chest. “I was so afraid I’d turn into him, Momo.” Her name sounds like a plea.

“I know,” she whispers. Momo hates how her words make him look at her with the eyes of a hunted animal, so she squeezes his hand and repeats, “I know. You’re not your father, Shouto.”

Rei hasn’t given her more than pieces of a broken puzzle, but Momo could put them together to form the contour of a muddy backstory. A whistling kettle and a scar; years of isolation and a fifteen year old Shouto who only used his ice quirk; the pressure of being number one and the way he refused to look at the rankings or respond to Bakugou when he tauntingly called him “Number Three”.

Shouto closes his eyes and drops his head on the backrest. “I’d never ever push Tokiya to be a hero, but I’ll support him if he wants my help with his quirk. I don’t want him to be anything he isn’t.” Momo swallows down the lump as Shouto continues, “I know he realizes he was wrong now. But that doesn’t turn back time. I don’t want-” he stops, tastes the words on the tip of his tongue and rolls them out carefully. “I don’t want Tokiya to want to turn back time.”

There’s something raw in his hoarse voice, and Momo pretends not to see the single tear rolling down his right cheek. Instead, she presses against his left side despite the scorching July night and listens to his heartbeat, matching her breathing to his.

“You’re good at reading people, even if you’re a bit awkward about it and know too much about pressure points,” Momo says, eyes closed and a lazy smile blooming on her lips. She can feel Shouto watching her curiously, but she continues, “You sometimes treat others like they could break, but that’s just because you care. In winter, you’d always scoot closer to those around and warm them up, although you don’t want to join their conversation. You’re only marginally taller than me, but you always offer to get things off the higher shelves. You don’t really like cooking, but you’ve spent an entire night watching tutorials before Haru’s birthday to make sure his cake turned out alright. You love shaved ice, especially the strawberry flavoured one, but Tokiya told me you guys ate pudding instead.”

Momo looks up to see Shouto staring down at her, a bit confused and a bit taken aback, but still listening. “You’re Shouto Todoroki, and I don’t regret having fallen in love with you.”

Sometimes, when you say something, you can feel the shape of the words, too sharp or too small, too big or too round, and you scramble to take the back and polish them. Momo doesn’t feel that this time. They float out as they should, fill the empty space between them like they’ve always belonged there, and tug Shouto’s lips in one of those extinct smiles.

He doesn’t say it back, but then again, Shouto’s never been a man of many words. He just loops his free hand around her waist, tucks her head under his chin and presses play on his favourite movie again.

 

By the time the credits roll, Momo knows she’ll regret staying up this late when she’ll wake up three hours later. She nudges Shouto a bit, wriggling to stand up without waking him. Somewhere during the boat scene he drifted off, head lolling onto the backrest and grip loosening around Momo’s waist. She smiled but kept watching, indulging herself.

Despite knowing that Shouto can thermoregulate himself, she wraps a duvet around him and brushes the bangs out of his face. She’s never found his scar to mar his skin - it’s part of him, just like the heterochromatic eyes and the hair split in half. For a very long time, he probably tried to find meaning in the scars he never chose, in the way they reflected on the surface. Momo presses a chaste kiss to the edge of his scar, where it meets the crown of his hair, and lets the bangs fall back into his face.

Before walking out of the living room, she closes the Netflix tab and is about to turn off the laptop when she notices Shouto’s mail app is still open. Heaving a sigh and forcing her eyes open for just one more minute, Momo clicks on it and fumbles with the mouse. Something catches her eye, though, and her eyelids suddenly snap open so wide that it’s like she has never been sleepy at all.

The open draft is addressed to her . Momo Yaoyorozu. She blinks, rubs at her eyes, blinks again, pinches her arm until it turns red, but it’s there, black on white, electronic pen to electronic paper. Dear Momo.

Momo isn’t one to snoop in others’ business, but this mail was written to her ( Dear Momo ), so she’s meant to read it, right? As her eyes scan the content of the letter, she realizes this is why Shouto looked so worn-out, realizes that the content of this letter was exactly what was eating away at him. She curls into herself with each word about his Father, about who he was and who he is now, until she reaches the last paragraph and she can’t read it because her vision is blurry and she needs to muffle the sob climbing up her throat.

Mom has always said that forgiving takes courage. I don’t consider myself brave - maybe because I used up all my courage giving Father another chance. I don’t regret it. He’s trying. He has been trying for years now, and he’s come a long way. But you can forgive without forgetting. I still have the nightmares - most heroes dream about a villain raid, yet here I am, afraid of the man I could become. It’s pathetic.

I don’t know if I can tell you all of this, but I thought you should know.

Love,
Shouto

Momo reads the letter several times, until she knows it almost by heart, and looks at Shouto, sleeping peacefully on the couch, wondering how many times he woke up slick with sweat and alone, how many times he just needed someone to say “It’s okay.” And it’s then, at four twenty-seven in the morning, with the world so still that it might as well have stopped but her tears flowing, that Momo promises herself to be there whenever Shouto will need someone to tell him “It’s okay.”

She looks back at the screen and rereads the last words. Love, Shouto. It’s exactly like she signs her unsent letters - a habit of the past, something she never grew out of. It’s a bit silly, but it puts a smile on her face.

And then the smile freezes as Momo saves the draft and a tab opens to show her the hundreds of mails Shouto hasn’t sent - all of them addressed to her. All of them signed Love, Shouto.

Chapter Text

I'm thinking 'bout how people fall in love in mysterious ways
Maybe it's all part of a plan
I'll just keep on making the same mistakes
Hoping that you'll understand
(Ed Sheeran - Thinking Out Loud)


 

It’s been two years, so why do I keep writing these emails that will never reach you? Why can’t I forget you?

I don’t expect you to forgive me - I definitely can’t forgive myself - so why did you say you didn’t resent Tokiya’s father? Why are you so kind? Why can’t you hate me?

I’m sorry, Momo, Tokiya.

Still, it wasn’t that bad - mostly because I spent the whole ride imagining you were next to me, your hands in the air and giggling in joy as the cart started going down. I miss you, Momo.

Just this once, let me tell you that I love you, Momo, and that I miss you.

I promise I’ll tell you soon.

 

It’s a quarter past five in the morning and the world is frozen and every letter is signed Love, Shouto. It’s twenty past five in the morning and the sun is starting to tease the horizon and Momo reads through every single letter from the past seven years. It’s half past five in the morning and the light is starting to creep in through the open window and Shouto still has feelings for her.

Momo takes a deep breath. Decides to make herself some coffee (it’s not like she’s going to sleep anytime soon). Rereads the emails. It’s six a.m. when Momo finally closes the laptop, reminds herself that Yaoyorozus don’t curse, mutters, “Damn.”

These are the facts: Momo might have an exhaustion-induced dream, but in this realm, she has opened Shouto’s emails (addressed to her, signed Love, Shouto ), found out that Shouto still has feelings for her (as strong as hers and just as concealed) and that he’s been swallowed by guilt and doubts all these years (writing to let it all out, writing because there was no one to talk to, writing because he only ever wanted to reach her ).

She doesn’t know what to do with these facts.

Of course, the thought of waking Shouto up and telling him she loves him - it’s scary to put it into words, but the more she thinks about it, the more she realizes it’s true: she loves Shouto Todoroki - has crossed her mind, but she dismissed it almost as fast. There must be a reason why he hasn’t told her yet - in his letters, he asks her to wait. Tells her he’ll tell her soon. And Momo trusts him.

So, when Shouto wakes up, Momo pretends to have gone to sleep, laptop untouched and draft unsaved.

***

Momo waits for two weeks. She opens the door to Shouto, hugs him when he leaves, makes tea and popcorn for them when they watch Disney movies. She prepares for Midoriya’s wedding, finds a fitting dress - a red gown that brushes her shin - and waits.

She has time to pick up on a lot of details: the way Shouto lingers just one second longer when hugging her, his hand hovering uncertainly over her waist, as if he’s not entirely sure whether he can touch her without her vanishing into thin air; his small smiles when she gets overly excited about a new research paper she got access to and listens to her rant for hours; the way he waits for her with takeout boxes outside of her classroom and lifts the ramen from her favourite restaurant up in greeting. There’s so much she’s brushed off until now, little things piling like raindrops flooding the river banks and washing over Momo in waves of affection.

In the middle of this, Momo finds herself aching, longing for someone who’s always within gripping distance, sitting next to Shouto and missing him. She loves Shouto Todoroki and she’s still terrified of what that means, scared of the way her body reacts to his proximity by drawing closer, like it’s implicit memory; scared of the way her ears pick up his voice from a crowd, recognize his footsteps like they’re her own.

It’s on the day of Uraraka and Midoriya’s wedding, as she helps Kyouka get ready, that she ever says any of it out loud.

“I think Shouto may still be in love with me.”

Kyouka manages the impressive feat of choking on plain air, and it takes her a few moments to catch her breath again. “You think ?” she wheezes, voice dripping with sarcasm. “I’ve been telling you so for months .” Leaning back into the chair to let Momo finish her hair, she asks, “Well?”

