Ever since Shouto was born, his father wanted him to annihilate the faeries living past the forest next to their village.
The faerie-human wars had ended long before that, over a hundred years ago, but Shouto’s ancestors had fought in them and passed down their hate for the faeries, reaching eventually Todoroki Enji, or Endeavor, his hunting nickname. According to him, the feud they have — he has, actually— against the faeries is the Todoroki pride. It’s Shouto’s duty to destroy the faeries, even though only Endeavor and a handful of other villagers mind them, and for that, he’s been made by his father into the strongest, most skilled hunter of their settlement.
He wants him to attack on his twenty first birthday, even though Shouto has expressed his absolute disagreement on the matter. For now though, seeing as it’s still August and the faeries barely below full power, he just has to hunt food, not faeries, which is why he’s now tracking deer south of the village.
Most of the animals they eat —boars, deer, rabbits— have gone down south, migration season already having arrived, so he has to move further away from his home and into the forest.
It’s nothing new of course. He’s been doing this for a little less than the past decade, knows the woods like the back of his palm, although he avoids certain areas, tracking the dozens of hoof prints meandering around the dense clusters of trees, roots waiting to trip him. Pink, blue, purple flowers bloom all around and rays of sunshine whose heat is softened by the cool breeze of the forest light up patches of his path.
It’s very subtle, so much so that he doesn’t notice at first, yet the grass here is just a bit greener, the trees taller, the squirrels that rush around the branches to gather nuts livelier.
But when he steps into a clearing, a glade in which imposing pine trees completely surround him, except for a small opening in front, he understands.
The faerie border.
Technically, the glade itself wasn’t the border. No, human ground was separated from faerie by the lake lying after the opening and there wasn’t even a strict line acting as a guide. Its waters were shared territory, but a bit away from the village, so the humans didn’t go there very often and as far as Shouto knew, there were plenty of lakes in faerie lands for them to use.
He sighs. He can’t trespass on faerie land without explicit permission from a faerie —something he obviously doesn’t have— and considering the fact that the prints continue in front of him, to the lake, he’ll have to go west and then south again, following the river’s path and passing the faerie lands from the side. He’s done it a few times, but now, he hadn’t accounted for how early the fauna had started migrating this year, so he doesn’t have the necessary supplies for a trip that will last at least one day. Maybe he could find some animals left behind the herd if he rushed, even though that meant barely sleeping and returning the next morning or noon to the village. His father would be displeased either way.
When he steps outside the clearing and finds himself in front of the nearly crystal-clear lake, which is mirroring the cloudless sky above perfectly, he freezes completely, much like the deer he’s hunting when they’re startled.
Near the shore, still in the shallow parts of the water, a boy —or man— is washing himself while gazing away at the faerie lands, completely oblivious to Shouto’s presence. He’s waist-deep in the lake so Shouto only sees his back, but even with just that, his tongue feels heavy in his mouth.
Messy green hair falls wildly to the sides, only mildly tamed by the water, making his head look covered in soft clusters made of dark pine needles. His skin resembles bronze shining underneath the afternoon sun, the drops running from the back of his neck to his shoulder blades to the small curving of his lower back and making the surface of it glisten, polishing him like the best sword one could wield. As he rubs away at his toned arms, the planes of his back move smoothly in accordance, like two dancers synchronized with each other, making the muscles ripple, a faint imitation of the rings of water around him.
He’s encountered a few faeries before –he was bound to, with how much time he spends out hunting- and all were rather beautiful. They had an otherworldly air sharpening their features and making them appear as if they were magic incarnate, but none of them had ever been so…striking.
Shouto’s utterly frozen in his place, but the boy cocks his head to the side and he must have caught something from the corner of his eye, because he turns around and sees him. His chest contracts as he gasps and his eyes widen. Much like a doe alerted to a hunter’s presence, he doesn’t move, being caught completely off guard.
Despite the boy’s vulnerability, Shouto is the one that turns around and bolts.
He runs back in the glade, willing himself to go faster when a voice behind him calls, “Wait!” He traces his steps back easily, ducking to avoid the branches that threaten to whack him across the face, but he can hear leaves rustling behind him. Something tugs at his leg and suddenly his entire world is turned upside down, blunt pain from his collision with the ground numbing his entire back. Looking up, he sees a pair of wide, bright like the sun eyes staring at him.
“You’re really fast!” the boy exclaims, a fascinated expression etched on his face, which soon turns into self-conscious realization. “Oh! Sorry about this, I just kinda made you trip —it was an accident, I promise!— and then I tripped and fell on top of you, I’m so sorry…” he rambles, getting up from Shouto’s lap and brushing off the dirt. Shouto’s still lying on the ground, much too shocked to get up yet, awe for this perfect being right in front of him clouding the more rational thoughts of his brain.
A hand is extended in front of him, accompanied by a soft smile. “Here, let me help you.” The sincere tone in the boy’s voice snaps him out of his daze and he takes his hand to get up, his fingers feeling warm afterwards, even from such a brief contact.
“I…I apologize.” Shouto bows his head down. “I assure you, I—I wasn’t…” He struggles to find the right words, his mind still catching up the boy’s appearance. He’s dressed —thankfully— in some sort of translucent lime green robe with a single strap that wraps above his right shoulder, and the garment sways lazily from the breeze, staying on his body only with the help of a vine wrapped below his chest. “I wasn’t watching you,” he finishes awkwardly. “It was an accident, I was just hunting.”
The boy’s cheeks have flushed a deep red, but he shakes his head. “No, don’t worry about it! It’s fine, I believe you.”
Shouto nods, relieved, yet a sense of uneasiness resides in his stomach.
“I should go…” He turns around, feeling ready to combust, but a hand grabs his wrist and forces him back.
“No, please don’t!”
Shouto startles and the boy jumps back as if he’s been burned. “S—sorry, I just…I’ve never met another human before!” he admits, hiding his face in his hands, clearly ashamed of his outburst.
“It’s okay. I can stay if you want me to,” Shouto finds himself saying. “What’s your name?”
“Izuku! Although, one of my friends gave me the nickname Deku.”
Shouto frowns. “He doesn’t sound very nice,” he admits, and Izuku’s laugh bubbles up like the clear water running in the river just a mile or so away.
“I’m Shouto,” he offers in return.
“That’s a pretty name,” Izuku notes, and Shouto doesn’t have a reply for that. “You don’t really talk much, do you?” This time, he shakes his head, looking at the ground to mask his self-consciousness, yet Izuku catches it nonetheless.
“No, no, I didn’t mean it like it’s a bad thing! You’re just…” he gestures vaguely to him, “…new, that’s all. Come on, let’s go find somewhere to sit.”
They wander for a while, falling into an easy silence accompanied by the birds chirping or the scurrying of squirrels and, eventually, they find a huge fallen log covered in soft moss that peels off underneath their fingertips.
Shouto settles in a dry spot and Izuku crosses one leg over the other, turning around to face him, an eager look splattered across his face.
“So?” he asks, not sure where he’s going with this.
“You said you were a hunter! Tell me more about it,” Izuku prompts.
“Oh. It’s nothing special; I just catch animals and bring them home for me and my dad to eat. It’s mostly stuff like deer, rabbits, or boars, but if I don’t catch something, I can usually get mushrooms and berries for food. Do you, uh…do you eat meat?” he asks, his hunting dagger suddenly hanging heavy to his side.
“We do, but our main diet consists of plants, not animals.”
“I see. Either way, I was tracking the deer, but I failed to account for how early the migration season started this year, so the closest herd is already pretty far away from here. Their traces,” he points to the ground in front of him, some hoof prints still visible, “led me to the lake, and I was just thinking I’d have to go around when….”
“Yeah,” Izuku provides for him, effortlessly dispelling the uneasy silence Shouto’s words were about to commence. “I know I said it before, but you’re very fast. I haven’t met many humans, but as far as I’m aware, faeries are usually quite faster.”
Shouto grimaces. “Yeah, that’s…courtesy of my father. He’s the one who trained me to hunt.” He doesn’t mention what his father wanted his prey to be eventually.
“What’s he like?” Izuku inquires.
The first word that rises up from his gut is horrible, but he forces it down. “Strict. Ambitious. And also,” he adds with a wry smile, “not your biggest fan.” That’s an understatement.
Izuku blinks in surprise. “Really?”
“Why? I mean, I know that humans and faeries aren’t the best of friends, but I thought you didn’t mind us anymore.”
“We don’t, for the most part,” Shouto replies easily, including himself in the category. He’s way over his father’s prejudices. “It’s just that…my father, like a few others, was raised hearing stories about the human-faerie wars. I might not have lived through them —something I’m thankful for— but I’m sure you remember how bloody and devastating they were, for both sides.” Considering faeries are immortal and rarely reproduce, Izuku is probably over a hundred years old, despite his youthful appearance.
That’s why he’s surprised when Izuku shakes his head. “I don’t remember, because I wasn’t alive back then.”
“It’s true. I’m quite young, especially compared to some other faeries,” he responds.
Shouto eyes him suspiciously, because for a faerie, quite young can mean over fifty years. “How old are you?”
“Hmm…Humans count the time in a different way than we do, but the last human-faerie war was around a hundred years ago, right?” He looks at Shouto and then frowns, mentally calculating after Shouto’s hesitant nod. “That would make me…twenty years old, I think,” Izuku announces.
Shouto’s eyes widen in shock. “Really?” That is very young for a faerie.
“Yep! And if I’m going about this the correct way, my birthday was two months ago, so I was born during…June?” Izuku looks at him questioningly again and god, that face is adorable.
“Yeah. That also means we’re nearly of the same age,” he realizes. “My twenty-first birthday’s in January.”
“Oh, that’s really interesting!”
He raises an eyebrow. “How come?”
“Ah, I’m sorry; it’s just this thing we have…Faeries believe that babies born in the winter —especially human ones, because your immune system is weaker than ours— are particularly strong and capable of withstanding adversities that may come their way,” Izuku explains.
“I see,” he murmurs. He knew he was strong physically —his father had made sure of that— but mentally, he considered himself…subpar, at least when it comes to setting his foot down regarding Endeavor’s plan.
“I’m sorry,” Izuku apologizes, having believed Shouto had grown uncomfortable. “I talk a lot,” he laughs nervously.
“I don’t mind,” comes the honest reply.
“Really? Kacchan says I talk enough for three people, and it’s ‘fucking annoying, Deku’,” he laughs, gesturing to imitate the air quotes.
“His actual name is Katsuki.”
“Is he the one that gave you the nickname?”
“You know, I take back what I said about him not sounding very nice.”
Izuku’s face is a mixture of shock and thinly-veiled hurt.
“He sounds like a fucking asshole,” Shouto deadpans and those five words wipe that expression off Izuku’s face and make him howl in laughter.
“You’re not the only one that thinks that, trust me.”
They fall into an easy conversation after that, and Shouto learns a lot about Midoriya Izuku. He learns that he wants to be the leader of the faeries one day in order to establish a better relationship with humans, he learns about his friends back in the faerie realm —Uraraka and Iida are the two Izuku mentions the most— he learns about how Izuku had been born very weak for a faerie, with nearly mortal power and speed and how he eventually overcame that. He doesn’t say much in return, not wanting to ruin this lovely atmosphere with his past, but Izuku is content to feel in the silence.
Eventually, they both stay quiet, and Shouto lets his eyes wander from Izuku’s eyes crinkling to the trees all around them. A soft orange light bathes everything in its glow; from the ground to all the leaves so far up he has to crane his neck to fully take them in.
Somehow, without either of them realizing it, the sun has nearly gone down and soon, the moon will take its place in the sky.
Izuku seems to come to the same conclusion a few seconds after him, his mouth parting slightly.
“Oh,” he exhales softly and Shouto wishes he hadn’t. “You should be going back, I suppose?”
Izuku’s tone is light, but he can tell he’s not all too happy about it. He nods, getting up and dusting off his pants. Izuku’s eyes widen. “Wait!” he tells him and as he’s getting up from the log as well, the sudden movement ruffles his robe, momentarily lifting it up to his knees. “You didn’t— You don’t have anything for food!”
