Izuku had known Katsuki their entire lives, but he’d never seen him look like this.
The baby was so small in Katsuki’s arms. She was bright pink and wrinkly with barely-there tuffs of black hair, staring up at Katsuki with big red eyes.
He stared back, his eyes just as big and just as red as her’s. He wasn’t crying, but he looked like his whole world was being ripped apart and reformed around the child cradled in his arms.
“They’ve been like this for a while,” Mina murmured, gesturing at where Eijiro was hovering over his family, taking dozens of photos. His hands were shaking hard enough that every photo was probably blurry. “Every time the nurses try and check up on her, Katsuki looks like he’s going to bite someone’s hand off.”
“There were no complications? She’s healthy?” At Mina’s nod, Izuku melted with relief. Eijirou and Katsuki had been nearly out of their minds with worry for months, and though they had tried to keep their fear private, their anxiety was infectious. Mina let him know that their surrogate was also okay, recovering in a private room, before ducking out to spend some time with her.
Katsuki finally looked up and noticed Izuku had arrived.
“You just going to stand there?” Katsuki asked, voice barely above a whisper.
“I didn’t want to interrupt,” Izuku whispered back. He peered down at the baby. “She’s beautiful. Have you picked a name yet?”
“Kirishima Ryoko,” Katsuki said.
Izuku blinked, glancing between them. “Kirishima?”
He nodded. “It was my idea. She won’t be able to escape attention as our daughter, but Kirishima’s name is less recognisable than mine. And his family means more to him. To both of us. I want her to be a Kirishima.”
“You’re a Kirishima too,” Eijirou said.
Katsuki sighed, full of so much fondness. “I know, idiot.” Then he turned to Izuku. “Want to hold her?”
Izuku startled. “What? But you don’t you want—”
Before he could finish, Katsuki was standing up and guiding his arms with military precision, making sure he had a firm but gentle hold on the baby, supporting her head with one scarred palm. Katsuki had only been a father for a handful of hours, but he was already a pro at it.
“Ryoko,” Katsuki told his daughter in that same low, gentle voice that Izuku had never heard before, “this is Deku. He’s your godfather.”
That was when Izuku started crying.
“Godfather?” he asked, choked.
“We’re pro heroes,” Eijirou said. “We know there’s a serious chance that something might happen to both of us. And if we’re gone...”
Ryoko was drooling against his shirt. She wasn’t strong enough to grab onto it yet or chew through the fabric, but she looked like she wanted to. Only a few hours old, she was just an armful of pink skin, barely weighing anything, but holding her felt like one of the most important things he would do.
“Yeah,” Izuku said, crying freely now. “I’d make sure she was okay. More than okay. You don’t have to worry.”
Katsuki rolled his eyes, but he looked more settled now. Mellow and exhausted and content to stare down at Ryoko, soaking in the sight of her.
“Mina is her godmother, so you’re not on your own.”
“The rest of the class would look after her too,” Izuku said. “She’ll never be alone.”
Eijirou laughed. “She’s going to be the most spoiled kid in the world.”
“Good,” Katsuki said firmly. “She deserves the best.”
“He’s going to be insufferable,” Eijirou told Izuku, but he was smiling so widely it looked like it hurt.
In the following silence, Ryoko puked on Izuku’s shirt and Katsuki started howling with laughter.
Ryoko was so small. Katsuki had been training his quirk since childhood, knew its reflexes and strengths down the millimeter, and yet looking at Ryoko’s puffy little face, spit bubbles forming on her lips, he had never been more scared of himself.
He had already fucked up so many things. Deku. All Might. Himself. And now there was a person under his care. A tiny, ugly little ball of skin. His daughter. His baby girl.
He wouldn’t be able to live with himself if he ruined her too.
“We’re okay, Katsuki,” Eijirou soothed, his solid hands running up and down Katsuki’s calves. The tiled floor had to be filthy, no matter how elite this daycare claimed to be, but Eijirou had dropped to his knees as soon as he had spotted Katsuki. “Breathe with me. You’re safe. I’m safe. Our baby girl is safe. Momo has her.”
Katsuki shook his head. “I can’t do this, Ei.”
“Of course you can. You’re the most amazing person I know. If you put your mind to something, you can do it better than anyone else in the world.”
“Not this. I have a person under my care. If I fuck this up, if I fuck up Ryoko—”
“Katsuki,” Eijirou said firmly, “look at me.” Katsuki did. Eijirou stared back at him, eyes blazing. “Do you think I would have married you, had a baby with you, spent over a decade with you if I thought you weren’t going to be an amazing father?”
Katsuki scowled and opened his mouth to argue, but Eijirou cut him off. “No. Don’t give me that. You’re not your mother, and I’m pissed off that you think I would raise my baby with someone who wasn’t going to kick-ass at being a parent.”
All the tension went out of his shoulders and he slumped against Eijirou’s shoulders. “This is the hardest fucking thing I’ve ever done.”
Eijirou cupped the nape of his neck and rocked forward until their foreheads were pressed together. “I know. I’m scared too. But we’re not alone. We have so many friends and family and they would never let anything happen to Ryo. She’s going to grow up so loved.”
In the lead-up to Ryoko’s birth, everyone had annoyed him. Fielding questions had taken up time that could otherwise be spent consuming parenting books or baby-proofing the house.
But he was grateful for them now. Every time he turned around, there was a second pair of hands to wipe up Ryoko’s mess or give him a second to catch his breath. There would always be someone to look after Ryoko, no matter what.
Katsuki drew in a shaky breath before pulling back. He didn’t say thank you to Eijirou. There was no need for sorrys or thank yous between them.