Momo looks at the ring on her finger - the golden lily, the promise - and wraps another bang of Kyouka’s rich hair around the curler. “Don’t make me say it out loud. It’s embarrassing.” Kyouka raises her eyebrows and shoots Momo one of those trademark unimpressed looks through the mirror. “I’m… waiting.”

“Because that always worked out just fine.” It’s commendable how she manages to look scary even with the bump showing.

“Because Shouto is impulsive, and if something’s holding him back now, I think I should respect his decision.” She sighs and fluffs up Kyouka’s hair. “I think he wants Tokiya to accept him.”

“He already has a long time ago,” Kyouka says, and something in Momo’s chest squeezes like her ribcage is suddenly three times too small. “He’s basically acting like Todoroki’s his father now - which is pretty accurate.” Kyouka turns to look at Momo directly and her voice drops an octave to that serious, unflinching tone that means she’s going to speak the hard truth and Momo isn’t going to like it. “Don’t you think it’s you he’s waiting for?”

Momo bites her lower lip and puts the curler back in the drawer. Is she still being a coward?

She doesn’t take off the ring before leaving the house.

***

To Shouto’s relief, Midoriya doesn’t run away before his wedding - or anything equally stupidly dramatic, for that matter. He stutters a lot and shrivels into himself like he was sent to face the toughest villain without his quirk, but Midoriya always did that before a test and aced it, so Shouto trusts him to walk down the aisle without tripping (more than once, anyway).

Iida looks at their friend like a proud father, biting on his lower lip to keep it from wobbling. In his (much hunted for and tried on a dozen times to analyse it from every possible angle) black tuxedo, Midoriya really does look his age. He’s grown to fill the wide shoulder pads, his fingers no longer swimming in the cuffs of the shirt and he looks - well, he looks like a groom.

“Congratulations,” Shouto says as Iida can only nod by his side.

Midoriya gives them a wide, toothy smile and clasps his friends’ shoulders. “Thanks, guys. For being here and - well, for everything.” Despite the nerves, Midoriya looks a bit giddy and very much determined - it suits him.

“Take care of Uraraka,” Iida finally says, a quiver to his voice. Ever since high school, both Iida and Todoroki have known their friends fit together, not in the way all four of them do (like limbs of the same body, aching when one of them hurts, subconsciously linked together), but like they’ve been designed as a set, and meant to stay that way.

“It’s not like you’ll never see her again,” Midoriya says, slapping Iida’s shoulder softly.

“She’ll be a Midoriya the next time I see her,” he points out, smile matching Midoriya’s.

“Oh no,” Shouto mumbles, both of his friends giving him an antsy look. “I don’t think I can call her Midoriya, too, that’ll get confusing.”

The groom lets out a chuckle and says, “It’s okay, you can keep on calling her Uraraka. I don’t think she’ll mind,” he shrugs. “Besides, it would be weird to change what we call each other after all these years.”

It’s a weird feeling, watching your best friends grow and marry each other, and it settles in Shouto’s chest with a quiet pang. It’s a bit like seeing someone off at the train station, in that you know they’ll return soon, but you’re also painfully aware that they’re boarding on an adventure without you. They’ll be back on the next train, still the same person, yet so, so different that maybe all they have in common with the friend you saw off is a pair of worn jeans and a beanie.

“He’ll be fine,” Iida mutters as he watches Midoriya’s back - when did Shouto start looking at his back? When did his shoulders get so broad that they block the person he’s talking to now? - and he can’t tell whether Iida’s talking to him or to himself. “We raised him well.”

“We didn’t raise him,” Shouto says and knows he’s lying even before the words leave his mouth. They’ve all grown together, taking turns at playing parents, taking turns at rushing to the hospital short of breath and thoughts twisted by worry, taking turns at carrying each other home after an office party with a bit too much alcohol involved. “It’s not going to be the same, is it?”

Of course it isn’t. “Of course it isn’t,” Iida echoes his thoughts. “But I’m happy for them.” Shouto can only nod. “For you too, Todoroki-kun.”

He turns around, already knowing what this is about, and talks before Iida gets a chance to fish out the thought he’s about to voice. “I’m going to treasure her properly.” A promise.

Iida clamps his mouth shut and smiles. “I know.” It’s gentle, the way he talks about her - it always has been, always has dug a pit of guilt open in Shouto’s chest, even when Iida was only telling him to go for it. “What I wanted to say is that I’ll be cheering you on.” It’s there - the limb that hurts, part of the same body. “And that I’m letting go.”

“Uhm,” is all Shouto eloquently manages. “Are you saying this because I punched you the last time?” In his defense, he was seventeen and Iida was being stubborn. “I’m not planning on repeating that fiasco,” he groans, remembering how he needed Momo to disinfect his wounds after he had experienced the incredible force of Iida’s fists - he had a crisis about whether hsi friend hid his true quirk this entire time for about a week, until the two started talking again.

Iida laughs, and it sounds genuine, not restrainted by regret. It helps the air flow easier through Shouto’s lungs. “No,” Iida wheezes, patting Shouto’s back. “But I am going to punch you if you somehow manage to hurt her.”

“Not again,” Shouto shakes his head. Once is more than enough - he doubts the nightmares will stop anytime soon, and he’d rather not add fuel to that particular fire.

His friend nods. “That’s good then. Now let’s go - we have a wedding to attend.”

***

The wedding was a success, Shouto thinks as he watches Momo being whisked away on the dance floor and sighs. No one tripped, no wedding dress was torn to shreds (Jirou had a penchant not only for encouraging grooms, but also for driving best men into panic with stories from her own - rather unusual - wedding), Tokiya carried the rings proudly (and mostly everyone cooed at the beaming child, including the journalists) and only happy tears were shed. With Midoriya’s grin and a picture of him holding Uraraka in a fitting bridal style, the ceremony was sealed and the journalists were ushered away so the happy couple could enjoy a reception with their close friends.

“I can’t believe,” Jirou wheezes, “that your own son stole Momo away from you.” Her shit-eating grin reaches a size Shouto has never witnessed before. Maybe it’s a compensation for the lack of alcohol - five months pregnant and not being allowed to drink wine at a wedding is bound to make one rather irritable, after all.

Shouto sips on his champagne - a small victory, with Jirou narrowing his eyes at him like he’s a traitor. He smirks. “He also got your first dance. Kaminari was torn between cooing and crying,” he shrugs.

Jirou grins, watching Momo’s intentionally smaller steps and radiant smile, matching Tokiya’s proud beam. “You know,” she muses into the rim of her soda glass, “you’re good for them, Todoroki.” Shouto glances sideways at her, waiting for a follow-up, but Jirou’s lips are pursed around her beverage.

He’s not sure what he can say to that, but the silence stretches long and awkward, so he manages a “Thanks.” Jirou smiles at him, a quick quirk of her lips, and jabs his arm with one of her jacks, the other pointing towards the dance floor. “Your lady’s free,” she teases, wriggling her eyebrows wildly. “We’ll be taking Tokiya with us tonight,” she adds, tone heavy with underlying meanings. Shouto feels a bit like an animal at the circus, given vague warnings and silent threats.

His eyes flutter back to the spot of red that Momo is on the dance floor and their eyes meet. Shouto gulps down the knot rising up his throat and urges it to keep to his stomach as he gets up and brushes the tux which suddenly feels too big for him. Could it swallow him up? Can he make a cage of ice for himself and hide in it forever? Jirou’s glare and her prodding jacks are a negative answer, but at least Shouto tried.

Tokiya runs by him, hopping on Shouto’s stool and stealing a sip of Jirou’s soda. They seem to whisper something to each other, Tokiya’s eyes snapping up to Shouto’s to give him a thumbs-up. It’s when your own son encourages him to go for a dance that Shouto grasps how pitiful his state truly is. With Momo a step away now, he doesn’t have the time to dwell on that particular thought, though.

Instead, he squares his shoulders and meets Momo’s amused eyes - a challenge blended in genuine curiosity, a look like a taunt. Dropping into a bow, Shouto allows himself a small smile at the surprise on Momo’s face as he asks, “Would you allow me this dance?” He doesn’t spend his free time watching Disney movies for naught.

“Yes, your Highness,” Momo says with what should be irony but is betrayed as amusement by the spark in her eyes - a challenge, a question, a taunt. Her hand is soft in his, palm sliding against his easily, cold metal biting into Shouto’s skin as he realizes Momo’s wearing a ring, his hand finding its place of her waist like it has a hundred times before and freezing in that very spot once he realizes she’s wearing his ring.

One dance turns into another (and Momo’s wearing the ring), and then another (and Shouto knew Momo still wore the ring from Midoriya, but she’s never worn it when he was around, a purposeful act that spoke volumes), and then so on until their breaths start growing heavy and Shouto maneuvers them towards the bar (still holding her hand, still stealing glances at the golden lily - his ring, a promise).

Someone approaches Momo as Shouto’s talking to the barman and he steals a glance at the young man, curly black locks and perfectly trimmed moustache. If Aoyama saw him, he’d probably call him Poirot reincarnated. Shouto picks up the two glasses of wine from the aimable barista and walks back towards the two, feeling something rumble in his chest.

