XVI

.

It is a Friday when Rei opens the door at ten-thirty to find Enji standing on the step. He's dressed up, not quite in a suit but certainly looking smarter than usual. There's no flaming beard; he's not in hero mode so, clearly, he's not going for a press conference despite the smart appearance. He usually turns up to those in his hero outfit anyway. Plus, the bouquet of flowers gives away that this isn't a usual run of the mill thing.

"Good morning? Haven't you just finished an all-nighter?" She clearly recalls Enji getting called out the previous night, right after they'd had dinner. Something about a villain with a weakness to fire who they'd needed to track and quickly take care of before he became a danger to the public. Touya had watched him leave with Shouto in his arms, both with a smile on their faces for two utterly different reasons. Shouto had spent the night dashing around the house, pretending he was Endeavor, complete with mini-bursts of fire as he took down the evildoer (Natsuo). Touya had spent the night curled up in the big armchair in the Western style living room, a book in hand and contentedness rolling off him in waves. She still has no idea what to do with her eldest's rocky relationship with his father. To be honest, she doesn't think it's her place to do anything at all. Touya is his own person; it is up to him if he wishes to forgive Enji and accept that he's changing. On the flip side, it is also up to Enji to prove that he has changed. It is not her place to stick her nose in. not unless it starts spilling over into the family dynamic.

"I booked a meal for the two of us, then a dancehall." The unspoken 'it's a date' hangs heavy in the air between them and Rei feels a little part of her inside melt. That's… sweet. However-

"You are shattered. I appreciate that you've taken note I like dancing, I'm seriously flattered, actually. But if we're going to go on a date, we're going to do it while you're at your best. What time is the dancehall for?"

"Half past two."

"Right. You go catch a few hours, I'll make a small picnic to take with us, and we'll do this properly." Nodding decisively, Rei takes a step back to allow Enji to pass her by. There are smudges of purple beneath his eyes, a bit of ash he's missed in his initial clean-up smudges by the underside of his jaw. He stops before her, one hand reaching for the underside of her chin before he freezes in place. His eyes are spectacularly blue, the kind of vivid that belongs on paintings of the open sky.

"Can I kiss you?" His fingers stretch out that little bit to brush at her jawline and Rei relaxes into the touch, exhaling slowly.

"Yeah. A kiss sounds good."

The brush of lips against her own isn't perfect. It isn't even wet, a clear sign of just how dehydrated her husband (and isn't that such a strange label, even now, a year and a bit on?) is. But, it is nice. Rei presses back slightly, fingers curling around Enji's wrist, thumb running against the steady pulse point there.

"Thank you for asking. Go and get some rest."

.

At quarter to three (they'd ended up running a bit behind because Rei hadn't been able to choose a dress, something Enji had spent the extra fifteen minutes grumbling over), they're in an otherwise empty dancehall with soft, slow music playing in the background. Rei has dropped the picnic basket by the door; they'd both scoffed down two sandwiches before they'd entered the building, but the rest can wait. Standing in the middle of the polished floor, Rei places her hands in Enji's as they slowly begin to rock back and forth.

"I hope you know, for all that I like dancing, I can't remember any formal training in it."

"That doesn't surprise me," Enji murmurs, reeling her in a little closer, until there's only a half-foot of distance between them. They sway gently side to side, slowly turning in a circle as Rei takes the time to look around. It is not a loud and grand place, but there is some charm to the building. It is unsuspecting, she supposes. The exact place hero-fans would never think to come looking. Huh.

"All those months away from home, I was working towards becoming a better father, one my children could be proud of. I never thought to consider how I could become a better husband."

"Well, I'm not exactly prime wife material, am I? I've spent the entire time you've been away focused on being an amazing mother. I don't even know when your birthday is." Isn't that strange? Despite the memory loss, it's been a year and she still barely knows anything about this husband she has. He's a pro-hero, he's working to improve himself. They were match made with the intentions of creating a perfect child when it comes to quirks. They've had Shouto who is, according to Enji, the pinnacle of quirk potential. The purpose of their marriage is served. Yet, they also have four children and while Rei doesn't believe having divorced parents can irreversibly screw a child over (if the parents actually take their children into consideration like they should), it would be a monumental upset right now. At this moment in time, they are remaining together for the children they have.