Shouto shrugs. “I’ll just gather some nuts, mushrooms and the like.” He doesn’t mention his father probably won’t be too pleased with the lack of meat.
“Yeah, but…” Izuku trails off.
“But it’s my fault! I chased you when you were running away—”
“I don’t mind,” he reassures, but Izuku just waves his hand.
“—and then I started talking to you—”
“Yes, because I didn’t participate at all in our conversation,” he adds dryly, but lets Izuku continue his rambling.
“—and now you have nothing to take home!” He throws his hands up. His eyes suddenly light up with an idea. “Let me help you gather plants.”
“You really don’t have to.”
Oh god, how is a single pair of eyes so enchanting and pleading at the same time?
When they’ve reached the outskirts of the forest, he turns to look at Izuku.
Neither of them acknowledge that Izuku’s well past the faerie border —technically, he shouldn’t even have stepped a foot on the other side of the lake— or that Shouto is carrying enough food to feed himself and his father for three entire days.
Izuku’s eyes are bright, despite the sun having just dipped completely below the horizon and hope is evident in the way they glimmer.
I’ll see you again.
Izuku turns around, naked feet leaving prints on the ground that has absorbed the air’s humidity. Shouto sees him hesitate before entering the forest and disappearing into the trees’ shadows, barely a whisper in the night.
The breeze that makes the leaves sway gently feels somehow colder to him without Izuku’s presence.
Shouto had never been a particularly hopeful person. After living for the past two decades with his father, he’s learned that hope is a rather naïve concept.
As expected, a displeased grunt and a condescending expression are all that greet him.
“I expected better from you, Shouto,” his father tells him, sharpening his sword. Less than a handful of villagers keep swords anymore —much less iron ones to guard themselves against the faeries— but his dad had insisted on vigilance.
He pays no attention to him, setting the food on the table.
“Don’t ignore me, boy. I trained you to be the strongest hunter of the village and you can’t even hunt a measly deer. How do you expect to slaughter the faeries like that?”
He turns away to hide the rolling of his eyes. They’ve had this conversation enough times to last him for a lifetime.
“I’ve already told you, father. I do not wish to hurt, much less slaughter anyone but those who wish to harm me.”
“Pathetic. So you’ll allow yourself to get hurt first and when you’re vulnerable, your opponent will strike, aiming for your weak spots!” Endeavor curls his lips. “That’s what faeries have always done.”
“How would you know?” he counters. “It’s not like you fought in the wars. No, in all your life, you’ve just attacked them unprovoked,” he spits out and Endeavor bristles.
“Unprovoked? Shouto, they want to murder us!”
“Of course they do.” His voice is dripping with sarcasm, but Endeavor leashes back his own temper, loosening his grip on the sword.
“No matter. You will grow out of this phase, this…rebelliousness you’re showing me soon enough. In six months’ time, you’ll want to kill them.”
He doesn’t answer, just quickly swallows down a few berries and goes to bed.
No matter how nonsensical he might think hope is, when he finally falls asleep, he dreams of vine-green eyes.
Lately, Shouto has been waking up more rejuvenated than usual, and he can’t help but think why that is.
It’s not a bad thing; not at all. While he always woke up rather easily both due to his father’s training that involved rising before the sun as well as his eternal restlessness turning him into a light sleeper, he doesn’t miss having to drag himself around until the sunlight hit him.
Today, immediately after waking up —and being, once again, surprised at how his eyes didn’t instinctively close again when he opens them— he scrambles to hold on to even the smallest piece of the dream he was having only moments prior. He doesn’t succeed, reds and greens and blues and purples rapidly fading away from his mind.
He sighs, a bit aggravated, but today feels —just barely— more appealing than the previous ones during this week, and not being able to put his finger on what it is that makes him feel that way causes nervousness to simmer underneath his skin.
He gets ready quickly, and sets out. There’s still leftover meat from yesterday, but it doesn’t hurt to have some extra room lying around, for a time of need.
The walk to and in the forest is the usual, though Shouto never gets tired of observing how it changes while he delves deeper inside it. Even though human territory encompasses the grounds just until the lake, and faerie territory technically starts at the shore across, remnants of magic permeate the air even here. In fact, as one gets closer and closer to the borders, centuries of this phenomenon are evident in nature itself. The trees stand taller and prouder, the grass is a much livelier green, as if overflowing with life, while sunlight shines a brilliant golden colour.
To be enclosed in the glade, with seemingly magic-imbued surroundings...It’s an otherworldly, eerie feeling, but Shouto finds it rather soothing.
He heads to the more eastern side of the forest, leaving the glade behind him, though the lake is a constant companion, hidden behind rows of pines, oaks, and rowans. Thanks to them, the air in the forest feels much less sultry and humid, and the sweet smell emanating from the flowers scattered in patches all around him makes him want to stop and take everything in, maybe lie down on the ground, take off his shirt and feel the grass against his naked back. Quite a bit of time has passed since he left the village, but the harshest rays of the morning sun are blocked from the treetops, only the bravest of them passing through various openings and painting the grass with bright yellow-gold blotches.
The birds’ song —nightingales, he recognizes in the back of his mind— echoes pleasantly, carrying a sense of euphoria with it.
His ears catch a faint crack! but it turns out it’s just mice scurrying, just as a wildcat appears a few feet away, making an impressive leap to a nearby tree and then back to the ground again. She leaves a messy trail of pawprints and scratches behind as she speeds up past him, ready to devour her meal.
Shouto chuckles lowly at that, and he’s ready to continue his search for something worthwhile —wildcats offer tough cuts of meat, and skinning them is a pain, not to mention they’re undeniably elusive— to hunt, when a whisper of the wind brings him immediately, inexplicably, on edge.
Something’s not right.
The hairs on the back of his neck stand up as his body goes on high alert, shoulder blades tensing while he puts a hand on the handle of one of his knives, his eyes looking for the slightest movement apart from the leaves swaying. His ears strain to catch any sound that might find itself in a disharmony with nature’s song. He turns his head, looking behind his back and sees nothing, but another soft rush of air and barely-there heat tickles his arms and chest.
He turns around again and when he finds a pair of familiar —and sorely missed— green eyes staring at him, a choked yelp is all that comes out from the shock.
His body takes charge, right foot darting out in a sweeping motion and making his opponent fall down.Or, at least, that’s what would’ve happened if the owner of those beautiful eyes hadn’t jumped at the last second, landing on his feet a little further from him, with a grace Shouto’s father would be jealous of. It’s Izuku, he realizes belatedly, and with an excited chill thrumming in his veins against his own will.
“Wow. I mean, I knew you were fast, but your reflexes are incredible as well,” Izuku praises, giving him an excited smile, and Shouto isn’t too sure if the sudden stutter of his heart is due to that or the previous shock.
“Thanks. You seem quite skilled in fighting as well. But Gods, don’t sneak up on me like that again.” Another smile, this time accompanied by a soft blush dusted on Izuku’s cheeks.
He’s dressed in a similar robe as the previous time, except this one is dark plum instead of green, and the vine wrapping around his waist is different, with red roses here and there.
“Sorry. You just, um…You looked…” Izuku trails off, blushing harder, and Shouto merely raises an eyebrow.
“While you were trying to figure out what was wrong —sorry for scaring you, by the way—, you looked very…” He swallows, determined to go through with this. “…cute.”
Now it’s Shouto’s turn to turn red as a tomato, so he simply ducks his head down, which just makes Izuku chuckle.
When he’s feeling calm enough to look up again, he sees Izuku smiling at him and his heart absolutely does not flutter. He clears his throat.
“Not that I mind, but how come you’re here again?”
His smile dims a little bit and Shouto catches a tiny movement. Izuku’s chewing the inside of his cheeks.
“I, uh…I really wanted to see you again. I had a feeling you’d come here again,” Izuku admits and then immediately hides his face in his hands. “Oh Gods, that sounded so creepy, I’m so sorry, I promise, I’m not stalking you—”
Shouto huffs amusedly, cutting off his anxious rambling. “It’s fine, Izuku.” He peeks from his hands, shyly looking at Shouto. “I don’t think you’re a stalker.”
“But I’m curious, how did you know when I’d come here?”
Shouto frowns. “Then how—”
“I, um, kind of…have been coming here every day?” Izuku squeaks. Shouto’s eyes widen, before softening with a layer of guilt settling in his gut. “Don’t feel bad, though! It was nothing tiring, quite the opposite, it got me moving!”
“You ran from the opposite shore along the lake’s perimeter?” Shouto asks, impressed.
“Actually, I swam, and then walked around a lot! Really good exercise, you know?”
Shouto wants to reassure him he doesn’t need the extra exercise, since he already looks quite fit, but his mind flashes back to Izuku’s body when he’d first seen him in the lake, and he bites that thought down before he can say something embarrassing. He settles for a nod instead.
“The only thing is,” Izuku continues, thankfully oblivious to his inner turmoil, “it’s rather lonely here, since no one really comes by. Ah, but that’s fine, now, too,” he waves his hands in the air, “because you’re here!”
“Izuku…you shouldn’t have,” Shouto says quietly. Izuku’s face scrunches up in confusion, so innocent Shouto really doesn’t want to let him know about the more precarious side of this situation.
“Why? Do I…Am I bothering you?” he asks self-consciously, and something tells Shouto that Izuku’s used to the answer to that question being yes. He shakes his head.
“No. Quite the opposite, actually. I very much enjoy your company.” Izuku smiles shyly. “But it’s not safe for you to be here.”
“What do you mean?”
I guess there’s no way to avoid this.
“Let’s go sit somewhere,” he suggests, making his way towards the lake. Despite the many fallen leaves on the ground, Izuku’s footsteps are barely louder than the soft murmur of the wind.
“Izuku, I—we…” he clenches his teeth and tries again. “You have to understand, among us —humans, I mean— there are certain people that…don’t like faeries very much.”
“Like your father?” Izuku asks, curious eyes peering at him. Shouto grimaces.
“Like my father,” he confirms. “Those people —if they had found you, I don’t think things would have ended very well.”
“Come on,” Izuku laughs, “what would they have done to me? I can outrun humans anyway —well, most of them,” he adds, gesturing to Shouto.
“Izuku, some of them want to kill you.”
The weight of the sentence drops like lead between them, and it’s as if nature itself shudders at the words, making the air grow colder.
“What—Why?” he stutters. “I mean, I get that maybe they don’t love faeries —we don’t expect them to— but…”
“Remember what I told you about my father?”
“You said he was raised hearing stories about the war.”
Shouto nods. “He and some others. It’s not that they don’t like you. Izuku, they hate faeries. Admittedly, it’s not very many of them —about ten or so, and our village has two hundred people— but they’re absolute fanatics.”
He’d know. He’s lived with one for the past twenty years. “Some of them still keep iron swords,” he spits bitterly.
“Yeah, but they can’t attack me, Shouto. That’d be a violation of the treaty.”
He raises his eyebrows. “Do you know what else is also a violation of the treaty?” he asks dryly. Izuku’s eyebrows furrow and he shakes his head.
“Crossing the border established by the treaty,” he reminds him, and Izuku’s face lights up in realization before he looks down timidly.
“Yeah. And finding you on our side of the border would mean they could perceive it as an attack, even if you had done nothing. Then, they’d be free to hurt you, and even kill you,” Izuku winces at that, “and it’d be considered self-defense.”
Shouto takes a deep breath. “So please…don’t be so careless. I don’t—” His breath hitches and he stares resolutely at the grass. “I don’t want to lose you,” he whispers. He doesn’t dare raise his head to look at Izuku, but a scarred hand softly cradling a red rose enters his field of vision.
“Take it,” Izuku says. “It’s a custom among humans to give flowers when one feels affection towards the other, no?”
“Y—Yeah…” He tears his eyes away from the rose and realizes Izuku must have plucked it from his vine-belt. He’s smiling at him again, and Shouto’s heart is fit to roundhouse kick his ribs.
“So, take it. Unless of course you don’t want to,” he adds hastily, “but you said you cared for me, so I thought that—”
“No,” he blurts out before he can stop himself. “No, I want it.” He takes it from Izuku’s hand, gently brushing their fingers together. “It’s very pretty,” he observes. “Thank you.”
