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Forestial

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Eyelids slowly lift, forest green peeking through, anticipating the blinding white light provided by the morning sun. They quickly close again. Too bright.

Izuku yawns loudly, extending his arms overhead until thin fingers brush the smooth teak wood of his bed frame. He rolls over, pulling with him the fur and wool cocoon he’d formed around himself in sleep, before deciding he ought to wake. He does a few sleepy stretches—pressing hands into the mattress and arching his back, extending his legs to the end of the bed. Then he sits up on the side to reach for his toes, doing his best to keep his back flat with relative success.

Feeling slightly more functional, he climbs out of bed and pads a few steps across the room to peer at the smoothly polished obsidian hanging on the wall. He looks blearily, making a face at his own messy appearance. His wild green waves look especially unruly, so today will require a rinse in the river. While the river won’t tame his stubborn locks, the water will weigh them down enough that as they air dry, they should at least sit in a… sort-of attractive manner. If they don’t, then, well... he tried?

Izuku’s sharp eyes glance around the varying surfaces of his modest, single-room home, searching for some clean clothes to wear on his trek to the water. He finds only those laden with sweat from his daily training hanging over the back of his desk chair, plus a small pile at the base of his bed which have been present for who knows how long. He sighs in resignation as he pulls on an old white tunic and light brown pants he wore yesterday. This means he’ll have to do the laundering today, too.

He grabs the burlap sack hanging by the door and stuffs the dirty clothing inside to carry with him, crinkling his nose at the stench. After slipping on his worn leather boots, Izuku drags open the heavy oak door, throwing the bag of clothing outside. He then uses both hands to pull it shut again, locking it for good measure. He isn’t sure why he locks it. It’s not as though anyone around here would bother his things. Besides, if they really wanted to enter, they could just as easily get through with a bit of magic.

Izuku is amazed by the magic that surrounds him on a daily basis. Almost all fae have at least one major ability. Shouto can create fire and ice, Shinsou can manipulate one’s thoughts, and hell, even Denki can use magic during a thunderstorm. There is something special about the identity, the power it gives them that Izuku just can’t help but envy. He has half given up on the belief that he will develop magic at all.

Most fae manifest a calling by the age of 8, and he is now nearing 23. Izuku’s father was ( is? ) fae, but he knows little else of him, let alone what his aptitude may have been for. Izuku spent his younger years with his mother, Inko. She was elven, and, though she lived over 300 years, she was never able to perfect any magical skill that he knew of.

Because he lives in a town filled with fae, he doesn’t know much about elven magic, aside from the fact that it can develop later on in life. Being part elf, Izuku is hopeful that he’ll be able to learn something useful eventually. But, still, nothing so far.

Instead, he chooses to rely on his intelligence. Izuku knows everything there is to know about the plants of this region and is particularly gifted in using them to heal. He is, for all intents and purposes, the healer of his village, even without any healing magic. He works to counsel those who are unwell, to patch up the warriors when they return from a hunt. He grows many of the medicinal herbs he uses in his own yard so that he can have them prepared at a moment’s notice.

He considers the plants he passes now as he begins the long run to the river, dirt and stone crunching beneath his feet as his legs pick up a familiar burn he loves to hate. Izuku enjoys this trail—the sounds of birds in the trees, the scents of pine and oak and brush. Nature plays a melody his heightened senses are attuned to—the senses that his elven half provides. If he chooses to pay attention, he can even pick up the scent of feelings—pheromones, really, released unconsciously from those who may feel strongly in some way. It’s particularly easy if he knows them well, olfactory nerves familiar with their varying moods. He’s not sure what he smells like, but he wonders sometimes if his scent reacts in the same way as those of the easily-readable fae.

When he finally reaches the river, he takes a deep breath and opens his sack, removing the disgusting materials inside. He runs rope through the sleeves of each shirt, then through one leg of each pair of trousers. He ties one end to a tree, and after stripping down and wading in, he loops the other end over a large branch lodged mid-stream. Now, the currents can rinse through the material, reducing the amount he’ll have to physically scrub at it. No one can say that Izuku isn’t efficient.

Time to focus on himself. He takes the bar of tea-tree soap he’s created and scrubs his entire freckled body, sure to get behind his large, pointed ears. Then he grabs another one of his creations, a liquid mint detergent, and rubs it over the clothing he’s got on the line. As it rinses, he relaxes, closing his eyes and enjoying the smell of fresh air, the feel of the cool current gliding over his skin. He listens to the quiet birdsong of the morning, the trembling of leaves in the large trees overhead.

A rustling nearby startles him into jumping upright, quick gaze searching his surroundings for motion.

There isn’t much of a need to carry a weapon around the village, as the fae don’t really use them. His best bet would be to avoid whatever predator may be lurking. Izuku knows he isn’t slow. He could run, but his curiosity has already gotten the best of him. Until he can identify the threat, he lowers himself deeper into the waves, leaving just his head exposed. When he tilts forward, his moss green waves help to camouflage him into the water. A passing glance would not identify him, and he can still hear and smell like this.

Ears peaked for the slightest of sounds, there is nothing but the wash of the river against granite. No scents are revealed but that of the water and his own soap. About 30 seconds later, the noise begins again, and he is finally able to pinpoint the quivering of brush on the eastern shore of the river. Looking closely, he can see the leaves moving—so modestly it could have been attributed to the wind... if there was any.

The motion stops again. He waits.

After a few minutes of holding still as stone in the moving water, he comes to the conclusion that there is no threat. There must have just been some small animal moving past. He relaxes and wades over to the brush, parting the branches and peering inside. What he finds brings a frown to his face: the culprit was a small sugar glider, half buried in twigs and torn greenery. Typically, he finds them up in the trees, high on the vines and branches of lush foliage… almost never on the ground.

Tilting his head in thought, he considers.

Unless…

He reaches for the small creature slowly, doing his best not to scare it off. It looks at him with intelligence, observant but unmoving, almost as if already resigned to whatever fate would come. He places his palm on the ground and slides it gradually through the dirt, towards the brown fur, doing his best to be non-threatening. It hisses at him, reeks of anxiety, but still does not move. When his hand eventually meets its destination, the glider crabs, jerking backward a bit, but freezes when he lightly brushes along its fur with one fingertip. It continues to watch him, tense.

That’s reasonable.

He’s much larger than this tiny thing—it would fit in the palm of his hand—and he’s crouched here naked in the dirt, smelling like foreign soaps and some weird inter-species blend. If he were being approached by something like himself, he’d probably be a bit concerned, too.

It must be badly injured—there’s really no other explanation for the fact that it’s still here. Sugar gliders are fast, nimble things, and most certainly would not allow Izuku to get this close otherwise. Even when hurt or ill, they are notorious for hiding it and pushing through the pain so as not to alert predators of their weakness. It must be in agony.

“You poor thing,” he whispers. “I’ll help you. I promise.”

He curls one hand over its back and slides the other beneath it, scooping the tiny animal from the ground to examine it. It’s not too happy with him doing so, but a full and thorough exam of the animal reveals that its left hind leg is broken—lumpy and misshapen, eliciting a hiss from the glider on palpation. He notes the healthy, shiny fur, meaning the sugar glider has eaten well recently—it hasn’t had the injury for long. Oh, and the little guy is male. When he finishes his exam, the sugar bear relaxes, curling up as much as it’s able with its injury. Izuku cups his hands around it, effectively closing it off from the outside world. Izuku has already resolved that he will nurse the injured animal back to health. Once it’s able to glide again, Izuku can release it back to the wild, and it can go on to find its previous colony. He smiles, feeling giddy and warm—excited at the prospect of caring for another being. Izuku loves to feel helpful, useful.

New goal in mind, he makes his way back to his bag, folds it up in a few layers, and places his new friend inside, closing off the haven with more material. Then he gathers all of the wet clothes from the river, ringing them out as best he can, and lays them out on dry, hot stones, encouraging water to evaporate. When he’s finished that, he places the burlap sac containing the little glider in his naked lap to wait, slipping his hand beneath the material to softly stroke the animal’s back with his index finger. The smell of anxiety has dissipated somewhat, revealing one of warm honey and cedar. It releases small, soft sounds of contentment in its sleep, and Izuku relaxes backward to be more comfortable as the clothes dry…

---

When he wakes, stiff and aching from his terrible position along the water’s edge, Izuku risks a glance at the sky. The sun is too high. Already midday? He must have fallen asleep and for much, much too long. A shock of nerves run through him as he checks his lap to make sure the injured glider is still there. When he raises the edge of the material gingerly, the animal rouses, lifting its head from behind the warm sunshield its wrapped tail was providing to look at him. Izuku sighs in relief, placing the little bundle on the ground as he reviews the status of his clothing. He deems at least one outfit dry enough to wear home and pulls it on with haste. The glider fits nicely into the pouch he’s sewn to his pants as a pocket, and it cuddles up against his thigh, relaxing enough to sleep after just a few minutes. Once he determines his friend has settled, he packs the remainder of his now clean clothing into the sack and begins the hike back to the village.

It takes over an hour to get back home; Izuku doesn’t want to run for fear of jostling the glider’s injured leg. As he approaches, he sees a figure waiting outside, seemingly asleep in a slouch against the door. He can just make out the red and white he’s grown so fond of.

Shouto.

Oh! Shouto! Damn it!

Izuku had agreed to eat today’s meals with their leader a few days ago. Well, been bribed into it, really. Shouto is always on him about working too hard, and finally mandated—in a nice way?— that he take a day off. Izuku complained—the village leader doesn’t take enough time off himself, after all. Why should Izuku have to? As a compromise, the other promised he’d take the day off too, and that they could spend it together to verify that they both have the necessary day of rest.

Yes, “verify that we both have the necessary day of rest” is the language that Shouto used. Izuku doesn’t speak that way.

This, Izuku agreed to, if only for Shouto’s sake. But, when he made the plans, he hadn’t expected to do laundry, or to come across a new patient who needed help, or to fall asleep on top of all that.

It’s been a morning of surprises.

Izuku rubs the side of his face in exasperation, already dreading the disappointed, why’d you do something so idiotic glare he’s grown used to receiving from Shouto at times like this. Gritting his teeth, he finishes his trip, stopping at the front door and taking in the form seated outside.

Shouto is beautiful, really. His hair, always smooth and shining, hangs loosely around his face, framing it in the warmth of flame and the sharpness of glaciers. His clothes, though always relatively loose and modest, can’t hide the strength of his figure, with broad shoulders and strong, muscular limbs for one of the fae. He looks so peaceful in this moment, brow relaxed, shoulders low. His posture is lacking in its usual formality.

Izuku likes it. He knows the usual tense decorum will return when Shouto wakes. He really, really wishes he didn’t have to wake him.

Cringing, he nudges the faery’s foot to gently rouse him, trying to mentally prepare for the scolding he’ll receive. Shouto’s long, silvery lashes flutter, gradually opening to focus on Izuku’s shoes. He blinks a few times before his gaze darts up to Izuku’s freckle-spattered face, wide in surprise and then settling into… relief?

“Izuku?” he gasps softly, one red and one ice blue eye searching Izuku’s own, worried.

Immediately, Izuku’s gut grows sour, curdling like spoiled milk left out in the heat.

This is so much worse than disappointment. He’d disappeared half a day with no explanation, all his clothes missing, ditched his plans with Shouto… the fae must have thought he’d left town. God, Izuku could be so stupid sometimes. He should have told someone where he was going. Shouto probably spent the entire time panicking… not that anyone else would be able to tell. The guy is so stoic.

“Ah.. Hi, Shouto,” Izuku tries, sharing a half smile with the man still seated on the ground. He puts his hand into his oversized pocket, gently petting the furry friend sleeping inside to remind himself that he did something nice today; he’s not a total asshole. He’s rewarded with a tiny chirp.

Shouto stands, brushing off his trousers and composing himself for a moment before responding. “You were gone a while,” he says, “I waited here at your door for about two hours before I started feeling drowsy.” He reaches his arms overhead in a stretch, leaning side to side as he speaks, trying to appear nonchalant. Izuku knows better, the scent of concern comes off him in violent waves large enough to capsize a battleship.

Izuku bites his lip, brows curling in apology. “I know...” he murmurs, “I- I’m sorry. I realized this morning I had no clean clothing and- and I needed to wash, but then when I got there I heard something in the bushes... and I found this little hurt sugar glider!” he motions to his pocket, but Shouto’s eyes don’t leave his own, “Ah, Shouto you should’ve seen the poor thing,” he can hear himself rambling, voice picking up speed with his nerves, “He was barely able to move, and I- well, I just couldn’t leave him there alone! So I had to examine him... but- but then, I found that his leg was broken... and I just had to help him so he could rest... But I didn’t mean to fall asleep too and—”

His onslaught is interrupted by strong arms surrounding his torso, warm and familiar, squeezing tightly. Shouto pulls him closer, burying his cheek in Izuku’s clean, soft hair. He can feel the other’s heart beating against his own—a welcome feeling, one that soothes.

“I’m just glad you’re back.”

Izuku inhales deeply, breathing in the rare scent of trickling streams and bubbling brooks. Shouto’s contented aroma always brings Izuku comfort; it’s a scent that manifests only for him. He wraps his arms around Shouto’s waist and nuzzles his face against his chest. They fit pretty well together, he thinks.

“Me, too.”

After a few good, long minutes, Shouto releases Izuku from his tight hold. Izuku pouts a little at the loss of contact, but he doesn’t chase it. He knows that in a few moments, Shouto is going to get over his relief at seeing Izuku return, and then he’s going to get that lecture. Shouto clears his throat and slides his hand smoothly from Izuku’s back down his arm, grasping his hand gently.

Here it comes.

“The next time you feel the need to take a day trip, I’d like if you alerted me or one of the warriors so that you aren’t alone,” he begins, stoic, emotionless. Izuku opens his mouth to interrupt, but Shouto doesn’t let him. “At least let us know where you are. What if you hadn’t returned today? What do you think I would have done, Izuku?” His façade crumbles near the end, voice cracking like ice underfoot in early spring, fragile.

Izuku freezes and pulls his hand away.

“I don’t need a babysitter. I can take care of myself, Shouto. You know I can.”

It’s not fair for him to require an escort. Being without magic doesn’t make him useless, doesn’t make him weak. He’s completely capable of caring for himself and he resents that anyone might think otherwise. Shouto knows that, and Izuku’s poor behavior doesn’t excuse his own.

Shouto drags his now free hand through his hair and groans. “I’m not saying that you can’t. I just—” he pauses, measuring his words and his breath as he inhales deeply through his nose. Letting it out, he continues. “Izuku. I just can’t help but want you safe. If I had it my way, you’d be by my side always. But, I know I can’t do that to you. I know you can’t be restricted in that way. Can’t you at least keep me informed?” he asks, eyes flicking between Izuku’s pair of forest green. ”Please?”

He looks so timid, so uncomfortable in that moment that Izuku relents. This is probably as close to begging as Shouto ever gets, and Izuku knows it takes something serious from him every time. He takes the hand currently mangling Shouto’s perfect hair and flips it over, tracing gentle patterns on his palm with his index finger, spelling words he wishes he could say, wishes he could mean.

“I know you worry that I’ll… that I’ll run again,” he looks up from his ministrations to lock eyes with Shouto’s pained gaze. He steels his voice. “I won’t. I know where I belong now: here, with you, with our friends. I’m not going anywhere. I promise.”

Shouto looks back at him, searching. For what, Izuku isn’t sure. But he must find what he’s looking for because he exhales a sigh of relief and turns his hand to take hold of Izuku’s once more, leading him toward the doorway. Izuku unlocks it before grabbing his sack of clothing and taking it inside.

“You didn’t let me finish telling you what happened, by the way.” He dumps his clean clothes onto the bed, spreading them out. Some are still slightly damp and need to air dry. He doesn’t have the energy to hang them on a line right now, so this will just have to do.

“I found this little guy!” he reaches into his pocket, pulling out the small sugar glider for display. He grouses, but resettles when Izuku cups both hands around him to block out the light.

Shouto raises a brow. “A chipmunk?”

Izuku rears back, shaking his head, offended. “No, he’s a sugar glider.”

Shouto leans closer and peeks at the fuzzy ball hidden in scarred hands. “It just looks like a small squirrel. I don’t think I’ve ever seen one before.”

Izuku huffs in exasperation. “He’s a marsupial, not a mammal!” He wants to throw his hands in the air for emphasis, but that would upset his new charge, so he refrains. “Like Kangaroos?” He raises his brows and his voice higher toward the end, as if a new octave will make a difference.

At that, the dual-wielding faery exhales quickly through his nose—a laugh in Shouto mannerisms. “Okay. He is a... marsupial,” he repeats, testing the word on his tongue.

Izuku rolls his eyes and giggles. Shouto is very intelligent when it comes to magic and politics, but the guy really needs to get out more. “He likes to sleep in a tight, cushy space. Here—hold out your hands.”

He transfers the glider to Shouto’s waiting palms and leaves him standing awkwardly in the middle of the room to gather necessary materials for splinting. When he returns, Shouto is in the exact same position, in the exact same spot, holding the glider as though it is the most fragile thing he’s ever seen. The sight makes Izuku snort. What a dork.

“I’m back! Just stay still while I treat his broken leg, okay?” Shouto nods, so Izuku gets to work, smoothing the limb with a salve to reduce the pain and swelling, then splinting it with wood and wax.

“Okay!” Izuku chirps once he’s settled, “I think this is good.” He looks up to meet Shouto’s deadpan expression.

“Can we eat now?” Shouto asks.

Izuku’s stomach growls audibly in response.

---

A few weeks later, Izuku is sitting at his desk, attempting to document the care he provided to Ibara, a female-appearing faery with cascading vines for hair. She uses magic to grow them to great lengths in combat, particularly useful for capture during hunts, but recently has been unable to sprout them beyond her waist. Izuku developed a new medicinal liquid he thought would help her to grow them more quickly. He will have to document carefully how she progresses in her abilities to utilize the greenery after taking the medicine today.

The problem, however, is that Aki is wide awake and wanting attention, climbing all over his clothes, up on top of his head, and then jumping off to glide all the way over to his bed. Rinse and repeat. Every time he tries to write something, he feels little claws clinging to his legs, ears, or hair, and he gets distracted again. He wonders if this is what it would be like to have children.

He scoops the little glider from his hiding spot in Izuku’s mess of green waves and holds him in his palms, just in front of his face. Aki cocks his head playfully, grabbing his thumb with both hand-like paws and nibbling. It tickles, and Izuku grins.

“You know you’re cute. That’s the problem.”

At that, the Aki hops from his hands and glides to the floor before bounding over to the bed and climbing up the blankets. Izuku can’t help the giggle that escapes him before he forces himself back to work.

‘Two parts bone meal, One part grass clippings finely grind the ingredients before

His thought process is once again derailed—this time by a frantic pounding on his door, so forceful that it rattles his ink pot. He looks back to check on Aki, and is unsurprised to find the little creature sprinting across the floor towards him. He darts right up his trousers and dives into his pocket, scared by the noise. Izuku pushes his chair back, slips on his shoes, and answers the door.

“We are in need of your assistance.” Tenya Iida is drenched from the rain and panting. He uses one hand to brush damp blue bangs from of his aquamarine eyes and fixes Izuku with them, pleading. “Now, Izuku. You must come right away!” He motions stiffly toward the village center.

Though he can sometimes be overdramatic, it’s unlike Tenya to be so panicked. Something quite serious must be going on. Izuku nods and follows him outside. Running along with Tenya is a challenge—the faery is gifted in speed—but he manages, pushing harder, faster. He sees a fire lit ahead, hears the whispers of panicked onlookers. He doesn’t catch exactly what they say, too distracted by the smell.

Blood.

The metallic scent burns his nose, interrupted only by those of death and terror. Dread unfolds in his heart, reaching out and clawing over his lungs, making it difficult to breathe. Death means he can’t help; he can’t do anything for a person already gone. But the scent of fear forces him to suck in air. Fear means something is still there to lose. Fear means action is necessary.

Breathe. Focus. Observe.

Beneath the scent of horror, there’s something else… Something familiar that he can’t quite place. He shoves that thought in a box to open later and keeps moving, straining even with perfect sight to understand the scene ahead. He sees Shouto, standing aside, observing. Denki is kneeling next to someone else he doesn’t recognize, crouching in the dirt. There is another figure lying on the ground, totally limp, unmoving. Izuku can’t make out who it is, but he knows something is terribly wrong. The crouched man seems to be holding pressure to his back – not dead then. Where’s the morbid scent coming from?

Izuku heads toward Shouto—he’ll give the most reliable report. He’s breathless when he arrives, expecting there to be stress in the air from the fae. Instead, Shouto’s eyes are cold, his scent shifted to stagnant water, unmoving—ice. He stands with arms crossed, unemotional, over the scene, only warming when he sees that Izuku has arrived.

“Izuku—”

“What happened? What do they need?” Izuku’s words are sharp, serious. He doesn’t want the pleasantries. He wants to do something.

“These are elves from Azmarin.” He pauses, knowing this alone would shock Izuku to silence. Azmarin is the elven capital. Izuku’s mother was from Azmarin. He didn’t grow up there, but she never told him why she left, either.

“Their hunting party was attacked by a band of wild orcs a few miles from here,” Shouto continues slowly, making sure that Izuku is still following. “This one says there are no other survivors from their group. He carried his friend to the nearest village… which just happened to be ours.” He nods toward the redhead who crouches by the body on the ground.

No, not ‘body.’ Elf .

The stranger doesn’t even glance up, just continues pressing against the guy’s posterior shoulder, brow furrowed in concern, eyes glassy. He smells like a sweat soaked summer night, tainted by the bitter stench of fear, sadness. Izuku imagines that he probably has a nice, sunny scent on a good day, but anguish will do that to people. It can ruin them. It always ruins their scent.

He steps closer and kneels next to him, getting a better look at the covered injury on the back of the prone form. Izuku anticipates exactly what he finds – a shock of red, a stain spreading between the man’s thick fingers. There are no claw marks, no bites anywhere that Izuku can see. Just cuts, slices over the body’s arms and shoulders. That’s good; it’s less likely to get infected. He can’t actually see the skin of the elf’s legs, but his trousers are relatively intact. He doesn’t see any head injuries either—blond spikey hair mud-covered, but not bloody.

He takes a deep breath, mind running overdrive to decide what injuries might be present but not visible, deciding what steps he must take to help this elven stranger survive.

He turns to the conscious elf on his right. “How did this happen?” he asks, tilting his head pointedly toward the bleeding wound. Now that Izuku is taking the time to look, he sees the redhead has a number of cuts and scrapes as well, one larger gash running through his right eyebrow. That’s going to scar.

The stranger finally looks up. “Arrow,” he says, vermillion color barely visible around adrenaline-dilated pupils. He gives a wry smile, and Izuku sees that his teeth are sharp, like a shark. “Clean hit. Can you help him?”

Izuku declines to answer, instead moving directly to action. While he can lie, he doesn’t like to.

He won’t make any promises he can’t keep.

Chapter Text

It’s tough to suture by candlelight, but Izuku is no novice, having done this a thousand times before. This stranger, however, has a larger number of wounds than Izuku initially noted, and the depth of his shoulder injury is greater than expected. He remains unconscious throughout the procedure, without any sort of anesthesia, and Izuku wonders if it’s due to blood loss.

A half hour after finishing, the elf continues to sleep away. Izuku has tried to rouse him several times since then, but he refuses to cooperate. His breathing looks pretty shallow… Izuku places his head against his chest to listen closer for his heart. The beat is strong enough to hear in a regular rhythm, and Izuku exhales a sigh of relief that the blood loss doesn’t seem too severe.. He sits back up and observes, gripping the wrist to take a pulse.

The blond must be a warrior. His chest is broad, solid—shoulders and arms well-defined, accentuated by the shadows cast in candlelight. He’s got ink beginning on the back of his hand, small explosions of blackened spark that expand into lacy flames spiraling up the length of his arm.  The pattern spreads over his shoulder and onto his neck, edges jagged and sharp—uneven with the inexperience of a new artist. His face is just as cutting, harsh jawline and solid brow. His eyes are angled and dark at the edges, like he’d used kohl to line them before this whole mess had happened. Even his blond hair is styled—or maybe not styled—into messy, disorganized spikes.

While Izuku is busy admiring, the red haired elf—Eijirou, he’d learned—walks to the bedside. “So, ah… whaddaya think?” he asks.

Izuku slouches in his chair. “I’m not totally sure why he hasn’t woken up yet, but he should survive just fine,” he responds.

Eijirou smiles, sharp-toothed and mischievous, leaning against the bedpost, arms crossed. “Do you need him awake? I’m sure I could find a way to wake him up.”

“Hmm…” Izuku considers. He doesn’t need him awake just yet… but it would be preferable in order to assess his pain and to evaluate for any internal injuries he hadn’t detected earlier. Then again, the glint in Eijirou’s grin makes Izuku a little suspicious about the stress level involved in his planned awakening.

“I suppose not,” he settles.

The redhead looks almost disappointed, but Izuku can scent that he’s feeling calmer, more settled than he was when they’d met earlier. The rotten scent of dread has dissipated, and Eijirou smells much more like sunflowers on a spring day: refreshing and bright.

“Oooookay…” Eijirou whines. After a moment, he slides to the floor, cross-legged, leaning his back against the side of the bed and closing his eyes. Izuku can tell he isn’t sleeping, probably just collecting his thoughts.

The silence is long, only slow breath audible in the quiet air. Izuku reaches into his pocket to give Aki a stroke. The glider nuzzles against his index finger and grips it with his clawed little hands.

“I’m just glad he’s gonna be alright,” Eijirou finally says. “Thank you.” He looks up at Izuku with a giant smile. It’s pretty infectious, and Izuku finds himself smiling right back.

“Ah… it was no problem! Really, I just wanted to help.” Izuku waves his hands out front in embarrassment. “I-It’s not that hard to sew skin, anyway. Kinda like just sewing your clothes! But.. messier…” He trails off, and Eijirou laughs at him, loud and from the belly.

“Well, I sure as heck couldn’ta done it. I wouldn’t know what the heck to put together, ya know?” Eijirou scrunches his nose like a rabbit. “Plus that slimy stuff you put on there! I don’t even know what that is! But I bet it’s important.”

Izuku blushes, scratching his head, and for the second time that evening, a knock sounds at the door. Aki pokes his head out of Izuku’s pocket, curious, and climbs up his shirt to sit on his shoulder as he rises to answer. When he does, he finds mismatched eyes staring back at him, looking every bit as worried as they did the day that Izuku returned late from the river.

Izuku knows the worry isn’t for the injured elf currently lying in his bed. He has been alone for over an hour with two elves that no one in this village can vouch for. Shouto is here to make sure Izuku is okay. His scent is heavy rainfall and thunderstorms—guarded and looming.

He gives the faery a soft smile. “Hi, Shouto.”

“How are things going here?” he asks, diplomatic.

Izuku plays along, knowing this is going somewhere. “Well, he’s all patched up. We’re just waiting for him to wake, which I guess isn’t such a big deal since we should all be getting some sleep anyway.” He shrugs. It’s late, and if Izuku’s tired, he’s sure the elves must be after what they’ve gone through today.

“Are they staying here for the night?” Shouto’s gaze briefly flicks to Eijirou.

Izuku hadn’t really thought about that, but it does make the most sense for the two of them to stay here. One is recovering from surgery, minor as it is, and the other will want to stay by his side. If Eijirou's constant presence is any indicator, the two are very close.

He nods. “Yes... I think that would make the most sense, don’t you?”

“Cool with me!” Eijirou chimes in from the background.

Stony eyes narrow at the sunny elf, but Shouto eventually agrees with a sharp nod. “You should stay with me tonight, then. It will be less cramped that way.” He doesn’t say it, but Izuku can read between the lines. I don’t like you alone with these elves.

Shouto has always been wary of bringing up elves around Izuku—the elephant in the room that they never really address. He suspects that Shouto is afraid, worried that if allowed to choose, Izuku would not settle with his kind.

Izuku has always known he was part fae, but he has never really identified with that side of himself. His mother, an elf, had raised him in his younger years, but neither of them had any contact with the man who provided his fae heritage. Thus, for all intents and purposes, he identified as an elf. Unfortunately, that identity was taken when he was still young.

At the age of seven, a great storm lit their town. Although rain poured from the sky, structures around them ignited in flame. From his window, he watched as the door to the home just opposite of his own caught, too—wet wood burning in spite of itself. Screaming was audible across the dirt path as fire spread, lumber groaning as it splintered, bringing the entire home to the ground in a matter of moments.

The same occurred at other homes along the path—entryways catching first, windows next. The inhabitants couldn’t get out. The fires weren’t starting inside—they started at the exits.

Magic. Dark magic.

His eyes grew wide in fear, then filled with tears. He looked to his mother, who stood behind him, watching.

She peered down. “The only way is to run, Izuku. You must run.”

Even at that age, he could read the seriousness in her gaze, scent her fear, knew she meant now . He nodded, reaching for her hand. “Okay, let’s—” She pulled her hand back, out of reach.

The rejection was an arrow to his chest, deflating his lungs and piercing his heart. He began to sob, gasping for air even as it was stolen, seeping through the emotional wound. She wasn’t coming. There was a reason she hadn’t used the word “we.” He was going alone.

“I can’t come with you now, Izuku. I have to help the others first.” Izuku’s mother bent to squeeze him in a tight hug, pressed a kiss to his crown. “I’ll be right behind you. I promise.”

She looped a strap over his head. “These provisions will last until I find you.”

Izuku hesitated, and she began shoving. “I’ll be right behind you. Just follow the river, baby! Now, Izuku. GO!

He backed away slowly, watching her eyes darken with intensity as she turned back toward their window, stance preparing for attack. As soon as he exited their home, he felt the heat, heard the shouting louder than before, smelled death for the very first time. His primary battle was sucking oxygen around the putrid plumes of terror, doing his best to breathe without suffocating on cruel magic. When he finally reached the edge of the village, he looked back to find his own house aflame. He cried harder, ran faster, pushed his legs for as long as he could, sticking to the river, just as instructed. When he became too exhausted, stumbling over his own feet, unable to continue on, he finally stopped.  He had no idea how much time had passed.

There, he stayed.

He waited for his mother at the river’s edge for days, subsisting on fresh water and the pack of dried foods she’d given him. She said that she would follow. She promised she would come.

A promise was a promise—sacred, not meant to be broken. Izuku trusted his mother wholeheartedly. She was the only person who truly cared about him. She would come.

He waited, hunger gnawing at his insides when he ran out of food. He didn’t leave to search, not wanting to be gone when his mother finally came. If he moved, how would she know where to find him?

She promised.

But she was elven, not fae.

She could lie.

He waited anyway.

It was a man with flaming hair who eventually found him near the river crying, alone and starving.

But the man still found him beautiful.

Enji Todoroki took one look at his sparkling sea green eyes, deciduous waves, and his freckled face before deciding he would be the perfect complement to his family tree. The pointed ears were a bonus—elves were a powerful species, so a combination both elven and fae? The limits were endless. The man told Izuku as much: if he came back to their village, he’d have a nice, warm bed to sleep in, food to eat, and a strong future partner in his son. Their children would have beauty unheard of, and more strength than he could ever imagine.

This confused him at the time. Why would this man want Izuku for his son? Izuku was clearly a boy himself. How could he possibly have children? But, in that moment, he had no energy to question, to argue. A large, powerful man surrounded by flame had approached him, just after he’d watch his home turn to ash. Izuku was terrified.

He didn’t respond to that request, didn’t respond to anything the man said, too afraid to move his lips. Ultimately, it didn’t matter because the faery took him anyway.

He was brought back to the village and allowed to “settle” for over a year. During that time, he and Shouto were forced together on a daily basis at Enji’s order. Izuku initially wanted nothing to do with the family that stole him away, preventing his mother from finding him, but he couldn’t help sensing Shouto’s sincerity.

The faery boy wasn’t fond of Enji, either. He just wanted to help Izuku, to make him happy, to form a friendship. Between the books, walks, and meals together, they learned to depend upon one another. They grew close, trusted each other above all else. Izuku knew Shouto like the back of his own hand, and he was sure that Shouto felt the same.

After his given adjustment period, he was expected to go through the same schooling and training all the fae their age did. After some time of unsuccessful attempts, Enji learned Izuku had no magical power. The leader was furious, appalled that someone who bore both fae and elven blood reaped none of the benefits of either. He decided Izuku was worthless, that he shouldn’t be allowed to connect with his son after all, and when Shouto was forced away, Izuku began to believe that himself. After his fragile reality had been shattered at the loss of his only family, Shouto was the one who helped piece the remains of his world back together. Without him, Izuku’s life had become meaningless parts of an unidentifiable, nonsensical whole that Izuku couldn’t conjure into existence.

He tried and tried to learn the simplest of magical abilities—to unlock doors, to light a candle. He knew that if he could just do something, Enji would let him spend time with his only friend again. But by the time he was eleven, thousands and thousands of attempts ended in failure,  and Izuku had decided that he didn’t belong in a fae village.

He wasn’t fae. He wasn’t magical like them. He wasn’t strong like them. He wasn’t perfect like them… Hell, Izuku could even lie if he wanted to.

So he did.

He told them he was going out to practice magic, that he’d be back by nightfall, and instead, he took off. He sprinted down the river with a heavy pack filled with food and a sense of déjà vu he didn’t want to acknowledge. He ran as far as his legs would last, then walked even farther. He figured he would come across another village eventually, hoping to settle with elves as he had in his childhood. But being young and not well traveled, he hadn’t accurately predicted the distance he’d have to cover.

Izuku didn’t have any sort of training in hunting or survival tactics. Enji was just planning to groom him for diplomacy and raising a family. He didn’t know how to catch prey, had no knowledge of the plants surrounding him, or even how to build a half decent shelter.

After a few weeks, he’d run out of food and still hadn’t found any other civilization. He ate greens and berries that looked pretty, but kept making him sick. He spent most of his days curled up in the dirt near the river, his churning gut forcing him to return the water he drank to its source. When he wasn’t awake to dry heave, he was barely conscious at all. He figured he would die there.

He knew Enji wouldn’t waste resources to find a useless half-breed kid, which was fine because at this point, Izuku himself really didn’t care to live.

But he’d underestimated his friend.

When young Shouto, alone and on horseback, finally came across him, Izuku was worn ragged and ill—thin, sunken, with scrapes and bruises and a self-destructive mentality that would take years to come back from.

But he’d never forget the way the faery looked that day. His perfect red and white hair was matted to pink atop his head, littered with twigs and leaves and dirt from his rush along the forest paths. The bruises beneath his eyes betrayed his lack of sleep, veins visibly purpling in webs woven from his lower lashline. His dry skin and chapped lips told Izuku that he hadn’t been eating or even drinking while he was gone. The flawless appearance so typical of fae heritage was nowhere to be found.

Shouto looked like he hadn’t lived without Izuku, like he wasn’t living in his absence.

But Shouto’s haggard appearance had nothing on his expression at finding his long lost friend. He had clearly believed Izuku dead by now, not truly expecting to see him again. The excitement and relief Shouto felt upon finding him was plain on his face; it was the first time Izuku ever saw him smile—bright and beautiful and full of white, perfect teeth. It was the first time Izuku ever smelled that bubbling brook, the quiet happiness he later grew to love so much.

But that wonderful aroma was quickly tainted by the heaviness of stagnancy—a river dammed up and left to collect pollutants—when Shouto recognized the shape he was in. Even so, the faery stayed strong, composed as he came down from his horse and took Izuku into his arms. He didn’t know that Izuku could already scent his despair.

“Izuku,” he whispered to his hair, “I’m so glad I found you. We can go home now, you know—together.” He sniffled. “I won’t let him keep us apart. You’re my best friend.”

At those words, Izuku cried. For himself, for the loss of his mother, for his inability to fit in, for the utter misery of his own pathetic existence. But he cried for Shouto that day, too, because while Izuku thought he was the only one suffering in their separation, he recognized in that moment just how wrong he was. The next words from Shouto’s normally confident mouth were stuttering and messy, unsure and so not Shouto that Izuku knew this had crushed him.

“I-I mean.. only if you—" He took a shaking breath, "do… do you want to?”

Izuku pulled back to look at him, finding misted eyes and a trembling lower lip. That fear—fear that Izuku wouldn’t come home with him, that he wouldn’t want to stay, that Shouto wasn’t good enough to keep him —broke Izuku’s heart.

So he agreed to go back, half conscious on the horse in front of the faery whose strong arms caged him in. Izuku returned for Shouto’s sake, not his own. He didn’t really care if he lived or died, but he could tell that his friend did, and he didn’t want to put him through that pain ever again.

Izuku wasn’t worth that.

After that, Shouto became fiercely protective. Izuku never learned exactly how the faery convinced his father to make allowances, but he did. Izuku began to study within fae classes again, even permitted to choose his own schedule, blending hunter and scavenger courses, foregoing diplomacy as he desired. Shouto himself worked to train Izuku in agility and fighting strategy—a good excuse to spend every afternoon together. He also introduced Izuku to Hitoshi, Tenya, Kyouka, and Denki, who later became his good friends.

Izuku eventually decided that he might as well make a life for himself somewhere . At least here, he had Shouto. Until him, all Izuku had was his mother, and she was gone. He’d finally accepted that.

He wouldn’t lose Shouto, too.

He threw himself into his studies, deciding he’d know everything there was to know about nature, wilderness, and survival. He began training with a bow he fashioned himself. He learned to be a decent hunter, strong and fast. And he taught himself the name of every plant within a 30 kilometer radius of the village, along with their medicinal and poisonous properties. He became a valued, respected healer in their village, and now, he truly does feel that he belongs. He is happy here with the fae. But he can tell that Shouto still worries, wonders if one day he’ll run off to find the elves, and never look back.

A groan breaks Izuku from his thoughts, and he looks up to see Shouto’s eyes widen minutely as they shift from Izuku’s face to the bed behind him. He turns to follow them and finds Eijirou in his chair, practically vibrating in excitement, as the elf in the bed moves his good arm to rub blearily at his face.

“What the… Fuck?” The voice is gravelly, rough.

Eijirou bursts into childish laughter and basically dives onto the bed, hugging his friend, before being shoved backward so hard that he stumbles into the chair, knocking it over.

“Fuck you, Eij! Don’t fuckin’ touch me!”

At the shout, Aki panics and climbs down from Izuku’s shoulder into his tunic. Claws skitter down his chest before the glider finds his way out of the bottom and slips back into his pocket. Izuku is about to approach and intervene when he realizes that the scent isn’t threatening. It’s… warm. Smokey and somehow sweet.

Eijirou’s chuckling sounds again. “You’re okay!” he exclaims, joyous and airy, happiness radiating from him like a puppy with a new bone. “Man, I’m so glad you’re back! I thought I’d lost you for a while there.”

How the other manages not to smile in response to such a force of pure elation is beyond Izuku’s comprehension. But, he does. In fact, his scowl deepens.

His scent doesn’t, though. Sweetness grows more prominent, and Izuku finds himself flaring his nostrils to breathe more of it in. It’s pleasant, warm.

Tch ,” the blond retorts, using that good arm again to push himself upright. He winces, but makes no sound of pain. “Like a pathetic fuckin’ orc could take me out.” He’s smiling crookedly as he starts to look around, lips immediately retreating from what Izuku suspects is a rare position once he realizes he’s somewhere unfamiliar. He begins to emit a scent more dry, less sweet. Crimson eyes search the room, landing on Izuku.

“Who the fuck’re you?!” he growls.

Izuku’s brows raise, a smirk teasing his lips in amusement as he steps forward to respond, but Shouto beats him to it, moving past to put his body between Izuku and the elves. “ He saved your life, gave you shelter when in need. You should be more grateful,” he says, even-keeled and formal—ice frozen over raging rapids.

Izuku can tell the blond is fuming, pheromones near stifling when Eijirou cuts in. “Yeah! I mean, he’s right! I, ahm… I brought you here because I didn’t know what else to do.” He scratches the back of his head awkwardly, clearly embarrassed. “And Izuku here—he closed all your injuries. You were.. You were bleedin’ pretty bad, man. I was really worried.”

Harsh, kohl-lined eyes soften at that, and Izuku exhales a sigh of relief. Anything that negatively impacts his healing should be avoided—the typical ones he warns against are stress and physical activity; this guy has already checked both off his list in the first five minutes of consciousness. Overachiever.

He steps forward to talk to the fiery elf about his condition, but Shouto holds out his arm, stopping him. “We will give you two some time,” he says, then turns to grab Izuku’s hand and lead him from the home. Izuku looks from him to the elves in confusion before following him out the door without a word.

Once they’re outside, however, Izuku whirls on him. “What do you think you’re doing?!” he whisper shouts. “He needs to heal! He can’t be getting all worked up or he’ll tear his wounds back open! He needs to know what restrictions are necessary for his body right now. I must talk to him.” He yanks his hand from Shouto’s, making it clear that he will not follow until his work is done.

Shouto stands firm. “We do not know these elves. This one is clearly violent and reckless. He almost threw his friend across the room for hugging him. I don’t want you going back there alone. If you insist upon spending time with them, you can do it with me present, and then you can leave with me. That’s it.”

Izuku glares, hoping his eyes look as intense as his mind feels right now. Shouto has no right to give him orders. Well, he does hierarchically, but he doesn’t as his friend! Izuku is doing his job . This blond elf is reckless, which is exactly why Izuku needs to be there to keep him in line!

He crosses his arms, braces himself.

“No.”

Shouto’s mouth opens in surprise. Izuku never outright refuses him without at least having an extended, reasonable discussion. “Izuku, I—”

“No, Shouto! This is my job. If I thought that he would just lie in bed like any other good, normal patient and let things heal, I would gladly come with you. But he won’t.” He has to uncross his arms already just so he can throw his hands in the air with frustration. “I can’t let all my hard work go to waste! Eijirou went through all that trouble to bring him here for help. He has already come this close to tearing open his own stitches by pushing his friend like that!” He holds his thumb and forefinger close together, shaking it to show just how close he was. “In fact, they might already be torn!”

Shouto looks irritated, smells irritated when he crosses his own arms and waits silently for Izuku to finish.

When he’s done ranting, he takes a breath, diverting his gaze to the dirt beneath his feet. “ Please , Shouto. Let me do this,” he whispers. “It’s the one thing I’m good at.”

The faery falters at that. He thaws—brisk streams—and Izuku knows he’s won.

When Shouto finally agrees to go, Izuku bids him farewell with a lingering hug, allowing the familiarity to relax him once more before he works up the nerve to go back inside.

Before he opens the door, he checks on Aki, who he finds in his pocket, wide awake and looking back at him owlishly. He chuckles. “You can come out, you know,” he teases. It is past time for the little guy to be up and moving. Aki responds by burrowing deeper into the material and covering Izuku’s view with his tail. “I’ll take that as a no, then,” he snorts.

Once inside, he finds his patient sitting up on the side of the bed, bare feet touching the cool wood flooring. His upper half is still in view, leaving the dressed wounds in plain sight, burdock leaves covering sticky salves to keep them clean. Though he tells himself he’s checking for signs of irritation or infection, Izuku’s eyes trace over the musculature of his torso, chest and abdominals accentuated by sweat and fireside shadow. His body is unlike any fae figure Izuku has ever seen—all muscle, raw power.

He’ll be lying if he says he doesn’t find it alluring.

When he finally snaps himself out of it, he finds crimson eyes staring back at him. The eyes are dark, amusement dancing within, and they hold him. Izuku can’t bring himself to break the connection.

“Izuku, hah?” The blond cocks his head, gaze narrowed. Izuku gulps and nods, frozen like a deer in torchlight, feeling his face warming by the second. “Guess I owe you one.”

“Oh!” Izuku stammers, “Oh, um... You— ah, you’re welcome! I guess. It’s ah... it’s kind of my job?”

He smirks. It looks good, dangerous—like the treacherous cliff you have to climb because damn is it worth the view. This man is a roaring wildfire to the contained blaze he’s grown used to, seductive in the way all deadly things are. Izuku wants to reach out and touch, but he knows better.

If there’s one thing life’s taught him, it’s to stay away from the flame.

Chapter Text

Eijirou yawns, reaching his arms over head. “So is it alright if we sleep here? I can just crash on the floor, honestly. I’m so”—another yawn—“tired.”

“Of course!” Izuku zips into action, quickly moving to the wooden chest at the foot of his bed and pulling out a number of furs and wools that he will use to create makeshift beds for himself and Eijirou. The injured elf will remain in Izuku’s actual bed—it’s only right that he get the most comfortable rest to aid in his healing.

He finishes putting together a cozy place for Eijirou, and the elf murmurs a thanks before immediately curling up amongst the blankets to fall asleep. By the time Izuku is satisfied with his own space for sleeping, Eijirou’s snores full the air. He stands to stretch one last time, and is surprised to find the blond working to push himself up from the feather mattress.

“Wha-what are you doing?! Sit! Sit! ” he whispers, glancing at Eijirou to be sure he’s not disturbed.

He’s met with a scarlet glare, unimpressed. “What the fuck’s it look like I’m doin? I’m gettin’ up.”

Izuku rushes forward and places his hands on the blond’s shoulders as gently as he can while still making his point. “You are not allowed up right now. You need to rest. You’re sleeping right here.”

The elf glances down at Izuku’s hands pointedly, then back up to his face. He lowers his voice, scowling. “I’ll get up whenever I damn well fuckin’ wanna get up.” He starts to lift himself anyway, but Izuku doesn’t move, palms pushing just a little more firmly into his shoulders. Izuku watches an expression of pain briefly dance across his features before he schools them back to one of confidence and defiance.

“See?” Izuku says.

The elf crosses his arms. “Fine,” he growls, “but I’m not gonna be able to fuckin’ sleep, so I’m at least gonna sit up.”

Izuku releases him, suddenly missing the smell of sweet smoke and smoldering coals as he steps back. He hadn’t realized he’d been scenting it so heavily in the first place. “Fine,” he says, “you can sit up. Do you need anything for the pain?”

The elf rolls his eyes before scooting back in bed to lean up against the wall, bending his knees and resting crossed arms on top of them.

Izuku takes a seat on the edge of the feather cushion, turning to face him. “Okay… well, do you need something to occupy your time, then? A book? Maybe some—”

He stops mid-sentence when Aki decides he’s awake for the night, claws startling Izuku to quiet laughter when they tickle along his belly. Now that the noise level has dropped, the glider is comfortable enough to come out of his hiding spot, working his way upward and then out of Izuku’s sleeve. Aki pauses near his elbow when he catches sight of the elf in the bed. He looks to Izuku, then back to the blond, before darting up to Izuku’s head and hiding amongst his hair.

At that, Izuku laughs aloud. “He’s not going to hurt you, Aki! We just have a couple of visitors for a while. Soon we’ll find them a place to stay, and you and I can have the bed back, okay?”

He reaches a hand up to extract Aki from his hair and cradles the glider in his palm. He looks over at the elf who is studying them curiously.

“This is Aki,” he says, bringing him forward. “He’s a sugar glider that—”

“I know what he is,” the elf replies sharply, effectively cutting him off.

Izuku bites his lip, looking down at Aki and shrugging. He moves to get up from the bed so he can lay amongst his own pile of furs, but he pauses when the rough voice speaks up again.

“Katsuki.”

Izuku finds himself looking back, surprised and confused.

“My name is Katsuki,” he barks. An over-exaggerated and clearly forced scowl decorates his features. It’s kind of cute.

“It’s nice to meet you, Katsuki,” Izuku says, smiling. He sets Aki on the bedspread and the glider takes off, jumping around the room as usual. “I was beginning to wonder if I’d ever learn your name.”

Katsuki grunts. “Well, now ya know it.”

“Thanks.” Izuku offers him a quiet crooked smile that Katsuki does not return. Instead, he tilts his head back against the wall and closes his eyes. With that, the room falls silent.

Izuku takes the opportunity to stand from the bed and move to his desk, setting out a small carved stone for Aki. He fills it with water from his canteen and places some berries and crushed spinach next to it. The glider immediately claws up his pant leg and hops onto the wooden surface, picking up a berry with his little forepaws and digging in.

“So what’re you doin’ here with them?”

Izuku hesitates, unsure of what to say. He buys an extra moment to think by moving across the room and blowing out the large candle aflame there before returning to the bed. Climbing onto the mattress and scooting back against the wall, about a foot from where Katsuki sits, he tries to choose his words carefully, uncertain where this is going. Izuku’s eyes drift to his desk to watch Aki finish his meal and are still on his companion when he finally speaks.

“I’m not sure what you mean,” he says.

Katsuki laughs outright, a harsh and sarcastic sound. “That is what I mean. You know exactly what I’m asking, and yet you lie,” he challenges. “You’re not fae.”

Izuku turns to look at him, irritated. Their faces are closer together than he expected—the blond must have leaned in—and he’s hypnotized by those piercing crimson eyes yet again. They narrow at him. “I am,” he pouts, sitting back to collect himself.

Katsuki raises a brow, devil’s smirk back on his lips. “Not entirely.”

Izuku sighs. He’s not as strong, not as perfect as the fae. He knows he doesn’t fit in here; he doesn’t need some foreigner to tell him that. Katsuki continues anyway.

“You’ve got green hair, fuckin’ glittering emerald eyes. You’re colorful— beautiful —like they are,” he glazes over the word as if it is a fact of nature, not the compliment Izuku feels blooming warmth in his chest, “but you’re definitely elven.” His eyes flick to the sides of Izuku’s head. “You’ve got elven ears like mine. And... you’re too”—he pauses, making a face, clearly struggling to find the right word—“ nice to be one of them.”

This assessment makes Izuku smile, floods him with fireside warmth he wants to curl up in. He should say that he likes being thought of as nice, as kind. His mother was warm and friendly, and he tries his best to be that way, too, even if he doesn’t always succeed. He wants to thank Katsuki for being the first person to compare him to the fae in such a way, for calling him beautiful … but then he recalls that Katsuki is an elf—that he can lie and could be lying for any number of reasons.

Izuku knows he isn’t, and has never truly been, any of those things, which makes him sure the elf is lying.

But he won’t cause conflict by saying so. He’s gotten good at masking his disappointment over the years. Izuku’s mind might be a box of darkness, but it’s wrapped so perfectly and with such pretty ribbon that no one dares to tear the elegant paper.

“My father is fae,” he says instead.

“Then your mother is elven,” Katsuki presses.

“Yes. She was ,” Izuku corrects him, tone a smooth blade that cuts their conversation off cleanly.

Katsuki sits back against the wall again, silent. The only noises apart from the crickets outside are Eijirou’s snores and Aki’s claws, pitter-pattering along the wooden floor as he hops to and fro, climbing up onto furniture only to glide back down. Occasionally, he runs across Izuku’s lap or climbs up the bed post to weave his way through the blankets, but he never bothers the elves.

Eventually, Izuku shifts, trying to motivate himself to get back up and blow out the last remaining candle on the bedside table, the quiet atmosphere making him drowsy. He should move to the floor and go to sleep so Katsuki can rest, as well. Despite his protests, the fact remains that continued rest, even without true sleep sleep, will be the fastest way for his body to heal.

“‘Ay...”

Izuku turns his head to find Katsuki sitting up, close once again. The darkness shrouding his face makes his lashes look extraordinarily dark and voluminous, cheek bones prominent. Izuku hadn’t noticed before, but Katsuki’s lips are lush and full… attractive.

Though, they’re contorted in one of those scowls at the moment. “Who’s half-n-half?”

Izuku doesn’t hide his surprise, furrowing his brows and cocking his head. “What?”

“Y’know,” he motions around his head, “The asshole with the red and white?”

“Oh!” Izuku laughs in spite of himself. “You mean Shouto. He took over as Lord of our village years ago when he turned 18. He’s a member of the Seelie Court.. It’s his job to preside over the domesticated fae living outside of Fortaare. He sometimes has to go to Court and report on fae conditions here in the outlands.”

Izuku isn’t sure exactly what happens at those meetings, just that Shouto has to leave once every couple of months when the Seelie Queen summons. The faery never seems particularly happy to go, but he never declines, either.

Katsuki rolls his eyes. “I don’t care about that shit,” he complains. “What I meant was: who is he to you?” He punctuates this by leaning forward to press his index finger against Izuku’s chest.

Izuku is visibly flustered, tingling where the elf presses into the thin material of his shirt, his scent becoming that of full flames. It’s overwhelming, and Izuku feels like he should lean away to keep his shirt from igniting. He doesn’t. “T-to me?” he stammers. “I.. Well, it’s, ah… sort of... um… complicated?”

“He’s your fuckin’ boyfriend, right? Not that damn complicated,” Katsuki states bluntly. He withdraws his hand and jerks back against the wall, wincing and resettling so more of his weight rests against his uninjured side.

Izuku waves his palms out in front of him. “No, no, no! He’s not— I mean, we’re not! Dating, that is.” He flounders. “We couldn’t— I mean, not that we would want to! But, well. Just—” He runs a hand through his hair in frustration and takes a deep breath. “Ugh. He’s just... not my boyfriend.”

The blond is giving him that stupidly sexy smirk again. Izuku’s embarrassment is apparently entertaining, and he is becoming less composed by the second around this cocky elf.

What is it about him that’s so unsettling? It’s really starting to piss Izuku off.

“Okay, doc. Relax. He just seems like a controlling fucker.”

“Shouto is a good person,” Izuku scolds, offended.

“He acted like I was gonna fuckin’ abduct and rape you or somethin’. I heard ’im out there.” Katsuki’s nose scrunches, the concept clearly disgusting him.

Ah. Izuku hadn’t considered that the two elves could hear their conversation outside, unused to others having heightened senses like his. Though, he imagines Shouto may have guessed. Shouto isn’t a bad person, but he is a protective one. Especially when it comes to Izuku. He wouldn’t think twice about hurting others’ feelings if it meant keeping Izuku safe.

Either way, he isn’t sure how to respond. So he settles with an apologetic little smile before adding, “Well, it’s clear to me that you’d never do anything of the sort. I would vouch for you, so you don’t have to worry about anyone accusing you of… that.”

Katsuki’s eyes grow large, face pinking as if Izuku had just paid him some huge, unexpected compliment. Is it really that surprising that Izuku doesn’t imagine him committing some heinous crime? Maybe it is. Izuku gets the feeling Katsuki doesn’t often receive the benefit of the doubt. He seems defensive, even combative at baseline.

Although, Izuku suspects he is soft at heart—compassionate when it really counts. His reaction to Eijirou’s worry was evidence of that. Spicy shell with a gooey center. All bark and no bite.

His features quickly settle to his trademark wrinkled brow and angry pout. “I don’t need your fuckin’ support,” he huffs.

“Mmm, okay. Well, you’ve got it anyway.” Izuku yawns. Katsuki doesn’t answer.

In the conversational lull, Aki comes to cuddle in Izuku’s lap, and he begins tracing the midnight stripe down his back. The little glider chirps, curling up to nap right there between his thighs. Izuku doesn’t have the heart to move him just yet, so he settles in instead, pulling one of the furs around his shoulders and getting comfortable. It’s not long before he drifts off.

 

---

 

Izuku can feel himself hanging on the edges of slumber. The scent of heated sugar lulls him, relaxed and cozy in his sleep as he clings, wrapped up in the sweet warmth, not yet willing to let it go. His comfy cocoon squeezes tighter, and he burrows into it, breathing deeply and pressing his cheek to soft, smooth skin. He hums, cozy and content.

An angry hiss jolts him upright, and he looks down to find a pissed off, red-in-the-face elf beneath him, crimson eyes wide. “Ow, what the fuck?!”

Oh, god. He must have fallen asleep on Katsuki, both of them having shifted from their seated position to lying down at some point in the night.

Oh, god! He just cuddled against his bare chest—his very naked chest with still open wounds.

Oh, god! I— Ah! I’m so sorry!” he yelps, scrambling out of the furs and off of the bed. Aki immediately scrambles after him and climbs up on his shoulder, hissing at the elf who shouted at his friend, and then Izuku has to apologize for that, too.

He’s still apologizing when he backs into the door, opening it up behind him and slipping out, bright red with embarrassment and mind running a mile-per-minute. He stops outside, leaning against the door, hoping his heart rate will drop to a somewhat normal rhythm.

Aki sneezes on his shoulder, bothered by the bright sunlight, then quickly darts down through Izuku’s collar and into his shirt to avoid it. As the glider is scrambling beneath his clothes, claws tickling his bare skin, another faery rounds the corner and spots him, winded outside his own home and patting around his midsection like a proper lunatic. He shoots Izuku an odd look.

“Um…?” he prompts.

Izuku scrambles to think of some plausible and non-embarrassing reason he would be outside his own home in a panic. “I just— um, I needed... Ah, Aki needed… Well, Aki doesn’t like the sun and—”

Hitoshi, holds a hand out to stop him, morning sun shining on pale skin, contrasting with his sunken, indigo eyes.

“Izu. Don’t lie to me.” He forces his expression to one of reprimand, one the faery is not known for wearing, and frankly, doesn’t really work for him. “I might not be able to do it myself, but I can still tell when you are.” He points to his head, as if he’d actually used his magic to tell that Izuku was about to be dishonest. Izuku knows better—the guy is just insightful. Well, that and the fact that Izuku couldn’t finish his sentence without stuttering, a dead giveaway to his dishonesty.

Izuku gnaws his lower lip, thoughtful. “Ah.. the elves are in there, and I just… needed some… air.” There, not a lie. “But when I got outside, Aki was freaked out by the sun!” He goes back to trying to catch the panicking glider beneath his clothing as tiny feet tickle his ribs. “So now, I just need to…”

He finally catches the little guy under his shirt. “HAH!” he yells. “Gotcha!” He wraps a hand around him, uses the other to cover him completely, and brings them close to the opening of his pocket. Aki willingly switches locations, immediately burrowing deep into the material and chirping. Izuku sighs in relief.

He looks up to find Hitoshi, who watches with a funny smile on his face, a mischievous glint in his eye that Izuku is not sure he likes.

“You know you’re not wearing shoes, right?” He laughs. “It appears you were in a rush.”

Izuku looks down to find that yes, his feet are bare. But that doesn’t mean anything. He could have decided to do his morning stretches outdoors! He tries to look unimpressed, hoping to save any remaining shred of his dignity.

The mind-reader looks him up and down, and Izuku decides that Hitoshi already knows what’s going on—no ability needed. The next words from his mouth prove Izuku right.

“The blond’s pretty feisty, huh?” he says, arrogant about his assumption, as usual. “Sure you can handle such a rowdy patient on your own?”

Izuku drags a hand through his hair and chooses not to say what he’s thinking.

He’s so screwed.

 

---

 

Izuku ends up at Hitoshi’s for lunch. His friend must have recognized his unwillingness to go back inside his own home and offered the food out of pity, which Izuku gratefully and quickly accepted. They eat salmon seasoned with rosemary and thyme as they talk, salad greens left untouched in a bowl on the table. Mostly, Hitoshi wants details on the new elves, but when Izuku doesn’t have much to provide, he shifts the topic to fae business instead.

Hitoshi himself is not of royal blood, but the Shinsou family has served the Todorokis for generations. Being Shouto’s age, their new Lord of Willesden inherited Hitoshi as a guard, which means that Hitoshi is privilege to all the information Shouto learns in Court summonings. He’s never discussed this with Izuku before, but for some reason, he brings it up today.

“So, has Shouto told you he’s got another meeting coming up soon?”

“No...”  Izuku tries not to betray the lump forming in his throat. He hates when Shouto’s gone. Life is… weird, without him. He’s thankful, not for the first time, that the fae can’t scent pheromones like elves can. Izuku is a decent actor and he can manage well with words, but his scent would probably be much more honest. “When does he have to leave?”

Hitoshi hums, thoughtful. “Ah… not for another couple of weeks, I think.” He takes a sip of water from a carved wooden cup. “I think he’s going to ask you to come with him,” he adds.

Bite of fish halfway to his mouth, Izuku halts. He’s never, ever been summoned to the Seelie Court before, and Shouto has never invited him to come along. Izuku can’t imagine why this time would be any different.

What ?” he blurts.

Hitoshi’s lips curve into a shit-eating grin. “Are you serious?” he asks. “You can’t tell me you have no idea why he’d want you to go.”

Izuku stares blankly.

“Izuku. Come on. Shouto’s been in love with you for as long as he’s known you.”

Izuku’s mouth opens, then closes. He opens it again, but is still at a loss. “I— wha.. he doesn’t,“ Izuku stammers. “It’s not like that. We do love each other, but… it’s just. It’s not. It’s not like that,” he finally says.

Izuku is surprised Hitoshi doesn’t give him pushback on that one. Anyone who knows them can see that Shouto and Izuku are closer than any two friends have the right to be. He’d be lying if he said that he hasn’t noticed Shouto’s lingering touches, the way his gaze is always watching, the special scent that rises just for him. Izuku would be stupid not to see that the faery wants something more, but in all the years they’ve known each other, the young heir has never acted on it.

Izuku knows that if he himself chose to act, it would be reciprocated. He’s not sure he wants to, though. Their relationship is so strong as it is—works so well—that he’d hate to ruin it with romantic pursuits that may or may not even be successful. He loves Shouto, but he’s not sure that he is in love with Shouto. So they’re not an item, per say. But they are... something.

Izuku just doesn’t know exactly what that is.

Purple eyes pierce him, unimpressed and suddenly serious. “Fine. If you don’t want to believe that, then that’s your prerogative. But you know he cares about you,” he says sternly. “He doesn’t trust these elves. He won’t want to leave you alone with them.”

Izuku becomes suddenly defensive, annoyed at the immediate assumption that because his guests are elves they’re inherently bad. He is part elf. Why should they trust him, then? His green eyes narrow, darkening.

“What’s that supposed to mean?” he says, voice deeper than usual, angry. “I’ve been caring for them all night and they’ve been nothing but kind to me. There’s no reason for him not to trust them.”

Hitoshi sighs, clearly expecting the conversation would take this route, but hoping it wouldn’t. “Izuku, we don’t know them. You don’t know them. It’s not just about the fact that they’re elves. It’s about you.”

Forest eyes continue glaring, so Hitoshi continues.

“You’re a rarity. Have you ever met another elven-fae hybrid before? Ever?” He pauses, taking another bite and chewing while Izuku mulls that over. No, he hasn’t met another hybrid before, but that’s because relations between the two have always been taboo. It’s not exactly a good thing that he can’t belong to one community or the other, always finding himself on the brink of fae or elven tendencies, but never quite fitting the mold.

“Don’t you think that once they know what you are, these elves might make the same assumption Enji did when he found you? Izuku, you can bear children—the father could be fae or elven. The elves will likely want you for their own, even if only for experimentation, and they might not be as kind as Enji was.”

A chill goes down Izuku’s spine at the prospect of being taken against his will. He still remembers the day Enji stole him from the river’s edge, the terror he felt of being taken to breed like livestock for the man’s own purposes. It became clear immediately upon arrival to the village that the assumption was unfounded, that they would treat him with dignity. But, it didn’t mean that others would grant him the same respect. Shinsou had a point.

But he’s an adult now—stronger, faster, smarter. And though he has no magic, he has an arsenal of skills he can use to escape and survive. They wouldn’t be able to just take him like Enji had when he was a boy. He could fight; he would fight. But Izuku somehow knows that won’t be necessary. In spite of the fact that he’s just met them, Izuku does trust these elves enough to know they wouldn’t do something so horrible. Besides, Katsuki has already deduced Izuku’s heritage. Nothing he can do about that now.

As though Hitoshi really had read his thoughts, the faery continues. “Izuku, I know you want to trust them. But… how can you? They’re not fae. You can’t be certain of their honesty. You’ve known them for one day and already you’re prepared to defend them?”

Izuku bristles. “Of course not,” he snaps. “But we shouldn’t assume just because they’re elven that they aren’t trustworthy. And I’m not weak. They won’t be able to force me to join them. I make my own decisions.”

At that, Hitoshi nods, lifting his hands in a sign of surrender. “I know that. You’re one badass motherfucker now, Izu. Believe me, I’ve landed in the dirt enough during our spars that I am well aware. Just… don’t let your guard down, alright? That’s all I’m saying.”

Izuku gives him a small smile, tearing off another piece of salmon. “I can do that,” he admits, before popping the bite into his mouth. Once he swallows, he goes on. “They’re really not so bad, ya know. Eijirou is downright friendly—honestly, nicer than anyone else who lives in this village.” He gives Hitoshi an exaggerated side-eye, teasing.

“Ha. Ha. Very funny,” he responds, snarky as always. “I can be friendly if I want to.”

Izuku doesn’t respond, just raises a brow.

“Well, I don’t want to be friendly to that many people,” Hitoshi defends. “And you wouldn’t want me any other way. Who else would give you the hard dose of reality you need when you’re doing stupid shit?”

“Hey!” Izuku laughs. “That’s not fair! I only get into stupid shit because I have friends who put the ideas in my head!”

That’s certainly not a lie. Hitoshi likes to issue challenges. Once, he told Izuku that no one in the history of their village had made it to the top of the great oak tree just near the river path, and of course Izuku had to prove that it was possible. He did make it to the top, but he also hit every branch on the way down. They broke his fall, but delaying the impact with the ground hadn’t saved him from a dislocated shoulder.

