There's something different about the woman.
Todoroki Enji considers the only other presence in the room, taking in the stiff line of her spine, the long hair that resides atop her head now piled up as opposed to cascading down her back. She'd been injured, he recalls, during an attack by one of the recently freed bastards he'd put away years ago. Collateral damage, they'd decided. Villainous scum deserved to rot. She'd done her job though, defended their offspring. Enji hadn't been able to find it in himself to be irritated over the flood damage the house had suffered once he melted the last of her defence.
No, he's getting off point. Rei had taken a knock to the head and it's taken near two weeks for the hospital to discharge her, but she has finally returned home. He's been able to send the hired help away, a handful of paper clutches in one hand with a doctor's scrawling signature upon it.
'Amnesia'. Difficulty in recognising self, others, and simple facts on the world she lives in. When questioned, she hadn't even known what a quirk was. And now, here they stand, residing in the kitchen and with little to no clue how to react. Their marriage has been fraught with tension, quirk-based tension; Rei'd made it clear she'd rather throw herself down the stairs then have another child prior to the incident and that had been what stalled Endeavor. It may have been a quirk marriage, but it is not utterly emotionless. Besides, Shouto's quirk has yet to manifest; there's no need to push for children. Yet.
Rei eyes him over her shoulder, wisps of fine white hair framing the outline of her face. In the morning light that spills in through the window, the tresses are cast a golden shade of pearl. He married her for her genetics, the quirk she carries, not for her appearance. Regardless, she's a soft kind of beauty, an early winter's morning, blankets of untouched snow basking in the rising sun.
"Four children then?" she asks, voice still as quiet as ever, but there's a steady kind of surety behind her words this time. She's been informed of her immediate family by the doctor; it's a clear ploy, encouraging him to talk, to share bits about their life together. The glass surface of their world has been repaired but it's so foggy, so cloudy that Rei cannot see the spiderweb of cracks that stretch from corner to corner, leaving no plane untouched. "Guess we were busy then." She grins and it's like nothing he has seen upon her face before, nothing like her at all (it makes his skin itch, this change).
How is he supposed to answer that question? How is he supposed to address the main strife between them that she so casually refers to? Luckily, it seems this variation of Rei isn't looking for an answer, too busy turning back to the batter of whatever it is she's putting together. Smears of flour kiss up the backs of her hands, whisk clinking against the edges of a jug. The tension that has been so steadily blanketing their house is gone, stripped back and away.
Enji still has no ideas what to say; the silence presides.
The husband (Todoroki Enji, his name is Enji and he's a... 'pro-hero') hadn't stayed long after that. She'd kissed him on the cheek as he made for the door, forced to rise onto her tiptoes to press her lips to his face. Even then she'd had to grab a hold of his shirt to halt him (and pull him down slightly but she'll never admit to it).
Now... now she's left alone in a household with four children that are her own (so the doctors say) and memories in her head that are not her own. A side effect from the man who'd attacked her, one had claimed. Giving her false memories of another life and erasing every other memory she has.
Her name is Rei. She's married, has four children and her quirk is something to do with ice. She cannot remember the official name now, does not care to. It's not exactly her biggest problem right now. The current issue is she doesn't know what is real, what is false... doesn't know if she is Rei or not. This body is thirty years old; her mind insists she is twenty-four years old. It's all higgled and piggled. She has four children she cannot remember birthing, cannot remember raising.
She's got to be strong for them. Even if she's different now, even if she can't remember. They are hers. She won't allow them to suffer just because her head isn't on straight (she tries to ignore the question of if it'll ever be on straight).
She's alone in this; a husband whose quirk may be fire but looks upon her with shrewd, cold eyes. Four children, all of whom will undoubtedly be thrown by the woman who wears their mother's face (is she their mother? Is this body hers? She doesn't know, doesn't know).
Rei finishes the first pancake, severing it up onto a plate and she smears jam across the flat surface, just in time for a girl (her daughter, her second eldest) to stumble into the kitchen.
Her children have never eaten pancakes before. They look upon the flat, round food as if it were foreign and strange (they are, she guesses, given they're in Japan).
The first to tuck into them is her middle son, Natsuo. He digs in with a gusto, chewing thoroughly and refusing to wait until he's swallowed before grinning at his siblings.
Her youngest, Shouto, is the last. Hesitant and cautious, her dual coloured son (though there's only Touya that has one solid block of hair, the same deep red as his father) grapples with his breakfast, smearing jam all across his plate, hands and cheeks. He's adorable.
They all are.
