"Alright. Comfortable? How about we just start with your names for the recording?"
A brief pause. Her subjects subtly squeezed each other's hands. She jotted that down into her notepad. Every detail mattered.
Hearing their names said aloud made the whole situation seem all the more real. She was actually doing this. She was actually interviewing Deku and Uravity, the most famous hero couple on the planet! She felt a strong urge to gush and squeal about this opportunity.
But she would not do that, of course. She was Kyoko Chijie. She was a professional. She had gotten her awe and fangirling out of the way prior to the interview. She was ready. Ready to cut straight to the hearts of these two heroes – in due time.
"Now, let's start from the beginning. What was your reaction when you found out you were pregnant?"
Her subjects' faces remained calm, but their nerves were evident. Neither of them was quite willing to look directly at her. There was a mild flush staining Uravity's cheeks at the question, as she gingerly ran her fingers on her enlarged belly.
"Umm…well…" Uravity began weakly, voice barely above a whisper. "I was pretty…pretty happy."
"Definitely happy," Deku echoed, only marginally louder. He did not elaborate.
There was an awkward pause after that. Kyoko watched Uravity's eyes stay glued to her lap. She was so unlike the indomitable person who appeared on television. It was strange; Kyoko had seen her ace plenty of interviews before.
But this was different. Uravity rarely, if ever, talked about her personal life. The two heroes were notoriously private about their relationship.
That was what made this opportunity so magnificent. They were giving her a glimpse into the world behind their heroics, in an effort to control the message about their future child. It was a once-in-a-lifetime chance to understand how these professionals functioned. More importantly, it was a chance to expose the difficulties and dramas that heroes experienced behind the scenes.
That was her angle, anyway. She hoped she could get there in time. If all went well, she could push herself to the very top of the journalism world. She would be fair, but she fully intended to get the answers she needed to write the story of her career.
Kyoko could feel her pulse rising from the thrill of it all. She thrummed the six fingers on her right hand across the page – a plain Quirk which paled in comparison to the mighty paragons she was talking to.
Indeed, their physical presence and wholesome good looks were intimidating. She was built to be as unnoticeable as a fly on the wall; they were just plain built, truly at the pinnacle of humanity.
But she could work against those anxieties. She had the skills to intimidate them too, she knew.
For that, she put on a soft, wide smile. She would have to pull out all the stops, lest the interview go awry.
"Hey, take all the time you need. We can take a break any time," she suggested, finally managing to attract the rescue hero's eyes. "We can take this nice and slow. I'm not going to hit you with anything too surprising. I just want to share your story the best I can. And it will honestly reflect what you share with me."
The heroic couple exchanged another meaningful look. Without a word, they nodded to one another, reaffirming some unspoken commitment. Their shoulders relaxed a little. It was not much, but it was a start.
"So then…" Kyoko began anew, hoping to stir a little bit more comment. "Let's try this: describe for me the moment when you found out you were pregnant."
Uravity took a deep breath. She squeezed her partner's hand again.
"Well, we had been trying for a while. A few months. But it hadn't really worked out."
"Yeah," Deku supplied. "In our line of work…well…it's tough."
"Why is it tough?"
The two flushed at the question. Kyoko smiled knowingly. She could not resist the prod.
"Well…you know…it…" Uravity stuttered, trying to find the right response.
"It can be tough to find opportunities, I imagine?" Kyoko offered, saving the two of them from further anguish.
The two nodded with energy, red fully engulfing both their cheeks now. Kyoko laughed a bit at their expressions.
"Sorry if that was a little awkward. Let's move on. So, you had been going for a while. When did you know?"
Beep. Beep. Beep. Beep.
Ochako swung her hand out wildly to stop the blaring of her 6 a.m. alarm. Her head was pounding, far more than it usually would in the early hour.
She struggled to disentangle herself from Izuku and climb out of bed. He was recovering from a night shift, and there was no way she would wake him up early if she could help it. Sleep was too precious - and rare - a thing for them both.
Unfortunately, she had an early morning briefing to attend to, even if her work ran late the day before. Such was the life of a pro hero.
Queasiness rose sharply within her as soon as she stood up and made her way to the bathroom. She stumbled into it in a fugue, missing the light switch on her first two tries. When it finally flickered on, she collapsed onto the floor in front of the toilet, preparing for the worst.
She waited, hoping the lump in her throat would pass without her hurling up. She had already puked for the past two days, and she did not need this right now. Or ever. There was already too much she had to worry about without wasting this time in the morning.
The churning in her stomach and throat started to wane, miraculously without her vomiting. With the illness abated, she stood up and searched the medicine cabinet hanging over the sink to find anything for nausea.
Her eyes stopped when they saw the home pregnancy test sitting on one of the shelves. She gingerly reached out to grab it, her mind twisting at the possibilities it held.
She thought her nausea might be due to overuse of her Quirk, perhaps because she was getting older. But she had never been sick in the mornings like this before.
Could it be something else…?
Her hazy head tried to think. When was her last period? It seemed so long ago.
Ochako went about pulling the kit apart. They had been trying for months, but she had neglected to keep testing without any early success. Her heavy eyelids were wide now, pried open by a burst of energy from the prospect of life-changing news.
When she finished, she laid the stick out, frantically reading through the instructions for how long it might take. She groaned a little at the recommendation – ten minutes.