“It’s nothing. I think the red rose suits you.” He takes the flower again and softly places it on Shouto’s hair, to his left side.
Once more, Shouto is rendered speechless.
“Regarding what you said before though,” Izuku says, “you don’t have to worry about fanatics on our side or anything. We really don’t mind you. As you know, we are immortal, and the vast majority of faeries lived through not only the last war, but all the previous ones as well. The few survivors remember very well, and they just want peace now.”
Shouto frowns. Few?
“Wait, how many faeries are there left?”
Izuku takes a moment to contemplate. “The number changes every now and then, because some faeries like to migrate or travel, but I think right now...about twenty?”
“Izuku...Just twenty of you…” Shouto tries to wrap his head around it. Of course, faeries last longer against time, but still...just a handful of them was rather depressing. “Don’t you mind?”
“Not really, no.” Izuku shakes his head. “I think it’s better this way.”
Shouto raises his eyebrows. “How so?”
“Well...When you have a lot of us, feuds and animosities break out quite often, even among our ranks. During the wars, apart from fighting with you, we were also constantly at each other’s throats, as far as I know.” Izuku gives him a sad smile. “The losses from civil conflicts rival the losses from the wars we waged against you, you know.”
Shouto nods, still processing all the new information.
“Like I said, I don’t know how things were back then, but All Might —our leader— has told me it was incessant bloodshed, both from humans and other faeries. Everyone that remembers is immensely grateful for this new age of peace.”
“Yeah,” Shouto agrees. “I think the fact that the current generations have no first-hand knowledge of everything that happened is good. The vast majority of us don’t see the point, so we’ve rejected the ‘tradition’.” He grimaces at the word. Despite its meaning, there’s nothing honorable about murderous ways. “We’re just happy we can live peacefully with faeries.”
Izuku gives him a sly smile.
“What?” Shouto inquires.
“Nothing, it’s just that...Sometimes, it goes even further,” Izuku says, not bothering to clarify and piquing Shouto’s curiosity.
“What do you mean?”
Izuku’s knowing smile stretches more, and Shouto’s heart rate picks up.
“You see, there’s this thing...As unfortunate as it was, sometimes humans fell in love with faeries, or the opposite. Unfortunate because not only there were the wars raging on, but also because a human’s lifespan is nothing compared to a faerie’s.”
Shouto’s breath hitches silently, and he’s suddenly too aware of himself and of Izuku.
“Or at least that’s what we think,” Izuku says.
Shouto raises his eyebrows. “Humans aren’t immortal. We know that.”
Izuku takes his hand, and before Shouto can register what he’s doing, he’s pressed a kiss on his knuckles.
“You’re not. That’s true, for better or for worse. But fate has allowed a small loophole, or so we say. Of course, there are some restrictions, but it’s not something forbidden.”
Shouto looks at him, licking his lips, and shakes his head in an inquisitive way. “What is it?”
“Well...both parties have to want it —rather, it should be on both their free will—, but,” Izuku clarifies, then looks him straight on, emerald green eyes meeting grey-blue ones, “if a faerie kisses a human on the lips, the human will turn immortal.”
Shouto’s mouth dries. He’s heard the story before, somewhere, but...
“Oh,” he croaks out. “I thought that was a—a myth, so that faeries could lure humans in—in faerie territory.”
Izuku gives a loud laugh, scaring a few birds perched on the branches high above.
“Most humans think so! We know the truth, but like I said, restrictions apply. Free will is absolutely essential. I think the most recent case of this was actually…” Izuku lets go of his hand, regrettably, and scratches the back of his head pensively. “...Two years ago?”
Shouto’s brows shoot up. His village, two years ago...
“Are you sure about this? It’s a big decision, and you’re quite young,” Chiyo asks.
“Yep!” Kirishima says, cheerful glee coloring his features as he slings his backpack across his shoulders. “I want to go and explore the world! I’ll miss everyone here...” he continues, looking at all the villagers gathered for his departure, “...but there’s something waiting for me out there. I know it!”
So something —someone— really had been waiting for him, Shouto thinks.
“How’s Kirishima doing now?” He asks. Izuku’s eyes widen a bit.
“Oh yeah, you knew him, right? Well, he’s pretty happy, and everyone likes him. He’s a very sweet guy. I do wonder what he was like before, although I guess there isn’t a big difference,” Izuku muses.
“What do you mean?”
“Well, the immortality thing is just one aspect of the process. Technically, the human gains some faerie characteristics —one of those is immortality— like agility or strength, but they don’t become full-fledged faeries,” Izuku explains. “They retain some of their human nature.”
“I see,” Shouto murmurs.
Being immortal...it seems like a terribly long existence. Maybe it’s because he was born human, or maybe because life hasn’t been all that interesting for as long as he can remember, but living was something...stale, in its own way. He can’t say he would have done the same as Kirishima, or that he even understood his choice completely, especially now that he has all the missing information, but he can’t deny that a tiny part, in the deepest corner of his heart, had, in a trembling —frightened— voice, whispered yes.
The admission —what it entails— makes his lungs seize up.
He loves the routine he has crafted back in the village, but...but it’s not what it should be.
Living, he realizes, watching Izuku’s eyes twinkle, or his smile blossom every few seconds, is a stark comparison to merely existing.
He lets his eyes wander, drinking Izuku in, the grace he’s settled on the grass with taking his breath away, fluid even while still. Around them, the forest is overflowing with life, the glittering lake twinkles underneath the sun, which is already dipping below the mountains, having nearly finished its course for today.
He’s never looked forward to speaking to, or even looking at his father, but as Izuku closes his eyes next to him and tilts his head back and a little to the side, enjoying the breeze making the leaves and his robe rustle, Shouto realizes he doesn’t want to go home. He doesn’t want to leave Izuku; or maybe he doesn’t want Izuku to leave him.
Whatever the case, Izuku picks up on it, the warmth he exudes even while lazing around dimming.
Shouto’s throat dries up.
Izuku’s eyes settle on him, and it’s as if he’s carefully picking apart his skin, gently examining the way his muscles wrap around his bones, or how his heart seems to be ready to leap at Izuku’s feet.
It’s a novel feeling. Of course, Shouto has never truly considered himself the master of his fate until recently, and he'd learned from his father that someone would always have a significant impact on his emotions, that he would always lose the earth below his feet, even when paying attention. Especially when he was younger, he knew what it meant for his mental and emotional states, but for them to be completely tied to, to be wholly at the mercy of someone else's actions or words...it's terrifying.
But Izuku...He plunges Shouto in a dizziness, a headlong rush, intoxicating him, but Shouto finds himself longing to dive deeper and never come up for air.
He tried not to think about that impact whenever he was near his father, but Izuku doesn’t seem eager to break him.
“Shouto, is everything okay?”
Quite the opposite; he’s treated him with the utmost gentleness.
Shouto nods. “Yeah, everything’s fine. I was just thinking that the sun is setting.”
Izuku follows his gaze, facing the mountains rising in the west. The last rays of the day transfuse to him a warm orange glow, which contrasts with the green of his hair and the purple of his robe in a way that makes Shouto understand why both the warriors centuries before and Kirishima only two years ago had been able to leave everything behind in a heartbeat.
“I don’t want you to go,” Izuku murmurs, and Shouto’s heart agrees.
“I don’t want to go either. I like being here, with you. I wish I could stay more,” he admits.
Izuku takes his hands, and Shouto really wishes his breath could stop hitching every time he did that.
“You’ll come again, won’t you?”
His first thought is that he shouldn’t. Because this constitutes a danger to everyone —to the faeries, to his village. Should the wrong person find out about their little meetings, it will be hell to pay, and Shouto doesn’t doubt Izuku will take the worst of it. It’s recklessness at its finest, for more than one reason.
But as Izuku leans closer to him, eyes shining with hope and alacrity, and his hand clasps Shouto’s tighter, he knows he will not be strong enough to stay away.
“Yeah. I’ll come again,” he promises Izuku.
“How about this; the next time you come here, I’ll take you to visit the faerie realm.”
Shouto’s breath stutters. Visiting the faeries…
“Is—Is that safe? Won’t it violate the treaty?” he says, even as he feels a longing swell inside his chest, for Izuku, for a land away from his village.
“Yeah. It’s fine if you have an invitation from a faerie —or from a human, if we’re talking about your village— and I won’t leave your side.”
Shouto nods dazedly. “Okay. Alright, yeah.”
“You sure?” Izuku asks. “You don’t have to do this for—for me if you don’t want to.” He fidgets with the vine wrapping delicately around his waist.
“I want to. I’d love to see what your home is like.”
Izuku’s smile betrays he’d love that too.
“Alright. So, you wanna meet again in two weeks, or is that too soon?”
Shouto wants to protest that it’s too late, but instead of giving into his impulses and pouting, he nods. “No, it’s fine. In two weeks’ time, then,” he agrees.
The mountaintops, barely visible, filter out the last sliver of the sun, leaving the pinks, oranges, and purples of the sky to fade out and concede to a soft azure that’s bound to turn much darker in about an hour or so.
Shouto gives Izuku’s hand a firm squeeze, then lets it go as he gets up and dusts off his pants, watching the dust particles rise up.
“I don’t know if it would be...wise for you to accompany me until the forest’s end again,” he says. Izuku nods, getting up as well.
“I know. So, I guess this is goodbye for now.”
Izuku notices his rueful expression and comes closer. “I don’t mind. Because you’re coming back again.” He gives a soft kiss to Shouto’s skin, right underneath where his ears connects with his jaw, causing electricity to run down Shouto’s spine.
“Goodbye, Shouto,” he whispers, and dashes further into the forest, heading for the lake, and leaves Shouto trying to comprehend what just transpired.
The rose sits on his hair unassumingly.
Out of sheer luck, he manages to stumble upon a fox searching for prey while going back, so at least his father can’t complain about the lack of meat again, though Shouto is sure he’ll get an interrogation about what took him so long.
His dreams have been getting more and more bizarre lately, and today’s is no exception. He dreams of emerald rivers overflowing, lightning crackling somewhere far away, violet eddies that spill out sunlight and stardust. All the while he feels himself being pulled in, every atom giving in to the attraction of its centre, until he falls head first, spinning along with the whirlpool while falling, falling, falling.
He wakes up with a start, and gripping the sheets like his life depends on it. His lungs ache for breath.
There’s barely any sunlight filtering through his window, but any and all drowsiness has left him. He scowls, though he’s used to not getting much sleep, and gets up, making his decision in an instant. After putting on a white shirt, along with brown leather pants and his pair of hunting boots, he grabs a few hunting knives as well as his quiver and bow. His father wanted him to be more skilled in hand-to-hand combat, but Shouto won’t allow himself to get rusty in the other departments.
He tip-toes quietly around the house, careful not to wake his father, and slings the quiver and the bow across his left shoulder when he’s outside. His destination is a few miles away, further up north.
He gives his house another glance, then starts walking.
Fuyumi is overjoyed to see him, even if he’s a bit sweaty from the trip.
“It’s been so long, Shouto!” She seats him on a stool, pouring them both some tea and setting the cups on the table when she’s done. “How have you been?”
Shouto looks at the swirling liquid, steam rising up to ghost across his face. He shrugs.
Fuyumi raises an eyebrow, and Shouto is reminded that he isn’t the only person in his family with a heightened perception.
“How’s he treating you?” she asks, clicking her tongue.
“As usual, though I ignore him more nowadays.”
Fuyumi leans, propping her back against the wall. “That’s good. I feel guilty for leaving you alone, though.”
Shouto shakes his head. “Don’t. It’s not as bad, I promise.”
She smiles inquisitively. “You look happier, Shouto.”
Now it’s his turn to raise his eyebrows. “I do?”
He knows he does. He’d just hoped it wouldn’t be that obvious.
“Yeah. More...lively, like there’s something new,” she notes.
He wraps his hands around the cup, relishing in the warmth.
“There is,” he admits.
“Yeah. There’s this, um...boy, I met this boy in the woods a few days ago.”
“In the woods?”
“Yeah. He’s, uh...He’s a faerie, Fuyumi.”
Her eyebrows shoot up, though she seems neither angry nor terribly concerned. She knows he can take care of himself.
“I’m assuming, of course, father doesn’t know about him.”
