“I gave Izuku his quirk.”
For a while there was silence, interrupted only by the honk of a car passing by in the street below. Toshinori stared at his toes.
They were talking about prickly wool and the right length for scarves, which somehow are always too short or too long. Why on earth did he tell her that ?
He raised his gaze to check on Inko, who was staring at him in silence, her mouth slightly open, no trace of any kind of expression on her face.
He knew why, though.
He just couldn’t pretend anymore, not when he was sitting on Inko's couch, holding a circle of yarn they had chosen together so she could knit a scarf for him. “To thank you for everything you’re doing for Izuku,” she had said, before unloading a hundred of different yarn skeins in his lap. Choosing the right one took them the whole afternoon - he was ok with anything, really, but Inko wanted to be sure he liked the texture and the color and that everything was perfect - and he enjoyed every single minute of it. That was when he had to finally admit to himself that he had certain feelings for his pupil’s mother.
He had always been quite good at ignoring feelings and shoving them off into the back of his mind, but this time it was different - this time they kept coming back, incessantly, and each time louder, to the point where he had to stop and start listening to them. And he couldn’t just ignore the fact that he never told Inko why her kid suddenly manifested a quirk - so similar to his own - when not only he perfectly knew why, but he was the whole reason everything had happened. The reason why the boy had broken more bones in his body than any other kid at school, and the reason why he still struggled with…unexpected collateral effects. The reason why sometimes Inko looked so sad.
The reason why she ended up crying in his arms after the umpteenth “accident”.
He felt a faint tug, a soft pull at the yarn he was holding.
Inko was clutching the tiny ball she had started to make, her eyes fixed on the bright red thread, but her mind far away from there.
She wasn’t crying, and that made Toshinori even more worried.
“....How?” she asked after some other moments of silence, finally focusing her gaze back on Toshinori. “How is it possible?”
He took a deep breath.
“That’s half the nature of the quirk. I’m not sure myself on how it works, technically speaking, but I was able to receive it from my master and pass it on to Izuku.”
Inko gave a small, unconvinced nod.
“The other half? It stockpiles power. That means that every time it gets passed on it becomes a bit stronger.”
A bit. Well. Given the new... developments, that was quite an understatement, but it wasn’t the time to tell that to Inko, unless he wanted to worry her even more. She seemed already quite shaken, and, honestly, he couldn’t blame her.
“If… If there is anything you want to ask, please do,” he said when he couldn’t bear the silence anymore, not really knowing what else he could say.
Inko plunged her fingers into the tiny yarn ball she was holding, but still kept quiet. Then, after a while, she exploded in a myriad of questions, ending up talking too fast to be understood.
If it hadn’t been due to that particularly awkward situation, Toshinori would have found the resemblance between her sudden outburst and the way her son sometimes did the same quite endearing.
“But what happened to your quirk, then? And was it so dangerous for you, too? Did it break your bones? Could it be that Izuku isn’t suited for it? And he’s like… Rejecting it? Just like it happens with transplants? Could you take it back? What if-”
She stopped only because Toshinori put a finger on her lips. His hands were still holding the skein of yarn she was winding into a ball and he wasn’t sure he was allowed such a personal gesture (especially given the situation), but that was the first thing that had passed into his mind to break that swarm of words.
“One thing at a time,” he said, quickly pulling back his hand, as if she could bite him at any moment.
“So… I’m quirkless now. As I was before. And no, it wasn’t dangerous for me and it didn’t break my bones. I broke my bones but it wasn’t because of my quirk, it was… I mean of course I wouldn’t have done certain things if it wasn’t… But… Well, let’s say there were third parties involved in the breaking of bones ok?”
Inko nodded again.
“And I don’t think Izuku isn’t fit for it or that he’s rejecting it, if that’s even possible. And I can’t properly take it back, but Izuku can pass it on whenever he wants but… It would be a pity, honestly. I’m more and more convinced he’s perfectly suited for that.”
There was another long, interminable moment of silence.
“...Why?” Inko asked, tears finally filling her eyes as she asked the question that mattered the most to her. “Why Izuku?”
Toshinori went back staring at his toes.
“Because I thought he was just like me. And... better.”
Inko didn’t say anything else, but she hid her face in her hands as she started sobbing uncontrollably.
Toshinori gently removed the yarn from his hands, careful not to twist it or tangle it, and placed it on the coffee table in front of him. He searched his pockets and found a crumpled, yet at least (mostly) clean handkerchief. He moved close to Inko and tried to offer it to her - but her face was buried deep in her hands and she was still sobbing and didn’t even notice his attempt.
Unable to keep watching without even trying to comfort her, even when he perfectly knew he was the root cause of her distress, Toshinori tried caressing her as he put a loose strand of hair behind her ear, but she jerked at his touch and stared at him with an indecipherable expression on her face. Sadness? Anger? Fear? She wasn’t to blame, really. He just told her that he thought her kid was just like him, and given the peculiar condition he was in now, that wasn’t very reassuring.