She might find out she was going to be a mother in ten minutes.
Ochako took a bracing breath, trying to cool her expectations. She had done this song and dance before. She did not need to get her hopes up, not until she confirmed it.
It was no good for her schedule, but she could not bring herself to do much beyond waiting idly for the test to finish. The minutes seemed to drag on forever. Her stomach started to churn again, kicking around painfully.
Thoughts of a child started to dance through her mind. For months, she had dreamed of what it would be like. To raise a child of her own. To hold them in her arms. To see them grow and change. To watch Izuku be a dad.
Even through her pain, she could smile at that.
The stick on the counter started to change. A second pink line appeared on its surface. She was pregnant – or at least 99 percent likely to be pregnant.
In spite of her pounding head and painful stomach, she could not stop the burst of happiness exploding within her. She grabbed the stick with a shaky hand, feeling the tears beginning to well up at the corners of her eyes.
She looked back into the darkened bedroom. With a deep breath, she walked back inside, moving over to their shared bed. She flicked on a bedside lamp and leaned over him, watching over his peaceful features.
Ochako sat down on the bed next to him, smiling down on the man she called her husband. She loved seeing him like this – at ease, with none of the worries of the world weighing him down. It was a rare sight to behold. The chiselled lines of the face looked beautiful in the low light.
She reached a hand out, stroking along the edge of his hair.
He had made her promise. No matter what, she needed to tell him as soon as she knew.
"We're partners, after all."
Kyoko watched the dreamy look the pair exchanged. She grinned, scribbling the image away into her notes.
Ochako leaned down and gently pressed her lips into his, trying to awaken the sleeping beauty.
She followed that with a light pinch to his side, a more surefire way of getting him to wake up. He could be a heavy sleeper, but she did not want to frighten him out of slumber with a loud noise.
"Mmmhm," he groaned, cracking his eyes open slowly. "...Ochako? What time is it?"
She could not stop herself from giggling at his dozy face. He could be so cute when he was waking up.
"It's 6:30. Sorry, I know it's early, but you made me promise."
"Promise…what?" He interrupted himself with a yawn, his eyes blinking back closed.
She decided it was best to be blunt. She hardly had the energy or patience to be anything but.
"Izuku, I'm pregnant."
That got him awake. His eyes flew open, staring at her intensely. He blinked at her and reached a hand out to rub the dreams away from his eyes. "Come again?"
"I'm pregnant," she repeated, a little more slowly, beaming down at him and holding up her precious colored stick.
"You're…you're…" he sat up quickly, staring down at her, his eyes alight with a passionate flame. "Am I dreaming?"
"If you are, I am too." She leaned a hand down to pinch his arm again, in case he was still doubtful. "You're going to be a dad, Izuku."
The radiant, weepy expression that exploded across his face made all of her fatigue melt away. He cried without shame, fat tears streaming as he hugged her tightly against himself.
"Thank you," he whispered next to her ear. It was quiet enough to make her doubt if she was meant to hear it. She responded anyway.
"For making my life so wonderful."
She did not have long; she had work to get to. But she gave herself ten minutes to bask in the bliss of the moment with him. Ten minutes of tear-soaked kisses, love-filled murmurings, and idle strokes across each other's skin.
It was more than enough to get her through the long day.
The memory sent a warm glow through the pair. They visibly relaxed, their eyes much more focused on each other and on the bump large on Uraraka's belly.
The memory was important for the story, but it was not exactly juicy. It was sweet, certainly. But it was surprisingly mundane. No fretting, no accidents, no catastrophes getting in the way: just two people in love enjoying the process of creating a new life together.
It was a start, but Kyoko was determined to go deeper. They were two of the greatest heroes of this generation. There had to be more to it than that.
"That's really sweet," Kyoko said earnestly, flashing a toothy grin their way. "But I have to ask, since I guess it was planned: why did you decide to have a child? Especially considering the field you work in."
Embedded in the question were the underlying facts that would make this story explode, no matter how it was delivered. Women pro heroes did not commonly have children, let alone in their late 20s. It was considered too big a hurdle in an extremely competitive field. A hero stood to lose millions of yen. Time off would mean a big ranking hit, at least when they were a top pro like Uravity.
Hero culture also tended to idolize youth, or at least the appearance of it. Pregnancy tended to work against the idealized images women heroes needed to cultivate. Sexism could be a pain that way.
Male heroes could get away more easily with parenting. As long as their partners were not famous, information on their children was kept pretty under wraps. Most media outlets respected that. Nobody wanted to lead villains to attack the children of heroes.
But generally, extraordinary people were not supposed to do ordinary things like having kids. They were taking a wrecking ball to their own myths. People would feel betrayed. There would be outrage.
There would be clicks.
"Well, it wasn't an easy decision to make."
Uravity's voice snapped Kyoko from her internal musings. She chided herself for letting her mind wander. She had to focus on the now. On getting the answers.
"Neither of us had really imagined being parents growing up," Deku added. "We were both set on being heroes from when we were young. But over time, the idea became more…appealing."
There was passion in the tone of his voice. Kyoko seized on it.
"I'm sure you both interacted with plenty of children during rescues, right?"
"We have," Uravity answered steadily, adorned with a wistful smile. "We both ended up spending time helping to take care of children. And I guess we slowly kind of fell in love with it."