“-me a dance?” is all he hears, but the rest is easy to piece together.

He doesn’t get to decide whether this is his place to slide in, for Momo easily replies, “I’m sorry,” bringing up her hand to brush a few stubborn strands that had escaped her bun behind her ear. The ring catches in the low light of the disco ball and she smiles sheepishly. “I’m whisked away for the rest of the night.”

“I understand,” the man says, glancing at Shouto as he steps closer and hands Momo one of the glasses. He nods in Shouto’s direction understandingly, almost like an apology, before taking his leave.

Shouto reclaims his seat next to Momo and watches her take a sip and hum appreciatively - even with all the noise and dim lighting, he can make out the way her nostrils flare with the wooden scent of the old wine and the small sound in the back of her throat when the alcohol washes over her tastebuds. He watches her run a finger over the rim of the glass, a thousand lights in her eyes as she looks at Jirou singing up on stage. He watches her bite her lower lip as her eyes flit to the married couple, some of the lights in her eyes dimming only for the briefest of seconds before she looks up at him.

It strikes him, then, that he should probably say something. You’re beautiful. “I-” I think I’m more in love with you than I thought. “I don’t mean to keep you from enjoying yourself,” is what comes out instead, his eyes darting into the direction of the man who had just left. Damn his treacherous tongue.

“I am,” Momo says, her fingers sliding easily between Shouto’s as she stands up and abandons her drink on the bar. “I’d be enjoying myself more if we were dancing, though.” That look again - a challenge, a question, a taunt. “It’s the prince who’s supposed to invite the lady for a dance.”

Momo is in front of him, red gown and a thousand lights in her eyes, and all Shouto can do is turn her hand in his and press a kiss to the back of it. “My apologies,” he says, looking up through his bangs to spy Momo’s reaction. The lights are too low to tell for sure, but the colour filling her cheeks could be a blush.

“Whether I forgive you depends entirely on how good of a dancer you are,” she whispers in his ear as he gets up to follow her, wine glass abandoned next to hers.

***

In retrospect, Momo realizes she was feeling bold that night. Bold enough to wear the ring, bold enough to keep Shouto on the dance floor for the better part of the evening, despite him only asking for one dance, bold enough to wrap her hands around his neck and press the forehead into the crevice where his shoulders met his neck and breathe him in (cologne and fabric softener and something else, something woody and comfortable). In retrospect, she doesn’t regret it.

Kaminari finds Momo shortly before midnight, a dozing Tokiya in his arms and an equally drowsy Kyouka by his side, and winks at her encouragingly. Momo finds herself weirdly thankful that Kaminari’s hands were occupied, or else she’s certain he would have sent her so many thumbs-up that even the barman would have double checked to see if a bottle of his finest whiskey had disappeared.

What happens after that is a blur of movement, the dancing floor growing hotter as more people rush in to jam to the latest hits and she’s pushed against Shouto, woody scent enveloping her whole. It’s towards the wee hours of the morning, after the cake has been brought out, that Shouto mutters, “Do you want to get out?” in her ear, and his voice is so husky and so close that Momo finds herself wondering if she’s inebriated by the sound alone.

“Yes,” she whispers back, letting him wrap an arm around her waist and lead them out of the heated core of the party.

Their whole escape takes about twenty minutes, ten of which are wishing Midoriya and Uraraka a pleasant honeymoon and a beautiful life ahead, another five are Momo retrieving her purse and fighting Shouto over taking his jacket (he’s stubborn so he wins; Momo buries her nose in the collar of his tuxedo coat and relishes in the same woody scent) and the last five are them trying to catch a cab.

“Should we just walk?” Momo suggests as the dispecerate tells them they’re booked for the night and Shouto looks at his phone in dismay. “The subway station isn’t too far away.”

“Yeah,” Shouto nods.

It turns out the subway is mostly empty at half past four in the morning, so they don’t get any weird looks for being dressed fancy (and no busybodies sneak out their phones to take photos of their interwoven hands, which is a relief - Shouto is warm, and Momo would rather she didn’t have to let him go). They’re quiet for most of the ride, a comfortable silence that stretches infinitely wide and infinitely reassuring.

The thing about love is that it takes many forms. Momo first experienced it as butterflies in her stomach and lingering glances, experimental touches and shy blushes, hands pressing together as they quietly read in their corner of the library. It turned into something visceral over time, a feeling that prodded at her insides when Shouto was in danger and made her heart boost in size when she woke up next to him.

It’s why it took her so long to realize that this - teaching him how to be a parent, watching him fumble into a role that was foreign and scary for him, eating his terrible pancakes way too early in the morning - is also love, stripped away from teenage angst and curiosity. It’s why Momo wore the ring tonight and why she lets Shouto rub his thumb over the golden lily now, dread and excitement curling together in the pit of her stomach like she’s about to throw herself in battle.

It’s why she stops in front of her door, turns the keys in the lock and doesn’t enter. “Here we are,” she mutters - a challenge, a question, a taunt, like this entire night has been.

Shouto looks at her, looks at their linked hands, takes in a breath like he’s trying to suck all the oxygen in the air. Momo’s insides twist further and she squeezes his hand. Years ago, she read that once the adrenaline kicks in, you have twenty seconds of courage. She holds Shouto’s gaze and starts counting.

Five. “Are you wearing the ring or the promise?”

Seven. An inhale. Nine. “Both.”

Eleven. She opens the door and drags Shouto in after her. Fifteen. He closes the door and presses her against the cool metal, drags his thumb across her jawline ever so gently, as if he’s making sure she won’t evaporate, as if testing if she’s real. Eighteen. “How about you?”

Shouto’s kissing her before she reaches twenty.

Chapter Text

So come on, get higher, loosen my lips
Faith and desire and the swing of your hips
Just pull me down hard
And drown me in love
(Come On, Get Higher - Matt Nathanson)


 

It’s experimental at first, his lips pressing against hers tenderly, trying to remember, trying to prolong the moment forever. Momo’s lips are incredibly soft and warm beneath his (like they were all those years ago in the library) - and for a moment, Shouto is afraid that maybe he should back away, ask for permission, apologize (probably not in that order, but there’s a haze in his brain and all he can think about is Momo ). But then Momo’s fingers bunch into his shirt (and she’s still wearing the ring, his ring) and her mouth opens (a challenge, a question, a taunt).

Shouto’s body remembers it all, like implicit memory - the little sound in the back of her throat, something between a hum and a moan, the one she makes when he bites on her lower lip and licks into her mouth and the one he swallows desperately; the way her nails scrap at the back of his neck as she presses herself closer, her body arching into his, responding to his mouth, responding to his touch. He pushes her further back, hand on her waist and on her jawline, cradling the back of her head so she doesn’t hit the door. Something in his blood sings more, more, more-

He pulls away when he can’t breathe anymore (all he can breathe is her, Chanel perfume and his cologne on her dress, smearing the clean scent of her deodorant) and he’s not sure whether it’s the kiss or the way she looks at him that makes his lungs constrict and then expand three times over. Her cheeks are dusted with pink and her eyes are wide (a thousand lights reflected in them), lips parted as she pants softly, fingers still bunched in the material of his shirt. Shouto’s insides twist at the thought that he put that look on her face.

“Uhm,” he eloquently starts, mentally slapping himself for not having thought things out this far. “Can I kiss you again?”

Momo chuckles, a beautiful sound that rings clear, rings right , and she says, “Yes,” and Shouto’s kissing her again. She cards a hand through his carefully styled hair and he pulls off the hair tie keeping her bun in place, remembering each inch of her mouth, tracing her face with his thumb, running his hand through the slowly growing black hair he loves so much.

He’s missed the rush of her skin, the well defined lines of her neckline, the way she jumps a bit whenever he teases her lower lip, the surprised yelp when he kisses the place under her earlobe. “Shouto,” she says and he wants her to say his name like that forever, something between a moan and a plea, something caught up in her throat and dipped in affection and want. “Shouto,” she says again when he tips up her chin to kiss along her jawline, voice tight and low, hushed in a way that makes Shouto go crazy. “Shouto,” she whispers when he kisses the corner of her mouth, “I think-”

He kisses her again and breathes, “You always think too much.”

“Yeah,” she breathes, “I probably do.” She’s smiling, her hands cupping his face, and it’s like the seven years they’ve been apart have somehow vanished, all that remained of them the ever growing bulge in Shouto’s stomach.

Momo looks at him like she knows - what’s going on in his head, in his chest, the thrumming that itches down to his fingertips - and Shouto breathes in. He breathes her (Chanel and his cologne and the clean scent of her dress) and inches closer (but it’s never close enough), presses his forehead against hers. Closes his eyes. Realises there’s a word (or three) to describe the feeling rushing over him like waves crashing against the shore.