Hitoshi snorts. “Okay, okay. Fine. That’s fair,” he says. “You really should consider coming to Fortaare with us, though. Elves or not, you’ve never been there before.” Hitoshi shrugs and then grins. “It’ll be fun. Plus, it’s beautiful. You would really love it,” he adds, pointing his utensil in Izuku’s direction for emphasis. “All that nature junk you like is enhanced by magic there. Long vines roping over everything, flowers galore, even the fireflies are larger—the entire forest glitters.”

Izuku hums around his mouthful. He tilts his head side to side with impatience until he’s able to swallow it. “You’re layin it on thick here ‘Toshi. Sure you don’t have some ulterior motive?” He raises a brow, skeptical.

Hitoshi laughs. “Okay, okay, you got me.” He wipes the corners of his mouth with his thumb and forefinger, then takes a swig of water. “Shouto may have mentioned that he was uncomfortable asking. I don’t wanna see the guy getting shut down. Plus, it really would make him feel better to have you there. That faery really hates court. You know how damn awkward he is.”

Izuku giggles. “Is it really so bad?”

“Yes.” Hitoshi’s expression is serious. “Secondhand embarrassment is real.”

His giggles turn to full on laughter. “Okay, okay. I’ll think about it! But only to keep Shouto company,” he adds, turning more serious. “Not because of the elf thing. Got it?”

“Yeah, yeah, Izu. Got it.” Hitoshi brings two fingers to his forehead and then quickly lifts them in a mock solute. “Boss’d probably like it better that way anyway, feeling like you just wanna be with him.” He winks.

Izuku flushes.

He focuses intently on his food for the rest of the meal.

Chapter Text

A week later, Izuku finds himself gathering herbs… again . Taking care of this new, headstrong patient has been exhausting, to say the least. As soon as he let slip that dressing changes more than once a day could potentially have him on the road to recovery sooner, Katsuki demanded that Izuku change them an absolute minimum of twice daily. Izuku really couldn’t blame the guy—he’d want to be back on his feet as soon as possible too, but it was a lot to ask with the limited resources he was already working with. He didn’t necessarily mind spending time with the volatile elf; in fact, he looked forward to it. The explosive mood swings were something new having grown up in Willesden with the more controlled fae—a mouthful of heady, high-inducing smoke to coat his lungs after breathing plain old oxygen his whole life. He shook his head to keep from getting distracted—he needed to find what was necessary and get back before he was late, lest the elf come out and find him.

“What about this one?” Denki asks quizzically, holding a three-leafed plant by the stem and offering it up, proud of himself. Izuku had recruited Denki and Kyouka to help him gather, but was beginning to believe that he had made a grievous mistake.

“That’s poison ivy,” he says, trying his best to keep a straight face. “You should probably rinse your hands…” He bites his lip in a controlled effort not to let the laughter leak through. Over the years, Izuku has learned that Denki is a nice guy, but he’s certainly not the brightest bulb in the box. Ironic, considering that his magic is electricity-related.

The faery tosses the leaf like it’s a snake ready to bite, then turns back to Izuku with saucer-sized eyes. “What!? Why don’t you tell me about these things?! Or at least warn me before I pick them!”

Izuku can’t hold it in anymore, snickers escaping the not-so-tight seal of his lips as he responds, digging through his pack for a canteen. “Denki, everyone learns about poisonous foliage in school! I shouldn’t have to tell you what poison ivy looks like… you grew up here, and it’s everywhere!”

Kyouka pokes her head out from behind the bush she was picking leaves from with intrigue.

“Did he find poison ivy again?! ” She joins Izuku in his laughter, musical and honest as she doubles over. Her plum-colored hair shines in the sunlight filtering down through the full trees of the deep forest. “You idiot. Izuku is going to take twice as long to gather what he needs with you here!”

Denki groans a little too dramatically, leaning forward and holding his hands out gingerly for Izuku to rinse them. “Plants just aren’t my thing, ‘kay babe? I can’t help it.” He puffs air from his mouth to blow long, straight bangs from his eyes, mussing the black, lightning-shaped mark found within them. For now, it looks more like a streaky ink stain than a bolt, but Izuku is fairly certain Denki will fix it the moment his hands are rinsed—rather vain, that one.

“Understatement.” Kyouka snorts. Her naturally pink cheeks—almost like a perpetual sunburn—become round when she smiles sweetly, though laced with sarcasm. “Everything you touch dies.”

Denki gives her an exaggerated pout.

She walks around the bush and drops her gatherings into the steadily filling burlap sack Izuku brought along. Then she crosses her arms and bumps her hip to her boyfriend’s playfully. “You’re lucky you’re cute, you know.” Kyouka plants a quick kiss to the dimple on his cheek.

Denki winks at Izuku, and quiet laughter rolls from his throat. The two of them really are adorable, clearly meant for one another. They have such a good dynamic—light and airy, full of teasing and fun. They’ll be the old married couple bickering even as they hold hands lovingly, he can just tell. He hopes that one day he can find something similar.

“Speaking of cute… ” Kyouka looks to Izuku with one brow lifted. “There are a couple of new individuals in town that I’ve heard … things about.”

Izuku puts the water away and stands to check the status of the herbs they’d been gathering. He’s pleasantly surprised—the three of them gathered much more than he could have collected alone. The bag is pretty full, probably sufficient to last him another two weeks or so.

“Mhmm…” He nods noncommittally, knowing exactly who she is referring to, but pretending not to. “I think we’ve got enough to go back now if you’re ready!”

“Hey!” Denki yelps, melodramatically moving to block Izuku’s path—a clumsy predator cutting off the escape of his unmotivated prey—planting his feet and pointing a finger at him. “Don’t you avoid the subject! I can tell!”

Kyouka smiles—cloyingly sweet—as her voice lilts into the higher sing-song sound generally saved for her audiences. “Aw, Izukuuuu… you don’t wanna talk about’em?”

Kyouka’s magic allows her to manipulate vibrations in the air, bending sound waves to her will. She often gives musical performances in Willesden, but occasionally travels to Fortaare and other large cities to sing as well. This particular tone is dramatic and drawn out; it lets Izuku know she’s teasing. He tries to move around them both, feeling the familiar pound of his heart rate picking up. His palms are sweating.

“N-no! I don’t mind! Heh, um...What about them do you want to know?”

“Weeeeelllll,” Denki drawls. “You have been spending a lot of time there…” He wiggles his brows suggestively.

By “there,” he means Mei’s old home. She is a particularly energetic faery with the greatest mind Izuku has ever encountered. The Seelie Queen had specifically invited the inventor to work in the city of Fortaare to aid in the development and design of products for Court. The Queen’s invitations are about as optional as sleeping—you can choose not to do it, but eventually the consequences become so horrid that your body gives in for you, passing out where you stand and succumbing to the very thing you attempted to avoid. Izuku’s heard that the Queen has ways of making people bend to her will. He’s not privy to what those methods are, however, and he hopes he never will be.

After Mei had accepted the invitation reluctantly and gone to Fortaare, her home had remained vacant for many months. The same day that Izuku woke up on Katsuki and essentially ran from his own home—wow, had it really already been a week?—Shouto offered to have it cleaned so the elves could have their own space as Katsuki healed. Izuku objected initially; they were no burden to him, and it was best if he could care full time for him considering the depth of his wounds. Sending them away so soon left a bad taste on his tongue, but Shouto reasonably pointed out that Izuku would be required to on the floor, and that he had other patients to look after; he shouldn’t allow one to dominate all of his time while others may need him. Besides, he had reasoned, Eijirou could help Katsuki when needed, and Mei’s place was barely a ten minute walk away.

Eventually, Izuku had agreed to speak with the elves about it, trudging back to his home, thankfully too preoccupied planning this new conversation to worry about facing Katsuki again after his abrupt departure that morning. It was lunch time, so he picked up some greens from the Shiozaki’s and some fish from Shouto’s—the faery doesn’t sell meats, but he can keep them cool using his ice magic, so they often trade off: Izuku provides healing and herbs for the Lord and his guard in return for the occasional free meat.

High strung and beyond nervous, Izuku went home to discuss the possibility of moving, only to find both of the elves fast asleep. It was late in the day, but he figured it made sense that they would be so tired—at that point, it had only been one day since the accident that had brought them there. Izuku couldn’t imagine what kind of physical drain it had been to fight the savage orcs—not to mention the mental fortitude it took to carry on after your entire party was murdered before your eyes. He quietly snuck back out to the cook the fish over fire, then returned with three plates loaded with hot, flaky meat and salad greens with which to distract them.

The smell of cooked fish woke the rather quickly and eating seemed to chase away their forenoon grogginess. The meal was enough of a distraction that Izuku’s flight that morning was never mentioned, for which he thanked his lucky stars. Instead, Izuku cautiously approached the topic of moving to Mei’s old place. Eijirou thought it was a great idea, whereas Katsuki made no sound one way or the other. He looked to Izuku with a hard scowl, but Izuku could tell the elf was more hesitant than angry, sweet scent muted rather than burning. He assured Katsuki that he’d still be making sure that his musculature healed well, and he’d likely have full use of his shoulder by the time they were through. The elf rolled his eyes at that, and Eijirou laughed.

“I think he’s just a little worried about leaving because… well, we don’t really trust anyone else...? You’ve really been great Izuku. He probably feels comfortable her— ow!”

Katsuki whacked him over the head to shut him up. “I can speak for myself Shitty Hair,” he snarled. “And I’m not fuckin’ worried.”

Izuku quirked a small smile, stifling the laughter he knew would offend the incendiary elf, and went on to describe his care plan for Katsuki. He’d continue performing the dressing changes, and eventually they’d start therapy for his shoulder. It wasn’t until Izuku said he’d have to visit every day for this to work that Katsuki’s scent lost the new tinge of bitterness Izuku had caught at the mention of Mei’s home.

Even then, he snapped that Izuku couldn’t neglect his duties, “just ‘cause half-n-half don’t want us stayin’ here,” narrowed his eyes, and asked if he’d would get better faster with more care than than what Izuku had suggested. Izuku sighed and honestly admitted that he didn’t know the answer to that, that it certainly was possible he could heal more quickly, or at least with more certainty, if Izuku could do the dressing changes more often. His response was a harsh, narrow-eyed, crimson glare, and Izuku quickly realized he’d have to do more than once a day to get the elf to agree. It worked; Katsuki finally nodded, albeit reluctantly. His sugary smell never quite returned full force that day; Izuku still hasn’t figured out exactly what that was about.

Since they moved to Mei’s house later on that evening, he has been visiting Katsuki and Eijirou twice a day, every day. Every visit, Katsuki’s scent has been candied levels of sugar, appealing in all the right ways . The alluring blend is so not- bitter, so mouthwatering that it becomes difficult for Izuku to keep his thoughts totally… er... professional. So, whatever it was that made Katsuki uncomfortable during the discussion over moving homes… must be fine now?

Denki clears his throat and brings Izuku back into the present moment. “Soooo…”

Izuku nods and picks up the pace. The two stay right beside him, Kyouka stark as ever while Denki seems positively impish. Izuku laughs nervously, “Y-yes—I’m taking care of Katsuki. His shoulder injury was pretty extensive, so of course I’m there a lot—twice a day, actually. Wh-what does that have to do with anything?”

“He wants to know if you’re sleeping with the blond one,” Kyouka states bluntly, shrugging.

Izuku’s hands slacken their grip of their own volition, and the sack of herbs drops to the ground. “W-what? I—Of course, I’m n—What on earth? Why would you—Why would you even think that!?” He ends up shouting by the end, voice finding the octave of his childhood and face bright red with embarrassment.

Kyouka stops, just staring at him in surprise, while Denki drops to the ground to pick up the leaves that have spilled.

“Hey, man… it was just a question! We didn’t mean to freak you out. Are you, uh.. You okay?” The blond looks up at him with doe eyes, uncertain and guilty.

Izuku can feel the flush burning down his chest. ‘Freaked out’ seems insufficient to describe his current state. He feels like he missed a step on the way down a steep staircase and his guts have launched up into his throat.

Izuku has dreamt about that very activity and feels very, very awkward about it—Katsuki is a stranger, and worse, his patient —but they couldn’t possibly know that… right?

“We wouldn’t judge you if you did.” Kyouka shrugs, hands on her hips. “The elf is sexy. Anyone can see that. And the grapevine says he has a thing for you, too.”

Izuku’s eyes go wider, blush deepening as he flounders like a fish out of water, trying to come up with some sort of argument. He can’t, of course, because Katsuki is attractive, and has obviously been… flirty, but he doesn’t want to talk about it! Katsuki doesn’t actually like him; he just likes teasing him because he knows that Izuku finds him physically appealing. He’s just oversexual, and overconfident, and it doesn’t actually mean anything!

Although… Izuku does wonder who this “grapevine” includes.

“I-I just. Ah—I don’t think... It’s just—it’s not appropriate for me to discuss my patients with you!” He huffs and then squats to the ground to begin picking up the leaves with Denki.

The yellow-haired faery takes one look at Izuku’s now flaming red ears and becomes hysterical. He grips his stomach and topples the remaining few inches to the ground, literally rolling with laughter. “Dude—hahah, oh my god. Man, you’re”—more giggles—”you’re totally flustered right now!”

Lemon and lime and zings of electricity flit through the air and fill Izuku’s nostrils. He can’t help but start chuckling nervously right alongside the blond,gradually morphing into true, warm laughter, and he ends up dropping all the way to the ground next to him, seated in the grass and feeling it tickle against his skin. The ground is damp from morning rain and probably going to leave grass stains on his trousers, but he doesn’t mind. The laughter spilling from his mouth feels like a fountain of relief—a respite from the apprehension he’s been having about these unwanted desires—and he’s not keen to turn it off. When it stops flowing, he’ll have to fill the space with real conversation.

Kyouka’s lips quirk as she looks down at the two of them. “Honestly though, it’s okay if you don’t want to talk about it, Izu.”

He reigns in his giggling and finishes collecting their items, placing them in the bag and tying it tighter than last time—just in case. Then he stands and brushes himself off. By now, Denki’s laughter has died down, too… mostly. The blond hops to his feet, and they walk in silence for a bit before Kyouka breaks it in a soft tone.

“You know, Izuku… we never really bring it up, but...” She glances at him for just a second, then focuses up ahead as she continues, “I guess I was just wondering if you maybe felt connected with them... Y’know... Because of the elf thing.”

Izuku hums, thoughtful. Could that be why he feels so connected to Katsuki? Because he does feel a definite connection.

He feels like he’s doing the impossible every single day by leaving after making contact with that stupidly perfect body to change his dressings, massaging salve into rough skin, feeling taut muscle beneath his fingertips. Spending so much time feeling him makes Izuku want to feel him in other ways… ways he suspects Katsuki would like, too, based on the cloying scent that permeates the room upon Izuku’s presence. He can’t help but focus on the elf when he enters a room, can’t help but feel his presence. It’s as though Katsuki is some constant force that weighs on him, pulls him—not just enticing, but gravitational. Less craving and more inevitable.

After just a week.

It doesn’t make any sense.

Izuku doesn’t want to want this, doesn’t even want to think about it because it feels like an unknown—a problem he can’t solve. But he has to think about it, to consciously flex his muscle against it. Because if he doesn’t, he’s sure his body won’t fight on its own, will allow itself to be dragged downward into this sweet, smokey inferno of lust and thoughtlessness.

He’s never felt like this before… not just a personal attraction, but a physical one, and a strong one at that.

But could it have anything to do with his elven lineage? Izuku doesn’t think so; he doesn’t feel that way about Eijirou. Sure, the redhead is attractive, possibly even more muscular and strong than Katsuki himself. And that shark-toothed smile—now, that is infectious, the warmth of bright sunshine on a frigid winter’s day. And while Izuku would like to wipe Katsuki’s crooked, self-satisfied grin off his face with his own lips and teeth, Eijirou’s just brings him pure joy, filling his lungs with laughter over the simplest and most outrageous of concepts. He’s definitely nothing like the fae, but he’s not much like the other elf, either.

Izuku enjoys time with Eijirou, but he doesn’t feel a want like he does for Katsuki. He doesn’t need in the same ways.

So no... probably not an elf thing.

He turns to Kyouka. “Ah, no. I don’t think so,” he says, rubbing the back of his neck. “They’re a little more brazen than the fae around here... Louder, less formal, more reckless.” He looks to the sky, observing the shape of the clouds as they pass by slowly, crawling with the breeze. “They’re just different . It’s not necessarily better.”

She nods and turns her gaze to the soil beneath her feet, standing close. Izuku can smell her change in disposition—vanilla and sandalwood, softer than the typically bright jasmine and gardenia she often emits. Her voice is soft and warm, tentative and concerned. “I wonder… I know, back when we were young, you weren’t necessarily happy here, and—”

Izuku interrupts. “I haven’t felt that way for a long time, Kyouka. I like my life here—”

She holds up a hand to stop him, brows curled in discomfort for having done so. “I’m not... accusing you of wanting to leave us, or of choosing the elves, or anything like that. I just…” She breathes deeply. Her eyes are glassy when she finally returns his gaze. “We just want you to be happy, Izuku. Maybe it’s not the... the elves . But you’ve just seemed more... I don’t know… alive recently.”

Izuku tilts his head in confusion, brows furrowed. “I don’t understand.”

Denki stops walking. “Izuku, you’ve laughed and yelled more in this past week than I’ve seen of you our entire lives.” Izuku pauses and turns to look at him. The typically childish and silly faery was serious, intent. “I don’t know what it is, but something is different. You’re different, Izuku. I didn’t know you were unhappy here until… well, until I saw you actually happy.”

Izuku frowns. “I wasn’t unhappy before…” He trails off, looking toward the small houses in the distance. They’re nearing home, but now he doesn’t feel ready to go back. How can he? Does everyone in town think he prefers the elves, because he enjoys their company?

When he turns back to his friends, he feels his heart crumble in the face of how... guilty they both look. He guesses he has been a little less... uptight. .. around the two elves than he might be around the fae. But much of it is simply reacting to their behavior, re-embracing the mannerisms that he’d given up in his attempts to blend with the controlled fae. He can just tell that he won’t be judged when he’s around them, and it’s easy to bleed back into the habits of his youth.

Not all the fae are as careful and collected as the stereotype suggests. In fact, Kyouka and Denki are probably the most relaxed of them all. Even so, Izuku tends not to let go around them. He never just… exists. He hadn’t thought about it that way before. His stomach feels like an empty pit, starving for an opportunity to take it back. Should he have been more composed? Or should he maybe have laughed more at Denki’s jokes? Be more free and honest around the fae...? Either way, he’s hurt his friends, and they think they’re the ones who have done something wrong.

He forces a smile to his face, hoping to reassure. “I guess I have been a little more relaxed recently. There’s less... formality, with the elves. Their vulgarity can be a little jarring… but it’s freeing, too? I just don’t feel like it’s possible to seem like such a screw-up around them, I guess. The fae are just so... perfect, it sometimes feels insufficient to be… well, me.” He laughs wryly and looks down to his feet, tightening the string of his bag once more. “But I wouldn’t even have a life if not for the fae. I’m thankful that I’m here, for the people that I’ve grown to love... You’re my best friends. This is just… different. A new experience.”

They both stare at him for a moment, silenced by the weight of his words. Izuku switches from his bag to pick at the edge of his sleeve, tempted to wake Aki, knowing the glider would provide him with some immediate affection. He could use a finger hug right about now.

Denki reaches an arm over Izuku’s shoulder. “I like who you are, man. Whatever it is, just be that.” He grins, bright and genuine.

Kyouka speaks then. “This one’s not enough of a mess for you? Maybe you just need to check on him a few times a day.” She points her thumb back at Denki as she snickers and begins walking again, passing the two of them and on toward the village.

Denki fake-pouts again. “I resent that, you know!” he shouts.

She looks over her shoulder and winks at Izuku, waving her hand above her head in dismissal. “Yeeeaah... I know!”

Her boyfriend runs after her, leaving Izuku there smiling for a moment before he moves to catch up.

He’s so lucky to have such amazing friends.

 

---

 

When they get back, Kyouka and Denki invite him to their home for dinner and tea. He needs to change Katsuki’s dressings once before he goes, so he quickly drops off his gatherings at his home and grabs some new supplies. Izuku assumes he’ll probably be out late, so he reminds himself to grab grab something for Aki to snack on when he’s having dinner. He rummages around to find a stash of dried berries he had prepared and adds those to his pack, then he turns right back around and heads outside.

Locking the door behind him, he turns to find himself face-to-face with kohl and scarlet. He breathes in deeply, wanting to live in the smell of cozy flame and warm sugar just a bit longer, not yet willing to back away. The elf’s eyes widen in surprise, then soften.

Gorgeous, Izuku thinks—before the effect is ruined by the words emerging from the owner’s frowning mouth.

“What the fuck, nerd? You were supposed to be at our place at least an hour ago!”

Izuku huffs. “I was busy in the woods replacing my stocks. You know, the ones you keep using up?”

Katsuki scowls at him, crossing his arms. “Fuckin’ half-n-half go with you?” Cozy flames become a desert of dry heat, punctuating his sentence. Izuku brushes his nose in an attempt to clear it.

“No, Shouto did not go with me,” he snaps. “Denki and Kyouka came to help. It was nice!”

With this new information, Katsuki seems to relax a bit. He falls into an easy step beside Izuku as they walk down the path toward Mei’s old house, dirt and stone crunching beneath their feet as they move at a now-familiar pace. The two of them stay close to one another, and Izuku is reminded how much smaller he is than the elf next to him. He’s probably about 4 inches taller than Izuku himself, who is short by standards both elven and fae. Katsuki’s hands, nearly brushing his own as they walk, are much larger, more calloused. His legs are thicker, longer, though he walks slowly, shortening his stride so they walk in tandem. Izuku wonders if he’s doing it on purpose or if it’s automatic.

Katsuki shoves his hands in his pockets, clears his throat. “So… what were you gathering?”

Izuku beams up at him, excited for the opportunity to discuss the natural substances he’s using to treat Katsuki’s wounds: why they work, where they come from, what else he uses them for. He dives headfirst into the explanation and is still knee deep and splashing through it when they arrive at Mei’s. Katsuki listens intently, nodding in all the right places. He challenges Izuku, asking good questions about anything that doesn’t make sense at first pass, thoughtful as he digests the information.

Izuku is impressed—most others would have zoned out by now with all of his rambling, but Katsuki seems determined to understand everything that Izuku can teach. He’s sharp, picking up the information on plants and their properties without much struggle as they settle in the house, and Izuku gets the feeling that the elf was probably top of his class. It’s honestly surprising that he doesn’t already have this knowledge under his belt.

“Didn’t you learn about these things in elven schools? I thought the elves were much more likely to use natural remedies... fewer of them being gifted in healing magic and all.” Izuku mixes honey in with chamomile and beeswax as he speaks—anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial.

Katsuki gives him a funny look. “Didn’t go to school,” he states simply, nonchalant.

“Oh?” Izuku prompts, expecting the other to explain further.

He’s disappointed when Katsuki just shrugs at him, choosing not to pursue the topic—a big Do Not Enter sign blaring as his scent dips just on the other side of bitter. Izuku decides not to push, choosing instead to focus on the ritual of salve application. He grabs the scalded leaves he plans to use as a covering and points to Katsuki’s bed. The elf quickly complies, taking a seat.

“You ready?” he asks, smug persona quickly returning. Izuku nods, trying not to blush, though he knows it’s fruitless with what he is about to do. Though this has become a familiar routine, it still affects him every time. Katsuki sits back on the bed and unloops the top few rows on his tunic, then waits. He can’t yet cross his arms to lift his shirt without pulling on the wound.

Izuku steps closer and leans down to grip the soft material between his fingertips, their faces close enough together that they breathe the same air. He doesn’t dare look up, knowing they’d be nose-to-nose, eye-to-eye, lips-to-lips. Instead, he carefully drags the grey cloth upward, gradually exposing more and more of Katsuki’s scarred, tanned skin, knuckles dragging along heated flesh as he moves.

“Lift,” he says quietly.

Katsuki sucks a breath, silently obeys. He raises his arms forward and then overhead slowly, sleeve falling to expose the tattoo that Izuku knows spans his right arm, neck, and shoulder. Izuku pulls the shirt overhead and off entirely, gaze dropping to find Katsuki’s crimson stare watching him, waiting for Izuku to look back. It turns his gut to flame, blood threatening to rush from his face to places lower, deeper.

The scent of smoldering, melting sugar envelops him, and he knows Katsuki is feeling the same way. Izuku stands between Katsuki’s spread thighs; he’s so close that his warm breath puffs over Izuku’s face, and the blonde begins moving even closer. Katsuki’s lids fall half-closed and—

A loud creak as the door opens behind them jolts Izuku backward.

“Fuck…” Katsuki mutters.

Izuku, on the other hand, turns quickly, “Hi, Eijirou! How was your day?!” He might sound a bit too cheerful in his efforts to sound… not completely turned on. The redhead doesn’t seem to notice, shooting Izuku a toothy smile and setting his bags down before responding.

“Hey ‘zuku! Glad you made it—Katsuki was wonderin’ when you were gonna come by! I just had to run over to the Shiozaki’s to grab some herbs for the venison I caught for dinner tonight. You wanna join us?”

Izuku laughs breathlessly, still not totally unaffected by the man seated so closely. Katsuki looks at him, eyes narrowed in challenge. He knows Izuku wants to refuse, is daring him to accept the invitation.

God, why is he so cocky?

And why does Izuku like it?!

“I, um.. I actually have plans with Denki and Kyouka tonight,” he says, reaching for the bowl of salve he’d blended. “I’m heading over there just as soon as I’m finished here, actually... Maybe some other time?”

“Aw, that’s okay man!” Eijirou responds. “We appreciate ya takin’ care of Katsuki, regardless. Don’t feel obligated or nothin.’”

Izuku waves his hands out in front. “Oh, no! It’s not that. I just—I already promised them tonight... I’d love to do it some other time! I like spending time with you guys.” He smiles as naturally as he can manage, trying to convey that he’s genuine. He would like to spend more time with the two of them. Just... maybe not when so much blood is diverted from his brain.

When he turns to Katsuki to begin applying the salve, the blond has a self-assured grin on his face, like he knows how Izuku is feeling. Maybe he does. Izuku does his best to keep his breathing even and the flush from his face as he smears the thick paste over Katsuki’s open wounds. Most of the smaller ones have scabbed over—it’s just the one on the back of his shoulder that Izuku needs to keep a close eye on. He still hasn’t removed the sutures, certain that the inner layers of muscle haven’t healed together yet.

When he gets to that one, he climbs on the bed to sit behind his patient and presses more gently, reaching his left palm around to lie flat against Katsuki’s chest and collarbone to prevent him from jerking forward at the touch. Katsuki doesn’t move, but Izuku catches a change building in his scent. His gaze flicks to Eijirou, trying to determine if the other elf has noticed, but the redhead doesn’t seem to have caught anything amiss as he finishes mixing up the herbs.

“Alright, well, I’ll leave you guys to it!” he chirps. “Gotta go add this seasoning and stoke the fire. Need it nice and hot to sear those big steaks!” He gives them a casual wave—“Be back in a few!”—and then heads outside to get the venison cooking.

Once they’re alone, Izuku takes a deep breath, trying to stay focused on his work. He’s almost done, after all. Just as he has smoothed a covering on the shoulder wound, Katsuki places his right hand over the one Izuku has on his chest and drags it lower, pressing down and encouraging Izuku to feel a handful of solid, succulent pec. Izuku freezes, and Katsuki takes advantage of his shock to trail rough fingers gently, deliberately up Izuku’s arm.

The foreign touch is lightening on his skin, leaving a tingling trail in its wake that sends electricity skittering down his spine. Izuku is paralyzed, doesn’t know how to react, and so he doesn’t. He lets the blond feel him, lets himself become drunk on the sensation and succulent aroma in the air, until Katsuki turns his head to speak.

“I can smell you,” he murmurs. “I know you like this; don’t deny it.”

Izuku’ s eyes widen. “What do I smell like?” he whispers.

Katsuki lets go of his hand and shifts to face him. The hair on Izuku’s skin stands on end at the absence of his touch, and he fights the urge to shiver.

“Normally, you smell like summer in the woods—stone pine and fresh mint,” the elf breathes. “But right now?” He presses a palm to the bed beside Izuku’s knee and leans in, nose to Izuku’s throat, inhaling deeply, as though his pheromones are oxygen and Katsuki is a man desperate to breathe.

“Like the forest after midnight,” he rumbles, voice hoarse, breath tickling the sensitive skin of Izuku’s neck. The healer tilts his head to the side without thinking, eyes closing, allowing Katsuki easier access.

“Dark and inviting...” His lips graze Izuku’s pulse point, press against it softly. “and dangerous.”

Izuku laughs breathlessly, chokes it off when he realizes it doesn’t sound like a laugh at all.

“I-I’m not.” He clears his throat and opens his eyes. He realizes the position he’s in and quickly sits back on his heels to put some distance between them. “Dangerous, that is,” he croaks. Katsuki follows, leaning closer as sweet sticky plumes of burning caramel rise up to fill Izuku’s nostrils.

“Wouldn’t care if you were.” His voice is husky, deep.

Talk about inviting.

It’s all Izuku can do to put his palms up and stop him. Katsuki eyes flash in surprise, in confusion.

“I-I, um. I can’t… ah... I’ve gotta get going.. t-to dinner!” He scrambles from the bed and grabs Katsuki’s shirt from the table nearby. “They’re, um.. They’ve been expecting me! And I’ve probably been here longer than I was meant to, so I—”

Eijirou chooses that second to walk back into the room, pausing when he enters, surely scenting lust in the room this time. Izuku mentally kicks himself for not considering that the two could scent him before today, but thankfully, Eijirou makes no move to acknowledge it.

“Everything okay? Need any help finishing up?” He grins, as usual, and raises his brows, waiting for a response.

Izuku shakes his head, not trusting himself to speak, and finishes helping Katsuki to redress in a hurry, avoiding the blond’s eyes. He’s not sure what he’ll find in that crimson gaze, but he’s certain that whatever it is will embarrass him further. Katsuki says nothing, slipping his arms through the sleeves and letting Izuku pull the collar over his head.

“Okay, well—I, um. I’m all finished here! Gotta get moving! To, uh, meet the others for dinner!” He shoves the salve mixing tools into his pack and slings it over his shoulder. “Good night!” he adds.

He scurries out the door before he even receives a response, trying to rally the small part of his brain that is not in a total panic to move his body toward Denki and Kyouka’s before he’s even more late.

...What the hell just happened?

Never before had a patient’s care become so personal, so… carnal. Yet, he can’t get the scent of sugar and smoke to leave his nose, can’t stop thinking about going back for more. He groans under his breath, praying to any and every available deity that each successive treatment won’t be so...intense, else both he and the elf are in for a world of trouble.

Chapter Text

“Do you have some time to talk?”

“Hm?” Izuku looks up from his notes to see Shouto standing over him, silhouetted against the sun. How long has he been standing there, and how had Izuku not noticed?

It’s unlike him to be so unaware. His mind has been easily distractible lately, dwelling on events with a certain elf that occurred a few days prior. He keeps wondering what would have happened if Eijirou hadn’t returned, and Izuku is honestly uncertain that he wouldn’t have resisted Katsuki’s advances for much longer. His body certainly wanted him to give in, and it seemed elf knew it. Since it had proved to be difficult for him to concentrate for any period of time, Izuku had decided to jot down notes from his medical visits earlier in the day on a well-worn parchment book that he keeps in his pack, occasionally sneaking pets and snacks to Aki in his pocket. He had been successful in his self-imposed distraction until the quiet interruption from the fae... He brings his eyes up to Shouto and gives him a bright smile.

“I was wondering if you might like to walk with me, so we can talk?”

A subconscious sniff gifts Izuku a waft of anticipation. Shouto’s scent is hopeful, and now Izuku is curious. He wipes the extra ink on his quill in the grass, then folds the parchment and slips it into his bag.

“Mhm…” he grins. “You know I love being outside when the weather is so nice.”

He’s rewarded with a tiny, barely distinguishable half smile. “I know. It’s how I knew to find you here.”

Shouto reaches out a hand to help Izuku to his feet. He takes it, then dusts off his trousers upon standing, slinging his bag over his shoulder.

“Where to?” he asks. “I can’t be too long… Have to head over to Mei’s for one more dressing change on Katsuki before dark.”

Shouto’s expression shifts minutely, and Izuku files the reaction away for later. He knows Shouto isn’t fond of the elves, but the faery is aware that Izuku goes there twice a day to care for Katsuki’s wounds. He wonders why the thought seems so bothersome to Shouto.

“That’s alright,” Shouto responds. “Let’s just walk around the village. We can even head that way together now, if you want.”

Izuku nods, and they begin walking along the dirt trail slowly, making small talk about their respective days. He tells Shouto about the treatments he delivered, and Shouto in turn discusses some issues with trade he had to deal with today. Izuku is almost certain that this small talk is not why Shouto approached him, but he goes along with it anyway, not wanting to pry.

As they walk, they pass by the homes of others in the village. At one of the homes, they pause to chat with Ibara who is outside tending her family’s greens. Since starting Izuku’s tonic, her vines have successfully grown back to her feet, currently woven into a beautifully complex fishtail braid. Izuku is meant to follow up with her tomorrow regarding the vines’ growth, but it seems the appointment won’t be necessary after all. He tells her as much, and she agrees happily, promising to contact him if she has any trouble again. After that, they are left alone with their conversation, or lack thereof, once more.

Izuku strokes Aki in his pocket while they walk to the other end of the village, towards Mei’s old home. The silence weighs on him, becoming heavier and heavier as Shouto continues to avoid the real reason for the seeking him out. Izuku is this close to pressing further as to why Shouto sought him out, just to get it over with, when Shouto speaks.

“So… I’ve been summoned to Court again,” he finally admits.

For as much as Izuku had wanted to know, he kind of wishes they could go back to the meaningless small talk and avoid any discussion of the trip to Court. He has a feeling this will be Shouto asking him to come along. He hasn’t thought much on it yet.

“Ah, Shinsou mentioned as much,” Izuku says, keeping his voice light and airy, tone hiding the butterflies that dance, uncoordinated, within his stomach. “We had lunch last week. It was nice!” He begins walking just a little bit faster, hoping they’ll arrive at Mei’s before the faery gets around to asking him.

He hasn’t made a decision. Izuku isn’t sure why he’s so apprehensive about it. He hates when Shouto leaves for Court— misses him, in fact. They spend much of their time together, and he feels like a part of him is lacking when his friend is gone. So why doesn’t he want to go with him?

Undeveloped thoughts begin seeding the forefront of his mind—fae perfection, this thing that hangs in the air between he and Shouto, leaving Katsuki here in Willesden… The growing notions leave a bad taste in his mouth, so he nips them in the bud and focuses instead on what the faery is saying.

Shouto hums, nodding. “Hitoshi is a great cook. I’m sure the meal was delicious.”

Izuku stifles a snort. Hitoshi is a great cook, but he highly doubts that the lavender-haired snark would create the same type of of gourmet dish he’d cook for their leader as a pity lunch for Izuku. Then again, he can’t see Hitoshi exactly catering to Shouto, either...

“Yeah. The fish was good,” he offers awkwardly. He shifts the bag on his shoulder for something to do and slips his hand in his pocket to give Aki another pet, and the glider’s claws curl around his fingers in a way that’s reassuring. The little guy must sense that he’s feeling restless.

“I’m glad to hear that,” Shouto says, polite through and through. “But Izuku, I wanted to… ask you something.”

Izuku starts to chew his lower lip, looks up to meet mismatched eyes. His companion pauses his walk to look at him, assessing.

“Why… why does this make you nervous?” Shouto’s brow furrows, clearly catching the body language Izuku is trying not to display. Damn it.

“I’m not nervous!” he says, voice a little higher than intended. “I’m was just… thinking! I was trying to decide if I should transition Katsuki’s salve today since all he’s got left to heal is that one larger shoulder wound… but I don’t think it’s time just yet because the sutures are only just nearing time to be removed, and that’ll just encourage him to—”

He stops talking when Shouto takes both of his hands, turning Izuku to face him. A little laugh escapes the faery’s nose, and Izuku frowns.

“Why are you laughing at me?!” he whines, offended.

Shouto’s smile has stretched to a size that others might actually notice, eyes crinkling in the corners. “You are nervous. You’re rambling, changing the subject. Hitoshi told you, didn’t he?”

“Told me what?” Izuku asks, keeping the frown on his face out of stubbornness. He doesn’t like to be teased, and Hitoshi told him several things—that he was being invited to Court, that Shouto is in love with him... Izuku isn’t sure which Shouto is referring to now, but he can’t say he’s too excited to hear either one of them slip from the faery’s lips. Although, he may feel a bit more panic considering a confession right now—he doesn’t feel ready for that.

“I want you to come with me. To court,” Shouto says. “I miss you when I’m gone, and this will be a longer trip than usual. And since Mei has been there for some time, I thought you might like to visit with her, too.”

Oh.

That does sound... reasonable.

He hadn’t realized this trip would be different, longer than usual, and seeing Mei would be a lovely treat. There’s no outstanding reason he shouldn’t go—well, aside from Katsuki’s dressing changes, preparing to start his physical therapy, and this odd anxiety that’s bloomed at Shouto’s request. But Katsuki’s sutures will be removed soon, so he won’t need to work with him too much longer...

“What are you thinking?” Shouto leans down to touch foreheads with Izuku and closes his eyes, sighing. “I can tell your thoughts are running rampant. If you don’t want to go, it’s okay. I just thought... it might be nice. You don’t have to, but I’ll be there half a month this time.”

Two weeks is a long time, not to mention several days added on either end for travel. Shouto typically only goes long enough to attend two days of meetings and then returns as quickly as possible. Izuku studies the ground, punishing his lower lip one more. He does want to go. He’s curious about court, and it would be really nice to see Mei, to have the extra time with Shouto.

But he can’t shake the gut feeling that if he goes, something big will change between them.

“I’m just a little… apprehensive? I’ve never gone with you before,” he murmurs. “And Mei has been at Court for a while... You hadn’t asked me to go to Court to see her before… so why now?”

Shouto steps back, looks toward the sky. Sunlight filters through sparse clouds in bright beams, casting color on his face and softening his features. “Mmm… I knew you were going to ask me that.” He sighs, removing one hand from Izuku’s to run deft fingers through his own hair, a nervous habit the hybrid is quite familiar with. “I’m… well—”

Izuku can tell he’s choosing his words. Being bound by honesty requires you become a master of the truth, though he knows Shouto is too genuine to bend it much.

“I just feel like we’ve been... drifting apart a bit, and I’d like us to… be closer.” He finally finishes. He doesn’t meet Izuku’s eyes, having shifted his sight down to his vest, cheeks slightly pink with embarrassment.

Izuku melts. It’s quite a display from Shouto, and it really tugs on his heart. Has he been distant? He hasn’t meant to be, but he’s just been so busy recently catching up on patients, making time for Katsukis wound care, caring for Aki...

He decides that he’s being ridiculous, reading more into this invitation than he should. They enjoy each other’s company; there’s no reason it has to be more than that. He steps closer and wraps his arms tightly around the faery’s trim waist. “Of course,” he says. “Of course I’ll come.”

Shouto’s tense frame relaxes as he squeezes Izuku tight against him, releases a slow, deep breath.

“We leave in seven days.”

---

A while later, they reach their destination, and Izuku steps forward to knock at the door. It’s opened by a bright eyed, sunny scented Eijirou.

“Hey ‘Zuku! Glad to see ya!”

He’s shirtless and carrying a stone blade in his hand for who knows what, but his smile is so huge that Izuku can’t help but grin right back. “You see me every day, Eijirou.” He chuckles. “Is Katsuki here?”

“Oi, doc! You could sound a little more excited to fuckin’ see me, ya know.” Katsuki steps into view over Eijirou’s shoulder, scowling. “God knows I’m glad to see your ass every day. Shitty Hair over here grates on my last goddamn nerve.”

Eijirou laughs loudly. “It’s not very manly to lie, dude,” he says, turning to point the blade at his friend teasingly.

Izuku blinks. A lie? Everyone here knows that Katsuki cares for Eijirou and enjoys his company… so why lie about it? Perhaps he’s spent too much time with the fae, putting the truth on a pedestal. He wonders what it might be like to live in an entire town with people who tell such blatant untruths so casually. All of those people can’t possibly be bad, right? Izuku himself molds the truth relatively often. He supposes truth-twisting isn’t all that different from lying outright… but something that’s not even based in truth feels odd to accept.

Katsuki tch’s and steps backward into the room. “Go cut your stupid furs or whatever.”  He turns to look back at the doorway. “You two comin’ in or what?”

Shouto’s eyebrows lift in surprise at the knowledge that Katsuki already detected his presence. Izuku figures that he’s not yet used to the heightened senses and scenting ability of the elves. Izuku makes an effort not to point out when he’s using them, not wanting everyone else to feel self-conscious, but he’s sure Eijirou and Katsuki can smell the faery standing beside the doorway.

“Um, yeah! Of course. Shouto and I were on a walk so I thought it just made sense for him to come along, too. I mean, otherwise I would’ve had to come really late at n—”

“Quit ramblin’.” Katsuki cuts him off, waving his hand in dismissal. “Let’s just get to work, yeah?” His scent is off, lacking the tinge of sweetness Izuku typically enjoys.

“Y-Yeah,” he agrees.

He and Shouto cross the threshold, and Eijirou immediately begins talking Shouto’s ear off about fae laws and the rules associated with selling the spoils from his daily hunts. He invites Shouto back outside to see the hides he’s been drying, wondering if they’re worth enough to purchase fresh honey and fae wines at the village’s small market.

Izuku is grateful for the distraction as he turns to Katsuki to start his work. Though their routine has become pretty efficient, he still doesn’t think any patient should have an audience while having to strip down to such a vulnerable state. Though, if Izuku has ever had a more confident patient than Katsuki, he can’t recall.

To be fair, the elf has reduced the onslaught of smoldering stares and confident smirks since the day Izuku ran out. Izuku was, admittedly, awkward during the next treatment, and Katsuki could probably scent his anxiety. Since then, he’s been nothing but friendly, pushed no boundaries, instead reverting to his more typical teasing and questioning about Izuku’s work. They sometimes discuss Katsuki’s too, as an elven hunter. In elven culture, “hunter” means something entirely different. They hunt to provide their towns with food, but they also lead the hunt—the one that signifies war. Hunters in fae communities aren’t synonymous with warriors, but for the elves they are one in the same.

And for the elves, it makes sense. Everything follows instinct. If you can track a bear, you can probably track a faery or an elf, too. Izuku suspects Katsuki is a pretty skilled tracker—he certainly catches onto scents quicker than Eijirou does, almost as fast as Izuku. He seems to be the sort of creature that pisses everyone else because he’s so damn effortlessly perfect.

Izuku mentally slaps himself. Perfect? More like irritating. Katsuki is annoying, even if he is drop dead gorgeous and talented as hell, precisely because he knows it.

Regardless, the moment the door closes and they are left alone, anticipation overwhelms him, and the fluttering in his chest brings him to believe that two hearts beat inside instead of one. Katsuki is waiting for him in his usual spot on the side of his bed, watching Izuku prepare the salves and dressings. The process is pretty comfortable now, and words aren’t necessary when he finally approaches. A good thing, considering he’s unsure they would come out intelligibly.

He reaches for the edge of Katsuki’s shirt and pulls. The other knows how to move now, and the process continues smoothly. As he removes the old scalded leaf to clean off the settled salve, Izuku moves slowly, gently. The skin looks less red, more smooth.

“Does it hurt much anymore?” he asks quietly.

“Nah.” Izuku can’t see his face while he’s working, but he supposes it can’t be too bad. Katsuki doesn’t tense at all during the process.  If anything, he relaxes when Izuku’s hands press into his skin.

“Hm... Good. I’m glad to hear that.”

Katsuki grunts, going silent while Izuku cleans the shoulder wound from behind. He can hear the chatter from Eijirou and Shouto outside, smell Shouto’s amusement with Eijirou’s candor and lack of knowledge regarding fae customs. He stifles a laugh when he hears Eijirou yelp with excitement before heading off to the village center; he knows because the fresh clean scent of morning dew and summer sun slowly dissipates.

”So, ah… how much longer ‘til I can use this damn arm?”

Izuku hums in thought, massaging the salve into the wounded tissue. “Well, I should be able to remove these sutures next week, but the muscle inside can take a few months to heal, so you shouldn’t push it before then.”

“A few fucking months?” Katsuki asks, incredulous, surely scowling at the empty room. “You’ve gotta be kidding. I’m bored out of my goddamn mind. I can’t just sit on my ass for that long.”

“We don’t have to wait that long for movement. Don’t worry,” he soothes, reaching for the leaves he needs to apply as covering. He’s honestly surprised the elf wasn’t this restless sooner; he’d been expecting this line of questioning days ago. He didn’t get the feeling that Katsuki was the type to let others help him for long, or to be so idle when his very nature was to act. “We’ll work together on that soon.”

“You and I? ...How soon?”

His tone is hopeful...warm. The sweetness Izuku had been missing missing has risen, its barely-there presence teasing his senses. He wants to chase it, to make Katsuki happy so the scent will grow stronger, so he can get high on the scent of sticky caramel. But he knows the elf won’t like his answer, so he braces himself instead.

“Well, I’ll be traveling in a week’s time. I shouldn’t be gone more than a month total, so we can start when I return.”

Just like that, the sugar is sapped from the air and dry heat burns his nostrils, harsh and acrid.

“HAH?! A month?!” Katsuki turns around abruptly, glaring striking daggers that threaten to pierce Izuku’s already panicked heart. “What the fuck? You’re supposed to be my healer. You’re just gonna fucking leave?

Izuku frowns. He’s not going to be gone for that long, and Katsuki is past the most concerning stage, where infection and scarring was a more serious threat. It’s not unreasonable for him to show Eijirou how to perform basic care. He knew Katsuki would be irritated with the wait, but he didn’t expect the animosity that clearly simmers beneath his skin, didn’t anticipate the shouting—though he guesses he should have.

“I can show Eijirou how to change the dressing. You won’t miss out on any care that I would have given myself.” His tone is sharp and hard, no nonsense. He busies himself with putting supplies away, not yet willing to look Katsuki in the eye, to do something so intimate as helping him dress—not while he’s being yelled at, at least. “Besides, one dressing change per day should be sufficient at this point.”

“I can’t depend on that damn hair for brains to take care of this!” He stands, looming over Izuku in threat, raw anger written in every line between his brows even as the sour scent of hurt laces the air. “You’re supposed to be my doctor. Where are you even going!? What’s so fucking important?”

The puddles of irritation he’s used to seeing in the fae can’t compare to the hurricane of emotion that Katsuki openly exhibits, and Izuku immediately shifts from annoyance to uncertainty. Words fumble in his mouth, tumbling out without his permission, making no sense at all.

“I—um, well I.” Izuku stutters, not knowing what to say. He should just explain the truth. Why can’t he just tell Katsuki he’s going with Shouto to Fortaare?

“He’s coming to the Seelie Court with me.”

Shouto leans in the entryway, arms crossed and shoulder pressed to the door frame in practiced nonchalance. Even his scent is relatively calm, just a little choppy with aggravation.

Katsuki’s flames burn brighter, hotter, and Izuku looks from one to the other, nervous. He steps forward, placing himself strategically in what would be a straight path between the two.

“Y-yes. Shouto invited me. And, I’m going.”

Katsuki frowns, an expression that Izuku finds difficult to read on the elf. His gaze narrows and shifts to Izuku, acidity exuding from his pores. It reminds Izuku of the day he’d asked the elves to move. “Why?” he asks.

“What? What do you mean, why? I’ve just said—”

“Why did you agree?” he snarls. The expression on his face doesn’t match what Izuku smells, and it’s confusing.  He doesn’t know what Katsuki is feeling, only that it’s directed at him, and that he doesn’t like it.  He fights the urge to plug his nose, wrinkling it instead, doing his best to clear it.

“That doesn’t matter.” Shouto cuts in, anger becoming apparent to Izuku now, choppiness escalating to thrashing waves, a flooding river threatening to topple entire towns near the bank. His voice, however, is measured and calm. “It shouldn’t matter where he’s going at all, but it did not seem you would settle until you knew.” His eyes flash in warning. “Now, you know.”

Izuku’s own eyes are wide, opposing scents suddenly tangling his senses—flame and storm, rain and heat bringing back memories he’d rather bury. His mind is drowning in a sea of images, thoughts and feelings, so dirtied, so polluted that no one could drink from it without gagging. He opens his mouth to speak, but nothing comes out. He closes it again.

Katsuki’s frown deepens, changes. “Ay. Nerd… you okay?” The elf’s eyes search his own. “Fuck, what’s wrong? What the hell happened?”

The inferno is gone, but the elf’s scent hasn’t exactly returned to pleasant either—Coals that smolder, struggling to light after flame has been suffocated by dirt. Izuku doesn’t know him well enough to know what it means, but it feels sad, painful.

He tries to suck air into his lungs, the effort feeling impossible due to the weight on his chest. He chokes in his attempt, clearing his throat to disguise the action, determined to reassure them both.

“I—nothing. I’m fine.”

He congratulates himself on sounding calm and collected. Izuku isn’t lying. He is physically fine. They don’t need to know the color of his mind at the moment, a vat of darkness he thought he’d sealed, open and spilling out, threatening to paint every thought in a shade of despairing grey.

Shouto looks confused, staring open mouthed at Katsuki’s reaction before turning to Izuku in concern. Without knowledge of his pheromones, Izuku imagines he just looked nervous, hesitant. Katsuki, however, looks… frustrated? He definitely scents Izuku’s distress, knows there’s something he isn’t saying.  Even the coals have gone quiet now, acidity and bitterness growing as they wash out completely, extinguished in the face of this now unplaceable emotion.

“Shouto, I’m all finished here if you’re ready to go?” He sends the faery a small smile that doesn’t reach his eyes, then turns back to Katsuki, who watches him intently, skeptical. “Oh—do… do you need help redressing?”

Katsuki returns his gaze with a furrowed brow, crosses his arms and tilts his head in thought. “Nah. I’ll be fine. Eijirou can help when he gets back.”

“Okay! I’ll see you tomorrow then.” Izuku grins. He knows Katsuki will recognize the wretched scent he must be exuding, but he’s hopeful that if he’s chipper enough, the blond will second guess his senses and drop the matter, forgetting it by their next visit.

“Yeah, guess so,” he responds, eyes uncharacteristically soft and discerning, heat completely extinguished… worried?

Izuku wonders if the brash elf is actually capable of such an emotion.

 

---

 

As he and Shouto walk home, the faery takes his hand and squeezes. He doesn’t say anything, doesn’t need to. Izuku knows it’s an invitation to talk about whatever was —is— bothering him, if he wants to.

He doesn’t.

They walk in silence, and Izuku listens to the sound of crickets stridulating as daylight slowly bleeds to dusk. The quiet is comfortable between them, and he expects it will continue as such until they arrive at his doorstep.

“He seems to have a soft spot for you.”

Guess not.

Izuku nearly stops in his surprise. “Huh?”

“The elf. He’s so angry all the time, not kind to a single soul, even his greatest friend,” Shouto explains. “But for you… his anger at our developing relationship was completely eclipsed by his worry for your wellbeing.”

“At our… our what? ” Izuku’s brain caught on that detail and didn’t exactly hear anything past it.

Shouto’s cheeks are flushed when he looks down to meet Izuku’s questioning eyes. “I’m speaking about Katsuki’s interest in you right now, not my own.”

“Your int— you know what? Nevermind,” Izuku says, feeling his own face heat. “I, um.. I don’t know what you mean. Katsuki is just… Katsuki. There’s nothing special about me ; he’s probably just worried about not having a healer to help with his shoulder.”

“I’m not so sure that’s the case.” When Izuku doesn’t respond, Shouto looks forward to the trail and continues. “He watches you, you know. And the two of you interact so… easily.”

Izuku sighs. “What are you saying, Shouto?”

The faery goes silent. Seconds drag into minutes and Izuku waits, knowing he’ll eventually decide on the truth he wants to tell. It takes the remainder of the walk for him to speak, breaking his silence only once they’ve reached Izuku’s door.

“I suppose I’m being… jealous.”

Izuku’s brows raise to his hairline. He should have expected that, but instead it hits him like an open-palmed slap to the face.

“Of what?”

Shouto hesitates, thoughtful.

“He just has some… some way of… reading you that I don’t, I suppose. It took me a lifetime to understand you, and it seems he’s done it in a matter of weeks.”

Shouto steps into his space, bringing the two of them toe-to-toe.

“Like now, for instance.”

He releases Izuku’s hand, moving to touch his face and pausing just before, as if to ask approval. When Izuku doesn’t protest, cool fingers grip his chin gently, tilting it upward to search his emerald eyes, their lips millimeters apart.

“I can’t tell what you’re feeling,” he whispers. “Does this make you uncomfortable…?”

Izuku takes a shuddering breath.

“Or do you like it?”

He’s so close that Izuku can taste the words falling from his lips. Izuku doesn’t move, though he trembles. Does he like it? Is that why his hair stands on end, goosebumps forming on his skin? Shouto’s thumb begins massaging along his jawline, and Izuku leans into it, closing his eyes, bathing in the scent of happiness, of clear trickling streams weaving between river worn stones, glistening beneath a beaming sun. The smell of home.

It feels good, Izuku decides. It feels like something special to share in Shouto’s happiness. He’d do anything for that scent, the one that envelops him, fills him, leaving no room for the shadow or the doubts within. Shouto places his other hand on Izuku’s hip, pulling him closer, cool breath fanning over his skin.

That feels good, too.

He wants this, more of this.

His breath hitches in anticipation.

But the hands on his body leave abruptly when Shouto takes a stumbling step back, letting out a small sound of pain. Izuku opens his eyes in confusion, and finds Aki clinging to Shouto’s fingers. There’s a small amount of blood dripping from his first fingertip, and laughter begins bubbling from Izuku’s throat as he attempts to reprimand his adorably offended glider.

“Aki! You can’t”—more laughter—”You can’t just bite people!”

Shouto holds his palm out and Aki hops from him to Izuku’s shoulder before proceeding to climb up into his hair, hissing. “I think I might have placed pressure on him in your pocket... Either that or he didn’t like how close I was getting to his master.” He raises a brow.

Izuku keeps giggling, hands on his belly, folding forward. “I’m, I’m so sorry!” he manages through his laughter. “He’s never bitten anyone before!”

Shouto holds his hand out gingerly, suddenly serious. “I’m sorry, Aki. I didn’t mean to encroach on your territory.”

The glider sneezes at him and then comes down to Izuku’s shoulder, nibbles his ear. It tickles and doesn’t do anything to help Izuku stop laughing. He snatches him up and holds him in his palm. “He’ll survive. Won’t you, Aki?” Aki chirps and nibbles on his thumb playfully. “I think he’s hungry, too,” Izuku adds. “He’s always more cranky when he’s hungry. I should probably, uh... go inside and get him settled.”

“I understand. Aki, I really am sorry, you know.” Shouto gives a small smile to the tiny animal, briefly brushing over his head with his uninjured index finger. Aki chirps in forgiveness, and Izuku grins.

“Have a nice evening, Izuku.”

“You too, Shouto.”

 

---

 

When Izuku gets inside, he leans his back against the door and slides down to sit on the hardwood, both hands raking through his messy hair.

Izuku had just been thinking earlier about how nervous he was for change. And yet here he is, leaning right into it, almost encouraging Shouto to pursue him. With what just happened at Katsuki and Eijirou’s, he’s not sure he’s really in the state to decide these things.

Actually... what did happen over there? Izuku can understand that Katsuki would be upset his doctor is leaving him mid-treatment, but that reaction was far more extreme than what would have been normal… And what was going on with that dampened scent later? Was that for him—for Izuku? Izuku is sure his anxiety was palpable to the elf but he didn’t expect him to care so much about it….

And the bold behavior from Shouto just now! What happened to the faery who couldn’t even ask if he’d come to Court?!

Izuku pulls at his scalp as unorganized thoughts chase one another in his brain. He licks his now-bleeding lower lip.

“Akiiiii,” he whines. “What am I doing?”

Aki hops down to cock his head at him, and then begins playing around the room as usual, blissfully ignorant of Izuku’s inner turmoil.

“Great help you are.”

Chapter Text

 

The sun is high in the sky, a filtered white-orange glow that shines through the trees by the time Izuku emerges from the forest. Finding branches with the right sort of curve for his intention was a real challenge, not to mention the sturdy sort of vines he had to saw at and pull down. He’s satisfied with his loot, however, so it was worth the effort. 

Eager to get home and work on this new project, he picks up the pace of his hike back, practically jumping over any outgrowing roots or stones along the way—Aki is probably not enjoying the commotion from his place in Izuku’s trouser pocket, but it’ll be worth it in the end. He arrives to the village just as evening is beginning to set, the sky shifting to the blue-grey hues of dusk and the air temperature dropping with the clammy feel of evening humidity. He’s sticky with sweat and probably smells a little off, but he doesn’t care. He’s just excited to get started.

Last night, Aki woke Izuku again. Lately, the glider has taken to barking when he wants something, which is both cute and quite frustrating as it continues to interrupt his sleep. It’s one of the four major sounds that Izuku has become acquainted with over the past several weeks. As he makes his way along the village trail to his house, he reflects upon them, recounting the noises and cataloguing them in his head.

The first—his favorite—is a chirp. It’s a tiny, quiet sound Aki makes when he’s happy or content. Izuku knows this because the glider only makes it when he’s cuddling with Izuku or eating something particularly tasty. It’s an easy sound to miss, but Izuku listens for it intently, almost needing to hear it every so often just to be sure that Aki’s doing okay.

The second is a hiss, a ‘what the heck do you think you’re doing?!’ sound. His little ears fold back and he bares sharp front teeth through which the quiet sound escapes when Aki doesn’t like what someone’s doing, but doesn’t care enough to act on it—a tacit warning.

If it doesn’t stop when Aki asks somewhat nicely, he starts to crab. This third noise is unlike that of any other Izuku has heard. It’s a gritty, angry growling far louder than the hissing (and it sort of reminds Izuku of Katsuki, if he’s being honest). Aki starts crabbing if whatever he dislikes needs to stop now. It’s all an act, really, as Izuku imagines most gliders would bite after making this sound, but Aki doesn’t tend to do that. Then again, Izuku tries not to piss him off.

The fourth noise—the barking—is relatively new. Izuku genuinely thought there was a puppy nearby the first time Aki made it because it really does sound like a small canine. He tends to do it for the same reason a dog might do it, too—he wants attention. It might be that he’s hungry and he wants a bite of whatever you have, he’s bored and wants you to play, or he just wants your thumb to cuddle with. It’s honestly unpredictable, and Izuku hasn’t yet learned how to decipher what he is barking about.

The high pitched barking is what woke him last night, and he opened his eyes to the barely-present light of the moon, looking drowsily around for the source of the noise. He sat up, pulling his knees to a bend, crossing his arms and setting his chin on them, still half asleep. Aki must have seen him wake, because the glider was already on him, clawing up his back and around his shoulders, finally settling at his elbow, just an inch or two from his face.

Izuku blinked blearily at him. “What is it, boy?” 

Aki tilted his head, large black eyes staring back at him intelligently. His round ears twitched as he chirped, and Izuku thought that he might want to cuddle… but then the glider darted up his arm and onto his head and jumped back down to the other shoulder before he hopped to the floor, bounding away to hide in the firewood on the opposite side of the room.

Aki...” Izuku slurred sleepily. “Why am I awake?”

He flopped down onto his back and pulled the blankets over his head, fully intent on going back to sleep. Immediately, the barking began again and with a huff, Izuku uncovered and rolled over, squinting at the firewood.

“Are you bored?”

Aki responded by barking some more from beneath the wood, and Izuku knew it was just a ploy to get him out of bed. The second he stood, Aki’s barking ceased. The glider ran over to scale his body and landed on his shoulder. Izuku smiled sleepily, catching on to the game, and stretched his arms widely in a T. Aki sprinted from his shoulder to his fingertips and catapulted off the edge, gliding across the expanse of the room and landing softly on the floor.

Izuku grabbed a blanket and plopped his butt down on the ground, crossed his legs, and waited. He knew Aki would be back. They’d play this game for a while, Izuku shifting positions for Aki to jump from until he wore himself out, which he would show Izuku by burrowing down into his blanket and chirping happily.

When it was time for bed again, Izuku took his cue, carrying the glider-filled bundle back to his mattress and plopping it into a pile next to his pillow. He relaxed on his back and closed his eyes. A few minutes later, the glider made his way out from the blanket pile and climbed over to Izuku, huddling up in the crook of his arm instead, smooth brown fur soft and warm against his skin.

That was when he got the idea for the project he’s taking on today.

Finally home, Izuku unloads all the branches and vines he’d collected outside and lights a torch for extra light as he begins to work. Aki emerges from his pocket, climbing all over as he braids the ends of vines together to create extended ropes with random connections, some long and thin while others weave thickly together, giving the feel of a small hammock. He then uses larger branches to create a series of awkward, crooked ladders. Aki jumps along the rungs and glides to the ground, playing.

Once he finishes the initial construction, Izuku takes those inside and sets up the ladders, attaching a conglomeration of ‘ropes’ to each and ultimately ending with a giant web of dried dark brown and forest green hanging about a foot from his ceiling. He loops a few vines over the weavings near the center so that some hang lower than others, making a mental note to watch his head when walking around at night.

He steps back and grins at the mess his home has become. Aki has already begun darting around the room, hopping vine to vine, gliding ladder to ladder, and chirping up a storm. He sets out a dish of water and some food before he slips on his boots. He wishes he could stay to play some more, but he promised Eijirou he’d be by for dinner around now.

“Aki, I’ve gotta get going! You wanna come?” The little guy glides over to his shoulder and gives him a cold little sneeze that tickles his cheek before hopping off again to enjoy his new jungle.

Izuku snorts a laugh through his nose, smiling. It seems he’ll be doing some things on his own after all.

 

---

 

“Wow, it smells great in here!” Izuku exclaims as he enters the house. It smells fantastic, like slow cooked venison, carrots, wine, and… is that honey? Honey is expensive; they must’ve had some good kills to trade. Izuku knows Eijirou does a lot of hunting and cooking, but he didn’t realize he could make meals like this. He swallows; his mouth is watering, stomach rumbling in excitement and begging Izuku to eat. He hasn’t had anything since breakfast this morning, and after a busy schedule of medical follow ups, gathering in the forest, and building Aki’s new play set, he feels like his stomach may actually eat itself.

“Thanks, man!” Eijirou motions for Izuku to sit at the table, where he’s set up enough stone dinnerware for two. Candles are lit around the room, casting shadows on the walls that Izuku examines as he wonders why there’s one fewer place setting than he’d expected. His heart dips in his chest, waterlogged wood floating just beneath the surface—still buoyant, just not so perky. He is still excited to have some quality time with Eijirou, after all. He didn’t even know he’d wanted to see Katsuki until he realized he wouldn’t.

“Where’s Katsuki?” Izuku asks, doing his best not to let his disappointment show.

“Oh, I asked him to run some errands so we could hang…” He brings over a large pot of stewed meat and sets it on the table, wood protected by folded cloth. “I hope that’s alright,” he adds.

“Of course—I mean, it’s your home after all! I’m just a guest. Thank you for having me!” Izuku gives him a bright smile, though internally, he wonders. Is Katsuki avoiding him? Is Eijirou covering for his friend? He just can’t tell for sure. At least if a faery had uttered the same sentence, he’d know it to be true.

He sighs, looking down to trace the intricately formed designs on his plate with his finger, edges scalloped in the shapes of various river rocks. These must have been pretty darn tough to trade for, too. They’re so unique—probably one of a kind, Izuku guesses.

Eijirou pauses in delivering another pot, surely filled with honey drizzled carrots based upon the scrumptious smell. “I’m sorry, man,” he says quietly. “I can scent you’re feelin’ down about it. I didn’t know if you’d really want to see him after the way he’s… acted, recently.”

Izuku looks up to see the typically positive elf looking downright guilty, and he moves to help him bring the remaining salad bowl to the table. “No, no! It’s really fine, Eij. I swear. I guess I jumped to the conclusion that Katsuki might be avoiding me for the same reason…”

Red brows jump upward in surprise. “Why would he avoid you? You’ve done nothing but help him, in spite of that crazy attitude of his.”

“I like helping!” He offers Eijirou a soft smile. “Just because he can be a little… aggressive doesn’t mean he deserves my assistance less than anyone else.”

Eijirou finally sits at the table, and Izuku follows suit. They use stone carved utensils to fill their plates with meat, carrots, and a gorgeous kale salad topped with seeds and dried cranberries. Izuku’s mouth waters just looking at it.

“You know… you’re a good guy, Izuku.”

The hybrid looks up from his beautiful meal to examine the elf across from him. Eijirou looks sad, but in a way that only he could pull off—a sadness shaped from warmth, from caring, from love. His scent isn’t bitter as sadness usually brings, instead it’s just… muted.

Izuku’s brows curve in confusion, worry.

“Katsuki’s a good guy too, you know,” the elf adds, pushing food around his plate. “I’ve known him since we were kids—his parents died when he was real young. Did ya know that?”