"Kids can be a lot of work. But they have this incredible spark in them. Every child I've met has given me hope for the future." Deku's eyes were on the horizon, looking beyond anything in their cozy room. "I just…I wanted the chance to have my own. Really raise someone."
"And I want the same thing," Uraravity chimed in, her hand tensing to squeeze his. The two shared a significant look, exchanging the unspoken language of lovers.
It was, again, cute. But their feelings surely had to be more complicated than that.
"So, getting ready for a child is a lot of work and you two certainly lead pretty busy lives. How are you feeling now, with the child getting closer?"
The two glanced at one another again. Deku's face fell a little bit as he pinched his chin in consideration of the question.
He glanced back up at Kyoko, the prior warmth in his face gone. His expression was one of the utmost seriousness. Too serious. "Scared."
The room filled with Uraravity's ringing laughter. Deku looked back, flashing a grin. Kyoko quirked an eyebrow up, starting to feel a little like a third wheel.
"He ain't wrong!" Uravity exclaimed between chortles, her notoriously rare country accent coming through. She took a couple of deep breaths and brought a hand to her face, seeming to realize she committed a personal faux pas.
Kyoko waited patiently. She wrote down the strange exchange – and tried to wrap her mind around them taking their fears so lightly.
"Sorry, it's kind of an inside joke," Uravity muttered, bowing her head slightly. Deku did the same. "We've been running ragged worrying about it. We needed to find humour in it all."
"It's a frightening concept," the green hero added, reaching out to take his wife's hand once again. Kyoko furiously scribbled in the detail. "Us being parents, especially in a line of work where we put our lives on the line every day."
She watched Uravity squeeze his hand back tightly. Their casual intimacy was a sight to behold, stringent as they tended to be in public.
"But at the same time, it's very exciting!" Deku continued with enthusiasm. "It makes us want to work harder to protect our future generation."
The two smiled at one another, any trace of nerves completely dissipated. Kyoko watched the two in rapture, the love in their eyes plain for all to see. She held her breath, unwilling to do anything that might disrupt them.
"If there's one thing I know, it's that Deku and I can get through anything together. We make an unstoppable team!"
Uraraka punctuated her statement with a cocksure grin and a raised fist, her right hand thrusting outward. Her partner followed suit, laughing all the while.
At that moment, Kyoko wished desperately she had thought to film this. She was scared to push her luck, but now regretted not trying.
It was certainly bracing, seeing two of the generation's greatest heroes so lost in the throes of casual romance. They were far more different in private than she might have expected.
This was not exactly the anxiety she had thought she might pull out of them. She needed to find that, the worries that Deku and Uravity would have for their futures.
Kyoko's mouth set into a hard line.
"Well, that's great," she replied softly. The words seemed to snap the pair to attention as if they just remembered she was even there, which was not necessarily a bad thing. "You two really seem like you got this down."
"Well, I don't know about that," Uravity responded sheepishly, withdrawing her outstretched hand. "It's been pretty difficult to adjust."
"I imagine for you especially." Kyoko eyed Uravity's swollen belly, impossible to disguise under her large shirt. "So how have you managed your pregnancy while still doing hero work these past few months?"
The gravity hero's face fell, her upbeat demeanour rushing away quickly. She took a deep breath and folded her hands together in front of her.
Kyoko leaned forward, almost reaching the end of her seat. She kept her eyes narrowly zoomed in on every bit of body language playing out on Uravity. She prayed this question would yield the drama she wanted, the truth behind all the smiles.
"NO! NO PLEASE DON'T PLEASE, JUST LET ME-"
Uravity let go of the gargantuan villain just 20 feet above the ground, arms sore from the act of holding him to her. She released her Quirk just before letting go of him, causing him to plummet to the earth headfirst, the air filling with his screams before he crashed into the concrete. The blow instantly sent him unconscious. It was a heavy-handed move, but somewhat necessary to halt the eight-foot-tall beast from continuing his rampage through the downtown shopping district.
Uravity caught herself with her Quirk, causing her to jerk upwards from her own rapid descent. She felt her stomach churn at the maneuver, but she was no worse for the wear otherwise. With the villain down and out, she let herself gently float down.
She was conscious of all the snaps of cellphone cameras as the civilians started to crowd around the felled villain, the jewelry he had stolen sparkling under the bright sun.
Right. Time to nail it for the crowd.
She landed gracefully onto the pavement next to him and turned to face the lights. She stared into a camera held in the trembling hands of a teenage girl.
Uravity gave her a bubbly grin and a thumbs up.
"Sometimes, you gotta bring these villains down to earth!"
The crowd ate it up, letting out a thunderous roar of approval. She waved, soaking it in, trying to stand tall for all the future newspaper photos being taken.
She kept beaming to the people, even as the bile rose up in her throat.
"Well, you certainly handled this one quickly. Didn't even have a chance to lend a hand."
Uravity jumped a bit, turning slightly to see her boss and mentor, the draconic shapeshifter Ryukyu, approach. She breathed a sigh of relief as the dragon hero draped an arm over her protégé. Despite Ryukyu's tall, imposing figure - even in her human form - her presence was a comfort.
"I can take it from here. You can float out if you want to," Ryukyu whispered into her ear, peeking an eye out from behind her blonde bangs.