Mutters, “God, I love you so much.” When he dares open his eyes, she’s staring at him (a thousand lights in her eyes) and Shouto repeats, “I love you so much. I was the biggest idiot, I never should have left, but I was scared - terrified. That I’d turn into him, and I’d make you miserable and you’d hate me, that you wouldn’t be happy with me-”

Momo’s hand presses against his cheek, her thumb hovering over his lips to stop the onslaught of words. “You’re an idiot,” she concedes, and Shouto’s lips part open again, “because you already make me happy. It’s somewhat disconcerting how much you’ve engraved yourself in our lives,” she sighs, but it sounds more like worry melting out of her body than anything else.

“I didn’t want to come back,” he says, and it’s like every letter he’s ever written and never sent dissolves into words that come out of his mouth in waves, washing out of him with the force of feelings built up over seven years. “I was scared of seeing you again, of seeing the world you lived in without me. I never called, but not because I didn’t care - it’s because I cared too much, and you being happy without me would have hurt more than I could take, which is really ironic-”

“I know.”

“-because I wanted you to be happy more than anything. I tried forgetting you but it felt wrong, any woman I was with wasn’t you and they felt wrong, kissing them felt wrong and they didn’t smell like you so I just pushed them off and Yoarashi actually asked me if I’m gay-”

Momo chuckles again, but it’s a bit of a hollow sound in place of words, her thumb still on his lower lip as their noses brush.

“-and I’d ask Midoriya if you were well and he’d tell me you gained weight but I didn’t realize that was code for you being pregnant -”

A puff of what could be slight annoyance at the way Midoriya phrased her hormonal changes climbs out of her, but she looks mostly amused and mildly concerned by the ceaseless stream coming out of Shouto’s mouth.

“-with my child. You had Tokiya and I didn’t know about it and when I came back I was torn between hoping he was my son because I love him and hoping he wasn’t because then I would have let him down, I would have been a horrible parent-”

“I didn’t tell you,” Momo interrupts, “but not because I thought you’d be a terrible father. I didn’t tell you,” Momo whispers, averting her eyes, thumb stilling on his lip, “because I was scared. Because I knew you’d abandon the mission and come home and then I’d be holding you back and I was afraid you’d be sick of me-”

“I could never ,” Shouto stresses, lifting Momo’s head to make her look at him, see the seriousness in his eyes, “be sick of you.”

“You never signed up for any of this, and I was afraid I’d force you into something you’d regret.” Her voice is strained with the tears hanging by her lower lashes. Shouto kisses them away gently. “When you came back, the rational part of me whispered I should stay away, but I couldn’t. You’re very bad for my logical brain, Shouto Todoroki,” she says, a genuine smile lopsided around her lips, eyes fixing him with a question.

“I try,” he replies. Momo giggles and Shouto thinks he wants to make her laugh like that forever. “I think I’ve been in love with you all this time,” he says then, all of a sudden, because that’s when it hits him (not like a truck, neither does it feel heavy on his shoulders; in retrospect, he should have seen it coming). “But I didn’t want to be the guy that comes back seven years later and barges into your life. I wanted Tokiya to accept me-”

“He loves you,” Momo says gently, caressing his cheek.

“And I love him. So, so much. He’s incredible, Momo, he’s-” Shouto shakes his head, because there’s not really a word for what Tokiya is. He’s kind and mature, six going on seven but with gentleness many adults don’t possess, with the look of a child that knows too much for a kid who wasn’t supposed to know anything. “He’s so much like you,” he settles for eventually, because that’s the only way to encompass what Tokiya has grown into.

The flush is there again (the one that Shouto wants to bring back time and time again, the one he wants to wake up to and go to sleep with), and Momo mutters, “I should have told you sooner. You deserved to know, to meet your own son. And then once you were back, I should have told you right away, but I didn’t want to be the girl who tells you after seven years that you’re a father. I wanted you to get to know Tokiya, to see if you wanted to be a part of this-”

“More than anything,” Shouto says and means it with every fibre of his being.

She inhales deeply and looks at him funnily, with that look that Shouto could never quite figure out - the one she had when she agreed to move in with him, the one she had when he promised her forever, the one she has when she says, “I think I’ve been in love with you all this time, too, but I was afraid to admit it.”

“We’re both idiots, aren’t we?” Shouto mutters against her lips.

“Speak for yourself,” Momo manages, mouth barely moving as Shouto’s lips hover over hers, waiting for her to finish. She licks her bottom lip almost teasingly before looking up at him (a thousand lights in her eyes, mouth quirking smugly and curiously at the same time). “I finished at the top of our class.”

“Oh my God,” he murmurs, “how could I be sick of you, really-” and then he’s kissing her again and it feels right . Momo fits in his arms so right that if Shouto believed in some sort of supreme being, he might call it a case of divine fate.

Before he left, Shouto never truly kissed Momo. They kissed, sure, innocently and hungrily, making out on the couch or in the back of his car or stealing chaste pecks in their corner of the library, but Shouto always felt like he couldn’t go the whole way, couldn’t kiss her the way he loved her (fully and certainly, in that way that eats away at your being while simultaneously leaving you whole). So for the first time, he pours all of the feelings he unconsciously locked away into this kiss, lets it speak louder than words, ignores the way his left side heats up with flames licking at his ear, and it feels right . It feels like all of their kisses should have felt.

His coat falls off Momo’s shoulders as he picks her up and his lips slip onto her neck, her fingers hooking into his tie to loosen the knot. He remembers the way to their room even through the dark house, carries her half-stumbling, focused on the way her skin feels under the brand of his mouth, only stopping once when the cat rubs against his legs and Shouto firmly mumbles, “Not again.”

Shouto is trying to push the door handle without dropping Momo when her head shots up and she gasps, “Shouto?” A wave of panic rushes over him - for a moment, he wonders if he’s dreamed this all up and he’s going to wake up in his bed alone, room too big and too small all at once, crushed by the bane of his existence - but then Momo says, “I forgot to lock the door.”

Laughter bubbles out of Shouto as he walks back to the hallway and lowers himself enough for Momo to turn the key in the lock without having to climb out of his arms. “I can’t believe you,” Shouto mumbles as he makes to go back to the bedroom, only to be stopped by Momo again.

“The light in the hallway-”

“Momo, I love you,” he says as he finally pushes his way into the bedroom and flaps the light switch not-so-gently, “but I think I can live with being an enemy of the environment right now.”

“Oh,” she exclaims as he lowers her onto the bed and straddles her hips, hot lips pressed against her collarbone. She doesn’t resist when he kisses her again, her hands already working on the buttons of his shirt. “Okay.”

 

He looks at her like it’s the first time he sees her.

The bedside lamp bathes her in a warm yellow light that catches in her hair like it’s a halo, except her hair is shorter now, spilled over the pillow messily. Her bare skin looks like porcelain and Shouto runs a finger along her forearm, but this time he knows this isn’t an illusion that’s going to break as soon as he opens his mouth. This time he’s here to stay, and she’s wearing the ring.

A giggle bubbles out of her as he starts tracing her jawline, committing every detail to memory, makes it out in short breaths that tickle the corner of his mouth. He kisses her only to feel her laughing against his lips, sips it in and wonders if he could get drunk on it. “What?”

“I never thought I’d see you this disheveled again,” she muses, sparing his long since destroyed hairstyle a meaningful glimpse.

“That’s your fault,” he protest weakly. (Shouto doesn’t bruise easily, but he’s pretty sure he’s going to be sore all over once he wakes up.) Momo only smiles up at him, brilliant in the still of the night, and Shouto tucks her closer, places his chin atop her head and traces made-up patterns over her shoulder blades.

“I love you so much,” Shouto says for the umpteenth time tonight, for all the times he should have said it and didn’t, and this time he’s sure he said it out loud, because the giggles die down, because Momo takes his hand in hers and presses her lips to each of his knuckles in turn.

The light of the bedside lamp pulses quietly through the night as the clock ticks away the seconds to sunrise, but none of them truly wants to go to sleep. They’ve missed too much, each breath they take into the other’s presence a breath too little, a breath they want to hold onto and never let go of. Shouto’s chest expands three times over and he breathes her in (traces of Chanel smeared with sweat and his cologne).

After what could be minutes or hours of dropping lazy kisses every now and then on her hands or collarbone (or every other patch of exposed skin in his reach), Shouto asks, “What now?” She hums a question, idly turning his bangs around her forefinger. “What happens now? Do we tell Tokiya tomorrow?” Momo finally meets his eyes and drops the tousled hair back on his forehead.

“Do we make our relationship public?” he continues, watching her carefully. “Can I tell everyone to call you Momo Todoroki from now on?” He relishes in the pink that taints her cheeks and she flicks his forehead playfully when he gives her a smirk. “What? It sounds good.”

Momo rolls her eyes and runs her hands along Shouto’s forearms, leaning her forehead against his chest. “We don’t make anything public until we talk to Tokiya,” she says thoughtfully. All of a sudden, she tips her head back and bores into Shouto with her eyes and the thousand lights reflected in them. “The other day, he was afraid you’d feel uncomfortable that he called you Dad, but he said he doesn’t want to take it back.”

“He did?” Shouto asks dumbly, warmth taking all over.