Is that all they could be? No, Rei doesn't think so, not when they haven't tried to be something more than two strangers raising their children. Enji is clearly on the same page, given he'd planned a whole date thing of them and even tried going through with the entire thing when he was so exhausted after an all-nighter shift. Is she touched by it? Yes. Does she find Enji physically attractive? It's hard not to.

"I want to try getting this right," Enji confesses, taking a step closer, until she can feel the heat the pools off his torso. "I owe all of you a better life." And well, with that progressive attitude, how can Rei deny trying?

.

XVII

.

"Right, Todoroki meeting." Having clambered up onto the back of the sofa to plonk his ass down on the high ground, Natsuo grins down at Shouto.

Touya coughs, arms folded across his chest as he eyes his troublesome younger brother, waiting for him to get the hint.

"Not today, Touya-nii. This is serious." Natsuo nods to himself, watching the three of them. With Shouto and Fuyumi already sitting on the floor and looking up at him like Natsuo's some form of god about to impart the meaning of life, it's clear he's waiting solely on Touya to join them. With a low huff, the eldest Todoroki sibling begrudgingly lowers himself to the floorboards, ready at a moment's notice to put a stop to whatever madness is about to be exposed.

"Go on then, Natsuo."

"Mum is stressed."

"No shit," Touya grunts out and then immediately regrets it as Fuyumi gasps in horror and Shouto leans right into his lap with big, curious eyes.

"Touya-nii? What does shit mean?" Fuck.

"Forget that word, Shouto. It's not a good one and Mum will probably cry if you say it." The horror in his baby brother's eyes makes it clear that he'll never be repeating that word again, not with the chance it'll upset Mum. Natsuo's smug smirk is indication enough that the promise of Mum crying isn't going to be enough to stop the little demon from dropping Touya in it. Which means he's going to be blackmailed into going along with this madness. The only question is, will this madness be more of a disappointment to Mum than a swear would be?

"We're gonna do all the chores while Mum's out, so then she can relax like Mums should do!"

"And how do Mums relax, genius?" Ah, Fuyumi. As the second eldest, she's also the only one with any idea that things weren't quite right. That they still aren't quite right, even if they are slowly moving to be better. In the face of her rebuttal, Natsuo fumbles, his cheeks blooming pink under the pressure before he gathers himself admirably.

"That's up to Mum! She'll probably wanna watch movies with us though. If we can get everything cleaned up and organised for her, and we help put the groceries away when she comes in, then we'll have lots of time! Maybe a movie each!" Planting his closed fist into an open palm, Natsuo grins down at them and Touya takes a moment to appreciate the entirety of his brother. No matter how annoying Natsuo is, his heart is in the right place. Out of all of them, personality wise, it'd have been the middle child who had the greatest chance of becoming the number one hero. Alas, it is Shouto with the perfect quirk, Touya with the power (despite his fragile body). Natsuo will undoubtedly make an excellent doctor; the world would be lucky to have him working in such a capacity. As such-

"Shouto and I will take the living room and the hallway. You and Fuyumi tackle the kitchen together."

"Hey! Who do you think you are, coming in and taking charge?!"

"The eldest. I'll go along with your plan, but I'm also going to make sure we don't create even more of a mess for Mum."

And that's the end of it.

.

Two hours later, Touya is carefully sauntering through the hallway, Shouto tentatively balanced on his shoulders, one hand wrapped around his while his brother's other little hand is wielding a duster back and forth, sweeping up the dust that're hiding in the top corners way outta Mum's reach. Touya's got a duster in his own free hand, clearing up the photo frames and if his eyes linger longer than they should, well, they're good memories. Most were taken in the past year and a bit, all taken by Mum in an attempt to create physical evidence of everything she experiences. An after effect of the memory loss. But there's photos galore; Fuyumi exploring messy art in the summer, Natsuo sitting under a tree with a children's book on medicine, Shouto playing football with Touya. There's even one of their father, fast asleep at his desk with drool pooling on his forearm. Touya hasn't the slightest clue when it was taken, nor does he recall seeing it before today. But the unflattering image does bring a smile to his face.