Ochako was actively fighting back her own queasiness. She could see television cameras starting to make their way through the crowd.
"Thanks," Ochako whispered back. She turned to address the crowd, giving one last parting wave. "Sorry, folks, but I got another mission to attend to. Stay safe!"
With that, she triggered her Quirk on herself and leaped high into the air, her stomach rumbling deeply in protest.
The rush of the wind did little to aid her raging gut. Ochako floated until she found an empty rooftop. She did not land gracefully this time, stumbling as she released her Quirk, before immediately hurling her stomach's contents onto the cold stone.
When the puking finally subsided, she stumbled over to a raised area around the rooftop door and sat down to rest her back onto it. She panted deeply, breath short, throwing her helmet off and wiping the sweat from her brow.
She unzipped the back of her costume, letting the fabric loosen around her to give much-needed relief for her skin. The outfit felt tight, even without the added padding to disguise her protruding belly. The disguise worked, for the most part, other than the odd tabloid accusing her of getting fat.
"Damn it," Ochako muttered under her breath, stroking her belly through her suit, feeling the raised flesh.
She really was getting fat at this point. She thought she had mentally prepared for it, but experiencing it was something else entirely. One simple fight was enough to completely knock the wind out of her. Her complicated maneuvers sent her puking to a degree she had not experienced since high school. Being pregnant completely made her out-of-sync in her hero work.
She buried her face into her palms.
"So why are you doing this?"
Ochako snapped to attention. "Doing what?" Her tongue slipped on instinct as the question shot lightning down her spine. She hurriedly turned, her mind whirring in preparation.
The piercing stare of a human-sized Ryuko kept her in place. Ochako sat there for a moment, staring back at the dragon hero like frozen prey. She was struck by how out-of-it she must have been not to have noticed Ryuko follow her, using the massive wings of her dragon form.
Ochako finally moved, scrambling to stand back up. The heat from the sun suddenly felt far more pronounced, the sweat prickling at the skin on her forehead. She put on a carefree smile, hoping she could manage to fool her mentor.
"So…what's happening with the scene?"
"I've got Neijre on it. Thug's knocked out cold and on his way to the hospital, but should be alright. Everything is being returned."
"That's a relief. I thought I might have overdone it." She had been so desperate to end the encounter quickly. She did not know how well she could have held her Quirk if she had just settled on keeping the villain afloat to wait for help.
"It seems you didn't." With that, Ryuko stepped forward, shifting to lean on the same wall. She tilted her head down to Ochako, leaving little room to look away. "So again – why are you still doing this? You're pregnant. You can take it a little easier."
Ochako did her best to keep on a bubbly mask before the astute eyes of her boss.
Ryuko was one of the few Ochako had confided in about her pregnancy. Thankfully, she was endlessly supportive and oddly enthusiastic about it. But Ochako could feel the tension between them rise as the pregnancy progressed and Ryuko asked more and more frequently about her well-being.
But Ochako refused to back down. She was not going to show any weakness. She was going to follow her plan and stay in the field for as long as she could.
"Well, it's my job, after all. And we're still pretty busy." Ochako took a couple of steps forward and stared out into the sprawling metropolis before them. "They still need me. And I'm still doing fine."
She turned to give Ryuko an enthusiastic thumbs up, much like the one she had given the crowd earlier.
"You don't have to worry about me!"
There as an awkward pause at that point. The heat started to make Ochako's head throb, a wooziness overcoming her. Ryuko went a little fuzzy in her vision and she could feel her thumb start to shake. She shook her head to clear it. She had to keep it together.
With a fearful jolt, Ochako realized she had completely zoned out while Ryuko had started talking. She refocused, hanging onto each word as the hero approached.
"…I'm just worried. I haven't seen you get this worn out since your internship days. Maybe we should dial your load back a little…"
"NO!" The offer was like a slap in the face. "No, please, it's alright. I'm fine. Maybe let me call it early today and I promise I'll be alright tomorrow."
She punched upward awkwardly, hoping to sell the act despite the pulsing beat of her head. She had promised herself she was not going to let her pregnancy impact her workload before it was absolutely necessary. She had scheduled everything out and it was way too early to be thinking about reducing her workload. There was a budget to keep, after all.
Ryuko quirked up an eyebrow. Her narrow eyes squinted at Ochako, judging the performance. Ochako tried to maintain the façade, keeping a wavering smile on her face.
A headrush came over her. She stumbled to the right, walking forward to rest against the wall. She narrowly avoided tumbling to the ground.
"Ochako!" her teacher cried out, shifting forward to place a pair of comforting hands on her. Ochako feebly tried to wave her away, but found that she could not summon much energy.
"I'm just…a little…woozy, that's all."
The world was spinning. She could feel her trademark queasiness start to claw up her throat again.
"Not too warm…I can carry you to the ground, but I want to try to secure you properly first."
The words were muted as if going through a filter. She lost track of Ryuko's hands.
Ochako blinked hard. The face in front of her stopped swimming, Ryuko's concern coming back into focus.
"I'm…fine. Just give me a bit." She closed her eyes. It was a relief to let the world fade away for a moment. Her throbbing head pulsed, but she managed to rein in her upset stomach for the time being.
There was a brief, merciful, quiet lull. She was glad she had loosened up her oft-tight costume. She heard her boss take a deep breath. Something pleasantly cool pressed into her hand.