“Good.” Fuyumi leans forward again, smiling earnestly. “Tell me about him.”
So he does, he talks about Izuku, Izuku’s eyes, Izuku’s smile, Izuku’s heart. He talks and talks and talks, until his mouth feels dry, and Fuyumi has her head tilted to the side while giving him a knowing smile, and his thoughts have converged to one thing.
“He sounds lovely,” she says.
Shouto’s heart betrays him, making his head nod before his brain can have any say. He thinks of how much Izuku has affected his worldview, even if he’s only known him for a few days.
“What’s the matter, Shouto?”
“N—Nothing.” He takes a deep breath, trying to put his thoughts in order. “I just...I’ve just realized a few...things lately, about myself.”
“What things?” She asks softly.
How can he explain? How can he explain the way his heart swells when Izuku smiles at him, when his laugh rings clear across the trees? How can he tell her that in barely two weeks, Izuku has turned his world upside down, that he’s made Shouto realize how dim life was back in the village, that he’s made him unable to stand his father for another second?
It seems as if words are something entirely foreign now.
So he just says, “I like...being with him. It’s peaceful.”
Fuyumi strokes the back of his palm with a pensive look on her face.
“Then what’s the problem?”
Shouto scoffs, irritated, more at himself than her. “I don’t know!” He throws his hands up, nearly knocking over his cup of tea. “I don’t know, I feel—I feel—”
“Guilty! I feel guilty, because—because this is— he can’t know about this, and I just…” He sighs, hiding his face in his palms. “Fuyumi, I’m not—I don’t want to hurt him.”
“How would you hurt him?” Fuyumi rubs soothing circles on his back.
“What if father finds out? We’re not...Izuku was in human land, and you know father will use any excuse he finds to attack.”
Fear clogs up his throat, not just for Izuku’s and his own safety, but also because this is something entirely unknown. Izuku has unknowingly transformed him from a passive existence to an awakened human, and he’s not sure how to operate under that; he never learnt to, at least not entirely.
“I don’t know what to do,” he says. It’s appalling, admitting weakness, but his chest feels a little lighter.
“Do what makes you happy, Shouto,” she says, and he can hear her wish to see him happy in her tone. “You deserve to be happy. You deserve to be free.”
He’s not too sure.
The walk back is more tiring, as if the mental and emotional exhaustion is weighing his body down as well, and it’s a little before sunset when he returns, having caught three rabbits and some squirrels. Not the best, but it’ll do.
“Where were you, Shouto?”
He stops himself a second before rolling his eyes, brandishing instead the dead prey.
“Out hunting.” He grabs his knives and arrows and starts cleaning them meticulously.
“Took you so long for rabbits and squirrels? Pathetic.”
The sneer in his father’s voice makes him grind his teeth.
“I went for a walk as well. The air was rather refreshing,” he responds bitingly.
“And since you killed those—” he grabs the prey by the neck and nearly shoves it in his face, “—using your bow and not your knives, I’ll have to make sure you’ve been keeping up with your training.”
Shit. He always made a bull’s eye shot for his prey, but he’d forgotten to make it look like he’d killed them with a knife.
“Must you?” He sighs, this time rolling his eyes and letting his displeasure shine through.
His father curls his lip and goes to grab him by the wrist, but Shouto jerks away, taking a step to the side.
“Don’t mock me, boy. In five minutes, we start sparring. Make sure you’re done cleaning your weapons until then.”
Shouto tchs, and his father leaves him alone in the kitchen.
The sparring itself is not too bad in Shouto’s opinion, since he gathers only a few bruises, though he’s sure he’ll feel it more in the morning. His father however, disagrees, and as a punishment for his ‘failure’, he forbids him from having dinner tonight.
After he’s munched on some nuts he kept hidden in his room for occasions just like these, he lies down and changes out of his clothes. He pulls the sheets up to his neck, murky thoughts still tangling themselves into intricate loops, no matter his best efforts to put them into order.
The next time he meets Izuku is indeed after two weeks’ time, just after the sun has left its highest position in the cloudless sky.
This time, there’s no startle that will get Shouto’s heart racing, though it seems like the mere sight of Izuku is enough for that. Smart green eyes greet him from where Izuku is sitting with his back against a tree trunk.
“Hi, Shouto.” He motions for Shouto to sit next to him. The trunk is one of the biggest of this forest, after all.
“Hi,” Shouto replies, voice coming out hoarse as he settles next to Izuku. He’s warm, as always. This time, he’s dressed in a white semi translucent blouse and dark leather pants.
“How are you?”
Shouto shrugs. Not that great; his father has been breathing down his throat, but he’s not about to dampen the mood by saying that. “Fine, I guess. You?”
“I’m good.” Izuku smiles. “Better now that I’ve seen you.”
Shouto huffs, rolling his eyes in mock annoyance, though he can feel his pulse spiking at that. “You flatterer.”
“It’s true!” Izuku protests, giving him a playful shove. Shouto smiles.
“Besides, I can’t lie!”
Izuku gives him a teasing look. “However, we’ve found ways to tell the truth...creatively,” he chuckles.
“Do I wanna know what that actually means?”
“Hm, probably not.” Izuku shakes his head. “Still, nowadays most faeries are quite honest to humans, since we live in times of peace. Personally, I don’t find it fair to speak in riddles, so I promised myself that if I ever talked to a human, I’d be honest. Plus, All Might, our leader, prompts every faerie to do so, and he’s amazing!”
Shouto hums. “I really admire All Might. I’ve heard of how he fought to stop the war; he seems like a strong man, that cares a lot about his people, but also us. He’s always had the best intentions when negotiating for peace, or at least that is what others have told me.”
Izuku nods. “He’s incredible, really.”
“You know, though, now I’m wondering about the whole tell the truth creatively thing. Like is there something else about faeries that we are not aware of? Does iron even hurt you, or is that just another myth?”
Izuku nods. “Iron does hurt, a lot. In fact, if too much gets in our bloodstream, it can kill us, though I imagine that can happen to a human, too.” He shrugs. “But, that’s not really a big deal anymore, because very few humans actually keep iron weapons anymore.”
Shouto thinks back to the heavy, ornate, double-edged iron sword hanging above the fireplace in his father’s house, and resists looking down in shame.
“Shouto?” Izuku asks. “What is it?”
Shouto bites the inside of his cheeks. “It’s...nothing, I just…”
“Yeah?” Izuku prompts.
“It’s just...you’re gonna take me to the faerie realm,” Shouto says, apprehensive.
Izuku shakes his head. “Not if you don’t want to.”
“No, no, that’s not it. I want to see what it’s like, but just...won’t you mind?”
“Why would I mind, Shouto?” Izuku smiles, and Shouto purses his lips.
“Because of my father, Izuku! I told you, he doesn’t…” he trails off, sighing.
Izuku rubs his arm. “You’ve said he was raised with stories about the war. Well, how bad can he be now?”
“Very,” is Shouto’s lightning-fast reply, and Izuku jolts. “Izuku, he...he still keeps an iron sword. His life-long goal was to attack the faeries.” Izuku’s eyes are vulnerable, but he goes on. He shouldn’t sugarcoat anything. “There was... centuries ago, our family had a feud with a faerie family. I don’t know their name; it doesn’t matter. This hatred was passed down from one generation to another, and human warring with the faeries made it worse. I’m the first in my family to reject that...tradition. I’m the first in my family to reject the Todoroki pride,” he spits out. “Well, along with Fuyumi —my sister—” he clarifies, “but she moved to another village a while back.”
“I see,” Izuku says. “And your mother?”
Shouto smiles. “She’s...not around. It’s not her fault,” he tells Izuku, “my father was horrible to her. She heavily disapproved of his stance on the whole faerie ordeal, and he just couldn’t stand that, couldn’t stand disobedience. He nearly drove her to insanity. That’s how I got this scar, you know.” He points to his eye, as if Izuku could be confused about which scar. Of course, the one that marred at least a quarter of his entire face. He gives him a smile that must look spurious, but Izuku has gone silent, wide eyes staring back at Shouto.
“She, um...She had a breakdown. I think she was in the kitchen, writing a letter to her mother, but I’m not sure. The only thing I remember clearly from that day is the whistle of the kettle, and then boiling hot water being poured on my face.” He looks up, and Izuku has brought his hand up to cover his mouth, wearing an expression of horror, of sadness.
“Yeah. I remember her starting to cry, then hug me, then apologize over and over again. When father came home from his hunt and saw what she had done to me, he sent her west, to a tribe of healers, along with a letter that just read keep her.”
“Oh,” Izuku breathes. “And...Is she there still?”
Shouto chuckles, despite the heavy atmosphere. “No. Well, my father thinks she is, but truth is, Fuyumi and I went there last winter, and we moved her to another village, up north. Bribed the people to continue writing a letter every year to send to my father. Fuyumi can visit her a lot that way. Of course, I took the beating of my life —sorry, sparring— but it was worth it.”
Izuku’s horrified look tells him he’s getting too cynical, that this must be grotesque for him, and he casts his eyes to the grass.
“I’m sorry if I scared you. I know this is rather...shocking,” he mumbles.
“You didn’t scare me,” Izuku replies. “Or rather, I’m not scared of you. I’m scared for you.”
Shouto’s head snaps to meet blindingly clear emerald eyes staring back at his own mismatched ones, not with fear, but like his heart is bleeding for Shouto.
“You...You mentioned sparring,” Izuku says, tucking a stray tuft of red hair behind Shouto’s ear. “What do you mean? I mean, why do you spar with your father?”
“Hm. Like I said, he loathes faeries. So much so, his life purpose is —or rather, was— to exterminate you.”
Izuku’s breath hitches, and Shouto can’t look up. He can’t, especially not as he says the next words.
“He understood that he wouldn’t be able to do that in his lifetime, mostly because of All Might’s presence. So, that role has fallen on my shoulders. Izuku, he has... practically bred and trained me to slaughter you,” he confesses, and his voice cracks before he’s finished talking. “I’m sorry.”
He expects a scream, a slap, a kick, a punch, maybe for Izuku to drag him in the lake and drown him, eliminate the threat to his people.
None of those things happen.
Instead, scarred hands cradle Shouto’s own, then move to his cheeks and tilt his head up.
Shouto’s throat has dried up, he can’t talk. He gives a tiny nod of his head in acknowledgement.
“Do you wish to do that?” Izuku asks. “Do you wish to kill us? To kill me?”
Shouto shakes his head so fast he feels dizzy. Izuku’s looking into his eyes. He’s quiet for a while. He’s quiet as he stares into Shouto’s soul.
“You are not your father, Shouto.”
The air in his lungs goes still as Izuku utters those words. Unlike a few moments prior, he can’t hear his heartbeat, just the blood roaring in his ears.
His vision is shiny, blurring a bit at the edges.
“You are your own person. Your abilities are your own, your mind is your own, your heart,” Izuku presses a finger against his chest, “is your own, and oh, so, so beautiful, Shouto.”
Shouto nods, while Izuku settles back next to him, saying, “Don’t forget that.”
He doesn’t know if his heart is beautiful, but after that, it feels lighter than it has in years.
The next few minutes pass in an amicable silence, broken only by the lake’s tiny waves crashing against the shores, or the birds’ song.
He turns to ask Izuku something, but Izuku’s already looking at him, a pensive look on his face, and Shouto can’t remember what his question was. He shakes his head in a what is it? gesture.
“Hm,” Izuku says. Shouto eyes him inquisitively.
“Nothing, just thinking about something. Again, this is faerie stuff, but...during the war, faeries used to call those with burn scars ‘kissed by fire’. Kind of like a testament, how they survived fire’s power.”
Shouto looks at the lake’s ripples. His own reflection stares back. The red of his scar mixed in with the clear blue of the lake makes the skin there look deep purple, more like a bruised eye instead of a life-long cicatrix.
“I see,” he replies after a minute. Izuku smiles. “Anyway, I think we should go. I’m curious to see the faerie realm.”
“Alright. Before we go, though, I should warn you about some things.”
“Well...if you’re not a faerie, or even a half-faerie, like Kirishima, the faerie realm might affect you. Like, after you leave, you’ll probably be a little light-headed, kind of like you’re drunk? Yeah, and the more you stay, the more severe that is, unless you stay for more than twenty four hours.”