He tightens his arms around Momo’s waist subconsciously, and she cups his face delicately. “He does love you, Shouto. We both do.”

Momo traces the outline of his scars, remains of battles he’s had in France, scars she kissed one by one and of which she made him tell the stories. “You two are the best part of me,” Shouto murmurs into her shoulder, counting her breathes. He drifts off by the time he reaches twelve.

***

Momo curls into the warm empty spot, still dazed with sleep. Awareness comes in hazy fragments: first, she feels the weight of the duvet, trapping her in its warmth, the crisp air of the morning making her skin tingle where it touches her bare shoulder blades. Then, she realizes the bed is empty , and shoots to a sitting position.

Shouto’s clothes are neatly folded on the chair, shirt a little creased but otherwise in one piece (much unlike her dress). Momo exhales a breath she didn’t know she was holding in - Shouto’s here to stay , and he loves her, and Momo can’t remember ever waking up with so many bruises and such a broad smile on her face. She slides her arms into her robe and walks out into the hallway, greeted by the smell of pancakes as soon as she opens the door.

She quietly pads towards the kitchen and stops in the threshold for a second, listening to Shouto’s husky voice hum along to the old radio buzzing with static. The scent of cinnamon floats in the air subtly and Momo closes her eyes and breathes it in, opens her eyes and smiles. It’s like they’re twenty again, with the way she wraps her arms around his waist and buries her head in his back.

“Morning,” he rasps, voice hoarse with the few hours of sleep. “I’m not burning the kitchen down.”

“I can tell,” Momo smiles into his shirt.

“I found these in the wardrobe,” Shouto says, gesturing to a worn-out shirt that belonged to a much younger version of himself and a pair of loose shorts. His voice is enough of a question.

“I kept them,” Momo mumbles into the soft cotton, “after you left. You forgot them here…”

He nods and flips over the pancake, hand reaching for the maple syrup. The smell of the sweet topping, the sizzling of the pan, the ache in Momo’s lower back - it all registers as solid. Shouto flips a pancake over with ease, and if not for all of her senses kicking in and whispering It’s real, it’s real, this is real , Momo would place such a domestic morning inside a dream.

Shouto scoops up the last pancake and drops it onto the growing pile, turning off the stove with one hand and uncapping the syrup bottle with the other. Momo props her nose on his shoulder and watches the syrup drizzle down the pancake tower lazily, watches Shouto turn around in her arms and kiss her brow and reminds herself this is real .

The thing with Shouto is that he doesn’t say it. He doesn’t shower her with compliments or words of affection or grand gestures. Instead, he wakes up before the break of dawn to make her breakfast. He collects all of the magazines she appears in. He calls Kyouka to plan her birthday parties. He looks at her with something so fond and which runs so deep that it’s like he’s exposing a little bit of himself, giving her a fraction of his soul.

It’s in the way he kisses her now, like he can’t quite believe this is real either, delicate and soft as if to keep her from vanishing. Momo’s hand is still loosely hanging onto his shirt; without the heels, she needs to tiptoe a bit, needs to drag him down, pull him in. At first he tastes like coffee, but then he just tastes like Shouto. She drinks that in.

They still have a lot to talk about - when they’re going to tell Tokiya, what they’re going to tell their families, their friends, the press; they need to talk about Shouto moving in and Momo changing her emergency contact again; they need to talk about them and what they haven’t talked about for seven years, all those emails Shouto hasn’t sent, five full notebooks of letters he’s never read.

Instead, they talk about Disney. (Momo reminds herself even responsible parents need to watch animated movies from time to time - to keep up with their kids, of course).

Shouto catches her peering at the marks on his lower neck, disappearing under the V-neck of his shirt, and raises a red eyebrow in question. “You don’t bruise easily,” Momo says around a mouthful of pancake, a smug grin blooming on her lips.

“Well, we both know whose fault that is,” Shouto shoots back. Momo feels his eyes track her exposed skin, something in his face shifting. “Did I hurt you?”

“No,” she shakes her head. Shouto was awkward, flames licking his left ear like he was a teenager again, but so was she. “We’re just rusty,” she smiles, fingertips brushing over his knuckles reassuringly. Something in his face shifts back as she says, “We just have to learn it all again. Together.”

“Yeah,” he breathes, leaning in carefully. Momo closes her eyes, waits for his lips to fit against her just right (a bit like a case of divine fate) - except they never do. All she feels his something bopping her nose and her eyes snap open to Shouto chuckling  as he pushes a piece of pancake in her face.

“Oh my God,” Momo huffs, pursing her lips around the metal of the fork. “Your childish ways are very much not appreciated, Mr. Todoroki.” She’s laughing even as she says it, the sound almost foreign to her ears - a bit clumsy, washing out of her in bursts that she’s been bottling up for a while.

“It was part of the deal, Mrs. Todoroki.”

Momo feels her cheeks fill with colour. After all these years, Shouto Todoroki is still capable of making her blush. It’s now, with the sun arcing in through the kitchen window and playing onto their plates carefully, hitting Shouto’s face in all the right angles - not that he has any bad angles, but something about the lighting is feeric and catches Momo off guard - that she decides he’s going to be the end of her. “You’re lucky you make good pancakes,” she retorts lamely.

“You mean I’m lucky you love me?” There’s a question in the smugness, in the way he waves his fingers with hers, pressing down on her knuckles gently, in the way he looks at her like he’s never seen her before, or maybe like she’s all he’s ever seen. It’s hard to tell with Shouto.

“That too,” Momo concedes, because she’s always been soft for him. When he beams and brings her hand up to his lips (his breath on her skin does terrible things to her heart, and he knows it. There’s no other explanation as to why he prolongs the moment, blows over her fingertips softly, trails the goosebumps blooming along her forearm), Momo mutters, “A terrible decision, really.”

“See,” Shouto says when he decides he’s had enough of teasing her and looks up to catch her eyes, “Disney references are precisely why I love you.” He says it so easily that Momo’s breath catches a little, catches with the way his hair has grown and is now falling onto the bridge of his nose, catches with the reality that Shouto is here and in love with her . “Well, that and your rambles,” he says, effectively ruining the moment.

“You make me sound so charming,” Momo retorts, slipping her hand out of Shouto’s warmth (and regretting it immediately) to bring their empty plates to the sink. He follows, wrapping his arms around her waist and nuzzling his nose into her neck. She lets out a small whimper when his teeth tease the skin right under her earlobe and leans into his back, if only for support.

“Momo,” he mutters, lips moving against her skin and tickling her. “We can do the dishes later.”

A tempting offer. “What do you have in mind?”

“Movies?” Shouto offers. “I haven’t seen Atlantis in forever and I miss your in-depth analysis of it.”

An offer she can’t refuse. (Less to do with Shouto’s puppy eyes, more to do with her love for Helga’s snark and Kida’s infectious curiosity, or at least so Momo wants to believe.) “Alright.”

***

It’s so easy to fall back into it that Momo wonders how she’s made it seven years without Shouto. It’s a bit like going to the supermarket and seeing the Christmas decorations for the first time, or drinking mulled wine with a cinnamon stick swimming at the depths of the pot and feeling it flood your system with warmth, or like cuddling into a fluffy blanket after a day of hard work at the office - that sort of mundane magic that Momo can never get enough of.

She gets a full day of it (Jirou texted her in the morning saying they’ll take care of Tokiya for today and adding a highly suspicious and uncomfortably knowing wink emoji) and wonders if she used up all of her happiness for a full year. If she has the right to feel this much joy, to be constantly drinking mulled wine and cuddling into warm blankets and breathing in cinnamon and Christmas. She wonders how long it’ll last.

Sometime in her twenties, Momo learned that everything has an expiration date, including happiness. With Shouto here to stay, it feels like hers is guaranteed for a lifetime. (A cheesy thought she can’t put out there, but one that she likes to keep in the back of her mind like a promise nonetheless.)

She’s probably drunk on it, so she doesn’t see it coming until it happens.

“Dinner’s ready,” she calls into the living room. Tokiya troddles in after Shouto but stops in the threshold, a bit uncertain, a bit afraid. “Sweetheart? Is something wrong?” Momo asks, an unsettling feeling already curling in her insides, gnawing at the edge of her chest like a premonition.

“I just,” Tokiya begins and swallows his words back, tastes them on the tip of his tongue, tugs on Shouto’s hand loosely. The man looks down and Tokiya meets his eyes and asks, “You’re my Dad, aren’t you?”

***

Dear Dad,

I guess you’re busy, but I hope you read this because Mom and I miss you. She never really said she does, but I know so, because she loves you a lot. Where are you?

Come home soon, okay?

Love,
Tokiya

Chapter Text

It's okay if you can't find the words
Let me take your coat
And this weight off of your shoulders
(Two - Sleeping at Last)


“Mom?”

Tokiya is three, which is the age when children ask questions no one has ever thought about and thus no one has an answer to. (Or at least so Aunt Kyouka says whenever she can’t find the words to his inquiries about the rabbit-looking cloud. Uncle Kaminari just lays down next to him on the grass and points out the bear-like cloud next to it, something soft in his voice that Tokiya loves so much.)