He was a fool. A rude, shameless fool who had started to believe that maybe - maybe - his feelings could be somehow reciprocated and who had dumped unexpectedly a huge weight on the shoulders of the woman he liked and thought he could get by with a nice gesture and some sweet talk.
He stood up, embarrassed.
“Maybe it’s better if I go home,” he said. He didn’t even wait for her answer and he bowed, quickly grabbed his jacket, hurried towards the door, bowed again, then left her apartment.
Three days after that, Toshinori was walking rather briskly down the hallway leading to one of the faculty’s offices at UA, wondering why Principal Nezu had pulled him out of the class and summoned him there. He took the chance to quickly check his phone - still no messages from Inko. To be honest, he hadn’t messaged her, either - but what was he supposed to say? He had wasted a long time staring at the screen, trying to come up with a few words without much success and he felt that each passing hour was making the situation even worse.
“I’m here,” he said once he got to the office, quickly putting away his phone with a sigh.
There, sitting on a small couch, someone was waiting for him. And it wasn’t the principal.
“Hi,” Inko said, waving her hand.
“Oh. Uhm. I… Hi.”
Toshinori stood there, motionless, not knowing what to do, until Inko patted the seat next to her.
“Here,” she said after he sat down, handing him a rather big and heavy paper bag. “It’s for you.”
Toshinori looked inside and recognized immediately the yarn Inko had chosen for his scarf. He took the contents out of the bag and stared at Inko, perplexed.
“I… This is not a scarf,” he said. He wasn’t an expert, true, and he did admit he liked long scarves, also true, but that was definitely too long. And big.
“It’s a blanket,” she explained. “For… tall people I guess. I was nervous and might have knitted a bit too much.”
“A bit, huh?” Toshinori asked as he unfolded his new, oversized blanket. At least, that was going to take care of the issue of his feet sticking out of the bed at night.
“Oh well. I had a lot to process, ok? And knitting helps.”
“I’m sorry about that,” Toshinori said after a moment of silence.
“Don’t worry, it’s ok. I mean, it’s not ok ok, and I am a little upset, but… It’s ok.”
“Still, I understand if you’re angry with me.”
“I’m not angry. It’s just… Why didn’t you tell me? You, or… Izuku. He used to tell me everything!”
“I fear I’m the one responsible for suggesting him to keep quiet about this whole thing,” Toshinori said. “It’s just… the fewer people know about it, the safer it is for everyone.”
Inko let herself fall back into the couch, lost in her thoughts.
“Then why did you tell me, all of a sudden?”
“Well… The thing is… I like yo- I mean, I like spending time with you.”
He paused for a while, considering the possibility to launch himself in a lengthy, and undoubtedly awkward explanation on how he meant that in the most friendly and unromantic way possible, maybe to convince himself of that, too. But then he looked at her and suddenly words came out of his mouth before he could actually think. “And, well, you. I like you.”
He stopped again, this time uncertain if the strange, high-pitched, half-muffled sound that came out of Inko was just an unsuccessful sneeze or a reaction to his words.
“Please. Go on,” she said.
“And… You know, omitting sensitive information to ensure a civilian’s safety is just standard procedure. But hiding the truth from a kind and beautiful woman just because you fear you’re going to lose her if you don’t, is something else.”
“Are you trying to distract me with compliments, now?”
“...Is it working?”
“I should have known,” Toshinori said with a smile. “I can’t fool a smart woman like you, can I?”
“No, but you can try again, if you want. Maybe during our next meeting? If you’re still up for them. I still owe you a proper scarf.”
“I’d love to. But don’t feel obliged to make me a scarf,” he said, focusing his attention on the blanket he was still holding. “You’ve already given me this. But of course, I can’t say no to a gift made by such an amazing and talented knitter like you are.”
Inko laughed again.
“Oh, come on, stop joking,” she said.
“Ok. But I’m not joking. I mean, I am, but… Not seriously. If it makes sense.”
“It does. But I’m not joking, either, when I say I’m still a bit upset over this. So… no more secrets and omission of sensitive information, ok?”
He was about to ask Inko if she wanted to check out Lunch Rush’s cafeteria - adding that, of course, not even the Cook Hero could beat her delicious cooking - when the office door slammed open.
“All Might!” shouted young Bakugou, “You have to come immediately, the shithead began spitting some other quirky shit - oh, hello Miss Midoriya,” he said, turning towards Inko. Then he went back to Toshinori. “We need to stop Deku before someone else gets injured.”
With that, he ran out of the office, slamming the door shut.
Toshinori and Inko slowly turned towards each other, exchanging a worried look.
“So,” Toshinori said, clearing his throat. “Have I ever told you that I think your eyes are the most lovely and deep shade of green I’ve ever seen?”