He didn’t. Katsuki mentioned once that he didn’t go to school, but he never actually elaborated on the fact, and Izuku didn’t want to push.

“I didn’t. He doesn’t seem to talk much about himself… or at least about his childhood.”

Eijirou hums. “Yeah, can’t imagine it’s a pleasant topic for him to bring up… But seein’ as you spend every single day with us, I figure you should understand him a bit more, yeah?”

He meets the elf’s vermillion eyes, and they contain a gleam that touches his heart—sincerity. Izuku can tell he really cares about his friend; the sentiment clear as an open book printed in oversized black ink.

And in that moment, Izuku has the startling epiphany and overwhelming feeling that Eijirou would never lie to him. He decides then and there to trust him, wholeheartedly and without cause. This man is too kind, too caring, to be anything but completely trustworthy, even if he does have the option to lie.

He nods in response, and Eijirou continues.

“So… I don’t think we ever even told ya our full names. We don’t make a habit of it, ‘cause of the family I come from. But, I’m sure we can depend on you.” He grins.

Izuku had considered this before, but never thought to pry. What did it matter to him what families they belonged to? Now, though, he is curious. He waits on baited breath, preventing himself from interrupting by taking a bite of his food. He chews slowly, savoring the juices of such artfully prepared meat.

“My family name is Kirishima.”

Izuku almost spits the venison right back out.

Kirishima?

The Kirishima family?

The elven royalty, holding a generational seat on the Elven Council as first hand to the King for thousands of years?

“As in… Councilman Kirishima? You’re the next in line?” Izuku is baffled that this exuberant, lighthearted guy could be part of such a prestigious family.

“Heh, uh... Yeah. Actually, it’s not such a big deal though. It’ll be years before that seat is passed down to me.” He brings up a hand to rub at the back of his neck. “My parents say I should ‘enjoy my adolescence,’ ya know? By that they mean the next fifty years, at least.”

Izuku snorts. “Okay, okay, fair enough. That’s why you know such decadent recipes, then? From growing up in the castle?”

“Heck yeah! Katsuki and I used to bug the chefs all the time to teach us. We both really love to cook, actually... But he’s been out of commision, so I get to cook more often.” He winks, and Izuku giggles.

The two of them focus on their food for a few minutes, Izuku making some serious headway into his wine. It’s flavorful, to be sure, and goes perfectly with their meal. He’s impressed, even knowing the elf’s background.

“So… Azmarin… wow!”

The elf smiles, reflecting. “It was pretty cool growing up there. More busy than most of the villages I’ve been to. Much more populated than here.”

“Hey!” Izuku teases. “I like it here!”

“I do too!” Eijirou laughs loudly. “But it’s definitely... different.” He makes a face that says different is not particularly nice. “I think Katsuki adjusted more easily because it’s more like the town where he lived with his parents before… well, you know.”

Izuku takes a sip of wine, holds it in his mouth—thoughtful, not wanting to interrupt.

“Anyway, it’s kinda fun here! I got to make us all this new dinnerware and stuff, after all! I’d never have been allowed to make my own back home—they want everything professional.”

He swallows. “Make it?”

“Yeah! Lemme show ya!”

The redhead puts his palm face up on the table and takes a deep breath, bending his fingers upward. When he does, the tips extend and darken in color, growing sharp edges and ridges that jut outward like the broken rock of a cliff’s edge.

“You have an affinity for earth?! That’s so cool!” Izuku leans forward in his seat, reaches out to touch Eijirou’s fingers. They feel solid, like granite.

“Yeah, man! I can turn myself to stone, but I can also reshape rock itself. It’s how I made these plates and pots.” He sends Izuku a sharp-toothed grin. “It can be a lot of fun!”

“I bet it’s really valuable for defense! And if you can shape it, your own hand can be a really dangerous weapon! This is so amazing! Wow, Eij! You must be so strong!” Izuku’s eyes are wide, excited. He’s never seen stone magic before.

Eijirou’s face is a little pink when he sits back in his seat again, fidgets with his sleeve. “Heh, yeah... I’m pretty strong! Not as strong as Katsuki though.”

Izuku’s brows shoot up but he zips his lips, wanting to hear more. If Eijirou’s ability is this awesome, and Katsuki’s is stronger …? Well, he just wants to know what it is.

Eijirou takes a mouthful of food in lieu of going on, and Izuku is practically vibrating in his seat. He mulls his salad slowly, mushing with his tongue so it will take longer, give him something to do.

The elf takes a swig of wine, eyes lighting up with excitement and pride. “Katsuki creates explosions. Impressive ones. His ability is so darn manly!”

“Explosions? Like… fire magic?” Izuku questions. All elves are attuned to a major element in some way. Sometimes the connection can be a bit of a stretch, but it always comes back to some clear base. Eijirou’s is clearly earth, so Katsuki’s must be fire. It would explain the markings on his arm, at least.

“Well, yeah, kinda. He can’t take a flame and bend it to his will or nothin’ but he can detonate his own sweat into a huge bomb. I’m tellin ya, it’s some crazy power!”

Fire itself is not a rare element for the inspiration of magical essence, but most elves don’t develop such a robust manifestation. Izuku reluctantly adds this to the annoyingly lengthy list of amazing feats the narcissistic elf is capable of.

“What do you mean his… sweat? Izuku crinkles his nose. Does that mean that he sweats more, too? He never actually smells like body odor when Izuku is around, though he’s typically distracted by the sugary smell that blooms when he’s around the elf.

Eijirou waves it off. “He sweats some flammable chemical. I mean, if we put his sweat into a bowl, we could light in on fire easily. Or make flames larger if there’s a fire to play with, like a lighter fluid.” He pauses, eyes glittering with mischief. “We’ve tried it.”

Izuku giggles. “He sweats chemicals ? Oh! Do you know which chemical?”

“Yeah! I don’t remember what it’s called, but we even tasted it once when we were younger—it was sweet. Katsuki wanted to know everything about our abilities so we did a lot of weird tests.” His brows furrow as if reliving some unpleasant memories.

“It must be nitroglycerin!” Izuku is leaning forward in his seat, practically over the table in his excitement. He wishes he had parchment to write these things down. He’ll just have to remember so he can do it when he gets home.

Eijirou laughs. “Yeah! That’s it! Nitro-whatever!” He scoops some more meat from the stew pot and fills his plate with a second serving. When he’s done he looks to Izuku. “More?”

“Nah, still working on the first. Thanks, though!” he responds brightly, reinvigorated by their discussion.

Eijirou nods and relaxes backward. “So, what’s your ability? Does it work the same way for the fae?”

Izuku hesitates for just a second before responding. He’s had this conversation many times, but that doesn’t necessarily make it easier. “I, ah, don’t have one actually.” Wrinkles of surprise appear on Eijirou’s forehead, but Izuku continues. “Being half elven and half fae, most people assume I’d have multiple abilities, or at least be super strong. But instead, I just ended up without one from either side.” He shrugs.

“Aw, you dunno that, man. Some elves develop an ability way into their hundreds. It’s always possible!”

Izuku gives him a wry smile. “Well, my mother never developed one herself, so I think it’s kind of unlikely. Besides—my instincts are a little extra developed, so maybe I was gifted that instead of actual magic? I don’t know, really.”

Eijirou looks more curious at that. “Whaddaya mean?”

“Well, right now… I can smell you, of course, but I can also smell things going on outside, give you a general idea of where people are and how they’re feeling. It’s really helpful to track and hunt. Or, if you wanna avoid something… or someone.” He laughs.

Eijirou’s eyes brighten. “Really? I can only smell you, well—smell anyone if I really focus on it. I don’t think all elves can do it so easily. That’s super cool! How far does it range?”

“Hmm… I’m not totally sure. It’s less like there’s a specific cut off than like there’s just a higher threshold as you get farther. For example, if Shouto was really, really upset all the way across town, I’d smell it. We grew up together so I’m really attuned to his scents. But right now, since he’s calm and not within the immediate area, I can’t tell where he is. If I don’t know someone as well, or don’t feel quite as connected with them, it’s a little harder to do, but if they’re within say… 200 yards or so? I can find them.”

“Wow… that’s nuts. You’re probably the best tracker in the village! How come you don’t hunt more?”

Ah. That smarts. Izuku has asked himself the same question.

“Well, I don’t have the ability to use magic, so I’m not supposed to go... It’s a little too dangerous.”

Eijirou’s eyes narrow in thought, and Izuku gets the feeling that he doesn’t agree.

“Well, I mean, Shouto helped me out a lot after… well, after I moved here. I was just seven, and I wasn’t doing so hot by myself back then, so it’s led him to be really... protective. It comes from kindness though. He really cares, just wants me to be safe, and—”

“Haha, no, no, it’s okay! I don’t blame him. You two seem really close.” Eijirou smiles. “It sounds like without him you’d have been on your own from a really young age.”

“Yeah… I owe Shouto a lot…” He trails off.

“Katsuki and I were hooked at the hip, too, growin’ up, y’know.”

“Oh, yeah?” He latches on to the new topic, eager to move from himself. “Is he from Azmarin, too?” 

“No, no. He’s from a smaller village farther away, but he visited a lot. In fact, he was visitin’ us when his parents were killed. Our parents were friends when they were young, so they’d send him to visit every so often when he got restless in their little town or when they traveled.”

Izuku imagines the “restlessness” was just Katsuki, not the town, but he keeps this to himself.

“His parents didn’t sit on the Council, but they mainly worked with a lot of the Council members in design. His father was well known for architectural work related to royal castle homes, and his mom did a lot of clothing design. You should have seen some of the things she made—really, really beautiful.”

“Wow, so your family just… took him in?”

“Yeah, just like that. An 8 year old kid with no home—they couldn’t just turn him away! Loved’im like their own son. He’s basically my brother.” He shovels more food in his mouth.

“That must have been hard for him. I mean, it’s great of your family to have taken him in… but there’s just nothing like the real thing, ya know?” Izuku is probably projecting a bit here. He does his best to refocus, chomping off a piece of honeyed carrot.

“Oh, for sure,” Eijirou speaks around his mouthful. “I mean, we tried to take him back to Brinestall to collect any remaining things a few weeks later, but… there was nothing left.”

Brinestall.

Brinestall?

Izuku’s Brinestall?

Again and again the word falls, like the ebbing of the tide.

Immediately, Izuku’s heart freezes over, ice spreading through his lungs and into his brain. His mind blurs, unfocused as name of his old home slurs his intellection, new thoughts bleeding to obscurity like ink on wet parchment.

“Did… did you say… Brinestall?” he chokes out.

Eijirou’s brow immediately furrows. Instead of answering, he jumps up from the table and grabs Izuku’s cup from his hand before it can fall to the floor and spill red everywhere.

It would’ve been fitting, really—the color of his memories. Red flame. Red blood. The stench of burning corpses and terror, of death. Even the trees of his mind’s eye are shaped like screams in the darkness.

His breathing comes too quickly, quicker even than when he ran that day. He’s feeling dizzy. His chest burns. Is he burning? It would explain why he can’t get enough air.

He should have died with everyone else that day. There’s no reason for him to have survived and continued on. He couldn’t save his only family, Katsuki’s family, anyone in their village. He was selfish, saved only himself. It was his fault Katsuki had no parents.

Rain is falling, his cheeks are streaked with wetness, smearing his reality when he looks up into crimson eyes.

No, not crimson. Vermillion.

Eijirou.

“Izuku… Izuku?!” The redhead has his hand on his back, rubbing smooth circles, trying to calm him. His scent is soft, green grass, waving in a summer breeze—relaxing, comforting. How’s he doing that?

Izuku sucks in a deep breath, wishing for it to be real—wanting to be out in the forest, where no one is there to live or die or judge or please. Not in this fae village, not in a town of elves. Just the plantlife, the wildlife. Just Izuku and the nature that surrounds him. He fits there. He belongs.

“I just—” He hears his own voice shaking. “I-I need some air.”

Eijirou nods and helps him up from his seat, walks him outside where they sit in the damp grass. Even in the darkness, he can appreciate the outdoors. Owls are sounding, leaves are blowing in the breeze. He closes his eyes and breathes, listens.

Crickets, fresh air, cedar, creaking branches and rustling brush… Izuku catalogues the scents and sounds in his mind, willing the comforting familiarity to push out the shadows, the green to overgrow the red.

He’s not sure how long they stay there, Eijirou rubbing his back, Izuku sitting cross legged on the ground. He thinks he might have fallen asleep, because when he opens his eyes, it’s to sugar and smoke and kohl-lined scarlet.

“Katsuki?”

“What the fuck happened, doc?” he frowns. “I leave you alone with this idiot for one hour and you’re a fucking mess.”

He kneels on the ground in front of Izuku, the burlap sacks he had been carrying now spilling an assortment of vegetables and jars around him. He reaches forward to wipe Izuku’s cheek with his thumb. “Were you… are you… crying ? Your scent’s all fucked up.” Katsuki's nose scrunches as he brings the other hand to wipe his opposite cheek gently. The rough, calloused skin feels warm and tender. For some reason, it makes Izuku want to cry harder.

Izuku doesn’t know what to say looking up at the elf in front of him—who grew up without parents, like him. Whose family he should have tried to save instead of running like a coward. He averts his gaze, uncomfortable.

“Ay, Izuku. Talk to me,” Katsuki says, his usual barking tone muted, softer.

Izuku wonders if they’d ever met as children and sniffles. Could they have grown up together if things were different?

“What the fuck did you do to him, Eij?”

“We were just talking about our history!” He puts his palms up in surrender. “Where we grew up. I was telling him—”

“Midoriya,” Izuku murmurs, finally growing enough courage to look up at the elf in front of him.

Katsuki’s eyes snap back to his. “What?

“Midoriya. That’s my name. My family name.”

 Crimson flashes. Angry? Why would that make him angry?

“Midoriya?” he growls.

Izuku looks at him like he’s stupid and wrinkles his nose, speaking slowly. “Yes... as in Inko Midoriya, my mother, who died in Brinestall, same day as yours. I thought… I thought you might recognize it. That maybe—” His words are choked off in sobs, and he lets the sentence fall to pieces on the ground, a shattered reality that would never be. The village is gone. Their families are gone. There’s no reason to discuss broken, unmendable things.

The elf’s mouth falls open in silence. He looks to Eijirou in confusion.

“He freaked when I mentioned the town…” He murmurs, red brows curved in thought.

Katsuki frowns, familiar wrinkle appearing between his eyes. Without a word, he reaches out to grab the produce and jars that had rolled loose, placing them back in the sacks before standing to open the front door. He pauses to look back over his shoulder with a sigh.

“Come on, nerd. We need to talk.”

 

---

 

Izuku is back in his given seat at the oak table, stirring honey into the chamomile tea that Eijirou brewed for the three of them. Its calming properties are well known—a good choice for this discussion. He sets his spoon aside and looks up to find Katsuki watching him intently, analyzing. None of them have addressed the conversation from outside yet, and Izuku doesn’t know how to begin. He exhales a slow and measured breath, looking down to the still swirling liquid in his mug, imagining patterns that aren’t there, waiting.

Finally, Eijirou pulls out the chair across from him and clears his throat.

“So… Ah, where should we—”

“Let’s start with the fact that you’re from fuckin’ Brinestall.” Katsuki barks from where he’s seated next to Izuku. “How the hell did you end up here?”

Izuku takes a deep breath. “I…”

He doesn’t want to relive that night. He’s already done it once this evening, and just the thought of doing it again makes it hard for him to think clearly.

“Well, I…”

He scents those barely smoldering coals he’s still not figured out, and when he looks to the elf beside from him, he finds a deeper frown than before. 

Shit.

Izuku keeps forgetting that these two can scent him, having become too complacent with the fae. He’s quite good at fooling eyes and ears, but hasn’t had to practice around noses much. Obviously his upset earlier was clear based on his outward look alone, but once he had calmed down, he’d hoped he could keep them from worrying further...

Well, they already know he’s off the deep end, then. Might as well make it a swan dive.

“I-I was there, the night of the… incident.” He swallows hard, willing his mind not to dredge up the images he’d revisited only hours ago. His will isn’t quite strong enough, and he feels memories sucking him under, rain unable to wash out the fire and instead drowning out his concentration.

“It’s… It’s really hard to... um, to—” He chokes off, inhaling water instead of air.

A hand finds his, wrenching it from the deathgrip he had on his seat, and Izuku glances down to find black ink splashed over tan skin.

Katsuki.

“Ay. Look at me.” His voice is strained. The coals are wet now, soggy.

Look at me. You’re right here. I’m right fuckin’ here with you. Don’t… don’t go there, okay?”

Izuku can feel the tears slide down his face, sees the liquid drip into his mug. As he watches, the tea reacts by rippling, dispersing the impact until the surface is smooth again, steady.

Is that what Katsuki is trying to do? Disperse the impact of these memories, the pain?

He takes a shuddering breath and obeys, shifting his eyes up and to his left, meeting crimson.

“You don’t have to tell us shit if you don’t want to. Talk about it or don’t—I don’t give a fuck. But I don’t want smell that fuckin’ rank, pathetic substitute for your scent again, understand?”

Eijirou groans. “Katsuki, that’s not—” He puts his head in both hands and drags them down his face. “Izuku, what he means is that we’re worried. We don’t want you to feel that uncomfortable again. We can tell that this upsets you.”

“I meant what I said, god damnit. What the fuck are you—some kinda translator?”

The coals are warm now, smoking slightly. And ironically, Izuku feels like he can breathe again. He capitalizes on it, sucking air to form full sentences.

“I left my mom to die,” he murmurs. “She told me to run and… I ran. She said she would come later, but on some level…” He sniffs. “I knew I’d be going alone. I left her, your parents, our village… to die.”

The tattooed hand grips tighter. Izuku takes a sip of his hot tea with his free one. It burns, but not as much as the shame boiling in his veins.

“Enji Todoroki found me by the river—that’s, that’s Shouto’s dad. He, ah brought me here to be Shouto’s... mate.”

Coals bore flame quickly, igniting like dry grass at its flash point.

“He changed his mind when he found out I was… nothing. No magical abilities meant no benefit to his family tree, after all.”

Izuku knows he sounds hollow, but he can’t help it. He’s accepted this as truth, after all.

Fae can’t lie.

“That mother fu—”

“Katsuki!” Eijirou reprimands. He lowers his voice. “Let’im talk.”

So he does. Izuku recounts all of his time with the fae, his attempted escape, his relationship with Shouto, and the healing he’s learned to do. It takes over an hour, but the two elves listen quietly, Eijirou giving Izuku an encouraging smile when he scents hesitation, and Katsuki pulling his chair progressively closer, squeezing his hand progressively tighter.

Eventually, when Izuku’s story is done and Katsuki’s is about to begin, Eijirou gives Izuku a big hug and excuses himself to the second room for bed. He knows this one, no need to stick around.

And they are left alone.

For once, Izuku doesn’t feel the burn of lust in his gut. Instead, he feels full of an overwhelming sadness for what he’s lost, for what they both have lost.

The elf tells Izuku about his life growing up in a castle of royals he didn’t quite like. He describes in detail just how annoying they were, though he discusses these not- friends—Ochako, Sero, Cami—with an evident fondness he thinks he hides. A lot of his stories have Izuku chuckling, and the two eventually switch back to wine to discuss the embarrassing acts of their childhood.

The mood sombers again when Katsuki tells Izuku about his directed tutoring—focused specifically on only politics and fighting strategy—as well as his rigorous training schedule. He’s the top ranked elven warrior in Azmarin. He doesn’t explicitly state it, but Izuku deduces that this is why damage to his shoulder is so terrifying. Being a warrior is his identify, just as being as healer is Izuku’s; they don’t know how to live any other way.

The two of them don’t finish talking until Izuku can scent morning dew and see light streaming in beneath the door. They’d eventually moved from the chairs to sit on the floor, using the wall for a back rest. The large pile of furs beneath and around them is far more comfortable than the wooden chairs they’d inhabited for much of the night.

Izuku feels drained and drunk, leaning his back into Katsuki’s chest with the elf’s arm wrapped around him—the only thing keeping him from falling to the ground at this point.

“Hey, Katsuki…”

“What, doc?”

“What’s your family name?“ He yawns, rubbing at his eyes.

“It’s Bakugou.”

He leans his head on Izuku’s own, pressing his cheek into Izuku’s waves. “Why?”

“I thought it might ring a bell… but… nothin’. ”

Izuku feels Katsuki’s chest rumble with soft laughter. “S’okay, nerd. Doesn’t need to.”

Izuku smiles and snuggles closer, enveloped by a familiar warm sugar smell and held in place by sturdy arms, feeling safe for the first time he can remember since the tragedy. He’s so comfortable, so relaxed that he can’t help but close his eyes and allow himself to sleep.

 

Chapter Text

Izuku wakes to a heavy pounding that reverberates through his skull. He scrunches his eyes, wrinkles his brow, and brings a hand to his head as he searches for the source of the godawful sound contributing to this horrible, miserable headache.

Silence.

Crap.

The pounding is in his own head, which means... he’s hungover.

Just how much wine did he actually drink last night? And how late in the day is it now?

He nervously cracks open his eyes, waiting for the painful burst of sunlight, but finds his view blocked by furs. Furs that aren’t his own. Furs that smell good, that are sweet and smokey and mouthwatering…

Oh.

A quick, panicked assessment of his figure tells him he’s still dressed in the clothing of the day before. He shifts the blankets to find himself met with the conglomeration of branches and vines he’d put together for Aki, still hanging above him. He’s alone then, in his own home, his own clothes, his own bed… and not with Katsuki?

Now, he’s confused.

He doesn’t remember coming home last night—er, this morning. Did Katsuki bring him here? That would explain the new, deliciously scented bedding he’s currently wrapped in.

He does remember their conversation, the way it felt to be pressed up against the elf’s solid figure, the way his scent rose up once they were alone. He recalls the sweaty grip of his tattooed hand beneath the table, steady and encouraging when Izuku could barely summon enough air to speak.

Something shifted last night—for Izuku, anyway. But if Katsuki brought him home, didn’t want him to stay the night, then… well, what did that mean?

Izuku closes his eyes and groans, stretching his arms and legs to the edges of his mattress, deciding to shove that away in his brain for some other time.

He won’t be much use today if he never gets out of bed.

He gets up gingerly and mixes together a saltwater and citrus tonic to help lessen his hangover. Once he finishes the drink, he gets to work pulling on fresh clothing and folding up the furs he’ll have to return later on. As he’s folding, he finds Aki buried in one, and the glider readily switches from that haven to the one of Izuku’s pocket before going right back to sleep.

Time to brave the day, then.

 

---

 

“You don’t look so well… are you ill?”

Izuku is at the Iida family home, currently tending to Tensei, Tenya’s older brother. The man had a hunting accident a few years ago and never really recovered, so Izuku makes it a point to come by the house a few times each week to perform physiotherapy with him. The session today went very well—his physical capabilities seem to improve every week.

It’s Tenya, though, who looks at him now in concern while Izuku packs away his equipment and notes.

“No, I’m fine, thank you… I just didn’t get to sleep well last night.”

His blue eyes look downward as he frowns, bringing a hand to his chin. “You are here much later than your usual time. Did you sleep late?”

“Ah, yes. I did.”

“What were you doing that you could not sleep?”

Izuku feels his face beginning to flush. “I, um. I had dinner with Eijirou and Katsuki.”

So late?”  Tenya responds, forehead wrinkling with a raised brow.

Izuku clears his throat. “...Yes.” He closes the drawstring on his pack and pulls it over his shoulder.

“Are you sure that’s wise?” his friend asks.

“Ah… no?” Izuku responds, sounding small. “It wasn’t on purpose or anything, we just… got carried away with discussion. You know… conversation and all that.” He flails his hand in an attempt to wave it off.

He heads toward the door, desperate to end the conversation as soon as possible. “I’ve really gotta get going!”

“Okay, okay. If you must. But, be sure to get at least 8 hours of sleep this evening, plenty of water, and three full meals today, Izuku!” Tenya says, chopping into his own palm as he lists off his recommendations.

Izuku laughs and he passes through the door. “Who’s the doctor here?”

“Yes, well… for a healer, you don’t take very good care of yourself you know,” Tenya says sternly. “Farewell, Izuku. Thank you for caring for Tensei today!” He bows, then slams the door abruptly.

Tenya can be really awkward sometimes.

“Who’s not taking care of themselves?” A voice comes from behind him.

Izuku whirls around to see Hitoshi just a few paces down the trail, lavender hair blowing in the breeze and an amused smile bright on his face, though the circles beneath his eyes remain dark.

“You know Izu, you’d better be in good health when we leave tomorrow. Otherwise, those Seelie’ll walk all over you.”

“You’re one to talk… you always look half asleep.”

Hitoshi snorts. “Whatever. You all set for the trip?”

“Ah… yeah! I think so!”

Izuku had already given Tenya instructions so he could do the necessary physio with Tensei, and he showed Eijirou how to care for Katsuki’s skin two days ago when he’d removed his stitches. Most of the others would follow up with him when he returns, and should there be any issues before that, he’s left Ibara with some health supplies to keep at Shiozaki’s—just in case.

“Gotta say goodbye to anyone first?” He looks down at Izuku from the side of his eye, raising one brow. “Probably better to do it today. We’ll leave at dawn.”

Izuku narrows his eyes at him. “I don’t know that you’re trying to imply, but I told you, I’m ready. I meant it.”

Okay, he does have a good idea what Hitoshi is implying. The faery is probably fishing for details on the elves, but Izuku has none he wants to give—especially not to someone who reports to Shouto on the regular. As much as he knows the faery leader respects and trusts him, he gets the idea that Shouto wouldn’t be too happy with Izuku having no memory of how he got home this morning, from a safety perspective. To be honest, Izuku isn’t very happy with that fact himself.  

Though, Izuku should be glad that Hitoshi is fishing for information at all, seeing as he could just take it from his mind directly, if he wanted. He appreciates that his friend respects him enough not to do that, at least.

The faery fixes him with an amused look that says he knows Izuku is fibbing. “Let me be more clear, then. Is there something going on between you and the blond?”

Izuku glares, and Hitoshi laughs openly. “I’m just fucking with you. But you know, Shouto’s not going to be very happy if there is…”

“Well, that’s just fine. Because there’s not.”

He huffs in frustration. Sand is sprinkling from the hourglass of his patience, faster and faster. Whatever is going on between him and Katsuki—if there even is anything going on, which Izuku still doesn’t actually know for sure—is none of Hitoshi or Shouto’s business. They only want to know because they don’t trust them. And for no reason aside from the fact that they’re elves. The thought makes Izuku clench his jaw.

“Katsuki and Eijirou are good people, and I’m really tired of everyone acting like something has to be going on”—he uses air quotes—"for me to spend time with them!”

“Okay, okay. Calm down killer.” Hitoshi smirks, stuffing his hands in his pockets. “Eijirou’s just fine. He spends time with plenty of people around the village. In fact, even I like him, which you know is rare.” He looks up toward the cloudless sky and hums in thought. “But Katsuki… well, he doesn’t exactly leave a good impression. He’s a little… I don’t know that there’s a nice way for me to say it, actually.” Lavender eyes shift back to catch Izuku’s own.“The guy’s just an ass.”

When Izuku responds with a look, Hitoshi just shrugs. “Gotta call’em how I see’em, ya know?”

“He can be a little... abrasive.” Izuku acquiesces. “But he’s got a soft side, too. He’s been through some difficult stuff. And can be… gentle. Sometimes.”

Hitoshi raises a skeptical brow. “If you say so... I’m certainly not gonna spend enough time with him to find out.”

 

---

 

Back at home, Izuku gets two packs ready to go. The larger bag will hang over the horse while the other he plans to wear on his back. He’s got to bring a change of clothing, a warm cloak, food and water for the journey, and some furs. He’s also sure to pack the parchment he’s tied together as a notebook with some ink.

Aki will be coming along, so Eijirou was kind enough to create a running wheel for the glider, in case he doesn’t have much to play on while he’s there. The base is made of stone, but the wheel itself is made from braided vine—perfect for folding up and taking with them. Izuku’s also fashioned a nice little bag with fur lining for him to rest in during the days in case he’s uninterested in whatever Izuku is going to be doing when he gets there. Izuku assumes that Shouto and Hitoshi will be off at some meeting or another much of the time, so he figures he will be left to his own devices more often than not.

But he’s curious—what will Fortaare be like? Izuku has only ever known the fae here in Willesden, and Eijirou mentioned that Azmarin is much more populated than this village, so what must the fae capital be like? Will the fae themselves be different there? Will they speak differently? Dress differently? Will the plant life be different—enhanced with the magic in the air? What about their healing remedies? Food? Drink?

With all these questions floating around in his head, Izuku becomes even more excited about the trip. The only thing that gives him hesitation is leaving Katsuki here. It’s not as though the elf can accompany them to the fae capital, but after last night, things just feel… different.  He hasn’t yet decided exactly what that different means, but the concept swirls in his mind, drifting in and out of focus as he lies in bed.

The elf himself is very different from anyone he’s ever known. Even from Eijirou—warm and kind and full of sunny, contagious energy. Katsuki is brash, harsh, even difficult at times. He’s one of the most blunt people Izuku has ever met, which can be tough to swallow after spending so much time here in Willesden amongst the fae. But it also makes it easier for Izuku to simply be.

When he’s around Katsuki, Izuku doesn’t worry that the elf will judge him, isn’t afraid to say something that might offend. Around Katsuki, he reacts instinctively, automatically, and he had never fully realized how freeing that was until last night. He'd basically vomited his traumas in a visceral mess, tears spilling and nose running, and yet somehow the two of them ended up curled together anyway, laughing and teasing about the other, perhaps less important, mistakes of their past. A physical weight felt lifted from his shoulders, even though nothing in his life had truly changed. Izuku can’t remember the last time he felt so relieved and calm.

Then again, he can’t remember the last time he openly voiced his despair, either.

Shouto has been an amazing support in his life, but he worries. Izuku can tell that the faery worries about him, wants to shelter and protect him. He doesn’t want to be responsible for putting frown lines on Shouto’s smooth and perfect face, so he simply keeps things to himself. It’s pretty easy to do when the faery can’t detect changes in scent.

At least he won’t have to worry about the fae scenting pheromones in Fortaare. He pulls Katsuki’s furs up closer to his nose, relishing the leftover sweetness that clings to them, allowing it to relax him further. It’s getting late, and he has to rise early to begin the journey. He closes his eyes and hopes for sleep to take him.

 

---

 

“Izuku…”

A brush of fingers on his cheek, then moving to run through his hair.

“Izuku… It’s time to wake. We must speak now.”

The voice is soft, soothing… familiar.

He opens his eyes to see dark green staring back at him. The woman’s hair, long and straight, hangs around her face and tickles his nose as she leans over him.

“...Mom?”

She smiles. It looks angelic and pure, but it doesn’t reach her eyes.

His stomach drops.

“How are you… how are you here right now?” His brow furrows as he sits up and looks around his room, shrouded in the darkness of the night. He’s still in his home in Willesden, so there’s no way she can possibly be here. A dream, then? A nightmare? He hopes not.

“I’m not, baby. Not really.”

He looks back at her, childlike in his confusion, unsure. “What?”

“I’m only here to give you an important message, Izuku. I need you to promise me that you will be careful around the fae.”

Izuku jerks back, as if burned by her warning. “What? Mom, I live here. What do you mean, ‘be careful’?”

“I don’t mean these fae, baby. You can trust your friends.” She takes his hands in her own. “Trust Shouto—he’s a good man.”

“I don’t understand…” He looks down at her fingers, marred with scars that stretch up her forearms and beneath her cloak. He doesn’t remember those being there before. Why would he dream them now?

“Sweetheart, just know that when you go… when they realize where you’ve come from, who you are… they’re going to ask a lot of questions. They don’t need to know the answers, okay? Tell them as little as possible.”

“I—”

She squeezes his hands again, a desperate grip that squeezes his heart just as much as his fingers. “Please, Izuku? For me?”

He looks up to find her eyes glazed with tears. “Mom, how did you get here? What are these marks from?”

She sniffs, taking one hand back to wipe roughly at her eyes. “I can’t stay, Izuku. Just know that I love you. So much. Be safe, okay?”

She leans in to wrap him in a tight hug, so tight he can’t breathe, but he doesn’t care. He’d happily sacrifice his air to be with her again. He closes his eyes to take in her scent—rosemary and olive oil—just as he remembers from his childhood.

Suddenly, Izuku feels the pressure surrounding him release. He opens his eyes in surprise, but when he does, it’s to an empty room.

She’s gone.

 

---

 

The next time Izuku wakes, he does so with a start. It’s one of those mornings when he feels like he’s late for something, but he doesn’t know what. As he looks around the room and wakes up a little more, he has a deep sense that something is missing. His chest feels empty, a cavern formerly inhabited, and he’s not sure why.

As he rubs at his eyes and pushes his blanketing aside, he vaguely recalls dreaming of his mother. He remembers her being sad, worried… about him. And the… the fae? Her warning felt so real and urgent, he couldn’t ignore it… but what fae did she mean?

He decides to place the blame for the dream on being more nervous about this trip to Court than he thought. He shakes it off and stretches out as usual, trying to wake himself up some more. It’s still dark outside, but if they’re leaving at dawn, he should probably get moving before the sun begins to light the sky. He dresses carelessly and scrubs his teeth with some charcoal, rinsing with water. Yawning, he grabs his two bags and calls for Aki. The glider is still awake, playing around on his indoor jungle, and quickly responds to Izuku’s call by sailing through the air and landing on his shoulder.

“Ready to go?” Izuku asks him. “We won’t see this place for a while.”

Aki pulls on his earlobe with prickly claws and a chuckle escapes Izuku’s lips. The glider chirps, then climbs into his vest pocket.

He slips out into the darkness, locking the heavy door behind him.

It doesn’t take him long to arrive at Shouto’s, and he finds the faery fully prepared, wearing his deep blue riding cloak and working to saddle the horses. Izuku doesn’t have much experience riding horseback, but Shouto has assured him that he’ll be on the most gentle horse they have available. He was introduced to Luna the other day, a sweet grey and white speckled mare. She warmed up to him very quickly, leaning right into Izuku’s palm seekings gentle pets. Izuku thinks they’ll get along just fine.

“Morning, Shouto.”

The faery turns to take him in. “Izuku. Are you prepared? Let me help you get Luna ready.”

He nods and steps closer, Shouto reaching out down to pick up the saddle and arranging it on the back of the mare before showing Izuku how to attach his bag. Izuku takes a few minutes to pet Luna’s neck before getting to work, and the two continue on in silence. Hitoshi emerges from the home next door just a few moments later, eyes half closed as though still partially in slumber.

“Good morning!” Izuku chirps, now fully awake.

“No morning is good.” Hitoshi grouses, walking to his own dark steed—Rogue—to get set up. Rogue acknowledges him with a huff, and he gives the stallion a few pats on the back. “Besides, morning isn’t even here yet.”

Shouto looks up from Luna’s gear. “Must you always be so grouchy?”

“I’m not being grouchy. The fact that you used the word always should tell you this is just my personality.”

“Hitoshi, your personality is grouchy.” Izuku chimes in. The faery snorts.

“Fine, fine.” He begins working on the buckles of his own saddle. “You can be grouchy, too, y’know Izu.”

“I don’t think Izuku is grouchy.” Shouto says, looking confused.

Hitoshi barks a laugh. “Of course, you wouldn’t think so.”

Izuku glares and the lavender faery grins back at him.

“You know I only tease you out of love, right?” Hitoshi adds, clearly entertained.

“Yeah, a love for embarrassing me,” Izuku mutters, climbing up into his saddle. He smooths his palm over the pretty white spatter mark over the side of Luna’s neck as he waits for the others.

Shouto mounts his all white sweetheart—Spirit—ignoring their petty exchange. “Are we ready?” he asks. Spirit whinnies and scruffs his back hoofs through the dirt, also ready to get moving.

It’s time to begin their journey North.

At the very least, it should be interesting.

 

---

 

Much of the trail is dirt and worn, as it’s a common traveling path between cities and villages in the area. Shouto and Hitoshi follow this route every time they visit Fortaare, so they are well familiar with it. Izuku’s knees hurt from keeping his feet in the stirrups, and his butt is pretty sore from the bouncing, but he has no complaints otherwise. It hasn’t been so bad keeping up thus far.

“We should probably settle here for the night, don’t you think?” Hitoshi looks back from his place at the front of the trail. “It’s getting dark, and we’re not necessarily in a rush. We still have a few days to get there.” He isn’t kidding, Izuku can barely even see Rogue from his position two horses behind. Dusk in the forest might as well be midnight with the shade of the trees.

Shouto hums in thought. “You’re right. Let’s stop here then and start a fire. We need to eat anyway.”

He stops, dismounting and walking back a ways to stand by Luna. He reaches up to take the bag Izuku is removing from his back so that he can dismount more easily.  

Izuku swings a leg over and jumps down from the saddle. It’s a bit higher than he anticipated and he stumbles forward, slamming into Shouto’s chest and knocking the bag from his hands. His arms immediately wrap around Izuku to steady him.

“Hm… maybe you should have just ridden with me?” he says, small smile curving one side of his mouth.

Izuku laughs. “Hey! I’m not that bad. I kept up okay!”  

He looks up to the faery holding him and blushes when he realizes how close they are. Hitoshi coughs and Shouto releases him reluctantly, taking a half step back to pick the bag up from the ground and run a hand through his hair.

Izuku looks over to find the snarky faery smiling. More blood pools in his cheeks.

“Guess I’ll handle the fish, since you two are… busy ,” Hitoshi says dryly, then promptly turns to walk into the woods toward the river.

Izuku sighs in exasperation. “We’re not busy! ” He yells after him.

“Yeah, yeah...” The faery answers, waving a hand over his head in dismissal, not bothering to turn around.

Shouto completely misses the implication, shrugging. “I don’t know why he had to announce it… It’s his job to fish anyway.”

While Hitoshi is gone, the two of them tie off the horses before Izuku gathers wood for the fire and Shouto unpacks furs for sleeping. Izuku is glad he decided to pack a cloak - the further north they travel, the colder it’s going to get, and he’s going to need to start bundling soon. Extra layers will be good tonight.  

Once he’s got a decent pile of branches, Shouto simply holds out a palm and sends flame straight toward the wood, which catches immediately.

Fire magic… how convenient.

Izuku grabs a blanket to settle on the ground nearby. He could unpack his cloak, but he’s sure it’s in the very bottom of the sack he’s already strapped to Luna, and it’s too much effort to retrieve at the moment. He rubs his palms up and down his arms in an attempt to generate more heat, but the hybrid realizes his lack of success when he begins shivering, chattering teeth audibly clicking in his ears.

Shouto looks over, having noticed his antics, and brings him another fur.

“It’s only going to get colder.”

Izuku sighs. “I know.”

“Here.” Shouto holds out his hands, palms up. “Feel.”

Izuku moves his hands hesitantly forward and places them on top. Shouto’s skin is warm —hot even. He must be using his magic to generate low levels of heat. Izuku smiles and looks up at him.

“I didn’t know you could do that!”

“Well, it doesn’t get as cold in Willesden,” comes the matter-of-fact response. He sits down on the ground, back against the nearby tree, and extends his legs, spreading them apart with knees slightly bent. He pats the space between them. “Come here, I’ll warm you.”

It is tempting. But Hitoshi is going to be back any moment—it doesn’t take him long to mindlock a fish and pluck it from the water—and Izuku can only imagine what kind of smartass remark he’ll make if he returns to the two of them beneath the blankets.

When Izuku hesitates, Shouto closes his eyes and sighs. “Izuku, you can’t spend the entire evening shivering. You’re overthinking this.”

He rubs his arms again, feeling his own cold palms against even colder skin, and decides that the feel of Shouto’s warmth is worth any teasing he might have to endure. He crawls the few feet it takes to reach him and sits between his legs, turning around so his back is to the faery’s chest. It reminds him of the other night, sitting with Katsuki. He shakes that thought off quickly. He shouldn’t worry about the elf from miles away—especially not when he’s so unsure of how Katsuki feels.

“Like this?” He asks.

The faery hums. He pulls the fur around them both, closing them in, and then slips his arms around Izuku’s waist, pulling him just a little tighter against his figure.

His whole body is warm. He relaxes backward, leans his head against Shouto’s shoulder and feels the faery nuzzle into his hair. Izuku breathes deeply, slowly, appreciating the scent of freshwater weaving through stone maze. It doesn’t make him feel in the way that molten sugar does, but it’s still pleasant and calming, and the heat itself has him melting.

“Better?” Shouto asks, words muffled by deciduous green.

“Mmm.”

The faery moves his hands up and down the sides of Izuku’s abdomen. Warmth spreads deeper into his bones, like sinking into a hot spring.

Izuku groans. “ So much better.”

“We can sleep together, too, if you want. The temperature is going to keep dropping.”

At that moment, Hitoshi breaks through the tree line. “Actually. Izu, if you’re already cold.. that’s not a bad idea. You’ll freeze overnight.”

His brows raise. Not what he expected from Hitoshi after overhearing such a proposition. It’s unexpectedly reasonable.

“Oh. Then... uh, yeah, I-I guess maybe we should… but... how will you stay warm, ‘toshi?”

“I just bundle up. Besides, I’m used to these trips. You aren’t.”

The faery makes quick work of scaling and gutting the fish, then lying the meat on on a slotted stone he’s pulled from his pack—surely a creation of Eijirou’s. The elves have impacted their small village so much already. He sets the stone right over the fire, flames licking through the gaps to grill their dinner.

As it cooks, Izuku closes his eyes. Shouto continues smoothing his heated hands slowly over Izuku’s abdomen, his chest through his clothes. The motions are confident and soothing, and he’s content to just let him continue this way forever.

Eventually the fish is cooked, flaking when poked at, and they have to open their warm cocoon long enough to eat. By now, darkness has blanketed the forest and the trees are filled with the sounds of night. As they eat in silence, Izuku listens to the owls overhead and the river rushing nearby. The fireflies are out and every once in a while he catches a glow, like a land-bound star, before the bug flies away.

The fire continues to burn just as brightly, but he only feels cold in its presence. He eats quickly, untasting, hoping to bundle back up with Shouto for warmth sooner rather than later. The faery huffs a little laugh after dinner, when Izuku comes back, shuffling his feet, slightly pink in spite of the cold.

“I—um, I’m kind of… drowsy, and—“

“It’s okay, Izuku. I offered, remember?”

Izuku nods, but his flush doesn’t go anywhere. The idea of sleeping with Shouto, of being in such an intimate position, has the blood trapped in his face for the foreseeable future.

Shouto shifts, reorganizing blankets to create something of a bed over the packed earth before looking back up to meet Izuku’s gaze.

“Ready?”

Izuku’s eyes dart to Hitoshi who has set up his own furs to make a comfortable resting place. He’s now donned a wool-lined jacket over his tunic and gloves that cover his fingers. The purple faery looks at him and smiles crookedly in a way only Hitoshi can—in a way that makes Izuku want to bury his head in the dirt, like an ostrich, but from pure embarrassment rather than the more reasonable need to care for buried eggs.

Izuku sneers at his obnoxious friend and then climbs beneath the blankets in front of Shouto. He turns to face the fire, and the faery scoots just a little closer to press against him from behind. He slides an arm around Izuku’s waist.

“Is this okay?” He whispers, breath warm over Izuku’s ear in comparison to the cool air. He shivers, then responds by placing his hand over Shouto’s, squeezing it tighter against him.

“Still cold,” he says.

He feels Shouto’s smile against his neck, and the faery moves his hand a little lower. He shifts the bottom of Izuku’s tunic and slips his hand beneath.

“Skin on skin will be warmer. Still okay?”

The hot air on his neck sends a chill down his spine, and Izuku can’t agree fast enough.

“Please?”

Shouto presses his palm flat over Izuku’s lower abs, just above his belt line. The faery’s hand is scalding hot and the first touch alone sends heat deep into his flesh, diffusing outward like a scent in the air. It burns in a way that makes him inhale sharply, in a way that he relishes. He wants more.

“Mmm... s’good,” he slurs.

Shouto takes that as an invitation to warm the rest of him, dragging his hand upward, fingers spreading over Izuku’s freezing skin. Shouto’s scent and the feel of his firm figure against Izuku’s back is so relaxing. He sinks into him like an anchor in the ocean, brain refusing to think any further as his mind drowns beneath the weight of a cozy, contented sleep.

They continue this way for the rest of the journey, traveling by day, stopping only to make one meal part way through the sun’s time, then stopping again at dusk.  Every evening, Hitoshi makes them some sort of wild game for dinner, and Shouto keeps Izuku warm at night. It feels a little weird at first, being pressed against Shouto’s body in a way that feels so entirely new, but Izuku gets used to it rather quickly. It’s been 5 days now, and they’ve progressed to a point that Izuku slips right in, wraps his arms around the faery, and nuzzles his face to his chest. The two of them typically wake before Hitoshi, speaking quietly as they cuddle beneath the blankets, not wanting to break the warmth and isolation of their cocoon as they watch the sun rising over the trees. He’s not sure how he’ll go back to sleeping alone, so addicted to the warm massage and quiet comfort that the faery provides. During their daytime rides, even in his cloak, he shivers, counting down the moments until he can have it again.

Izuku feels like he could live this life forever, and sort of wishes he would. Life in the woods feels so natural, and the idea of the fae he’ll meet at Court intimidates Izuku—the perfection he’ll surely encounter terrifies him, knowing his own self-doubts will rear their ugly heads, and his mother’s warning to be careful around the fae does nothing to set him at ease. As intriguing as it sounds and as curious as he is about the city, here in the forest with two of his closest friends, Izuku feels safe and comfortable. He almost doesn’t want to arrive at Court.

But he can’t hide in the woods forever, and whether he likes it or not, they’ll arrive in Fortaare later today.

Chapter Text

“Mmmm … Katsuki!”

Fuck.

The cry is like music to his ears, a synchronized orchestra playing just for his already drooling dick. 

Katsuki is throbbing, diamond hard, as his hips buck involuntarily to the beat of this new song, to Izuku below him like this—so pliant in his hands, so fucking needy. He smells like a goddamn rainforest: sumptuous and heavy and wet.

He kisses the hybrid, licks into his mouth and sucks his bottom lip as he grinds their cocks together. Izuku meets him bite for bite, thrust for thrust, groaning with each contact. Katsuki licks lower, sucks at the skin beneath his jaw until he’s pulled enough blood to leave a mark, one that designates Izuku as his. 

Mine,” he says into his throat. “You’re fuckin’ mine."

Izuku pulls at his hair, and it stings in the best way. The pricks of pleasure-pain have Katsuki moving his hands from Izuku’s hips to his ass in a hurry, massaging, preparing. 

“Yours. Ah! All yours.”

Katsuki licks down Izuku’s freckles, tracing constellations with his tongue and tasting the rain on his skin. He presses lips to Izuku’s chest, lightly licks at a pert nipple, testing the response, before he brings his free thumb to flick at the other. Izuku whines, a noise that ends on a sob, and Katsuki takes it as a green light to add teeth, pulling.

Izuku’s body sings, back arching and cock twitching as precum begins to drip with every nip and lick. By the time Katsuki’s decided his chest is well enough abused, the elf can feel the fae side of Izuku’s anatomy taking over. The scent of his arousal dampens the sheets, inviting Katsuki to press in.

And shit if that isn’t fucking hot.

He grips Izuku’s thighs and hooks them over his shoulders, ducking his head low and bringing his tongue to meet his leaking hole, wanting to taste. Katsuki licks a hot stripe over it, swallowing the sweet liquid that’s mixed with Izuku’s natural musk, and craving more. He laps at it slowly, savoring, only finally pressing through the muscle when Izuku grips his hair again, forcing him closer.

“More,” he breathes. 

Katsuki grips his thighs tighter, hard enough to bruise, and pulls Izuku closer to fuck him on his tongue, pressing harder, faster. He savors the taste of the salt and the sweat and the sweet after-flavor that is decidedly Izuku. He grinds his own cock into the mattress, painfully full, searching for relief through friction.

Not enough. It’s not enough.

He’s never wanted anyone like he wants Izuku, never wanted anything as much as he wants this. 

It’s perfect, and terrifying, and so fucking good that Katsuki’s afraid he might wake up. 

There’s no way this is real.

Please let it be real...

Katsuki adds a finger alongside his tongue, licking in as the digit pulls out, curling, stretching until he can easily add a second and eventually a third. Izuku responds to every addition, pressing back against the mouth and fingers that prolong his exquisite torture. He fucks himself on Katsuki’s tongue as he whimpers, hot tears dripping to the pillow.

“I’m ready. I’m ready!” He whines.

Katsuki pulls back and looks up into those gorgeous emerald eyes. They’re filled with tears, cheeks flushed so brightly it nearly drowns out his freckles. Katsuki doesn’t think he’s ever looked more beautiful.

“Ready for what?” he asks, knowing damn well what this dream-like specimen wants from him. He wants to give it to him, too. But he really wants those sweet, soft lips to say it first. “Izuku. Tell me what you want.”

Izuku groans. “I need you. Inside me. Now.”

Katsuki smirks at the demand, lining himself up at Izuku’s entrance and thrusting in, hard. Izuku is so wet, so warm, so fucking perfect that he has to reign himself in before he comes on the spot. He holds himself there and leans forward, forearms propping himself up on either side of Izuku’s head.

“This what you wanted?”

Izuku responds by dragging his hips away and then slamming back onto Katsuki’s cock. His breath catches, and Izuku’s lips curve upward.

“What do you think?”

The hybrid locks his legs around Katsuki’s waist, using his core to move his hips and ass in time with Katsuki’s thrusts. He’s so damn strong to be able to set the pace like this, and Katsuki becomes pliant for a moment, letting Izuku pull him back inside on his own whim. It’s unfair how good it feels, how easily he tears Katsuki of control, and yet Katsuki molds like clay in his hands - more flexible than he’s ever been… more vulnerable.

Rough, uneven thrusts gradually give way to softer, more even presses and caresses of skin against skin, of lips and tongue together in a way that’s sweeter, more… intimate. They move languidly, the rhythm dragging Katsuki deeper into the moment, surrendering more and more of himself to Izuku with every thrust.  

His hazy pleasure is broken when clawed hands dig into his back, Izuku dragging his mouth down to kiss away his oxygen, leaving him nothing but rain-drenched forests—nothing but Izuku. The combination of the hybrid’s possessive grip and demanding kiss sends chills down his spine, blooms warm and consuming in his chest, and Katsuki hopes he leaves bruises, even scars.

He wants to be marked by Izuku, wants to belong to him, to be his.

He moves a hand to Izuku’s taut waist, slides it behind him and pulls at his lower back, dragging that gorgeous body flush against his own to shift the angle so he can reach the perfect place inside him.

Izuku gasps.“There! Right there.”

Katsuki groans and slows further, dragging tortuously against his prostate. He feels Izuku trembling with each small movement and relishes the shivers as he kisses across his jaw, bites his ear, licks the shell.

He presses in to the hilt, grinding deep and groaning as Izuku squeezes tightly around him.

“Like this?” Katsuki whispers, knowing full well that his breath will cool the wet marks he’s left on Izuku’s skin.

Izuku moans. “M-move, I… I want harder… more.” He pants to catch his breath between sobs, writhing on Katsuki’s cock with erratic thrusts of his own, trying to start up any kind of rhythm.

Katsuki reclaims his lips to quiet him before pulling out entirely. Izuku cries into his mouth at the loss.

“Turn over.”

Boneless and trembling, Izuku moves as quickly as his body will let him. He’s barely flipped himself onto hands and knees before Katsuki grabs his hips and yanks them upward, slamming right back inside. The reward is a gorgeous, broken wail and the overpowering scent of thick, luscious greenery—humidity so thick it’s difficult to breathe.

God, he loves that smell.

He starts a hard and fast pace, sweaty grip dragging Izuku’s ass back to meet him as he aims for Izuku’s prostate over and over, feeling flames unfurl in his own gut as pressure builds below. He leans forward, kissing the back of Izuku’s neck as he reaches around to grasp his dripping, red length. His hand slides smoothly down to the base, then pulls back up to let him press his thumb against the slit, smearing droplets that have already formed there.

“Fuck, Katsuki… Please!” Hearing Izuku cursing as he begs almost pushes Katsuki over the edge, and he pulls back to grip the base of his cock with his free hand to keep from coming, focusing in on pumping Izuku faster. He just barely drags the head of his own dick in and out of the hybrid’s leaking hole, fucking shallowly and feeling each catch on the rim of his ass.

He’s so close, so fucking close. He needs Izuku to come now.

Izuku jerks underneath him and cries out, weeping as Katsuki feels hot, sticky liquid pump over his knuckles. He lets go of himself and grabs Izuku’s waist again, eyes closing as he thrusts all the way back in. The hybrid moans with oversensitivity when Katsuki picks up a sharp, powerful pace, losing all rhythm as he grows closer to his own release.

Sweat drips from his face and onto Izuku’s back, palms slick and slipping on his skin as he pants, feeling that flame spread, licking through his gut, squeezing tighter once again—

His eyes fly open.

“FUCK!”

He grabs his pillow and throws it across the room in anger. When he looks down, he finds the hide he’d slept with sticky… again.

“God Damnit!"

Couldn’t he just have a normal dream for once? Or no fucking dream at all at this point, considering that ever since he met that doctor, he hasn’t gone a full week without coming in his pants like a goddamn teenager.

He gathers up the furs from his bed and stuffs them in a bag, then strips off his briefs and stuffs those in there, too. At least no one else in this stupid fae village will catch the scent of cum. Eijirou might, but maybe Katsuki will get lucky and the sunshiny fucker will be out with his faery friends or some shit.

As he heads outside he is proven horribly wrong, because not only is Eijirou not out with the fae somewhere else, but the fae are here in their yard. Eijirou is showing a number of stone pots and vases to a few of the older residents of the village, but he pauses mid-sentence when he catches whiff of Katsuki and what he’s carrying in his bag. His eyes widen, eyebrows raising as his lips curve into a shit-eating grin.

“Katsuki… You slept… late.” He snorts a laugh, and Katsuki snarls.

“Not. A fucking. Word. Shitty hair. I’m goin’ to the river.” He turns and stomps in the opposite direction, scenting Eijirou’s amusement and the fae’s confusion as he storms away.

“HEY! We’re gonna talk about this later, ya know!” Eijirou shouts after him.

“NO WE’RE FUCKIN’ NOT!” He shouts back.

 

---

 

Of course, when he returns, Eijirou is sitting at the table with lunch ready, knowing Katsuki will be starving and forced to sit with him for a meal.

A bribe. So fucking obnoxious.

“So… how was the river?” he asks.

“Fuckin’ cold. As usual.”

Katsuki then proceeds to walk right by him—just to make him wait—and takes his empty laundry bag back to the bedroom, having left the blankets hanging outside to dry in the sun. He drags his feet back to the entry room, knowing Eijirou will still be sitting there, a smug smile on his stupid face.

He’s annoyed to find he’s right.

“When are you gonna admit that you’re in love with Izuku?”

Katsuki gives him a glare as he sits. “What the fuck? I can’t even sit down?”

“You can talk while we eat!” Eijirou says brightly.

He scowls and digs into the stew already served in front of him. He takes a huge mouthful that stretches his cheek. It will take forever to chew, so he has an excuse not to respond right away.

Eijirou wastes no time in getting to his point. “Seriously Katsuki, you gonna try an’ tell me that you were dreamin’ about someone else in there?” He pauses, then drops to a conspiratorial whisper. “You said his name.”

Katsuki continues to chew his ridiculously large mouthful, but his brows raise at the statement.

No fucking way...

Did he?

That’s embarrassing as hell.

“Bro, just admit it. You’ve got it bad at the very least.” He leans back in his chair, hands behind his head, looking entirely too self-confident for Katsuki’s liking.

He wrinkles his brow, narrows his eyes, and swallows. “Fuck, Eij. Why d’you even care so much?” He growls.

“SO YOU DO ADMIT IT!” He shouts, pointing his entire arm across the table at Katsuki as he jumps up from his chair in excitement.

Eijirou pauses, grin fading, and looks at Katsuki with eyes widening in realization. “Maaaaan, we are so screwed!”

And now, Katsuki is confused.

“Hah?” One side of his nose is pulled in a snarl, and he doesn’t think it’s going to relax anytime soon. Katsuki decided long ago that he’s lucky for his elven genes; otherwise he’d end up with horrible wrinkling before he hits 80.

Eijirou puts both hands on the table and leans forward. “Izuku’s claimed, man. Shouto is totally head over heels for’im.”

Katsuki reels back, squinting. “I don’t give a fuck! Why should I care?”

Eijirou sighs, closing his eyes as he speaks, like it’s painful for him to say. Because, man. We’re in his territory, fae territory.” When he opens them, the vermillion is soft. “We can’t just show up, ask for his resources, get a free place to stay, and then take off with the love of his life. That’s not manly.”

Katsuki doesn’t respond, just swallows his bite and fills his mouth again.

He doesn’t care about Shouto Todoroki. He’s the leader of some tiny fuckin’ outlier domesticated fae village. What’s he gonna do? Nothin’ Katsuki’s afraid of, that’s for sure.

Besides, it doesn’t matter, because Katsuki isn’t in love with Izuku Midoriya.

He just smells good, and he might be pretty nice to look at.

Katsuki can still see those damn freckles. Like the sun after staring too long, Izuku’s left an imprint behind his lids, his figure flashing brightly when they’ve closed. He also finds himself a lot more distracted by the color green in general now-a-days, which is a huge pain in the ass when he’s living on the edge of a forest. But those eyes… so huge, shimmering with veridian stardust, always locked on Katsuki when they’re in the same room. 

To be fair, Katsuki’s fuckin’ locked on him, too. He’s a sucker for those damn emeralds, for that scent—even those messy-as-fuck seafoam waves are cute as hell.

They’re soft, too.

He’d run his fingers through them the other night after Izuku had fallen asleep on his shoulder, passed out with the weight of wine and emotional exhaustion before Katsuki carried him home and tucked him into bed. It was a rough night, to say the least. Telling his own story, unedited and with brutal honesty, wasn’t something that came easily for Katsuki. But after what Izuku had told him about his… arrival to Willesden…

Shit.

The hybrid had been through some real crap. Made Katsuki’s shit look a bit easier in comparison….

The nerd had cried his heart out, and Katsuki felt it. He suffered his pain as if it was his own—wanted to touch it, feel it. He wanted to reach inside that fractured heart and drag out the misery inside, rid the air of that horrible bitter scent—then kiss and soothe the scars until they faded, fill his nose with rainforest foliage again.

It brings his mind to the day that he’d tried to show Izuku their connection, when Izuku’s scent rose up to meet his… heavy and lush, forest leaves dripping with fresh rainfall, fireflies flickering in the night. Katsuki had never scented anything like it—he was ready to bathe in it, trade oxygen for that shit.

Utterly mouthwatering.

He’d never wanted anyone so damn badly in his life. If Eijirou hadn’t walked in to ruin it, he’s fairly certain he would’ve had him, too.

“Katsuki,” Eijirou interrupts his thoughts again, waving a hand in front of his friend’s face.

“What.” He barks back, scowling.

“Dude, you smell like sex all over again. Cut it out.”

“I don’t fuckin’ smell like sex. Quit being so damn dramatic.”

“Fine, you smell like you’re emitting some… mating call? Or something? I dunno. I’m not that good at pheromone interpretation. But it’s definitely not your… normal.” Eijirou rubs at his nose.

Katsuki groans and puts his head down in his arms on the table.

“How much longer they gonna be gone?”

Eijirou sits back down, shark-like teeth visible through his bright grin. “So you miss him, huh?” He sing-songs.

Katsuki rolls his eyes and turns his head to look up at him. “Did I fuckin’ say that?”

Eijirou laughs. “Y’know, it’s alright to want someone. Izuku’s a cool dude. I just think you’ll have to watch your step.” He pauses, thoughtful. “Or… at least wait ‘til you’re healed and we can make a run for it if we need to.”

“I ain’t afraida half-n-half.” He scoffs. “‘Sides, didn’t even say I wanted him.”

But he does.

He really, really does.

He’s wanted him back by his side since the moment the hybrid left. His body certainly knows it, and his brain is catching on: since the fucker took off for that fae capital, Katsuki has dreamt of him almost every night.

Fuck, if his need for Izuku was made from ocean waves, he’d be drowning, dead. You’d have to pump the saltwater from his lungs, from his soul.

His friend gives him a sly grin. “If you say so… But you’ve still got at least two more weeks. They probably just got to Fortaare yesterday or the day before.”

He knew Izuku would be gone for at least 3 weeks, but for some reason the information still sinks like a lead weight in his stomach. He even misses the damn dressing changes. At least the wound care was entertaining—that pretty pink rising to Izuku’s cheeks, scent delectable as he tried to inconspicuously take in Katsuki’s form.

They had a nice routine going, and Katsuki had grown to enjoy his company, his conversation. Katsuki spent more time with Izuku than he’d realized, often watching him work and bugging him with questions about the salves he created or cures he used. Katsuki was learning, slowly. He was already familiar with all of the most common remedies Izuku used, and the nerd even had Katsuki make a few of them himself.

There were some that the hybrid himself had never made, but that he’d heard of or read about, and he’d teach Katsuki about those, too. He remembers one plant that sounded outrageous—Curcuma Arundinaera.

“It’ll send you right into a coma!” Izuku had said, eyes wide. “No one has ever survived it, but I really think…” He tapped against his lips with his index finger, lost in his own mind. Katsuki enjoyed watching the nerd concentrate—it was really fucking cute.

“Previous healers have tried to use Carex Ligustrina fruit juices as a way to delay demise, but I bet no one has tried crushing the leaves and stems before! The juices within the fruits are too processed, but those in the actual plant would likely be more potent. I wonder if that might function as an actual cure..." 

Katsuki furrowed his brow. “Why can’t they just use magic for healing? There are plenty of healers who can reverse poisonous effects.”

Izuku gave him a wry smile. “The Arundinaera poison renders magical intervention of any kind ineffective. In fact, some people take it at super, super low doses to build a resistance to magical attacks. It’s torture and makes them quite ill for the first few months. But over time, it seems to work. Or, at least that’s what I’ve read.”

A wrinkle of surprise appeared on Katsuki’s forehead. He’d never heard of using anything to create a magical resistance, and he was the number one warrior in Azmarin. It seemed sort of underhanded and dangerous. Especially if there was no known cure.

“I thought Ligustrina only grew in caves… in the fuckin’ winter. How the hell could people get stems and leaves year round for that shit?”

Izuku looked at him with a sad expression. “They couldn’t. That’s why it’s so deadly.”

The nerd was smart—smarter than anyone Katsuki had met before, anyway—but he didn’t act like he was. The doc didn’t have a condescending bone in his body, extending kindness and sharing his knowledge with every fuckin’ sap in the village. Honestly, this tiny place was lucky to have him. If someone like this lived in Azmarin, he’d probably work directly with the Council. They could use a healer so intelligent there.

Shit. Katsuki hopes the fae don’t try to keep him in Fortaare.

He sighs, tries to swallow his nerves.

“Yeah, well. At least I can get some training in while he’s not around to nag me.”

“Keep tellin’ yourself that...” Eijirou drawls, clearly not believing his optimism.

“Gonna at least do some runnin’. Don’t need my damn bum shoulder for that shit.”

At this, Eijirou brightens. “Oh! I wanna run, too. By the river?”

Katsuki had gotten in a few runs since making a temporary home in Willesden. Initially, he couldn’t do much at all because the jostling was so painful, but now he can really move. As long as he does his best not to pump his arms too hard, he is fine to run, which is good, because he needs to do something.

He can’t wait til he can get back to bow practice, hunting, and sparring… He is so damn sick of healing, but at least Izuku was a good distraction. Even just talking with the nerd about fighting or strategizing was better than having none of it. Izuku asked a lot of questions about his work, and not just the superficial shit, but the why. He always asked how Katsuki came to his decisions, how he felt about them, and Katsuki probably gave away a lot more than he usually would, being so honest like that, recounting things in a way that made him feel like he was there again. It also gave him some new ideas he loathes to admit he might not have gotten on his own. Izuku has a way of making him examine things in a new light.

Without him, Katsuki feels pent up as fuck.

He grunts, grabs his empty bowl, and cleans it out the same way Eijirou had cleaned his.

“Think you can keep up?”

 

---

 

Katsuki runs along the rocks near the river, legs and lungs burning as he pulls his knees higher, pushes off harder. His shoulder twinges, still sore, but it sure as hell beats the jitters and anxiety he gets when he can’t move around. He’d have gone batshit if his legs had been injured as well. They’re only about three miles in when he hears Eijirou call out from behind him. 

“Hey! I’ll meet you back at the house!”

The stone-manipulator definitely isn’t built for running. Eijirou is one powerful motherfucker, but he’s also bulky, heavy, and not particularly fast. He’s always overly optimistic in thinking he can keep up with Katsuki’s workouts. He can’t though, never could.

But Katsuki appreciates the company for the first half nonetheless. Knowing someone’s watching motivates him to do a little more than he might do on his own, though he pushes himself plenty hard regardless. Plus, Eijirou’s chattering is a good distraction from his own brain sometimes.