Shouto motions for him to go on.
“Umm... If a human stays for longer than that...they will be driven to madness.”
Izuku must see the shock on his face, because he is quick to amend. “Of course, we won’t be staying that much at all! No, no, we’ll just be staying for barely a few hours, nothing dangerous, I promise!”
Shouto nods. Still, he asks, “Are you sure?”
Izuku nods furiously. “Yes, of course! I…” He lowers his gaze and Shouto inches closer. “I wouldn’t bring you there if there was such a danger. Shouto, I...Hurting you is the last thing I wish to do,” he admits.
Shouto nods again. “Okay. I trust you. Should we go?”
Izuku perks up again. “Yeah! But still, you don’t have to go if you don’t want to! It’s kind of my fault, because I forgot to warn you about the risks, and maybe I—”
“Izuku, stop,” Shouto smiles gently. “I want to go. I know you wouldn’t do anything to hurt me, all right? So, if we’re going to be there for a few hours, I think we should get going,” he prompts, and Izuku nods.
He gets up and starts taking off his blouse, effectively making Shouto choke on air as he hurries to look away before he can ask Izuku what the hell he’s doing. He screws his eyes shut while facing away, hoping Izuku won’t take his embarrassment for disgust, and opens them tentatively only after hearing a splash. The lake’s surface pushes rings outwards as Izuku re-emerges from below, shaking his head.
“Izuku, what are you doing?”
Izuku takes a deep breath, apparently liking his dive. Green curls stick to his forehead in a way Shouto can only describe as endearing. Izuku frowns, moving his legs back and forth in place to keep afloat, and Shouto has to physically try not to stare.
“I thought we were going to the faerie realm,” Izuku says, a question coming out instead.
“Yes, we are— ooooh,” Shouto realizes. “We are going there swimming.”
“Yes?” Izuku says, then his eyes widen. “Oh, you thought we were gonna walk— We can totally walk if you want!” He exclaims, swimming toward the lakeshore. Shouto shakes his head and tries to suppress the blush forming below his skin.
“No, no it’s fine,” Shouto replies, while his brain screams that this is very much not fine. “I’ll just, uh…” he stutters, placing a hand on his own shirt and gesturing vaguely. Izuku squeaks and turns around, “Yes, of course!”
Shouto makes quick work of undressing, deft fingers untying the strings of his shirt, his pants, the laces of his boots —Gods, why are there so many strings?
“Should I just...leave my clothes here?” he asks, dropping them next to Izuku’s.
“Yeah,” Izuku says, still turned around. “I’ve told you, no one really comes here.”
Shouto hums, then walks to the lake’s edge and jumps in.
The water is cool against his skin, startling him a bit, but overall pleasant.
When he comes up for air, Izuku’s grinning.
The other side of the lake has proved to be very close yet very far, and Shouto isn’t sure if he should feel relieved or despondent about it. During the entire swim there, he was focusing on not staring at Izuku’s arms pushing the water to the side, not staring at Izuku’s legs kicking back in smooth motions, not staring at Izuku’s mouth curling into a lovely grin, not staring at Izuku’s eyes shining underneath the afternoon sky.
Just when Shouto thinks Izuku is about to climb out, he turns and says, “We’re here.”
Shouto’s eyebrows furrow. “What do you mean we’re here? We’re still inside the lake,” he says, as if Izuku hasn’t noticed.
“Yeah, I know, but the actual entrance is underwater,” Izuku says.
“Oh,” is all Shouto has to say, because that actually makes a lot of sense. He remembers his father telling him when he was younger that he’d searched for the entrance for years and hadn’t been able to find it.
Well, no wonder, Shouto thinks, and is eternally grateful to whomever came up with the idea.
“It’s not very deep here, we’ll just swim a bit to the bottom and I’ll open it. After we get in, we’ll be able to breathe.”
He really doesn’t see how that’s possible, but he trusts Izuku. The only problem with this plan is...
“Izuku, how the hell will you be able to see the entrance if it’s in the water?”
Izuku stares for a minute, and Shouto thinks he may have said something dumb. Then, Izuku starts laughing quietly, and Shouto is sure he’s said something dumb.
“Faeries have excellent underwater vision,” Izuku clarifies.
Shouto’s breath nearly hitches, and he’s suddenly very aware of his own nudity. Izuku must notice some of his distress, because he laughs again, adding, “Don’t worry, Shouto, I won’t peek or anything,” and gives Shouto a wink that sends his soul to the high heavens.
“Y—Yeah, I—I trust you,” Shouto stutters, cheeks heating up.
“Good,” Izuku says. He takes a deep breath and grabs Shouto’s hand, barely giving him time to inhale before he drags them both underneath the surface.
Shouto blinks his eyes open. The water is annoying, turning his vision murky despite the clarity of the lake, though it doesn’t irritate his eyes like saltwater does. Izuku is but a blurred shape of beige-white and green lines, but it seems like he’s facing forward, not looking back at Shouto.
They reach the bottom, and Izuku...is pressing his hands against the floor?
Shouto’s eyes widen, and he subsequently tries to blink the water away as a small opening stretches wide, like a rectangular mouth that is yawning. Shouto registers Izuku motioning him to come closer with his hand, and they both go in the opening, which, Shouto assumes, is the entrance.
As soon as he falls through, he takes a deep breath, and he distinctively feels the lack of water. He curls in on himself, ignoring the cold of the floor, and rubs his eyes. He feels something akin to a towel draping him, and he wraps it around himself, wondering if Izuku saw him.
“I haven’t opened my eyes yet, if that’s what you’re wondering,” Izuku says, and Shouto resists a shudder. “I just made sure there would be towels and clothes here before I left.”
“Thank you,” Shouto mumbles, still having his eyes closed.
“Can I open my eyes now?” Izuku asks. Shouto gets up and adjusts the towel, wrapping it around his waist.
“Yeah, go ahead. Can I?”
Shouto blinks repeatedly, his eyes adjusting to the low light of the...cave?
Where are we? Izuku, clad only in his towel, something Shouto does not think about, passes him a robe, like the ones he’s usually wearing, along with some underwear that Shouto does not look at. The robe is a fiery red, Shouto notices, flecked with tiny, white stars. The fabric feels light on his hands, like silk, but translucent and softer.
He turns around to change, and Izuku does the same, the rustling of clothes the only sound disturbing the silence here.
As soon as he’s done and Izuku confirms he’s fully clothed too, he turns again, taking in Izuku’s appearance.
His wet hair is tamer than the usual mess, but still utterly endearing. His robe is a sea-turquoise, complementing his eyes in a way that makes Shouto’s heart skip a beat. He gives him a smile, motioning deeper into...whatever this is.
So Shouto follows, matching Izuku’s footsteps as they walk together. It’s more like a tunnel, Shouto thinks, carved out of stone, and their path is illuminated only by torches hiked on the walls here and there, casting long shadows on the walls.
“What is this place?”
“This is a passageway, of sorts. It leads straight into faerie territory. Technically, faeries can just come and go from wherever, but if we had gone around the lake’s perimeter and then straight in faerie territory, you wouldn’t be able to see it. Humans can only take this route, and for centuries now, it’s protected and kept mostly a secret.”
Shouto hums, thinking back to the passage in the bottom of the lake.
“And when you opened the entrance...how did the water not get in?”
“Hm. It’s very old, and not made by the faeries.” The torches’ flames give Izuku’s face a wicked glow, but Shouto isn’t scared in the slightest. “We believe it formed naturally, and faeries have been using it for centuries, maybe even millennia now.” Shouto lets out a low whistle at that. “As you know, faeries have some remnants of magic in our blood.”
Shouto hums. Everyone knows about magic, but it had already started fading from this world when faeries came to be, let alone humans.
“Well, we believe this tunnel is much, much older than us, so much so that it was probably around when magic was still alive. Therefore it has retained some magic in it, just like we have.”
“I see,” Shouto says, resisting the urge to run his hands over the rough surface of the wall, as if the remaining magic will seep into his skin and make its home in his bones.
Maybe that wouldn’t be so terrible.
A little more time passes in a comfortable silence, no more than five minutes, Shouto believes, until they reach a dead end.
Izuku waves his hand. “We’re not trapped, if that’s what you’re thinking.”
Shouto’s eyebrows raise in surprise, then pull down in a frown when Izuku steps forward and literally pushes the wall in front of them.
The sunlight is blinding after walking only under the flames of torches, and Shouto raises a hand in front of his face.
As stone gives its place to fresh grass under Shouto’s feet, his eyes adjust, and the place surrounding him is nothing short of marvellous.
Technically, it’s not that much different from human territory. The only thing that Shouto isn’t too familiar with is a tiny waterfall rushing into a crystal-clear pond that’s barely deep enough to go up to the middle of his waist, Shouto estimates. The steam rising from it brings over a much-needed warmth that rids him of the last dregs of the cold from their underground trip.
The trees are pretty much the same though, the grass, the flowers, the atmosphere moving in gentle waves, everything is otherwise very similar.
Except, it isn’t.
Trying to explain the intangible difference seems futile, and proves a bit frustrating, as Shouto tries to pinpoint it, but it’s as if everything’s more...alluring. Not in a dangerous way, like a Venus fly trap that lures its prey with sweet promises and then snaps shut, leading them to inevitable death. No, it’s more like a song sung in a foreign language, someone running feather-light hands over his skin, two luminous eyes peering at him from the darkness, yet without bringing the least bit of threat with them.
Izuku lets him marvel over it for a minute longer, watching him as he watches the nature surrounding them, then takes his hands.
“C’mon, we can’t be here all day,” he jokes, except it’s a truth Shouto can’t help but feel dejected over.
Still, it’s difficult to be like that here, so he takes Izuku’s hand and gives it a firm squeeze.
Most of Shouto’s time while they walk through Izuku’s home is spent admiring and committing to memory every single thing he sees, for this is a rare opportunity, and he’s not sure when —or if— he’ll be able to visit again.
When Izuku tells him they’ll meet some faeries too, though, he’s startled from his reverie.
“You, uh...You sure they won’t mind?” he asks, because he has no idea about faerie etiquette.
“Mhmm. No one will have a problem with you, Shouto, and besides, I’ve told the others about this.”
“Some of the faeries I’m close to, the ones we’ll see. Don’t worry,“ he adds upon seeing Shouto’s apprehensive look, “you won’t have twenty faeries waiting for you.”
“Oh, thank Gods.”
Izuku chuckles at that, but Shouto’s heartbeat speeds up as two forms approach from the trees, just inside the forest.
As they get closer, Shouto realizes with a startle that the first one is Kirishima, and the other one...well, the other one looks like a hedgehog made its nest on his head, if he’s being honest, but he guesses he shouldn’t say that out loud.
“Todoroki?” Kirishima asks, then promptly engulfs him in a bear hug. Shouto wheezes.
“A—bit too tight, Kirishima—”
“Oh damn, sorry, sorry.” Kirishima lets him go, then cranes his head back to take a good look at him, and Shouto does the same.
Kirishima is mostly like he remembered him. Except, much like this place, he’s a bit different. His ears are pointy, the faerie hallmark, and his teeth have gotten even sharper, even if it’s just a bit, for Gods’ sakes. He’s wearing a white, nearly sheer, tank top, of sorts, paired with dark brown leather pants. He’s wearing...a flower crown on the top of his head, or at least that’s what Shouto thinks. Kirishima’s smile is cheerful as always, but he looks more...ethereal, otherworldly, than Shouto remembered.
“You look happy,” he says, not voicing his question, but Kirishima understands nonetheless.
“I am. I love it here.”
Shouto nods. “That’s good. The, uh…” he points to Kirshima’s head, “the flowers look really nice too.”
“See, I told you the flower crown was a dumb idea, hair-for-brains.” The other faerie’s voice is deep, gravelly, and he has his hands crossed over his chest, blazing red eyes, and a scowl that rubs Shouto off a bit in the wrong way. He’s dressed in the same way as Kirishima, though his pants are black instead of dark brown, and the laces of his blouse have tangled together.
Shouto decides not to tell him he has three stray daisies in his hair.