When they returned to the classroom, Momo was flicking through a dense folder that looked an awful lot like the daycare’s lesson plans. There was no way she was supposed to have that. He wondered how she had managed to talk her way into getting the daycare staff to hand it over, and decided he would buy her as many drinks as she would accept the next time they all went out.
Ryoko was on the rainbow-coloured mat by Momo’s feet, crashing plastic cars together and gurgling to herself. A daycare worker hovered to the side, looking terrified.
Momo looked up, met Katsuki’s eyes, and nodded once. This daycare passed her assessment.
The wait list for this daycare was almost eight years long, too long for Ryoko to attend anytime soon. Katsuki cracked his knuckles, turning to the daycare worker with a feral smile. The daycare worker whimpered.
He had a feeling they would work something out. He didn’t care how much it cost him. Not if it was for Ryoko.
Katsuki came home to find his ikea desk dismantled and Toshinori almost in tears.
“Ryoko, sweetheart,” Toshinori was saying. “Can you step away from that please? You’re scaring Grandpa Toshi.”
Ryoko, his four-year-old daughter that barely came up to his hip, was wielding a crude, cobbled-together catapult. She lit up when she saw him.
“Dad, look!” She loaded a paper weight—a terrible figurine of Charge Bolt—into the catapult, before letting it go. It launched into the air in a wide arch and embedded in the wall—where several other figurines of their ex-classmates were poking out of the drywall.
Toshinori made a sound almost like a whimper, hovering a safe distance from his toddler. “Ryoko. Please, stop.”
Ryoko reloaded the catapult. A Deku figurine, this time. It soared across the living room and landed between a tiny Cellophane and Ingenium.
“What the fuck,” Katsuki said.
Toshinori grabbed at his bangs. “I don’t know what happened! She just started—I mean, toddlers shouldn’t be able to do that. I’ve been reading the parenting books you sent everyone, and I know this isn’t normal.”
“No,” Katsuki agreed, watching his daughter laugh maniacally and reload the catapult, “it’s not normal.”
He bent down beside her. She looked up at him, beamed that sharp-toothed smile, so much like Eijirou.
“Hey, baby,” he said. “What’re you doing?”
“Looks impressive. How’d you work out how to do this?”
She shrugged. “I looked at the desk and I saw how to pull it apart and make other stuff with it. It’s not hard.”
Katsuki stared, his mouth suddenly dry. Was this what he thought it was?
“Do you get that feeling when you look at anything else?”
Ryoko considering this, spinning around the room, little face scrunched in concentration. She pointed at the milk carton left on the counter. “Shovel!”
Okay, he thought, that was a fairly normal craft project for a child. It was something she could have seen on TV or in a book.
Then Ryoko toddled over to the stationary scattered on the floor. It had once been neatly stacked inside the desk, but now it lay in piles, like debris from some great battle. “Crossbow!”
“Please don’t make any more weapons, sweetheart,” Toshinori said, sounding faint. “I don’t think I can handle it.”
Ryoko scowled, a fierce expression that made Katsuki’s heart ache with love, and turned to him, as though expecting him to give a different answer.
He scooped her up. She clung to his neck, crossbow forgotten. “I think you’ve given your Grandpa Toshi enough trouble, Ryo.”
“Catapult,” she said seriously.
“I know,” he said. “It’s very impressive. Good work.”
He could feel her smile into the side of his neck, and that alone was worth the lost desk and inevitable clean-up.
“Ryoko,” he said softly, pulling her away just far enough to see her face, “I love you. I’m always going to love you, no matter who you are, okay?”
She stared blankly at him and he realised that she didn’t get it.
But he had to say it anyway. Even if she didn’t understand, she had to know.
Ryoko was almost five years old, and until today, there had been no sign of her quirk manifesting. He and Eijirou had started to prepare themselves for the fact that she might not have one.
(In the early hours of the morning—when he couldn’t sleep and panic for Ryoko made him leapt out of bed every hour, dashing soundlessly into her room to check on her—he wondered if it would be karma if she really was quirkless.)
He would love her, quirk or not. Whoever she became, she was his baby, and he would always be stupidly proud of whoever she became. But the world wasn’t kind to quirkless people. He had witnessed that, contributed to that, enough growing up.
He never wanted Ryoko to experience pain. The world would inevitably hurt her in some way or another, and he didn’t know how he was going to handle that. He didn’t know if he was strong enough to see her in pain. Not Ryoko. Not his baby, anyone in the world but her.
“Daddy?” she asked, touching his face. “You’re sad.”
Her little fingers touched his wet cheek, and he realised he’d started crying. He looked up, meeting Toshinori’s eyes. He could see that Toshinori understood what this all meant, his expression soft and knowing, and Katsuki wanted to hide from it.
He buried his face into Ryoko’s hair. “No, baby, I’m just relieved. I love you. I love you so much.”
She started squirming after a few minutes, full of restless energy. He took a deep breath, pulling himself back together, and put her down. She ran straight over to the pile of stationary. Looked like that crossbow was going to happen whether he liked it or not.
He laughed shakily. A few years ago, he’d gone a little manic baby-proofing every corner of the house in preparation for her arrival. And now, it turned out that Ryoko could create anything she imagined out of household scraps.
Toshinori placed a hand on his shoulder. “Young Bakugou, are you alright?”
“Yeah. Yeah, fine.” He laughed again, too full of emotion to process any of it. Ryoko always made him feel like that. She was just like Eijirou in that way. “Looks like Ryoko is going to meet her Aunt Mei sooner than we thought.”
Toshinori balked. “That’s going to be a disaster.”
“Maybe,” he said, watching her clumsily design a crossbow out of broken stationary, heart so full it felt like it would break through his ribs, “but she’s my kid; she was never going to be anything less than a handful.”