"What are you doing?" Speaking of the bastard-

Touya hastily grabs for Shouto's other hand to steady him as the boy jolts in surprise, nearly losing his balance from where he's carefully perched on his shoulders. While Touya's not the tallest teen (though from the inch he's gained in the last month, that promises to change soon), it's still quite a fall for the almost seven-year-old.

"Cleaning. So, Mum can catch a break," Touya snaps out, not even othering to turn around to look at him. They're busy making Mum's life easier, not that this fool knows what that means. Mum is forever running around after them, always looking checking in on them; they are her whole world. Touya adores her, which is why he'd been happy enough to go along with Natsuo's plan to make Mum's life easier. Undoubtedly there will be parts they've cleaned wrong, things they've not done quite right. But it's the thought that counts and he knows for a fact what he and Shouto have done will help; it's why he'd volunteered to work with the youngest. Easier to direct that Natsuo or Fuyumi.

"If that is the case… I'll cook tea." At that, Touya does swing around to stare, mouth open somewhere between a silent gasp and a disgruntled grimace. Todoroki Enji… doesn't cook. He has never once made a family meal in all the time Touya can recall. So, what the actual fuck? He'd managed to catch Shouto's falling form on instinct alone which is good, because otherwise he'd have been in hot shit with Mum. He can stand disappointing a lot of adults, but Mum isn't one of them (probably the only one).

"Mum won't want any of your burnt as-" Touya abandons the word part way through, remembering the very impressionable child in his arms and how very hard Mum frowns whenever she hears people swearing in the streets. "Any of your burnt cooking."

"I've been taking lessons." What? Touya squints at Endeavor as the hero extinguishes his beard, the light that'd been casted on the end of the hallway disappearing with the flames.

"Dad's gonna cook?" Shouto whispers and his words are as suspicious as Touya feels They both watch the man walk into the kitchen, the sudden bang of pots and pans letting Touya know exactly what his other two siblings have been cleaning; the cupboards. Hopefully they've not broken anything.

"Seems like it."

"Oh… Is he any good at cooking, Touya-nii?"

"… I doubt it, squirt."

.

When Mum returns, the house is as clean as four children without adult supervision can get it and the meal is as edible as a first-time cook can make it. The edges are burnt a bit, the rice overdone.

Mum still smiles like all her birthdays have come at once anyway.

.

XVIII

.

"Have you made a decision yet, darling?"

Flicking his gaze up to look at her, Touya hums distractedly, one hand playing with the pile of papers that're out before him. Rei understands that picking a high school can be difficult, but for Touya, this is an unexpected amount of indecision. Her eldest has always been set in his ways; the only thing he'll ever hesitated over is… Hero stuff. Looking again with a new perspective in mind, Rei spots the letter header on the top of one of the many sheets as Touya once again flicks through them. As he rifles through a fifth time, he slides the right one out, slipping it out from under Touya's hands before he can snatch it back. She was right. U.A.

"Touya… I thought you didn't want…" Rei trails off, utterly unsure how to continue that sentence. Touya had not failed to hide his opinion on heroes, had more than once whispered to her on a night how broken the system was, the ridiculous competition to become the number one hero and all the pressures that backed it when, in reality, all that mattered was saving people. Her darling eldest with his pure heart and heroic ideals, put off from the very idea of becoming a pro-hero by the current situation society boasts. And yet-

"I just, I could do it," Touya mutters, fists clenched and knuckles white. "I could do it so much better than any of them because most, they don't care! They don't care about helping people or saving others and just being good! To them, it's all a popularity contest, a way to reach for fame or money or to make some kind of statement on the world! They've all lost what's important, all but All Might! That's the reason he's still the Number One Hero! Because people can still recognise good when they're presented with it, can still realise what it is we should be aspiring to be!" Huffing, Touya collapses in on himself like he's lost all steam, out of fuel and his purpose complete. Rei watches him for a moment before he eyes turn back to the completed application form, flicking through it all. His answers match his little speech, his costume is well thought out, his strengths and points for development are broken down in explicit detail. He's clearly been giving this a lot of thought.

"Evasive manoeuvres? We can work on that; there's a month until the exam, right? That's plenty of time to get some training in."

"What?"