“Okay, first of all it was not a dumb idea, and second of all, Todoroki says they look nice,” Kirishima protests.
Izuku chuckles lowly.
“Todo —And you’ll trust a guy that has half ‘n’ half hair?”
“Blasty, I consider that guy a friend,” Kirishima says in a sing-song voice, his tone more reprimanding than sullen, and Blasty just tchs and replies “Whatever.”
He looks less threatening than before, so Shouto says, “So that’s who you left us for, Kirishima? I feel betrayed.”
Kirishima blinks for a second, then dissolves into laughter as Blasty growls at him, “What did you say, half-n-half bastard?”
“K—Kacchan, play nice,” Izuku tries to placate him, but the way he’s trying —and failing— to hold his own laughter back isn’t helping matters at all, so Shouto allows a small smile to grace his lips as well.
“I’m just joking,” Shouto says dryly, but he realizes something from Izuku’s words.
“Fucking whatever, nerd, I don’t give a fuck.”
“Anyway,” Izuku intervenes, “I think I’m gonna take Shouto to visit the others as well.”
“Yeah man, no problem,” Kirishima says, taking Kacchan’s —Katsuki’s, Shouto thinks— hand and dragging him away. “Also,” he calls after a few steps, “you call him by his first name, nice,” and both Shouto and Izuku blush furiously at that.
After a few minutes of walking, Shouto asks, “That was the asshole that calls you Deku, huh?”
Izuku startles a bit, then chuckles. “Yep, that’s Kacchan —well, Katsuki— for you. He’s really mellowed out though.”
“If that’s ‘mellowed out’, I really don’t want to know what he was like younger,” Shouto says dryly, and Izuku lets out a loud laugh at that.
“I—I am?” Izuku asks, and oh shit, he said that out loud. Still, there’s no way Shouto will take it back, so he just nods and looks to the grass tangling between his toes.
Izuku’s breath hitches a bit. “I—Thank you. No one’s ever said that to me before.”
Shouto stares in silent surprise, but Izuku adds, “You’re lovely, too, you know. You’re probably the most beautiful being I’ve ever seen, human or faerie.”
Shouto trips over his own feet in his shock. Izuku catches him, pulling him back by the arm before he has a chance to face plant into the ground, something Shouto is profoundly grateful for.
“Would you—Would you like to meet my mother?” Izuku asks, and even if Shouto can feel his anxieties rising to the surface at that, he nods. If Izuku’s mother is even a quarter as good as him, Shouto’s sure they’ll get along just fine.
“So, you’re the human boy who has seduced my son,” Midoriya Inko says as she ushers them into the house’s kitchen. Izuku sounds like he’s choking on air.
“Mom!” He wheezes.
He guesses this is what it might look like from an outsider’s perspective, and Shouto’s heart skips a beat. He gives her a low bow.
“I sincerely apologize if I have caused you any troubles, ma’am. I assure you it wasn’t intentional, nor would I ever dream of harming your son.”
Silence. Shouto doesn’t dare raise his head.
Then laughter, followed by, “Oh no, no, I was just joking, honey! C’mon, stand tall. And you can call me Inko, it’s fine.”
“Thank you, madam Inko,” he says, and she sighs heavily, much to his confusion, but Izuku just waves his hand.
“Sit, sit,” she gestures on the stools, and he and Izuku sit down tentatively. Her green hair waves from the breeze as she turns around, going back to preparing dinner. “I have to say, I’m a bit curious about you.”
“Really?” Shouto’s throat dries up, his mind giving him all the possible explanations for that, maybe she’s heard of his father, oh Gods, that would be terrible —
“Izuku talks a lot about you, you know, so you can’t blame a mother for wondering what her son’s... friend would be like,” she smiles, and the way she says that word has Izuku stuttering again, “M—Mom!”
She ignores him completely, going about her work in the kitchen while Izuku hides his face in his hands and Shouto’s heart rate settles down. So that’s what she meant, he thinks.
Izuku talks about him?
“Also,” Inko says, and she has that expression mothers wear when talking —and embarrassing— their children, “I see Izuku was right about you.”
“I...about what?” Shouto asks, curiosity piqued while Izuku’s eyes widen.
She gives an indifferent hum.
“You really do have stunning eyes.”
“Mom!” Izuku jumps up from his seat and grabs Shouto’s hand again. “This is it, we’re leaving,” he hisses, while Shouto stares, too dumbfounded to properly reply.
“You’re too mean to me, Izuku,” Inko says, giving Shouto a knowing wink.
They wander around a bit more, greeting some faeries, and as the hours pass, Shouto’s worries over not being welcome have abated. Not one faerie gives him a disapproving look —well, except for Katsuki, but that’s a different story— no one stops to tell him that he’s invading, that he’s not supposed to be there.
It’s even calmer than back where humans dwell.
He’s made his stance on his father’s policies clear, and the other villagers treat him well, he can’t complain, but being the son of someone that wants to start an all-out war and exterminate a species has made people wary of him, and he can’t blame them.
He meets some of Izuku’s closer friends too. Iida, a tall, well-built and well-mannered faerie that startles Shouto with his hand gestures, at least at first, and Uraraka, a shorter, rounder faerie that reminds Shouto more of a pixie, but still looks like she is capable of pulverizing him if he so much as speaks to Izuku in the wrong tone.
It’s well past sunset when they find themselves returning back to the lake, which is glittering like a million sapphires underneath the sky painting itself a dark, saturated blue.
Izuku breaks the silence first.
“So,” he says.
“So,” Shouto replies, lacing their fingers together and smiling, despite their inevitable separation.
Izuku hums and leads them to the hot spring. He plops down on the grass, dipping his feet in the water, and Shouto settles next to him and does the same.
“I really loved you being here today.”
“Me too,” Shouto whispers. “This place...it’s amazing, Izuku.”
Izuku smiles, though it doesn’t reach his eyes. They remain tinted with a sadness that Shouto wishes he couldn’t understand.
“I’m glad you liked it so much. The others loved you too, you know, and...I don’t know, that makes me really happy,” Izuku admits.
“Me too, Izuku. I was so happy today,” he says. “Izuku, you…”
Izuku turns to him, green eyes shining under the rising moon. “Yeah?”
Shouto swallows, and returns the smile. In a moment of bravery, cradles Izuku’s face in his hands, stroking the highs of his cheekbones with the pads of his thumbs. Izuku’s breath cuts off, then starts again, and Shouto speaks up.
“You make me happy.”
He feels, rather than sees, a wetness on Izuku’s skin, and he wipes the tear away, pressing a tiny kiss on Izuku’s nose.
“Please don’t cry,” he whispers in the silence. Izuku shakes his head.
“I’m not—These aren’t tears of sadness, Shouto.”
“I know, but I still don’t like seeing you cry, yeah?”
Izuku sniffles, then nods.
“I think I should be returning you back to the mortal realm,” he says, taking his feet out of the lake and getting up. Shouto follows suit. “Just remember, when you leave, you will feel dizzy, probably, and you won’t be able to focus.” Shouto nods. “However, since the magic from here affects your forest as well, at least a part of it, you might start to feel those effects after you’ve gotten completely out, alright?”
Shouto nods again, and, with that, they start making their way back to his own land.
He doesn’t say that he doesn’t want to leave, doesn’t want to leave neither this place, nor Izuku, but from Izuku’s low sigh and the way he doesn’t let go of Shouto’s hand, he must be feeling the same.
This place is remarkably dull, compared to the faerie realm, Shouto thinks.
Their clothes were, thank Gods, where they’d left them, and they both dressed much, much more slowly than when they had left.
After they’re done, he looks at Izuku, who’s radiating warmth, glow, fondness under the moonlight, and Shouto finds it physically challenging, if not impossible, to move his limbs without him by his side.
He knows that that’s just his heart revolting, screaming, just as he knows why he must leave. And goddammit, he knows this is dangerous, he knows about all the risks, he knows this has gone so, so much further than it should have. He knows, he knows, he knows.
But today, he’s selfish.
He smiles at Izuku.
“Will you accompany until the forest’s edge?”
Izuku smiles back and takes his hand.
When they’ve reached the end, the walk there the shortest one Shouto has ever experienced, Izuku’s smile, instead of disappearing behind sad eyes, stretches longer.
“I guess this is goodbye, then,” Izuku says, and Shouto nods numbly. For now, this is a regrettable goodbye that leaves a bitter taste in both their mouths.
“Well then,” Izuku says, “let me give you a proper farewell.” He stands on his toes, nearly standing as tall as Shouto, and gives him a tender kiss on his scar, just below his eye. Shouto’s knees are weak, and after Izuku breathes a soft, “Goodbye, Shouto,” and disappears into the woods, he feels an unexpected wetness in his eyes, too.
The walk back to his house is a daze, and he finds himself stumbling more often than not. He’s grateful it’s nighttime, for most people have gone to sleep, so, with a little luck, he can avoid questions regarding his whereabouts.
As soon as he stumbles home and manages to close the heavy wooden door, he realizes that, much to his apprehension, that luck is not on his side.
His father is sitting on one of the seats of the table, arms crossed in front of his puffed-up chest, and a scowl accompanied by incensed eyes that make dread drop like lead in Shouto’s stomach.
“Sit, Shouto. I think we need to talk about where you were today.”
Warning: There's some violence in the beginning of this chapter. Please skip ahead if you're uncomfortable.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Shouto freezes, and a petrifying stiffness almost overtakes his entire body.
His father will latch onto anything abnormal, though, so he doesn’t let it show, and instead acts indifferent as usual, going to sit across him at the ebony table.
“Well, father, what would you like to talk about?” he asks, and his father narrows his eyes.
“You know damn well what I want to talk about,” Enji seethes. “What do you think you’re doing?”
Shouto’s heart lurches to his throat at the vicious glare, but he forces it down. “I don’t know what you’re talking about, father.” The flames from the dozens of candle in the kitchen are too bright, and Shouto has to keep from squinting.
Enji slams his hand on the table. “Don’t play dumb with me, boy! I know where you were.”
“Oh?” Shouto raises his eyebrows, because this might as well be a trick to get him to reveal where he actually was. “And where, pray tell, was I, father?”
His heart, previously beating like crazy, stops abruptly when his father says, “With faeries.”
So he knows.
Fear stirs underneath his skin. He swallows.
Enji’s eyes blaze with fury, and he gets up, casting his shadow over Shouto.
“How dare you! I thought I’d gotten it through that stupid head of yours, they’re bloodthirsty beasts!”
The chair slides with a groan across the floor as Shouto mimics him, getting up as well.
“You’re wrong about them.”
Enji bares his teeth at that. “Insolent, insufferable, foolish, just like your mother!”
Shouto’s jaw clenches. “Don’t talk about mom like that. She was a smarter person, a better person, than you could ever be,” he snarls.
“Oh, what do you know? I thought you were mature enough, but it turns out you’re still just a baby!” Enji’s face is red from the anger. “I wasted all those years training you to kill them, and you go and make friends with them!”
“I’m not gonna follow archaic beliefs just because you’re stuck in your own bubble. This is what perpetuated all these wars, and I’m not gonna be your pawn, father. I’m tired of this.” Shouto’s pushing his luck. He knows it in the small part of his mind that has enough self-preservation instincts left, but he can’t think straight right now.
He’s so, so tired.
“You were my masterpiece, Shouto! You were supposed to carry this out, you were supposed to bring an end to this, and instead, you…” he growls. “...Never mind. No matter.” His eyes glint with something so vicious, a spark of madness, perhaps, that makes Shouto feel as if he’s a young boy again, watching helplessly as he hurts his mother. “Never mind. If you want something done right, you have do it yourself,” he says, then lunges at Shouto.
He barely has time to turn his body to the side and avoid the blow. Enji growls and lunges again, and Shouto jumps back, but as he lands, his vision goes fuzzy at the edges.
He barely has time to think as a punch to his gut makes him double over, and a hit to his head sends him tumbling on the ground, away from his father.
He jumps up, and stumbles from dizziness.
His father comes again, but this time, Shouto’s prepared, and his foot connects with Enji’s ribs. A low growl is heard, and then Enji charges again, wraps his arms around Shouto’s torso and flips him over, slamming his back against the table.
