Tiger & Might – Interlude 1
Tiger & Might – Interlude 1: Inko Midoriya
“You can’t eat Mommy, Izuku,” Inko Midoriya said in a cheerful tone as her son, a few months old now, pulled her finger into his mouth from his high-chair. He hadn’t started teething yet, but his appetite was nothing if not healthy. She gently pulled her finger out and substituted it with a small spoon of baby food. “There, doesn’t that taste better?”
A childish giggle followed as his hands reached for the spoon in his quest to have more. It brought a smile to his mother’s face as she fed him until it was all gone. Then she put a fire-proof cloth over her shoulder, held him against her chest so that his chin rested against it, and then rubbed his back to burp him.
Thankfully there were no flames when he finally did burp, though there was a slight bit of spit-up that could be washed out. To be safe, she grabbed the mouth thermometer and placed it inside to read his temperature. The reading came back normal. “I guess we don’t have to worry about you breathing fire like Daddy just yet, do we?”
His response to that was to stretch his tiny arms and yawn, signaling that it was nap time. Inko gave him a kiss on his cheek and carefully laid him down in his crib, where he drifted off to sleep beneath the slowly turning mobile. Once he was out like a light, Inko sighed to herself as she went through the motions of making sure that everything was put away by the time he woke up.
There was no telling if Izuku would inherit his father’s quirk or hers, so she had to be careful while her husband was working more and more hours these days. She had gone through the precaution of having fire extinguishers in every room of the house, just in case he got the hiccups one day and started setting the furniture on fire. She’d also had anything that could be moved by telekinesis safely weighed down so he didn’t accidentally hurt himself because he really wanted another bottle of formula.
It was slightly time-consuming, but considering the nightmare she had been to her parents, it was worth it to make sure he was safe.
Years later, hours after the visit to the doctor, Inko sat in the dark with tears in her eyes as she spoke on the phone with her husband. She had found it strange that, even as he got older, Izuku hadn’t started showing signs of manifesting his quirk. Most of the kids in his Kindergarten had, including Mitsuki’s boy.
She had her suspicions, but pushed them down the entire time. She held hope in her heart that he was just a late-bloomer. She didn’t want to think that something was wrong with her darling son, but there was a knot of worry in her stomach that just wouldn’t go away until she finally decided to take him to the doctor.
Being born without a quirk was a rarity these days; in fact it was mostly the older generation that lacked them among the 80%. It was good that he had no other medical complications, but if everyone having a quirk was “healthy” for lack of a better term… then what did it say for him not to have one?
Though she tried to remain positive after they left the doctor, her mind raced with thoughts of what that meant for her only son’s quality of life. Now she tearfully shared those fears with her husband on the phone. He’d gone to work overseas ever since Izuku was young, leaving her to raise him by herself. Because of the time difference they rarely had time to call one another, but this was important.
“It’ll be okay,” Hisashi told her over the line. “Even if he doesn’t have a quirk, he can still live a good life.”
“But you didn’t see the look on his face when that doctor told him to give up, Hisashi. Like his dreams were crushed because I didn’t give birth to him properly.” She took a deep and staggering breath as she imagined the teasing that he would go through at his age for not having one. “When I think about what it’ll be like for him to not have a quirk while all his little friends are growing into theirs, it worries me that he’ll be teased or bullied for it.”
“Just because he wasn’t born with a quirk, that doesn’t mean there’s something wrong with him,” her husband said. “He’ll get over it as he gets older.”
“Will he?” she asked. “What if he met a nice girl that he liked and she turned him down because he didn’t have a gift and they were afraid that it was a genetic defect? Or her parents rejected him because of it? Or what about his career when he gets older?”
“Not all careers rely on a Quirks,” he said, which was true since they were too varied for that. “He can be a fireman, or a police officer, or even a salary-man. He can still live a good life.”
“But he wants to be a hero, Hisashi.” She fought back the tears stinging her eyes. “You should see how he is every time he looks at that video of All Might, hoping one day that he can be just like him. What am I supposed to tell him when he asks me if he still can be?”
Silence answered her for a moment as another voice could be heard over the line. “…Shoot, I’ve got to go. But listen, he’ll find a new dream someday. Just try not to bring it up and give him time to come to terms with it. He’ll bounce back. He’s a strong boy after all.”
“All right.” She took a staggering, deep breath. “Take care of yourself, okay?”
“Same to you. And remember, I love you both.”
The line went dead after that, leaving her with her doubts and sorrow as Inko pulled herself together. She wiped her eyes and dried her tears, telling herself that it would be fine. Her husband was right—Izuku was a strong and smart boy. He’d pull through this.