Somehow, though, his Mom has the right words for all of his worries and questions - when he asked her why bugs don’t fall off leaves, although water does (and Tokiya is certain that water is lighter than bugs because they have six legs ), she told him about how they have an adhesive substance on their already-too-many six legs, and when he asked why the sky is blue, she taught him about diffraction.

He hesitates now though, because he doesn’t know if his Mom has an answer to this question, this question that’s been brewing in his mind ever since Haru told him what gifts his father brought from a trip abroad. So Tokiya scuffs his socked toe against the leg of the table and looks down, hands clasped in his lap.

“Yes, sweetheart?”

His Mom has the answer to every question, Tokiya reminds himself. Still, the words are leaden on his tongue when he asks, “Does Dad love me?”

She gets a funny look on her face - the one where her nose scrunches, not in disappointment, but rather in surprise, the one she gets when she’s correcting papers and a student gives an unexpected answer, the one she has when Tokiya invents a new word. “Yes,” she says eventually, and Tokiya lets out a breath he didn’t know he was holding in. “He loves you very, very much. And he’ll be home as soon as he can.”

He doesn’t ask further, because the scrunch turns into longing and his Mom looks like she’s very, very far away, although if Tokiya stretched his arm, he could touch her. He doesn’t need to ask further, anyway - Mom never lies.

***

He’s three years, three months and four days old when he meets Haru, and then he starts counting the days from this very point in time instead of his birthday - it feels more special, he tells Haru.

Tokiya loves going to kindergarten - his sensei is very kind and pretty, and she always smiles when Tokiya explains his drawings to her. It looks a bit like Mom’s smile - she says it’s because every smile filled with love looks the same, but Tokiya thinks it has more to do with how both his Mom and his sensei are a bit in love with life itself. He loves playing with the other kids, too - they don’t always get his jokes, though, and Tokiya tries to keep back the pout threatening to curl his lips into a circle.

It’s a bit after the New Year that he meets the first kid to laugh at his joke - and like with all things meant to last a lifetime, they bond over food.

Haru is taller than him - taller than all the kids in their year, which is so cool - but he always keeps his shoulders hunched and his fingers clasped in front of him, thumbs twiddling whenever someone addresses him. When someone taps his shoulder, Haru flinches a bit, and Tokiya finds it curious, how someone so tall is afraid of the shorter kids. (Uncle Kaminari always said he shouldn’t be afraid of bugs because they’re tiny - isn’t this the same?)

It’s when he finds Haru under the slide later that day, one ungloved hand shaking slightly from the cold, that the dots connect. On the swings, three older boys laugh boisterously (and if his mother hadn’t taught him that was a rough word, Tokiya would say obnoxiously ), tossing something small and brown in the air.

Something that looks suspiciously similar to a glove.

Tokiya isn’t naive - but he isn’t strong, either, so he bites down on the impulse to stroll over and snatch the glove back, bites down until his lower lip splits and the metallic tang of blood fills his mouth, and sits down on the snowy ground. It’s freezing, but Tokiya likes the cold, the snow and the frostiness of it all, the way snowflakes gently melt when he touches them.

He takes out his gloves and offers them to Haru, but the boy just shakes his head and ducks it lower. Plan B, then: Tokiya unwraps the scarf around his neck and furls it around Haru’s in a way that connects the two of them, two halves on a cold winter day. Haru startles a bit when the soft wool touches his skin and Tokiya smiles.

“Mom knitted this for me! It’s really nice, right?” Haru nods, nose nuzzling in the expertly tied knots and the smell of fabric softener. There’s a shallow cut on his cheek, right under his eye. “Mom has this really awesome quirk that lets her create any object she can understand, but she said it’s important not to rely on our quirks all the time.” In the corner of his eye, he catches one of the older boys twirl his finger, pebbles rising at the movement.

“Mum knitted my gloves,” the boy mutters so quietly that Tokiya could’ve imagined it, save for the heavy accent his words are laced with - an unfamiliar accent his brain has definitely not cooked up.

He leans in, pulling up his knees to wrap his arms around them, just like Haru. From this angle, he can see the dried tears on the boy’s face and something in his chest squeezes. He shuffles closer, shoulders bumping against Haru’s hunched ones, and waits.

The snow falls quietly around them, and maybe if Tokiya closed his eyes and listened really closely, he could hear the flakes hit the slide and tumble down along the slope. Haru is cold against him, and Tokiya reaches a hand to clasp equally cold fingers around an ungloved hand.

“They said my accent’s funny,” Haru says after a while, still a mutter.

Tokiya tilts his head. “Why? I think it’s really cool!” For the first time since he sat down (and that’s a long time, considering how cold Tokiya feels), Haru looks up at him. His eyes are wide and a bit fuzzy and they look so kind (a bit like a fireplace in the middle of a snowstorm) that Tokiya squeezes his hand tighter. “You’re from a different city! That’s awesome !”

“Awesome?” Haru echoes dully, eyes growing even larger.

“Yeah! You have different food, right? Mom makes this really tasty carrot cake and I have some with me today so we can share and then you can teach me about where you’re from!”

“Hokkaido,” Haru mumbles. “I- We just moved here so Mum didn’t cook much but I have alphabet biscuits?”

“I love alphabet biscuits!” Tokiya beams and jumps up, connected scarf dragging Haru after him. When Haru smiles, the cut fades in the folds of his raised cheeks and the more excited he gets, the thicker the accent on his tongue.

It stays that way throughout the years.

***

He’s loved heroes ever since he can remember - part of it is that he’s surrounded by them, grew up hearing their stories and watching them at work, surrounded by Uncle Deku’s collection of notebooks and Uncle Bakugou’s stories about explosions. When Mom’s at work, Aunt Kyouka takes him to their hideout, as she jokingly calls A Agency, and lets him play around the “safe zone” - Tokiya knows his way to the training rooms by heart now, could walk through the maze of corridors with his eyes closed.

The bigger part of it, though, is that his Mom always told him stories from her hero days before bed. She imitates Aizawa-sensei’s voice and can perfectly do the quiver in Uncle Deku’s voice, can scrunch her face so she looks like All Might or relax her features into the mask of disinterest that her former teacher used to wear.

The recurring character in all of her stories, though, is Shouto, the Half Cold Half Hot hero - an intriguing man that Tokiya has never met, and one that his mother never imitates. Whenever he’s in the foreground of a story, she uses the soft voice - the one that calls Tokiya a sweetheart and asks him if he ate well today.

Naturally, he grows curious. Asks questions. Learns how to use the laptop so he can search for videos of Shouto without his Mom’s help. Bunches his fingers around the hem of his shirt and lets out mute sounds of surprise at the flashy quirk, at how Shouto is always at the right place at the right time, at how he quietly saves everyone.

Above all, he loves Shouto for being there to help his Mom when she needs it, and vows to become a hero like him.

***

He’s five when his quirk manifests for the first time.

He’s on the playground of the kindergarten, chasing after Haru in a classical game of Cops and Robbers, when he suddenly slips on a tongue of ice. It’s summer. The other kids applaude and whistle frantically. Haru gives him a hand to lift him up, smile morphing into horror when his eyes fall on Tokiya’s hand.

It’s frozen.

His mother comes as soon as the teacher calls her, and Tokiya greets her with a mixture of excitement and fear. When he tells his Mom about it ( It’s ice, just like Shouto’s! ), she gets that funny look, wrinkled nose and conflicted smile. Tokiya isn’t sure what to make of it.

They work it out slowly, with the help of a kind lady that Mom calls Rei-san but Tokiya is pretty sure is actually real-life Elsa. He’s known Rei-san ever since he can remember - Mom said it’s a dear friend, but she’s different from Aunt Kyouka. For one, she doesn’t tease his Mom or Tokiya and instead of sharp jacks, her eyes are grey and a bit sad, and Tokiya gets the distinct feeling that they hide a well-guarded story.

But what strikes him about Rei-san is how she doesn’t use her quirk. Which is why, when his Mom brings him to her, saying, “She might be able to help you control your quirk,” Tokiya is intrigued.

Rei-san’s ice quirk is only further confirmation of his “Real-life-Elsa” theory. He spends every other afternoon in her company, slowly grasping the basics of his power as his mother quietly watches, a smile he can’t quite pinpoint on her lips - it’s the one she gets when they watch Disney movies or when Christmas rolls around, joyful and sad all at once.

***

Tokiya is five going on six when he meets the other Shouto in his life.

This one doesn’t appear in his mother’s stories, neither is he a hero, and he happens to be a few weeks old and definitely scared on the bench he’s perked up on, holding onto it like dear life. It takes Tokiya and his Mom all of ten minutes to get the kitten to let go of the bark, and after all is said and done, the tree has claw marks to show for it.

“Mom,” Tokiya says, the kitten carefully nestled in his arms, slowly drifting asleep, if the cries dying down are anything to go by. “Can we keep it?”