"Water, if you need it."
Eyes still closed, she wrapped her hand around the bottle, lifting it up and chugging it down. She finished by splashing the water on her face, a slap to set the world back straight.
Ochako opened her eyes to see Ryukyo still hovering over her. Her small lips wavered, words dying before being uttered.
"I trust you to know your health best, Ochako. But...can I ask you a question?"
"Sure." Her headrush was fading, but she still could not bring forth more energy in her reply. There was no use disguising her own exhaustion at this point.
"How long do you plan to keep this up?"
Ochako took a moment to consider her response. She had to be careful, but an irritating migraine made it hard to think.
"As long as I can. Another month or two, at least." That was a question she could answer with practiced ease, at least. Izuku asked her about it constantly.
"Are you really willing to keep risking the wellbeing of yourself and your child? Even when you start fainting after one tough fight?"
Ochako balled her fists at the question. She bit her lip as she tried to rein in a desire to blurt out a more crabby response. Ryuko was just looking out for her. She could not get too upset if she was going to be convincing.
"This is a one-time thing. I'm going to be okay." She glanced upward, noting Ryuko's crossed arms and a deep frown. "The world still needs me."
"And what about what you need?" Ryuko glared down with a cold rage Ochako had only seen directed at villains. A shiver went down her spine. She had not imagined she would ever be on the other side of this. "The world will be fine. You can take a break."
Ochako could not take it. She was actually starting to shake as she tried to control her boiling blood. She shakily stood up, intent on proving her continued strength to the woman who had helped shape it.
"I can still do this. I've been through worse. I may be pregnant, but I can still fight!"
She was almost panting trying to keep herself steady. Her head and stomach throbbed in protest at her movements, but she did not heed them. She could battle through the pain. She had to.
Her last stand appeared to be working. The anger on Ryuko's face melted away. Her eyes narrowed and she tilted her head, as if befuddled by the hero before her.
"Does you think your pregnancy makes you…weaker?"
Ochako blinked rapidly at the bizarre question, immediately regretting it after the corresponding pulse in her head. Why did Ryuko have to ask something so weird right now? She just wanted to rest without an interrogation.
She shook her head again to clear it. Her tongue let loose, no longer caring for eloquence.
"Maybe," Ochako murmured. She momentarily closed her eyes, remembering all the aches and pains her belly kept giving her as she tried to do her job. "But it doesn't matter. I can work through-"
"Why would you ever think that?"
Ochako's eyes widened as she stared forward. What kind of question was that? Ryuko was completely unreadable, her face drawn into a hard line.
It was hard to think through her aching head. "I…it does make this tougher than it used to be. It…it hurts more than it should. But I-"
"What else?" Ryuko prodded, stepping a little closer, staring down pointedly at the visible baby bump.
Ochako gulped, rubbing a hand down the front of her outfit. "It…I can't move as much as I'd like to. And I…" She winced as her head pulsed again. Why could she not control it? It made it so hard to think. "It's fine. I can do this."
Her stomach rumbled again and she cursed as she was forced to lean against the nearby wall. "I can do this. I'm fine," she repeated, more for herself at this point. The world went fuzzy again. She blinked hard, hoping she could stay in control. "She did this. I'm strong. I'm stronger than this."
A pair of mighty arms wrapped around her. Face to face with a warm shoulder, Ochako found herself unable to fight against the raging waters within her. The dam burst open.
The sobs ripped her apart, making her quake into Ryuko. It was ugly and she lamented it, but could not find it in her to stop anymore. She was worn down and her head was in pain and she could not muster the strength she wanted. The strength she needed.
"Being pregnant doesn't make you weak," Ryuko said in a gentle whisper, usually reserved for when she spoke to a frightened child. "Needing time, managing your workload, taking rest – none of these things make you weak."
Ochako closed her eyes. The faces of her parents drifted through her vision. Whatever injury, setback, or obstacle they faced, they worked through it. They could scarcely afford not to. Her mother had told her she had even worked right up until the final months of her pregnancy. It was their lot in life – and probably why she never got any siblings.
"I want to be able to do this," she whispered, as frustrating, hot tears poured forth from her. She disentangled herself from the embrace and leaned herself against the wall. She furiously massaged her temples, trying to get a grip again.
"…I don't know who she is, but…"
Ochako buried her watery eyes into her palm. Nothing slipped by the dragon hero.
"I doubt she would want you to do this," she continued, closer, taking a place on the wall next to her. "I know how important managing your money is to you. But you have the privilege of being a hero. Take advantage of that."
The gravity hero let her hands fall to her sides. She struggled to blink back the tears in her eyes. Ryuko was smiling now, gently, any trace of anger completely gone. She had an amazing ability to switch on the fly – an ability Ochako had tried hard to mimic.
"You give your all to the world every day. It's okay to be a little selfish once in a while. You especially."
Ochako took a deep, shuddering breath. She wished she had the energy to protest. But selfish sounded nice right about now. She wanted nothing more than to curl up next to Izuku in bed and take a load off. For a week.
"My mom never got a chance like I did," Ochako muttered lowly. She swallowed right afterward, trying to find her voice. She had worked so hard to give her parents the life they deserved. It was hard to talk about the old days now.
"And she gave you what you needed to get this chance. You earned it. She would want you to take it."