He maneuvers between the river stones lining the bank, then turns back into the trees, senses on high alert once off the beaten trail. He pumps his legs, feels his glutes flexing when he bounds over a fallen trunk and the damp earth gives gently beneath his feet. The scent of crisp green leaves, eucalyptus and stone pine tickle his nose as he weaves between them. He tries to be silent, landing softly in fallen leaves, knowing his footsteps will send a tremor through the entire wooded community. The birds scatter anyway, chattering and chirping in offense at his disturbance.

The feel of the forest is something special, mysterious and untouched. The deeper Katsuki goes, the more it becomes a place of twilight shadows, even in the daylight—elusive and filled with hidden meanings beyond his comprehension. He tries, but understanding emerges and dissolves like dust motes in filtered sunlight. So much more than reaches the eye. Superficial beauty hiding the complexity within.

Hell if it doesn’t remind him of Izuku.

The forestial hybrid always has a damn smile on his face, even when his scent is dilapidated, reeking of rotting wood, soaked in a goddamned swamp. It blew his mind the first time he scented it—bitter and acrid and forcing him to breathe through his mouth. Yet, the stubborn fuck just stood there, light laugh erupting from a natural-appearing grin, as though nothing was amiss.

Where’d Izuku learn to do that shit? And why does he do it?

It made Katsuki second-guess his sense of smell, which is pretty fuckin’ good, all things considered.

Though, it’s not usually this good... For some reason, he finds himself particularly attuned to variations in Izuku’s scent, able to sense his moods even at a distance, which makes it particularly frustrating to know when he and half-n-half are together. He can tell there are times that Izuku considers it, wants to be what the damn faery wants from him—a boyfriend, a mate, whatever. He can tell the hybrid is attracted to him. It’s different, softer than the way his scent rages around Katsuki, but it’s still fuckin’ there.

He grits his teeth and forgets about his effort to be soundless. He sprints faster, crunching branches and splashing in puddles while he works to push his body to the limit. He reaches it at the same time he finds the treeline—breaking out to a grass meadow, one he’s been to before, just outside the village. He collapses to the ground and lies flat on his back, dropping a forearm over his face to block out the sunlight as he lies there, heaving.

He needs to chill the fuck out. Izuku isn’t acting on that shit, and he’s not going to. The hybrid is too kind, too gentle to lead on that love-drunk faery like that.

...Right?

Katsuki groans in irritation with himself.

Who is he to expect anything after just a few weeks of time together, when he and Shouto have had years together? Why is he offended that Izuku might consider anything with the faery? It’s not as though Katsuki has told him how he feels.

He did think they built some kind of connection… especially after that late night talk. But the hybrid left on his trip without a word, and that stung. Katsuki wasn’t sure what that meant, but he’s holding out hope that maybe Izuku was simply rushed in his preparations, didn’t have time.

Katsuki doesn’t have the right to expect anything at all.

He rolls over to his belly and pushes to his knees, hunched over and trying to calm his gut, keep it from evicting last night’s dinner. He’s never obsessed like this before. If he wants something, he takes it, and that’s final. It’s never been hard in the past. He’d smirk, subtly flex, and people would drool. Never failed.

But he just… can’t with Izuku. Despite what he refused to admit to Eijirou, he doesn’t just want sex with the nerd, though it’s all he’s dreamt about. He wants… more. He wants the half-elf to feel something for him, and he’s not sure how to make that happen. Never cared to make it happen before now.

He huffs, spits, and pushes himself up, satisfied that he can make it home without puking. It wouldn’t take long, maybe 10 minutes to actually arrive back at the village. He stops by the river on the way, rinsing the sweat from his skin quickly, avoiding the salve that’s still sticky on his skin.

He looks down at himself, soaking wet, contours shining in the sunlight. He knows he looks good. Better than good. Even with a decrease in his training, he’s still fit as fuck.

He knows Izuku is attracted to him physically, if nothing else. More than he’s attracted to that half-n-half fucking faery, anyway. He has that goin’ for him, at least. 

Maybe he can work with this.

While Katsuki ultimately wants more than sex, he’s not opposed to starting with physicality. After that, he can work on the feelings bullshit. Katsuki’s a smart guy—he can figure that crap out later on. For now, he just needs to get and hold Izuku’s attention. And that— that he can handle.

Shouto Todoroki might want Izuku, but Katsuki’s gonna make damn sure that hybrid forgets everyone but him.

Chapter Text

“Hi! I’m Nejire! How was your trip?!”

Long lilac hair and disturbingly white pupils greet the three of them at a large, swirling golden gate as they dismount their horses. The girl doesn’t give them time to respond before she barges onward, bright and bubbly and with so much energy that Izuku already feels exhausted just looking at her.

“Hi, Lord Shouto! Hi, Hitoshi!” She leans inward, hands clasped behind her back as her face turns contemplative. “I haven’t met you, though… who are you?”

“O-oh! I’m Izuku! It’s nice to meet you, Nej—”

He snaps his mouth shut when she starts throwing questions at him left and right. “How come you’ve never been here before? Did you just move in? Are you Lord Shouto’s mate? Are you new? Maybe—”

She halts mid-sentence and narrows her eyes. “...why are your ears so pointy?”

Izuku is surprised she noticed so quickly. His dark green waves typically hide them unless someone is really looking… She’s incredibly observant.

Shouto steps in then, raising a hand to halt whatever response was about to escape Izuku’s lips. “Nejire, could you show us to our rooms, please?”

“Oh!” she says, straightening. “Of course I can! This way!”

She turns abruptly and walks in the opposite direction, concerns about his ears all but forgotten. Izuku looks to Hitoshi with his brows raised in question, and the faery shrugs, amused. Shouto starts after her, but Izuku turns to detach his bag from Luna’s back. A hand on his arm stops him.

“Don’t worry about it,” Hitoshi says. “They’ll bring it up afterward. They’ll take care of the horses, too.”

Izuku frowns. He looks around to find nothing but lush greenery nearby, gigantic magenta and deep purple flowers growing from vines that weave through the gates, despite the freezing temperatures. He listens closely, and his ears are met only with the soft tones of birds chirping, frosted leaves blowing in the breeze... but no footfall, no voices. How can they take care of the horses if there isn’t anyone here?

Hitoshi gives him a smirk and throws an arm around his shoulders. “Just enjoy the hospitality,” he says, dragging him along.

They pass through the elaborate metal gate and follow a patterned brick path on their way to the castle ahead. The building is formed by polished stone, glistening in the light of the sun. Dark vines sprawl in intricate patterns along the sides, blooming colossal violet lilies that seem unreal. Large, beautifully shaped windows create gaps in the shimmering stone through which Izuku sees cranberry curtains with golden trim, and he vaguely wonders if everything in this castle will be so extravagantly colored.

When they reach the doorway—glass with golden handles—Nejire begins to speak again. She says she’ll take them to each of their rooms, all on the same floor but separated by a decent distance. She chatters the entire way, musing aloud all the questions and thoughts a normal person would keep in their head. Izuku finds it strange, but also... oddly endearing. He suspects that if he voiced all of his thoughts, he would sound fairly similar.

As they walk the halls, Izuku is relieved that the walls are a basic, eggshell color and the floors are hardwood. The doors, however, are painted a rich magenta. They reach Hitoshi’s first, and Nejire presses her palm over a rectangle pad to the right of the entrance. The color shimmers before Hitoshi walks right through it.

Magic, then.

A knot forms in Izuku’s gut. What if he can’t open his own door? His tongue swipes his lower lip before he tugs it between his teeth. Shouto peers at him from the side of his eye before Izuku feels the faery’s hand over his own, squeezing tightly. He leans sideways, closer to Izuku’s ear—not that he needs to, Izuku would have his faintest whisper anyway.

“It is magic,” he murmurs. “But it’s print activated. Your door will be programmed to match your prints, and anyone you want to have permission will be able to enter as well.”

Izuku breathes a sigh of relief. Shouto’s door is next, and he’d have panicked the entire way to his own without that knowledge. Once his friend is gone and Izuku is left with his host, Nejire prattles on, asking questions about his trip, the habits of his horse, the color of his hair, why it’s wavy and if he ever cuts it… He quickly learns that if he takes too long to respond, she just moves on to ask another question. With that in mind, he begins to choose which ones he wants to answer, letting her blaze right by those that might pose more difficulty.

His door is at the end of a long and circling hallway—about a five minute walk from Shouto’s, and maybe fifteen minutes or so from Hitoshi’s. He’s surprised that Hitoshi’s room isn’t closer to Shouto’s, to be honest, seeing as he is supposed to be Shouto’s guard and all. He supposes the fae aren’t so worried about his safety in their own capital.

Nejire places her palm over the pad and gestures for him to enter.

“See you at dinner, Izuku!” She smiles and waves, then turns to walk back the way she came without waiting for his response.

He takes a deep breath and walks through the shimmering door and is shell-shocked by what he finds beyond. The walls are covered in a deep, cranberry paper with trim that glitters with gold accenting, matching the curtains he had seen through the windows from the outside. The bed is the centerpiece of the room—huge, large enough for at least four people, and with a frame made from sealed mahogany. It’s topped with a seriously fluffy, sage colored duvet and large pillows in matching silk pillowcases. There are several wooden dressers in the room, elaborately carved with beautiful swirling patterns on each of the drawers, and a nightstand next to the bed on which rests a contained torch with a golden stem and glass casing. At the foot of the bed lies a chaise lounge in the same colors of the wallpaper and decorated with small matching throw pillows, accented with golden tassel trimming.

Izuku steps forward and plops down on the chaise, sinking into the overly soft cushion. He looks up to find a large torch chandelier—gold, of course—and gleaming constellations painted onto the ceiling above. A large folding panel is set up to his left, near the large dresser, which Izuku assumes is for changing behind, and a small tea table is positioned to his right.

This one room is larger than Izuku’s entire home.

He sighs, unsure yet if he’s impressed or simply irritated with the amount of grandeur he’s experienced thus far. He removes the soft fur pouch he’s been carrying with Aki inside and sets on the cushion. This way the glider can have some peaceful, stationary slumber for the first time in a while.

A chime rings through the room and Izuku looks around in wonder. He doesn’t see anything that could be making such a noise. He frowns.

A knock sounds at the door.

Oh. That must be what the chime was for. He presses the door pad to meet Hitoshi’s trademark sleepy grin.

“So whaddaya think?”

“It’s… well, it’s certainly… unreal.” Izuku’s tone is quiet, childlike in his awe.

Hitoshi laughs and walks over to one of the drawer sets.

“They’ll have clothing in here for you. The other set will have towels in it. You can bathe before we go to dinner, if you want.”

“Bathe... here?” Izuku is sure his eyes must be large as saucers, but he doesn’t even care. “Where?!”

Hitoshi grins and takes him behind the folding panel to a door Izuku hadn’t noticed. He places his palm on the pad outside so they can pass through. Izuku is confused for a moment, but then he remembers what Shouto said about him allowing others through the doors.

When he enters, he is again confused. He thinks he’s in a… bath room? Izuku has never seen one before, but he’s read about them. There’s a toilet as well as a metal spout positioned over an elevated stone dish—a sink? He turns the small handle near the spout and watches water run freely from the faucet in a tiny waterfall before disappearing through the metal vent at the bottom.

“Wow…” he whispers.

The faery clears his throat and Izuku turns just as Hitoshi drags a floor length, curving curtain to the side, revealing a very, very large stone basin, complemented by shelves of soaps, oils, and lotions. Hitoshi leans forward to grab a small stopper from the shelf and places it in the drain before turning on the water.

“Here is where you’ll wash.”

Izuku’s lips part as he looks at the filling tub, back to Hitoshi, and then back to the basin again.

“Amazing,” he breathes.

“Plumbing.” Hitoshi deadpans. “I’ll leave you to it, then. Can you find your way back to my room when you’re done? I’ll show ya the way to dinner. Shouto’s got stuff to do.”

Izuku hears him faintly, still watching in wonder as rushing, clean water creates a magically clear pool before his eyes.. “Ah… yeah, I can do that…”

Hitoshi chuckles and walks back to the other room, grabbing a towel from the dresser. When he returns, he hangs it on a hook mounted near the tub.

“I get the feeling you’d have forgotten this in your excitement. Use it.”

Izuku nods vaguely. “Kay…”


---


“Nice outfit,” Hitoshi says.

After his bath, Izuku pawed through the elaborate drawers of the dressers to find something more fitting with the aesthetic of Fortaare than his riding clothes. He decided on an outfit already coordinated together in the drawer: navy blue trousers, a white collared button up, and a green vest with golden buttons. There were also grey leather gloves packaged with the ensemble, which he hesitated to wear, but ultimately decided to don, fearing he’d offend whoever had pieced the outfit together for him. The shirt is silk and the trousers are soft. Overall, he’s surprisingly comfortable.

“No rat tonight?”

“He’s not a rat.” Izuku sticks out his tongue. “But Aki doesn’t like these small pockets very much… He’s got lots of new places to explore back in the room though, so I think he’ll be okay.”

Hitoshi nods, falling into step beside him. “Yeah, that’s probably for the best. I dunno how Tamaki would react to the little guy, anyway. He’s kinda freaked out by… well… everything, really.”

Izuku’s brows bend with skepticism, and Hitoshi chuckles. “You’ll get it when you meet him.”

It seems they walk forever—at least half an hour of winding hallways—before they arrive at the dining hall, where Izuku is to meet the Seelie Court for the first time.

Standing in the doorway, Izuku feels his palms sweating in his leather gloves and tries to wipe them on his trousers out of reflex. It doesn’t help, of course, so he begins to fidget with them instead. Hitoshi nudges him.

Shoot. Why is he so nervous?

Shouto stands from his chair at the table and walks to meet them, taking Izuku’s hands and cooling the gloves with a small amount of frost. He knows Izuku’s anxious habits.

He ducks his head nearer to Izuku’s. “Doing okay?” he asks, voice deep and steady in his ear. Stoic, as usual. Izuku breathes in the scent of cool river water, moving slowly, surface smooth. It makes things feel more… normal .

Instantly, he feels more relaxed.

“I’m okay,” he says.

Shouto lets go of his hands and instead places a steady pressure at his back, urging him into the room. “Let me introduce you to everyone, then.”

Izuku swallows the lump in his throat and walks forward.

 

---


Dinner is… something. Izuku feels a little lost amidst so many different personalities. A few of the fae have also traveled from domesticated villages, but the large majority live right there in Fortaare, accustomed to the splendor of the Seelie Castle. Some of them seem nice, but others are more… whimsical.

Mina—pink skinned and black eyed—is very bubbly and kind. And Tetsutetsu—silver and with sharp, metallic teeth—strikes Izuku as very friendly. He sort of reminds the hybrid of Eijirou with his enthusiastic demeanor.

On the other hand, there’s also a fae who reminds him quite strongly of… well, a frog. She’s pretty in a different way from the others, with seaweed colored hair that cascades down her back and wide, dark eyes rimmed by lashes longer on the bottom than the top. Her name is Tsuyu, and the only time she speaks up is to bluntly set the record straight when people say things that might be misleading. He quite enjoys her nasal commentary, but before he can listen further, a new voice cuts through the chatter.

“Oh my goodness, Tsu! You never do bite that amphibian tongue of yours, do you?”

The voice is lilting and playful, but Izuku immediately distrusts it. He catches a waft of something strong and floral—almost overly fragrant. He scrunches his nose in distaste.

Tsuyu closes her mouth and looks down the table. Izuku looks past the now-quiet fae and his gaze lands on the Queen, a beautiful fae named Nemuri. She leans forward on the wooden surface, resting her elbows on top and pressing her chest against it, emphasizing the startling amount of cleavage which peeks from her corset. She waves a thin hand in the air, red fingernails glinting in the candlelight as she laughs musically, silence falling over the rest of the room.

Her black hair is feathered, falling in a midnight curtain well below her waist, and her upper lids are dark with a matching black paint. It emphasizes the piercing ice blue color of her eyes as she shifts them to Izuku. A chill runs down his spine, and he shifts his own gaze to Shouto’s. The faery is not looking at him, watching the Queen closely instead, tense, and seeing his usually-collected friend on guard makes Izuku stiffen, too.

“Izuku, darling.” She starts. “What did you think of the food?”

“Oh, I—um… I thought it was great! Everything was d-delicious.” He stutters, resisting the urge to chew his lip.

She smiles, showing bright white teeth as she weaves her long fingers together. “I’m so glad to hear that. I’m happy you came to keep our dear Shouto company this time around. I’ve heard a lot about you, after all.” She sighs, tilting her head and looking happily toward the ceiling. “Ah... young love.”

The floral scent rises, and Izuku catches a zing of hemlock running through it—pretty, but toxic.

He holds his breath and looks to Shouto again. Why would she have heard about him? He doubts that Shouto has said anything. The faery’s brow is furrowed, just as confused as Izuku is. His muscles feel so tightly wound that they could snap with any sudden movement. He remains still as he considers.

After a moment, he decides to put on a smile and roll with it. Best not to ask questions.

“I’m, ah… well, I’ve got to say I’m surprised! Shouto is, ah, not much of a talker? So I wouldn’t think—I mean, I’m just flattered that you know of me!” He laughs nervously.

The sickening flower blooms further into the air, and he fights the urge to rub his nose. Does she know that he can scent her? Is she doing this on purpose?

She giggles and pulls down on her skin-tight, lace sleeves. The bouquet blossoms heavily, overwhelming, and he can’t help but use the back of his hands to rub at his nostrils, feeling as though they’re stuffed with pollen.

“Ah, yes… Our dear Lord Shouto is one of a kind for certain!” She looks at Shouto, but continues to speak to Izuku, voice lowering with seriousness, with curiosity. “Do you love him?”

Everyone at the table goes silent as the grave, waiting on bated breath for what comes next. They all know there is a correct and an incorrect answer to this question. Izuku knows better than to lie, knows that somehow, she would detect it. It’s good he doesn’t have to.

“Very much.” He smiles warmly at her, then looks directly across the table to his friend. “I owe him my life.” Shouto’s cheeks turn pink.

She looks between the two of them, studying the interaction. The hemlock is hidden by syrupy, cloying sweetness now, worse even than the sharp florals from before, and Izuku is near ready to vomit.

The Queen turns to Shouto, suddenly serious. “Shouto, do you believe him? Trust his words?”

Shouto stiffens. Izuku can easily pick up his scent, even beyond the overwhelming stench emitted by Nemuri. The faery’s calm waves have picked up wind, now cutting and choppy, threatening to overturn those who are careless. Shouto is becoming irritated, defensive. His mismatched eyes narrow at her.

“Of course I do. More than anyone’s. I wouldn’t have brought him otherwise.”

There’s a long pause as everyone waits for her reaction. She shifts to rest her chin in one palm, flicks her gaze to the side at Izuku and grins, demeanor abruptly shifting to brightness, enthusiasm.

“Why is it then that you kept Izuku’s beauty from us? Shouto, you naughty boy! I think anyone here can see how gorgeous he is! Were you trying to keep him all to yourself?”

Izuku doesn’t think too much into her words, trying hard not to regurgitate his meal as his head starts to become fuzzy, viscous nectar slowing his thoughts. He fights it, tries to focus.

“It’s never come up,” Shouto responds tersely.

She raises her brows. “Well, it should have! Just— look at him! You’ve been keeping him from me.” She pouts, over-exaggerated, slouching into her hand. A wicked gleam remains in her eyes.

“Izuku,” she sings. “I want to get to know you better… Would you have dinner with me this week? Just you and I? Alone?”

His mouth falls open, face flushed as he panics, knowing he needs to respond and not knowing how. He very, very much does not want to spend any more time with this woman. Honestly, he’s already terrified of the creature who seems to manipulate his senses and inhibit his thought process on a whim. He’s choking on the horrible smell, and he’s sure she knows he can scent it. He knows she knows. It doesn’t impact anyone else here—clearly made just for him.

But why? Why would she care so much about someone she’s never met?

Is it a test? And is it for him? Shouto? Both, somehow?

In any case, he knows better than to refuse a direct request from the Seelie Queen.

She seems to enjoy the blush on his face as she takes in his reaction, smile widening broadly to show perfect, white teeth. She squeals, leaning further across the table toward him. “Oh my gosh, you’re so adorable! Pleeaasse…? It’ll be fun!”

He rubs the back of his neck, still fighting to organize his thoughts. “Ah, y-yeah, sure! Let’s, um. Let’s have dinner.” He grins, sure to convey the superficial signs of excitement. It must work, because her smile only grows as she pushes to stand from the table.

And just like that, the assault on his senses halts. Izuku takes a deep breath of fresh air, now noticing heavy, storm swept waves from his friend and a variety of other scents. Strawberries and cream from Mina, an earthy oak from Tsuyu. He catches a vanilla scent from the dark haired and thin faery at the end of the table—Tamaki ducks his head behind a feathered wing which was an arm just moments ago. Izuku recalls Tamaki as the one that Hitoshi described as afraid of everything, but he seems to have some very interesting magic.

As Izuku begins to speculate on the workings and ramifications of Tamaki’s shapeshifting, he realizes he can think clearly once more. He wonders again how the Queen’s magic works. It’s pretty terrifying to have his senses masked like that. Izuku is quite dependent on them, and although he could smell what was certainly her, he doesn’t think it was indicative of her pheromones. She was manipulating it somehow.

“Wonderful.” Nemuri draws his attention once more. She smiles in a way that sends freezing water through Izuku’s veins, then winks before slinking out through the door.


---


“So, I guess this is where we say goodnight then?” Izuku stands outside Shouto’s room after dinner. Hitoshi left with Tamaki, so Izuku and Shouto had the walk back to themselves. It had been comfortably quiet.

Shouto combs a hand through his hair. “I’m sorry about today. I should have warned you about the Queen...”

Izuku looks up to meet his gaze. The faery looks downtrodden, exhausted. For the first time, Izuku finds himself wondering what Shouto did all day.

“O-oh. It’s okay. I just… um, I can’t really get a read on her.”

Shouto grimaces. “I don’t think anyone can. It’s a gift of hers.”

Izuku hums. “Yeah… I can’t say I’m not a little nervous for time alone with her.”

Izuku turns to lean his back against the wall, and Shouto shifts to position himself in front of him, a respectful distance away.

“I wish I could come with you. I’d help, if I could.”

“I know.”

Izuku’s eyes study the door, the harsh purple-pink color. Too bright. Everything is too loud for his senses here. He begins chewing his bottom lip, reminded yet again that he simply doesn’t fit. Shouto says nothing, just watches and waits. After a moment, Izuku sighs, nervous silence loosening his tongue.

“I’m just… my brain won’t stop thinking. I can’t… I don’t know why this place makes me so… uncomfortable.”

He continues gnawing.

Shouto’s thumb finds his lip, pulls it down from his teeth—soft, sweet.

“You’re bleeding.”

He smells crisp and clean, familiar. Like home. Izuku wants to curl up in it, fit right into his arms and burrow away from the rest of the world. He does fit with him.

He’s always fit well with Shouto.

The thumb doesn’t move. It’s still pulling his lip, pulling Izuku’s mind free of the maze of self-deprecation he’d been lost in. He likes it, feels it. Feels something other than anxiety, other than apprehension—something other than ‘I don’t belong.’

Izuku lifts his chin, eyes halting at the parting of Shouto’s lips, and his breath catches. He’s still looking when he speaks.

“Did you get it all?” he asks softly, words slurred by the pressure of Shouto’s soothing finger.

He looks up at the other through his lashes, and so many things come into focus: the line of Shouto’s mouth, the shape of his jaw, the fact that he’s always here—a constant in Izuku’s life, no matter how many times he screws up or chickens out or runs away.

The faery really is perfect, even by fae standards.

Izuku dips his tongue to lick off the blood that’s left. He watches mismatched eyes track the movement, hears the sharp intake of breath. His scent gets louder, stronger. Not the usual stream or river, but more powerful, like a waterfall.

Izuku doesn’t know this scent. It’s new and exciting. Ice and fire pin him, searching, and he has the abrupt realization that the faery is about to kiss him.

Suddenly all Izuku can hear is his own pulse pounding in his ears as panic rises in his throat, a sludge that threatens to suffocate. Does he want this? Can he want this? Is it Shouto, or is it this place? It would be selfish to act without knowing the answers, and Izuku doesn’t want to be selfish.

“Izuku… I…”

“I’m really tired.” He interrupts, then swallows.

Shouto frowns, moving his hand from Izuku’s face to drag through his own hair. Guilt stabs at Izuku’s gut, harsh and unforgiving. They should talk about this. He shouldn’t just avoid the matter. But he’s… afraid.

“It’s… it’s been a long day, and I’d just… I think I’d like to go to bed.”

Shouto takes a deep breath and nods in understanding, scent calming back to windswept waters. “It has, and you should. Would you feel better sleeping here?”

Izuku hesitates. He would feel better sleeping here… but it feels like dangling a carrot in front of the horse’s nose. If he doesn’t know what he wants, he shouldn’t lead his friend on by maintaining such intimacy. His lip stings.

“It doesn’t have to mean anything,” Shouto says softly. “It’s just sleep, like we’ve done before.”

Izuku looks up at him to find a gentle smile present on his face. He’s always so selfless when it comes to Izuku, always wants what’s best for him, even if it might be torture for himself. What has Izuku done to deserve that?

Shouto breathes a soft laugh through his nose. “Come on.” He reaches around Izuku to press the pad on his door, then takes his hand and pulls him inside.

“You get ready for bed. I’ll go get Aki so he can be here with us.”

Izuku nods slowly, finally relaxing enough to take in the faint trickling of water between smoothed stones. If Shouto is content, then he figures the faery really means this to be practical. He’s not upset with him, not offended.

“I’ll be right back,” Shouto says.

With that, he slips from the room, and Izuku undresses. He finds some soft, cotton pants and a shirt in the drawers nearby, then goes to the bathroom to rinse his face with cool water. It’s refreshing, calming, and by the time he returns to the bedroom, Shouto is back, and Aki darts across the floor to scale his figure.

“Aki!” Izuku yelps. The gliders claws are prickly against his bare arms and the back of his neck, but the happy chirping that Aki releases when he reaches Izuku’s hair make the discomfort worthwhile. The glider burrows against his head, and Izuku laughs.

Meanwhile, Shouto shuffles through the drawers to change as well, choosing a pair of dark blue silk pajama bottoms and a thin, white shirt.

“Are you ready for bed? We can stay up for a bit if you prefer. Aki seems to have missed you today.”

Izuku yawns and heads toward the gigantic bed. “Nah... that’s okay. As soon as I lay down, Aki will take off to play some more. I’ll collapse where I stand if I try to stay upright.”

Shouto pulls back the giant, sage duvet—the same color as his own—and climbs beneath it. When Izuku walks to the bed, Aki jumps from his hair to glide across the room, scurrying across the floor to find something else on which to play.

“Good night, Aki,” he calls as he gets into bed. He shivers as the cool, fresh sheets brush his skin, and Shouto turns to face him.

“Cold?”

Izuku nods, and the faery reaches his arms out, intention clear. Izuku scoots closer and feels his warm arms wrap around him, now familiar and comfortable. As heat bleeds into his skin, he drifts, quickly dropping into a deep sleep.


---


“When were you guys planning to tell me?” Hitoshi raises a brow from across the breakfast table, already bathed and fully prepared for the day.

He apparently makes it a habit to bring Shouto’s breakfast in the mornings while they’re here so the two of them can avoid the larger group as much as possible, neither of them being particularly enthralled by the antics of Court. The two of them were still asleep, curled up together in bed, when Hitoshi let himself in and flipped back the sheets to wake Shouto, ultimately waking them both.

Izuku rests his elbows on the table and buries his face into both palms. He’s too sleepy for this right now. He’s not sure what Hitoshi is on about.

“Tell you what?” Shouto asks. Hitoshi rolls his eyes.

“You know damn well what. The two of you were so wrapped up in each other this morning, I could hardly pull you apart. I’ve never caught you with anyone in your bed before, Lord Shouto. Therefore… I can only assume that you’ve got something to tell me.”

Izuku moves to bite his lip but stops when it’s too painful—not yet healed from yesterday's abuse. Shouto sighs.

“Izuku and I slept together the entire way here, Hitoshi. Why should this be any different?”

Hitoshi snorts. “It’s not cold indoors.”

Izuku wants to die. Just a little. His face is burning as he looks down into his tea. He knew this would be a bigger deal than Shouto was making it yesterday. He shouldn’t have slept here.

“Izuku was uncomfortable here in the castle. I just wanted him to feel relaxed enough to sleep.”

Their friend’s lavender gaze narrows at them, skeptical. “So you’re not... sleeping together?” He emphasizes the word deliberately, obviously expecting them to catch the other meaning.

Izuku groans. “It was actual sleeping. I—he—we didn’t have—we just didn’t, okay?!” He buries his face again, words muffled by his palms. “This is so embarrassing...”

One purple brow raises. “Are you going to?”

Izuku wants to become one with the floor, with the dirt beneath it. Honestly, he’d rather melt into the magma at the center of the earth than speak with Hitoshi right now. Shouto, on the other hand, considers before opening his mouth to respond. Izuku grips his forearm harshly to save himself the embarrassment of whatever the faery was about to say.

“We are not having this conversation. There is no reason to discuss this,” he says, face in flames and palms sweating.

“Your total lack of composure in discussing the matter really does not help you here,” Hitoshi responds.

Izuku shoots him a look of total exasperation.

“I’m just… gonna go back to my room. And get cleaned up. Because…” He pauses, thinking, before he takes some inspiration from the elves and decides to say exactly what he’s feeling. “Well, because you’re making me uncomfortable, and I don’t want to be here anymore.”

Hitoshi barks a laugh and Shouto’s eyes widen, but Izuku just gets up from the table and turns to collect Aki’s bag and his clothes from yesterday.

“Wow…” Hitoshi says, brows raised with amusement. “When did you grow a spine?”

Izuku sticks his tongue out at him. “I’m going. I’ll see you two later.”

With that he heads back to his own room, leaving them both a bit dumbfounded.


---


Despite Hitoshi’s surprise entrance and mortifying comments, Izuku continues to sleep in Shouto’s room. He makes the attempt to sleep alone, he really does, but it’s almost impossible for him to relax here. Everything is too much: far too loud and bright and extravagant, and he feels like not enough. At home, he can get lost in his work, and people rely on him for medical care. He’s useful. But here… there’s not much difference he can make. He struggles with that, especially during the time he must spend alone.

Thankfully, he doesn’t have too much solitude. Shouto uses essentially all of his free time to be with Izuku, and they’re finishing up what was a pleasant meal when a scream sounds from behind him.

“IZUKU?!”

His brows rise and a smile finds its way to his face as stands up and turns just in time to catch the flying faery who throws herself into his arms. He stumbles backward a bit and then rights himself, squeezing her tightly and holding her off the ground for a moment before setting her on her feet.

“Mei! I’m so glad to see you!”

“I didn’t think I’d ever see you again, Izuku. Honestly, Tetsu said you were here and I didn’t believe it, but then I realized he would have no idea who you were otherwise. Well, that and he’s a faery, so it’s not likely he could find a way to say something that would be such a blatant lie.”

She waves off the thought, then stands back to place her hands on his chest, humming. She pats him as though to be sure he’s real, then smooths careful fingers down his pecs, over his abs, around his hips. He gives her a confused look at the intimate touching, but doesn’t protest. Mei was often doing odd things like this back home; Izuku is sure she has a purpose—she always does.

“I was going to say that you need to try my new babies but…” Her eyes narrow at him. “You’re more buff than you were before. I bet you’ve outgrown the fae proportions I’ve set for most of my gear.”

He feels his cheeks becoming warm and runs a hand through his hair. He had continued to work out since she left, but he hadn’t really noticed himself outgrowing anything. Then again, his clothing was all designed to be loose… Maybe he is a little more fit than he used to be. He certainly hasn’t gotten any taller.

Shouto takes that moment to stand from the table. He gives her a nod.

“Mei,” he says, cool and collected as usual.

“Oh, Shouto! You could have written to say you were bringing Izuku with you. But, I’ll forgive you only because I’m happy to have my muse back!” She looks over to Izuku again and brings a finger to her mouth for a moment in thought. Then she gasps and throws that finger in the air. “Ah! I’ve just got an idea—I can’t wait to get back to work now that I’ve got you here to test for me again! Oh! Yes, I should get back to the lab.”

Well, that was a quick reunion.

“O-oh. Okay! Well, um. I guess just let me know… when you, uh, need me?”

“I will!” She nods. “Oh, by the way—congratulations on finally mating!” She waves and then walks off, muttering under her breath about some surely-brilliant, but crazy plan.

Mating? They’re not even… What? He hadn’t thought about the way his accompaniment would reflect to others. Izuku sighs.

“I need to get going…” Shouto says softly from behind him. Izuku turns to find the faery just about a foot away, unphased by what just happened. Is he really not even going to address the mating comment? Maybe he didn’t notice. It wouldn’t be unlike the Shouto to totally ignore Mei’s rambles, and he hadn’t reacted to Hitoshi’s jabs thus far...

“Oh! Um, of course. I—”

Shouto takes Izuku’s hand and pulls him closer, wrapping his arms around him and holding him tightly against his form. He’s blanketed by that happy, contented smell, and Izuku sinks in against him, pressing his cheek to Shouto’s chest and inhaling deeply. They might not be mates, but Shouto certainly has a way of putting him at ease. Izuku loathes when he has to go.

Unfortunately, the faery is here for official business, and Izuku can’t keep him from that. So when he’s released from Shouto’s hold, they say goodbye, and Izuku is left to his own devices and anxieties once more.


---


A few days later, Izuku decides that he needs to find his way outside. He’s found a number of extravagant dining rooms and ballrooms, a few courtyards, and what seemed to be a training facility. He’s spent lots of time in Mei’s lab, bouncing ideas around and testing new equipment, but today, he wants fresh air.

Izuku makes his way through the castle, doing his best to find a back entrance which in itself feels like some sort of maze. Hitoshi told him there were some really beautiful gardens outside, so he’s determined to find them. He mentally maps his steps to find the way back when he’s done, becoming a more and more nervous the farther he goes, but eventually, he finds an exit. He uses both hands to push open the huge, heavy wooden door and mentally curses the fact that this one doesn’t use magic he can simply pass through.

Once outside, however, he can breathe. He hadn’t realized how much he missed the natural sun, the wind, the sounds of it brushing through the trees and freeing pollen from its home. The air is cold, temperature biting and frost kissing the grass, yet nature still thrives around him. He pauses, eyes closed, just to feel for a minute, allowing the tension to bleed from his form.

After a moment, Izuku opens his eyes and finds a clear stone path ahead. He follows it around the castle, pulling his cloak tightly up around his neck, and then away towards a treeline—formed by weeping willows of the deepest, almost unnatural green, glistening with a dusting of ice that’s formed on the leaves. Vines hang around them—garland along branches—and the path is dark within. It looks like twilight beyond the age old trunks, and new plant life grows inside: dracaena and bromeliads, snake plants and calathea, even prayer plants. Plants that Izuku has never seen altogether in one place—certainly not in winter weather—and some of which he’s never seen at all. When he steps into the shadowed garden, it’s instantly warmer, humid with heavy air that weighs on him like a thick, cozy blanket. He inhales deeply, deliberately not thinking on the temperature change, and instead focusing on each scent as muted florals intermingle to create a botanical cornucopia on his senses.

He wants to observe and study every single one. He isn’t even sure which plant to stop at because they’re all so perfect. Every one of them presents the most pristine of leaves, the boldest of colors. Butterflies float around, watercolor paintings that complement the petals they land on. Birdsong sounds overhead as they flit tree to tree. It feels… unreal.

He supposes it probably is, a little.

Aki pokes his head from his pouch and scales Izuku’s chest.

“Oh! It’s warm and dark enough for you in here, isn’t it?”

The glider sneezes and then settles on his shoulder, looking around in just as much awe as the hybrid himself. Izuku holds his arm out, as he does when they play at home, and Aki gets the message. He runs to his fingertips and launches off to a tree nearby, climbing up and disappearing. As he walks along the dusky path, Aki occasionally checks back in, hopping onto his hair or skitting across the ground near his feet as giggles bubble from Izuku’s throat.

Along the way, Izuku stops to touch or look more closely at a number of wondrous plants he’d never expected to encounter. It’s amazing and unbelievable, and too perfect to feel like it’s truly happening.

And yet, it is.

Izuku briefly entertains thoughts of magic and illusion, but he forcefully evicts them from his brain before he is too wrapped up to appreciate it. The space is gorgeous—the ideal setting for Izuku to free his mind of the anxieties that had wormed their way in the moment he arrived in Fortaare. His concerns have been forced underground for the time being, and Izuku would like to keep them there for as long as possible.

So instead, he feels the vines—rough and firm, damp upon his fingers—listens to the snapping of branches, the rustling of leaves overhead as animals move about, and enjoys the birdsong all around him. He lives in the moment, knowing his time like this will be limited—appreciating it while he can.

Eventually, the dream has to end, and he reaches the end of the path after just a few blissfully long hours, seeing the sunshine streaming in through an opening in the trees. As he approaches the brighter light, Aki returns for good, climbing up Izuku’s leg and slipping back into his pouch. He gives the glider a little pat with his index finger as he reflects on how much better he feels right now than he did just hours ago.

He makes his way back along a second path, though—thankfully—he finds the door he exited through earlier. He’s familiar enough with the halls that he’s able to find his way back to his room, where he removes his heavy cloak and lies back on the bed, trying to decide what he’d like to do until dinner.

As he folds his arms behind his head, entertaining the idea of a nap, his eyes suddenly shoot back open, breath catching in his throat and heart rate rising. He’d completely forgotten.

He’s meant to have dinner with the Queen tonight.

Chapter Text

“Do you always have to scare him off like that?”

Izuku had left breakfast in exasperation after more of the typical teasing from Hitoshi. Shouto himself doesn’t mind, but the faery seems to burrow his way beneath Izuku’s skin on purpose sometimes, even if the hybrid laughs it off. Then again, Hitoshi is Izuku’s closest friend, next to Shouto of course, so maybe he’s not so irritated as he might think. He supposes it’s a good thing they’re so comfortable with one another.

Hitoshi sits up, seemingly offended.

“What? Me? You’re the one pursuing the elven-fae hybrid who might want to turn tail and never come back.”

Shouto glares at him. “He doesn’t want to run.” He takes a sip of his tea and the liquid is too hot, scalding his tongue. He brings frost to his mouth and blows on his mug, watching as the steam dissipates and the temperature cools.

He knows Izuku has always been… insecure, about living in the fae village since his arrival long ago. But things have improved with his time in Willesden. Fortaare has just put him on edge because it’s not like home—the extremes of fae culture are exhibited here, front and center. Shouto doesn’t really like it here either, if he’s being honest. It’s just… too much.

Hitoshi raises his palms in surrender as he slouches back in his chair. “Alright, alright… that wasn’t fair of me. I care about Izuku too, you know. This just makes me nervous.”

Shouto’s glare softens in surprise. “What? Why?”

“Because I know how badly you’ve wanted this, wanted him, for… ever? Izu has known too, on some level. And you guys seem to be growing closer suddenly… So what do you think is different, now?” His brows curve upward in concern and he crosses his arms. “Aren’t you a little worried about his mindset?”

“Of course, I am,” he responds. He takes a larger gulp of his tea. “But I can help him by being there when he needs me. And right now… he needs me.”

Shouto has never had a truly confident gauge on how the half-faery feels about him, but there have been hints of interest here and there, especially more recently. They’d nearly kissed on more than one occasion at this point, and now that they’re here, sleeping with Izuku by his side just feels right to Shouto.

They had always been drawn to one another, ever since Izuku first arrived in Willesden, and it was only natural that the feeling would grow and bloom one day. And, with his father no longer ruling the village, Shouto had planned—hoped —for Izuku to become his mate, to lead beside him instead of being a vessel for an heir, like his father wanted. He’s prepared to wait if he needs to, but maybe he won’t have to wait as long as he thought.

He’s not sure exactly what Izuku is looking for, but he clearly needs something to abate his anxieties. The hybrid is suffering; he’s reached out to Shouto for help, so he’ll help in any way he can. And if it has the fortunate byproduct of bringing them closer together, he certainly won’t protest.

Hitoshi frowns. “I get that… but, you’ve got to remember to protect yourself, too.” When Shouto tilts his head in question, he continues. “Look. I don’t know how else to say this, so I’m just gonna say it… You’re more invested in creating a relationship than he is. How will you handle it if he decides he doesn’t want to be in a relationship, or if he decides that he wants to leave the fae altogether?”

That gives him pause. It’s not like the thought has never crossed his mind—of course, it has—but Izuku has been a constant in his life for over ten years now. Shouto can’t even picture his days without those glittering green eyes and that bright, freckled smile… life without them would be dull, colorless.

“I, ah… I don’t know,” he says quietly. “I don’t think he would ever just… leave like that.”

Hitoshi raises a brow in response, and Shouto knows he’s thinking of the last time.

He recalls when Izuku ran like it was yesterday, in spite of how young he was when it happened. Even then, it had felt like dying, like the air had been siphoned from the room and no matter how hard he inhaled, there was nothing left to breathe in the vacuum of his absence. It was suffocating, shredding at the muscle in his chest as he choked on despair. The hybrid was the first person to show him true kindness, to love him after his mother had left the village—Enji wasn’t exactly the nurturing type, and Shouto had no shortage of discipline as a child in preparation to succeed him. Izuku’s bright eyes and broad smile had been a breath of fresh air, and then… he was gone.

He had searched for Izuku then in a daze, guilt-ridden that he’d let his father keep them apart, that Izuku had endured life feeling so completely alone that he’d rather risk its end than keep going that way. He blamed his father, in part, for the way that situation spiraled, but he also blamed himself for allowing Enji to separate them. He could have tried harder, done something to see him again. But he didn’t, and by the time he found him… Izuku was changed, in a darker place than even after his mother’s death. That broad smile never became quite so broad again.

Izuku had always been sensitive. The hybrid isn’t delicate physically —he’s strong and powerful and quick, but mentally… mentally he’s like glass. He’s always tried to hide it, tried to be strong, but Shouto can see his insecurities, can see the hairline fractures multiply with every failure or discouragement. Although Izuku didn’t have anything left when Enji brought him to Willesden, it is impossible for Shouto to shake the feeling that the hybrid has never seen Willesden as his home... especially after he ran.

Since then, Shouto has done his best to keep the hybrid intact, and to make something in Willesden feel safe and secure for him. He’s not sure he could go through losing him again.

But he’s fairly certain he’ll never have to. Izuku might not love him in the same way he loves the hybrid, but Izuku does love him. He said so himself, and Shouto doesn’t think Izuku would be bold enough to lie to the Queen. Izuku wouldn’t run away like that willingly, not after seeing how it affected him. He just hopes the hybrid doesn’t find a reason—one more important than love—to go.

As though reading his thoughts—honestly, he probably was—Hitoshi frowned in sympathy. “Look, Shouto… I don’t think Izuku would ever deliberately hurt you. I just want you to be… prepared, if things don’t go your way.”

Shouto nods, taking a deep breath. “Speaking of deliberate pain…”

Hitoshi glances up, wry smirk on his face. “Wondering about Nemuri’s plans, too?”

“I am. What do you think she wants with Izuku? Also… how do you think she knows him? I’ve never spoken of him to her.”

At that, lavender brows shoot up. “Oh? I didn’t realize. I’m not sure then… I didn’t sense anything more malicious than usual from her at dinner—though I can’t fully look into her mind without her knowledge.” He leans back in his seat, crosses his arms behind his head. “Maybe she wants to talk to him about… well, whoever talked to her about him…?”

“Hm… I just wonder who that is. No one else here at Court should know him—well, except for Mei. Izuku came straight to us from his old home, and we’ve never revealed his presence to anyone before now. He lived with elves before that… so it’s unlikely that someone from his home knows Nemuri.”

Hitoshi holds a palm out to stop his thought process. “Wait—he lived with his mother in the Elven village, right? What about his dad?”

Shouto feels a wrinkle appearing on his forehead as one red and one white brow lift in response. He never really gives much thought to Izuku’s father. The hybrid never mentions him.

“I don’t know much about him… I don’t think Izuku does either.”

“He must be fae, right?”

Shouto nods, thoughtful. “So you think maybe his father knows the Queen?" 

“That, or he did something that caught her attention.”

 

---

 

Later on the same day, Shouto finds himself across from Nemuri herself. He had been summoned for a meeting in which they were meant to discuss the magical fires erupting throughout the Elven villages. Shouto isn’t thrilled about it, not seeing what it has to do with the fae directly.

“Why do we need to do anything ?” he asks. “It’s none of our business.”

“Well, it became our business the moment I met your little friend and recognized him for what he is.” Nemuri’s voice is somehow simultaneously bright and condescending. She raises a brow at him, as though he should already be privy to this information. “It made me curious.”

He frowns. What he is...? A hybrid? He is the first hybrid Shouto has ever met, but that doesn’t mean much, and he can’t exactly understand what it has to do with all of this destruction. Especially considering it hasn’t touched the fae community, where Izuku has been living for more than 15 years now.

From what Shouto understands, Izuku’s village was burnt to the ground when they were children—that’s how he ended up in Willesden in the first place. But that was a long time ago. He’s not sure why that should matter now. Why does Nemuri care that he’s a hybrid? How is it linked…?

“I can see the wheels turning.” She giggles, looking around the table. 

“Oh! The friend with the ears!?” Nejire chimes in. “I wondered why his ears were so pointy. Is he an elf?”

“He didn’t seem very elf-like to me,” Tsuyu adds. “I didn’t notice his ears, though… they’re pointed?”

“No way, man! You’re dating an elf!?” That was Tetsutetsu.

Shouto puts his elbows on the table and starts massaging at his temples, eyes closed.

“He’s half elf,” the Queen explains. “Which means his other half is fae. Poor Izuku’s village was burned down the same way as all of these other Elven towns… don’t you care why, Shouto?”

The gears are grinding in his skull, and he’s beginning to get a headache. Of course he cares why Izuku’s entire village was destroyed, but it’s something that happened years ago, and it’s not as though Shouto can bring Izuku’s mother back. He’d assumed the village was demolished as part of some ongoing Elven grudge war, didn’t think it could affect Izuku now.

Could it?

A chill runs through him and he activates his fire magic on instinct to keep himself from trembling. What is she saying, exactly?

He opens his eyes to look up at her. “Are you saying he’s still in danger?” 

Her lips form a slow grin. “Millions of people are in danger every day, Shouto.”

He narrows his gaze. “We’re not talking about millions.”

I am,” she says. “As important as your friend is, I think it’s more important that we prevent innumerable deaths from occurring because of him, don’t you?”

Hitoshi slams his hand on the table. “Enough with the riddles. Tell us what we need to know.”

Nemuri erupts in giggles, loud and musical as they become full-on laughter. Hitoshi and Shouto glance at each other, uncomfortable. The other fae shift in their seats, waiting for her to stop.

This is the side of the fae that Shouto does not appreciate—truth bending, myth building. They may not be able to lie, but they sure can dance around the truth. Describe a figure to two different artists, and you’ll be given two very different sculptures—unrecognizable in their styling, though the key elements are the same. The Queen, in particular, is known for her ability to mold a story. Her art demonstrates a particular flair, one that Shouto does not like.

When she finally calms enough, she speaks again. “Oh, come on! I’m only teasing, you know.”

Shouto’s steely glare doesn’t laxen. “Izuku isn’t hurting anyone. I can’t understand why you would suggest such a thing.”

She gives him a broad, tooth-filled smile. “Oh, sweetie. I know. I can’t imagine that beautiful boy hurting a fly, though that’s not important right now. The most important thing to know is that these fires are magical, and as we are not ordering their ignition, I suspect that the Unseelie may be involved.”

Whispers begin around the table.

The Unseelie Court is made up of fae not unlike the Seelie, but they’ve got a reputation for being more… villainous. Shouto isn’t entirely certain that’s true , given what he knows about those who have pledged allegiance to the Seelie, but he does know that the Unseelie aren’t afraid to be seen that way. While the Seelie dress their less-than-moral actions in frills and lace with pretty ribbons, the Unseelie leave their malevolence stark naked, outside and screaming to draw the attention of all.

It’s unusual that they do something without causing a scene to alert the world of their terror. To hear that they may be behind something of this magnitude and keeping it secret is… a bit unbelievable.

It’s Toru who speaks first, gloved hands gripped tightly together. “Queen Nemuri… why would they be after elves? Why would they care?”

That is the right question, my dear.” The Queen responds with a proud smile, pointing a finger at Toru’s invisible form. “Anyway , we must decide what we will do about the matter. The elves are not likely to take this lying down much longer. There will be retaliation soon.”

Nods and murmurs of agreement. Shouto is skeptical. He’s still not certain he buys that the Unseelie Court are involved at all. It’s just too weird that no one has been pinned for the attacks.

“I would like to find the group causing them...”

Hitoshi coughs, garnering attention. “With all due respect, I don’t see how anyone is meant to find them if they don’t know their motives or even who they are. It’s not like the Unseelie have a ‘Fortaare.’ Their Court moves locations all the time. Even if we do know who they are, we’re not gonna find them until they want to be found.”

“I agree. There’s no sense in leading a search when we don’t even know what or where we’re hunting. We need more evidence. More information,” Tsuyu says seriously. “This still doesn’t make much sense.” 

Nemuri listens to them with her head propped on crossed fingers, like a bored schoolgirl. “Yes, yes,” she chimes in. “I plan to get the information that we need this evening, so don’t you worry your pretty little heads about it!” 

Shouto looks at Hitoshi to find the other staring right back, and he knows they’re thinking the same thing:

Izuku.

 

---

 

There is no group dinner that evening since the Queen had booked her private meal with Izuku instead. Shouto chooses to forgo eating altogether in lieu of pacing a trench in his bedroom floor. It has been hours since his meeting with the fae, and a thread of nerves has repeatedly wound and unwound in his gut ever since, tangling more and more with each turn. He’s anxious.

He hasn’t seen Izuku since he’d left breakfast this morning. He doesn’t know what the hybrid did all day in his absence, or who he may have come in contact with. Now that the other fae have recognized that Izuku is… different, Shouto is concerned the others may bring it up and make him uncomfortable. And that’s not even considering what Nemuri may say or do. That faery is unpredictable at best.

He sits on the edge of his bed, then flops backward, stretching out as he feels himself sinking into the feather-stuffed comforter. What is the Queen playing at? She knows something that he doesn’t, that much is clear. She insinuated that these attacks were Izuku’s fault, somehow, or that he was in some way related to them.

Shouto feels his blood boiling, anger rapidly raising the temperature and threatening to burst from his mouth like the steam from a kettle. The thought is absolutely absurd, there is no way Izuku would have been able to do such a thing while living in Willesden, but getting upset will do nothing to solve the riddles the Queen is playing with. He does his best to reign it in, as he always does. Losing control right now will not help Izuku.

Izuku. He’s with Nemuri right now. Shouto hopes she is treating him well. He still isn’t sure what she meant, how Izuku can possibly be the cause of all these deaths. It doesn’t make any sense . He huffs in exasperation, sees his breath in the air.

Damn.

He’s got to calm down.

He closes his eyes shut hard, pressing his fingers to scrunched lids and letting the pressure ground him. He breathes—slow and steady, feeling his weight on the bed, the blankets cool against his skin, listening to the total silence of an empty room—and counts. When he reaches fifty, Shouto pushes himself upright and opens his eyes to look around. The temperature feels low, but the space remains largely unchanged. He relaxes a bit, relieved, until he notices frost glazing the chandelier and ice on the windows.

It’s a good thing he began counting when he did.

 

---

 

Shouto places his hand on the entry pad and hears the accompanying chime that sounds when it’s activated to someone that it isn’t initially assigned to. Hitoshi opens and raises a brow.

“I need distracting,” Shouto admits. 

The lavender faery nods and opens the door wider for him to walk through. After he’s seated, Hitoshi finally speaks. His voice is low, held steady with an effort Hitoshi doesn’t often exhibit. Something is… off.

“Izu didn’t wanna talk to you either, huh?”

...What?

Shouto’s brow furrows. Why wouldn’t Izuku want to speak with Hitoshi? That’s unusual: Izuku never has any trouble voicing his concerns to the snarky faery. In fact, he’s probably who Izuku goes to most often with his problems—maybe even more than Shouto himself. If Izuku is refusing to talk with him, something is wrong—very wrong.

Hitoshi’s eyes flicker back and forth between his own. “...You haven’t seen him,” comes the realization.

Shouto’s brow knits further. “Not since this morning… you have?”

What’s happened to Izuku?

The thread of nerves is back, except it’s not wound neatly anymore. It’s not even a solidly tangled ball that he can kick off to the side when needed. It’s become a convoluted mass of knotted darkness, winding around each of his organs and cutting off their blood supply. He feels vomiting the now-useless parts.

What has Nemuri done?

Hitoshi nods slowly and licks his lips. “Yeeaah…” He sighs. “I just ran into him, maybe 20 minutes ago, in the hall...and he didn’t say a word to me. You should probably go find’im. He’s gonna need you, I think.”

 

---

 

Shouto searches the castle grounds for what feels like centuries, and he’s about to go confront the Queen herself when he hears a wet gasp from around the corner. He pauses his frantic footsteps and reroutes, peeking back around the entryway and out into the rain where Izuku sits on a bench in the courtyard.

The hybrid looks distraught. His legs are pulled to his chest, arms wrapped so tightly around them that his knuckles are pale with the grip. His leanly muscled back is hunched, face buried in his knees as his shoulders shake with sobs. The downpour has drenched him, hair glistening as water droplets cascade from his forest fringe to the ground, clothes soaked and sticking to his skin.

It’s heartbreaking.

Breathtaking.

To watch something he loves fall apart, to find the pieces just as beautiful as the whole... it's both captivating and crippling, all in the same moment. It fills Shouto with a sense of self-loathing and guilt that he knows he fully deserves.

Even completely shattered, he finds Izuku Midoriya irresistible... and he hates himself for it. 

It’s something his father would say. Shouto doesn’t deserve Izuku. He knows he doesn’t… but right now, the hybrid needs someone… needs him.

He steels himself and walks out into the rain, gingerly sitting next to Izuku’s trembling form on the bench. He places a gentle palm on Izuku’s back, smooths it up over his shoulder blades, then back down his spine. The tremors slow, and seagreen eyes look up at him.

His eyes are lighter when he cries. Droplets cling to his lashes like fresh morning dew to a blade of grass. When he blinks, they drip, magnifying and morphing freckles as they trickle down his cheeks. Shouto catches one with his free thumb, wipes it away.

“...Sh-Shouto?" 

“Mhm…”

Shouto shifts the arm rubbing Izuku’s back to wrap around his waist instead, pulling him close. The hybrid responds by burying his face in his shoulder and beginning to cry in earnest once again. Loud gasps and heaves echo against the thunder around him, wracking his torso with jerky tremors. Shouto runs his fingers through his hair, gently massages his scalp, and holds him close.

Eventually, the faery pulls him into his lap, trying to warm him. They’ve been out in the rain a long time, Izuku longer than he, and he’s sure that Izuku’s body temperature is dropping. As the heat begins to take effect, Izuku seems to relax a bit. Violent sobs become silent tears, and not long after, his body goes still, breathing deep and slow with the drug of sleep.

Shouto carries Izuku’s limp and sleeping form back to his room, Shouto’s own being too far and wanting to get Izuku dry as quickly as possible. When he gets there, he sets Izuku in a chair by the wooden breakfast table. He feels terrible that he’ll have to wake him, but he doesn’t want to put him to bed in his wet clothes, and stripping Izuku without his permission is just not an option.

“Izuku…” he calls softly, leaning forward in his own chair to rub at a freckled cheek. “Izuku, I need you to wake up.”

His eyes scrunch shut, brow furrowing as if in pain before they relax again, gradually opening.

“Shouto?”

It’s so quiet and uncertain that Shouto’s breath catches in his throat. Izuku’s soft green eyes are wide and childlike despite being tear-swollen. It’s been a long time since he’s seen Izuku so unguarded, so vulnerable.

“Yeah… It’s me.” He’s trying to keep his voice steady, strong, but he’s failing. His composure is crumbling in unison with Izuku’s guard. He can only hope that the hybrid doesn’t notice. “I… I don’t think you should sleep in that. You’re all wet.” 

Izuku looks blearily down at himself. The contours of his body are visible through the white of his shirt. His cheeks flush pink. “O-oh… yeah. Um…” He frowns, rubbing at his eyes. “I think I’ll… get a bath…”

Shouto just nods, unsure what he is meant to do. He doesn’t necessarily want to leave Izuku like this. But… he doesn’t want to bring up his concern either, afraid that the violent emotions will take over once more. The hybrid seems finally capable of breathing, and he doesn’t want to take that away from him.

“Is there… anything I can do?” he asks.

Izuku feels his face again, touching tentatively beneath his eyes, and a worried wrinkle appears on his forehead. “C-can you… ah. Do you think you could… can you make your fingers cold?”

Shouto tilts his head in confusion. “Of course.”

“Can you put them here?” He points to swollen skin beneath his eyes, fluid collecting as proof of his despair. “I don’t… I’d rather that no one else see me like this…” He trails off, hands and gaze dropping to his lap where he begins picking at his nails.

Shouto scoots his chair closer and leans inward, grasps Izuku’s hands tightly, forcing them to stop fidgeting. “Hey,” he whispers, brushing his nose to Izuku’s to reclaim his attention. They’re close, so close, and he tries not to think about it. “You’re perfect like this. Like always.”

Izuku’s brows curve upward in the middle, and Shouto can’t tell if it’s sadness, confusion, or happiness he’s feeling. Whatever it is brings Izuku closer. The hybrid’s hands come up to weave in his hair, each finger a touch of lightning that sends zings through Shouto’s scalp as his hair is combed from his face. Izuku’s lips nearly brush his own, and Shouto wants to taste them more than anything, but he can’t… he shouldn’t. He won’t. He’ll refrain, because Izuku’s not well, and he doesn’t want to take advantage of that.

With herculean effort, he clears his throat and sits back. Izuku’s gaze searches him a moment before dropping to the floor, fresh tears brimming in seafoam eyes. Shouto swallows back his guilt at disappointing him while balancing the internal rush of warmth he feels knowing that Izuku actually wants him so close.

“Let’s get you that bath, okay?” 

Izuku nods slowly as he begins to chew on his lip again, and Shouto is tempted to pull it from his teeth. Instead, he stands to walk to the bathroom where he turns on the water and presses the stopper into the drain. When he goes back to the main room to grab a towel, he sees Izuku’s shoulders shaking with silent sobs once more.

Shouto stops what he’s doing, setting the towel down near the table and sitting down in front of Izuku once more.

“Hey…” he says softly.

The hybrid looks up, eyes wide as he sniffles. “S-sorry…”

Shouto feels his brow tensing as he frowns. “Don’t be sorry. It’s alright for you not to be fine.” He places his palms on Izuku’s thighs and massages up and down against his damp clothing, his hands warm. “I think you’ll feel better out of these wet clothes though. I’ve got hot water running.”

Izuku wipes at his face and nods, leaning forward to press his cheek against Shouto’s shoulder. It’s so sweet and sad and innocent, and Shouto wishes not for the first time that he knew some sort of magic that could siphon away the hybrid’s heartache.

“Come on,” He says quietly. “I’ll carry you, if you want.”

Another nod.

He scoots forward in his chair and pulls Izuku’s muscled thighs to straddle him, then slips his hands beneath them to lift the hybrid’s weight. Izuku wraps his arms around Shouto’s neck and nuzzles into his shoulder, breathing deeply, and Shouto wonders vaguely if he’s being scented as he walks the two of them to the bathroom, taking the towel with him.

When everything is set, he slowly peels Izuku from himself to make him stand near the tub. The hybrid looks at him blankly, eyes glazed over before they shift to look at the floor, chewing once again on his abused lower lip. Shouto feels sick looking at Izuku this way—so not the Izuku that he knows, it’s physically painful.

“C-can… can you help me?” The hybrid asks. Shouto watches a quiet tear drip from his chin.

“Ah…” Shouto runs his fingers through his hair, a little uncomfortable. He’s never actually seen Izuku naked before, and these aren’t exactly the circumstances in which he’d want to. But one look at the hybrid says he’s not capable of caring for himself right now, and Shouto won’t leave him to fend for himself if he’s asking for the faery’s assistance. “Yeah… yes, I can help you.”

He steps forward to grip the bottom of Izuku’s white tunic. It’s not as though the damp material was leaving much to the imagination, anyway. It’s cold beneath his fingers, and he’s surprised the hybrid isn’t shivering already; he really does need to be rid of this clothing. Shouto peels it upward, trying his best to be clinical about it, but unable to keep his eyes from tracking every dip and ridge of Izuku’s lean abdomen, the definition of his chest. He swallows. 

Izuku raises his arms overhead and lets Shouto bring his shirt off entirely, then brings those arms around his neck. “B-balance,” he says. 

Shouto reaches between them to untie the waist of Izuku’s trousers. Once loose enough, he pushes them, along with his underwear, downward, and Izuku steps on them to kick them off the rest of the way. Shouto purposefully holds his eyes on Izuku’s face, mentally mapping his freckles for no reason other than to keep his mind occupied while the creature of his dreams stands naked before him, close before him, arms around his neck and now leaning in to brush their cheeks together.

He closes his eyes to focus on the sensation of Izuku’s cool, clammy skin pressing against his own. He tries to focus warmth there, to warm Izuku’s skin too. He’s not sure it does much.

“You’re so warm…” Izuku murmurs. “Stay with me?”

Shouto’s sure that whatever Izuku smells is way beyond his normal scent. Heat is slowly filling his gut, low and sticky, and he’s trying so, so hard to ignore it. But he can’t, and because he can’t, he has to avoid acting on it. It’s the best he can do. He takes a deep breath, focuses on the feeling of air entering his lungs, the release when he exhales.

When he doesn’t answer, Izuku shifts closer, almost pressing his body flush against him. He brings his fingertips to the nape of Shouto’s neck, teasing his hairline as he sniffles. “P-please…? I just… can’t focus right now, and… I-I don’t want to be alone.” He starts to cry in earnest once again. “Please, Shouto…”

There is absolutely no way that Shouto can refuse him, not when he sounds so broken, so needy. The heat in his gut dies down as his insides twist, heart wrenching right along with them. He can’t leave Izuku like this. He needs to be here, has to do whatever he can to help.

“Okay… It’s okay. I’ll be right here.”

He gently unwinds Izuku’s arms from around his neck and steps back just far enough for room so he can strip his own clothing off. Green eyes watch him, and he feels himself blushing as he turns to check the water temperature.

The water is plenty hot, and the tub is probably more than full enough. He turns off the faucet and motions for Izuku to climb in. He does, slowly, before Shouto slips in behind him, water scalding his skin after having Izuku’s cold body against him. Steam permeates the air around them as the hybrid leans backward into Shouto’s chest, head tilting back on his shoulder before turning to rub his nose into Shouto’s throat, inhaling. The action seems to relax him.

The tears stop as Shouto lathers soap over Izuku’s body, cleaning and warming him all at once. The hybrid sighs against him, and the breath on his neck threatens to send blood down below. Shouto tries to remain focused on the task at hand.

“Izuku… I need you to turn so I can wash the rest of you.”

Izuku shifts silently, sitting up and turning around, water sloshing and threatening to flood over the sides. The bath is large, but not that large, and the hybrid ends up straddling Shouto’s form to sit in his lap. He leans against his chest, slipping his arms around Shouto’s waist as the faery washes his back. The sniffling begins again, and Shouto frowns. He doesn’t know what to do, doesn’t know how else to help. Izuku is crumbling, this time right in his arms, and he’s got to do something to stop it. He just doesn’t know how.

He brings his hands to Izuku’s back and massages more deeply, hoping that getting him to physically relax will bring his mind to rest, too. The motion drags a groan from the hybrid’s throat, and the sound does nothing to quell the low flame in his gut. He can feel himself becoming physically excited, and he pauses, sure that Izuku will notice and become uncomfortable. The last thing he needs is to feel objectified right now.

“I-Izuku… I think, we should get out now.” The words come out hoarse, and Shouto knows that if his voice hasn’t betrayed him, his scent will. He can’t imagine what kind of pheromones he’s exuding right now, but he’s pretty sure they’re potent.

The hybrid shifts his hips against him in response, and Shouto’s brows lift when he realizes that he’s not the only one aroused. His weight presses into Shouto’s groin, and the faery chokes on the moan that catches in his throat. 

“We don’t have to,” Izuku says softly. He noses at Shouto’s throat, pressing lips to the space beneath his ear, and Shouto’s hips lift without his consent, splashing water over the sides of the tub and eliciting a whimper from the hybrid’s lips.

Heat flashes through his gut, desire growing, threatening to burn out of control.. This is what Shouto’s always wanted and it’s finally here, literally set in his lap, wanting him right back. He wants Izuku.

But they shouldn’t. Not like this.

Shouto grabs the hybrid’s hips, halting their motion.

“Izuk— nnnn...” Izuku’s plush lips work down his neck, tongue skating patterns across his skin that leave a trail of tingling pleasure behind. Shouto’s eyes fall shut. It feels good, distractingly good.

“I-Izuku—”

Warm lips find his own, cutting off his protests. Hands move into his wet hair as their mouths move together for the first time, and Shouto is lost. His hands come to rest against Izuku’s ass and he pulls him closer, returning the kiss with vigor, tasting and savoring and only wanting more.