She tilts her head and crouches next to Tokiya, rubbing the cat’s head gently. It purrs louder, and his mother’s eyes soften. “We need to check for its owner first. They must be very worried to have lost their kitten.” Tokiya nods sagely, but his mother isn’t fooled - she ruffles his hair and adds, “We can keep it until we find its family.”

Tokiya perks up a bit at that.

He does it all like he’s seen on the TV -  takes it to the vet for a checkup, buys the powder milk from the animal pet store (and gets a big smile and an extra bell because the owner tells him he did the right thing), turns on the heating and sets an impromptu basket out of blankets and pillows in the warmest spot of the house and, most importantly, showers the cat with love.

When, two weeks later, they still haven’t heard back from anyone in the neighbourhood, his mother says, “I guess that means he’s part of the family now. You must be his hero, Tokiya.”

Tokiya grins with his two-teeth-missing toothy smile. “Can we name him now?” His mother nods, and he brings fists clasped in excitement to his face, the name he has brewed out for so long slipping out easily, “Shouto! We can call him Shou-chan so we don’t confuse them!”

“Shouto,” she repeats, smile faltering for just a split second. “Sounds fitting. Welcome to the family, Shou-chan!”

***

The news about Shouto’s accident get broadcasted on the radio asp  Uncle Bakugou drives him and his mother back home, and the conversation stills all at once, uncomfortable silence filling the car as the next news piece rolls in.

He isn’t sure what to say - his mother whips her phone out in a split second, and Uncle Bakugou mumbles something about, “Fucking idiot, unable to take care of himself.” Mom doesn’t correct his language - and that’s how Tokiya knows this isn’t right.

Any searches (be they in Japanese, English or French) are met with unsatisfying results - they only mention Shouto being under medical care, but nothing on his condition. “He’ll be alright,” Tokiya says, hand clasped tightly around his mother’s, but it sounds less certain than he wants it to. “He’s always won.”

“Yes,” Mom says, and it sounds drained and a bit wobbly. Her fingers wrap tighter around Tokiya’s.

For the first time in a long while, Tokiya walks out of his room in the middle of the night and slips under the covers in his mother’s bed, hugging her tighter.

Uncle Deku comes by the next night - the clock blinks a tired 2:47am when the banging at the front door wakes Tokiya up, and he troddles worriedly after his mother. He looks disheveled, like he rushed out of his night shift in the middle of changing back into civilian clothes (buttons done only half-way through and hair even unrulier than usual, green glove forgotten on only one hand) and out of breath.

“-called today. Said he’s still in the hospital but doesn’t see why they’re fussing over him so much,” Uncle Deku snorts, half a laugh and half a sigh.

“That sounds like Shouto,” Mom says, and relief washes through Tokiya as he fists his fingers tighter into her pajama pants. “Do tell him to stop being so stubborn.”

“Way ahead of you,” Uncle Deku chuckles, and his shoulders slump, a bit like a weight just fell off them but he still feels the phantom pain of having to shoulder it. “But then again, he always listened to you , Yaoyorozu-san.”

Tokiya works even harder at controlling his quirk.

***

Meeting Shouto is so much different from what Tokiya expected.

Part of it is that he isn’t certain what he expected at all, because he’s been following Shouto for so long, because he knows so much about him and Shouto knows nothing about him, because he’s only seen Shouto through a screen and sometimes he forgot he was a real person and not just a character from one of his favourite animes.

The bigger part of it, though, is that when Shouto isn’t saving lives, he is very human . His mother had told him stories about the Hand Crusher myth Shouto believed in back in his high school days, yet it’s only once Tokiya meets Shouto that the two personas he had built for the hero in his mind merge together into the awkward mess that is Shouto Todoroki.

Tokiya loves him even more for it.

Unlike some other adults, Shouto doesn’t treat him like a kid - he crouches at his eye level (like Mom) and listens to what he has to say until the very end (occasionally, a smile would poke a sole dimple in his right cheek) and then ponder his words over before giving a sincere answer. He doesn’t make fun of Tokiya’s love for hot drinks in the middle of summer or him humming along to Christmas carols as soon as the leaves turn yellow at the edges.

He still makes mistakes - burns the rice and overcooks the meat, claims Tangled is a better movie than The Lion King, tells unfunny jokes that Tokiya only laughs at because Shouto’s face is so stoic the entire time that it becomes just a tiny bit hilarious, pokes fun at Aunt Kyouka and avoids her jabs with practiced ease.

It’s a different side from Hero Shouto - one that Tokiya likes to think is only shown to special people - and he learns the ins and outs of this new person. It’s a bit bewildering at first, to come to terms with the fact that he doesn’t actually know everything about Shouto. But the more he sees of it, the more he can’t help but think he doesn’t just love the hero, but the person Shouto is, too.

It’s gradual, the way things shift, until having Shouto make breakfast feels natural, until Tokiya wakes up and tiptoes into the living room, hoping he’ll see him asleep on the couch, until he starts calling Shouto Dad in his mind and needs to control himself to not let it slip out.

“Mom,” Tokiya finds himself saying one evening. His mother is still grading papers, but he’s finished The Wizard of Oz and lets his thoughts wander from Dorothy to her rather unique friends to choosing your own family to… “I think I might have made Shouto uncomfortable,” he says quietly, so quietly.

His mother caps her red pen and moves onto the couch next to him, parting the hair on his forehead in rhythmic motions. “Why do you say that?”

“I told him-” he bites his lower lip, thinks about how Shouto makes his mother smile smile and wonders if he’s allowed to say this out loud (wishes you speak of don’t come true, Haru’s mother once said). “I told him I sometimes wished he were my father.”

“Why would that make him feel uncomfortable?”

Tokiya looks up, thumbs still in their nervous twiddling at the surprise question. “I… don’t actually know.”

“If anything, it’s a compliment,” his mother says. “Did he act any differently after that?”

Tokiya shakes his head, then stops, remembering Shouto’s words. “He said he loved me. Do you think that’s true?”

“Shouto is painfully honest,” she says, nose wrinkling for just half a second, then grins at him. “And besides, you’re quite the charmer.”

“I am,” he proudly declares, and the discussion develops, as all true heart-to-heart exchanges tend to do, into a tickle war. 

He goes to sleep searching the sky for falling stars to wish upon.

***

Tokiya loves Shouto, but he gradually realizes he’s not the only one to feel that way about him.

Him coming back is a bit like a chain reaction: starting with the autograph Tokiya got, continuing with a punch from Uncle Bakugou and snark battles with Aunt Kyouka and developing into making his mother smile, and then laugh, and then look at Shouto with the soft expression she used to reserve for Tokiya when she calls him sweetheart .

It’s always been just him and Mom and Shou-chan, and Tokiya quickly discovers that a new person doesn’t take up only physical space. Aunt Kyouka says it’s called jealousy - Tokiya thinks it’s more like two cups of disappointment (in himself, for not being able to save his Mom when she needs it) and a dash of longing (because Shouto is everything Tokiya ever wanted his Dad to be).

He doesn’t mean to push Shouto away. He just hates the way he feels, hates that he can’t just love Shouto without having all of these other feelings he can’t seem to take apart (a jumbled mess of threads he lost the seams of) and he can’t look him in the eyes like this. So Tokiya retreats into the safety of his room when Shouto visits and hugs his favourite hippo plushie closer.

Shouto notices - of course he does. But he doesn’t push Tokiya (and that’s why he loves him, after all). Instead, he carefully seats himself on the floor of Tokiya’s bedroom, legs crossed in front of him, and says, “Are you afraid I’m taking your mother away?”

It’s like he’s reading his mind, and Tokiya wonders if he’s that transparent - or maybe if Shouto is also a bit afraid of all of these changes, of the way things have shifted and set each other off like pieces of a domino.

He’s not being replaced, Tokiya knows - because the smile his mother gives Shouto is a bit different, filled with a type of love he isn’t familiar with, caught between joy and longing. It’s the smile she gave him when he asked about his father.

“But I love you too,” Tokiya tells Shouto, and it all connects.

***

It’s in the little things, but Tokiya doesn’t miss it - how much his mother trusts Shouto (enough to let Tokiya alone with him for a week without the instructions notebook she made Uncle Bakugou read through and take notes on last year), how Shouto knows her favourite stress snacks (honeycomb and Earl Grey) and always stocks up on them when they go shopping, how they seem to talk through looks alone.

“You’re lucky,” Tokiya tells Haru during one of their weekends spent together. With the slow rusting of leaves, they’ve taken to spending time inside with hot cocoa and roasted marshmallows (courtesy of Haru’s father) rather than in the park. They’re currently engrossed in trying to finish their Japanese homework (a project about their family), so Haru only hums in response.

It’s only five minutes later, once he finishes rereading his small composition and caps his pen with satisfaction, that Haru seems to press play on their previous conversation. “Why?” he asks, licking at the chocolate moustache around his mouth.

Tokiya looks down at the drawing of his mother and Shou-chan and ponders whether he should draw a third figure. Haru’s eyes follow Tokiya’s and, like always, he seems to understand. “Your Mum is so cool, though!”