Ryuko poured a hero's confidence into the gentle words. Ochako wiped away at the fresh round of tears trying to leak their way out from her. She wanted to be done with crying already.
They stood in silence for a few moments. Ryuko did not impose, but hovered over Ochako as she rested, as powerful a guardian as there ever was.
When the aching subsided, Ochako stepped forward. She turned with a defiant glare, uncaring of the wetness on her cheeks. She was ready to challenge Ryuko again.
"Four more weeks."
Ryuko had the gall to laugh before she flashed Ochako a sharp-toothed grin.
"Two. I'll give you more office work than you'll know what to do with after that."
"Three." Ochako kept her eyes steady. She would not falter.
"Fine, but no more solo patrols. And you watch yourself better than you did today. Lay off the advanced moves."
Ochako nodded and extended a hand outward. "Deal."
Ryuko smiled, her lips getting more lizardly as she extended a claw to answer the handshake. The partial transformation was not enough to phase Ochako, although it made the grip extra hard.
"You're unbelievable." Ryuko shook her head as she withdrew her claw, morphing back into her gargantuan dragon form. The pink dragon was always a sight to behold, her large claws loud against the rooftop. "Your kid's going to get some of the fire in that belly."
Ochako flashed her best heroic grin upward, gently running a hand across the life forming within her.
"For him, I have to be at my best."
This was the gold Kyoko was looking for. A real story of the struggle in balancing a hero career with pregnancy.
"So then what happened?" she asked quietly, knowing Uravity needed little prodding at this point.
"I lasted those three weeks before getting forced into office duty," she answered while absentmindedly rubbing her belly. "I didn't want my pregnancy to be a burden for anyone else, so I only told a few close people by that time."
"What did you do to keep it a secret around the workplace?"
"My office is pretty private. Being popular has its perks. Otherwise, a lot of sneaking around and baggy clothing. I got a lot of weird looks."
"What kind of reaction are you expecting when your colleagues find out?" Kyoko paused in thought, directing a glance toward Deku, who had been quiet. "For both of you."
"Well, we've told quite a few of our friends already…" Deku trailed off, eyes rolling skyward toward the past. "Todoroki…Yaoyorozu…Tsu…they've all been quite supportive so far."
The names floated through Kyoko's head. It took her a moment to process the heroes matching them; it was strange to see them referred to so casually.
"And Ground Zero?" She parsed a missing name of someone close to them. Someone who always delivered big reactions.
Deku chuckled a bit at that. "Kacchan was…supportive in his own way."
"He would never let you know it, but he can be a big softie about kids," Uravity added, smiling all the while.
The thought of Ground Zero, of all heroes, being a "softie" in any context boggled the mind. Sure, he was popular around kids, but he was always on edge even around them.
"Err…wait, are you going to quote me on that?" Uravity suddenly looked nervous, staring down at the recorder sitting on the table between them. "I'll never hear the end of it if that goes into print."
Kyoko could not stop the smirk which arose on her face. "I'll keep your concerns in mind, but you know I can't make any promises on that one."
Uravity sighed. "I knew you were going to say that."
"Let's get back on track," Kyoko suggested, quietly flipping through the notes she had made and the questions she had prepared. "…you talked about how happy you were when you found out you were having a child. But we all know pregnancy can get messy. How has it impacted your relationship?"
It was a neutral question – Kyoko tried not to lead her subjects when she could help it. Still, she knew the emotional highs and lows of pregnancy could run roughshod over even the strongest relationship. She hoped the question would garner some rare intrigue about the inner workings of the power couple, maybe even the struggle they must go through to keep their relationship together, given the strain of their careers.
But to her surprise, Uravity actually smiled brightly at the question as she glanced over and squeezed her partner's hand.
"I just…I just don't know how I'm going to do it, Izuku."
She let her weary head fall onto the papers in front of her. The charts, numbers, and letters splayed out on pages that seemed to float in the air, surrounding her like a cluster of bugs. There was so much to try and process; it was completely overwhelming.
Raising a baby was going to be so much work. The hit it would take on their pocketbooks was no small calculation. Even with their substantial wealth, Ochako made sure every penny was accounted for carefully, with a mind toward the future. There would be a strain, between providing for themselves, for their parents, and for the multiple funds she wanted in place for their child.
But that was the least of her worries. No matter how she sliced it, she could not figure out how they were going to manage a new work-life balance. They knew they were going to have to hire help if she was ever getting back into the field. But the thought of that made her heart churn with guilt and shame.
Her parents had always been there for her, even as they worked themselves to the bone, without being able to hire anyone to help look after her. Why couldn't she do the same?
"How we're going to do it."
The correction startled her from her thoughts. She lifted her head but stopped moving when a familiar set of fingers started digging into her shoulders. She tensed for a moment, but then Izuku hit just the right spot and she turned to jelly, slouching into her chair.
"Mmhyeah." She let out a breath and closed her eyes. She wished she could just fall asleep like this, but the thoughts rattling around in her mind refused to let her. "I need…to figure this out."
His fingers stopped for a moment, instead gently drumming along her skin.
"I know you're worried. I am, too. When I think about everything that could go wrong…" his voice trailed off into the distance. She could practically hear his mind turning over the same possibilities hers had.
"But then I just remember something." His voice was bright and airy again, floating to happy heights she could not fathom at the moment.