Shouto groans as blunt pain explodes along the length of his spine. He feels Enji rushing closer and kicks his legs forward, grunting as they connect with his father’s stomach. He slides down from the smooth surface, but he stumbles again and holds onto the counter.
Blacks dots dance in front of him, and the world’s spinning around him, entirely out of his control.
The faerie realm, he realizes, and as Izuku’s warnings about the side-effects come to mind, his legs nearly give out from the terror.
His father waits for no one, though, and nothing gets between him and his goal, so he surges forward again, and delivers a swift blow to Shouto’s solar plexus. Shouto raises his arms to block the next hit, but his father has him cornered. He goes to knee Shouto, and as Shouto changes his stance, he slams his fist against Shouto’s temple.
The triumphant shine in his father’s eyes and a wicked, metallic silver glint are the last things Shouto sees before his world plunges into darkness.
He wakes up to darkness as well.
Something is scraping his knees, and his arms feel numb and, for some reason, stretched behind his back.
He blinks a few times, his eyes slowly adjusting, and he realizes his hands are tied behind his back, and his ankles are tied together too. Thick rope wraps around his chest, making it harder to breathe, and the other end of it is in his father’s fist. His father is literally dragging him across the terrain, and he can see the forest right in front of them, barely twenty steps away.
It doesn’t seem as he’s realized Shouto’s awake though, since the rope extends behind him.
Shouto tries to collect his straying thoughts, tries to shoo away the smoke billowing in his mind and covering up everything else.
He keeps his breaths steady and quiet as they traverse through the forest. The night itself has gone deathly quiet, and inside the forest, underneath the gigantic, centenarian trees, everything is so, so much darker.
When they reach the lake, the moon’s gleam turning its surface into spilled starlight, Shouto thrashes against his ropes. He has no idea what his father’s about to do, but he has a feeling this is his ultimate move.
Enji turns around, surprise coloring his features momentarily before it turns into smug satisfaction.
“Good, you’re awake. I’d hate for you to miss the grand finale.”
Shouto growls, and thrashes harder, feeling his skin burn as it scrapes against the rocks and gravel scattered below his knees, but Enji snaps his wrist and forces him forward. His chest convulses as the ropes tighten.
Enji strides to him, grabs the ropes around his chest and drags him forward, just before the lakeshore.
For a moment, Shouto’s afraid he’s going to push him in, still tied-up, and leave death to find him, but then, as a cold, hard, jagged surface presses against his throat, his breath hitches as his father’s plan unfurls right before his eyes.
His father grabs him from his hair and pulls his head back, pressing the knife even closer to his skin.
“Where are you, you filthy faerie?” he roars, his voice ripping through the stillness. “I know you can hear me, and if you don’t come out soon, I’ll slit your precious friend’s throat!”
At the threat —no, promise— Shouto’s blood runs cold.
“Izuku, don’t you dare!” he screams into the night, then chokes on his words as the knife digs into his throat and splits the skin there.
“Silence! As if it’s not enough that you’ve proven to be a failure, you wish to ruin my chance at getting rid of one of them? Like hell,” his father spits, pulling at his hair with such a force Shouto’s scalp starts burning.
“And Izuku, huh? That’s very interesting. Well, then, Izuku,” he taunts, seemingly calling at nothing, but Shouto knows they’re not alone, “Why don’t you come save Shouto over here before he’s just food for another beast?” Shouto’s sure of it, and his heart is sinking faster than he himself would if his father dropped him in the lake right then and there.
Just as he thinks that, two figures emerge from the trees’ shadows, to their left.
They’re not charging at them, walking instead at a normal place.
The one figure is Izuku, Shouto feels it before he sees the green curls reflect the moonlight. His eyes are hard to read, something so uncharacteristic for Izuku it throws Shouto in for a loop. Their gazes lock, and Shouto pleads with his eyes, please go.
Izuku’s steady gaze only returns an unyielding no.
The other person is revealed to be a towering man, muscle stretching his flesh and making his veins nearly pop out. His blonde hair seems to shine even with the minimal light the night offers, and his eyes give off a deep blue glow. Just from his imposing stance, Shouto knows who he is, even if he’s never seen him before.
His father’s grip on his hair tightens, the knife’s blade collecting the drops of blood pouring slowly from Shouto’s skin.
Izuku and All Might halt a few steps before them, and Izuku, Shouto notices, is shaking a bit.
“Todoroki Enji, I implore you to stop this,” All Might says, and his deep voice is a lull to Shouto’s ears. “This does not have to end in bloodshed for either side. Your boy is not gravely injured. There’s still time to turn back, believe me.” Staying awake is oh, so difficult.
“Believe you?” His father explodes. “Your kind has brought nothing but death and misery for us! And you want me to believe you, to fall in your trap, so that you can get rid of me when I’m not looking?”
“Father, we’ve...done the same to them,” Shouto rasps.
“Quiet!” Another cut to his throat, deeper this time, and apparently that’s what it takes to make All Might change tactics. Izuku’s breath catches as he sees the blood slide down to his clavicle.
“Enji, let the boy go.”
All Might’s brows form a furious scowl, but, even if Shouto can’t see his father’s face, he knows Enji’s eyes are tenfold scarier.
“Hm. I did say I’d let him go if he,” he points at Izuku, who glowers at him back, “showed up, and I’m a man of my word. I will not deceive anyone, unlike you.” He tucks his knife back and throws Shouto to the side, still bound hand and foot. Shouto grunts at his impact. He opens his eyes, and sees green barrelling straight to him.
“Don’t you dare!” his father bellows, and the characteristic sound of metal scraping against metal brings about the terrifying realization that he’s brought his iron sword.
He leaps for Izuku, and the battle that follows after that mostly passes in a blur for Shouto.
All Might has blocked Enji’s path, deftly avoiding the broad sweeps of the sword. Izuku pulls at the ropes, untying him while his hands redden more and more from the friction. He hisses from the burn.
“Shouto, are you okay?” He sounds so afraid, afraid for him, and furious at the same time. “Are you injured anywhere else?” Shouto shakes his head. Izuku nods and tosses the ropes to the side. “I need you to stay awake for a bit more, alright love?”
Shouto barely has the energy to nod, but a grunt from All Might startles them both.
Izuku’s breath hitches, and, turning back to Shouto, he says, “I’ll be right back, stay here.”
Shouto wants to protest that no, he very much won’t stay here, thank you very much, but before the thought can even form in his clouded mind, Izuku has sprung up and is running to All Might’s aid.
Keeping track of the figures dancing around each other is difficult, their shapes blurring at the edges, and it’s too dark for human eyes to see clearly.
Shouto gets up, stumbling, and shaking his head to clear his thoughts. It works, to an extent, but he wishes it hadn’t when he sees Izuku lunging for his father’s sword and wrapping his palm around the blade in an effort to hinder it from slashing All Might.
Izuku’s cry of pain has Shouto rushing forward to his father, even with his legs just now waking up from the numbness the ropes brought. Izuku jerks back, All Might putting an arm in front of him to protect him, and Shouto’s body collides with his father’s, bringing him down. The sword flies from his father’s hand somewhere to the side, and Shouto has half a mind to hope it’s not going in Izuku’s direction.
A punch to Shouto’s stomach has him doubling over, but he punches back, and the crack his fist makes against his father’s nose offers immense satisfaction. His father knees him, effectively throwing Shouto off him, and he tumbles on the grass.
From the corner of his eye, All Might punches his father’s temple. Shouto can see Izuku rushing to him again, but he manages to get up on his own.
He doesn’t know what to feel when he sees his father lying still on the ground, blood sliding from his nose, down to his cheek, to the grass. He blinks, as if this is an illusion, but when he opens his eyes again, the sight is still there.
“Is he…” His words hang heavy in the stillness of the forest.
All Might shakes his head. “No, young Todoroki. He’s only unconscious.”
Shouto nods, then his heart reels when he takes in Izuku’s bloody hand.
“Izuku, you’re bleeding.” His voice sounds distant to his ears.
Izuku looks down too, as if he couldn’t feel it before, then smiles at Shouto and shakes his head.
“It’s fine. Doesn’t hurt much.”
All Might comes closer to them, and examines the wound.
It’s a long, deep gash, starting at from the skin between Izuku’s thumb and index finger, and running all along his palm, stopping at the edge of the inside of his wrist. It’s bleeding profusely, bright red trickling across the skin, dripping down rapidly.
“It’s deep,” All Might observes, “but I think it’ll heal without any problems. Might leave a scar, though.”
Izuku shakes his head. “I don’t mind.”
Shouto tears off a strip of fabric from his shirt and gently bandages Izuku’s hand. It’ll soak through the fabric rather quickly, he knows, but Izuku beams at him nonetheless, then tears off a strip from the hem of his robe and carefully wraps it around Shouto’s neck, above his own cuts.
A cough from All Might interrupts them, and Shouto’s nearly sure he can see a soft blush dusting Izuku’s cheeks, even with just the moonlight.
“Midoriya, my boy...I have to go tell the others. I hope this doesn’t escalate further, but everyone under my rule has a right to know.”
Izuku nods. “I know, All Might. I’ll return in a while.”
All Might nods, and after he disappears into the shadows, Izuku turns to face Shouto. His previous smile is a bit wobbly.
“You know, I...I was afraid that he was gonna hurt you before I...I was afraid that maybe I’d be too late,” he whispers into the night.
“Izuku, hey.” Shouto brings his palms up to cup Izuku’s face. “I’m here, alright? I’m okay. There’s no need to worry.”
“Alright,” Izuku says.
Shouto feels a dizzying rush in his head and staggers. Izuku steadies him, frowning.
“Hey. You’re with me?”
Shouto nods. “Yeah, I’m just...I was dizzy from our trip, and then he knocked me out, I’m just a bit…” he trails off, blinking owlishly.
“Well, there’s no way I’m leaving you here,” Izuku says, the unsaid with him clear as daylight in his voice. “How about I take you to the faerie realm, just until you can recover?”
Shouto scowls. “Won’t it hurt me if I’m already like this?”
Izuku shakes his head. “No. It’s like...a new cycle will begin. Of course, when you come out after you’re okay, you’ll feel the effects, but your previous hours spent there won’t ‘count’ this time, or anything,” he explains. Shouto’s barely keeping up at this point, but he trusts Izuku with his life —already has.
“Okay. Let’s go.”
Neither of them is eager to swim again, so they just walk along the lake’s perimeter, hands linked together. Shouto’s mind can’t stop coming back to a certain thought though, and eventually, he finds the courage to voice it, when they’re a few minutes away from the border.
“Izuku...You shouldn’t have done that?”
Izuku’s eyes are full of wonder. “Shouldn’t have done what?”
“You...You shouldn’t have come when he...when he threatened me. You shouldn’t have put yourself in harm’s way for me.”
“Shut up.” Izuku’s jaw clenches, and Shouto nearly trips over his own feet.
“No. Remember what you told me the second time we met? You wanted me to be careful, so you said, I don’t wanna lose you. Well, I have the right to be worried about you too. I don’t wanna lose you either.” Izuku’s voice is shaking, but he’s staring resolutely ahead, his hand still squeezing Shouto’s. Shouto’s speechless.
“I...Okay,” is all he can reply. “Alright.”
“So this,” a disembodied voice says, and Shouto immediately pushes Izuku behind him, shielding him with his body, “is the reason why you rejected the family pride, Shouto?”
There, in the flesh and blood, his father stands. His clothes are tattered from the fight, he’s got scratches everywhere, and his left wrist is swollen, but he’s very much awake.
“I always knew you could be better, Shouto, that you should have been better, but I never thought you would be as weak as to fall in love with your enemy.” He spits out those three words with a burning malice that has Shouto gritting his teeth. He opens his mouth to reply, doesn’t even know what he’s going to say, but Izuku is faster.
“With a mere signal from me, every faerie past this border will come rushing here and stand against you, Enji.” His voice is colder than Shouto has ever heard it. He pushes Shouto’s hand off his chest and stands next to Shouto.
“Foolish. And you think that, should you kill me, my people won’t come too, won’t avenge my death?”
Izuku shakes his head. “No, they won’t.”
“Only those that agree with you will, father,” Shouto says, “and those are too few.”