"Can you really not remember anything?" Touya leaned across the table, a deep scowl on his face. His eyes are a brilliant blue, even brighter than Enji's were. There's a shrewdness to them that shouldn't belong there.
"It's okay, Chick," Rei murmurs, teaching over to ruffle the girl's hair. Todoroki Fuyumi is an adorable eleven-year-old child, timid and shy. Though not afraid to attempt reeling her brothers in. "Even if I never remember, we can make lots of good memories together, right?" Rei smiles, doing her best to ignore how what should have been a casual gesture pulled at her cheeks. Like it's an unfamiliar motion.
The kids all stare at her, even little Shouto who cannot be older than five. Probably four years old, given his height and weight. A cute little pudge. They all are.
It's Natsuo, the middle boy, who voices his opinion first.
"I like this Mum. She seems brave."
And just what is that supposed to imply?
"You don't seem particularly content with your current life." It's the first sentence that meets Enji's ears as he returns home.
The lights are out, barring the kitchen side lamp, and Rei is half submerged in darkness. He rather suspects the lack of lighting is an attempt to draw his attention away from the ridiculous mess the house is currently accommodating. There are blankets all over the couches in the receiving room with some corners taped to the walls, cushions and pillows piled up in what even Enji can guess is supposed to substitute as a castle. A structurally unstable castle. The hastily made and hazardlessly discarded dragon costume (just the right size for Natsuo, he suspects) only adds further evidence to his suspicions that nothing productive has been undertaken during his three days away.
The scent of herbal tea wafts through the air, steam curling up from the surface of Rei's delicate china cup. The once blank surface of the fridge catches his attention; it's now littered with pictures. Eyeing them on his way past, Enji finds the solid evidence that it was indeed Natsuo who spent who knows how many hours in a ridiculous reptilian costume. Pictures litter the once pristine surface, each one featuring up to five people; Rei and their offspring. They're all grinning like hoodlums, even quiet little Shouto and sickly Touya wear the same matching grins. There's a single photo which features all five of them and a hastily created addition. Carefully drawn on in black and red pen is his own likeness, holding a villain down in a headlock (they'd watched yesterday's news then). It takes him longer than it should have done to realise that it was drawn by Fuyumi's hand. When was it that his only daughter had taken the time to draw something for him, never-mind an actual picture from his hero work?
"Sorry, that was a terribly greeting. Congratulations on completing your job; we all watched the outcome on the news. It's a relief to have you back home though." Rei smiles and it's warm, warmer than what he has come to expect of her in these last few months. It takes him a moment to realise what it is that's throwing him off; she's genuine. She's genuinely pleased to see him return home. A change indeed.
Folding his arms across his chest, Enji leans back against the wall, pushing down the urge to ignite the usual facial flames. He will not be made to feel uncomfortable in his own home. He's adaptable, he'll figure out where he stands with this… strange variation of Rei. It's not an improvement, but it's not a deterioration either. Just new.
"Has anything productive occurred while I was gone." It's not a question, a demand for information actually. From the way Rei's lips thin, she knows it too.
"Well, I got to know my children, we had fun and Shouto mastered that heel spin thing you've been trying to teach him."
"He what?" His youngest had been struggling on that for the past month; admittedly, Enji hadn't exactly been taking his training too seriously. He's three failed children down now (well, two and a half. Touya was almost perfect. Almost) so he's not yet committed Shouto to the training schedule. Not until he knows for sure. He doesn't want to waste his time, not again. Still, what were the possible reasons that Shouto would master that particular move while he wasn't present to check he was completing it right?
"Speaking of our children," Rei muses, bulldozing over his question completely, her face settling into something a little darker, something a tad more serious. "What is going on with Touya." Never, not in the twelve years they have been a legally married couple, has Todoroki Rei ever taken that tone with him. Has never offered up such a demand for information so thinly veiled as a question. It stuns him more than any punch a villain has ever landed.
"I, I don't know how to explain it. But he's so much more closed off than the other three and I don't think it's just a thing that comes with being the eldest. He doesn't have as much enjoy as the other three and- I don't know. Is he sick?" Hands folded primly in her lap and with only half of her tea remaining, Rei gives him her full attention. It's not like before, where it had been timid enquiries. No, now there's a steadiness, a surety that no amnesic should possess. The hospital checked, there was no outside influences in her mind, no brainwashing or tampering. Is this the Rei from before they met, from before she was told it'd be a quirk marriage in her future?
"The doctors should have told you."