"And what's that?"
One of his hands left her back, reaching forward to grasp onto one of her hands. He gently laced his fingers through hers, her fist loosening to allow it. The clasping was such a practiced movement between them at this point, hardly worth considering. It was as natural as breathing.
"Somehow, I'm with you," he whispered lovingly into her ear, her body reacting with an instinctive shiver.
"And you've got me. And together, we haven't lost yet. That's how I know we'll get through this." Those words came on with more fire, the passionate warmth that rarely failed to stir her to her core. It was in large part what made her fall in love with him, after all.
She shook her head, before letting it fall into her own arms. For once, the words did not move her in the same way.
Ochako sighed, closing her eyes again to the collage of papers in front of her. "You're crazy."
The barbed words pricked her tongue as they left. She realized they were a little mean-spirited, wrapped up in her frustrations and exhaustion. His words were sweet, after all, even if they seemed naïve.
"Sorry," he said quickly, his hands leaving her, much to her annoyance. He shuffled over to sit down beside her, grabbing a chair and moving it close. She cracked open her eyes, met again with an overbearing wall of white.
"What can I do to help?"
His question was so darned earnest. That was Deku, to a tee. Always trying to find a way to make her feel better. To make the world feel better. Somehow, it annoyed her that he was not as miserable as she was.
"You can make your son less hard to carry," she grumbled into her arms, not daring to turn to look into his face as she let loose a torrent of steam. "You can make our budget less complicated."
He did not say anything in response. It was quiet, but not foreboding. There was calmness to his silence.
She heard the ruffle of papers, quite a few of them. That finally made her lift her head to see his eyes running rapidly across their mutual work on the pages.
"How…how much have you been working on this since Monday? I thought we were saving more of this for the weekend," he murmured, scratching at his chin. "Where did you even find the time?"
"I managed to squeeze it in." She did not meet his eyes, trying to sound casual about it. It really was not a big deal, in her eyes. They had to be ready for this baby. What were a couple of late nights and skipped lunches to do that?
"Ochako, we've talked about this."
His voice took a harder edge. Gone was the naivety, replaced with the stony tone he'd used on missions.
She balled her fingers inward. The last thing she needed was a confrontation.
"Deku, I'm fine," she assured him, throwing up a smile on her face. His own expression remained stoic and unphased, clearly seeing through it. "I can handle this."
"We can handle it if we do it-"
"There are some things you can't do, Deku."
That finally got him to budge, his steely gaze melting under her fiery words. He shrunk into himself, his eyes roaming her form, down to the swollen gut.
It was a burden he could not bear.
"I'm…I need to do this, Deku. I can at least do this much. You…we'll have a lot on our plates when the baby comes. I just won't rest easy if I can't manage this."
She busied her hands and eyes with the papers in front of her, pulling them close to her. Already, guilt started to gnaw at the edges of her mind. But she pushed it away easily with all the other emotions competing for attention.
Numbers, plans, babies, work. Just focus on what was in front of her. She could do that. She could manage that. She would do her best for her son.
A dark splotch bloomed onto the page. Then another. It was getting harder and harder to read now. Perfect. Could she not even handle this?
She did not react when he put a hand on her shoulder. She went limp as he put a hand to her face and brought her eyes to meet his, thumbing a tear off her cheek. Despite her hard words, he handled her with extraordinary gentleness. His own eyes were soft, speaking of his love without words.
She let him embrace her, enfold her into the familiar warmth and comfort of his arms. She cried quietly, her breath hitching as she tried to calm herself.
"I hate this," she murmured, closing her eyes and trying to steady herself against him.
"I hate that I can't stop crying."
"It's completely normal, Ochako. There's nothing wrong with it. Pregnancy affects people's emotions, and has been shown to increase a woman's likelihood for depress-"
He did not say anything for a time, letting her ride out the storm as best she could, providing a solid surface for her to hang on to. In time, her weepiness did recede. But the moment could do little against the overwhelming anxiety and stress hanging over her head, ready to swoop in and claw at any moment of weakness from her.
"What's this really about, Ochako?"
She took a deep breath. She could not find it in her to summon up her walls. Not that they could ever withstand him, anyway.
"Do you think we…we might be bad parents?"
His arms clenched a bit around her back. He did not answer right away, settling on rubbing soothing circles.
"Err…what makes you ask that?" His voice was shaky, losing some of the certainty he had in embracing her.
"It's just…with us being heroes and all, I'm having a hard time finding a way for us to handle a kid, too. We're going to have to be away so much. I'm just…worried we won't be there for him as much as he needs us. That we'll miss things."
She disentangled herself from him to regard him properly. His arms went limp around her as he put on his thinking face. He could see her nerves reflected in him, too.
His eyelids stole away his eyes from her. His silence was an answer.
He took a deep breath before muttering out.
"Do you remember that time in Osaka?" Izuku asked as he finally opened his eyes. They no longer reflected her fears; there were steel and fire inside them now.
She blinked at the question. Her mind conjured up images of the scene. Multiple collapsing buildings from a surprise villain attack, while they were still in third-year on a school trip. They had both leapt into the fray, working in tandem to lift rubble and pull people to safety. It was their first real mission together, and despite their inexperience in live rescue operations, they had passed with flying colors.
"How could I forget?"