When they pause to breathe, those giant, glassy eyes come back into focus, still swollen and red from crying, and Shouto remembers why he meant to refuse in the first place. He’d be taking advantage of Izuku in this state, and that’s the last thing he wants to do. He just wants to help, and this… this is selfish.

“Izuku, we shouldn’t…”

Tears build below soft green irises, threatening to flood over his lower lashline. Izuku blinks, and one is forced out, slipping down his cheek and clinging to his jaw, unwilling to let go. The hybrid removes his hands from Shouto’s hair and sits back to really look at him.

“It’s not that I don’t want to. I do. I want you—all of you...” Shouto says, locking gazes and bringing his hands cup Izuku’s face. He hopes Izuku can read his sincerity, feel how much he cares for him. Another tear falls, taking Shouto’s heart with it. “But… you had a rough day.  And I don’t think… I’m not sure you’re thinking in the same way you might normally.” 

Izuku licks his lips, chews the lower one, frowning. “But… It’s—it's helping,” he croaks, raw from the abuse of sobs against his vocal cords.

Shouto furrows his brow, uncertain. His willpower is already hanging from a thinning thread. If he’s given even one good reason, he’s not sure he’ll be able to resist, not sure he’ll want to.

“Please…” Izuku whispers. “I don’t want to think anymore.”


Chapter Text

Izuku knows it’s a low blow, playing on Shouto’s need to protect him. He knows the faery will do anything and everything he can to help Izuku through this. Unfortunately, he also knows that nothing he does will improve his situation. There is nothing he can do, nothing he can say, nothing he can change. What’s done is done, and Izuku has to learn to live with the consequences… which he’s not yet ready to do.

 

Instead, he’d like to forget, even if only for a little while, for one night, for a few hours, anything. Izuku is scrambling for something to latch his mind to, for something to shut out the darkness that overwhelms him, and the scent of rising water, of rushing rivers on the precipice of the plunge, of a waterfall powerfully charging to the depths… that scent— Shouto’s scent—is distracting.

 

It’s enough to pull his mind away, to let Izuku breathe again. So he does what he can to extract it, to fill the air with it, to fill his thoughts with nothing but that, but Shouto. He knows it’s unfair. He knows the faery doesn’t stand a chance. He knows he’s taking advantage of the way that Shouto feels about him.

 

But in the moment, he can’t bring himself to stop.

 

Self-preservation is a terrifying thing. It’s all he can do to take his next breath, and being with Shouto feels like a matter of survival. So he does what any horrible, selfish person in his situation might do: he seduces him, begs him, pleads with him not to go. The faery, honorable as he is, does his best to deny him, but Izuku isn’t taking no for an answer. He can’t —not if he wants to make it through the night.

 

“I—” Izuku cuts off Shouto’s inevitable refusal with another kiss, running his tongue along the faery’s lip until he lets him in, until he can taste his tongue and breathe his air. His hands run through beautiful bicolored hair, graze along Shouto’s scalp, and the faery releases a quiet moan. His hips lift again and Izuku feels his cock hard against him. It feels good, so good, and Izuku rolls his hips, too, sending water sloshing over the sides, splashing on the floor, audible and messy.

 

He breaks from Shouto’s lips to kiss along his jaw toward his ear, tugs his earlobe between his teeth and feels the faery’s chest move with a shaky sigh.

 

“Don’t go…” Izuku says.

 

Shouto smooths his hands up Izuku’s back, taking his time in responding. Izuku rubs his cheek against the faery’s, nuzzles him, inhales more of his scent—stronger and harsher than before, exciting and lust-filled. He’s never smelled Shouto this way; he wants more of it.

 

“Izuku, I don’t want to take advantage of you… you’re upset.”

 

The hybrid’s heart sinks as a lump forms in his throat. The earlier desperation begins clawing at his chest, forcing out a sob that he doesn’t want to release. Why is he so weak? Why is he pushing Shouto in the first place? He’s horrible—so selfish, so inconsiderate. He shouldn’t do this. He shouldn’t.

 

But he can’t help it. He’s having trouble breathing again, sure that if Shouto wasn’t holding him in his lap, he’d be curled into himself on the floor. He doesn’t deserve this, doesn’t deserve the respect Shouto is showing him, doesn’t deserve—

 

Hands on his face interrupt his train of thought, and when he looks up to meet Shouto’s eyes, he doesn’t find the sympathetic softness he expects. His eyes are dark, and Izuku doesn’t know what lies beneath—the surface of calm waters beneath a night sky, reflecting back the stars rather than allowing him to see their depths. He’s so close, cool lips brushing Izuku’s own when he speaks.

 

“Don’t ever say that again.”

 

He leans in to kiss him softly before bringing it deeper, more demanding.

 

“You’re perfect, the least selfish person I know, the most—”

 

This time Izuku interrupts him, not wanting to hear anymore misled praise, smashing their mouths together again even as tears drip from his cheeks. Shouto sits forward and lifts him from the water, standing to exit the tub as their lips continue to move. He carries Izuku to the bedroom, water dripping in a trail behind them, marking the path they take from innocent comfort to sinful abandon. The kiss escalates quickly, tongue and teeth connecting, hands exploring, and foreign, needy noises find their way into the air.

 

Suddenly Izuku finds himself beneath Shouto on the bed, legs spread to make room for the faery in between. His mind can focus on nothing but those hands and the way they make him feel, exactly as he wished it.

 

No room for thought, only sensation.

 

Hot, firm pressure runs up Izuku’s sides—a pleasant burn along his skin that sinks down to his groin as embers steadily grow into flame. He raises his hips upward, and the friction feels too good to be allowed, like some transgression he’ll take punishment for later, but he doesn’t care.

 

He knows nothing but rushing water, pouring rain, waves crashing over river banks. The faery is a hurricane of ice and heat and overwhelming lust, and Izuku has been sucked in, whirling right in the eye of it, drowning out the darkness until it’s nothing but a shadow in his periphery. The heat and frost caress him, drag him deeper toward desire, further from self-disgust. He loses himself in it willingly, shifts his hips to chase the scalding fingers that massage his inner walls.

 

He arches his back, wanting deeper, fuller, more… but the fingers are gone too soon. He whines, nearly sobbing at the loss. Shouto wipes at his face—maybe he is crying—and kisses him gently.

 

“If you want more, you just have to say so. I need… I need you to tell me you want this, that I’m not...taking advantage of you.” Shouto’s voice breaks through his disconnect. It trembles, and Izuku isn’t sure which emotion is causing it; the faery’s scent has been all over, and he doesn’t know what Shouto’s feeling anymore. His fingers move to wind with Izuku’s, pressing them into the pillow above their heads, eyes searching.

 

“I-I want… I need this, Shouto. Please, just… please?”

 

Izuku can feel the faery’s lips move against his when he responds, “Anything.”

 

The stretch burns, in a good way. In a way that makes Izuku feel full in a time when he couldn’t possibly be more empty. In a way that’s exactly what he needs to forget. The initial discomfort is sharp, but Izuku doesn’t mind a little pain—deserves it really—and just as Shouto’s fingers had, the hurt transitions to pleasure quickly. His eyes water as he gasps, feathery moans escaping his lips as he loses himself within it.

 

It’s not long before the compression inside him releases, foreign ripples of exhilaration erupting from his center, appealing waves reaching all the way to his fingertips. The faery collapses on him then, sweat slick chests sticking as Shouto’s weight presses to his own. Izuku reaches his hands up to run through Shouto’s damp hair before pulling him in for a languid kiss. The desperation is replaced with sweetness, with softness as they taste each other without the golden, frenzied haze of sex and Izuku feels a more gentle pleasure blooming beyond the crumbling wall that surrounded his numbed mind.

 

When they pause for air, Shouto rolls off of him to sprawl on his back. “Wow,” he says.

 

“Yeah, wow ...” Izuku breathes.

 

He begins to turn on his side when he feels sticky fluid oozing from his behind.  His eyes widen as he sits up abruptly.

Oh my god.” He quickly jumps up and heads to the bathroom, leaving Shouto confused on the bed.  A knock on the bathroom door has Izuku groaning.

 

“Izuku… are you okay?  What’s wrong? What happened? I thought—”

 

“I’m LEAKING !” He shouts over the running water in the tub, trying to rinse out his ass. So disgusting. He’s never been more thankful for this indoor plumbing thing.

 

“What? What do you mean you’re— Oh!” The realization is obvious in his voice. “Uh… Do you want some… help?”

 

He can only imagine how awkward Shouto is right now, standing naked outside the bathroom door, wondering what the etiquette is for helping someone else clean out their ass. The thought makes Izuku snort.

 

“Ah… no? I think I’ll be okay. That is, ah… unless you need to clean up, too?” He’s never actually seen Shouto sweat before now, magical thermostat and all.

 

A pause.

 

“Can I come in?”  

 

Izuku feels around is satisfied to find himself significantly less sticky than a few minutes ago.

 

“Yeah, come in.”

 

A moment later, Shouto comes through the door.  He’s still naked, and Izuku takes the moment to roam eyes over his gorgeous figure. Shouto may be a bit softer than the elves, but he’s certainly more muscular than most fae. He’s tall, with broad shoulders, defined biceps and triceps.  His abs could be used as a washboard, and his thighs are lean, but strong. He looks at Izuku now, small smirk forming when he realizes that the hybrid is checking him out. Izuku’s cheeks pink as he realizes Shouto was waiting for him to speak.

 

“I’m, um… I’m really tired,” he says.

 

Shouto nods.  “We’ll be quick, then. Let’s wash up again and get to bed.”

 

He climbs into the nearly full tub and takes a seat behind Izuku, as he had before, grabbing one of the many liquid soaps from the side and lathering Izuku’s body with the foamy solution. He massages every inch, gentle pressure pulling the hybrid further into sleepy territory.

 

Eventually Izuku drifts off into an exhausted slumber right there in the bath, leaning back on Shouto’s chest and only rousing when he feels the faery press him forward to slip out from behind his limp figure. He blinks his eyes open and looks up to a heavy, plum colored towel splayed beside him.  He stands and Shouto wraps him in the cottony material, then scoops him up princess style and carries him back to the bed. The moment he hits its downy surface, Izuku is out.


---


When Izuku returns to wakefulness, it’s still dark in the room, silent aside from the familiar pitter-patter of Aki’s feet across the hardwood and Shouto’s soft breathing beside him. He sits up and immediately grips his head. It feels like someone’s stuffed so much cotton through his nose that it’s compressing his brain. His skull throbs as he shifts to stand and finds that his back aches, too. The walk to the bathroom reminds him of the burn that became so pleasant last night, but now leaves him with a wince when he walks.

 

On his way, little claws audibly chase behind, and when he stops in front of the sink, Aki makes his way to Izuku’s shoulder. There’s a polished mirror above the faucet, and Izuku sees Aki viewing himself in it from his perch.  Izuku shifts his gaze to himself and nearly gasps. Both of his eyes are black and blue, with deep, dark circles stretching beneath them and swelling of his upper lids. His nose is bright red from rubbing at it, and when he tries to sniff, nothing moves, sinuses totally stuffed. His skin looks sallow, pale, and his hair is a mess—a clear sign he’d slept on it wet.

 

He can barely remember the day before—that horrible dinner with too much wine. He certainly can’t forget what he learned there…

 

He shakes his head sharply—nope. Don’t think. Just. Do not.

 

But after that, Shouto found him, took care of him, and… he shivers even as warmth fills his chest, forcefully evicted by the icy weight of guilt in his stomach. He splashes cold water over his skin—refreshing and distracting. Once his hands are chilled, he presses them over his swollen eyes, and it helps ease the pain in his head a bit.

 

Aki sneezes, then begins to bark from his perch on Izuku’s shoulder. He removes his hands and looks at the glider in the mirror. More guilt.

 

“I know, buddy. I’m sorry. I haven’t been around a whole lot, have I?” He brings his hand toward his shoulder and wraps it gently around Aki’s form. “I should probably get back to sleep soon, but we could have a little play time right now if you want.”

 

He lifts his hand up toward the ceiling and Aki chirps, hopping off and gliding off to the next room. Izuku digs through his pack for some foods that the glider can snack on and sets them out on the breakfast table. The clicking of his claws approaches Izuku again and soon Aki is perched once more on his arm. Izuku moves to the bed and sits to watch the little glider hop off and make his way over to his snacks.

 

He rests his back against the headboard and pulls the covers up over his knees, eyes closing while he listens to his little friend play, to Shouto’s relaxed breathing beside him. Eventually, Aki comes back to cuddle, and he lies down to rest his head on the pillow as the glider huddles into the crook at his arm. Sleep weighs on his lids again, and the two of them succumb to slumber.

 

---

 

Izuku wakes again hours later, this time to a chime, and figures he must have overslept. He looks around to find the room bright and Aki gone, probably sleeping in his fur pouch now. Shouto is gone too, but that is no surprise if he’s slept in—the faery does have morning responsibilities here.

 

Shoot, that’s probably who’s at the door.

 

He jerks up quickly and grabs the first pants he sees, pulling them on before moving to press the door pad, wincing at the ache in his lower back and rubbing at his eyes.

 

“Hmm… Guess you’re not ready for lunch then.”

 

Shouto stands in the doorway with an amused look upon his face as Izuku takes stock of himself. He’s barefoot and shirtless, and when he reaches to run a hand through his hair, it feels matted and unkempt. He doubts the appearance of his eyes has improved much since last night, either.

 

“Did you think I would be?” Izuku asks, yawning and stretching his arms behind his back. “I’ve just crawled from bed to answer the door…”

 

Shouto’s brows lift. “Oh, I didn’t mean to wake you… It’s fairly late in the day, actually. I think most here had lunch about an hour ago.”

 

Really? Izuku’s clearly slept even later than he thought, though he could still sleep if he’s being honest. He doesn’t necessarily care to face the day, not once his brain wakes up, too.

 

“Oh! Um... I didn’t realize I’d slept so long… Aki and I woke up to play for a bit last night, and then with all the…well, I was just exhausted I guess,” he says, rubbing the back of his neck.

 

Shouto’s mouth curves to a soft, barely-there smile, though his scent remains muted. Normally that smile comes with contented streams, but today Izuku finds that’s not the case. Is it fake? Is Shouto pretending for his sake? He’s never pretended before. Maybe he’s upset because Izuku… used him. Izuku’s stomach curdles, and suddenly he wants nothing more than to go back to bed, to silence his mind before he can be hit with the deluge of misery he knows is lurking, waiting for him to lower his defenses.

 

“It’s okay,” Shouto says. “You can go back to sleep if you want, you probably need it. But you should still eat something. I can bring lunch here for you if you’d like.”

 

Izuku nods, chewing his lip. “Y-yeah… I’ll just... I’m gonna get some more rest.”

 

Shouto’s soft smile turns to a frown, now openly worried. “Izuku… I know—I know you had a really tough day yesterday, and that… what we did…” He trails off, thinking, and Izuku feels like his guilt will regurgitate from his gut to a visceral mess on the floor. Shouto is upset with him, and he has every right to be. What Izuku did was wrong, selfish, terrible. He’d played on the faery’s feelings and he knew it. He’d deliberately taken advantage of Shouto, and—

 

“I know that it wasn’t romantic for you.” The faery cuts him off, as if he knows what Izuku is thinking without him having voiced the thoughts. “But that’s okay,” he adds. “I knew what I was doing, and all I wanted was to help you. It did, right?” His eyes search Izuku’s for confirmation, and Izuku nods hesitantly.

 

“I can be that for you, if you want…” he says. When Izuku’s brows knit in response, his lips curve to a small and crooked smile. “I’m sure I could distract you.”

 

Izuku’s brain fills with static as he mulls it over. Why would he offer that? It feels cruel to use Shouto that way, but even so, Izuku considers. The offer is tempting. The sensations he felt last night, the post-orgasmic relaxation… He can’t imagine anything else that would destress him that way.

 

“Think about it,” the faery adds. “I… I would rather do this and be of help to you than see you the way I found you yesterday.” His eyes turn toward the floor, glazing over, and Izuku wants to cry all over again for making Shouto worry, for giving him any reason to be sad. He tries to swallow the lump in his throat to respond, but it won’t move; his mouth feels stuffed with cotton and he can’t move his tongue around it.

 

“I can’t do that again, Izuku… I can’t,” Shouto whispers.

 

He brings a hand to Izuku’s face and pulls his bottom lip from his teeth. It feels like deja vu. The faery leans in to touch their foreheads together and closes his eyes. It’s tempting to shift just a little, to press their lips together and get lost again, but Izuku refrains. He shouldn’t, so he doesn’t, but he wants to. He knows it would brighten Shouto’s scent, rid him of the sour tinge of concern that lingers on the back of Izuku’s palate.

 

After a few moments, his friend pulls away. “You don’t have to decide right now, but I don’t want you feeling guilty for last night. I don’t regret it, so you shouldn’t either,” he says. “I’ll go get something for you to eat later. You should go back to bed and get some more rest, okay?”

 

Izuku nods, and Shouto drags him in for a hug and presses a kiss to the crown of his head. His promise of “I’ll be back soon” is muffled by Izuku’s messy hair. Shouto releases him after a moment and turns to walk down the hall, presumably toward the dining areas, leaving Izuku alone with his thoughts, darkness creeping around their edges.

 

He tries to control them, to keep the shadows back. He forces himself to try and focus on what Shouto said—he doesn’t have to feel guilty or regret what they did—but he’s unsuccessful. What Nemuri told him, what he did to Shouto… all of it could have been prevented if he was just gone .

 

The information swirls in his mind on loop— his fault, his fault, his fault.

 

His greatest friend has worried over and over because of him.

 

Katsuki has no parents because of him.

 

Innocents he’s never met are dead because of him.

 

Now, he’s treated the one remaining person in this world who loved him like dirt, like nothing more than a cheap lay and a quick distraction.

 

Once Shouto actually realizes what he’s done, he’ll never smell those trickling streams again, and it’s his fault. He never deserved them anyway, never deserved that feeling of home, that comfort or belonging. He never earned it to begin with.

 

He slips to the floor, hugging knees to his chest as though wrapping around himself will keep the disgusting nature of his soul at bay, will hide it from the world. No one is there to see it anyway, no one would care to, they shouldn’t care or want to see such filth.

 

It’s his fault...

 

His eyes burn, vision blurring with fat tears that flood over and spill down his cheeks. He watches them drip to the floor, listens to the tiny sounds they make when they splatter there.

 

His fault…

 

He’s missing a span of time after that because the next thing he recalls is Aki’s barking—barking at him —more frantically than he’d ever heard before. It snaps him out of his dark spiral, and his worry over the glider’s odd behavior occupies his mind well enough that he’s functional for a while. He assesses his friend, making sure he’s not injured or hungry before he realizes that Aki just wanted his attention. He spends the time until Shouto returns with lunch playing with the little guy, thankful that—for once—Aki was awake in the daylight.


---


That night, Izuku has a nightmare—a vivid dream of fire, smoke, and death. He watches as homes turn to ash and lives are lost, and he sees the man who starts them. He looks so much like Izuku, only colder, crueler. He watches as the man passes each lifeless body in his path, gaze searching.

 

Despite knowing it’s a dream, Izuku feels as though he’s there. The heat burns against his skin, the smoke suffocates his lungs, and the scent of death weighs heavily on his tongue. Screams of the injured and terrified echo in his ears, reverberate against his skull, sink into his skin like a plague he cannot run from.  

 

Even so, he tries.

 

He runs, and it kills him inside. He’s afraid for his own life—no less afraid than he was as a child, and in the same way…he lets those people die.

 

When he wakes, it’s to a vortex of self-hatred in his mind, repeatedly cycling over the deaths that resulted from his own existence—the deaths that could have been prevented had he just died back when he was meant to, when he was seven. He dwells on his selfishness, lets it eat at his insides, guilt festering in a black hole that creates a vacuum from his heart. It brings him to tears and hyperventilation and screams which he muffles in his pillow.

 

He’s not sure how long he sobs there before Shouto wakes. The faery probably tried to get his attention and calm him down in more ways than one, but Izuku doesn’t notice him until warm lips are on his own in a heated, forceful press that he can’t say no to—not like this, not right now, not when he’s desperate to feel worth something, to feel anything but the hatred he’s got for his own being.

 

Things escalate from there, and Izuku finds mental release in carnal pleasure once again, emotional rest in the contented scent that Shouto emits in the end. When he falls back asleep, it’s with his head pressed to Shouto’s naked chest, fingers carding through his sweat-soaked hair. He dreams of nothing.

 

After that, when Shouto has any free time, he and Izuku spend it together, often exploring each other further. The new sensations and overwhelming desire that transfers from Shouto’s pheromones keep Izuku’s mind more than occupied, allowing him to force his horrors deep into the recesses of his brain, now reserved for exactly that. The intimate times with Shouto seem like the only times he’s is able to feel happiness, to laugh with any genuine feeling, and he grows quickly dependent on it.

 

It’s after one of these sessions that Izuku currently lies in bed—Shouto’s bed—heaving with exhaustion and wiping sweat from his face. He turns to look at Shouto and grins.

 

“Every time seems to be better than the last.”

 

Shouto smiles back—an eye-crinkling one—and he props himself on an elbow, reaching a hand over to comb Izuku’s hair back from his face. “Let’s hope that remains the trend.”

 

Izuku snorts and rolls over to place his head against Shouto’s chest. “Mhmm...” he mumbles, content, before shifting to place a quick kiss on the underside of the faery’s sharp jaw. “Can I sleep here again?”

 

Shouto sighs and wraps his arms around Izuku’s form. “How many times do I have to tell you: you don’t need to ask. You sleep here every night. You can even move your things in here if you want.”

 

Izuku hesitates at the offer. He doesn’t want to do that. He knows they’re only here for 3 more days, but the idea feels weirdly permanent—symbolic—and as much as he finds himself enjoying sex with Shouto, he’s still not sure exactly what he feels about him, about them . They still haven’t talked about where they stand and the biggest step Izuku has taken toward permanency was harvesting Silphium to eat daily, and that was only an effort to prevent the more lasting complication of an unexpected pregnancy.

 

“At least one more time,” he says lightly.

 

The faery yawns. “Should we clean up?”

 

“Hmmm… too tired. New sheets tomorrow instead?”

 

“New sheets.” Shouto agrees. He trails his fingers lightly up and down the skin of Izuku’s back, and the hybrid hums in pleasure, relaxing. He closes his eyes, feeling his thoughts jumble and float away, disjointed as he gives in to the weight of sleep.

 

“Do you want to keep this when we’re back?” The whisper surprises Izuku, and he opens his eyes.

 

He sits up to look at Shouto, hesitating. “What do you mean, ‘keep’ it?”

 

Shouto pushes himself up, too, and leans back against the headboard. “I’m just thinking…this...what we’re doing is clearly a necessary distraction for you. I’m not under any illusion that it’s… romantic, at this point. I wondered if you’d want to keep doing this, even once we’re home—when you’ve got work and your friends to keep your mind occupied. You won’t need it anymore, will you?”

 

His eyes give nothing away, and neither does his scent. It’s choppy but muted, and Izuku can’t figure out exactly what lies beneath. He isn’t sure how to respond. Shouto is probably right… his work will fill his day, and catching up with everyone when he’s back probably take up all of his free time. He won’t need this to make it through his days.  At least, he hopes not.

 

But will he want it?

 

He doesn’t know the answer to that yet.

 

“I’m… not sure.”

 

Shouto nods, diplomatic as ever. “Just curious. No need to answer right now. We’ll leave it open ended.” He slouches back down and pulls Izuku to his chest once more, hugging him close. Izuku snuggles in to close his eyes, trying not to think too much and settles for counting to help keep his mind from spiraling.

 

He gets well past 200 before he falls asleep.


---


The remainder of their time at Court feels uneventful. Once Izuku had considered the idea of getting home and filling his days with his work and familiar faces, he began to crave it. He no longer wants the magically enhanced beauty of the gardens, the gluttonous meals, or the company of those who speak in riddles. He doesn’t even know if he’ll miss the running water anymore.

 

What he does miss is his bed, the river, his friends, and the forest. He misses the elves and their horrible disregard for decorum. He wants the laughter and the loudness and the general disorder he’s surrounded by when he spends time with them back in Willesden.

 

He simply wants to be home.

 

...and so when the sun rises on the day of their departure from Fortaare, Izuku is filled with a new hope.

Chapter Text

When the vaguest whiff of mint and pine tickles his nose, Katsuki freezes mid-crunch and flares his nostrils. It’s faint, but it’s there. He furrows his brows and sniffs again.

Definitely there.

He pushes himself upright and clambers to his feet. It’s only a second before he’s out of the door, sharp eyes searching the path that leads north of the village as he runs in that direction. The scent grows gradually stronger and he knows: 

Izuku is back.

He waits in view of the trail, watching, dancing on his feet in anticipation as the scent grows stronger. A few minutes later, the sound of hoofbeats permeates the air, dust kicking up around them as three grand horses come into view. The riders slow their beasts as they move into the stables, half-n-half dismounting first. The faery doesn’t bother to unpack anything of his own; instead, he reaches up to help Izuku down and the hybrid takes his hand without a thought, climbing down slowly and stumbling backward when he hits the ground. He reaches backwards, pressing a hand to his horse to keep from falling, and it makes Katsuki’s breath catch in his throat—is he really that tired?

Todoroki puts his arms around Izuku’s waist to steady him instead, and the nerd laughs. It’s musical and magical and makes Katsuki’s heart strings pull right toward the hybrid—hard enough that he nearly walks right over there. His motion is halted, however, when the laughter is muffled by the press of lips on lips, and those heart strings sharpen into barbed wire, stabbing and painful. Izuku’s eyes go wide for a moment before he closes them, kissing the faery back.

When the hell did that happen?

They’re—what?—a thing now?

The blood still leaking from his punctured heart boils in his veins as he clenches his fists and grits his teeth. What a damn joke. He wants to close his eyes and turn away, but something gives him pause.

There’s something... odd about it.

Even while they’re kissing—when the nerd is leaning so far into the damn faery they might as well be one person—Katsuki doesn’t notice any change in his scent. In fact, it’s muted even beyond his baseline. Pine and mint is all he can find in the air, and only if he’s looking for it. No humidity, no dark mystery...just plain woodland, dry and empty and stagnant.

Not that the scent is unappealing, but Katsuki’s craved his smell—in all its forms—for at least a fortnight. And this is… well, honestly, it’s pretty damn dull for Izuku, even on a bad day.

Why’s he with that bastard if he doesn’t feel anything for him?

Actually… he doesn’t seem to feel anything at all. He’s just arrived back at home. Katsuki would’ve expected something— happiness, relief, even sadness at having to return. Instead, he’s a blank slate—emotions wiped barren as the wasteland left following a forest fire. Nothing but a grey space of burnt stumps and emptiness, making way for better, stronger plant life to take over. Simply looking at the hybrid, you’d never know it.

He’s smiling, freckled cheeks full and eyes crinkling with laughter. He stands on his toes to collect his bags, but he can barely reach, and that lavender fuck comes around to say something Katsuki’s sure is pretty dickish before grabbing the bags for him. Izuku sticks his tongue out at him and giggles at whatever it was. Just observing, the nerd seems fine—happy, even.

But Katsuki knows he isn’t.

What the hell happened while they were gone?

 

---

 

Through the rest of the day and the entirety of the next, Katsuki waits. He expects Izuku to want to stop by and check on his patient, but he doesn’t. He figures it makes sense that the doc would need to unpack and settle back in after having such a long trip, but the hybrid’s absence  still doesn’t sit well with the elf. He honestly thought that Izuku would come to him as soon as he returned, that maybe they had formed some kinda friendship before he left… but maybe that wasn’t the case. Maybe they really were just patient and doctor, and the night Izuku broke down with him was a fluke, a coincidence of Katsuki being at the right place at the right time to witness Izuku crack. Maybe he enjoyed his newer, deeper friendship with half-and-half and the purple bastard. Maybe he doesn’t need Katsuki and Eijirou around anymore.

The thoughts threaten to wreck him, and he forces them away before they do too much damage. No...there’s no way things have changed that much.

While Katsuki doesn’t scent any difference when the nerd is around the faery, they are  practically glued to one another.  He’s seen them walking together a few times, and noted both of their scents inside Izuku’s house when he walked by yesterday evening. It was late, which struck him as odd.  But if they’re together now...

Katsuki’s heart plummets, a festering bitterness bubbling in his gut..

Fuck no. No way in hell.

That damn faery is too awkward to be fucking anyone, let alone Izuku. The damn doc was flustered when Katsuki touched him, let alone if he’d tried anything further. He just can’t imagine that the two could be sleeping together. Maybe half-n-half stayed over to actually sleep.

That must have been it.

That’s the only thing that makes sense, the only thing he can make himself accept. 

Katsuki breathes for a second, grinding his teeth in agitation. Whatever the two of them do or don’t do, or are or aren’t doing...it’s not his business, really. And it won’t matter in the end anyway, not when Izuku realizes he’s got Katsuki as an option. He’s sure Izuku’s scent will liven up around him, as it always has. He’s prepared to work for it if he has to. He just needs Izuku to actually come around.

And he will. He’s sure he will.

 

---

 

It’s not until the morning of Izuku’s third day home that he finally approaches Katsuki on his own. He’s outside of his house, warming up to go for another run—an attempt at putting distance between him and the village’s darling couple—when he smells him. That barely-there, stone pine scent tickles his nostrils, followed quickly by a view of deep ivy-colored waves. Izuku is coming straight toward him, and Katsuki stops in his tracks. 

He wasn’t expecting the doc to come by this morning, but he can’t say he isn’t prepared. He’s shirtless, wearing lowly tied shorts that show off the V of his hips, sweating from his warm-up. He’s pretty confident in the way he looks at the moment but he also doesn’t catch the intensity of damp earth and lush foliage he’d come to expect when Izuku typically sees him in such a state. He frowns.

“Izuku.”

Freckled cheeks dimple just a bit when his lips spread in a bright smile—one Katsuki is tempted to return. Instead, he scowls at the fact that none of that happiness reaches his nose. 

Fake.

“Katsuki!” Izuku waves jovially, even as his eyes graze over his half-naked figure. “Ah, how are you?”

“M’fine.” He grunts.

“And your shoulder?” Izuku walks around to examine Katsuki’s back, confidently placing a cool palm to its sweat slick surface. His fingers gently press and feel over the muscle there and it sends a chill down the elf’s spine. Not noticing, or at least pretending not to notice, Izuku hums. “It looks great! We can start therapy if you want!” 

Katsuki grunts again. 

“Ah… you don’t want to start this morning...?” Izuku’s already quiet scent quiets further. It pisses Katsuki off. 

Katsuki turns to look at him. “Not right now. ‘Bout to go runnin’... you run?”

He raises a brow at the hybrid. Judging by Izuku’s trim physique, he does something for exercise...Katsuki’s just not sure what that is.

Green eyes widen before he nods enthusiastically. “I do! I haven’t been able to for a while… I didn’t get to run at all in Fortaare, but it sounds so nice right now!” He brings a hand to his chin in thought as he continues to rant, voice speeding up even as its volume retreats. “Wow! Didn’t realize that I missed it so much until you said something… Probably out of shape now, though. I should get back into it as soon as possible. Maybe, I sh—”

“Quit your damn mutterin’ and run with me.”

He looks back up to meet Katsuki’s gaze. “Huh?”

“You heard. I’m goin’ now. You comin’ or what?”

A spike of something—eucalyptus?—makes its way into the air, and Katsuki’s mouth curves. That’s a change. Better than that dull muted shit he’d had going on until now. 

He’s sure Izuku is going to agree, so instead of waiting for the response, he turns on his heel and walks back into the house, leaving Izuku there confused. He grabs a pair of shorts not unlike what he’s already wearing, and tosses them at the hybrid still waiting outside.

“Go put those on. You’ll fuckin’ die tryin to run in all that shit. It ain’t that cold out here.”

Izuku looks down at his long-sleeved tunic, pants, and boots before exhaling a breathy laugh. His sharp gaze shifts to Katsuki and then back to himself pointedly.

“They’ll be a little large, don’t you think?” He quirks a brow, intelligent eyes taunting.

Katsuki’s not bothered by it; in fact, it’s kind of a turn on. He smirks and hopes it instigates more of Izuku’s sharp tongue.

“They’ll tie. Go put’em on, I don’t wanna wait here all damn day.” He sits down in the grass, waiting for the doc to go change.

About a minute later, Izuku emerges, and Katsuki’s pretty sure that he’s dreaming again as he takes in the hybrid’s form. He’s never seen Izuku in anything but pants and sleeved shirts, and— damn —he’s been missing out. Katsuki’s eyes move slowly down Izuku’s body, drinking him in as though parched on a hot summer’s day.

The hybrid’s frame is exactly that: a blend. He’s got perfect balance between soft fae beauty and harsh elven power. His skin is smooth and unmarred as it sits taut against well-sculpted musculature, blemished only by a pretty sprinkling of freckles across his chest and shoulders. He follows the freckles and finds they trail along his arms as well, even into the hard lines of his triceps and definition of his biceps. His entire torso is well built, and Katsuki appreciates the dips and ridges that carve his stomach, the thickness of his obliques as they frame the area near his hips. The shorts are too big on his lean frame, but it just brings them to sit lower on his pelvis, leaving more in the open for Katsuki to see.

His mouth waters, and he absently licks his lips. When he looks back up, he sees a new shine in those emerald eyes, a facet he’d not noticed before.

Shit.

His scent probably gives away his interest—not that he’s trying to hide it. Izuku’s face is starting to flush, red creeping across his cheeks, and it does nothing to dampen Katsuki’s arousal. He grips the bridge of his nose and closes his eyes when he catches the slightest hint of that twilight stickiness in the air. He can’t just jump this idiot’s bones the first second he talks to Katsuki after returning from his extended trip. Not to mention that he has a… thing now. 

Katsuki fights the urge to growl. Fuckin’ half-n-half. Of course, Izuku would latch onto his manipulative ass in some new city filled with creatures he didn’t know. Izuku isn’t exactly a loner, and who else could he have spent his time with? They certainly had a chance to spend a lot of time with each other, but if each was the other’s only option for companionship, whatever they’ve built can’t be all that damn meaningful.  

Izuku coughs and Katsuki’s eyes shoot up to meet green. The hybrid is rubbing at the base of his own nose and Katsuki realizes he’s probably pumping some pretty threatening fumes out there now. Ugh. He’s gotta get this shit under control.

“Are we, uh… are we going now?” Izuku asks, voice small and uncertain, apparently not knowing what had Katsuki switching from turned on to angry all of a sudden.

Katsuki answers with a scoff and starts jogging off toward the river trail, Izuku right behind him.

“Where do you usually run to?” The hybrid’s voice carries over the breeze.

“Wherever the hell I feel like!” He snaps over his shoulder. 

Izuku matches his pace, moving to run beside him in an easy stride and removing the need to shout. “So, no plan then?”

“No plan.”

Izuku grins at that, his scent becoming more prominent by the second as it expands to include other deciduum and florals of the forest. He speeds up, moves seemingly without effort over fallen branches and around extending brush. His feet are silent in the dirt, voice echoing against huge, age-old trunks as he laughs—giddy—when he springs over a rabbit in their path. Katsuki can’t help but feel awe when watching his flawless form, every step weightlessly swift.

Animals spread when Katsuki reaches them, but they don’t even react to Izuku. As silently as he moves, he also camouflages well with his own moss and ivy coloring, tanned and freckled skin. It’s like he belongs here—like he’s one with the plant life and wildlife alike—as though his very being is forestial. It’s beautiful and powerful and beyond anything he’s ever seen.

Katsuki finds himself smiling—actually smiling—as he works to keep up with the spritely creature now pulling ahead of him.

Until he realizes he’s actually falling behind.

Then he pushes a little harder to pick up the pace.

 

---

 

“Holy shit.” 

Katsuki lies on his back in the grass, panting and heaving as though he’s just sprinted for his life on half his normal lung function. He’s fuckin’ beat. He’s sure he’s red in the face from the lack of oxygen, and his body is so sweat-soaked that he probably looks like he’s been swimming.

A laugh sounds from beside him and he turns his head to see Izuku lying next to him, elbow bent and chin resting in his palm. Katsuki closes his eyes, irritated that this guy is laughing right now while he can’t even suck a full breath.

“I haven’t had a good run like that in a long time,” Izuku says, not even winded.

Katsuki grunts, unable to form words just yet. Fuck, that little hybrid is in shape. Maybe better shape than Katsuki himself—and that’s saying something.

“You okay?” the half-elf asks.

He opens one eye just to give Izuku a dirty look, then turns his face back toward the sun and closes it again. Silence and warm rays greet him as his heart rate gradually returns to a normal pace.

“M’fine,” he says after a minute, when he’s finally able to breathe. “Didn’t expect you to be able to run so far. Or so damn fast.”

Izuku huffs in quiet laughter, then lets out a deep breath, a relaxed sigh. “Mmm… I like running. It’s… freeing.”

When Katsuki turns his head to look at the hybrid, he finds him mimicking Katsuki’s previous position, starfished on his back with his eyes closed, soaking up the heat of the morning sun. Sweat drips from the side of his nose, tracing over his freckles, as if connecting the stars of a constellation that Katsuki itches to map for himself. Instead, he rolls to his side, bringing his upper half off the ground, elbow bent and weight supported by his tattooed forearm. 

“You need a fuckin’ bath, doc. You’re disgusting.”

Izuku snorts. “Speak for yourself. I’m not sweating half as much as you are.”

“Fine. We need a fuckin’ bath. Straight to the river?” 

The hybrid groans, long and dramatic, making Katsuki furrow his brow in confusion.

“The hell’s wrong with you?”

Izuku cracks one eye open and tilts his head to look at Katsuki. “In Fortaare… they have bathtubs…with hot water.”

Katsuki pushes himself to stand and nudges Izuku’s hip with his bare foot. “Well, here in Willesden, we got rivers. And your ass needs one. Desperately. So get the fuck up and let’s go.”

The nerd releases a melodramatic sigh and sits up. “Fiiiiiine…”

The two walk side by side to the river, only a few minutes from the location of their collapse. The moment they reach the water’s edge, Katsuki wades right in and dunks himself under without hesitation. When he comes up, he makes quick work of his shorts, pulling them off to wring out the sweat and rinse them through with cleaner water. 

Izuku, on the other hand, stands on the bank and watches, wide-eyed. Katsuki lies back in the water and smirks at the light pink developing on those cute cheeks, his heady scent wafting through the air.

“Somethin’ wrong?” he teases. He knows Izuku probably hadn’t thought about the fact that most people bathe in the nude before agreeing that they should stop on the way back. He’s probably shy about stripping down in front of someone else, especially after nearly a month of bathing in private.

Izuku shakes his head shyly and bites his lip. Katsuki’s eyes follow the movement, licking at his own. He growls. “If you don’t get in, I’m gonna drag you in. I ain’t walkin’ all the way back to the village with your smelly ass—get it in here and fuckin’ clean it.”

The half-elf tortures his lip some more, and Katsuki wades over to the bank. “You gonna do it, or do I have to do it for you?” he asks, raising a brow.

“I-I’m, um… I’ll get in.” He stutters. 

Katsuki rolls his eyes and scowls. “I ain’t got all damn day, ya know.”

Izuku dips his toe in and quickly jerks it back out, brows practically meeting his hairline.

“It’s so cold!”

Katsuki snorts and reaches for him, grabbing Izuku behind the legs and catching his lower back as he yanks him into the water—Izuku yelps and flails a bit before Katsuki promptly lets go, dropping him in entirely with a somewhat anticlimactic splash.

The hybrid jumps to a stand and pushes soaking green curls from his face, mouth hanging open as he spits and heaves deep breaths. He rubs the water from his eyes, then shoves Katsuki in the chest. “What the heck was that for?!”

Katsuki barks with laughter. “Better to get it over with.”

Izuku seems to crack a smile in spite of himself, and eventually he’s laughing, too, scent seemingly normal for the first time since his return. His hair shines with river water, droplets sticking to his lashes and dripping from his chin. It glistens on his freckled skin, giving him a glow that makes Katsuki want to dunk him again, just so he can watch more trickles connect his constellations.

Katsuki doesn’t realize when he stops laughing in lieu of ogling Izuku’s form. Izuku stops laughing too, notices Katsuki’s staring, and becomes nervous again, biting his lip. 

Katsuki meets his eyes. “Those shorts’ll need cleanin’, too,” he says quietly.

“Oh! R-right.”

The hybrid fumbles with the string on his waistband—anxiety getting the best of his dexterity as he attempts to untie them under Katsuki’s gaze. Izuku had evidently double knotted them to make sure that they stayed on during the run, but when the idiot pulled at one of the bow’s loops in his haste, the knot tightened instead. Katsuki fights the urge to laugh.

He walks a little closer and looks the doc up and down. “You need some help?” 

Green hair scatters water when Izuku jerks his head upward, eyebrows following the momentum. “Wh-what?! No. I can’t. You can’t be... No, you probably shouldn’t be undressing me.” He finally forces out. 

Katsuki moves a little closer, enjoying the flush now working its way down the hybrid’s bare chest. “Why not? You helped me dress and undress for weeks.”

“That’s… That was different.” 

He smirks, inches away. “Not that different. Still clothes. Still skin.”

He’s close enough now that Izuku has to tilt his head back to see Katsuki’s face, and the nerd does just that, dropping his hands from the hopeless knot as his eyes search Katsuki’s. The elf is almost certain that his own arousal seeps from him in plumes, overpowering even when the hybrid’s scent begins to compete, humidity and rich earth creeping up to assault Katsuki’s senses. Heat coils in his gut in spite of the cool water rushing by them, and Katsuki’s fairly certain he’s going to have a visible erection pretty soon.

He reaches downward for the string, deliberately dragging his knuckles over each swell of Izuku’s abdominals on the way, appreciating the way his freckled chest shudders with shaky breaths as he does. He stands so near that the puffs of air feel warm against his own chest as he works to untangle the ridiculous knot, nose millimeters from the hybrid’s soft, wet hair and in prime position to inhale his scent by the gallon. The air hangs thick around them, a velvet curtain that shields the two from the rest of the world.

Fuck. Definitely hard, now. 

Katsuki quickly feels the knot beginning to loosen beneath his fingers, and he brings his crimson gaze upward to lock on Izuku’s hunter green. When the strings finally unravel, he pulls out on the waistband slowly and the shorts begin to billow in the current. Izuku doesn’t move, just keeps that heated stare trained on Katsuki’s eyes, suffocating his senses and drowning out any and all other possible stimulation.

Katsuki begins to drag the shorts downward, testing, and the hybrid makes no move to protest. When he pulls the bottoms low enough, Izuku releases an almost inaudible whimper, a new scent creeping into the mix… one Katsuki’s not familiar with. He bites down hard on that bottom lip—this time drawing blood—and it gives Katsuki pause.

With the spell momentarily broken, he takes stock of the situation.

Izuku showed up just a few days ago, making out with half-n-half and exuding a nearly unrecognizable scent. Today, they had a good time, so much so that Izuku seemed almost normal for a while there...but even so, in the quiet moments, he doesn’t seem to be…himself. It doesn’t seem like the normally bashful, innocent nerd to just let Katsuki do something like this, especially when he had originally turned down Katsuki’s playful offer to undress him.

Again he’s caught by the inherent…wrongness.

Something is not right with Izuku. He’s sure of it. 

He furrows his brow, unsure how to approach this situation. Talking is not Katsuki’s forte. And fuck, it’s just so tempting not to—to just, grab Izuku and shove their lips together. He’s certain the doc would let’im.

He wants it—wants him—so damn badly. 

He dares to step closer, testing, but Izuku still doesn’t move, frozen like prey that knows its been beaten and has given up. His eyes are glassy, glittering in a way Katsuki finds all too familiar. It brings back the barbed wire around his heart, squeezes it tighter.

It doesn’t matter how physically close they are or how good he looks and smells...Katsuki  doesn’t want him like this. Right now, it doesn’t even feel like Izuku sees him for who he is. And his scent is only growing more sour, beginning to burn his nose. 

“Doc…” He starts, but the moment that sound leaves his lips, hot tears build in the corners of lightening green eyes. He reaches out as they begin to overflow, and Katsuki’s thumb makes it just in time to catch the first of them. He wraps his arms around Izuku on instinct, pulling him tightly to his form.

Izuku shudders in his arms as full-on sobs begin to wrack his frame.

“K-Katsuki—” He bawls. “I-I’m s-sorry. I—I just...”

Whatever he was about to say becomes unintelligible through his cries, and Katsuki squeezes him tighter, wishing he could share in it, or at least take some of this fucking pain from the innocent thing in his arms. There’s no way in hell that Izuku has done anything to deserve this kind of misery. Anger roils in his gut as he thinks on who or what the hell caused this. He rubs a hand up and down Izuku’s bare back with heavy pressure, trying to ground him and give him something, anything but this to focus on. After some time, his cries calm, replaced by silent tears that run down his cheeks.

“Ay, doc…?”

Izuku snivels, wraps his own arms around Katsuki’s waist and presses his cheek to his chest, closing his eyes.

“Izuku.”

The hybrid sniffs again. “Wh-what?” he whispers, voice cracking.

Katsuki presses his face to Izuku’s damp hair, tries not to cringe at the acridity he’s overwhelmed with. “Why are you apologizing?” 

Izuku’s sobbing picks up again, crying so hard his drool smears on Katsuki’s skin.

Gross.

When the hell did Katsuki go soft? He wouldn’t be caught dead holding some whining idiot before now. What is wrong with him? But even as he thinks it, he relishes the feel of Izuku in his arms, his firm body filling the empty space Katsuki hadn’t noticed was there before. He’d rather hold Izuku through whatever the hell this is than hold anyone else, ever. 

“You don’t need to be sorry, dumbass.” 

“Even—even if I’m not sorry t-to you…I’m—I am...I’m so sorry”—he breaks off into more hysterical crying, and Katsuki can’t understand the rest of it.

Instead of trying to talk again, he continues to hold him and massage over his skin, dragging up and down Izuku’s back, shoulders, and arms, again and again. As bad as he feels that the doc is experiencing some kinda crisis, he can’t help but feel smug that Izuku is trusting him, relying on him enough to be so vulnerable. It doesn’t seem like the hybrid really lets go around anyone—always so fucking smiley, so worried about everyone but himself.

After a while, his palms and fingers begin to tingle from the repeated stimulation. By then, Izuku’s tears have stopped, but he still holds Katsuki for dear life, so the elf doesn’t dare quit his ministrations. The hybrid inhales deeply and rubs his face against him, and he tenses, tries hard not to acknowledge that it feels…good. Really good. 

“K-Katsuki…?” Izuku rasps.

The bitter scent is still there, but has been largely displaced by something else, something heavier. 

Katsuki clears his throat, trying to keep his voice even as his fingers continue to trail over Izuku’s back and sides and up through his hair. “Hm?” 

“You…you s-smell so…good. F-feel good.” He turns his face into Katsuki’s chest, muffling his already hoarse voice.

Katsuki cracks half a smile. Is he embarrassed? He moves a hand from his low back up to his green curls and tugs back lightly, caressing his scalp as he forces the hybrid to look up at him. 

“Yeah?” Katsuki prompts, glad that finally the nerd has stopped his tears and proud that he was able to successfully console him.

Izuku’s cheeks are flushed a bright red, eyes swollen and purple beneath. His hair is a mess, windswept with some spots curlier than others from Katsuki fingering through it as it dried. His brows curve desperately, and his pink, bitten lips are parted as if trying to say something that just won’t come out. He’s perfect—gorgeous, even ragged as he is.

Katsuki finds himself leaning in subconsciously, bringing their mouths closer together as his lips part to inhale more of him.

“I just…I feel better like this,” Izuku whispers, eyes darting away as though it’s too hard to say to Katsuki’s face. He swallows, and Katsuki follows suit, not wanting to risk embarrassment by drooling. “Th-the closeness is nice.” 

The elf’s heart rate picks up. Katsuki likes the nearness, too, likes the thick, encompassing scent that’s rising to replace that bullshit stench from before.

“Yeah?” he says again. His own voice is gruff and thick with arousal as he brings a hand to Izuku’s hip, feeling the damp skin beneath his thumb and smoothing along his side. The other fingers continue massaging against the hybrid’s scalp.  

“Mhmm…” Izuku stands on his tip toes, lips so close Katsuki can almost taste him, wants so badly to taste him. His eyes darken as they search his own, glimmer in a way that sends heat straight through Katsuki’s spine, dick waking back up in a hurry.

“Fuck…” the elf mutters. He feels his lips barely brush against Izuku’s when he speaks.

Those forest eyes grow wide and vulnerable and beautiful at the touch, but Katsuki licks his lips and waits, unsure how he’s meant to react. How has Izuku shifted from distraught to turned on so quickly…? Then again, it’s not as though he should be so easily turned on by the whimpering mess in his arms, either. 

Should he stop this? He should, but... 

He really, really doesn’t want to.

Izuku steps closer, bringing their bodies flush together and letting Katsuki feel just how much he’s enjoying the proximity. Katsuki groans as the tension only grows between them. It’s as though the minimal space between their mouths is palpable, Izuku’s breath mingling with his own. Blood rushes to his growing cock as his hands smooth down to follow the curve of Izuku’s bare ass. Izuku releases a small whimper, and his arms move to wrap around Katsuki’s neck, fingers burying in blond hair to yank him down and press their lips together in earnest.

Their mouths move together as if they’ve done it a million times before, the explosive spark of newness competing with the slowly burning embers of comfort. It’s warm, and soft, and languid. Katsuki’s eyes flutter closed as he lets his hands explore, slowly canvassing Izuku’s body with lithe fingers and appreciating every curve.

It’s not until the hybrid tugs Katsuki’s lower lip with sharp teeth that he remembers to question the context of the kiss, and his small, responding moan is met with a warm and wet tongue that threatens to distract him all over again. Izuku tastes like sin, like perfection, and Katsuki wishes he could swallow him whole. The hot, musky flavor is something the elf feels like he’s been missing his entire life, and it’s so, so damn good, he doesn’t want to ever stop.

But he should. He needs to.

He has to.

FUCK.

Izuku was literally kissing someone else the last time Katsuki saw him, and as much as it hurts…Katsuki knows Izuku doesn’t want him—not really.

He breaks their stupidly perfect first kiss and grabs Izuku by the shoulders, shoving him backward gently and holding him there. Katsuki is panting, sure that his painfully obvious erection is abusing Izuku’s hip, and he’s already really pissed at himself for not just taking advantage of the opportunity presented on a silver platter right fucking in front of him.

Damn it, why choose now to have morals? 

“What the fuck?” he breathes, unthinking.

“D-don’t you want this? Want… me?” Izuku looks hurt, eyes glistening with tears once more as he searches Katsuki’s scarlet.

The elf growls. “Of course, I fucking want you. Isn’t that obvious?”—he gestures to his groin where his dick is, in fact, pressing Izuku’s hip, like he’d thought—“But… shit. You just had your tongue down that half-n-half bastard’s throat, Izuku.”

Well, that didn’t come out the way he wanted it to. He’s pretty sure he just insinuated that the doc is some kinda whore. 

Damn it all.

Izuku takes a deep breath, closing his eyes as his lip trembles. “That was…is not what you think.” He looks back up to meet Katsuki’s gaze with an intensely deep viridian. “Shouto agreed to…to do whatever I needed to…not think. We’re not together.”

“Yeah, well. The two of you looked a little damn cozy to not be somethin’.”  

“I’m telling you, we’re not…and this—this isn’t—” Izuku pauses to sniffle, though he’s clearly becoming frustrated. Katsuki has mental whiplash from how quickly he shifts from worry to anger himself at the implication of their situation. 

“So we wouldn’t be somethin’ either then, I take it? You’d just be usin’ me, too, yeah? No need for me if you got him.” He scowls, trying to bury the sting he feels in response to the realization.

This gives Izuku pause, sorrow crumpling his features before he turns his eyes back toward the water. Katsuki sees a small splash hit the waves, and realizes the hybrid is crying again.

Damn it all to hell.

Now he’s responsible for the tears.

Izuku sniffs and wipes his eyes in a rush, then reaches down to retie the string on his shorts with shaking fingers before he speaks, gaze still averted. 

“God, I’m.. I’m so sorry,” he murmurs to the water. “I—uh, Th-thank you. For today. I… it’s the first time I‘ve been able to forget in some other way...” His lips curve to a sad smile as he looks up to meet Katsuki’s eyes. The light, grey-green appearance almost breaks him; Katsuki is already becoming familiar with the multitude of shades. This sage color indicates that the hybrid is hurting, and while the crying should make it obvious, the color change sends the point further home. “I’m sorry for ruining it. I should go,” Izuku says quietly. 

Katsuki doesn’t understand why he’s being thanked right now when for all he knows, he’s made the hybrid so uncomfortable with his flirting that he lost his shit right there in the river, then basically called him a slut to his face before making him cry all over again. He’s ruined everything—if there ever was anything to fucking ruin. He wants to apologize to Izuku, to ask him if he’ll run with him every damn day forever, to tell him they never have to talk about this shit again if it means that he’ll smile for real and exude his lush, natural scent.

Instead, he says, “Don’t mention it.”

Izuku looks up at him with overly glassy, celadon eyes. “Actually… I-I know I don’t have the right to ask anything of you, b-but…could you not mention this? I don’t mean the whole…”—he looks up at Katsuki, then back down to his own figure— “this… but…the crying? Can you not tell anyone? Shouto and Hitoshi would worry, and I don’t—”

Katsuki lets go of him then, as much as it pains him to do it, and Izuku pauses to look at him. The elf steps away to look him square in the face, searching for a moment. 

He looks sad, hopeless even. His eyes are sunken, cheekbones more prominent—he’s still fuckin’ gorgeous, of course—but there’s something somber about him. And yet, he’s mentally preparing to go fake it all over again—to be “happy” and giggly and fun so no one else will notice. It makes Katsuki sick. The smiles without the scent mean nothing, and he’s not willing to let the doc go back to forcing them. Whatever changed in Fortaare has clearly fucked him up; he’s barely a shell of what he was when he left.

Katsuki decides then that he needs to know what that difference is.

“Only if you tell me why the hell it happened,” he responds seriously. 

All the fight left in the hybrid seems to leave him, shoulders curling in on his form as he pulls further away. Izuku’s volatile doe eyes fill with tears all over again, and Katsuki almost takes it back. Almost. He wants to reach out and pull him close, to comfort him again until the tears stop, to assure him that he’s here—period—whether he talks or not.

But he bites his tongue, because Izuku needs to talk to someone about whatever the fuck is eating away at him, even if he doesn’t want to. This avoidance-and-forgetting bullshit isn’t healthy, and it’s clearly not working anymore.

“I-I dunno if I can…” Izuku whispers.

“You don’t have a damn choice.” Katsuki growls back.

And he means it.

Izuku is going to tell him everything.

Today.

 

Chapter Text

Izuku heaves a deep, shuddering breath. He wipes his nose on his forearm roughly and licks his split lips. He’s shivering, exhausted, and doesn’t want to be here anymore, but he also doesn’t know how he can possibly avoid this situation.

“Can we at least go home first?” His voice sounds shaky and pathetic to his own ears. He looks down at the water and waits, hoping Katsuki will allow him the dignity of his own dry clothes and a place to sit before he has to talk. Not that he deserves it.

He feels fresh tears dripping from his cheeks, skin already caked with dried salt from crying so much before. He lowers himself in the water, splashing his face and rewetting his hair in the hopes of looking presentable by the time he has to face any other people.

He can do this. He can.

He still hasn’t received an answer, so he trails his eyes up the bare and beautiful figure before him, finally meeting darkened crimson and clawing for the strength to hold it. Katsuki looks angry. His brow is furrowed, eyes narrow and arms crossed over his chest. His form is… defensive, but his voice is soft when he speaks.

“That bad, huh?”

Izuku wraps his arms around himself, rubs his skin, chill seeping in now that he’s no longer pressed against Katsuki’s body heat. He’s shivering as he closes his eyes, trying to compose himself for a second before nodding.

Yes. It’s that bad. Whatever ‘that’ is in the elf’s mind, Izuku expects this is much worse.

He doesn’t want to tell him, doesn’t want Katsuki to hate him. 

And he will. He should. He has every right to.

“Oi.”

He lifts his gaze to meet the elf’s, finding it uncertain—nervous, even. Washed out embers sit heavy and soggy on his tongue.

“Let’s go,” Katsuki says.

Izuku gives him as much of a smile as he can muster. “Th-thank you.”

Katsuki nods, eyes still trained on him, always seeing more than they’re meant to. It doesn’t matter now, Izuku figures. He won’t care to see anything after today, anyway.


---


“So.” 

The elf glares at him from across the small round table in Izuku’s home. They’d both gone their separate ways to redress and dry off. Then in what seemed like no time at all, Katsuki was at his door, pounding so hard it shook the floor. Apparently, he thought Izuku might take off to avoid their discussion, or roll into a pit of misery and never resurface, or… something. Izuku didn’t ask what had him so on edge.

“So…” he whispers—croaks, really. His voice is hoarse and hardly present after all the sobbing he’s done. Having had some time here alone, he’s feeling sort of embarrassed and uncomfortable about what happened. In that moment of pause in the water, it was like all the thoughts he’d been able to avoid for a full day came rushing back. And then he was gone—spilling the poison of his soul into the clean, crisp river, and begging the current to wash it away.

And when he was lost like that, all he could do was follow instinct—all logical thought dissolved in the sludge of his hateful cognition. Seeing Katsuki’s flawless form completely open in front of him, pressed to warm wet skin, scenting interest on the elf—it flipped some switch in him. Katsuki could help him to forget again, he was sure of it. In fact, he craved it, like an addict.

Even now, even after the elf essentially told him he was used goods and wanted no part of it... Izuku still wants him. He wasn’t offended by the comment—it was true after all, and it wasn’t as though he expected Katsuki to love him. He doesn’t even deserve the elf’s respect, really. Not anymore. 

It was what Katsuki said: “you’d just be usin’ me too, yeah?”

Guilt reared its ugly head, then. As much as he wanted—wants—Katsuki, the idea now leaves a bitter taste in his mouth, because he was right—Izuku would have been using him. Even if Izuku wants him in ways he’s not wanted before, even if he does care for Katsuki as more than just a friend, now isn’t the time for him to be making decisions, and in all honesty, he can’t be sure that’s what he was thinking of when he pressed their mouths together.

Katsuki doesn’t care for him unconditionally the way that Shouto does. He knows that. He knows they’ll never become anything. So any attempts at deepening this… whatever this is… would be for naught, anyway. All he succeeded in doing was offending the elf and landing himself here, with that piercing, certain gaze locked on him in expectation.  

He doesn’t want to talk to Katsuki about this—to anyone, really. But if he has to do it at all, now would be as good a time as any; he’s pretty numb to anything this information can throw at him right now. Maybe he’s fallen far enough that there’s nowhere deeper to go. At rock bottom, the earth is smooth and solid—stable; he’s become accustomed to his place here. 

“Don’t think you’re wormin’ out of this. You’re gonna talk. Period.” Katsuki levels a glare at Izuku, raises a brow. “What the fuck happened at Court, huh?”

Izuku’s shaking hands find the seat of his chair, and the wood creaks under his nervous grip. He’s actually going to have to say this out loud. He’s not sure how to do it, which words to use. The concept is one large, black blur in his mind that he’s tried hard not to decipher. He considers, trying to piece together some comprehensible string of language that might explain without bringing Katsuki to abhor him. He comes up empty, and decides to just wing it.

“I… learned about my… heritage.” Izuku swallows. Katsuki remains silent. “About my dad.”

The wrinkle between the elf’s brows disappears, and his mouth opens as if to speak. He takes a breath, but seems to decide better of it. His lips snap shut, waiting.

“He’s… looking for me.”

The moisture is sapped from the air. It feels relaxing, somehow, to Izuku—the heat of a dry sauna seeping into his bones. It’s certainly better than the feel of the room when Nemuri told him about all this. He had been seated in an uncomfortable chair—velvet and gold—at the table with a gorgeously carved porcelain tea set, though he didn’t take a sip of tea. The Queen’s floral scent had enveloped him, so strong it burned his nose, though unlike at the previous dinner, his head remained clear. She gave him a kind smile as she spoke.

“The man in charge of these attacks, of killing these elven bystanders... is your father, Izuku. Hisashi Midoriya slaughters village after village, murdering innocents and ending family lines because he’s searching for something—for you.”

His heart had exploded in his chest, a visceral and bloody splatter within the confines of his ribs. He had stopped worrying about his father well before his mother passed, long accepting that he didn’t want them, didn’t care to find them. And once his mother was lost, he had been forced to give up on the idea that he would have a blood family. However, according to the Queen… his father had truly been searching for him, though not for the reasons his once young and naive mind had hoped for.  

He looks up to Katsuki, who’s leaning forward in his chair with both arms crossed on the table, hands gripped into fists. The elf appears irritated, impatient. 

“He wanted… wants me”—Izuku sniffs, wipes a stray tear—“...d-dead. And… and because I’m still alive...” He chokes off and tries to collect himself, breathing deeply. Inferno flares up and rages around him, but it’s not scary. He knows it won’t touch him somehow. It’s not meant for him. The heat feels nice, instead. Reassuring.  

“H-Hisashi… he—” Izuku pauses again, wanting to delay, knowing this part is going to hurt Katsuki, too. The elf might never forgive him. If he’d have just never been born, or if he’d have died when he was meant to... Izuku’s fingers trace lines in the wood of the table as he braces himself for the flames that currently protect him to become more sinister. 

“He’s responsible for burning down the elven villages... He thinks I'm..." He cleared his throat. "Thinks I'm hiding in one of them, and he... he's the one who—” His mouth is dry, voice barely an audible rasp as he scrunches his eyes shut to will away more tears. “who… burned Brinestall. He tried to kill me as an infant, but… but my mom stole me away a-and now so many… so, so many are dead.” 

He waits, but nothing changes. The fire in the room still feels... okay. Green eyes open cautiously, blinking up to search for a searing scarlet red. They’re certainly not happy, but they’re not mad, either. They’re… soft, sad.

Why are they not filled with hatred, with the vicious anger he knows Katsuki is capable of?  His family is dead because Izuku is alive.

“Why?” Katsuki asks gruffly, matter-of-fact. It’s unfeeling, unemotional, and Izuku doesn’t know what to make of it. He frowns, unsure, even as he picks up on a growing acrid hue to the fire. 

“...Why? Why what?” He’s surprised Katsuki is asking questions at all, still holds his breath in anticipation for the inevitable demand that Izuku turn himself over to the Unseelie.

Katsuki’s eyes never leave his own, and Izuku finds he can’t look away, can’t decipher the meaning of this new sharpness and agitation. It still doesn’t feel as though it’s meant for him, but the elf is clearly growing angry. 

“Why does he want you dead?” He growls through his teeth.

“I—well… c-cause I’m not—” He can’t stop the tears from welling up now, angrily wiping them away as he continues, speaking in broken gasps between his sobs. ”not… pure. Because I’m the result of a mistake, according to him. It’s why he keeps killing. I’m not worthy of the Unseelie King, of the royal line. I’m a poor mark on his stupid, perfect record, and I'm a... a threat. To his reign.” 

The blazing flame immediately overwhelms him, harsher than ever before. He coughs, choking on the smokey scent he thought was pheromone alone... until he realizes he can see it. Katsuki’s palms are smoking, filling the small space with thick, grey clouds. Crackles sound and sparks fly, flashing color over the room as his eyes begin to burn, to water in an attempt to clear the contamination that stings them.  

“Izuku,” Katsuki spits. “You know that’s bullshit, right? Tell me you know it’s crap.”

Izuku hacks again, tries to inhale and feels the black air grating on his airway. His lungs burn. “C-can’t... breathe.” He manages to choke out the words, unable to process what Katsuki is trying to convey beyond the threat his magic emanates. His head feels a little funny, and tears blur Katsuki’s form in front of him.

“FUCK!”

Immediately, the sparks stop. The smoke becomes stagnant. Warm flame flickers with a large side of sour as the elf stands to grab Izuku’s arm and pull him toward the door. He stumbles along behind him, stunned that he wasn’t left there to absorb the carbon monoxide, to let it fill his blood, his muscle and his bone, to suffocate each and every tissue until nothing functional remained.

Why would Katsuki save him? He had the perfect chance for revenge, for closure, so why…?

Once outside, Izuku coughs some more, fresh breeze raking against his raw throat, cool air burning his lungs in a different way. The elf’s hands are on his shoulders. His red, panicked eyes flick frantically between Izuku’s own. Through his stinging nose, he smells that fireplace warmth returning, sugar cubes melting over open flame. He closes his eyes and leans back against… against his door? When did he sit down?

“Izuku. Need you to stay awake. Tell me you’re okay. You’re okay, right?”

He nods, grimacing. “M’fine. I’ll be fine.” His voice sounds deep and rough, foreign to his ears.

“Good. Stay that way.” 

“‘Kay.”

He hears a snort, a syrupy sweetness tickling his senses. He frowns, confused.

“You don’t hate me? But your parents...” 