“She is,” Tokiya smiles proudly. “But-”

He’s told Haru once before - about his nightmares and his fears -, on their first sleepover. Haru, in turn, told him about being bullied by the older kids - and it was like a promise that they’d be forever together. They never really spoke of that again, but sometimes Haru steals glances at Tokiya during the “bring your parents to school” days, when he thinks his friend doesn’t notice, and then mutters something in his mother’s ear.

“I feel like maybe I’ll stop being afraid soon.”

Haru gives him a long look, but doesn’t ask. Tokiya is grateful for it. Instead, he reaches for Tokiya’s hand over the table and gives it a squeeze. “Do you want to play Monopoly?”

“Always,” Tokiya beams.

***

“Shouto?”

There’s so much he wants to ask. Are you my Dad? He hopes so. Was it my fault? Shouto said nobody would leave because of him, but even heroes lie. Can I call you Dad? It’s easier to say than Shouto, feels more natural, feels right .

Shouto looks down at him, and his Mom was right - he always talks with his eyes, using words only sparingly. It makes them hold so much more worth when they come out of his mouth.

Tokiya swallows and says, “Nevermind.”

It’s not the right moment.

***

Aunt Kyouka has always been snarky (a term Uncle Kaminari uses affectionately, but Tokiya has gathered from Shouto that it’s actually not a compliment), but it seems like the baby makes her a bit crankier than usual. It’s why as early as 7am, she has Uncle Kaminari running errands for her. (“If you don’t come back with spinach you might as well not come home at all.” “I hate spinach, are you sure that’s my baby girl?” “Do you want to die before you meet her?”)

Tokiya chuckles at the good-natured bickering (his mother always said that love comes in many forms) and perches up on the kitchen stool, swinging his legs underneath the kitchen table. “Did Mom also have these carvings?”

“Nah,” Aunt Kyouka waves her jacks dismissively, placing a bowl of cereal in front of him. “You were much more peaceful, kiddo. She did sometimes get cold though, and I guess she did use to drink like a camel.”

“Because of my quirk?”

“Unconsciously, I suppose.” Aunt Kyouka shrugs and grabs a bottle of orange juice from the fridge. “Toast?”

“Yes, please!” As she fiddles with the bread, Tokiya takes a breath and asks what’s been weighing on his mind for so, so long. “I inherited that quirk from Dad, didn’t I?”

Aunt Kyo’s hand stills on the hilt of the kitchen knife, and she turns around with a frown. “I guess so. Why?”

“I might be wrong, but-” a breath “-Shouto is my Dad, right?” She’s silent, but now that he pushed it out, Tokiya continues (like a dam broke), tells her all about how he makes his mother smile; about the clipping she still keeps of their time as a hero duo, but also the high school memories she cherishes so much; about how she never does his voice when he appears in the stories; calling him by his first name when Mom only calls Tokiya and Aunt Kyouka as such; Tokiya’s quirk and the white bang-

“I see you’ve done your homework,” Aunt Kyouka interrupts, ruffling his hair with a wide smile.

“Am I wrong?” Tokiya asks, and his heart is in his throat and the world seems to have gone still in the early morning at the kitchen counter.

“Does it matter?” Kyouka has one of those blank looks that even his mother finds hard to decipher, and Tokiya can’t do anything but blink at her. “Let me rephrase that - would it make a difference if Shouto was your father? Would you stop liking him if he wasn’t?”

“Of course not,” he answers in a breath.

A corner of her lips pulls up in a lopsided smile. “Would you want him to be your father?”

Yes , Tokiya want to say. “Can I decide on that?” he says instead. “He either is or isn’t my father. Mom says you can’t change biology.”

He kinda expects the crooked smile to turn into laughter, or at least a snicker, or maybe to be poked by Aunt Kyouka’s jacks playfully. Instead, she ruffles his hair lovingly, and Tokiya peeks at her from behind his white bang curiously. “That’s where you’re wrong, sweetheart. Family is more than blood bonds.”

“People say you can’t choose your family,” Tokiya says meekly. “I’ve read it in several books!”

“And people wouldn’t be wrong, but you can choose who you see as family and who you treat as such. Look at me, kiddo - am I your real Aunt?”

“No, but I love you, Aunt Kyo!”

“And I love you too, Tokiya,” she says, dropping a kiss on his forehead. “And this baby?” Tokiya’s eyes drop to her bump, and he reaches out a tentative hand. Kyouka gently presses onto his knuckles until his fingers brush the cotton of her blouse, and he feels the kicks underneath her skin. “She’ll love you like you were her real brother. Because we get attached to people like that, without being related to them and without it having to make any sense.”

For the first time in forever, Tokiya feels like the lack of a logical explanation for this feeling his Aunt calls love might be reassuring. “So it’s fine to call Shouto Dad even if he isn’t my father?”

“Yes. But you probably have to tell him, ‘cause he’s kind of awkward about these things.”

Tokiya cracks a smile, ignoring the itch in the back of his throat. “He’s been doing a good job until now.”

“I know,” Kyouka says, and it sounds like more, so much more that she doesn’t elaborate on. After a moment, she opens her arms wide, knowing Tokiya won’t refuse her invitation. “Come here, kiddo.”

Uncle Kaminari walks in just moments later. Upon witnessing the hug, he only whispers, “Pregnancy hormones. Scary stuff. ” He should know better than this, for of course Aunt Kyouka hears him and jabs him in the chest.

***

The kitchen smells like cinnamon and orange juice, as if Christmas came too early. It fits with Tokiya’s nervousness (not even tugging at his white bang helps with the butterflies in his stomach) as he keeps rolling the words in his mind, materializing them into sounds, trying to push them out without ripping at the seams.

“Sweetheart?” His mother’s voice feels distant, and Tokiya can’t bring himself to look at her. He can’t look at anyone but Shouto or he feels like he’ll lose any ounce of courage he worked so hard to store up. “Is something wrong?”

“I just-” You can do this, Tokiya. “You’re my Dad, aren’t you?”

The moment the words are out, the air in the kitchen grows colder (like he’s using his quirk) and his mother drops the apple she was cutting into bunny-eared pieces (the ones he likes so much). Shouto is right in front of him (if Tokiya held out his hand, he could touch him), but he’s suddenly too scared to meet his eyes, so he drops his hand and keeps staring at his Icy-Hot socks until he sees double.

“Yes.” It’s quiet enough that Tokiya might have imagined it - but he needs to know, so he opens his eyes and Shouto is there, crouching at his eye level, mismatched eyes and mismatched eyebrows and mismatched hair and a look so determined that Tokiya knows he didn’t imagine it. “I’m so sorry, Tokiya.”

He doesn’t know when the itching started - maybe his eyes watered from staring so hard at his socks, or maybe when Shouto said ‘Yes’, or maybe sometime before all of it, on his way home in the car, as he kept turning the question over and over in his head until the words stopped sounding like words and started sounding like a thread of his lifeline - but when Shouto says sorry the tears start falling without giving him a heads-up, and Tokiya brings his sleeve to his lower lashes to wipe at them.

Because sorry is his biggest fear (to be a disappointment, to be the reason for it all) and he hadn’t prepared for this (for having Shouto apologize - for the but that always comes after that).

Before he can hear the but , though, Tokiya feels strong arms pulling him in and the familiar scent of Shouto (crackling logs on a crisp winter day - the smell of home ) and his nose buries in the knots of Shouto’s sweater. “I’m so sorry for leaving, Tokiya. Nothing I can say will ever excuse that, but I want you to know that I’m never leaving again, and that I would have never left had I met you.” There’s a sob that cuts through - Tokiya isn’t all too sure if it’s his or Shouto’s or his Mom’s - and then he adds, “You don’t have to forgive me” and it’s all too much.

“You said you love me.”

“More than anything.” He says it too fast for it to be a lie.

“And Mom?”

“So much. I love both of you so much. You’re the best part of me.”

Tokiya pushes away a bit so he can look Shouto in the eyes (they’re red and puffy and Tokiya presses his hand to Shouto’s cheek - it’s even colder than his). “Mom was right - you did come back as soon as you could.”

Shouto turns around to look at her and a smile pulls at his lips (it’s small and a bit cracked, kinda like a cup that’s about to break, but Tokiya guesses all rare things are). “She’s always right.”

Mom smiles, wobbly and toothy, like she does at the end of The Lion King, and Tokiya thinks he found it now. “Welcome home, Dad!”


Dear Dad,

How are you? I don’t know where you are, but Mom says you’ll be back as soon as you can, so I’m waiting. I know I haven’t met you yet, but I already have so much to show you! Today, Mom and I repainted my room white and red, like the hero Shouto! Do you know him? I bet you’d love him, he’s so cool ! He always saves those in need, and he used to be friends with Mom!

A lot of Mom’s friends are heroes, so I wonder if you’re a hero too? Are you saving the world now? If you are, take your time! I promise I’ll wait and take care of Mom until you come back! Oh but if you come home for Christmas, I don’t want any presents  want to build a snowman with you!

Love,
Tokiya