"And that time right after we moved in together? When I got hurt."
She frowned at that. After a joyous unpacking, they had gone out for a night on the town. But an enterprising villain had managed to stalk them to their new hideaway and pierce an unsuspecting Deku through his chest. She had to fight back in an instant, punching out the foe before turning her full attention toward first aid.
Ochako traced a finger along his chest, in the spot where she knew there was still a scar.
"Yes," she replied softly, the memory stirring unpleasant things within her.
"…And that time we both got called to do that big raid in Tokyo?"
"What are you getting at, exactly?" She interrupted him. The spirals down memory lane were not happy ones. They were full of hardship, of sadness, and in her current state, they were not helping.
"Whenever I start thinking about how things could go wrong," he paused to grab one of her hands, gently rubbing his thumb along her palm. "I just think about everything we've already done together. I think about how often we were really unprepared."
Izuku beamed at her.
"But I think about how we got through it. Every time."
He let his other arm fall, grasped her other hand, and brought them both up. He held them aloft, gently rubbing her fingers – and atop the band of gold that bound her to him.
His words froze her in place for the moment. She waited, hanging onto him.
"All the times I saw you out there, never giving up. They made me want to do better. And together, well…we got through a lot when I really think about it." His smile radiated incredible warmth. It was hard to look at him with how brightly he blazed.
"When I think about what we've been through…a child doesn't seem like it'll be so hard."
How could he always warm her heart so? She laughed because she could not think of much else to do, before grabbing onto him tightly.
"Do you remember what you said when we had our first joint interview?"
Her mind conjured the memory. A brawl in the midst of a bank robbery. The pair leaping into action. A knock-out combo move caught on tape. A couple of reporters attaching themselves as the heroic couple tried to sort out handing the matter off to the police.
A barrage of questions. Deku, bless him, suddenly nervous at the recognition. Herself, less abashed and more media-savvy, taking the plunge.
"Remember, Deku and Uravity are unstoppable together." She quoted herself and laughed into his chest as she recalled the childishness of her own early heroics. She had been so high on adrenaline.
"It's still true," he murmured, pressing a kiss to her forehead. Her skin tingled pleasantly at the point of contact.
"Thank you," she whispered, closing her eyes and just letting herself enjoy being close to him. Here, at least, the world's worries seemed so much farther away. No matter what lay on the horizon, she would have him to lift her up. Just as she would do for him.
He held her close, stroking a hand along her arm. He eventually let it wander down her form, pointedly rubbing her pronounced belly.
"It's the least I can do."
It was moments like this which made Kyoko want to be a journalist.
It hardly took much prodding to get them through the story. Eventually, they let out a full dose of what the world only saw in glimpses. They were completely in-sync, filling in the story, bouncing off of one another masterfully. Behind their masks, their relationship was rock solid.
It was easy to see why they worked so well together in the field. And just how much they loved one another.
They were not just heroes. They were so much more beneath that surface.
"…And we've been doing better since then," Uravity continued, beaming at her husband. "Well, mostly fine. It's still pretty hectic, and I've gotten a bit stir-crazy now that I'm starting desk work. I've had my bad days."
"Me too. I find myself getting so worried when in the field thinking about our child. And he hasn't even been born yet!"
Their bond was something to behold. The gossip-rags would have a field day if they ever got this kind of interview. Kyoko had gone into this hoping for more salaciousness around their baby as it related to their profession. She certainly got enough to work with that angle, but…
Well, that seemed dull compared to the radiance of their love and the bizarreness of seeing these two paragons of justice work through pregnancy like any other parents might.
In this, their humanity truly shined. They were so much more than their costumes. That was what she would have to write about.
She smiled to herself, thrumming her six-fingered right hand on the page again. Perhaps they were not as far from her as she thought.
"Well, I think that's everything I wanted to ask you." She flipped a page in her notebook, hoping to get one last kernel. "Was there anything else you wanted to say?"
"Just that we really appreciate all the support we've gotten from friends and family so far," Ochako said with gusto, pink cheeks rising under the weight of her smile.
"Got it," Kyoko replied, jotting down the notes quickly. It might be hard to squeeze the line in under her word count, but she would try. "Thank you both so much for taking the time to talk with me."
Ochako stood up, followed quickly by her husband. "It was our pleasure. That went a lot better than I thought it might."
"Thank you for doing this," Izuku said, giving a smile her way. It was a refrain she had heard often in her career, but coming from him, it was enough to make her blush like a schoolgirl.
"Don't…uh…don't mention it. Just doing my job." She idly grabbed her phone to give herself something else to focus on. Seeing the time, she sighed, knowing what was coming next.
"Well, I have to turn you over to one of our freelancers who will be handling the-"
The doors slammed open behind her, causing the two heroes to jump slightly in surprise. Kyoko saw the familiar flash of short blonde hair, marked against a bombastic pink dress.
"I HAVE ARRIVED AND YOU TWO ARE FABULOUS!"
Kyoko slammed her palm into her face.
AN: Special thanks to Mika, whose work inspired this fic and was used for the cover, and to Neon Pixel for commissioning it. Link to it here: stirredbrew . tumblr post/183727397704/art-commission-done-by-the
Hope you all enjoyed the fic! There will be four chapters, which I hope to release every Sunday. Please leave a review and a favourite of you liked it. ^_^