A calloused hand warms his cheek, wipes away the wetness he forgot was even there. It’s tender—too soft for someone who should want him dead. Izuku blinks his eyes open, lids scratching against them as he braves the air on his corneas. It burns, but the broken look on Katsuki’s face is shocking enough for him to ignore the pain. He can’t remove his eyes from the startlingly serious gaze before him.

“If you were never born, I’d have bled out and died when I got to this village.”

Izuku parts his lips, prepared to protest, but Katsuki stops him with a finger on his mouth.

“Don’t. You saved my damn life. Quit pretending you don’t fuckin’ matter.” 

Izuku’s eyes widen, but he says nothing, Katsuki’s warm digit still pressed to his lips.

“I thought I told you I didn’t wanna smell that piss poor excuse for your scent, doc. I meant it. I don’t want none of this quiet shit, either.” 

The hybrid’s brows furrow in confusion. What does he mean quiet? Was he really suppressing his scent that much? Maybe the numbness he’s felt has been reflected that way, too. He hadn’t considered that.

The finger finally leaves his lips, and Izuku licks them, tasting salt and smoke, tasting Katsuki.

“But so many people… so many of them are dead, just because I—”

“No,” Katsuki says firmly. “Those people died because your dad’s a fuckin’ psychopath. These aren’t the only horrific acts he’s performed. That asshole is in history books for all the crimes he’s committed. And that doesn’t have shit to do with you.” 

History books? Is that why Katsuki reacted to his family name before?

“But—”

“No.” He’s cut off again, and Katsuki levels him with a glare. “It is not your fault, and if I hear you say any dumbass variation of wishing you didn’t exist again, you’re gonna regret it.”

Izuku bites his lip. He won’t say it, but that doesn’t mean he won’t still believe it. He can’t imagine ever feeling that his own survival was worth that many lives, and it’s not as though Katsuki hasn’t lied before.

But Izuku can admit that it’s not entirely his fault. His father has done this, not Izuku. His existence might be a catalyst, but he didn’t force the spark.

After a while, he realizes he hasn’t yet responded, so he settles for nodding. It seems to satisfy the elf, who sits down in the dirt beside him. Izuku is so exhausted...mentally, physically, emotionally. In every possible way one can feel drained, Izuku feels it. He leans to the side and sinks into Katsuki’s shoulder.

He could fall asleep right here, outside in the dirt, leaning on solid muscle that doesn’t provide even the least bit of cushion. 

Because he feels… safe.

Comfortable… 

For once… he can breathe.

“Oi.” Katsuki’s voice is quiet, soft. He mumbles something that Izuku thinks he’s supposed to have heard. Izuku hums, acknowledging that he spoke without knowing what he said.

“That okay?” 

Izuku hums again, nuzzling.

The shoulder leaves from beneath his head and Izuku almost flops to the ground. He doesn’t, but only because strong arms lift him before that’s possible. He huddles into the warmth that carries him and closes his eyes again.


---


When Izuku wakes, it’s with a sense of deja vu. He’s sinking into a wealth of sugar scented furs, snug and warm. He feels more relaxed than he has in weeks, and he isn’t particularly excited to move. He pulls the soft blanket to his face and inhales deeply, relaxing further into bed as he fills himself with the cozy scent. When the smell gets stronger, he realizes it’s not just the material around him.

He opens his eyes, blinking away the early sting of dryness, only to find he’s facing a wall that’s not his own. He shifts to turn around, finding himself in a familiar room. Katsuki must have brought him home. 

“Mornin,’ doc.” Katsuki’s voice sounds from nearby, and Izuku’s eyes flit about the room to land on the elf, standing shirtless in low hanging cotton pants. He knows he’s seen the man naked before, but… Izuku wasn’t exactly all there at the time.

Right now? Now, he can fully appreciate the figure in front of him. Or at least, he tries to, before a pitter pattering on the floor snags his attention.

“Aki?” he asks, sitting upright, brow furrowed. His voice sounds like shit, but the glider knows it anyway, immediately in his lap and clinging to his fingers, chirping.

“Went back for’em. Figured if the smoke bothered you, it would bug him, too. Seems fine though. Probably pretty well filtered by that fluffy bag thing he was sleepin’ in.” 

Izuku’s chest floods with fondness for the elf. He’d searched Izuku’s home for Aki’s pouch to bring him back and ensure his safety; he’s honestly surprised Katsuki remembered Aki at all. They haven’t interacted much. The glider chirps at Izuku’s fingers once more and then darts away again, climbing up the elf’s soft pants and scaling his bare back.

“Oi, fucker,” he growls over his shoulder. “Those claws don’t feel too damn good, ya know.” Izuku snorts a small laugh in his nose, feeling his eyes crinkle with a smile. Aki only sneezes as he makes his way to Katsuki’s shoulder and perches there. The elf rolls his eyes.

“Anyway, you were delirious as fuck, so you can just sleep here tonight.”

Izuku only nods. He’s right; it’s probably best to let his house clear.

“But before that, you need to eat. I know your dumb ass hasn’t eaten since this morning, if at all. Moon’s been high for hours.” Katsuki glowers at him in a way that says this is non-negotiable. It’s softened by the fact that a cute little animal sits on his shoulder and tugs at his hair.

Izuku frowns. He hasn’t been hungry in a while. He’s been forcing himself to eat once a day, but honestly, food had become fairly tasteless on his tongue, only a necessity for survival at this point. 

Sighing, he nods again. “Yeah, alright.” He stretches his arms overhead, feeling a pleasant burn down his spine. “Aki needs to eat, too. Berries, bugs, whatever you’ve got.” He presses his palms to the mattress as if to get up, and suddenly Katsuki’s right in front of him. He presses his hand in Izuku’s curls and shove him right back down to the bed. 

“If you get outta that damn bed right now, I’ll kill you. Relax. I’m cookin’.” 

Izuku obeys, lying backward with a crooked smile on his face. He can’t decide if he’s offended by the babying or touched that the surly elf wants to take care of him.

“Fine, but don’t forget Aki.”

Katsuki snorts as he turns to leave the room. “Trust me, he won’t let me forget. The longest break from him I’ve had since he got here was when he ran to you for that single fucking second. Little shit’s attached.”


---


After a warm meal and a full belly that sits surprisingly well, Izuku feels exhausted once more. He’s not sure what the sleeping arrangements will be, but he really, really wants to sleep. He’d been allowed to exit the bed in order to eat at the table, but he’d really like to go back to it now.

“Ah… Katsuki?”

The elf is cleaning their plates with a wet rag and doesn’t look back to respond. Izuku hears a grunt and figures he’s listening.

“Where should I sleep?”

Katsuki turns then, muscle of his jaw visibly flexing with irritation. “I told you. My bed.”

Izuku’s heart picks up its pace. “Y-yours?” 

The muscle twitches. He sets the stone plates down with a little more force than needed and crosses his arms. “Why? You want me to take you to that half-n-half bastard’s? ...I will if that’s what you need.” He scowls.

“N-no! Of course not!” he blurts, then bites his tongue. He shouldn’t be so eager to sleep amongst Katsuki’s things, but he can’t deny that he is. Warm embers sit low in his belly, and he’s not sure where they’ve come from. He wants to share a bed, even if all they do is sleep. He’s never felt safer than when enveloped in Katsuki’s scent. 

“Good.” The word is tinted by the pink of Katsuki’s cheeks. It makes Izuku grin. “I’ll ah, I’ll sleep in Shitty Hair’s then, since he’s gone anyway.”

Eijirou is gone? Izuku had just assumed the other elf was already sleeping, not actually absent.

“Huh? Where?”

“Finally got word from Azmarin while you were in Fortaare. They wanted us both back ASAP, but Eij waited til the last possible second, hopin’ you’d be here before he had to go. You missed’im by less than a week.” He scoffs. “Wouldn’t let me come—said I’ve got healin’ to do.”

God forbid someone care for his health.

“Oh…” Izuku looks down at his fingers, picking at his nails in his lap. “F-for good?”

“Nah. That asshole ain’t gonna leave me behind. He’ll be back.” 

Izuku breathes a sigh of relief, then considers Katsuki’s proposition. “Y-you know… you don’t have to.” He braves a peek up at the elf’s face and finds confusion painted on it. “Sleep in Eijirou’s room, I mean… I think, um. I’ll probably sleep better with…”

Izuku’s cheeks are burning, leg tapping the floor so fast that his chair vibrates. The elf just watches him with a furrowed brow and crossed arms.

“...y-you.” He finishes. 

Katsuki’s jaw goes slack, defined bones of his cheeks darkened with a particularly pretty shade of red.

“I-I mean, your scent is just—It’s so... I dunno... I just feel a lot more relaxed than I have for a while and I—I think it’s… you.” His voice ends in a barely-there whisper as butterflies war in his belly. It’s embarrassing, and sort of forward, but it’s out now. He can’t take it back.

The elf seems to consider, but hesitates, turning away and going back to his clean up.

“Not tonight, nerd.” 

Izuku frowns, swallowing his disappointment as he nods. That’s fair. He did sort of inappropriately throw himself at Katsuki earlier. The elf probably doesn’t trust him to just sleep. Guilt roils in his stomach, sour and sickening. What’s wrong with him?

He thinks on how he’s treated Shouto in the recent weeks. Even if Izuku isn’t sure how he feels about the faery, he’s still been there for Izuku when no one else has, still loves Izuku despite all of his flaws. He deserves better than this, better than being used for sex, for a distraction.  

Maybe Izuku inherited his cruelty from his father.

He pulls his knees up in his chair, wraps his arms around them and rests his forehead on top. He feels his eyes prickling, and this time, not from smoke. Hot tears fill them and he does his best to sniff them back. He should be better—needs to be better. He owes that to everyone. 

He feels Aki hop onto his back, probably from the table, and climbs up to his hair before releasing a sneeze. His tiny feet tickle his scalp, and a quiet, wet laugh bubbles from his throat. He lifts his head and reaches up to pull the glider from his hair, finding Katsuki leaning against the counter top, watching him with a furrowed brow. 

“You stink. Quit moping and go get some sleep.” 

Izuku sighs for what feels like the millionth time that day. Of course Katsuki could scent that he was falling down the rabbit hole again. At least Aki was able to draw his attention before he ended up any worse off.

“Y-yeah... Okay.” He drags himself up from his seat, Aki now climbing to his shoulder, and stretches his arms overhead before heading back toward the bedroom. He doesn’t want to be a burden. He’s got to stop letting himself get so down all the time.

“Oi.” 

Izuku stops at the sound of Katsuki’s voice. He turns, met immediately with a solid, bare chest. Heavy arms wrap around him, pull him in for a tight hug, and Izuku freezes.

“If I—ah, my scent, I mean—relaxes you… d-does this help?”

Oh.

Izuku settles, breathing him in—embers that smolder, quiet but warm. The slightest hint of sugar brushes his nose, and he sinks into the embrace, bringing his arms around Katsuki’s waist in return. 

“Yeah… it helps,” he murmurs, turning his cheek to press against Katsuki’s firm chest.

Katsuki’s rough hands massage smooth circles into his back, and Izuku’s mind calms. He could stay like this forever, nothing in his brain but the sweet, heated scent and gentle touch. But he shouldn’t, because Katsuki has made his boundaries clear, and Izuku should be keeping some of his own.

He squeezes once more, then steps back a bit, looking up to meet with softening blood red. 

“Th-thank you… I can, um… I think I can sleep now,” he offers.

Katsuki nods, and Izuku turns to enter the bedroom.

At least buried in his furs, he can imagine that Katsuki is near. He huddles into them, soothed and sated, as sleep takes him over.


---


The next time Izuku wakes, it’s bright-eyed and with more energy than he’s felt in weeks, despite his sore throat. He rolls over and presses his bare feet to the floor, then pads out to the common room where he finds Katsuki doing crunches on the floor—still shirtless.

Why did Izuku ever help him redress in a shirt before? He apparently never wears them on his own. Not that Izuku is complaining.

“Uh, morning!” he says, awkwardly waving from the doorway.

Katsuki pauses mid-crunch and looks over at him before continuing his workout. Izuku isn’t really sure what he should be doing, so he heads toward the table and takes a seat, waiting for him to finish.

“So, um… this is your routine?”

“Yep.” He switches to leave his torso on the ground, raising straight legs from the floor instead, exercising his lower abdominals now.

“I can, ah… I’ll get going then…?”

Katsuki stops and sits up, scowling. “No, you won’t.”

“Wh-what?”

He stands and walks toward the table, stopping and crossing his arms when he’s close enough for Izuku to watch sweat trickle in the crevices between muscles. He licks his lips.

“You told me we’d start this therapy shit. I wanna start it. My shoulder’s so damn weak I had a hard time carrying your tiny ass yesterday.” He scowls. “So let’s go. I’m all warmed up.”

“Y-you shouldn’t have carried me at all, actually,” Izuku scolds. “The muscle in your shoulder is still healing, and if you strain it too much, you’re going to tear it further.”

The elf growls. “Oh, so I was just supposed to let your whiny ass suffocate then, that it?”

Izuku feels a blush rise to his cheeks. “I wouldn’t have died. There wasn’t that much smoke!”

Katsuki looks stricken at the revelation, like he honestly thought there was a chance that Izuku could be dead right now because of him. It makes Izuku feel a bit harsh, and he backtracks.

“Though I, um… I do appreciate it. It was… sweet of you, to take care of me.” Blood pools further in his face, and he averts his gaze toward the floor.

“S’nothin.”

A moment passes before either of them speaks again. Finally, Katsuki clears his throat.

“So.. ah, can we work on my shoulder now?”

“Y-yeah!” Izuku brightens, looking up to the elf who still stands awkwardly in front of him. “I, um… I can’t stay too long, though. I have… plans.”

Izuku just remembered he’s meant to meet Shouto for lunch. If Izuku isn’t home and the place smells like smoke, he’s sure the faery will worry. He doesn’t need to add anything more to everyone’s already heavy plates.

Shouto had essentially been held accountable for Izuku’s whereabouts at this point. The Seelie Queen was content to allow Izuku to leave, so long as he did not make any brash or sudden decisions regarding his father, and Shouto had to promise her that he would look out for Izuku’s safety. He’s not sure exactly what kind of decision he would be able to make, considering he doesn’t know where his father is, or how to find him. All he knows is a name: Hisashi Midoriya.

Nemuri did kindly warn him to keep his identity a bit of a secret for as long as possible. If his father learns who he is, where he’s been staying, everyone in Willesden could be in danger. Maybe she thought he’d run away to keep them safe, but running away would leave these people without a healer, and Izuku doesn’t want to hurt them that way, either...

The scent of smoke drags him from his thoughts, and he looks up to find an irritated elf in front of him. 

“Plans, hah?”

Izuku nods. Katsuki apparently doesn’t like the idea of Izuku having plans… Does he know they’re with Shouto? Probably. Does that bother him?

“Fine. Let’s start now, then.” He turns to walk outside, and Izuku stops him, grabbing his wrist.

“W-wait. Where are you going?”

The blond raises a brow. “...outside? More space.”

Izuku laughs. “We don’t really need more space. We’re just going to start by stretching.” 

Katsuki’s face shifts into a frown. “I thought we were gonna get it stronger.” 

“First, we have to make sure you can move it safely. Then we can focus on how much weight you can move.”

“Fine.”

Izuku laughs again and stands from his chair. He points to it. “Sit.”

“I’m not a damn dog.” Katsuki growls, but he sits anyway.

Once he’s settled in the chair, Izuku brings a hand gently to the left side of his neck, pressing the muscle there as he massages downward toward his shoulder.

“Any pain?”

“Nah.”

He works deeper, massaging further into the tissue and feeling the stiffness that betrays the start of scar formation as he presses nearer to the site of injury. Katsuki shifts in his seat, and Izuku asks again.

“Pain here?”

The elf hesitates. Izuku fights the urge to roll his eyes. He needs Katsuki to be honest with him if this is going to work. Pretending not to feel helps no one. He presses a little more firmly.

Katsuki hisses through gritting teeth. “Yeah. Some.”

That’s what Izuku thought. His lips curl to a small grin. Stupid elf. 

“Is it too much for me to break it up?”

“Do what you’ve gotta do.”

He has Katsuki turn in his chair to straddle the backrest and lean forward against it, giving Izuku open access to the back side of his shoulder so he can really dig in. As he grinds against the knots he feels beneath, Katsuki groans, low and deep. Izuku’s breath catches in his throat at the sound.

He swallows. Damn it Katsuki. He probably isn’t even doing it on purpose, but Izuku has to will himself to think clinically, and he doesn’t appreciate the distraction this time.

The tougher tissue is about four centimeters in width, and the overlying skin looks to have healed nicely. There is some depigmentation in the areas that he had to suture. He begins to break up the fibrotic tissue right at the center, and—

“Fuuuck... that’s really good.”

Shoot. Derailed again.

They continue like this for a while—Izuku massaging to loosen the muscle and Katsuki repeatedly pulling his mind from the healing to the unnecessarily appealing sounds slipping from his mouth. It’s easy, though, to fall back into his clinical mind, to focus on healing with his hands, on helping. It feels good to be useful.

After some time, he decides that it’s enough for today, and that they should move on to do a few stretches before cooling the area.

“Katsuki.”

“Mmm...?” The elf sounds drunk, so relaxed from Izuku’s ministrations.

“I’m gonna need to move your arm. Is that okay?”

The blond turns his head to look at him. His eyes are half-lidded, drowsy. Izuku smiles. It’s cute, honestly.

“Yeah, doc”—he yawns—“do whatever.”

Izuku stifles a small giggle as Katsuki immediately leans back forward and lies his head down against the chair’s back.

“You’re gonna have to sit up, Katsuki. I’m sorry.”

The elf huffs and sits up, looking behind him once again to raise a brow at Izuku. “Good?”

“Mhm!" 

Izuku places his left hand on Katsuki’s left forearm, then lies his other gently across the healing injury. He raises the arm straight out to the side first.

“Okay?” 

Katsuki grunts. Guess so, then.

He brings the arm higher, almost touching it to the elf’s ear. No reaction leads Izuku to believe this is also fine, so he brings it back out to the side before moving it forward so Katsuki is reaching out in front of him. The blond sits a little taller when he does that, and he takes it to mean this is uncomfortable.

“How’s this one?”

Katsuki doesn’t respond right away, like he’s thinking. “It doesn’t hurt… but it’s… tight?”

“Hm. Okay. How about this, then?” He takes Katsuki’s wrist and turns it slowly, rotating his arm from the shoulder joint. The elf inhales sharply as smoke permeates the air.

“Fuckin’ hurts.”

“Ah. Okay then. Let’s just work on that for now.”

Katsuki glares daggers at him as he very gingerly repeats the rotation until it seems to occur more easily. Izuku can feel the injured area loosening beneath his right hand, and Katsuki seems to sink back into his chair a bit, relaxing.

“Better?”

“It’d be better if you’d go back to that massage…” He mumbles.

“Oh, don’t be such a baby. You wanna be stronger? Gotta deal with this first.”

The elf heaves a sigh. “Yeah, yeah… okay. We almost done? This shit’s boring.” 

“Almost.”

He takes Katsuki’s elbow and bends it, pulling his arm behind him to flex his upper back. Wow. He’s pretty built there, too. Every contour is—

Izuku blinks. No. Clinical, Izuku. Clinical! 

He presses his fingers into the healing site and raises Katsuki’s elbow up and down a few times. This position doesn’t seem to bother him.

“You’ve done a pretty good job keeping yourself from getting stiff, you know. I’m impressed.”

Sugar rises in the air, though Katsuki doesn’t respond. Izuku’s heart swells just a little. He’d bet the elf’s cheeks are slightly pink.

“Tomorrow, maybe I’ll have you do all those motions yourself after I’ve put you through them. Sound okay?”

“S’fine.”

“Alright. Let me just get a cool cloth, because we really roughed things up in there. Keeping it cool will help to keep the inflammation down. It might be a good idea for you to do this again later, actually.” 

Izuku steps away to find the canteen lying near the dishes, and soaks down a towel he finds there. The water isn’t freezing, but it’s definitely lower than body temperature. Better than nothing.

When he returns, Katsuki is rolling out his neck, rubbing his right, uninjured shoulder. Izuku walks closer to smooth the cold cloth across the left side. Katsuki relaxes a little when Izuku’s hands rest on his shoulders again.

“Something wrong?”

“Nah, just… feels uneven now. You loosened that side up real good, so now this side just feels tight. S’fine. I’ll rub it out.”

Izuku frowns. He hadn’t thought about the other side growing tight from compensation, but of course it would. Katsuki can’t thoroughly massage it having only one arm.

“No, no! I’ll do it. I can do it. Just—sit forward again.”

Katsuki obeys silently, crossing his arms to lie on the backrest as he lies his forehead atop them.

When Izuku lays hands on his right side, the elf sighs softly, tension bleeding from his figure. Izuku traces the flame of his tattoo as he pushes against taut muscle. The flames begin on the back of his hand and work all the way up his arm, spreading over his shoulder blade, even bleeding onto his neck. Swirls of black smoke with glowing embers buried within them make Izuku even more curious. Katsuki’s flames don’t start from ember. 

“When did you get this tattoo?”

“After my parents died,” Katsuki responds quietly.

Izuku bites his lip. He’d initially thought it was magically related, seeing as Katsuki’s affinity is for fire, though it makes more sense for him to have gotten it later on, in memory of them. He still feels horrible that they’re gone… but it’s more of a heaviness, a weight inside his gut, than it is suffocating as it was just yesterday. Somehow, he can think beyond the despair—that’s something new.

“Ah… in commemoration?” he asks.

Katsuki doesn’t answer right away, and Izuku continues to massage deep into his shoulder and upper back, thinking further on the matter. 

Katsuki has every right to hate him, to turn him over to the Unseelie and have him murdered, to end the assault his father continues against to lead against the elves. But he doesn’t. Izuku knows he doesn’t, because he can smell the sweetness that rises each time he brushes the elf’s tan skin, the warmth exuded when he’s in Katsuki’s arms. He’s not completely sure what Katsuki feels for him, but it certainly isn’t hate.

“Mm... yeah. Just, felt wrong to do nothin’... Not that this made a difference, but somehow it felt… important. To remember them in some way besides my head, ya know?”

“Yeah… That’s fair. It is beautiful…” Izuku murmurs, touch softening and trailing over the lines of smoke that trail down Katsuki’s arm. The air grows sweeter, and he hears the elf take a deep breath.

“Izuku… I need you to… stop that,” he says softly. Izuku jerks his hand back immediately and chews his lip again. His fingertips weren’t performing some clinical massage anymore. That was… well, he doesn’t know what it was. But it’s clear that he shouldn’t be doing it. 

“It’s not that I… don’t like it. I do, a little too much. And you’re not… available.” Katsuki sighs, tilting his head back to look at the ceiling. “And I don’t mean ‘cause of half-n-half, either. I don’t give a shit about him.” He brings his gaze back down, and his intense gaze meets Izuku’s. “I give a shit about you.”  

Izuku’s lips fall open, but no words come out. He’s not sure what to say. He’d known Katsuki found him physically appealing but this… it doesn’t sound so superficial.  And, what does he mean he… he’s not available?

“Your headspace ain’t right,” Katsuki adds, probably noting Izuku's quizzical expresion.

It’s not that Izuku doesn’t understand what he's saying, because he does. He gets that he’s probably considered objectively vulnerable and therefore shouldn’t be making decisions about… relationships, at the moment. Though it strikes him as odd that Katsuki, the almost ridiculously cocky and deliberately sexual person he’s ever met, would be the one to raise that point.

But he supposes it shouldn’t, not really. Not when he considers the fact that Katsuki could have taken advantage of him on more than one occasion, just in the past 24 hours. Not when he considers that the elf is the only one who pushed Izuku to actually talk about what has been bothering him. Not when he considers how well Katsuki seems to know him, even in such a short time of being introduced. 

“I… I’m sorry,” he whispers.

Katsuki huffs. “I don’t want you sorry. I want you in a fuckin’ place where you come onto me cause you like me, not ‘cause you need a god damned distraction.”

Izuku’s eyes go wide at the admission, and Katsuki’s cheeks flush red. 

“Just stop fuckin’ apologizing. None of this shit is your fault. And it ain’t your fault that you feel shitty about it either. You’re allowed to feel, okay? Just be for once and quit thinking.”

The elf closes his eyes, almost as though in pain, but when he opens them, they’re soft.

“Quit worrying about everything and just… be. It’s not that damn complicated.”

Izuku is still with shock when Katsuki reaches out to wipe a thumb across his cheek. He didn’t realize he’d started crying. He doesn’t feel… sad, he feels… well, he’s not sure what he feels. 

Katsuki grabs him and pulls him into his lap, pulls Izuku’s face to his shoulder and buries his nose in his hair.

“It’s alright, nerd. Let it out if you need to.”

It's not long before Izuku is full on sobbing, harshly. It feels like all the tension and stress he’s held inside himself for months is just pouring from his eyes, his nose. It’s gross and horrible and awful and he hates it. But at the same time, it feels… good. He feels the stress bleeding from him in earnest, rather than just being shoved deeper, compressed further to erupt another day. Katsuki’s hand smooths over his back and Izuku hugs against him tighter, curling into him.

He’s not sure how long they stay that way, but eventually, his eyes run dry and his nose clogs. Katsuki releases his back and allows Izuku to sit up, bringing his hands to rest gently at his waist instead.

“Better?” he asks. 

Izuku nods, rubbing at his eyes. They’re swollen and sore, and his head aches...but it also feels clearer, cleaner than it has in a long time. 

Katsuki’s lips curve in a soft smile, different from the typical smug one Izuku is usually gifted with. “Good. Don’t you have to go?”

Izuku nods again as a lump forms in his throat. He doesn’t want to leave—not really. Here, he feels warm and safe and cared for, and it would be so easy to just… stay.

But he can’t. 

He promised Shouto, and honestly, it will be good to see him now that he’s released all of this extra emotional burden. Izuku is sure that Shouto could sense, in his own way, how very… not himself Izuku has been recently.

“Guess I do…” he says softly, reluctantly standing from Katsuki’s lap. The elf stands too, and Izuku throws himself at him one more time, wrapping his arms around him for one last quick, tight squeeze.

“Thank you. Really,” he says, looking up to meet his eyes. He gets on his tiptoes to press a chaste kiss to Katsuki’s cheek. “I feel… I feel better.”

The elf burns red, sugar and fire incinerate the air, and Izuku does his best not to laugh, settling instead on a very bright, genuine grin. 

“S’nothin,” the elf mutters. “Now go do what you’ve gotta do.”

Izuku nods and heads toward the door. Just before he goes, he turns back with a soft smile.

“See you tomorrow?”

Katsuki nods. "Yeah. We’ll run first thing in the mornin’.”

He grins, excited. As he goes, he’s already looking forward to the next day.

Chapter Text

Shouto stares at Izuku from across the table, trying to make sense of the way the hybrid is feeling. He was late coming over for lunch, which is quite unlike him. Izuku seems to function on autopilot lately, and though it can be quite difficult to watch, it also makes him fairly predictable. This lateness, therefore, begs the question: what has changed? 

Izuku seems even more distraught than he has at baseline recently… which is saying something. His eyes are swollen, bags and bruising defined beneath them as he stares down into his mug. He watches the liquid swirl, as though his words have melted within and he’s unsure how to salvage the conversation.

Shouto doesn’t want to force him to talk, so he watches and waits, saying nothing.

“I… I owe you an apology,” the hybrid starts.

Shouto tilts his head in confusion, narrowing his eyes. He’d better not feel the need to apologize for escalating their relationship. Shouto offered to distract him in such a way.

“And before you tell me I don’t,” he continues, green eyes serious, but bright. “Let me explain why I do.”

Shouto says nothing, as asked, but he can’t prevent his mind from going rampant. His first thought is: he’s breaking up with me, but that’s not true… is it?

They were never together.

“Shouto, I love you,” the hybrid goes on, imploring. “You know that. I know you do, but it’s not…” He sighs, long and slow.

“Not the right kind of love…?” Shouto supplies. Even as he says it, the words are a chisel to the stone of his heart. He hadn’t realized there was a crack in the barrier, but there it is… and now it’s crumbling. He closes his eyes and takes a deep breath as he wills himself to stay calm. He knew this. He knew this when he agreed to do this, when it all started. Izuku does not, and never has, loved him in the same way that he—

“N-no! No... That’s… that’s not what I was going to say.” Izuku flails, eyes widening even as his brow furrows. “I don’t… hm.” He pauses for a moment before going on, looking back down to his tea. “I don’t know what kind of love it is… or even what the kinds of love are. I mean… it doesn’t feel so black and white—more like a… spectrum, don’t you think?”

Shouto can’t say he disagrees. How different are romantic and platonic love? Are they different? They both seem to be borne of the same desire to be close, to be safe and cared for. He wants all of those things for Izuku... with Izuku.

He swallows and nods. “Yes… I suppose so. But… some loves are stronger than others.” He watches as Izuku’s freckled cheeks grow slightly pink, and he backtracks, head bowing. “I didn’t mean to make you uncomfortable.”

The hybrid shakes his head. “No! No, you’re not. It’s okay,” he says, giving Shouto a soft smile. “It’s just… uh… It’s not what I came here to say.” He swallows, and the pause goes on for a while—so long that Shouto is wondering if Izuku decided against saying whatever it was.

“...So what did you want to say?” he asks, putting it out there, pushing to have the conversation he is already dreading the result of.

Izuku swallows, bites his lip. Shouto knows he’s anxious, and it’s making Shouto anxious, too. His heart rate has doubled, and his palms are beginning to frost the table. He moves his hands to his lap instead, and the chill spreads through his thighs. The faery waits on baited breath for the hybrid to continue. Even so, he’s sure that whatever comes out, he’ll wish he hadn’t heard.

“I don’t think we should do this so much anymore...”

And there it is.

Exactly what he knew was coming. He tries to think clinically, rationally. Is Izuku doing better, or has he simply found a new distraction? He hopes for the former because the latter makes him want to vomit. He doesn’t dare to say anything for fear of the words that might slip out, so instead he remains silent as the grave, waiting for the inevitable explanation.

“I… well, I kind of broke down yesterday… in front of Katsuki.”

That explains the smoke. Shouto smelled it at his house when he went to find him after their scheduled meeting time. It seemed that the volatile elf tended to lose himself quite often around Izuku. Shouto hasn’t been able to decipher whether that’s a good or bad thing at this point. Of course, in theory, it would be good for Izuku to have another friend. But at the same time… that cocky elf doesn’t seem to respect boundaries, or people, or… well, anything, really. 

Izuku is beautiful, intelligent, strong. He’s perfect in so many ways that of course the elf would want him. But does he care about the hybrid? Shouto doesn’t know. He’s not sure that the elf himself really knows, and Shouto can’t imagine that he has Izuku’s best interests at heart.

Izuku takes a deep breath and continues.

“And… we talked. I talked. About… Well, about everything, and it helped, so I’m thinking that maybe… well, maybe I don’t need the… ah… distraction so much.”

Shouto’s next breath is visible in the air, frosted over with the ice that erupts each time he loses control. His fingers tremble in his lap as he fights to hold his composure steady, despite the raging chaos of his mind. On one hand, he’s genuinely happy that Izuku is finally talking, that he’s getting this out and has found a way to cope.  

On the other… he liked being Izuku’s distraction.

Each time Izuku showed up in the night, it pierced his soul a little more—half agony, half hope—because the hybrid needed him, wanted him: Shouto Todoroki. At the same time, Shouto knew that hope was the opium of emotions: it would hook him fast if he allowed it and kill him quickly if Izuku decided to withhold. And so he tried not to. He tried to think practically and not romantically, with his brain and not his heart…

But the crushing pressure in his chest proves his unintentional addiction.

And now, he’ll have to deal with the withdrawals.

He sucks a breath, working against the constriction around his lungs, holding the air in to warm it consciously before he exhales, so Izuku can’t see his insides freezing. 

It’s not his fault that Shouto had hoped for this to grow. The hybrid was clear that this wasn’t romantic, that it was out of necessity. And Shouto knew that was true; he’d said so himself.

So why is this so damn hard?

He swallows and forces himself to smile. It might be a smile that only the hybrid can see, but it’s a smile, nonetheless. He is happy for Izuku. It’s good that he’s learning to cope with this. It’s a good thing.  

“I’m glad you’re doing better,” he says. He is glad that Izuku is doing better, but why he’s doing better might be another story.

Izuku smiles at him, eyes crinkling in the corners for a moment and threatening to stop Shouto’s frozen, cracking heart because how long has it been since he saw that smile—the one that reaches his eyes? In that second, he thinks he’s over it. He doesn’t care who or what makes Izuku happy as long as it brings that genuine expression back to his face. Izuku deserves to wear it, to feel happiness.

But the smile doesn’t last. His eyes are glassy and even though they’re crinkled in the corners, Shouto realizes it’s a facade. For some reason, he doesn’t believe him, doesn’t believe that Shouto’s okay and is pretending because Shouto is. Izuku is pretending for his benefit.

The scent. Damn it. 

The next words from the hybrid’s mouth are the apology Shouto wanted to avoid.

“I knew you would say that, but I… I am sorry that it ever started in the first place. It was insensitive, and selfish, and cruel, and I just—” His fingers find each other, picking at his nails, and Shouto reaches across the table to take them in both of his.

“Don’t torture yourself over this,” he says softly. “It’s okay. Really. I told you that I was available to help you that way. I make my own decisions. If I had ever wanted to deny you, I could have. I’m happy that you’re doing better. Stop apologizing.”

Izuku weaves their fingers together and squeezes hard, as though he thinks Shouto might let go if he’s too gentle about it. His well-sculpted facade crumbles, and Shouto sees those hairline fractures grow in size, now out in the open. “I’m a horrible person... I do love you, you know. You’re my best friend. And… I don’t think I could have even made it home without you. I don’t know if I’d have even wanted to be home without you… I still don’t. I don’t want to go anywhere you aren’t b-because… well, because I…” He heaves a shaky breath and sniffs. “You’re just… you’re my rock, Shouto. My constant.”

He grips Shouto’s hands so hard he’s shaking. His palms are sweating, and Shouto brings frost to his own hands to cool his skin. The hybrid gives him a half smile. 

“Shouto, I haven’t had to live more than a couple days without you in almost all of my memory, and I… I don’t want to. But I don’t know if I… if it’s… well, I don’t know where it is on the spectrum.” He pulls a hand away to wipe at his face, a wet and humorless laugh bubbling up from his throat. 

“But I don’t want you to not want me, either, and… How selfish is that…?” He says it with disbelief, as though it’s completely unreasonable to have feelings, to want something, to experience the need to feel like someone loves him. He smiles wryly at Shouto, clearly not expecting a response.

The concept breaks the faery’s heart, because he knows that’s where it stems from… a need for love, for comfort, for something to depend on because he’s never had anything else so consistent in his life. The hybrid has no more family, no other blood relatives that he can turn to. All he’s ever had is Shouto, and all Shouto’s ever had is him.

He can’t imagine not wanting Izuku either. Shouto leans across the small table, freeing one hand to weave it through Izuku’s hair and pull their foreheads together.  Izuku’s soft green eyes look up at him, blinking back tears that continue to fall in spite of his best efforts, glistening in the sunlight that beams through the window beside them. 

“There will never be a time that I don’t want you,” he says. He brushes their noses together as Izuku’s breathing evens out and his eyes close. “We don’t have to be... sexually involved... for me to feel that. Is that what you’re worried about? That I’ll pull back… without this?”

Izuku nods. “I know it’s selfish of me to ask. I know that this was… I don’t know… a tease? A taste? For you, of something that we don’t, and might never have… and I’m so, so sorry... but I’m here and, while I just want to be friends right now… I don’t—I don’t wanna lose you, either.”

Shouto takes a long, slow breath as he lets that sink in and contemplates his answer.

He doesn’t want to be just friends anymore, doesn’t want to only hold Izuku’s hand when he’s scared and have to let it go when he’s not, doesn’t want to watch as someone else starts to hold it instead…

But he’d rather be there to see that than not see the hybrid at all.

He needs Izuku in his life. Period. There is no alternative, no substitute.

He loves him.

And so he smiles and gently pulls away to look him in the eyes.

“I’m not going anywhere,” he says softly.

 

---

 

“So… I haven’t seen Izuku around as much recently.”

Hitoshi looks at Shouto from the side of his eye, one brow raised in question. Shouto knows the faery has been wanting to broach the topic since they’ve returned, but he hasn’t left it open for discussion. He hasn’t wanted to talk about it, because he isn’t totally sure how he feels about it himself.

He’s torn. The idea of being with Izuku so intimately made his heart sing, but it was quieted by the circumstances. He wanted to help Izuku, but it still hurts to know that’s all it was—help.

At some point between when they started the arrangement and arriving back in Willesden, Shouto had fallen into a habit of casual touching. He’d given Izuku a quick kiss here and there, even if the hybrid hadn’t specifically come to him for that reason, and Izuku would reciprocate. He never once complained or even made it seem that he didn’t want the extra affection. He seemed to enjoy it, in fact. So Shouto thought that perhaps something else was beginning, perhaps things were changing beyond a distraction, perhaps.

But when Izuku came to him a few weeks ago and said he wanted to stop… the dismissal hurt. He knew it wasn’t real, but to have it taken away was still painful, just drove the point further home that he was serving a purpose, and that purpose had been fulfilled.

“He’s been doing a little better lately—sleeping on his own,” Shouto admits.

“Hm…” Hitoshi looks at the water thoughtfully, probably focusing on another unfortunate fish. He’s stocking up for the week, and Shouto doesn’t typically go with him, but Hitoshi stopped by to invite him today. He should have known there was something on the faery’s mind. 

“Well, how do you feel about it?” he asks.

Shouto sighs. “You’d probably know better than I do. Want to look?”

Hitoshi laughs, but his smile is sad. “No. I don’t… I want you to think about it.”

Shouto leans back, palms resting against the grass and legs extending toward the river bank. The breeze is cool on his skin, hair blowing only to fall back in his face. “I’m glad he’s feeling better,” he settles with.

“But…?” 

“But I miss it. I miss him. I know that I was just fooling myself but… I don’t know.”

“You thought you could seduce him into romance? Kinda backward, don’tcha think?”

Shouto huffs in exasperation. “No. I know it’s not that simple.”

“But you wanted it all the same,” Hitoshi states bluntly.

He’s not wrong. Shouto did hope that Izuku would recognize how good they could be together. Unfortunately, it seems he was exactly the placeholder in the hybrid’s mind that he offered to be.

“Yes, well… it’s a moot point. He doesn’t come over for that anymore, and I don’t wish for him to be miserable enough that he needs to.”

Hitoshi lets out a long, drawn out sigh. “Of course you don’t. I know that. I’m just wondering if you should talk to him about it. You know, confess? For real this time, rather than just telling him you’ll be there.” 

A large splash sounds from the water and a fish hops out to the shore before going still. Hitoshi cuts it with a stone knife to end its life quickly, then adds it to the pail that Shouto has frozen to keep it cool until they gut it.

Shouto slouches all the way down to lie flat on his back and groans, looking at the sky and watching the clouds move with the wind. It’s cold today, but the sun is out, and it’s not long before he has to close his eyes to avoid the intensity.

“He already knows how I feel,” he says.

“Maybe, but he may also think you’re willing to wait around forever, so he doesn’t have to make any kind of decision. If you actually ask, then he might come up with an answer for you on how he feels, he might consciously think about it and figure it out.” 

Shouto lies there, considering. He could, but that might make Izuku uncomfortable and strain their relationship altogether. As they are now, if Izuku decides he feels the same, Shouto will be here, waiting. If he never does, they can at least maintain their friendship.

He’d rather have Izuku as a friend than not at all.

“What if I would wait around forever?” he asks, cracking an eye to see Hitoshi’s reaction.

Hitoshi turns his entire body to look at him in astonishment. “So you’re cool with him just seeing other people and doing whatever the hell he wants until some day, maybe, he might decide he wants to be with you?” He cocks a brow as if to say he knows that there is no way that statement can be true.

Shouto’s lips twist to a frown. He’d rather not see Izuku with someone else…

“So no, you can’t wait forever. Not if you can’t deal with him seeing someone else romantically.”

Shouto narrows his gaze. “What makes you think he’s going to see anyone else anyway, Hitoshi?”

At that, Hitoshi scoffs. “You can’t be serious,” he says, voice lowering with disbelief.

Shouto raises both brows at him pointedly, and he sighs.

“Why do you think that suddenly Izuku has been doing better?”

When Shouto gives him a deadpan stare, Hitoshi releases a very dramatic exhale, pinching the bridge of his nose.

“Shouto, that elf has blatantly shown his interest in Izuku since he arrived in this village. They spend all of their damn time together, nowadays. How can you not have noticed that?”

Ah. He means Katsuki.

The idea causes a lump to form in Shouto’s throat, but he tries to swallow it down. He should be happy that Izuku is talking to someone. It doesn’t have to be Shouto. He’s getting better. That’s what matters, in the end… right?

“I… Well.” He flounders for the best way to state his opinion. “If Izuku finds someone else who will care for him and help him to grow into best person he can be… who makes him happy, I…”

He wants to say he’ll be okay with that. He wants to be okay with that. But the words won’t come out, still tainted by the selfish desire to have Izuku for his own.

“I want what’s best for him…” He finishes.

Hitoshi’s seriousness softens. “You just think that’s you,” he adds.

“I would step aside and let him do what’s best for him… even if—” He sighs. “Even if it’s not me.”

The thought brings an ache to his chest, a heaviness that weighs his mood like clouds needing to leak a little rain, but he couldn’t say it if it wasn’t true. He would, if he knew it was what Izuku truly wanted, what he truly needed.

He’d do just about anything to see him happy.

 

---

 

A few days later, Shouto walks home from the Shiozaki’s—Ibara had a few requests of the capital in relation to their farming, and Shouto is always happy to comply. It didn’t take long, and now he gets to enjoy the heat of the shining sun on his cloak, unobstructed by clouds and surrounded by a clear blue sky. It’s certainly not warm outside—early winter is always cold—and branches overhead creek with the wind that blows harshly on occasion. The chilling gusts are almost always followed by the frantic flap of wings as birds escape their moving perches.

As he is near passing the training grounds, a familiar giggle meets his ears—musical and airy—and Shouto smiles to himself. He hasn’t heard that laugh in a while, not genuinely anyway. He wonders what has Izuku so— 

“How the fuck am I supposed to help you if I’m not allowed to show you how to do it, hah?!”

Oh. He must be training with the elf today.

Another beautiful laugh sounds from ahead. “I don't know, use your words! You’re an adult!”

Wow, he’d missed that sound. He can practically see Izuku’s teasing expression, even without having a view. Something bitter swirls in his belly at the knowledge that he’s not the one causing it. Izuku and Katsuki have been spending a lot of time together in the past few weeks—more than Shouto would like, anyway.

He shouldn’t complain—not when Izuku is doing so well, not when he’s finally able to make it through his days and nights without the need for Shouto’s help. But the elf is daring and reckless, and Izuku is naive, having always wanted to be a hunter, a warrior, and the elf encourages this, feeds his belief that he can be.

But it’s impossible for Shouto to see him that way. Izuku is so innocent, so… unprepared for the trials of war. Shouto worries that he’d be unable to accept the horrors he’d encounter, unable to accept that sometimes people die at the hands of other people, that sometimes there is nothing to be done. Izuku would be far more likely than anyone else he knows to sacrifice something of himself to see others survive, seeing anyone’s worth as more than his own, even a total stranger. 

When Endeavor brought him home—unconscious and limp—Shouto saw him for the first time: a young kid, completely destroyed and with no one to turn to, with no one to love him. Shouto didn’t have anyone to love him either, so he understood. He was patient. Izuku was small and thin, and mentally, he was just as beaten—refusing to speak, shy, terrified to be in the same room with any and all fae in the village. Now, Shouto knows that young Izuku had never seen fae before, but at the time, it just made him seem more timid, more needing of someone’s help.

It wasn’t until he began to trust Shouto that he heard Izuku’s sweet voice for the first time, and even then, it was rare. As he settled and made friends, however, his confidence grew. In their later years of schooling, Izuku wormed his way into battle training, and when he first began, he was demolished. The hybrid had no battle instinct, no strategic insight to speak of, and no skill—but he learned quickly.

He trained and trained, growing stronger, more daring, more lethal. In the end, Izuku could have beaten anyone—even those who fought with magic, even Shouto, though the two of them never actually sparred. The hybrid trained with Hitoshi and Denki a lot back then, didn’t often lose, and Shouto could make inferences from what he saw. The problem, therefore, wasn’t that Izuku couldn’t fight, or that he wasn’t strong… it was his self-sacrificial nature.

In team events, Izuku always took the hardest, riskiest jobs. He was always the first to volunteer, the first to become injured, the first to drop of exhaustion. The hybrid simply never cared about himself, only pursuing the greater good, and that is why Shouto refused to let him go—as a hunter or a warrior. He will almost certainly do something to put himself in danger, and Shouto can’t possibly bear to see that happen.

The hybrid has asked many times, and Shouto’s answer has never changed. If there is one thing that’s good about being a member of the Court and being the leader here, it’s that he has the power to make that decision so long as Izuku remains a member of the village. Although, the more time the hybrid spends around the elves, the more Shouto worries that may not always be the case.

When he reaches the treeline, the training field comes into view. He approaches slowly, taking his time to watch the two interact. The elf is shirtless, even in the cool weather, which makes Shouto roll his eyes. Izuku, however, is more sensibly dressed in khaki colored trousers that hug his thighs and a thick, long-sleeved shirt in deep blue which Shouto has seen on him many times. 

He distinctly remembers the hybrid burrowing into it a few winters ago, huddled into Shouto’s side near the fire while Denki told horror stories that made Kyouka laugh and Tenya nitpick at all of the impossibilities. Hitoshi was there too, on Izuku’s other side, snorting each time the hybrid jumped out of fear. Izuku never did like scary stories, but he enjoyed spending time with their friends, so he’d endure them when he had to. Shouto certainly didn’t mind the extra cuddling he received when the hybrid was scared, anyway. It’s been a long time since any fears could be solved with a simple cuddle, however.

At the moment, Izuku aims for a long range target with his bow—something, to Shouto’s limited knowledge, Izuku is quite good at. The fae hardly use such weapons, so he doesn’t have much base to pull from in comparison, but Izuku has been training with a bow since his teens. The elf stands close by, examining. 

“God damnit. Just… here.” Katsuki moves to stand behind Izuku, chest to his back, then situates his arms over the hybrid’s. He brings each hand atop Izuku’s where they rest across the bow and gently moves them into place. His lips move near Izuku’s neck, and Shouto feels cool air moving past his own teeth. His breath is visible when he sighs, and he tries to calm down, leaving frosted prints in the grass as he moves forward.

Izuku’s blush isn’t helping. He doesn’t seem bothered by Katsuki’s closeness, and it makes Shouto wonder how often the elf lays hands on him. The faery watches as Izuku aims, inhaling long and slow. He releases his fingers along with the breath, and the bow string snaps back to base form, sending the arrow soaring, piercing right on the mark.

The hybrid beams—cute and perfect and adorable. His green eyes glitter as the sun brightens his face, sends golden highlight across his hair. “I told you I’m a fair shot!” He shouts with unbridled excitement, almost like a child.

Shouto can’t help the smile that curves his own lips. Izuku is a fair shot, and he has every right to be proud of his skill. Even Katsuki seems to be impressed for a moment before he schools his features back to that trademark frown, just in time for the hybrid to see it. Shouto misses the next few words which are exchanged, but a whoop from Izuku earns a genuine, scowl-free smile from the elf.  

That is something new. Katsuki seemed to have a soft spot for Izuku since he’d arrived here, but the smiling, the laughing, the touching… It all seems so natural now, comfortable where it wasn’t before. The two have been doing a lot together: running, therapy, training… With Eijirou away, they spend a lot of that time alone, too.

Shouto tries not to think about that part as Izuku gets back into position, bow at arm’s length with his back straight and elbow high. It looks like pretty beautiful form to the faery, but Katsuki snorts. The elf steps in closer, entire body pressing against the length of Izuku’s, making Shouto’s blood turn cold. He watches as Katsuki’s hands smooth over the hybrid’s form—adjusting his frame and taking his time doing it—before he slips a leg between Izuku’s and uses it to guide them further apart.

Shouto can’t stop himself from stepping toward them to interrupt. The faery can’t say he’s thrilled about this development. If Izuku found himself head over heels for someone other than Shouto, someone who would take care of him and do right by him, Shouto would do his best to support him. He loves Izuku— more than enough to set him free if that’s what would make him happy. But Katsuki Bakugou is not that person. Shouto doesn’t trust him any farther than he could throw him, and the elf looks pretty dense.

When Katsuki presses in tighter, grazes his knee higher up Izuku’s leg, Shouto coughs— loudly. Izuku jumps, releasing the arrow prematurely and sending it who-knows-where with wide eyes and a gasp.

“Shouto!” Izuku shouts, smiling as he releases a nervous laugh, surprised to see him. Usually, the hybrid scents him from a mile away, making it impossible for Shouto to sneak up on him. Izuku did always fall heavily into his studies, though. If he’s set on improving his bow skills, he’ll stay out here for 20 hours a day without a second thought, completely focused. Also, Shouto wonders how well Izuku can smell around the elf’s scent when he’s all wrapped up in him that way.

“Hello Izuku,” he smiles at him, then turns to nod at the elf. “Katsuki.”

Izuku’s smile suddenly falls from his face as a look of realization washes over him. “Shoot!” he says. “I’m so sorry! I totally forgot we were meant to go pick greens from the Shiozaki’s... D-did you want to go now? We—um, I can finish this later!”

Katsuki’s eyes flick from Shouto to Izuku with a scowl, but he says nothing. Shouto considers asking Izuku to leave with him and stop his lesson early... but ultimately decides against it. He’d rather Izuku be practicing his bow skills with Katsuki now, outdoors and in broad daylight, than later on when it would be dark and no one would be nearby to see if something happened.

“No, no… If you’re busy, we can do it another time,” he says, offering Izuku a smile. “I didn’t realize you two were training today. I seem to have... interrupted.” He’s not sorry he did, however. He flicks his gaze toward the elf again, who glares crimson daggers at him.

Izuku’s face turns pink. “It’s not like… I—”

Katsuki cuts him off. “I’m teachin’ him to use a bow, since apparently no one else around here has a fuckin’ clue about it.”

Irritation spikes Shouto’s jaw, and he clenches it, counting to five and taking a very measured, deep breath before he responds.

“Izuku is quite good already, and weapons aren’t really necessary for us.” His voice is sharp, cutting. He knows the words might be taken as an insult, but they’re perfectly diplomatic. It’s the simple truth, and if the elf prefers not to hear it, that’s his own problem.

He allows Katsuki’s presence in the village out of kindness, out of a genuine interest in seeing those who are harmed get back on their feet. He doesn’t care to be friends. Once Katsuki is well healed, he can be on his way back to Azmarin with Eijirou. Shouto only has to tolerate his insolence for a few more weeks maximum, and then the elves will leave, and things will return to normal between himself and Izuku. He can handle that, he thinks. 

Katsuki practically growls at him, and Izuku begins to bite his lip.

Shouto mentally kicks himself. He didn’t mean to make the hybrid nervous.

“Izuku,” Shouto begins. “I…” He trails off when he sees the shift in Katsuki’s demeanor. The elf’s glare has diminished, red eyes flicking toward the hybrid and softening with… concern? His tattooed hand twitches, like he’s aching to reach out, and Shouto knits his brows.

Of all the skills the fae possess, pheromone detection is not one of them. Shouto can only assume that Izuku is releasing some distressed scent, though he doesn’t need to smell it to know. Izuku has tells—lip biting, fingernail picking, sweaty palms… Sometimes, the only tell is that his eyes briefly flick toward Shouto’s own, or a minute shift in their color. 

Right now, they’re a bit lighter.

Shouto sighs and reaches out a hand. Izuku looks from his face to the extended palm slowly, with uncertainty, before sage green eyes return to meet his gaze.  A slow, uncertain smile raises his freckled cheeks, and he grips Shouto’s hand tightly enough that the faery can use it to drag him in. Izuku’s form falls into him immediately, a light thump resounding through Shouto’s chest as strong arms wrap tightly around his waist. He brings his own arms to encompass the hybrid, palms massaging up and down the taught muscle of his waist through his shirt, pressing his nose into green waves. He may not be privy to pheromones, but he can still find the forest in his hair, the natural musk associated with exertion, the familiar scent that feels like home after all this time. He takes a deep breath, dredging up the willpower to let him go when all he wants is to hold on. 

“I’m sorry,” he says to the waves.

“No, it’s okay… I can stop training for now,” Izuku mumbles into his shirt. “If you want…”

Shouto opens his eyes to find Katsuki watching them with an indecipherable expression. The faery wonders what his pheromones must smell like right about now. Is he angry? Hurt? Totally apathetic? He suspects the elf cares more than he lets on, but Shouto certainly isn’t going to instigate. The two of them were mid-session, and as much as he doesn’t like leaving Izuku with Katsuki alone, he can’t make decisions for the hybrid. If they’re going to train some time regardless, it might as well be now.

“No, no,” he responds. “Hitoshi will want to go anyway, and—”

Shouto stops mid sentence when Izuku suddenly releases him and pulls back, lips parted and nose high in the air. He looks up to find Katsuki’s brows lift, too. Are they… scenting? 

Shouto shifts to take in his surroundings, finding nothing abnormal until the sound of footfall against crunching stone faintly reaches his ears.

“OI. SHITTY HAIR,” the elf screams.

Shouto feels warm fingers brush his hand, and when he turns his palm to face it, those fingers lace between his own, squeezing. Izuku leans in, standing on his tiptoes to whisper. “Maybe we should give them some time…?”

Shouto looks down at him. Some time? For what? Is something wrong? Shouto can barely see Eijirou breaking through the treeline—just able to make out the red coloring of his hair, let alone his facial expression.

Katsuki huffs at them, drawing his attention. “As if I can’t fuckin’ hear you. Just stay here. I don’t know what the hell’s the matter, but it ain’t gonna be somethin’ you need to leave for.” 

By the time Shouto turns back around, Eijirou has arrived, chest heaving with deep breaths as he attempts to speak. “Wait—Izuku. Y-you… you can’t go,” he says.

What does he mean Izuku can’t go…?

Shouto doesn’t like the sound of that. Ice spreads through his skin, coating the air and the grass below him as he braces himself for what comes next.

“I-I’m so sorry…” Eijirou wheezes. “I- I didn’t know. And… Aizawa, well, you just—” The elf’s vermillion gaze shifts to lock with Izuku’s, face serious and uncomfortable. “Izuku, you’ve been summoned by the Council.”

 

Chapter Text

The first thing Izuku notices is the familiar scent of summer sun… but it’s tainted. He pulls back from the warm embrace he was wrapped in and lifts his nose, opens his mouth to scent better. The acrid weight of anxiety sits heavily on the back of his tongue, and he’s sure: something is wrong.

His ears twitch as he listens, and he pinpoints the direction of approaching footfall, sharp gaze searching the clearing’s edge. After a moment, he sees red break through the treeline, sharp spikes coming into view as the elf sprints closer, nerves etching lines into his features in ways that Izuku hasn’t seen before.

“OI. SHITTY HAIR,” Katsuki shouts, as though Eijirou hasn’t already spotted them. The edge of panic that laces his voice, however, is enough to set anyone on edge.

Izuku bites his lip and looks up at Shouto to find the faery’s brow furrowed, too. The faery may not scent pheromones but he’s intuitive enough to know that something is wrong, very wrong.

Izuku reaches for him, taking cool, thin fingers in his own and squeezing. He leans closer to his friend.

“Maybe we should give them some time…?” he says under his breath, not sure what happened in Azmarin to upset Eijirou in such a way, but also not wanting to impose if it’s a private matter.

Shouto looks down at him, surprised, and Katsuki clicks his tongue.

“As if I can’t fuckin’ hear you.” The elf’s voice snaps like a whip before he takes in Izuku’s surprised expression. Then, he softens. “Just stay here. I don’t know what the fuck’s the matter, but it ain’t gonna be somethin’ you need to leave for.”

It’s in that moment that Eijirou approaches, panting heavy breaths and covered in sweat,  reeking of discontent. The only time Izuku has scented anything remotely similar on Eijirou was the day Katsuki nearly died. He can’t imagine this is a good sign.

“Wait—Izuku. Y-you… you can’t go.” He heaves, trying to catch his breath between words. He bends forward to press his hands to his legs. Once his respiration has evened, he opens his mouth to speak again.

“I-I’m so sorry… I didn’t know. And… Aizawa. Well, you just… Izuku.” He takes a deep and solemn breath, face serious. “You’ve been summoned by the Council.”

A rotting sensation grows in the hybrid’s gut at the words. “Summoned” doesn’t sound very optional… In fact, it sounds a little like he might be in trouble. What on earth could he have done to upset the Council? He opens his mouth to ask exactly that when a harsh bark cuts him off.

“The fuck you mean he’s been summoned? How do they even know he’s here?” Katsuki growls.  His brow scrunches with anger and confusion as humidity is sapped from the air. Izuku tries not to inhale, nose already feeling itchy, threatening to bleed.

Shouto’s grip on his hand tightens, his scent one of waves crashing over banks—ironic considering the total lack of moisture in the air. Yet, even the contrasting scents of frustration are more pleasant than the horrendous, acrid tang of guilt that seeps from Eijirou in plumes, assaulting Izuku’s senses and threatening to wash out the other two. The scent turns Izuku’s heart to rubbish in his throat, bile rising that he can’t swallow down, can’t speak without gagging.

Eijirou scratches his head, and teeth pierce his lower lip. He drags a sharp canine against it before he releases the flesh to speak. “I… I’m sorry, Izuku…” he says quietly. “I didn’t know… I didn’t realize that…” He sighs.

“Spit it the fuck out, Eij. Now.”

Eijirou’s eyes grow wide, startled by the severe tone, and Izuku’s hair stands on end with irritation. Eijirou is clearly distraught, overridden with guilt over whatever happened. How on earth can Katsuki be upset with him right now? How can the elf be so harsh with his best friend, so cruel? Eijirou is obviously punishing himself enough for all of them. He doesn’t need any of Katsuki’s crap right now.

Katsuki’s scent rises again, dry heat competing with the rotten stench that lingers in the air as he steps forward, toward Eijirou, as though about to be physical. Izuku lets go of Shouto’s hand in lieu of turning toward the angry elf, placing a palm on his chest to stop him.

“Don’t you dare treat him that way.” Izuku practically growls through his teeth. “Can’t you see he’s suffering? Whatever happened…it was clearly not on purpose. It doesn’t even concern you. If anyone is angry, it should be me! And I’m not angry at Eijirou in the slightest!”

Katsuki says nothing in response, just looks down at him with narrowed eyes before his gaze flicks over Izuku’s shoulder to Eijirou, but it’s Shouto who breaks the tense silence.

“Eijirou, I appreciate that whatever has caused this summoning was not purposeful on your part…but I can’t allow any harm to come to Izuku. He’s not a citizen of Azmarin, nor is he required to follow the laws of the Council. As a member of a fae village under ruling of the Seelie Court, he is protected by our law. Any crime he may or may not have committed is not under your jurisdiction, and while I know you believe you are simply following your duties…I will not allow him to be forcibly taken to Azmarin.”

The elf looks at him with watery eyes, brows raising in surprise. His mouth falls open, and he looks to Katsuki, who speaks immediately.

“You don’t get to tell us what the fuck to do, half-n-half. If the Council wants Izuku there, they’ll petition your stupid fuckin’ Court repeatedly until he gets there. And Eijirou will take shit for it for nothing, because Izuku will end up in Azmarin…voluntarily or not.”

“I don’t care how many petitions they submit,” Shouto says cooly. “There is nothing that will change the law.”

Katsuki pulls at his hair, voice raising to a decibel beyond what Izuku’s heard from him in the past, and he begins to drown them out. Izuku’s pulse is increasingly audible in his ears as the two argue. He’s vaguely aware that Eijirou joins in the discussion, but he’s not listening. He’s lost in his own thoughts, trying to puzzle things out, wondering why he’d be summoned in the first place. It doesn’t make sense. It doesn’t make any sense at all. He’s done nothing wrong...

“For what crimes?” Izuku interjects, and the three around him fall to silence. Katsuki and Shouto, both glaring, turn to look at Eijirou, whose eyes fall toward the ground.

“I might’ve…given them your name…? I didn’t know! I mean, I knew… but I didn’t know…”

“Jesus fuck, just spit it out!”

Izuku shoots Katsuki a sharp glare the elf clenches his jaw, muscle visibly flexing as he grits his teeth in an effort to stay silent.

“Look, I knew that Hisashi Midoriya was infamous for what he’s been doing to the elves… but I didn’t know… I didn’t realize he was your father, Izuku!”

The elf looks up at him, vermillion eyes pleading.

“I swear, I didn’t know. I figured there could be a thousand Midoriya’s amongst the fae! I didn’t realize that you were related, and…Aizawa asked who had helped us, since Katsuki was injured, and…” He sighs, running a hand through his hair. “Well, they want to talk to you. They think you’ll know something about how to find him.”

Izuku doesn’t answer right away, considering. How does this Aizawa-guy even know that Hisashi is his father? Izuku himself didn’t even know until a few weeks ago… It doesn’t add up. And presumably, if they have enough information to know that Izuku is his son, they should also know that Izuku has had no contact with him since birth, has had nothing to do with these fires…

Izuku mutters to himself, resolutely ignoring the argument which breaks out around him at Eijirou’s admission. It doesn’t matter what they think.

“...doesn’t matter because he isn’t going. There is no reason to—”

He doesn’t know where his father is… if he did, he would gladly give them that information. He wants to stop these horrible acts just as much as they do.

Crashing waves wash over him, filling his lungs and making it difficult to concentrate on his line of thought. He takes a deep breath and shakes them off, pressing on in his personal deliberation. If there’s something he can do to help, he wants to do it, but… Well, he’s not sure he’ll be able to do anything if he goes.

“...better if he does go, as a sign of good faith.”

Of course Izuku wishes the murders hadn’t happened, wishes he wouldn’t have to relive them in his nightmares, but he is also done blaming himself. He isn’t going to accept responsibility from anyone else, either.

Hot sunshine, sweat, dehydration spike again, and he scrunches his nose to clear the scent.

So if he goes, the question remains as to what they’ll allow him to do. Then again, if he doesn’t go…

“How can you possibly ensure that they won’t just—”

He finds himself growing more and more irritated when he feels a wetness in his nose. It is bleeding now, which means Katsuki is pumping out anger in ridiculous clouds, deliberately pushing against the faery’s water-based scent, while Eijirou’s continues to grow more and more rancid.

Why? Why do they need to shout and compete and play this stupid game while Izuku has such an important decision to make? His fists clench, nails digging sharply into his palms as the others debate around him, trying to decide for him, “protecting” him from things that he can handle for himself. His patience breaks simply and cleanly, like the snapping of a flower’s stem.

“I’m going.”

His voice is clear and solid, leaving no room for debate.

He looks up at them, face awash with the seriousness of unwavering resolve, and the three only stare for a moment before Shouto nulls the silence, reaching for Izuku’s hand.

“Izuku, you don’t know what you’re—” Izuku jerks his hand backward as though it were burned. He was frustrated before, but he can feel his brow furrowing with anger now.

“Shouto, don’t lecture me like a child. I know exactly what I’m saying. I know what I’m asking for.”

Shouto’s face is openly shocked, eyes wide with surprise, with hurt, and Izuku relents slightly, softening his voice. “Look, I know that I’ve depended on you...a lot, lately. But this is… this is important. To the elves who have lost their loved ones, to the kids without parents… God, there are parents outliving their babies.” His voice rises with increasing emotion, and he looks up to meet with ice and fire, imploring. “This is important to me,” he whispers.

A spike of sugar teases his senses, and when his eyes flick to Katsuki, the elf looks almost…proud? The idea is confusing and Izuku doesn’t want to deal with thinking on it right now, so he looks back to the faery in front of him.

“Izuku… I—” Shouto huffs an audible breath through his nose. His brows knit as he looks between Izuku and the elves, thinking. It’s clear he has something he’d like to say, but he’s editing his words before he shares them. It only fans Izuku’s flames further. He doesn’t want edits and composition right now. He wants honest conversation. He wants respect.

“I... hear you,” Shouto eventually says. His voice is quiet, but the waves are not. They thrash, harsh enough to capsize ships and destroy riverside villages. The faery is anything but calm, anything but settled as he stares to the ground, unmoving.

Izuku doesn’t respond. He can tell there’s more to come. Shouto’s hands clench and unclench as his eyes dart around, seemingly examining the trails of frost which remain in the dead grass beneath him—a tell-tale sign that the faery is feeling overwhelmed.

After a moment, Shouto looks back up. “Can we discuss this further?”

Izuku’s eyes narrow in anger. If Shouto thinks that he can convince Izuku otherwise, he’s—

“I’m asking, Izuku… We don’t have to talk about it, if you don’t want to. I understand if… if you don’t have interest in discussing.”

The water is wild, dangerous, and if Izuku thought for one moment that Shouto was anything but worried for him, he’d be terrified of drowning in its depths. Instead, the soft and hesitant sound of the faery’s voice catches him off guard.