"They gave me the bare basics about myself, which includes the fact I have four children. What I don't know is why we got married, what each of my children are like, how this family runs; I had no idea that Natsuo hates sweetcorn until yesterday. I've got so much to learn and I just want to do my best with it all." Slamming one closed fist onto her open palm, Rei smiles at him. It reaches her eyes. Enji can't quite remember the last time that happened. Perhaps that what pushes him to admit the simple truths of their lives together.
"We married for our quirks, in order to produce strong offspring to become heroes," the number one hero is what goes unsaid, but that is a can of worms perhaps not best opened right now. "Natsuo and Fuyumi inherited your ice-quirk. Touya has showcased a mutation of my fire quirk, but he also inherited your weak constitution." He was almost perfect. Almost. It'd seemed so promising, a fire quirk stronger than his own. But then, the body had proven ill-equip to handling it.
"So, it's something genetic then," Rei continues, pressing her forefinger and thumb against her jawline, eyebrows slowly knitting together, "what have we tried to overcome it already?" What?
Now she does look at him, an expression on her face that makes Enji instantly bristle. "What have we tried to overcome this genetic weakness? Was there anything even remotely successful? How long has Touya shown an issue with this… We have tried to do something, haven't we?" She speaks of them as if they are a team, as if she had anything to do with Touya's training.
The stillness lingers between them, a stifling silence and Rei's lips press into a firm line. Enji refuses to back down, but he also has little more to say on this topic. Not when Touya has proven a failure with his body, not when Natsuo and Fuyumi cannot even be considered. All of his hopes rest upon the tiny shoulders of Shouto. Shouto who exhibits an equal split of both parents' features. Perhaps fourth time will be the charm.
"Well, if you need me, I'll be upstairs."
Rei isn't in their bed when he gets upstairs. It takes him three attempts (not in the bathroom, not in Shouto's room) before he finds her. She's curled up around Touya, his gangly pre-teen arms wrapped loose around her neck, his face half buried in her neck and there's tearstains on his cheeks. Rei, fast asleep as she is, clutches him to her chest as if he's all that's keeping her stable.
Enji goes to bed with a tightness in his chest that wasn't present before.
Shouto watches Mummy with determined eyes. He's never seen her smile so much before. Since she came home from hospital (which he tries not to think too much on; he remembers the attack, remembers Mummy blocking it all with ice but she's hit her head and there'd been so much blood), things have been different. Not a bad different either. He can't remember the last time they had so much fun. Even Touya-nii had enjoyed it and Touya-nii is so much older than Shouto (all his siblings are, even Natsuo is four years older than him and he's determined to make sure Shouto never forgets it) but he'd been laughing too. Shouto can't remember the last time Mummy had picked him up for anything other than a cuddle after Father had snapped. But yesterday, yesterday she'd made him fly, scooped him up under his arms and he'd had so much fun. He knows his quirk won't be anything to do with flying, but in that moment, it'd been fun.
Shuffling out of his bedroom, Shouto sends one considering glance towards the bedroom door Mummy and Father share, lips working into a thin frown. It might be where she is… but Father scares him. Sometimes Mummy is awake, sometimes she's not. The past few days while Father has been away, they'd all slept downstairs on piles and piles of cushions. Shouto had laid with Touya-nii on one side, Mummy on his other. They'd all rested their heads on Mummy's outstretched arms, Fuyumi-nee and Natsuo-nii on the other side of her to what Touya and Shouto had been. It'd been comfortable; Shouto had dropped off almost instantly. Last night had been a little more difficult but Mummy had stayed with him until he fell asleep. He wasn't even upset that he'd been the first to go to bed.
Quietly plodding along across the wooden floor, Shouto peeks into Natsuo's room to find his older brother fast asleep. He's even snoring a little, one leg thrown over the edge of the bed and his face pressing into his pillow. Pushing onwards, Shouto passes Touya-nii's door and then stops. His eldest brother has red hair, red hair like their dad and sorta like Shouto. There shouldn't be any white hair on his bed. Cautious, Shouto pushes the door the rest of the way open to find Mummy asleep in Touya-nii's bed. Which is strange; Touya-nii is a teenager; he's made it clear to Shouto that he doesn't need babying. He's almost an adult after all, which is why Shouto needs to listen to him.
Squinting, Touya edges that little bit closer, shuffling into the room as much as he dared. There's not much in Touya's room, lots of notes from school, lots of books, a few video games and a football.
"Shouto?" Startling, Shouto spins around to face the bed again, finding Mummy with her head half twisted around to stare at him; the whisper had come from her.