And it was better that he found out this way, while he was still young. That way he’d be able to come to terms with it quicker and find something new. Anchoring herself to that thought, she stood up from the chair and then made her way to his room to check on him.
…The room was dark as she opened it, the glare of the computer monitor leaving her to squint until she flicked on the lights. Izuku was staring at the screen, watching his favorite video of All Might that had a hold on his young heart and filled him with hope of one day being just like the Symbol of Peace himself. However, unlike before, his eyes that were wide and unblinking lacked the glimmer of joy and sparkle that was always present before.
“… Mom,” he said softly as he turned around. Tears were welling up at the base of his eyes, and his voice was fragile as he pointed to the screen. “H-Heroes are really cool, aren’t they?”
She swallowed the lump in her throat and did her best not to let the fake smile she wore on her face fall. “Y-yeah.”
“Then maybe… maybe I could become one someday?”
In the wake of that simple question, asked by her child on the verge of tears as he sought reassurance from her, Inko couldn’t hold back her own tears. She couldn’t bring herself to lie to him either. Instead, everything that she tried to hold back came rushing forward like a broken dam and her heart shattered.
Inko stumbled forward and wrapped her arms around his tiny body and the chair. Then she cried her heart out. “I’m so sorry, Izuku. I’m so sorry.”
In the present, Inko hummed softly as she washed the dishes until the phone began to ring. She turned the faucet off and brushed her hands against a towel to dry them before she moved over to the receiver and noticed who the caller was. A jolt ran through her body as she hurriedly answered it. “Honey?”
“It’s been too long, Inko. I’ve missed hearing your voice.”
“Oh you…” Inko giggled as she felt a warm, bubbling sensation in her chest. Then she gathered herself and held the phone tenderly. “I’ve missed you too. It’s so rare that you have a chance to call with your schedule. How is everything there?”
“They’re keeping me busy.” He sighed. “And how are things with you and Izuku?”
“Well, I’m going to attend the community meeting soon. We’re planning something special for the neighborhood kids during the holidays. As for Izuku, he’s been a lot more active and coming home later.”
“Oh?” Hisashi’s voice rose a notch. “How so?”
“Nothing bad,” she clarified. “He says he’s working out more in hopes of becoming a hero, and he’s usually so busy we don’t spend too much time together anymore. But his grades are still high and he seems happy.”
“…It sounds like he’s getting his hopes up again,” Hisashi said after a moment. The sullen tone of his voice stamped down on the fluttering feeling in her chest as she caught the underlying meaning beneath his words.
“Maybe so,” Inko said. “But if that’s what he wants to do, I want to support him.”
“That’s what makes you a great mother,” he said. “He’ll be fine with you there, one way or another.”
Their chat continued for another few minutes before Hisashi had to go again. Inko stared at the phone for a moment after the line went dead with a wistful, if somewhat somber smile. Then she placed it back on the receiver, looked at the time, and went into the Living Room to fetch the Community Planner off the shelf with her quirk as the door to their home unlocked and opened.
“How was your training, Izuku?” Inko said in her motherly tone as she turned around. She was expecting to find him wearing the tired smile he normally had on his face when he came home. Instead what she found was Izuku staring vacantly forward, eyes peering far into the distance past the wall, with his shoulders slumped. “Izuku?”
“Girl… no sense of… personal space…” He mumbled softly, ignorant of the world around him as she walked closer.
“Izuku?” She gave him a light shake on his arm. “Izuku, are you okay?”
The jostle seemed to snap him out of it, leaving him to twist and turn his head until recognition dawned on him. “Oh, I’m back home…”
“What happened?” she asked.
“I-I’ve met a… um… helper. I think?” It sounded more like a question than an answer. He exhaled softly before he noticed the planner in her hand. “Are you going out to one of those community meetings?”
She nodded. “We’re making plans for the holiday event for the children at the center. It’s best to start early, after all. ”
“I suppose that’s true…” Izuku rubbed the back of his head before giving her a hug and then letting her go. “Have fun. And Tell Kacchan’s mother I said hello.”
“All right,” Inko said, watching him head towards the bathroom. Though it was subtle, she felt that he had muscle starting to develop beneath his clothes. It was a testament to how Izuku had put in a lot more effort in his training, which also brought her husband’s words back to mind about setting himself up for disappointment.
Before she could dwell on it, Inko shook her head vigorously to rid herself of the negative thoughts. She swore after that day when she’d broken down into tears that she would support him in whatever he decided to do. So she wouldn’t discourage him.
She may not have been able to give him a gift upon his birth, but she would certainly give him the tools he needed to accomplish whatever he set out to do.