Shouto can be overprotective... to a fault, really. He’s lectured Izuku more times than he can count, and Izuku has pushed back almost every step of the way. He’s always known the restrictions are in his best interest, but there are times that they grate on him, on his pride. Even so, the faery consistently presents a valid argument, a distinct reason for his words, and he doesn’t drop a subject until he’s laid it out entirely.

Shouto has never simply… given in like this before. It feels…wrong, somehow.

Izuku’s heart crumbles slowly, leaving a deep and crippling ache in his chest as he takes in the form of his greatest friend looking the least composed he can remember since… well, since Shouto found him half dead near the river. Shouto’s eyes are wide and glassy as he breathes deeply, trying to calm himself. Izuku watches the frost spreading in the grass, crystals forming over flowers as they die. Why is he taking this so hard? It’s not like Izuku will be gone forever...

But then he realizes, that’s exactly what Shouto thinks.

If he goes, there is no guarantee he will return, no way of knowing that the elves will let him free, or even let him live. His lips part in an effort to bring reassurance, to swear there’s no reason for the faery to worry, but…the words won’t come.

He can’t make that promise, doesn’t want to hurt him more than he already has.

He stares up to pools of aqua and blood, watching as the glaze builds to true tears at the edges of his eyes. Izuku opens his mouth again, but it’s fruitless. He doesn’t know what to say, doesn’t know what to do. He’s never seen Shouto this broken before, so openly sad, so desperate.

A thumb brushes his own cheek, and he startles, follows the source to its origin to meet crimson eyes.

“Doc… You wanna call it a night?”

Izuku’s eyes search the elf’s, vision blurred by tears he hadn’t known he was crying. How long has he stood here, staring? How long has it been since Eijirou came back? Seconds? Minutes? It feels like years he’s been thinking this over, and he’s not sure what more he can do. He has to go. He has to.

A lump sits in his throat, lodged against his tongue and preventing the words from reaching his lips, so he only nods, chewing the bottom one in punishment.

Katsuki turns away from him for a moment, looking to Shouto, who still watches Izuku, stunned. “You two can fuckin’ talk tomorrow, yeah?”

Izuku hears Shouto’s murmur of acknowledgement before the faery turns to go, back toward home in the barely-there, grey light of dusk. His scent grows softer, but Izuku never loses it. Even once Shouto is home, in bed beneath the sheets, behind closed doors on the other side of the village, he’s sure the scent will continue to haunt his nose.

He could smell that heartbreak from a thousand miles away.


---


“I’m just… I’m so frustrated!” Izuku shouts, pulling at his hair as he paces the floor in Denki’s common room. The faery offered to have Izuku over for tea when he ran into him on his walk home and noticed he was more than a little distressed. Izuku quickly accepted, desperate for plans beyond crying himself to sleep.

“The three of them just argued amongst themselves like I wasn’t even there! But then, I still felt—feel—like such an asshole, you know?! Because Shouto just…” He huffs, breaking off. “But at the same time…”

“At the same time, you gotta do this,” Denki says. He gives Izuku a wry smile and shrugs. “I care about Shouto, too, ya know. But this is beyond friendship and feelings, dude. It sounds like this stuff with your dad has really, really been eatin’ at ya. And, if you don’t do this…I think you’re gonna regret it… Don’t you?”

For how spacey Denki acts sometimes, he can be surprisingly insightful.

“PLUS! You’ll get to travel with the elves for a while if you go, won’tcha?” He wiggles his eyebrows suggestively, and Izuku snorts.

Okay, maybe he’s lucky on occasion, and it just makes him sound smarter than he is.

“That’s not exactly important—”

The blond laughs. “No, no… I know. I just wanted to see you laugh.” He smiles, showing off his pearly white teeth. “You’re taking Shouto’s feelings on as your own, and you don’t have to, man. He can deal with his own crap… You should deal with yours.”

He has been dwelling on how leaving would make Shouto feel, as opposed to how he would feel if he stayed. He really does need to do this. An inherent pull from his core implores him, and he doesn’t want to say no. He wants to do something about these horrific massacres, needs to do something about them. He wants to help, especially now that he has a chance to do so.

“Yeah… I guess you’re right,” he admits. He takes a seat in the chair across from Denki and sighs. “I am going to miss him though…” He presses fingers to his scalp, claws back through his unruly waves as he groans. “So, so much… Ughhhh… I have to talk to him about it, don’t I?”

“Is that a real question?” the faery asks. One brow is raised in amusement, and Izuku knows it was a stupid question to consider. He groans again.

“Okay, okay. You’re right. I’ve just gotta…mentally prepare…” He puts his head down in his arms on the table and speaks to the wood. “This is gonna be so hard.”

A hand squeezes his shoulder. “I know, man, but…it’ll be alright. I mean, when’s the last time Shouto stayed mad at you?”

Izuku considers. He really hasn’t... ever.

But, Izuku’s less worried about making him mad and more worried about utterly destroying his trust, completely ruining their friendship. He’s already placed strain on it by asking for his help in working through this whole thing with his father and the nightmares… and then by stopping said thing…and now…now he’s supposed to just leave him behind? After all of this? After practically begging Shouto not to leave him...?

He feels so hypocritical. So horrible.

And then there’s the fear of those nightmares. Even with the comfort of sexual distraction off the table, it was still reassuring to know how close he was…just in case. Even if he just needed to sleep somewhere nearby, to not feel alone…  

What will he do if he has a nightmare on the road? And how is Shouto going to feel when he’s gone? There are certainly times that Izuku himself feels a little touch-starved if it’s been too long without his hand to hold, his arms to curl up in when he’s upset or sad or scared... He’s sure the faery must feel that, too.

The hand squeezes again, and Izuku looks up to meet Denki’s grin. Was he thinking out loud again?

“So… ah, heh, I um… I didn’t know the two of you were…uh...fucking? But, ah… well, I think Shouto will understand.” He shrugs. “This is pretty important man, and if he was okay with you just showin’ up at his doorstep for ‘comfort’”—he air quotes—“in the middle of the night, I don’t see how something like this could ruin things, ya know?”

Denki’s face has shifted to something solemn, golden eyes more serious than Izuku has ever seen them. “You two have been inseparable since you showed up in Willesden, Izuku. I honestly don’t think anything could ruin that forever.”

He lets this sink in for a moment, and the information burrows deep. Denki is right. Aside from his mother, Shouto is the only person Izuku has ever loved unconditionally and trusted to love him the same way. That’s not going to change with this trip. It wouldn’t change if he moved to the other side of the planet.

He’ll always be Izuku’s greatest friend.


---


“I’m not mad, Izuku… I’m just…worried.”

Izuku releases his lip from his teeth and sighs. “You don’t need to be worried, Shouto. I’m going to be fine. I just… I really need to go. I have to know what I can do to help. I want to help.”

Shouto nods, eyes down toward the table. “I know that… I know there’s nothing I can do to convince you to stay, so I won’t...”

Izuku looks up at him, brows lifting in surprise.  He didn’t expect this to go over so smoothly. He thought after giving the faery time to stew, he’d have to argue for at least an hour before Shouto agreed that going was the right thing to do.

“...but, can you compromise with me on just one thing?”

The only detectable scent is that of smooth waters… They’re reflective. He knows this means Shouto is focusing on not feeling right now. He knows that’s not really a good thing…but it’s better than the horrible turbulence he was emitting before. At least it’s calm, more similar to the level-headed faery he knows. It means he’s been thinking, if nothing else.

Izuku raises a brow in question. “On what…?” Izuku asks.

“I know that I can’t come with you. I have responsibilities here, and I think the elves might misunderstand my presence as a threat if I were to attend. But…I did swear to protect you. And I only have one way of doing that from here.” He pauses, as though Izuku will fill in the blanks.

Instead, the hybrid frowns, tilting his head in confusion.

“Hitoshi could go.” Shouto offers.

That...was not what Izuku expected.

“You need Hitoshi here with you.” He argues. “He’s your guard Shouto.”

The faery smiles softly. “Izuku, when is the last time I actually needed a guard? Besides, he and Tenya are equivalently trained. Tenya can take his place as my guard, alright?” He reaches across the table to take Izuku’s hand, fingers massaging warmth into the sensitive skin of the hybrid’s palm. “This is more important… You are more important.”

The way that Shouto looks at Izuku in this moment sends warmth in a slow, smooth wave through his form. His eyes are soft, glassy with unshed tears once more, and it makes Izuku flip his hand to squeeze Shouto’s instead… Izuku should be comforting him, not the other way around. He’s the one leaving, abandoning his best friend, the one person who has never once abandoned him...

And now, the faery is offering to send their greatest friend with Izuku as well, the person he spends every day of his life next to. Tenya and Denki are great, but they’re not as close to Shouto as Hitoshi is. If he takes Hitoshi, too, he’ll be leaving Shouto here all alone.

Izuku feels his own eyes tearing up just as Shouto pulls his hand away. He takes a deep breath and looks at Izuku seriously now.

“Izuku… I know you’re thinking of me, but I will feel much better if someone I trust goes with you. Please take Hitoshi.”

Izuku closes his eyes and takes a deep breath. The waters are rushing but graceful, determined but calm. Shouto isn’t letting his emotions get the best of him. He’s thinking clearly, is feeling quite certain. Izuku can tell that much.

He pinches the bridge of his nose as he thinks for himself. He doesn’t want to take Hitoshi because he doesn’t want to leave Shouto alone, but at the same time, if it will make Shouto feel better to send him, that would be a good thing. And then there’s the possibility that he feels just as out of place in Azmarin as he did in Fortaare...? Having a friend from home would be helpful then.

He frowns. That’s a selfish thing to consider.

A small laugh pulls his attention from his thoughts, and Shouto looks at him from across the table with amusement.

“It’s not selfish of you to want a friend, Izuku,” he says. “It’s selfish of me to make you take someone who will keep an eye on you for me. But I want it all the same, okay? I’m asking you to take him. Please? For me?”

A tiny smile tugs at the corner of his lips in response to Shouto’s admission. “Okay, fine… Hitoshi can come.”

Shouto nods, mismatched eyes flicking between Izuku’s own. His scent grows a bit more choppy, a little less steady as he stands from the table and rounds it quickly. Izuku stands to meet him just in time for lean arms to wrap around him tightly, squeezing. He slips his own arms around Shouto’s taut waist, fisting hands in his shirt and breathing him in deeply. The brooks and streams are there… maybe moving a little fast, but there’s an undercurrent of happiness in his embrace, and Izuku will take it for what it is.

He rubs his cheek to Shouto’s chest, memorizing, realizing that this is the last time he’ll get to for… at long while. His eyes begin to burn, tears welling and spilling against the faery’s white shirt as one of Shouto’s hands weave through his hair, holding his head to his chest as he takes trembling breaths and feels his warm form beneath his fingers. He savors the feel of the faery’s familiar body pressed against him, the intimate feel of his fingers carding through his curls.

He’s suddenly not ready for this to be it, not ready to leave.

If he does, this is goodbye; he’s sure of it. Once he goes to the elves to let them know the decision has been made, he’s certain he’ll have to pack and be on his way by morning. He doesn’t know how long he’ll be gone, how long it’ll be before he sees Shouto again... if he’ll see Shouto again.

His throat fills with sadness as the feeling leaks from his eyes, manipulates his breath into a horrible, broken sob. He fists Shouto’s shirt, clenching tightly and scrunching his eyes shut, pressing his face harder against the faery’s form, transcribing the feel of it in his mind as he struggles to take in air.

Shouto slides the hand from his hair to trace along his jaw, bringing fingers to his chin and lifting gently, one arm still wrapped securely behind his lower back.

“Hey…” he murmurs. “It’s not forever.”

His lips are so close that Izuku can feel icy breath against his own as Shouto presses their foreheads together. It’s tempting to progress the motion by uniting their lips, but Izuku refrains, knowing it would only make things harder. He takes in the crystal blue of one eye and the bright, fiery red of the other—both so kind, so sincere, so loving—and he knows that if the faery says it, it must be true.

Some way, somehow, they’ll find each other once more.

He just doesn’t know when that will be.


---


Standing outside the door of Eijirou and Katsuki’s temporary home, Izuku hesitates. Since he’d left Shouto’s, he hasn’t been able to stop second guessing. He doesn’t want to go anymore, doesn’t want to leave his friend. He’s never had to be without him before, and he’s afraid, sad, nervous, terrified, uncertain, lost, and a billion other things he can’t find thoughts for at the moment.

It’s dark now, and the frost nips at his skin even as the sky wraps him in a dark blanket of milky stars. He looks up to them, searching for constellations that might give this moment meaning, a sign, a push forward to knock his fist against the door. He finds none. The cool air has manifested in a fog that smears the star signs, and it offers no aid in his decision making. But he’s already decided to go. He’s not sure why this is so hard.

When he scrunches his eyes shut in frustration, he can’t get the look in Shouto’s eyes out of his head. The sad reaction from earlier today is still burned to his lids, and he can’t get the guilty nausea to rest in his stomach, can’t believe he’s leaving him here.

But he needs to. He must.

So he lifts his hand to knock… ready, finally, to do it. And yet his fist stays hovering, frozen, incapable of moving forward or back. He’s immobile on some terrifying precipice between these two futures—one a quiet comfort, one a terrifying leap.

But a heart that’s chosen it’s path can’t be led in any other direction, not really. Izuku knows better than to try, knows his mind is made up, that there is no other option, so he takes a deep breath to steel himself, and forces himself to knock loud and clear.

The door is opened with an anticlimactic click, revealing the signature scowl of one blond and fiery elf.

“Fuck, I thought you’d never knock. The hell have you been doin’ out here?”

“Give’em a break, Katsuki… He probably doesn’t really want to go.” Eijirou sighs in the background, then pads over to the door to greet him with a sympathetic smile. “Hey, Izuku… you wanna come in?”

Izuku shakes his head. “No, I… I just came to, to tell you that…” His voice cracks, and he swallows, clears his throat.

Scarlet eyes regard him with sympathy, with nerves, with anger and fear… Izuku sees so many things mirrored in that expression, finds so much confidence and irritation and vulnerability all blended together in his scent. Flame licks between dampened cracks of earth, swirls around him to overpower the scent of Eijirou’s soft summer sun, of the stormy waters he’s left behind. It’s clear that the elf is filled with uncertainty, but what he’s got to be uncertain about, Izuku doesn’t know.

“To tell us what, nerd? You fuckin’ comin’ or not? ‘Cause I—cause we—gotta go… one way or the other, whether you decide to face your shit or not.” He sneers, like he’s angry, but Izuku can tell he isn’t, not really.

Why is he so nervous?

“I’m… yeah. I’m coming.” He manages.

The violent blend assaulting his senses quickly morphs to something softer—warm and cozy and much more familiar. Izuku feels his shoulders drop, automatically relaxing in the presence of the soothing musk.

Eijirou smiles at him. “Sure you don’t wanna come in? I could make tea.”

Izuku rubs the back of his head and looks down. “N-no… That’s okay. But…there is one more thing…”

Katsuki frowns. “What now?”

“I think Hitoshi is coming, too,” he finishes.

“HAH?! Are you fucking k—”

Eijirou cuts him off with an elbow jab to the ribs. “That’s fine,” he says, shooting Katsuki a meaningful look. “I’m sure it’ll make Shouto feel a lot better if you’ve got someone familiar around. Plus, it’ll be nice for you to have someone you know close by when we’re in Azmarin. Katsuki and I will probably be all tied up a lot, at least when we first arrive, so you and Hitoshi can explore together!”

Katsuki grumbles something under his breath, and Izuku exhales the one he was holding.

“O-okay, so…ah, w-when do we need to go? A-and…” Suddenly his mind is filled with questions. He hadn’t thought about the logistics before, so consumed about whether or not to actually go. Now, he realizes just how unprepared he is. His palms begin to sweat as they swirl in his head. “And wha-um, what should I bring? It’s… it’s a full three weeks of travel on foot, right? And I, well I don’t even know how elves dress in Azmarin, so what if I—”

A rough hand grips his wrist and yanks him forward just before solid arms cage him in against a broad, heavy chest. He’s enveloped in fireside warmth, heat sinking into muscle and slowing his breath. His trembling body slackens, and he leans into the newfound security.  In contrast to the hug he’d shared with Shouto, drawing his body tight with sadness and fear, this one makes him feel like melting. He drowns in the scent, the sensation, and figures if he never comes up for air, it wouldn’t be the worst way to go.

“Quit worryin’, Doc. Whatever shit you don’t have, we will. Everything’s gonna be fine.”

Izuku nods vaguely, cheek pressed to bare skin, making no move to separate from Katsuki’s arms. He brings his own arms to wrap around the elf’s waist instead, and rough palms smooth up and down his back. Katsuki leans his face to the crown of Izuku’s head and noses through his hair, scenting. Izuku wonders how bad he’d smelled before, nerves overpowering every other part of him. He probably scents a little better now.

Eijirou clears his throat, and Izuku jumps slightly, having forgotten he was there.

“U-um… Thanks,” he murmurs, pulling away to look at the other elf who waits awkwardly near the door.

“We leave at sunrise,” Eijirou says. “Just pack whatever is comfortable and whatever you need for Aki. We’ll take care of the rest, okay?”

“Y-yeah...” He agrees. “Thanks, again…for being understanding about Hitoshi. I think…I think it will be good to have him with me. I still have to talk to him though; I’m not sure he’s actually consented to go yet.”

Eijirou nods and claps a hand on his shoulder. “Either way, we’ll do the best we can to make you feel at home, okay?” He shoots Izuku an infectious, shark-toothed grin, and Izuku finds himself smiling back, feeling much better about the situation than he had even five minutes earlier.

“Okay.” He nods. “I’m gonna go hunt down Hitoshi and see what the plan is…but I will see you both at sunrise. Here?”

Katsuki clears his throat. “Yeah, here’s good.”

Eijirou nods. “See ya then!” he adds brightly.


---


As he nears home, Izuku catches a whiff of jasmine—a clean, fresh scent he associates with Hitoshi in a good mood. The faery is already at his house. He guesses Shouto must have already spoke with him.  

When he arrives, he swings the door open to find Hitoshi seated inside, booted feet propped on his desk carelessly, arms folded behind his head and eyes closed. Without turning to face him, he speaks.

“Ay, Izu… guess we’re goin’ on another trip, huh?”

“Looks that way,” he responds.

He shuffles forward to rustle through his drawers, pulling out some dried snacks for Aki. The glider will be awake soon, if he’s not already hiding somewhere in the crazy jungle gym built inside his home.

“Shouto filled you in?” he asks, hearing tiny claws skitter across the floor towards him as he sets out the food. Little feet cling to his trousers and work up to his arm, where Aki pauses to look at him, letting out a tiny sneeze before hopping to his hand.

“Yeah, I was on my way over when you left, I guess. I got to him not long after you went to the elves’.”

This pulls Izuku’s attention. He looks back to see Hitoshi’s face. “...How’s he doing?”

Aki nibbles at the dried fruits Izuku holds in his hand, and Hitoshi finally sits up in his chair, looking to Izuku with a  wry smile.

“About as good as you’d expect.” He shrugs. “He’ll be fine, Izuku. It’s just…gonna take some getting used to.” He stands up to stretch his arms over head, yawning. “Guess I’m your guard now. Well, at least until we come back to Willesden.” 

Izuku looks back to Aki, preferring to watch his cute friend chomp his breakfast than to face the faery right now.

“You sound so certain,” he whispers.

“Even if you never return to Willesden, Izuku…Shouto’s going to find you. You don’t honestly think he’s gonna let this crap with your idiot father keep you apart, do you?” Izuku looks back to find an amused look on his friend’s face. “I don’t know how long it’s gonna take…but I wouldn’t worry about that if I were you. If I know anything about Shouto, it’s that he’s determined.”

Izuku lets a small smile grow across his lips. Shouto is pretty stubborn… Hitoshi is probably right. Unless the elves don’t believe his story, and he’s imprisoned…or killed.

He swallows that fear right away. No reason to think on that for long. Freaking himself out is not going to change a thing. He’ll still need to pack tonight, to wake up in the morning, and to begin on the journey he’s already agreed to.

Hitoshi is right. He’ll find his way back here again. He’s got to stop thinking so nihilistically. He takes a deep breath and pulls out the pack he’d only put away a few weeks ago, beginning to fill it with comfortable clothing once more, silently thanking the stars that he’d done laundry earlier this week.

“Yeah… That’s probably true,” he gives.

Hitoshi snorts from behind him. “Couldn’t say it if it wasn’t.”

Izuku chuckles. “Are you sleeping on my floor tonight, or did you just come by to make me feel better?”

“Are you joking?” Hitoshi looks at him like he’s insane. “I’m gonna have to sleep in the dirt for the next three weeks. I’m gonna go sleep in my bed tonight.”

“So you came because….?”

“I just wanted to make sure you didn’t need anything, you ingrate.” He furrows his brow in faux anger and then softens back to a sleepy neutral before he continues. “So, do you? Anything you need me to get settled before we go?”

“Wh…why? You didn’t help me prepare for the trip to Fortaare. What’s the difference?”

“Well…I wasn’t your guard at the time. Now I am. S’part of my job to be sure everything’s set to go, to be sure you’re doing okay—and I don’t mean just physically, alright?”

He states the last part with a stern look, and Izuku narrows his eyes at the faery before ties his largest bag closed. He’s only going to bring one pack since they’re traveling on foot this time.

“Since when is that the job of a guard…?”

“Since Shouto reassigned me to take care of you. Now, quit complaining, and let me do my job. Do. You. Need. Anything?”

“Nope”—he pops the “p” with enthusiasm—“but I’ll keep in mind that you’re my personal servant now.” Izuku grins at the idea, knowing Hitoshi is going to loathe the title he’s just been given.

Hitoshi surprises him by offering no argument one way or the other. Instead, he nods his head and turns toward the door, pulling on his cloak.

“Well, if you need me before sunrise tomorrow, you know where to find me.”

“Yeah...  thanks,” Izuku responds. “I’ll see you in the morning.”

“Night, Izu.”

“Night.”

When the door closes, a wintry gust shifts the vines hanging from his ceiling. Aki clambers into his bag for warmth, and Izuku climbs into bed, unable to recall a time he felt more restless.






Chapter Text

“Hmm… how about here?” Eijirou turns around from where he’s leading the pack, pausing to look at his surroundings.

Katsuki stops and gives Eijirou a disgusted look, as though that’s the worst idea he’s ever heard. “Fuck no. It’s all muddy and shit. We need to find somewhere dry.”

“It’s all going to be damp… we’re in the wetlands, genius,” Hitoshi chimes in. Izuku sighs, knowing already that his comment will start an argument.

“I don’t wanna hear shit from you, ya sleepy fuck. When’s the last time you traveled this way?“

“Ugh… Katsuki… Be nice,” Eijirou groans. “I can just bring some rock upward to give us somewhere to sleep, okay?”

Hitoshi snorts. “It’s not my fault you’re such a prima donna. Even Izuku here wouldn’t have complained, and he’s only traveled what? Twice, ever?”

Izuku lowers his head, hoping that he can avoid contributing to this in any way. He inches toward Eijirou, knowing that he’s the only person he can depend on in this situation. Aki slips from his pocket and climbs to perch on his shoulder, quietly observing.

Katsuki’s eyes narrow, and one of his palms pops with a spark. “HAH?! You journey on horseback! You barely spend any time away from a nice cozy, cushy bed. I’m used to traveling long distances, without shit to make me comfortable. So excuse me for bein’ fuckin’ smart about it. If you wanna wake up soaking wet and bound to get sick as a dog, be my god damn guest.”

Hitoshi looks at him with one brow raised, amused. When the arguments first began… on their first day of travel, Izuku was surprised that the faery hadn’t simply used his magic to end the fights immediately. It didn’t take long for him to realize that Hitoshi enjoyed riling up the elf. Katsuki becomes angry all too easily, and isn’t very good at taking a joke—not at his own expense, at least. Hitoshi takes their arguments in stride, entertainment written on his face in permanent ink.

They’ve only been traveling for about a week now, but Hitoshi and Katsuki have been bickering pretty consistently, and Izuku still finds it very difficult to avoid taking sides. Neither of them are particularly reasonable when they get into these debates, so he just crosses his fingers and hopes that they get over it quickly.

“Hm… well, it doesn’t sound like we will wake up soaking wet, seeing as Eijirou has offered to make us some nice, solid beds.”

Katsuki glares at the faery, and Eijirou releases a nervous laugh. “Y-yeah, man! I’ll just drag up some solid earth, and we’ll stay nice and dry. Nothin’ to worry about.” He claps a hand on the blond elf’s shoulder, and the scowl turns to him instead.

“I wasn’t worried about me, you dumbass. I don’t want the nerd over here gettin’ sick.” He nods his head toward Izuku and huffs, and Izuku feels his cheeks grow warm. Katsuki doesn’t openly admit things like worry very often. It feels... nice to hear that he cares.

“I-I, uh… I’ll be alright!” He smiles at Katsuki, hoping to reassure him. “No need to be concerned about me!”

Hitoshi smirks. “See? Let’s rest here.”

They all know they’re going to stop here for the night. The sun is long gone, replaced by the softer, quieter glow of the moon, which provides only enough light to see beyond their toes. Katsuki sneers and opens his mouth to argue some more, one palm sparking and now exuding tendrils of smoke. Aki begins to hiss at the elf, and Izuku steps forward to take his wrist. He lifts his hand to make him aware of what he’s doing. “Um… Katsuki?”

The elf looks down at him, lips still parted.

“I, um…I’m kinda tired…and, well…it is getting pretty dark...”

Katsuki snaps his jaw shut and examines him. Izuku does his best to appear sleepy for his benefit—not that it takes much work. Walking for 16 hours straight is exhausting, after all. His knees and calves are aching, his feet throb with his pulse, and he’s fairly certain his sugar is running low because he’s been a little woozy off and on. He really does need some rest. Izuku might be physically fit, but this is a kind of endurance he hasn’t had to utilize before.

He’s been doing his best not to complain or to seem needy because no one else has. He doesn’t want to seem weak or slow the group unnecessarily. Plus, if Aki is awake, he’s going to want to wander around and play, and it’ll be ideal if they can stay in one place until he returns; Then Aki can easily them again when he’s ready for rest. There is no reason they shouldn’t stop to rest here for the night, aside from the fact that Katsuki is stubborn and wants to continue disagreeing with Hitoshi. So, this one time, Izuku will take a side. Just this once.

Though he’s doing his best to be sweet about it, to save the elf’s ego.

Katsuki looks down to where Izuku’s fingers encircle his wrist, then back to his face. Izuku’s eyes meet the fierce crimson he’s become so familiar with. He watches as it softens.

Katsuki sighs. “Doc, you gotta tell us when you’re tired. We’re all used to this shit, so we won’t feel it like you do.”

Izuku nods, then pulls his hand back and looks down to pick at his nails, embarrassed. It doesn’t go unnoticed.

“Oi. If I gotta carry your ass, I will. You bein’ tired ain’t gonna slow us down, so you don’t need to be feelin’ all guilty about it. Quit.”

Katsuki snatches his hand back and weaves their fingers together so he can no longer pick at them, cheeks blooming with the slightest of pinks. “Quit it. It’s a bad habit.”

Izuku’s eyes go wide, brows rising as he registers the unfamiliar sensation of Katsuki’s thick, rough fingers between his own. The feeling is foreign to Izuku, who has only held hands with Shouto before; his fingers are long and thin, smooth and soft. Holding hands with the faery has always been comfortable, relaxing. Holding hands with Katsuki is… not.

The press of his palm against Izuku’s makes it easy to believe that the explosions never stopped, like the sparks have entered his skin and detonate with an odd, incendiary feeling that snakes up his spine. It’s strange and new…but he likes it.

He feels his own cheeks begin to burn, but makes no move to separate their fingers. “S-sorry,” he says. “I, ah…I don’t always know when I’m doing it, and—”

Katsuki squeezes his hand. “S’fine. Quit apologizin’. Let’s stop here for the night.”

The elf lets go and steps off of the path to unload his gear. Izuku is left staring after him, still sort of stunned, until Eijirou passes by to whisper a “thanks, man” under his breath.

“Oh! Uh. Yeah! Y-you’re welcome!” He squeaks, then follows after to drop his own bag on the ground. Hitoshi is markedly silent, and Izuku is both tempted and terrified to see his expression, so he keeps his eyes firmly fixed on his bag as he unpacks it.

It’s not long before the four of them have furs set out for sleeping and a large fire burning which they all sit around. The evening fires have become something of a ritual, during which time Eijirou typically cooks his kill of the day plus some veggies they’d stashed away from Willesden. After dinner, Izuku enjoys the silence and closes his eyes, listening to the crackle of the flame and feeling the heat upon his skin. Right now, he’s so relaxed that he could almost fall asleep sitting up.

That’s one good thing about his exhaustion: he hasn’t had that much trouble sleeping, even as alone as he has been. When he finally climbs beneath the furs at night, he has a brief moment in which his stomach clenches and his eyes burn—a moment when he recognizes just how alone he is, when he misses Shouto with a ferocity that makes him sick. He can’t help but crave the faery’s scent, his barely-there half smile, his inability to catch on to literally anyone’s jokes (though that thought makes him smile). He just…misses him.

But he’s okay. He’ll be okay. He tells himself that he isn’t alone. He’s got Hitoshi here, and Katsuki, and Eijirou. All three are his friends. All three care about his well being. All three want him here. He is not alone.

Even so, he worries: what will he do if the nightmares return? Can he finally, finally stop running away from those that need him? Can he help? Can he do anything other than leave those poor people to their deaths?

As he lies there, he tries to remember every face he’s seen—every man, woman, and child whose empty gaze seemed to search the sky as he passed their lifeless figures on the ground. His own eyes look into the fractured night, darkness surrounding pinpricks of barely burning stars off in the distance as he imagines their features in his mind’s eye—the curve of a smile that once graced that young girls lips, the crinkle of the skin around the elderly man’s eyes, the harsh furrow that probably plighted the brow of the young farmer. He wonders where they’d be now if they still lived. The more he thinks, the more it frustrates him. It’s not fair that it has come to this, to lives lost and villages burned. He swallows the initial guilt that rises like bile in his throat and it’s not long before the feeling ignites to anger instead.

He scrunches his eyes shut hard, willing it all away. There’s no reason to get worked up right now. Those aren’t even real people…they’re only nightmares, dreams, figments of his imagination.

And yet when he falls asleep, that lost world seems just as real once more.



---



“NO!” A woman screams, hysterical. Chains rattle and clang against a harsh metal, echoing along a dark, stone corridor.

“NO! Stop it! STOP!”

Sobs pierce the air, and a sickness plagues Izuku’s chest, a heaviness that clings to his very soul, makes him weary.

What’s happening to her!?

He turns around, shifts sharp eyes to examine every corner of the unfamiliar room he inhabits, but he gathers no information aside from dust and darkness, heavy stone and mortar. The floor is smooth cement, and the only thing that graces the space besides the build-up of dampness and dirt is a ratty looking blanket piled up in the corner. The air reeks of mildew and mold, vomit and fear—sour and nauseating.

“Please….” The woman begs. “Please don’t…” She whimpers.

He needs to find her.

There are two hallways exiting the space he’s in, but the sound seems to come from both directions. He can’t pinpoint where it originates. He wants to follow it, to help. The voice is familiar, and he can’t stand to hear it so desperate.

Another wail pierces the air, and the blanket in the corner shifts. His eyes dart back to it, focusing.

“Who’s there?” Izuku asks.

The blanket rustles some more before a light, bleach blonde color peeks from the top, followed by bright, golden eyes. A girl?

She pulls the blanket down to her nose, and Izuku can see smeared, days-old-kohl beneath her lashes as she tilts her head in thought.

“Who are you…?” Izuku asks her. “Who is… who’s yelling like that?”

“Oh, you’re prettier than I thought... The girl says. Her delighted tone is ice water dripping down his back, and he shivers.

Another scream reverberates against his eardrums from a distance, and he turns sharply to look at each exit. Horrific, broken sobs sound from both. He can’t tell which one to follow...

“Where is she?” He demands.

The blonde girl giggles. “Are you sure you want to find her?”

He wrinkles his brow in confusion and irritation. “What do you mean? Of course, I want to! Where is she?!” He’s shouting now, probably alerting whoever it is that holds them here of his presence.

He doesn’t care. He can’t take the sounds of torture any longer. He has to do something, he has to.

He sees the blonde’s cheeks round beneath her golden eyes.

“Oi! Doc.”

Izuku’s eyes snap open to meet blood red, and he gasps in shock, jerking upright and almost crashing their faces together.

He was…dreaming? But it felt real.

“Hey.”

He looks around and finds the only source of light to be the moon. The fire has burnt out, ash gone cold and quiet. It’s so dark that anyone other than an elf would be blind in the blackness.

The sounds of crickets dancing echo in his empty ears now that he’s awake. No sound, no scents but those of the marsh and his friends. His nose twitches; the stench is gone.

“Izuku.”

Fingers grip his jaw and force his gaze upward, where it locks with an intensely narrowed crimson. Katsuki glares at him in a way that would make anyone else cower.

Instead, Izuku glares back.

“What,” he retorts.

Katsuki’s brows raise slightly, eyes softening and posture relaxing now that he’s received a conscious response. “You were cryin’ out in your sleep.”

Izuku feels his cheeks becoming warm. He knew his nightmares woke Shouto on occasion, but the faery never told him he’d made any noise. He figured he tossed and turned, but… well, this is embarrassing.

Rubbing at his eyes, he finds they’re damp and averts his gaze. He was doing so well, too. He takes a deep breath to calm himself and relishes the scent of bonfire warmth and toasting sugar that rises. He lets it fill him, relax him.

At least this dream was different.  No fires, no deaths. Although, that voice still haunts him. That woman... She sounded so scared, so... broken. Whatever she had gone through, continued to go through… It sounded horrifying.

“You stink, too.” Katsuki adds, grimacing. “What’s the problem?”

Izuku doesn’t answer right away, instead taking a moment to let the sweetness coat his lungs as he lifts his gaze to meet the elf’s eyes. He clears his throat.

“Nightmare,” he admits.

Katsuki sits down beside him.

“Wanna talk about it?”

Izuku shakes his head.

“Too damn bad. You’re gonna.”

The hybrid can’t help the tiny smile that works its way to his lips. “Why even ask then?”

Katsuki shoulder bumps him. “I wanted to at least pretend I cared what you wanted.”

“So why do you care about my dream?” Izuku turns to look him square in the face and is met with a raised brow.

“‘Cause you’re gonna let it eat away at you and do something stupid, you idiot. I don’t feel like dealin’ with the clean up. So, tell me what the fuck’s buggin’ you.”

Izuku chews his lip, gaze falling again. He’s not sure, really. He didn’t know the girl in the dream, didn’t see the woman who screamed. He doesn’t understand why it bothered him so much, but he can’t shake the fact that it felt real.

“The fires again?” Katsuki asks.

The hybrid shakes his head.

“...then what?” The elf presses.

Izuku doesn’t meet his eyes, but based upon the envelope of heat around him, the sweetness that paints his tongue, he’s sure that the scarlet is soft and concerned. The knowledge helps him to breathe more easily, but it can’t completely rid him of the unnerving memories.

“Honestly?” Izuku starts, finally shifting to look at him. “I don’t know. I was…I was in some…underground? Dungeon? Something. It was dirty and dark, and stank like it was damp with no air flow for months or…” He shivers. “Ugh, I dunno. And, then there was a girl…? I think it was a girl; all I saw was her eyes, but she seemed to know me, which was odd in itself. Though that wasn’t…that isn’t what’s getting to me...”

Katsuki shifts to sit directly in front of him. His eyes are narrow, contemplative, and he leans in to listen intently, but the hybrid doesn’t continue. Nausea swirls in his stomach again as he recalls the screams, the broken sounds of ragged vocal cords, the pleas. She was so desperate...

NO! Stop it! STOP!

“Oi. Look at me.”

Please…Please don’t…

Izuku brings hands to his temples and presses hard, hoping it will force the sounds from his memory, but it isn’t working. His fingers tremble against his skin. He couldn’t help her, didn’t help her.

Warm hands grip his own and pull them from his face, holding them in his lap.

“This is exactly what I meant, dumbass. Fuckin’ talk to me.”

Izuku swallows hard and wills himself to meet Katsuki’s eyes, holding them this time. “There was a woman. I didn’t see her, but—well, I heard her. Crying. Screaming… Begging.”  Katsuki’s eyes widen slightly at the last. “I just…I don’t know what was happening to her, but I—” He pauses to suck a breath, hearing his own voice shake. “I couldn’t help her.”

A lone tear makes its way down his cheek. He mentally follows its path along his face, feeling it cool in the night air, sending an unwelcome chill down his spine. In search of distraction, he looks up and lets his eyes map Katsuki’s face instead, gaze tracing over sharp cheekbones, a harsh jaw. His eyes are still dark around the edges, though more grey than black, lined days ago with kohl that’s never come off. His red, smooth lips are pressed in a hard line, and Izuku licks his own absently.

When Katsuki’s adam’s apple bobs, the hybrid’s eyes follow, mouth watering.

But then he catches himself.

He’s done with this. He’s done. He decided he didn’t need this anymore, decided to stop relying on tactile senses to relieve his stress. He needs to learn to face his emotions, to deal with them, to stop using people to do it.

He straightens abruptly, blinking, and finds that Katsuki’s lips are pulled to one side in a smirk—a cocky one.

“As much as I’d really, really enjoy whatever it is you’re thinkin’ about with that thick and humid scent pourin’ offa you… s’probably not a good time.”

Izuku rolls his eyes, irritated that the elf caught on so quickly. “I’m not thinking about anything except going back to sleep.”

Katsuki snorts. “Sure,” he says, clearly not convinced.

Izuku averts his eyes, trying to decide exactly what he can do to go back to sleep. Right now, he really isn’t interested in returning to the land of dreams. Then again, maybe if he went back, he could—

“It’s not real. You know that, right?” Katsuki says softly, leaning close again to catch his attention.

“O-of course I know that,” Izuku mutters.

“Then why’re you talking like dreamin’ the same thing again will make any kinda difference? It’s a dream. It’s gonna suck, but then you’ll wake up.”

“It just—hm…” He pauses to consider. “It doesn’t feel like a dream. It feels… well, it feels just as real as you do.

Katsuki cocks a brow. “All your dreams like that?”

Izuku considers for a moment. Have they all been like this? He doesn’t think so. In fact, the first one he really recalls feeling this way was back before he’d left for Fortaare—the dream about his mom. Since then, quite a lot of them have felt pretty similar.

“Just this and the fires...and one other one, but it was a while ago. So I guess… recently, yes?”

Katsuki sits back again with his brow furrowed. “You ever have good ones that seem real?”

Izuku is caught by surprise. “Ah, y-yeah… Who hasn’t?”

He watches as the elf’s expression shifts to something he doesn’t recognize. He’s not totally sure, but it only lasts a second before it’s gone, and his focus is back on the hybrid.

“Well, let’s get you back to sleep then, yeah? We’ve got a long day tomorrow.”

Izuku nods. “Yeah, you’re right.”

Katsuki ruffles his hair as he stands. Then he walks back to the other side of the fire, where his furs are piled. Izuku snuggles back down into his own makeshift bed, trying to get comfortable again when he hears more footsteps, the whisper of the blankets across the ground.

Katsuki has dragged his furs closer—not so close that they could reach out and touch each other, but close enough that Izuku knows its in support for him, if he does need to wake him again or just to talk. The elf wouldn’t say so, would never be caught dead making such a kind offer, but he doesn’t have to. Izuku knows.

A small smile curves his lips as he closes his eyes again and drifts off to a, thankfully, dreamless sleep.



---



Katsuki must be a light sleeper, because his late night talks with Katsuki have become a new routine. Izuku has had three more nightmares in the past two weeks, and each time, Katsuki has woken him. Izuku has become more comfortable talking about the events of his dreams now, which is what he’s doing tonight—or, well, this morning.

The gentle pinks and greys of dusk hover on the horizon, and Izuku is snuggled down into a large pile of furs, pressed up against Katsuki’s side. While the days have become hotter, the nights are colder here, and when he woke this time, he was shivering.

This nightmare was particularly bad. It took a while before he was calm enough to speak at all through his panicked hyperventilation, and Katsuki had immediately wrapped him up in his arms to surround him with his strong scent, knowing full-well by now the effect it would have. When Izuku’s breathing had calmed, the elf pulled away to take his more typical seat beside him, but remained beneath the blankets with him, which Izuku appreciated.

It’s easy to lean into him now, to rest his head on Katsuki’s shoulder and feel his arm around his back, thumb tracing circles against his side. It helps him breathe, but it also helps him think. He’s grown used to thinking around Katsuki—the elf forces him to consider what’s bothering him rather than forgetting and letting it stew. It was hard that first couple of times, but now, he automatically considers what’s happened, searches for ways to frame it in his mind so he can talk about it, because he’s sure that he’ll be asked.

“So…?” Katsuki prompts, leaning his cheek into Izuku’s hair.

“So…I saw my mom.”

Katsuki says nothing, just waits for him to continue. Izuku takes a deep breath and sniffs to regain some semblance of function through his stuffy nose before going on.

“She’s… she was the voice in that first dream a few weeks ago.”

The elf squeezes him more tightly, fingers digging into his ribs and scent rising more powerfully in the air, but still, he remains silent, waiting.

“I—I knew it sounded familiar, but it was so… I’ve never heard her so…” The tears begin to fall and Izuku huffs, wiping at them with irritation, sick of crying over nightmares, over something that isn’t even true. Why won’t his brain just let him rest? Why does it have to imagine these horrific things? He takes some time to breathe again, to will away the trembling his body has taken on before he continues.

“My mom was strong; she was amazing. I can’t imagine anyone I’ve ever met making her feel so…so…I don’t know!” His voice rises in frustration and he crosses his arms over one another, nuzzling his face to Katsuki’s shoulder. The hand on his side begins smoothing up to his ribs and down to his hip in long, heavy strokes. The motion pulls at his shirt a little, exposing skin, but the feel of it is grounding. Izuku closes his eyes and allows Katsuki’s scent to fill him as he works up the nerve to explain further.

“When I found her, she...didn’t want me there. Sh-she panicked, screaming at me to go, to get out. She looked terrible, Katsuki.” His eyes stare off into nothing, unseeing as he’s haunted only by the image of his nightmares.

“Her arms were smeared with blood, and her throat was all bruised.... Like she’d—like she’d be choked. And there was this deep purple under her eyes... like she hadn’t been sleeping, and I just—” Izuku starts breathing too fast to continue coherently. He turns his face into Katsuki’s shoulder, hiding his eyes just as the elf shifts to bring his other arm around him, pulling him closer and into his lap entirely.

“Just a dream…” Katsuki murmurs into his hair. “S’over.”

Izuku nods, feeling his cheek brush against the rough material of the elf’s shirt as he does his best to calm his breathing. Katsuki continues to rub his back, to card through his hair, and he feels himself starting to relax as the horrible images begin to fade into the background of his mind.

Not real. Just a dream.

This is real.

Katsuki is real.

What would Izuku do without him at this point? He’s the only one who knows about these dreams, who wakes up to deal with Izuku’s outbursts. He’s almost happy that Katsuki caught him the first time. Though he was embarrassed then, it’s much easier to sleep after getting the images out of his head into words, after being soothed with reassurances and with Katsuki’s scent.

“Y-yeah…I know. Thanks.” He mutters into the material once he’s caught his breath, inhaling the concentrated flame and toasted sugar that gathers there. “A-and…thank you...for doing this.”

Katsuki loosens his hold to look down at him in confusion. “For doin’ what?”

“For holding me, for dealing with these crazy dreams, and just…I dunno…being here?”

Katsuki’s lips curve to something reminiscent of a soft smile for a moment before he schools his features. “The hell else would I do? If you don’t sleep, you’ll be exhausted. We don’t have time for that shit.”

Izuku huffs a small, quiet laugh at the denial. He knows that Katsuki is doing this for him, not for the group. A bubble of sweet, soft warmth inflates in his chest, and in a moment of bravery, Izuku lifts his head to place a chaste kiss on Katsuki’s cheek. When he pulls away, he bites his lower lip, smiling. The elf’s face has already flushed with the deepest of reds, putting his embarrassment on display.

“The fuck was that for?” he asks, brow furrowing in confusion.

“Just wanted to.”

Katsuki’s brow relaxes, eyes softening, probably recognizing Izuku’s own contented scent—whatever that smells like—and realizing that he is, in fact, alright. He really did just want to. He’s been getting more urges to touch the elf recently, finds himself wanting to be near him all the time these days, even while they’re traveling and things are going just fine.

Izuku leans his cheek against Katsuki’s shoulder, enjoying the sticky caramel that lingers in the air as he closes his eyes.

“Feelin’ better then?” the elf asks.

Izuku nods against him. “Yeah… I guess that I—” He clams up when he hears a rustling from behind them, and he turns to find Hitoshi standing and stretching his arms. Izuku’s eyes widen and dart down to the ground as he chews his lip. His face heats and his palms begin to sweat. How long has Hitoshi been awake?

Did he hear all of that? See all of that?

What will he think?

Izuku shifts to get up, to pull away completely and go about his business, but Katsuki’s arms slink back around his waist and pull him close again. He feels the elf’s smirk against his ear when he presses his chest to Izuku’s back and nuzzles his cheek him from behind.

“Embarrassed, nerd?” he whispers.

“N-no, I just—” He shoves at Katsuki’s thighs and pushes out of his lap, though the elf slips an arm around his shoulders anyway. Izuku shoots him a dirty look, then looks up just in time for Hitoshi to finish folding up his blankets.

“Morning,” Hitoshi says, raising a brow.

“Uh... heh, um… Good morning!” Izuku says awkwardly, making an attempt at brightness but feeling far too weird right now to pull it off. Katsuki snorts, then shifts to look at the faery who eyes them skeptically.

“You’re up early,” Katsuki says, this time with enough volume for Hitoshi to hear.

Hitoshi looks at him, then back to Izuku, holding eye contact as he speaks slowly. “Yes, well… it wasn’t exactly quiet .”

“O-oh! Um, sorry if we—I mean, if I woke you… I was just about to—”

“No, no.” Hitoshi waves him off. “It’s fine, really. I’m up and there’s not much to do about it now. You wanna help me gather some wood? We can make a hot breakfast rather than eating that dried crap again.”

“Sure! I can help!” Izuku agrees quickly, out of reflex, but then immediately regrets it. Of course it would be a ploy to talk to him about whatever he heard. The elf snorts behind him.

Katsuki releases his hold around Izuku and climbs out from beneath their blanket. When the hybrid looks up at him, he’s met with an amused grin. “Have fun,” he says, taunting.

“Gee, thanks.”

Izuku pushes to his feet and digs through his pack for his warmer cloak. He sees his breath when he exhales, and separated from Katsuki’s warmth, he can certainly feel the lower temperatures. Once he’s found it, he pulls it on and begrudgingly heads to the other side of their small camp where Hitoshi waits. He is not looking forward to this. The faery already appears amused by the time Izuku reaches him, and he prays internally that they are able to gather the wood in record time.

As they head a little further into the trees, Hitoshi turns to him, voice low.

“So, I can’t scent as you do, but I like to think my intuition is pretty good.”

“Okay…” Izuku responds, raising his brows and waiting for the punchline.

“So I’m not sure how I feel about this development…”

When Izuku finally looks up at Hitoshi, he finds lavender eyes far more serious than he is expecting. He thought Hitoshi was teasing, but he sees now that he is… not. His scent, too, has sharpened: more spice and less floral. Izuku keeps his mouth shut, waiting in silence for the faery to continue.

“Izuku, you know you’re one of my greatest friends. I care about you a lot,” Hitoshi says.

It’s an uncommon sort of admission from the typically sarcastic faery, and Izuku is unsure how to take it. He settles on nodding.

“I can’t trust them, though,” the faery adds. Izuku opens his mouth to protest, but Hitoshi holds a palm up to silence him. “Unless I look into Katsuki’s mind, I don’t know that what he’s doing is in your best interest. I’ve avoided looking so far. I know it would bother you if I did...but for all I know, he’s keeping you happy just to bring you to the slaughter more easily.”

The hybrid furrows his brows, eyes narrowing in irritation. Izuku hasn’t even entertained that idea as a possibility, and he’s not happy that it’s Hitoshi’s primary theory.

“I trust them.” He practically growls. “Isn’t that enough? Don’t you trust me?”

Hitoshi sighs. “It’s not that I don’t, Izuku. It’s just that you’re…” His frustratingly even tone trails off, and he blows a puff of air from his mouth. “How do I put this… You’re…” One lavender brow raises as he looks down to meet Izuku’s gaze. “You’re too kind, Izu, too trusting. You want to see the best in people, so that’s all you see sometimes.”

“That’s not fair,” Izuku retorts. “They’ve been nothing but help me through all the horrible things I’ve learned. I have no reason to believe—”

“You don’t think they care that turning you over to your father would save their population from more pointless death?” Hitoshi arches a brow. “Come on, Izuku. You can’t imagine the thought hasn’t crossed their minds, or at least the minds of the Counsel they’re taking us to. How easy do you want to make it for them? Because right now…this—whatever the hell you’ve got going on—you’re making it look really easy.”

Izuku’s blood boils in his veins, raging fire within him threatening to burst free. His frustration must be palpable because Hitoshi quiets, softens.

“I don’t mean… Look, Izuku. I have to assume the worst. It’s my job.”

The faery looks so apologetic for having brought it up that Izuku almost feels bad for how mad he is right now. But he can’t help the way he feels. He’d expected this sort of commentary from Shouto, but not from Hitoshi. Hitoshi has been with them for weeks now, spent more time with Katsuki and Eijirou than anyone besides Izuku. He should know better.

“What happened to protecting all of me? To wanting what’s best for me? Just what do you think that is? You think I’d be sleeping if I had to deal with these damn nightmares on my own? You don’t know what they’re like!” The more he talks, the more he wants to say, and his voice begins to rise as he goes on. “I just woke from seeing my mom in a torture chamber. From hearing her scream, and cry, and all the things you never, ever want to think of anyone you love doing or dealing with, and I could do nothing.” He pinches the bridge of his nose, massaging. His brow is so tense it’s uncomfortable, giving him a headache now that he’s faced with the memories of those horrid dreams again.

“Izu, I didn’t mean you should deal with them on your own, I just meant—”

His voice grows louder, practically shouting now as he stands his ground with erupting anger. “Meant what? Meant I should handle it differently than I am now? You’d rather me be with someone else? Shouto isn’t here, Hitoshi! Don’t you think I wish he was?! What the hell do you want me to do? Because my alternative at this point is going insane. So let’s see how useful I am then.” His voice drips with acid, but he doesn’t care. The insinuation that Izuku would be better off relying on a faery, on Shouto and Shouto alone , infuriates him. The elves haven’t done a damn thing wrong. Katsuki hasn’t done a damn thing wrong.

Resolutely not looking up at what he’s sure will be a stricken expression on his friends face, he turns sharply to walk back toward camp, doing his best to ignore the wilting jasmine and brightening cloves that fill the air behind him.

He doesn’t get farther than a step before he realizes his mistake.

Old smoke and soaking coals rake over his senses, further worsening the awful scent that suffocates his nose when he catches sight of the Katsuki, just a few steps behind where Izuku had been shouting.

He’s already chewing his lip, wishing he had bitten his tongue instead.

“Don’t you think I wish he was?!”

Damnit. That didn’t come out the way he’d meant. He didn’t mean he’d rather Shouto be here than Katsuki; he just knows that Hitoshi would be fine with the situation if it were Shouto... He didn’t mean—

“Good to fuckin’ know,” Katsuki growls, and Izuku’s heart stops, sending a wave of numbness through his form as he takes in his pained expression. The elf promptly turns to walk back toward camp, and Izuku reaches after him, grabbing his wrist to get his attention, to explain. Of course, he didn’t mean it like that. He just has to—

“Don’t you fuckin’ touch me,” the elf snaps, yanking his wrist away. “Remember when I told you that I wasn’t interested in bein’ used?”

Izuku inhales sharply, opening his mouth to respond, but Katsuki cuts him off before he can even start.

“Ain’t. Fuckin’. Changed.”

Izuku huffs with exasperation. “That’s not what this is. It’s not—”

“Y’know, if I’d’ve thought for one damn second that I was just gonna be some pathetic substitute for half-n-half, I woulda let you stay back in that shithole village so the elves could come hunt you down themselves.” Katsuki’s voice is venom, and tendrils of smoke rise from his palms, though his scent doesn’t follow. Worn coals remain sopping, drenched and useless.

Regardless, Izuku’s anger grows at not being heard.

“I was defending—”

“Can’t believe I thought this bullshit was anything at all,” Katsuki says flatly.

Izuku’s eyes begin to burn. He’s not sure if it’s from the smoke his own frustration, or the hole that’s growing in his chest, but they burn nonetheless.

How can Katsuki say something like that? Bullshit? Really? Izuku is pissed off now, offended and hurt. How could Katsuki think that? After everything they’ve been through together, talked about, shared with each other... He really believes that’s all this was? Has he no faith in Izuku at all? He wants to hit him, to cry in his arms, to kick him and kiss him and yell in his face. Izuku doesn’t really know which one he would do first, but he knows for sure that he’s upset.

His eyes narrow as he hisses through his teeth. “Glad to know that’s what you think of me.”

Then he stomps off to his own pack, quickly refilling it with his furs and calling for Aki. The moment that the glider reaches his shoulder, he sets off on the trail, not waiting for any of the others to prepare. They’ll catch up quickly enough. Right now, he needs room to breathe.

 

---



It has to have been a few hours before anyone speaks again. Hitoshi was first to follow him, and it was a while before Katsuki or Eijirou caught up, so Izuku suspects they hung back to talk. Those stupid coals still haunt his senses, though, and the hybrid is beginning to feel guilty.

He does wish Shouto could be here with him. He does miss his best friend. But he wouldn’t trade Katsuki to get him back. Katsuki himself has wormed his way into Izuku’s heart, too—just in a different place, a different way. Izuku doesn’t want him in the same way he wants Shouto, but he wants him—that’s for certain.  

These past few hours with no trace of sugar or caramel or sticky sweetness in any form have been painful for Izuku. The wet coals feel like a physical weight on his shoulders, his lungs, and his body doesn’t want to move anymore, doesn’t want to breathe until they’re gone—until Katsuki’s scent becomes sweet and vibrant and beautiful, like it’s meant to be. But he doesn’t know how to make them go away, and he’s not sure that any attempt would be well received, so he doesn’t bother trying.

Instead, he looks forward, follows what he believes to be the path since no one has stopped to correct him yet, and tries hard to distract himself with the sounds of the nature around him.

Birdcall.

Rustling brush.

Trickling water.

Wind in the trees.

A sharp elbow jabs his side—Hitoshi.

“Hey.”

Izuku gives him a side eye and keeps walking. Eyes ahead once more, he responds.

“What.”

Wilting florals catch his attention and guilt overruns him. Damnit. Why can’t he just be a little less empathetic? He sighs and turns to look at his friend.

“...What is it?” he asks more softly.

“I didn’t mean to make you mad,” the faery says. One brow raises higher than the other as he waits for Izuku to comment. When he doesn’t, Hitoshi continues. “I was trying to look out for you. But...you’re right: if you were doing these things with Shouto, I wouldn’t worry. It’s not because I hate all elves; I don’t. It’s because I’d trust Shouto with my life, and with yours...and that’s a different situation. If anyone aside from him were hanging all over you the way that elf does, I think I’d get just as defensive.”

Izuku remains silent, knowing there’s more that Hitoshi will say. It’s not often that he exhibits such a serious demeanor, and the hybrid knows better than to interrupt. Even without his magic, Hitoshi is usually insightful, and his advice, when genuine, is something Izuku has always taken to heart.

“I’ve spent a lot of time with Shouto over the years…” the faery says softly. “Probably the only person who knows him better than me is you. And it’s… frustrating… for me to see you interested in someone else because I know it’s gonna hurt him. He’d never admit it though.”

He laughs dryly, lavender gaze searching the skies, tracing the clouds.

“I’m not—I’m not upset with you. It’s just…hard to put the idea of you two aside, especially after seeing you... sort-of together. For a while there, anyway. I suddenly thought it might work out, and that would’ve been pretty damn perfect. I know how long he’s wanted you. And I know how long you’ve been…well…undecided, I guess.” He offers Izuku a sad smile. “But he’s not the only one who feels. You’re my friend, too. And I do care about your happiness, so if this… elf… is making you happy, then I’ll, ah…I’ll try to view him more fairly, alright?”

Izuku sighs, long and slow. He’s thought about this. Quite a lot, in fact. And it’s been easier to separate his feelings for Katsuki and for Shouto after having been away from the faery for a while now. With Katsuki, it’s like there’s a live wire, a current that connects them. Izuku is drawn to him, wants to touch him, feel him, kiss him…

And he’s not even totally sure that Katsuki wants all of those things, but Izuku does, which is why it’s so different. With Shouto, Izuku wanted those things because he knew they made the faery happy, and that made Izuku happy in turn. It’s not anything like the raw desire he’s felt more recently.

He’s never craved Shouto the way he craves Katsuki.

The thought makes him sad, though. He wishes he did. He’s always wished he could feel as strongly for Shouto as the faery has felt for him. It would make their lives much simpler.

Hitoshi hums, thoughtful, and Izuku groans, eyes scrunching shit and face on fire because he’s 99% sure he just said all that out loud. He perks his ears, listening for the elves and finds their footsteps out of earshot.

Good. They probably didn’t hear that.

Hitoshi looks down at him with amusement, jasmine flitting through Izuku’s nose as the faery’s spirits rise in response to his furiously blushing face and obvious embarrassment.

Izuku huffs. “Not that it matters anymore! He made it clear that he thinks I’m just using him as some kinda stupid replacement.”

The faery raises a brow and then snorts, throwing an arm over the hybrid’s shoulder. “Izu, you can’t honestly think that elf is angry at you.”

Izuku glares up at him.

“He’s just pissed off that you don’t like him as much as he likes you. He’ll get over it when he realizes he’s being an idiot.”

“How on earth would you know that?” Izuku narrows his eyes and crosses his arms, skeptical. Hitoshi avoids Katsuki any time he has the chance. He’s certainly not an expert on the elf’s frame of mind.

The faery sends Izuku one of his trademark, sleepy grins. “‘Cause I checked.”

“HITOSHI!” Izuku shouts, appalled. “What were you thinking?!  Does he know?! He was already angry! And now you—you’ve—ugh!” He groans. “He’s gonna be so pissed…”

“Hey, if you want me to lay off, I had to know for sure where his head was at.” Hitoshi shrugs without apology.

Suddenly a whiff of flame and dry smoke brushes Izuku’s nose, and though it’s not ideal, it is a welcome change from the soggy, useless coals he’d scented earlier.

“Who’s gonna be pissed?” comes the growl from behind them.

Izuku groans again, echoed by the sound of Eijiro’s own frustration as he catches up. Suddenly Katsuki’s form is right next to Izuku, and the animosity flows from him in waves as he practically bares his teeth at the faery. It softens slightly when he looks down to the hybrid in between them.

“Oi. The fuck did the purple fucker do?” His crimson gaze flicks between Izuku and Hitoshi, like he’s afraid to take his eyes off either one for more than a moment, and the faery laughs, rubbing Izuku’s shoulder.

“Wow, you’re so easy to rile up, you know that?” Hitoshi grins. “You should be happy I can look into your head when I want. At least now I know you’re not planning on turning Izuku over to his psycho dad.” He shrugs, like it’s no big deal that he just invaded the elf’s mind and could easily have found and examined any of his deepest, darkest secrets.

Izuku still doesn’t totally understand how Hitoshi’s magic works. He knows the faery can look into people’s minds, read their thoughts, but he’s not sure how much detail he can see, or how much he can push around. For example, can he only read the current thoughts, or can he look beyond that? Does he need to elicit the thoughts he’d like to read? Izuku has asked in the past, but the faery prefers it remain a mystery, so he suspects that there are ways to prevent Hitoshi’s invasion, and the faery is simply being cautious.

Regardless, he’s surprised that Katsuki didn’t notice Hitoshi in his head.

“You what?” The elf spits. His face twists to an expression Izuku hasn’t seen before. Disgust, maybe? Izuku fights the urge to snort. “What the fuck?! Why the hell would I do some shit like that?”

Hitoshi’s shit-eating grin only grows further. He doesn’t respond, and Katsuki’s next observation is his arm over Izuku’s shoulder. He steps in front of the two of them and stops, halting their motion as he snarls at Hitoshi. He shoves his arm off Izuku’s shoulder and puts his own around it.

“Now that you’re satisfied with my goddamn intentions, I’m sure you’ll have no objections to this shit.” He pulls Izuku closer, and the hybrid stumbles, then shoves him off. As much as Izuku relishes the touch, he’s still angry at Katsuki for his assumption and for calling whatever it is that’s going on between them “bullshit.” He’s not done pouting.

“Don’t be such an ass,” Izuku says, frowning. “A few hours ago, I wasn’t even allowed to touch you.”

Katsuki reels back, flames disappearing once more. “How’d you expect me to react to you wishin’ for half-n-half when I’m right here?”

“He’s not half-n-half!” Izuku erupts. “His name is Shouto. And whether you like him or not, he’s my best friend! Of course I wish he was here! Don’t you miss Eijirou when he’s gone?!”

A bright and airy sound bursts from behind the three of them, sunny scent poignant amongst the sullen ash and ember weighing heavily on the atmosphere. Izuku turns to see Eijirou laughing, and his own lips can’t help but twitch at the genuine smile the elf exhibits.

When he looks back to see Katsuki’s reaction, he finds his brow is furrowed, mouth twisted in outrage before he opens it, but then snaps it shut. He says nothing, just huffs and grits his teeth. Izuku watches the muscle of his jaw as it shifts and flexes with the motion.

“Aww... don’t you miss me, Katsuki?” Eijirou teases.

“I don’t fuckin’ miss that idiot,” Katsuki grumbles. Izuku narrows his eyes at him.

Liar.

“What?!” Eijirou responds, eyes wide and hand over heart, pretending astonishment. “I can’t believe… Wow… Well, you’re my best friend, man.” He sets his lips in a dramatic frown, brows curling as he pretends to sniff.

“I miss you when you’re gone, Eijirou,” Izuku giggles.

“Thanks Izuku, glad someone does.” The elf winks at him as Katsuki rolls his eyes and stalks off ahead to pout.

Chapter Text

Three days later, they’re about a mile from the city. Katsuki can tell because the greenery has gotten thicker, the humidity heavier. The sun is bright and hot on their skin during the days, and the nights have become icy and frigid. He relishes the shifts—they’re familiar, a sign of home.

 

“So, ah… when’re you gonna apologize?”

 

Katsuki scoffs. “The fuck I gotta apologize for?”

 

He’s met with a long, exasperated sigh. “Man, you hurt his feelings.”

 

“If anyone’s fuckin’ feelings were hurt, it’s—”

 

Eijirou levels him with a glare.

 

“That damn nerd said—”

 

A raised brow.

 

Fuck Eijirou for knowing exactly how to make Katsuki feel guilty. He takes a deep breath and regroups. He’s still determined to hold his ground, if only on principle.

 

“I didn’t do shit wrong. I ain’t apologizin’.”

 

The redhead groans. “That is not manly, dude. You gotta apologize.”

 

“For what!?!”

 

“For bein’ an asshole, that’s what!”

 

“When the hell was I an asshole?! He’s the one that made it sound like this was nothin’. He’s the one who—”

“Dude.”

 

“WHAT?!”

 

“Katsuki. Man. You know he didn’t mean that. Quit bein’ so difficult and go tell him you’re sorry for thinkin’ the worst.”

 

Katsuki huffs and bites down hard, clenching his jaw. 

 

“Fine.”

 

He gives Eijirou one last dirty look for good measure, then slows down so the hybrid can catch up, falling into step when Izuku reaches his side.

 

The hybrid looks at him from the corner of his pretty-as-fuck emerald eyes, and Katsuki is already irritated with himself. This is why he can’t stay pissed off. The guy is too damn gorgeous and enthralling and—

 

No. Not why he’s here.

 

He takes a deep breath, deliberately not thinking about the mouthwatering appeal of dense woods and lush plant life that coats his palate. He moves a little closer, arm almost brushing Izuku’s as they walk. He doesn’t wanna say this shit any louder than he has to.

 

“Oi, doc...”

 

Izuku lifts one forest green brow as his sharp eyes flick up in his direction. How someone so fuckin’ tiny can make him feel small is beyond Katsuki’s comprehension, but somehow that look makes him feel miniscule.

 

He swallows, feeling his cheeks turn pink.

 

“I, ah… I just wanted to…” He huffs another deep breath. “I wanted to… Fuck, I…” He can’t get the words to come out. His hands tremble and his heart races. Why is this so hard?

 

Katsuki looks down to see Izuku’s lip twitch at the corner, and he fights the urge to growl at him. This fucker is enjoying this.

 

“You… what?” Izuku asks, one side of his mouth pulling to a full smirk.

 

“Damnit, you know what I’m trying to say. You probably heard Eij and I talkin’.”

 

“Mhmm… and yet… you haven’t said it,” he responds, voice lilting and mischievous. It makes Katsuki want to press their lips together so he can taste the sound for himself.