"Mummy… why are you in Touya-nii's bed?"
"Touya had a bit of a rough time last night, so I gave him some special Mum hugs. You can never be told old for them, do you hear me, Touya?" There's a low grumble on the other side of Mummy and then Touya's red hair is rising from behind Mummy's shoulder, sleepy blue eyes peering at him. Touya doesn't look good, worse than he normally does. Shouto might be young but even he knows that Touya's not very well, not right now. He hasn't been well for a few years; Shouto can barely remember a time when his eldest brother was as full of energy as Natsuo.
"You know," Mummy continues, rolling until she's on her back, Touya still curled up against one side, "I think he might need some special little brother hugs too."
Shouto's not too sure what else Touya-nii was going to say because he's too busy climbing up onto the bed, clambering over Mummy in a wobbly motion to bury his way between the two of them. He wraps his arms around as much of Touya's chest as he can manage. It's strange; right left arm feels fine, but his right arm feels cold because Touya-nii's body is very hot against him.
"Is this good enough?" Shouto asks, peering at Touya-nii's face. His cheeks are a little red, his lips pressed in a funny hard line but it's not like Father's. Both their eyes are blue but Touya's are warm. Pleased. They're happy.
"Let's make doubly sure, Mum and Son combo hug attack!" Mummy announces before wrapping her arms around both of them and reeling them in. Shouto giggles as he's pressed between her chest and Touya's. Touya who doesn't huff but instead rolls until his arms around wrapped around them too.
Shouto can't remember the last time his brother hugged him and tried to hide a laugh in his chest like that.
The three of them go downstairs together. Mummy made sure to check on Fuyumi and Natsuo but they had both been fast asleep. Shouto clings to Mummy's front like a little monkey, one of her arms wrapped under his tush to keep his steady. Her other arm is tucked under one of Touya-nii's legs; he's getting a piggyback downstairs, his head resting lazily on Mummy's shoulder. Shouto hopes he gets better soon, he doesn't like how sluggish Touya is, not when he'd seen how much fun he could have with his big brother yesterday. And that'd been when Touya wasn't in tip-top condition. Surely he'll be ever better when he's all better, won't he?
Shouto lets Mummy put him down in his usual chair, the cushion on the seat letting him sit high enough that he can each everything he needs to on the table. Touya slides down off of Mummy's back and climbs up into his own chair, resting his arms upon the table and using them to pillow his head. There's food on the table, food Mummy hasn't cooked. Father ordered in again? Shouto eyes the food before his eyes slowly trail over the room, landing on the door to Father' office. He's stood there, arms folded across his chest but there's no hero costume, no fire on his face. He's wearing a shirt but it's the same colour as his hero costume. Shouto returns his eyes to his meal, back stiffening. He doesn't… he doesn't feel comfortable around Father. Especially not when he sees how the man treats Touya-nii, Natsuo and Fuyumi.
"Eat. We have a doctor's appointment in an hour."
"Doctor's appointment?" Mummy parrots, putting the plate she'd ben loading up with food down in front of Shouto. There's soba on his plate, alongside a poached egg. Mummy might have forgotten everything, but she learns quick. She's remembered his favourite food and he told her three days ago. "I thought I was done with those, barring the monthly check-ups."
"You are. It's for Touya." At that, Touya-nii freezes, the grilled fish half-way between the table and his mouth. Shouto blinks, considering Father's words before he nods. It makes sense; Touya-nii is sick, has been sick for a while. He probably should have gone to the doctor's before. Shouto can't remember him every going, though he does remember a funny man in a white coat coming around once; even then, he only remembers him because Mummy had kept them all far away from the man.
"I thought I was a hopeless case," Touya mutters and it's… cold. Like the ice Fuyumi-nee can make, only it's in Touya's voice. Touya-nii doesn't make ice, he makes fire, fire that's even hotter than Father's. He doesn't do it very often though, not anymore. "I thought there was no point in continuing to waste time with a failure."
"A fai-" Mummy stops halfway through, grey eyes suddenly locked on Father with a scowl on her face. She's still not sitting down at the table, rounding it to rest one of her small, thin hands on Touya's shoulder. She says, as if this is a fact and not a request, "we will be talking about this." And Father actually nods, actually considers Mummy instead of just scoffing and sending her away.
Shouto's not sure what's changed, not sure what is going on. And he's not sure if he likes it or not. All he knows is Mummy's back from the hospital and she's bright, so much brighter than he can recall her ever being. And that, he likes.
Just a collection of drabbles based around an idea really.