Enji unsheathes his dagger. “Even if your kind,” he spits at Izuku, “kills but a few humans, it’ll mean war.”
Shouto shakes his head. “No, it won’t. The others know what you’re like, and they won’t take it as an act of war. When will you realize that you’re the only one who wants war? Everyone else is content living like this.”
“Like hell they would just—”
“You’ve lost,” Shouto says, meeting his father’s eyes head-on and holding their gazes together, and Shouto’s sure his own eyes are burning with a fire that has grown much taller than his. “You’ve lost, father. Go back.” His father’s eyes nearly bulge out of their sockets at that, but Shouto goes on, relentless. “Go back, and don’t return here. It’s over.”
He can hear Izuku’s low breaths against his father’s ragged, furious ones. His heart is thumping like crazy, and Izuku’s previous words still echo against his ears, but he’s not afraid.
Slowly, like the rock giving into the river’s relentless currents, his father sheathes his dagger back. It’s as if he’s trying to burn holes with his glare through Izuku, through both of them, but eventually, he turns on his heels, and walks away, back hunched.
Shouto holds his breath, and from the way his chest has ceased moving, so does Izuku, but eventually, he disappears into tall shadows, on his way to the village. They spend a few minutes like that, tense bodies stilled against each other, but eventually, Shouto deems the situation safe, and allows himself to relax, while Izuku is less eager to do so.
“Are you sure he won’t come back? I don’t want to be negative, but maybe he’s setting up an ambush.”
Shouto shakes his head. “He won’t come back. His eyes had— He had this look of resignation.” His fists clench. “My father knows when he’s lost.” He smiles. “We’re safe, Izuku.”
Izuku releases a trembling sigh. “Good. I’m glad.”
Shouto nods along. Yet, even now, he can’t help but think about what Izuku had said…
“Izuku?” he asks.
“Yeah?” When he doesn’t reply, Izuku cradles his face in his hands, worry shining though his expression. “Shouto, what is it?”
The fear and adrenaline of the situation catch up to him, his dizziness coming back again, and tears well up in his eyes against his will.
“You...You were gonna—You were ready to start a war for me.”
It’s not a question.
Izuku looks resolutely back at him. “I was.”
“You—” He chokes on his words. No one has ever cared for him like that. “Izuku, you—you shouldn’t have—you shouldn’t have done that.”
Izuku’s forehead nudges against his own, and dark emerald eyes are all he can see for a moment.
“Maybe I should have, maybe I shouldn’t have, but I was. I was,” he says again, shaky breaths tickling Shouto’s lips. “And I would do it again in a heartbeat.”
Shouto doesn’t have a reply for that, but Izuku thumbing away his tears is more than enough answer.
Shouto wakes up much later than he's used to, the sun having gone up a few hours ago. He’s groggy, and a bit disoriented, but that Gods-awful dizziness from before is gone.
“Morning, my love.”
Izuku’s sitting next to his head, one leg crossed underneath the other. Shouto’s heart jump starts at the nickname.
“How are you feeling?”
Shouto hums. “Pretty good. Though all I can see is trees, trees, and more trees.”
“I'm assuming not necessarily in that order,” Izuku says, effortlessly pulling a low laugh from Shouto.
“I still don't get where we are, though, Izuku. I don't remember you taking me in this part.”
“Ah, yeah. Remember when I said that humans could only come in the faerie realm through the lake's entrance?”
“Well, we are in the faerie realm, but since we went from ashore, you can't see it. It's hidden from human eyes.”
“Ah,” Shouto replies. His hand instinctively rises to his throat, and he slowly traces the double cut his father inflicted. It’s closed, and Shouto doesn’t feel any dried blood, but he’s still careful not to pull the skin there too much.
He looks up and finds Izuku’s eyes following his fingers, worry evident in the crease of his eyebrows.
“Izuku, I’m fine,” he says, putting on his best reassuring smile. Izuku’s thumb strokes the back of his palm.
“I know. I just...I just don’t like thinking about it. Thinking about what might have happened,” he clarifies, and ducks his head.
Shouto nods, even though Izuku can’t see him with his eyes lowered like that. “Me neither. But, Izuku, it’s over. We’re good. This isn’t gonna happen again.”
“I know, I know,” Izuku responds, still looking down, “I’m just...worried about you, is all.”
“I know,” Shouto echoes.
The green that surrounds him effectively camouflages Izuku’s home, and an unpleasant, but inevitable, thought rises up in Shouto’s mind.
Where will he live now?
He can’t go back to his father. In fact, he doesn’t even want to be in the same area as him, let alone the same house. Still, even if the other villagers don’t treat him with malice, they don’t know him all that well —or the opposite— thanks to his father’s ways of parenting.
As if able to read his mind, Izuku asks abruptly, “Shouto, what will you do now? Where will you go?”
But what if…
“You can’t go back to Enji, there’s no way,” Izuku mumbles, mind running wild, and Shouto can’t help but cut him off.
“I might have a solution to that.”
Izuku frowns, trying to figure out what possible solution could Shouto have found, but when their gazes lock, his eyes widen in realization.
“You don’t mean…” His voice trails off, but Shouto picks it up.
“Only if you want to.”
Izuku nods, eyes filled with —reverence?— and Shouto’s heart swells with emotion, with such a tremendous amount he can barely process it.
He musters a small smile.
“But first, I have to do something,” he says.
Izuku nods again, deep breaths expanding and shrinking his chest, like he’s run a marathon. He points to his left.
Shouto gets up and kisses the top of his head, then whispers, “I’ll be right back, love.”
His room is a complete and utter mess.
Clothes are thrown haphazardly on the floor, the pillow on his bed is torn in half, feathers spilling out of it, the bedframe is two pieces now, and Shouto’s nostrils tickle from the distinct smell of something burnt.
Looks like his father had found something to take his anger out on.
Well, Shouto shrugs, that just makes things easier for him. Perhaps he’s calmed down a bit, though that seems unlikely.
He toes into the kitchen, and finds Enji sitting on one of the stool, cleaning his hunting knives with a wet rag. His eyes burn with hatred when he sees him, but Shouto hasn’t a care.
“Why are you here?” he spits out, lips curling to reveal his teeth. Shouto rolls his eyes, letting his own displeasure of being here shine through. “There’s no way I’d let you live here after your betrayal.” Shouto snorts at the words, nearly choking on his own spit. He shakes his head and approaches the table.
“I came with a goodbye and a warning,” he murmurs, low enough his father has to stop his growling to hear it. “First of all, I’m going with Izuku. If I’m lucky, I won’t ever see you again.”
His father’s face twists in disgust.
“You’ll go live with that. You threw everything I worked for, everything I raised you to do to the side, all because you were too sensitive, too weak to fulfill your duty.” He sneers. “Too much heart. You really are like your mother.”
“Anyway, that was the first thing,” he continues, not deigning to reply. As far as he’s concerned, that last line was the highest praise his father has ever given him. “The second thing is, like I said, a warning. Do not try to get me back. And don’t you dare try to harm Izuku or another faerie, because if you even think about doing that,” he threatens, grabbing his hunting dagger and stabbing the table with it, “I will kill you myself, and that is a promise.”
He can feel his eyes emitting his rage at the mere possibility of his father hurting Izuku, and his father, for once in his life, doesn’t have anything to say back. Bitter acceptance rolls off him in reluctant waves, and Shouto turns on his heels.
“Goodbye father,” he says, then lets the door close behind him.
The walk back to the forest offers more peace than he’s had in a while, fresh air allowing him to think.
He can practically taste the tranquility the landscape offers, and Gods, it leaves a pleasant aftertaste in his mouth. The forest had always been his favorite place, though usually it was because his father hadn’t tainted it in Shouto’s memories. No, the first time he went in the forest to hunt was after his father’s order to do so, with only a handful of hunting lessons under his belt. Still, he’d managed to catch a squirrels, and brought it back to his father. Seven year old him did not cry when his father raged, because I expected a fox at least, how dare you showcase your weakness like that.
Shouto doesn’t get angry when memories like those flood him like they do so many times. Instead, he accepts them, familiarizes himself with them —more than he has already— then lets them go. His father won’t be a problem anymore, and his future is shining brighter than he ever could have imagined, happiness beckoning him closer, and he eagerly follows it, follows the sweet melody of his dreams.
Izuku’s waiting for him at the lake, wearing exactly the same robe he wore the first time they met, that translucent lime green soothing Shouto.
“Hi,” Shouto says. Izuku takes both his hands in his own, using that as leverage to bring Shouto closer. Shouto chuckles.
“Everything alright?” Izuku asks with a smile of his own.
“Yeah,” Shouto nods. “Yeah, everything’s fine.”
Izuku hums, settling his head between Shouto’s shoulder and neck. He closes his eyes and sways, wanting to move Shouto along with him. Shouto obeys with a raise of his lips.
“Good,” Izuku sighs. His eyelashes tickle Shouto’s throat, awakening chills underneath his skin.
They waver like two leaves slowly flying from the breeze, caught in each other, and he closes his eyes, burying his face in Izuku’s hair. His mind vaguely records the sounds nature offers, animals running abound, leaves and twigs crunching below their feet, foliage crinkling against the wind, but he can’t pay those much attention. Doesn’t want to.
Eventually, he pulls back, still holding Izuku’s hands.
“So,” Izuku says.
“So,” Shouto replies.
“Are you sure about this?” he whispers, the softness of a flower petal spilling from his lips. “There can be no turning back.”
“Even if there was, I would never want it.”
Izuku’s eyes are shining. Shouto cradles his face, and brings his lips just shy of Izuku’s.
“You’ve changed me,” he confesses. “I love you.” He can’t help the tear that escapes from his left eye, running over his scar. Doesn’t want to.
“I love you,” Izuku offers back, and oh, how those words soothe his soul. He swallows, then takes a deep breath, then smiles. Izuku returns it.
He meets Izuku’s lips slowly, as if approaching a startled deer, though he’s sure he’s the scared animal here. He tilts his head to the side, feels Izuku’s sighing into their kiss, his hands drifting to Shouto’s waist, fingers landing there one by one. His heart is not racing, but it beats deeply instead, the sound reverberating in Shouto’s ears, or maybe it’s so loud because Izuku’s heart beats along. He lets one hand cup the back of Izuku’s head, and uses the other to bring them closer together, drinking his love in. Breathing in, out, his blood running wild in his veins, as if it’s forgotten it’s supposed to flow evenly, supposed to keep him functioning. Izuku’s lips are a blessing, and when his tongue tentatively darts out, kitten-licking Shouto’s lips, Shouto smiles so wide it hurts, breaking the kiss.
They stay wrapped in each other’s embrace for a minute, weight of his action sinking into their bones, but Shouto’s smile doesn’t disappear. Izuku feels softer, somehow, underneath his touch, and the air he breathes tastes sweeter, like the nectar is pouring out of the flowers and travels straight to him.
He steps back and opens his eyes.
Everything’s more focused. It’s as if he’s gained the ability to see further and clearer —and well, he supposes he has. He can make out a ladybug making its way across a leaf on the tree a few feet behind Izuku, as well as the tiny grey and brown pebbles that constitute the lake’s bottom.
The breeze that caresses his skin is more pronounced now. A sudden snap of wood has his eyes darting over to the source of the noise, which turns out to be just a squirrel scuttling across and scaling a tree’s trunk.
His eyes find their way back to Izuku eventually. His gaze is unnerving, although Shouto doesn’t think he realizes it. But with his hair all mussed up, eyes blown wide open while inspecting him, lips red and puffy from their kiss, Shouto can only feel affection towards him.
“Shouto, are you alright?”
“Yeah.” Izuku looks stunning under the soft sunlight. “I'm perfect.”
He clasps Izuku’s hand, tracing his thumbs across his scars, feeling their roughened edges scrape the calloused pads of his own thumbs. Izuku leans in to brush his lips on the skin between Shouto’s neck and jaw.
Pulling back, he asks, “Shall we?” Light dances in his eyes.
Shouto gives him back a kiss on the cheek, teasingly close to his mouth.
“Yeah. Let's go.”
Facing forward to the future, they take their first step together.
And this is it! Thank you for reading, hope you liked it!
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