Grinning at her eldest, Rei shoots to her feet, grabbing hold of the application and pinning it to the fridge, right up where with Fuyumi and Shouto's art, Natsuo's 100% test score. "Your goal is set, Touya. You're not just going to pass that entrance exam. You're going to get top marks, you're going to be the best one there and be the good hero, the one who cares about saving people." Planting both hands down on her son's shoulders, Rei looks, really takes him in and tries not to tear up too much. He's freshly fifteen, on his last few months of middle school… god, she feels old. But no, this isn't about her age. This is about Touya and helping his achieve his dream. "Shouto can make ice targets, Fuyumi and Natsuo can do some research for the exams, your-"

"No. I don't want his help. I can get in and be my own hero without him." Well, it's Touya's decision.

"I can help with costume design and training then. I don't have hero training myself, but I am capable of analysing videos and creating a work-out routine. You've got five months left of gene therapy, nothing we can do about that. But everything else… You're going to ace this exam, Touya. Now let's go."

.

What follows is weeks of work; when Touya's not at school, he's studying or training. He'd not been out of shape before, but there's a difference between being sport ready and being hero ready. Upon hearing his brother is going to become a hero, Shouto throws himself into helping with all the eagerness of the seven-year-old child he is, creating target after target of ice, each one more impressive than the last. It's good training for the younger boy too. Fuyumi and Natsuo throw themselves into researching the test and, while the one Touya will sit is under lock and key until it is actually presented to the applicates, they do find records of the previous ones. A written and a physical, the latter testing the abilities of the wannabe heroes.

Rei, Rei creates all the meals, each one carefully calculated to make sure Touya can get the maximum benefit from them. She drills him on the core principles of a hero, drills him on all the general knowledge questions she can possibly think of.

They all keep it a secret from Enji at Touya's request. While it doesn't sit right with Rei… it's her eldest decision and she respects that. He needs his own life, his own control of information and that is fine with her. It'll come out eventually.

Fuyumi agrees to walk with Touya to UA, to wait outside with him and Rei organises a date with Enji to keep him distracted. They might be friends now, they might be dating (which is a very strange thought considering they're husband and wife), the kids come first. End of story.

It doesn't mean that the night before she's not on tent hooks right next to her eldest.

They're both sitting on his bed, staring out the window. Touya's outfit for the exam is chosen, folded up on the bedside cabinet, shoes by the door. His application form (part two, to be handed in on the day), sits on top of it, along with a 'good luck' charm that Fuyumi had made in her art club. It's sweet. They cannot possibly be more prepared than what they are.

"Don't you feel too old to have your Mum telling you bedtime stories?"

"Don't you feel old having a teenaged son who's wise enough to admit he needs time with his mum?" Rei laughs, smoothing her eldest wild black hair down. It's freshly dyed, a smudge still remaining near his hairline. She rubs her finger over it, smiling when Touya huffs and pushes her hand away. Shoulder to shoulder, Rei with her legs half-curled up to her chest and Touya with his stretched out, they continue to gaze at the night's sky.

"You're going to be fine tomorrow, Touya. We've come a long way these past two years. I know I can't remember everything from before and it looks like it's never coming back," it looks like these memories of another life, hazy and nonsensical as they are, are here to stay, "but I can say I am so, so proud of you." Pressing her lips to his head, Rei plant a kiss on her eldest, ignoring the awful chemical scent that still lingers as a result of the freshly done dye job.

He's a little rough around the edges, a little harsh when confronted, but he's Touya. He's her first born, he's been the one that made sense when nothing else did, he's hers to protect and nurture. She can't claim much credit, not when she only recalls two years. But, she gathered a lot of what had made Touya Touya, is himself. His own attitude and beliefs. She cannot imagine him any other way.

"Tch. Thanks."

"Don't give me that unaffected attitude, mister. I know you're touched by my words on the inside."

"Love you, Mum."

"Love you too, darling. Good luck tomorrow, even if we all know you'll smoke it."

.


.

"Hmmm." Tapping out the cigarette, Nezu considers the application in front of him, his other paw scrubbing at his chin. Of all the essays he's seen in his years as the principle of UA, this is one of the better ones from an incoming student. A quick look at the name and his eyes widen, nose twitching. Correction, given this particular child's connections, it is one of the best ones.

What to do about it though? Should he do anything at all, other than keep an eye?

Hmmm. Tricky indeed.


Much quicker update; enjoy lovelies!

Love,

Tsume
xxx