 

He huffs. “I’m fuckin’ trying.”

 

“Not very hard.” 

 

“Why’re you makin’ it harder?!” Katsuki snaps. “I just wanna say that I’m sorry, okay?! Damnit. Just fuckin’ take it for what it is, alright?!”

 

Izuku snorts before erupting into full on laughter, scent brightening like the springtime sun, smile shining like a star on a cloudless night. Katsuki’s face burns with embarrassment, but as he takes in Izuku’s freckles, glittering against his rounded cheeks, he can’t help but feel like the apology was worth it.

 

He shifts closer, elbowing Izuku in the arm as he forces a pout to stay on his face. “Ay. Don’t laugh at me.”

 

Izuku grins up at him and grabs the offending elbow with his hand, then slides down his forearm. The touch sends a thrill up his spine when the hybrid reaches the bottom, lacing his fingers in with Katsuki’s own—warm and soft and gentle.

 

“You’re forgiven,” he says.

 

Katsuki grips his hand tighter, looking ahead without response, sure his scent is going wild.



---



It’s not long before they’re surrounded by the carved trunks and wooden stalls Katsuki associates with the outskirts of Azmarin. The smells of fresh fish, breads, and stews waft to his nose as they near the small stands, children scurrying across the dirt paths, playing tag and kicking stones around while parents laugh and yell. Izuku releases his hand and jogs a short distance ahead. His face is alight with childlike amazement, and he laughs as he looks back to Katsuki.

 

“You didn’t tell me there were so many people!” he shouts.

 

“Azmarin doesn’t have any limitations on occupants…” Eijirou explains. “If there’s a tree to carve or space to build a home, elves can move in and out as they please. We live off the land, but so many of us are gifted farmers and gardeners that it’s never really been an issue. Living is pretty much communal here.”

 

The hybrid’s brows rise, and he opens his mouth to speak before being half-tackled by a small girl. The girl’s eyes go wide as she looks up to see Izuku’s green hair, then Hitoshi’s lavender. Elves don’t have crazy hair colors like the fae. Katsuki hadn’t thought about it before now, but the two of them are going to stick out like sore thumbs.

 

The little girl swallows. “I—um. I-I’m sorry mister!” She flails.

 

Izuku ruffles her brown hair and looks down at her with shining eyes. “It’s okay! You were just having fun. I know it was only an accident.” He smiles warmly—in that otherworldly way that only the fae can—and the girl’s cheeks blush a bright, deep red. Katsuki snorts. The hybrid is gonna be the envy of the entire city. 

 

The little girl giggles and kicks her foot into the dirt. “Th-thanks!” She mumbles, then turns and runs off to her friends who wait on the periphery, staring.

 

Izuku looks up to Katsuki, who has now arrived by his side, and raises his brows. “What was that about…?” he asks. “She seemed so embarrassed! It was no big deal.”

 

“You’re probably the prettiest thing she’s ever seen, ya idiot.” Katsuki blurts the words before his mind can catch up. Ah, fuck. Well, it’s true. No sense in taking it back.

 

At that, Izuku’s cheeks burn a shade that rivals the small girl’s, eucalyptus spiking the air. 

 

“W-what?!”

 

Katsuki grins. “Y’know… all that fae nonsense you got in your blood?” He waves his hand around vaguely. “Makes ya softer than we are. Shinier than we are. Everyone here’s rough an’ tumble. Ain’t gonna find anyone else with forest colored hair and teeth so white they fuckin’ glow in the dark.”

 

“Eijirou’s hair is red!” Izuku whines, affronted.

 

Shinsou rolls his eyes. “Red is a perfectly average hair color, Izu.” He gives the hybrid a crooked smile. “We’re different. You might as well prepare for the—”

 

A high-pitched scream interrupts him, followed by an enthusiastic shout. 

 

“OH MY GOSH, THEY’RE BACK!” 


Katsuki turns around just in time to brace himself before he’s nearly tackled by a screaming brown bob and tiny female form. Lean arms wrap around him tightly, and Katsuki’s senses are overpowered by the smell of sweet peaches. His arms instinctively wrap around her, fingers nearly catching in the strappy material that wraps her bare waist. Ochako is known for avoiding the flowy, traditional clothes that most female elves wear, obsessed with remaining mobile and uninhibited for hunting and battle. Her hips and thighs are barely covered by a pair of torn denim shorts, and her feet are protected by a pair of short leather boots that rise over her ankles. 

 

A hint of algae and mold bite at his senses, and his eyes reflexively dart to Izuku, whose own eyes are wide, brow furrowed. What’s he thinking? He can’t possibly be assuming that he and Ochako...?

 

Disgusting.

 

“Get the hell offa me, round cheeks.” He growls, but Ochako only giggles, squeezing tighter. The bangle on her arm digs into his ribs and feels cold against his skin, and he jerks backward to no avail. 

 

Eijirou whines. “Where’s my welcome, Ocha?” She laughs and abruptly lets Katsuki go—much to his relief—before turning to hug Eijirou instead. He returns her embrace with a smile, picking her up and spinning her around.

 

Katsuki takes the opportunity to peek back at the hybrid, who seems to have recovered minutely. He must have recalled that everyone can scent him, because his scent is all but gone. Katsuki begins to grit his teeth. He hates that. He wishes Izuku would stop worryin’ about what everyone else thinks for once. Then again, if he were thrown into unfamiliar territory under these circumstances, he’d hesitate to appear vulnerable, too… Maybe he’s just being smart.

 

After she releases Eijirou, Ochako turns to the hybrid and the faery who stand to the side, silently watching. She sends a sunny smile their way.

“Oh my gosh, I’m sorry! That was so rude... I was just so excited to see the boys back safe and sound.” She crosses her arms behind her back and tilts her head. “I’m Ochako Uraraka! Glad to meet you!” 

 

Hitoshi narrows his eyes at her for a long moment, clearly assessing, before he relaxes his posture. Katsuki can’t help but wonder if he’d just taken a brief glance into her mind. Is it that quick? Is it something that takes much effort? If it happened, it didn’t seem to be very difficult. The faery holds out a hand.

 

“Hitoshi Shinsou,” he says. She takes his hand with a grin and shakes it. 

 

“So then you must be...” She starts before turning to look at Izuku in earnest. A slight pink spreads on her cheeks as her scent sweetens further. “Wow…” she breathes.

 

Katsuki fights the urge to roll his eyes as an obvious blush spreads over the hybrid’s cheeks, too. How fucking annoying. Of course, Ochako would find the nerd attractive—he is attractive. But she doesn’t need to be so damn obvious about it; it makes him uncomfortable, obviously. 

 

Izuku’s eyes quickly dart to assess his face just as Eijirou elbows him in the ribs. 

 

“Chill, man.” He mumbles under his breath.

 

Katsuki must be pumping irritation into the air. 

 

Damnit.

 

Thankfully, Ochako is too distracted by Izuku to notice. “Um… You must be Izuku Midoriya, right?” 

 

“Y-yeah! That’s me!” He chirps, emerald eyes shifting back to take her in, basically glittering against the bright sun of the open space they stand in. “You can just call me I-Izuku! Or Izu. That’s what ‘toshi calls me, anyway.” He gives her a bright smile, and his scent rises slightly, summer forest tickling Katsuki’s nose.

 

“Sorry for staring! Just, um… you look—well, I’ve never seen a hybrid before!” She rubs the back of head head awkwardly. “I’m glad to meet you, though! Sorry it’s under such, uh… uncomfortable circumstances.” Her eyes find the dirt.

 

Katsuki huffs at the reminder that Izuku is not here for pleasure, and his irritation only grows, accompanied by the harsh and biting smell of heating cloves. Is that the faery? He’s never actually scented Hitoshi angry before. Katsuki’s eyes shift to see his usually relaxed face carved in seriousness, watching Izuku, and it’s not long before Izuku’s gaze finds Katsuki’s, lined with worry. Katsuki moves a little closer.

“Where’re you guys gonna have’em stay?” Katsuki raises a brow at Ochako, decidedly changing the subject.

 

“Oh, right!” She startles. “Well, um… Councilman Aizawa was a little difficult about it… but eventually Councilman Kirishima convinced him that Izuku should be treated as our guest until proven otherwise… So, he’s in the guest space for now. We weren’t expecting a second guest, but I can make up a room pretty quick so you each have your own! I can show you the way.” 

 

Of course the damn Council would wanna treat him like a criminal, even though he’d come voluntarily, against the wishes of his own village leader. The elves really can be as savage as their stereotype sometimes. Katsuki growls. At least Kirishima was there to help him out; Eijirou must have spoken to him about the circumstances before he came to collect Izuku from Willesden.

 

Ochako takes a few steps and then pauses to look over her shoulder. “Oh, and I almost forgot. Katsuki, the Council wanted you to check in as soon as you got here. I can take Izuku and Hitoshi to the living quarters.”

 

Katsuki nods, but Eijirou grabs his arm. “You don’t have to do that if you don’t want to. You can stay with Izuku if you want. I can go talk to them.” The redhead offers under his breath.

 

“Why the hell would I do that?” Katsuki grouses. “They didn’t ask for you, dumbass. They’ll be pissed if I don’t come. And the nerd can handle himself; I ain’t worried.” 

 

Izuku shoots him a genuine grin, and he can tell that his scent is marginally improved. It’s not great, but it’s better. Katsuki will take what he can get.

 

He stuffs his hands in his pockets. “I’m goin’. I’ll find ya later.”

 

Izuku’s waves bounce as he nods, and Katsuki stalks off to find out what the hell the Council wants.



---



“So, you’re alive,” his ruler says, looking every bit as bored and unceremonious as he sounds. His ratty black hair hangs in unkempt waves around his face, falling into his eyes, stubble at least 3 days old around his chin. For the position he holds, Shouta Aizawa really doesn’t take much pride in his appearance.

 

Katsuki rolls his eyes. “Apparently.”

 

The Councilman heaves a sigh, leaning back into his tall chair from behind the stone carved table that all but Katsuki are seated behind. Why the entire Council had to convene for this is beyond him. He decides to ask outright.

 

“Why the hell am I here?” 

 

Aizawa never does anything without a purpose. The guy might look like a mess, but mentally, he’s got his shit figured out. He’s a sharp elf; it’s how he wound up head of the Council in the first place. In fact, Katsuki suspects he’s being observed and analyzed for loyalty. It won’t matter what they actually talk about; they’re going to follow his scents. 

 

He has to wonder though… do they know something about his interest in Izuku? What do they know of Izuku at all, actually? Probably shit. Probably lies and rumors and faery tale conceptions. His blood begins to boil, and he doesn’t bother trying to hide it.

 

“Katsuki, please calm down.” Chiyo’s voice is fragile and rickety with age, and Katsuki’s eyes shift to take her in. She sits stoutly to Aizawa’s left, grey hair tied back in the same severe bun it always is, showing off her wrinkles and the roundness of her face. “We were all worried for your safety. You know, it’s been months since we saw you last! Eijirou told us that you had been harmed and were still healing when he was here recently. Have you regained function of your shoulder?”

 

Katsuki relents at her genuine worry, the scents of cotton and astringent reaching his nose. He’s never been sure if those scents are her pheromones or simply the smell of her medical supplies, but either way, he’s pretty sure that Chiyo doesn’t have a bad bone in her body. 

 

He nods, rolling out the shoulder in question, finding it a little stiff but not painful. She smiles and sits back. 

 

“Good,” Aizawa says. “Likely we’ll need your skills again soon. Are you up for fighting yet?”

 

Suspicion rises in Katsuki’s gut once more. Why would he need to fight? When? Against whom?

 

...the Unseelie?

 

As much as Katsuki would love to demolish their entire population after what they’ve done, he’s not sure that they could ever actually find the elusive group. He bites the inside of his cheek, thinking.

 

When Aizawa doesn’t receive an answer, he groans. “If you can’t trust your own kind, why’d you even bother coming home?”

 

“That’s not fair, Councilman.” A feminine voice rises. “He’s only just arrived, and from what I have heard, he’s really close with the Unseelie boy—” 

 

“Izuku,” Katsuki barks. “That’s his name.”

 

Blue eyes shift to take him in before the edges crinkle with a smile. Itsuka Kendo has always been one of the more reasonable elves on the Council. She inherited her seat at a rather young age, after the death of her parents, but she’s done a damn good job.

 

“With Izuku.” She amends, offering a soft, apologetic smile. Then she turns back toward Aizawa. “You can’t expect him to trust us when he knows we’ve brought his friend here to stand trial.”

 

Sorahiko huffs. “He’s known this Unseelie kid for a few months. He’s known us all his life. We’ve earned some trust, if ya ask me.” 

 

Chiyo smacks his arm. “Nobody did ask you, ya old grump!”

 

Katsuki resists the urge to snort. Ol’ Sorahiko isn’t even officially a Councilman anymore, having met retirement age many years ago. He still sits on the Council, however, because he enjoys it. He’s a little out of his mind, but everyone allows it because he’s so damn old. No one wants to offend him, and they figure they’ve only got a few more years to deal with it anyway.

 

Aizawa releases a long, exasperated sigh. “I don’t care. I just need to know whether our best warrior is going to fight for us or not.”

 

Katsuki immediately returns to the defensive, hands balling into fists as his palms begin to sweat. “I’m not gonna hurt Izuku.”

 

One dark brow raises, awaiting explanation. Katsuki doesn’t feel compelled to give it. He crosses his arms instead.

 

“I don’t recall asking you to hurt him. Interesting that you would jump to that conclusion, don’t you think?” He cocks a brow at Katsuki, but continues after a moment. “If he’s guilty of the crimes he stands trial for, someone will, be it you or another warrior. He can’t be allowed to continue, if that’s the case.”

 

Katsuki’s stomach twists, making him want to wretch as his jaw clenches with anger. Sparks pop from his palms, and he makes no effort to rein them in, smoke gracing the air around him, menacing. 

 

“He’s not guilty of shit.” He snarls, offended and angry on Izuku’s behalf. If they’d just take the damn time to meet him, to know him without putting him on a fucking trial, they’d see what he’s like. They’d know there’s no way in hell that Izuku could hurt someone that way.

 

“Yes, well. We’ll find out when we talk to him tonight. No need to get worked up before the trial even starts. You can go.” Aizawa waves his hand lazily in dismissal, and Katsuki grits his teeth. 

 

“Tonight?” That’s harsh, even for the elves. Usually they’d at least allow a meal and a moment to settle. Izuku hasn’t even been on the grounds for an hour. He’ll barely have time to fuckin’ sit down.  “What time?” 

 

“None of your concern. Your presence won’t be needed.”

 

The blonde on the other end of the Council table begins coughing, waving her manicured nails in front of her face, and Katsuki realizes he’s still emitting small explosions. He crosses his arms over his chest with his fists tightly closed, nails digging into his palms. He’s sure she’ll have something fucking stupid to say. Yu Takeyama has got to be the most useless addition to the council so far. All she does is complain; though she never offers any kind of solutions. It’s well known that she doesn’t add much, but her family line is undeniable, and no one really has the power to say she doesn’t deserve her place.

 

“We get it. You’re angry,” she says, picking at her nails. “It stinks, so get over it.” 

 

Instead of gracing her rudeness with a response, Katsuki shifts his attention to another blond instead, taking in the gaunt features and blue eyes he’s come to respect. 

 

“You’ll all be present tonight?” He asks, making meaningful eye contact. 

 

He hopes to hell and back that the whole council will be there. Aizawa is smart, but he can be too damn harsh and severe. Katsuki isn’t sure what Izuku would do in response to that. 

 

There are times when the hybrid seems to crumble under pressure, but there are also times that Katsuki can see a rare fire in his eyes. Izuku certainly isn’t afraid to stand up for what he believes in, at least not anymore, and if being convicted of this crime meant he could never return home to his friends, there’s a good chance that fire will come out… As much as Katsuki would like to see it, it probably won’t help his case.

 

Another voice answers—a much more friendly one this time. “We will, Katsuki.” He turns his head to find familiar vermillion eyes meeting his own with a smile. “Don’t worry. It will be a fair questioning.”

 

Breathing comes a bit easier then. He can trust Councilman Kirishima, too. At least someone will be in his corner. If Eijirou got to speak with him during his last visit, he will know enough about Izuku to believe him when he says he’s had nothing to do with these incidents. 

 

Even so… His eyes jump back to the ocean blue he’d originally connected with. Now, though, Toshinori sits with a frown, unseeing, as though some part of this just doesn’t sit right. Katsuki wonders what it is.


He nods in acknowledgement, then turns to leave without another word. 

 

—-

 

Ochako is waiting for him in the hallway, leaning back against stacked stone as a booted foot taps the floor with impatience… or anxiety. Katsuki isn’t sure which. 

 

“How’d it go?” She asks, one brow raised in expectation.

 

Katsuki scoffs. “Bout as good as you’d expect.”

 

“You know Aizawa is only hard on you because he knows how strong you are.”

 

“Whatever.”

 

He stalks past her and heads toward the east wing, where the living quarters are built. He can barely hear her footsteps on the stone floor behind him. She’s gotten lighter on her feet since he’s been gone. Quick learner; he was on her about that a lot a few months ago. She must have been practicing in his absence.

 

When he rounds the next corner, he turns. 

 

“The fuck you think you’re doing?”

 

Her eyes widen, a burst of cinnamon entering the air. Katsuki smirks. She hasn’t totally outgrown her fear of him. He is still sufficiently formidable, at least, despite his long absence.

 

“I, um, I thought you might wanna know where… um...” Her gaze falls to watch her index fingers tap together. “I was gonna show you… Don’t you want to know where Izuku and Hitoshi are staying?” She looks back up at him, chestnut eyes shifty and nervous. 

 

He does, actually. Since he’s able to pick up Izuku’s scent so easily, he figured he could find it himself. But now that she mentions it, he probably shouldn’t tell anyone that’s the case. It’s not exactly normal to follow a scent like a dog, even for elves. He closes his eyes and takes a deep breath, forcing the scowl off his face and rearranging his features to something more neutral. 

 

“Yeah. Show me.”

 

She lights up, a bright smile immediately stretching her full pink lips as she nods rapidly. “Yes! This way!” She passes Katsuki and picks up the pace, footsteps now more audible. Katsuki rolls his eyes—apparently she’s not that quick a learner.

 

They follow the dim, torchlit hallways in rushed silence for a while. As they grow closer, Katsuki picks up the welcome scent of bountiful woods, rich soil and vibrant plant life. His lips tug to a half smile in anticipation. 

 

Ochako’s eyes shift to look at him, thoughtful, and he growls. 

 

“What.”

 

Her brows dart upward, spice spiking again. 

 

“You’re, um… you’re excited to see him…” She says. 

 

He catches the fact that she said him, and not them, but he doesn’t answer anyway, pulling his lips back to a flat line as he looks forward and continues walking. 

 

“Your scent is sweet, ya know? Like sugar. But… I don’t remember it ever being this sweet. Do you…” She pauses, considering her words. 

 

Katsuki’s heart rate picks up, a hyperactive pitter-patter in his chest. He swallows and takes a deep breath, willing it to calm. He does not want to have this conversation right now. Not at all, in fact. 

 

His scent must betray him though, because her eyebrows only raise, pink dusting her cheeks.

 

“...What is he to you?” She asks quietly. 

 

“Who?” He asks, though he already knows the answer. Even so, his brow furrows, unsure. It’s not exactly the question he expected. He thought she’d ask how he felt about the hybrid, not what he is to Katsuki.

 

“Izuku,” she responds.

 

What is Izuku to him? Is he anything, really? Katsuki guesses they are friends. More than friends. But not so much more that there is an appropriate name for it… Right?

 

“What makes you think he’s anything to me?” He frowns. “Why not ask about Hitoshi?”

 

Ochako bursts into laughter. “It doesn’t take divination to know that faery doesn’t like you. I don’t know what you did to him and his, but it was enough to earn some harsh feelings.” She grins at him. “We can talk about that later. But Izuku is different.” Her expression softens. “Your interactions are different, and he... looks to you. And what Eijirou said about you staying with him… And your scent now, knowing you’ll see him soon… You’re clearly something.” 

 

His heart swells. 

 

‘He looks to you.’ 

 

Does he? Katsuki kind of wants to ask for more details on what she’s observed, but instead decides to end the conversation. He doesn’t need anyone looking too deeply into what they are. If they think he’s biased, his opinion might be disregarded. He doesn’t expect any difficulty in making a decision about the hybrid, but he doesn’t want to jinx things... Just in case.

 

“No, we’re not. Drop it,” he says flatly. 

 

She rubs her lips together, then nods slowly. “Okay. Sorry…”

 

Katsuki takes a deep breath. The scent is so strong now that he might as well be walking amongst the trees themselves, feet digging into rich soil, birdsong overhead. They must be nearby. 

 

“We close?”

 

Ochako looks at him curiously before she grins. “Yep! Just there.” She points to a heavy oak door down at the other end of the hall and smiles at him. “I’ll just uh… I’ll go let everyone know that they’re settled, so they can have some dinner brought up! Or they could come down for dinner…?” She raises her brows hopefully as her grin grows, clearly excited about the prospect.

 

Will Izuku want to meet everyone today? Katsuki isn’t sure. He sure as hell wouldn’t want to socialize his first day in a new place... but the hybrid is not much like him. 

 

“I’ll let you know.” He settles. 

 

“Alriiight…” She drags the word out in disappointment, clearly pessimistic about the result that will come. “Well, I guess I’ll see you soon then!”

 

“Yeah… See ya.” 

 

Katsuki doesn’t pay attention as she leaves, already focused on the large oak door in front of him. He raises a hand to knock. The sound echoes in the empty hallway before a metal latch inside clangs and scrapes. He wipes his sweaty hands on his pants just as the door creaks open, and an emerald gaze quickly works over his form before Izuku’s mouth breaks into a wide smile, eyes finally meeting Katsuki’s own.

 

“Hi,” he says softly.

 

Katsuki snorts. “Hi.”

 

Izuku’s grin becomes impossibly wider. “You wanna come in?” he asks.

 

“S’why I’m here, aint it?”

 

“Well, I don’t know why you’re here. I just opened the door.” Izuku teases. He steps aside and gestures for him to enter before his brow furrows. “No Eijirou?”

 

“He’s probably visiting his mom. I don’t think he got much time with her when he was here last.”

 

“Ah.” Izuku nods slowly, then takes a seat on the modest bed. The wood creaks quietly when he sits and pats the wool bedding beside him. “So… why did the Councilmen want to see you?”

 

Katsuki plops down and then immediately falls backward to look at the uneven stones in the ceiling, groaning. 

 

“I don’t even know?” His features twist to something just shy of a grimace when he thinks back on it. He’s really not sure what they called him in for. To examine his shoulder? To see how he’d react when they brought up Izuku? Normally the Council was really straight-forward about these sorts of things. Then again, he’d never been a party in question, only an observer.

 

“Oh?” Izuku lies down beside him and props his head in his palm. The position makes him appear childlike, even more innocent than usual. “Well… what did you talk about, then?” 

 

When Katsuki hesitates, thinking, Izuku becomes flustered. “Or, um… I mean—I don’t wanna pry, I just— Sorry! If you can’t tell me, that’s okay, too.” His cheeks glow a light pink, green eyes bright. He pushes himself to sit upright and bites down on his lower lip. “Don’t feel like you—”

 

Katsuki barks a laugh and yanks his arm to pull him back down. Izuku bounces on the mattress, unable to catch himself with his wrist in Katsuki’s grip. The hybrid looks at him in surprise, seemingly affronted, though his scent bursts brighter with eucalyptus and mint. It makes Katsuki grin.

 

“S’not that,” Katsuki explains. “I was just thinkin’ about it... We didn’t really discuss any one thing.”

 

Izuku’s expression relaxes as his wrist is released, and he bends his arm to pillow his head as Katsuki continues. “They wanted to check out my shoulder, I guess. Asked if I was ready to fight again.”

 

At that, a forest brow raises. 

 

“Didn’t say why though.Oh, and apparently, they’re gonna talk with you soon. Tonight, some time.”

 

Izuku’s scent diminishes in the air, and Katsuki’s eyes flit over him, searching for something that would give it away. There’s nothing. His lips are now pulled to one side in thought, but no part of his countenance gives away distress. 

 

Is he distressed? Is that what the quiet means? Katsuki still hasn’t exactly figured out the differences between when his scent is openly sour and when it’s just… absent. He doesn’t like it either way.

 

“Why do you do that?” he blurts.

 

The hybrid’s brow furrows. “Do what?”

 

“I can hardly smell you…” Katsuki leans in a bit closer and inhales deeply. There’s the vaguest scent of earth, but that’s about it.

 

Izuku’s gaze shiftt to the grey wool of the bedspread. His fingers play with the frayed edges. “Is that what you meant when you said my scent was quiet before…?”

 

“Yeah… It is.” The elf grabs Izuku’s hand to stop it from picking, and jade eyes finally meet his own. “Stop hidin’.”

 

The gaze grows hard. “I’m not.”

 

“Bullshit. I dunno why I can smell you so much better than anyone else, but I can. And if I can’t scent you, no one can. You’re hiding.”

 

Izuku huffs. “I don’t even think about it. I just do it. I’m not... hiding.” 

 

“You are, dumbass . There’s barely anything in the air.”

 

Katsuki leans in to sniff again, this time opening his mouth to enhance it, to see if he can taste Izuku on his palate, and the scent does grow a little stronger, more heavy, more intoxicating... 

 

“R-really…?” Izuku’s voice whispers. It trembles with feeling—feeling that Katsuki can’t exactly decipher by smell... but he wants to.

 

He braces himself with a palm on the bed as he leans over the hybrid, caging him as he rolls to his back, making it easier for Katsuki to follow the scent that barely teases his nose. It’s there—that lush, heavy rainstorm, dripping leaves cooling the air as filtered moonlight caresses his skin. His eyes shudder closed as he sucks a deep breath, savoring, tasting.

 

The sound of a shaky inhale sends fire to his groin, and he lets his nose graze the creamy skin of Izuku’s throat, encouraged further by the quiet whimper that graces his ears, the open expanse of space that becomes accessible as Izuku tilts his chin upward, head falling back against the bed. The scent surrounds him now; wet, rich soil and thick humidity bring him to breathe more deeply as his nose traces against the hybrid’s smooth jaw. 

 

“This is what I was lookin’ for…” Katsuki mumbles.

 

A feathery laugh falls from Izuku’s lips as he lifts his head to meet Katsuki’s gaze. His eyes are hooded, and the green is dark now—deep moss or laurel. It’s gorgeous... fitting for the deeper turn his scent has taken, and Katsuki wants it to remain.

 

“You don’t smell too bad yourself,” Izuku says softly, dilated gaze searching Katsuki’s crimson.

 

Katsuki lowers his face without thinking, bringing them closer together. Izuku’s eyes close completely, and he licks his lips before rubbing them together.

 

“Thought I was unavailable,” he murmurs. 

 

Their breath mingles with the words, and fresh rain lingers on Katsuki’s tongue. 

 

“You smell pretty fuckin’ available right now…”

 

Those pretty, pink lips spread to a soft smile as his eyes flutter open, just barely. “So romanti—”

 

A harsh pounding at the door makes the hybrid jump, and their foreheads knock together. The elf instinctively pulls away, and just like that… the scent is gone again.

 

Damnit.

 

Izuku sits up with wide eyes and looks toward the door. Katsuki huffs and stomps over to it, rubbing his head, irritation already growing when he recognizes the scent of jonquil on the other side. He unlatches the door and swings it open.

 

“What.”

 

An unwelcome grin curves the lips of the guy in front of him as his hands find his pockets. “Here for the Unseelie kid.”

 

Katsuki’s eyes narrow. “Why the fuck did they send you?”

 

The smile widens to show teeth. “‘Cause obviously with you gone, I’m the top Warrior in Azmarin. I took over all your responsibilities these past few months, Bakugou.” 

 

That smug bastard. Always waitin’ for Katsuki to fuck up so he can be a big shot. It sets Katsuki on edge, and his palms spark as anger unfurls within him, bursting from his skin. “You fuckin’ idiot. I’m not gone. I’m right here. An’ we don’t need your escort. I can take Izuku to the damn Council myself.”

 

“Or…” A voice interrupts from behind him. “I could take myself to the Council, seeing as I came here of my own free will and therefore have no reason to avoid going. I don’t really need an escort to go somewhere I want to go, do I?”

 

Katsuki turns to see Izuku’s brows raised, clearly irritated as he takes in the newcomer at the door. A wash of pride fills his chest and he smirks, looking back at the asshole in the doorway and expecting some level of chagrin. The pride is instantly replaced with a surge of irritation, however, when he sees a different shift in demeanor.

 

That snide grin has been replaced with a charming one, sleazy gaze raking over the hybrid’s figure as he removes a hand from his pocket and holds it out.

 

“Oh, we haven’t met! I’m Yo Shindo, but most people just call me Shindo. It’s good to finally meet you… Izuku, right?”

 

Izuku’s eyes narrow as he looks down at Shindo’s outstretched hand, surely having heard the whole interaction up until now. He looks back up to Shindo’s face and holds his own hand out tentatively to shake. Shindo pulls it to his lips, kissing the back of it like a fucking knight from the legends before meeting the hybrid’s eyes through stupidly thick lashes.  

 

Izuku yanks his hand away as if it were burned. 

 

“Yes. It’s Izuku.” His voice is venom, and Katsuki can’t help the snort that erupts.

 

Shindo’s mouth opens like a fish, but he recovers quickly, looking to Katsuki instead. “Well, Bakugou, you’re actually not allowed in, so you can walk there with us if you want, but you’ll have to wait outside.”

 

Katsuki quirks a brow. Not allowed in? Says who? If he wants to go he’ll fuckin’ go, and there ain’t anyone who—

 

“It’s okay, Katsuki. I’ll be fine.” Izuku’s hand squeezes his forearm gently. “You should probably go say hi to Eijirou’s mom, anyway, right? Don’t you want to see her?”

 

“Well, yeah, but—”

 

“So it’s settled! You’ll go see uh, Mrs. Kirishima…? And I’ll go talk to the Council.”

 

“Oi, I—”

 

“See you soon!” 

 

With that, Izuku walks right past him out the door, and closes it behind him.

 

Katsuki is left in Izuku’s room alone, wondering what the hell just happened.

 

----

 

Katsuki is maybe a two minute walk from the Council Chambers when the harsh scent of burning cloves suddenly smacks him in the face. He reels backward at the cloud of scent and finds a surprisingly bored-appearing Hitoshi Shinsou leaning against the wall outside the door. Guess all the fae are pretty damn good at hiding their emotions.

 

“The fuck’re you doin’ here?”

 

Lavender eyes shift to meet his as he stands from his slouched position, crossing his arms with a sigh. “Guard. Remember?”

 

“Well what’s got you so pissed off then?”

 

The faery frowns for a moment before seeming to understand. “Forgot you can smell me,” he says. “I was booted. They don’t want anyone influencing Izuku’s answers—y’know, bein’ fae and all. Seem to think we’re all alike… as if I’ve got any interest in protecting the damn Unseelie.” He rolls his eyes before looking back to Katsuki with one heather brow raised. “What’re you doin’ here?”

 

“You really gotta ask?” Katsuki moves to sit across from him, leaning against the opposing wall and sitting right next to the gigantic double doors. The stone is cold, even through his trousers. It must be getting late. Despite the intense heat of the daylight in Azmarin, the temperatures were known for dropping drastically at night.

 

“Well, I doubt they’ll allow you to sit in, either,” Hitoshi says, returning to his own slouch. “Seems pretty serious.”

 

Katsuki grouses. “I don’t need to go in. I could hear shit from here if you would just shut the hell up.”

 

This time, both brows raise, but Hitoshi doesn’t say a word. He’s probably just as interested in what’s going on as Katsuki is. The elf closes his eyes and leans his head back against the wall, focusing.

 

The Council Chambers are different from anywhere else in the castle in that they’re typically pheromone proof. That is, scents don’t leak out. But Katsuki’s fairly certain that if he just concentrates…

 

He opens his mouth and breathes deeply, heavily, searching…

 

There.

 

Forest storms. But not… Not like before.

 

Thunder.

 

Lightening.

 

Cracking branches and falling trunks. 

 

Floods and demolition.

 

Katsuki’s eyes shoot open. Izuku is... pissed.

 

Hitoshi’s face turns serious, mouth set in a firm line, but he says nothing, clearly not wanting to interrupt whatever Katsuki is learning right now. Katsuki’s brow furrows and his gaze flits across different cracks in the floor, absently taking in the thin branches and roots that break through as he listens intently. 

 

“I know about the deaths. I only found out recently, but I do know. You don’t have to… You don’t have to count them off, or tell me about the families who have died, about every single man… woman… child.” 

 

His voice breaks on the last word, and Katsuki’s heart breaks along with it. Katsuki wouldn’t put it past the Council to have shown images and names for every single individual who died in those fires, just to make Izuku uncomfortable and possibly guilt him into admission of whatever they think he knows or has been involved with.

 

“I’ve told you,” Izuku continues. “I have never met my father. I don’t even know what the man looks like for sure. All I have is a name.”

 

“And yet, you’ve borne his surname your entire life. Why?”

 

Katsuki can just imagine the way Izuku’s jaw has flexed, his fists clenching and unclenching in an attempt to stay calm. Lightning strikes again, thunder sending tremors through the earth and down Katsuki’s spine.

 

“I didn’t know.” 

 

“How could you not know your own mother’s surname?”

 

“I was a child, and—” 

 

“Why would she give you his legacy if not for you to lay claim to his throne?”

 

“I don’t—” No sound comes through for a few moments. Katsuki wonders what’s going through the hybrid’s mind. He’d had that same question himself, honestly. But even if his mother did want to protect his “claim” to the Unseelie throne, it’s not as though Izuku himself had anything to do with that. If they could only have seen the fragmented wreck that Izuku had become when he found out…

 

Even now… the hybrid might be glued back together and ‘whole’ once more, but the cracks are still visible when they catch the light. He’ll never be the same as he was before his past was revealed. 

 

And now it seems they’re pointing the finger, trying to force him to admit that—what? He wanted that? He’s just been lying in wait in this tiny, fae village to one day pop out and kill his own father for the throne he’s had no contact with whatsoever? Just hung back all these years while his father wreaked havoc and slaughtered hundreds of people with full knowledge and did nothing?

 

No fucking way.

 

Katsuki stands, one hand outstretched to shove the door open or explode it if necessary when the silence is broken. He pauses, ears peaked for the quiet tone that whispers through the wood.

 

“I hate Hisashi Midoriya for what he’s done. If there was anything I could do to strip him of his power, I would do it.” Izuku’s voice is low and hard, solid and cold. It’s not like anything Katsuki’s ever heard from him before. Concern buzzes in the elf’s belly, electricity greeting his fingers as they itch to intervene. “If that meant that I would have to become Unseelie, to claim the Midoriya name in earnest, then fine. That’s what I’d do. That’s what I’d do with my name, what I would bet my mother’s intentions were for me… But I’m done being accused of his horrific crimes. I had nothing to do with them. All I want is to put an end to it.”

 

Commotion erupts in the room and Katsuki can’t place the individual sounds anymore. His breath catches when he realizes that Izuku’s scent has completely changed over the course of his response. Winter has taken over—the plant life has frosted and everything is dying and Katsuki doesn’t know what the fuck that means. The sound of footsteps indicate that the questioning has ended, and the door bursts open when a small crowd of people come barreling out. 

 

The scents mingle and the stomping is loud and Katsuki can’t discern where Izuku is at first. It feels like he’s everywhere and nowhere. All Katsuki can feel is him, his elevated scent, too potent and all consuming. He catches the unchanged scent of narcissus just as he finds the frozen forest, looking up to meet the hybrid’s eyes as the two pass. They’re dull, the usual pretty glimmer and emerald color all but gone. His irises are nearly black, and it makes Katsuki’s breath catch in his throat. Shindo has Izuku’s wrists in rope, knotted tightly together as the hybrid willingly follows along. 

 

Izuku doesn’t look panicked. He doesn’t look sad, or angry. He just looks… decided.

 

Fuck, Katsuki has to go after him.

 

He pushes off the wall to do exactly that, but a surprisingly strong hand grabs him by the elbow. He whirls around to send an explosion directly in the asshole’s face when he’s met with a soft, lilac gaze. 

 

“You don’t want to do that,” Hitoshi says.

 

“The fuck you mean?! Of course, I do. There’s somethin’ seriously wrong, and I can’t just—”

 

“You can. And you will.” 

 

One side of Katsuki’s nose wrinkles up in a snarl. The warrior inside him wants to bare fangs, to draw blood and fight for his bashful, innocent hybrid to come back. But he knows it’s not Hitoshi’s fault that Izuku is in this mess. And as much as he wants to fight, to work off this growing anger inside of him, he can’t do that right now. It wouldn’t help a damn thing.

 

He settles for ripping his arm from the faery’s grip.

 

“Why?” he asks lowly.

 

“Izuku is not… He’s not going to be very receptive to any attempts at talking down right now. I know you think you know him, but you... don’t. He’s not…” Hitoshi takes a breath. “He’s taken this harder than you might think.”

 

Katsuki doesn’t say he knows exactly how hard this was for the hybrid. He can tell by that crazy fucking scent. But how can Hitoshi tell?

 

“How do you know?” The elf raises his head to take in the faery’s expression, and finds it still infuriatingly calm. “Did you look in his mind? Do you do that all the fucking time? Invade people’s heads like that?”

 

A wry smile pulls at the faery’s lips. “I don’t. Only when it’s important to maintain the safety of my charge. And no, I didn’t look inside his head… but I still get—let’s call them wavelengths—even without trying. I can tell how someone’s feeling if they feel it strongly enough. It’s not constantly available, like your pheromone detection, but when I get it… it’s pretty clear.”

 

Katsuki chews his cheek, eyes shifting to the now-empty corridor the elves had taken.

 

“How’s he feelin’, then?”

 

Hitoshi takes a moment to answer, and when Katsuki looks back, it’s the first time he’s seen any sort of feeling on the faery’s face. He’s frowning.

 

“Murderous.”

Chapter Text

“So, now what?” Izuku grouses. He sits back on his bed, wrists tied together, set in his lap as his toes tap with a need to move. The Council is apparently deliberating, and now he’s stuck with the pretty, but annoyingly egotistical elf he’d met earlier today, and he does not relish more time together. 

He grinds his teeth slowly, still livid that the Council tried to pin him that way. He didn’t know anything about the Midoriya name being royalty until literally this year. And his mom… Well, he’s not sure what his mom knew or didn’t know. But if she knew, she must have given Izuku his name for a reason. She was a good person. She’d never hurt anyone like Hisashi has.

Even thinking Hisashi’s name makes him want to shred something now. Being endlessly reminded of the horrendous acts in his nightmares only served to show Izuku exactly how much he wants to do something to stop them. When first affronted with them, Izuku had once frozen in fear, awoken filled with terror and guilt. But now… now he’s conditioned. Now, they only make him sick. 

Receiving the details of each and every family that was harmed at his father’s hands… It made Izuku want to do things he’s not totally sure he’d regret. 

“What do you want to do?” Shindo asks, grin biting and making Izuku want to snap.

He doesn’t, though, because he needs this elf to trust him enough to untie him if he wants any kind of comfort overnight. Izuku isn't sure what his scent is like at the moment, but he feels relatively calm, all things considered, so he figures it’s probably fine enough. He just needs an excuse...

He looks up to meet obsidian eyes, which gleam back at him. “Well, I haven’t been able to clean up since I got here…”

“Can’t take ya to the river, sorry.”

Izuku huffs. “Okay, then… food? New clothes? Something to make me feel like I didn’t just walk for weeks to get here and then deal with that for two hours.”

Shindo smiles more softly and steps closer, reaching out to toy with the rope that binds the hybrid’s wrists. “Can’t untie you to let you change…but I could probably help to make you feel better. If you let me.”

The scent of anise reaches Izuku’s nose, and he works hard to keep his features neutral. He hates the cloying sweetness, but he forces a pleasant smile to his face anyway, does his best to make it genuine.

“I’d like to feel better but…I definitely can’t do that with my wrists tied,” he responds. “They’re chafing, and it hurts…” He whines for good measure, shifting his wrists around to show off the reddening welts that he probably created himself by moving so much. His hands are trembling, still coming down from the adrenaline that’s accompanied his anger.

Shindo slips a finger beneath one of them, tracing the red burn and making Izuku squirm. It’s uncomfortable, but manageable. Izuku winces and then looks up to meet Shindo’s dark gaze.

“See?” The hybrid asks rhetorically, widening his own green eyes and letting them fill with the unshed tears he’s been holding back since he’d set foot in the Council Chambers.

The elf’s expression softens. Izuku doesn’t know if it’s honest or deliberate. 

“I honestly can’t untie you. But you know…the binds can be pleasant, if you let them…” He arches a brow, and Izuku swallows the bile that creeps up his throat. 

What the hell? No. Definitely not.

“I’d really, really rather be untied,” he tries one more time.

“Yes well...” Shindo releases his grip and lets the bindings press back against raw skin, making Izuku wince. “I don’t know what to tell you. You’ve gotta make the most of what you’ve got, gorgeous. No other options.”

Izuku narrows his eyes at him, but Shindo only smiles back. “Unless you’ve got somebody waiting for you at home… I do hear things about that faery who runs the shitty old town you’re from… Willesden? Heard he likes you.”

Izuku bites the inside of his cheek, trying his best not to retaliate. The elf is trying to rile him up. Why? 

A dark brow arches. “No? Not a fan? So then why not let me help you…?”

He leans forward, bringing their faces closer together, and Izuku leans back, straining his abs not to fall completely to the bed. Shindo’s hands press into the blankets on either side of his legs, and the hybrid swallows, uncomfortable, his former anger just simmering beneath his skin and waiting for him to lash out.

Suddenly the mattress seems to vibrate beneath him, and his eyes grow wide as he looks at the elf who seems to wear a perpetual smirk. His anger dissolves to curiosity—is that his magic? How?

“Feel that?” he murmurs. “I can make you feel good, if you let me. You’ll forget all about those ties…”

Izuku clears his throat as the curiosity immediately evaporates. “I want…I want to see Hitoshi. Or Katsuki. O-or Eijirou.” His eyes search the others’, imploring. “Please…?”

Shindo groans, standing to grab the wooden desk chair from nearby and dragging it over to sit in front of Izuku. The smirk is gone from his face as he rolls his eyes. “Damn. Tough to crack, huh?” He gives Izuku a once over and then grins. This one’s different from the others, and Izuku can tell it’s an honest one, somehow. “I like that, so I’ll tell you why you can’t see them. The Council doesn’t trust them.”

“...But they trust you?” Izuku asks, narrowing his eyes. Why would they trust this guy? His moods shift hot to cold quicker than one can blink. He can’t even imagine how those who work beneath him must feel. There’s no way to tell what this elf is thinking at any moment. He’s the epitome of what it means to be a good liar.

Shindo nods. “When Katsuki left, I took over lead and training of the guard. And apparently yesterday, when asked if he could carry out your potential sentence—”

“My sentence?” Izuku gets caught up in the statement. “What sentence? I haven’t committed any crimes.”

“No, I don’t think you have. But, they didn’t know that at the time, and honestly…they’re still deciding what to do with you.” Shindo shrugs. “But because Katsuki refused, they—”

“He refused…?” Izuku repeats, almost to himself. 

Warmth and frustration flood his chest. What an idiot. Why would he upset the Council on his first day back, right before Izuku had to go in for questioning? Elves aren’t bound the way the fae are. He could have said anything and not followed through, but instead, he chose to jeopardize the trust of his own people…for Izuku.

“Yes,” Shindo responds. 

“So why am I bound, then? If I’m not guilty, there’s no reason I should be a prisoner.” He lifts his chin, meeting that dark gaze again.

Shindo’s lips curve into an even more devilish smirk than before. “Oh, believe me…” he drawls. “If you were a prisoner, you would know.”

The blood drains from Izuku’s face, turning to ice in his veins. What’s that supposed to mean? What do they do to prisoners here? Does he do it? 

The elf laughs dryly. “Nothing worse than the Unseelie, I’m sure.”

Shit. He must be thinking aloud.

“So…with that off the table…” Shindo scoots his chair a little closer. Close enough that the anise lingers on the back of Izuku’s tongue, thickening like a heavy syrup that makes him want to gag. “Why don’t we find—”

A gentle knock sounds at the door, and Shindo’s features twist with irritation when he turns his head to look at it. Izuku’s eyes widen at the brief reveal before they’re schooled to neutral once more. This elf has self-control that rivals the fae, but rather than being familiar, Izuku only finds it frightening.

His captor sighs and stands from his chair before walking to unlatch the door. The scent of wild valerian seeps to Izuku’s nose before he turns his eyes to meet the source—gaunt and thin, with eyes a blue deep as the ocean, the kind that makes Izuku think this man has seen things far beyond what the hybrid can fathom. He sat on the Council during Izuku’s questioning, but Izuku didn’t catch his name.

Thin lips part. “Hey, can I talk with him?”

Shindo’s demeanor says no, but he smiles and agrees anyway. It seems this man does not need to ask, but chooses to out of politeness. Shindo doesn’t have a choice. “I’ll just be down the hall when you’re done,” he says. Izuku can’t help but think he sounds petulant.

At least the anise has faded, jonquil returning to the air. It’s a welcome change after being flooded with the disgusting scent of arousal.

Shindo leaves and closes the door behind him while the Councilman makes his way over, pulling the chair a few steps farther away from the bed and taking a seat in it. He clears his throat.

“We were never properly introduced…” His voice is deeper than Izuku would expect based upon his frail appearance, but he supposes that the man probably wasn’t always this way.

What happened to him?

“I’m Toshinori Yagi. You can call me Toshinori, or Toshi for short, if you want.”

Izuku’s lips tug to a smile in spite of himself. “I call one of my best friends ‘Toshi.”

“Toshinori it is then.” The man grins. “Is that the friend who came here with you?”

Izuku doesn’t miss that he says friend instead of faery. He nods. “Hitoshi is his real name. I don’t know how he’d handle others abbreviating it as I do.”

Toshinori’s smile grows, showing off large, straight teeth. “I wouldn’t dream of it.” He folds his hands in his lap and leans forward, resting elbows on his thighs. “So… I’m sorry for the way that questioning went earlier.”

Why? It’s not as though this elf did anything to intervene at the time. If he didn’t want it to go that way, he could have said something. But he didn’t. It makes Izuku suspicious at first, but something in those ocean eyes tells Izuku he means what he says, so he doesn’t argue. Instead, he remains silent and waits for him to continue.

“The council is… It’s made up of good people. Everyone who has a seat really cares about our people. But you must understand… they’ve got a history with your case. And although you weren’t there for it, they can’t immediately trust you, either.”

Izuku nods. That’s fair. He wouldn’t trust someone with ties like his either. Toshinori’s face grows more serious as he continues, lines settling between his brows.

“That being said… You were treated harshly. And I am sorry for that.” He sighs. “But I need to know… did you mean what you said back there?”

Izuku considers for a moment, thinking back on which words the Councilman might be referring to. He spoke a number of words in that room that could impact his fate, and he’s not sure…

Then again, he didn’t say anything he didn’t mean. That, he is certain of.

“Every word.”

Toshinori regards him more intensely than before, eyes examining as though he’s looking for something specific, some tell that might indicate he’s lying. But whatever he finds, he seems satisfied. He heaves a breath of what seems like relief, shoulders falling as he slouches in his chair.

“Good. Then we can talk further.” He smiles. The image of brightness seems a little awkward on his frame, and it makes Izuku smile too.

“What about?” He asks, tilting his head, feeling his waves tickle his ear. His hair has gotten quite long, and he brushes it out of his eyes—with both hands since his wrist are still bound—to see more clearly.

“Well, we should probably start at the beginning…”

“W-wait.” Izuku interrupts. “Before you do… can you, ah… can I have these binds removed?”

“Ah. Yes, I suppose you can.” He leans forward to work at the knot, thin fingers easily manipulating the rough material. Izuku sits quietly, watching, honestly surprised at the agreement.

As the elf picks at it, he begins to speak again. “You probably believe you’re the only hybrid in the world, don’t you?”

Izuku frowns. Why would that matter in this moment? He’s never actually thought about it before, if he’s being honest. But yes, that would have seemed an accurate assumption. He’s never heard of anyone else being such a thing. Then again, that doesn’t mean it isn’t so. He has lived out in the middle of nowhere for most of his life. And before that, it seemed his mother did the best she could to hide him. Hell, he didn’t even know Katsuki, and they lived in the same village for seven years. Izuku wasn’t exactly well socialized.

“I’m currently questioning that belief…” he admits quietly.

“You would be right to,” Toshinori says, smiling up at him. “Because you’re not.”

Izuku’s lungs seem to collapse as the bindings fall free. He clears his throat, sucking air for a moment before he can respond. “I-I’m not…?” Hope flutters in his heart like a newly born butterfly. He’s not the only one. He’s not alone. But who…?

He takes another look at the man in front of him, more skeptical this time. Deep, almost impossibly blue eyes, blonde, wavy hair that falls around his face. He’s got an extremely lanky form for an elf, and his ears are pointed, but not quite as large as most elven ears are—smaller than Izuku’s actually. 

But that wouldn’t make any sense. 

“I am part fae as well,” Toshinori says.

“B-but… You sit on the Elven Council,” Izuku responds, incredulous. His mind is trying to do the math, but it isn’t adding up. The council had been so judgemental of him, so hard on him for his mixed heritage, and yet this hybrid sits upon it.

“Most of them do not know. In fact, only the elders and Aizawa are aware. There is no reason for others to suspect me. They simply believe me frail in appearance due to my magic. I’ve got normal hair and eye colors, sharp ears… Nothing to give me away. Not like your green coloring does for you.”

It…makes sense. Though, it seems like living a lie. The wings in Izuku’s chest crumple, curling in on themselves at the thought. Izuku has gotten to grow in an environment where he’s been accepted for exactly what he is. He’s never had to hide that, not really. The idea of it seems sad.

“That must have been hard…” he murmurs, rolling out his wrists and rubbing at the raw skin.

“It wasn’t really. I’ve never really felt any different because of it. For all intents and purposes, I am an elf. I grew up here, and I never really left. I made my way in combat. My ability is just enhanced strength, which isn’t too far out there to be believable. Most elves are connected to the earth somehow, but soul can be one of those connections, making alterations in natural capabilities fair game. Rare, but possible.”

“Oh… I guess. Well, I guess my early childhood was elven, but… since I’ve spent so many years with the fae now, I’ve just got habits of both ingrained.”

Toshinori nods. 

“But I, um… I don’t have any magic at all.”

Those all-seeing eyes seem to regard him curiously for a moment, blonde brows furrowing and mouth pulling to a tight, thoughtful line. “I find that… surprising,” the Councilman says. 

“Can you lie?” Izuku asks abruptly. He’s not sure why he does. The question isn’t truly important, but he’s curious. Because Izuku himself can, but he knows that the fae can’t. He always feels horribly guilty about doing it, though. He wonders if that’s natural or if it’s the fae part of him fighting the untruths.

“No, I can’t.”

Izuku’s eyes widen, incredulous. “Really? Then how… How did you live here all this time without others finding out?”

“No one ever asked.” He grins. “It’s not exactly an every day question, you know.”

Izuku snorts. “I guess you’re right. Most people don’t even know that hybrids exist at all. But now, at least, there are two of us...” 

Hybrids. Plural. It feels good to say that.

They sit there, smiling at one another for a minute, before Toshinori clears his throat.

“Anyway... The reason I am actually here now is because Aizawa seems to believe I have the best chance of bonding with you. And… well, I think that, too. We have more in common than we think, I expect. And, I could train you.”

At the idea of training, Izuku’s ears perk up once more. Training for what? He’s always up for learning something new. He meant what he said about helping to remove his father from power. He wants to help, if he can. He’s just… not sure what to do. He doesn’t even know how to find him.

Izuku leans forward, intrigued. “What kind of training?”

“All kinds,” comes the response. “But, if you agree, we can discuss that tomorrow… when we begin.”

He nods. “Yes, I—”

Toshinori holds up a bony hand to silence him, suddenly very serious. “Don’t agree so quickly. Your father’s deeds are not your responsibility, and you should not feel indebted to us for the things he has done. This will take months, possibly years of your life should you choose to move forward. You will remain in Azmarin until your training is complete, and then you may ultimately end up on a throne you’ve never asked for, ruling over people who will not like you. The Unseelie are not a pleasant people, and finding a different leader for them will be very difficult. Many lives will end on this path. Though, you should know that the elves are embarking upon it—with or without your help.”

Months…years… He knew when he left Willesden that there was a chance he wouldn’t come back. If they couldn’t find someone else to rule the Unseelie, he may never return. But his happiness isn’t necessarily worth all the lives that will be lost should they do nothing…is it?  Toshinori just said that many will die even if they do go through with it...though that is likely a finite number as opposed to an ongoing and possibly limitless one. He chews his lip, considering.

There is one other way.

“But what if… Why should all of you have to die for this? He’s just—Hisashi is looking for me. He wants me.” 

He looks at Toshinori with determination, imploring him to choose this, to bring this forward to the Council. This is the best option, the easiest option, the one that will save the most lives. No more elves need to die. Not if they’re able to find Hisashi. Izuku would happily go.

“If you already know where he is…send me to him. Alone. If he’s satisfied, he’ll stop these massacres. No one else will have to die.”

The older hybrid’s eyes widen before they smile. “You really are a good kid, you know that?” He laughs. “But unfortunately, Hisashi has been a tyrant on that throne since he took it. He needs to be removed regardless. This was just the push we needed to do something about it. We aren’t going to send you alone.”

Izuku huffs at being called a kid yet again. Why does everyone here insist upon referring to him as a child? 

“Think about it,” Toshinori says, voice heavy with warning. He stands, and Izuku follows suit, looking up at him as his lean figure towers over Izuku’s own. 

“We don’t need you to support this cause. We can kill Hisashi ourselves once we are able to determine his location. But, it will be much easier for us to sway the Unseelie to abandon him if we are able to offer a replacement. Don’t give up your life so easily, young man. You have a good one.”

Izuku nods at him silently, chest constricting around his too-full heart. He does have a good life. He has people who love him and care about him and accept him. He has friends, and—even if they’re not blood—a family he can rely on. He’d be leaving all of it behind for this. Does he want to do that?

At the same time, he’s not likely to sleep at night if he lets others fight his war, if he doesn’t do something to repay the world for all the lives that have fallen at his feet while he remained hidden. He might not have chosen this life for himself, but he’s been lucky in it. And there are too many who have died for him to live it.

He paces around the room, thinking, mumbling. He needs to walk, to do something. He can’t stay cooped up in this room anymore. He grabs his cloak and moves to leave until he realizes that Aki will wake up soon. He turns around to go back for his little fur pouch, tying it to his belt loop just in case the glider wakes. He wouldn’t want him to be afraid waking in a new place all alone.

With a deep breath, he shifts the latch on the heavy wooden door and pulls it open, flinching at the harsh sound of it creaking. The elves really do live far more simply than the fae. It’s interesting to see the contrast in their living quarters. This feels much more like home—or at least, it would, if he didn’t feel like everyone here hated him.

He gets not ten steps down the hall before he smells jasmine, and he looks up to see Hitoshi’s sleepy gaze on him from a few doors down.

“Hitoshi,” he breathes, smiling with relief. “I’m so glad you’re here.”

Hitoshi stretches his arms over head. “You’re tellin’ me. I was wondering when they’d let you out of your room. You okay?” He looks at Izuku with concern, one brow furrowing as he gives the hybrid a once over. His eyes linger on his wrists before they shift back up to meet Izuku’s.

“Yeah, I’m alright. No one did anything to hurt me. These marks are just from the binds…”

“Then why’d that creep have detailed thoughts of what he’d do with you pinned by them…”

Suddenly, Izuku wants to be sick. “He…what?” His voice cracks.

Hitoshi’s face contorts with anger. “This is why Shouto didn’t want you here alone. This is why I’m here. Those damn elves can’t force me away from you again, Izuku. You deserve to be treated with decency.” 

Izuku knew the elf was coming onto him, but when he’d refused, Shindo seemed to back off. He didn’t think the elf would have…would’ve…

His eyes begin to water, fingers trembling before they squeeze into fists. He feels himself go cold with anger. If Hitoshi saw it, if he’s saying it now, it has to be the truth. His eyes dart along the stone of the floor, finding cracks in the granite, but not really seeing them...

Hitoshi puts a hand on his arm, and he feels himself warm again. “Hey, Izuku. I’m sorry… I didn’t mean to upset you. I was just so… angry when I saw what was in his head. You can’t trust these people, alright? Just keep your guard up.”

Izuku nods at the floor. “Yeah… I’ll do that.” He looks up to give his friend a wry smile. “I wanted to walk a bit. Feel like coming with me?”

Hitoshi nods. “Yeah, let’s do it. I don’t know my way around here yet, but it’ll be good for us to get our bearings.”

The two set off down the hallway quietly, taking random turns until they find their way outside. Immediately, Izuku is in awe, lips parting in a quiet gasp as he takes in the deep, midnight blue of the sky, stars glowing like scattered sunlight beaming down from the heavens. It’s as though the entire galaxy is on display, and the lands are glazed with the light of the moon, hanging full and heavy overhead. He can’t help the smile that curves his mouth as he takes in the deep, dark greens of the forest around them, the heavy roots that disturb the stepping stones of their path. He looks up to see Hitoshi’s eyes narrowed, and he realizes he should slow down; the faery probably can’t see those roots.

“It’s really beautiful here,” Izuku says quietly. Hitoshi doesn’t respond, still watching his feet as he walks. “Do you really hate it…?”

The faery looks at him, surprise written in his features. “What do you mean? I don’t hate the place…”

“But you hate the people,” Izuku mumbles.

The faery stops walking altogether. “Izuku, where is this going?” He asks the question flatly, like he knows the conversation has a purpose he won’t like.

“They, um… The Councilman who came in after Shindo left? He asked me to stay. To…train, and help them find my father.”

Hitoshi remains silent, though one brow arches, and he sighs, exasperated, certainly already knowing how Izuku feels on the matter.

“I’m…thinking about staying.”

His pants begin to rustle and looks down to see Aki’s head poke out of his little pouch. Izuku brings a finger down to rub the dark strip of fur that runs along the back of it, and the glider slips out to scale his torso, settling on his shoulder.

“If you stay, I’m staying too, you know.” Hitoshi looks serious—as serious as Izuku has ever seen him, anyway, and guilt tightens his chest. The faery doesn’t like it here… Izuku doesn’t want to be the reason he’s stuck.

“You don’t have to…” He begins, but Hitoshi holds a palm up to stop him. 

“I do. It’s my duty. And even if it wasn’t…I couldn’t leave you here alone in good conscience.”

Izuku smiles sadly. “I wouldn’t be totally alone…”

“I know you think Katsuki and Eijirou would protect you, but they might not be around all the time, Izuku. You don’t think their duties will call? They have jobs here, lives that don’t concern us.”

The forced smile falls. Hitoshi is right. He really will be alone much of the time, but that’s okay. It’s better than forcing Hitoshi to stay somewhere he hates, than leaving Shouto alone in Willesden.

“But I don’t want you to stay, Hitoshi. I don’t want to be the reason you’re miserable. Who knows how long it’ll take before it’s time to go back to Willesden? And who knows if I’ll even...” He stops himself, not wanting to finish that sentence, and Aki takes the moment to pull on his ear, climbing up into his hair and clawing at his long waves. He reaches up to pull the glider out of them, and Aki immediately sneezes, gliding off to the ground and scurrying into the bushes.

Hitoshi snorts. “Go back at all? Yeah, Izuku, I gathered that when you told me you were thinking about searching for your villain of a father.” He gives Izuku one of his more relaxed, drowsy smiles, and Izuku realizes the jasmine is still prevalent. Hitoshi isn’t upset with him. “Look. If I came home without you, Shouto would kick my ass. And this is the most excitement I’ve seen in years. I’d rather go with you to hunt down Hisashi Midoriya than go back to Willesden.”

Izuku’s brows raise. “R-really…?”

“Also, you’re one of my best friends. So…I don’t really love the idea of leavin’ you to do that by yourself.”

The hybrids cheeks flush. “O-okay… If you’re sure…”

“I’m sure, Izuku. Quit worrying about it. Make the decision for yourself, and I’ll respect what you choose, okay?”

Izuku nods. “I’ll think about it some more…”

“I think that’s a good idea. Now, let’s go back inside before I hurt myself.”

Izuku snorts, and the two of them get back up, walking toward the castle. 

From here, it stands tall ahead of them, and Izuku decides it really is a foreboding piece of work. The spires ride high, built from uneven stone that juts out and even leaves small gaps in some areas. Vines and trees take root right through the structure, moss growing along the sides. It’s clear they didn’t want to plow down the trees, some of them growing right inside the castle itself, though they’re kept trimmed back to prevent further destruction. At first glance, the concept seems unstable, but then Izuku realizes that the castle is really one with the earth. The stone is buried deep into the ground beneath it, and with trees built directly into it, it’s unlikely that anything could cause it to fall. A small smile graces his lips as he takes in just how natural it all seems.

Just as they’re about to enter, Izuku turns back. “Aki!” he calls. “We’re going inside!” The glider hops right over to his feet and climbs on up, basically running laps around his midsection instead of cuddling up like he usually would. The little guy must have a lot of energy.

Hitoshi laughs. “Guess he seems to like it here.”

“Yeah…” Izuku grins. “I think he does.”

 

---

 

“You forgot my warning.”

Izuku’s brow furrows at the disappointed tone of voice. “Wh-what warning?” he asks, looking up to his accuser. 

The woman in front of him looks like his mother, but…can’t be. His mother is dead. And this woman has a grittiness to her that Izuku’s never seen in his mom. Inko was soft, kind, loving… This woman is all hard lines, harsh features, fierceness forced into a small package no one would expect to find it in.

“I told you not to tell anyone who you are, baby…but you…you told them, didn’t you?” Not-Inko’s eyes shift to sadness, and she tilts her head.

For a second, Izuku thinks it might really be her, but then a knock comes from the door he didn’t know was behind him, and her eyes narrow wickedly.

“You need to go,” she spits. Her voice is steel, unyielding and certain. “Now!”

Izuku looks at the door, then back at her, bewildered. “G-go? Go where?”

“WAKE UP!” She screams, eyes wild with panic. “NOW!”  

He scrunches his eyes when the volume sends him reeling backward in shock, and when he opens them, it’s to the wooden beams that make up the Elven Council’s castle ceilings. He’s...he’s okay. He’s not…wherever that was, with whoever that was.

Izuku takes a deep breath.

It wasn’t real. Like Katsuki always reminds him: it was just a dream. One that didn’t make much sense, anyway. Except…

He does remember dreaming of his mom, back before he went to the Seelie Court. She didn’t want him to reveal his identity there…but, they already knew it. He didn’t have to reveal anything.

Although… he never denied it either. Maybe Nemuri was testing him, and he never told her she was wrong. Maybe he did tell her, by nature of not denying it.

His brows furrow as he rolls over to push himself up. The moment he sits tall in bed, Aki finds him, climbing right up his bare chest and onto his head to nuzzle against his scalp. Izuku’s heart warms over. Aki seems to have some kind of intuition for when Izuku is stressing out. The little glider is always there to try to make him feel better.

“I’m okay, little man. Just... thinking.”

And he is. He’s analyzing, trying to puzzle this all together. Eijirou might have let it slip that Izuku was the one who helped them, but he was right…there probably are other Midoriyas out there, especially if he was able to live without others knowing he was his father’s son before now.

How did Aizawa know he was Hisashi’s son?

He lies back down, and Aki climbs from his hair, slipping beneath the covers. Izuku’s breath is coming normally once more, thoughts focused on that one question. The fae had only just learned about his father weeks before…and if no one knew before that, the two events had to be related. 

Why would the elves be more knowledgeable of the Unseelie line than the fae? It seems unlikely. So they must be connected…communicating…

But how? And more importantly: why?

Izuku comes up short, unable to get his thought process any further as he tosses and turns. He feels awake now, unfortunately, and he resigns himself to the fact, sitting up and pulling on a warm sweater. It’s cold in this territory at night, and the chill seeps into the floors. He pads over to the window, seeing the barely-there bloom of dawn on the eastern horizon, and figures it’s not too early to get up anyway. With this in mind, he slips on his boots and stretches his arms toward the ceiling, leaving Aki’s pouch out on the small stand near the bed as he creaks open the heavy door.

Immediately, his ears perk to the sound of footsteps at a steady pace just outside. He peeks around the edge of the oak door and sees a blond elf pacing uncharacteristically.

He stifles the laugh that almost escapes, unable to bury the smile that curves his lips. “Katsuki…?”

The elf whirls around to lay eyes on him, and his brow seems to soften with relief. “Doc,” he breathes. “You’re alright.”

Izuku’s brow furrows. “Um…yeah…? Why?”

“I knew the Council gave you the okay, but when I walked by your room this mornin’ on my way to the training grounds, all I could smell was that two-faced fucker’s pheromones…” He practically snarls, jaw clenching in anger. “Did he touch you?”

Izuku rolls his eyes. “No, he didn’t. He just… stinks.”

Katsuki’s posture relaxes and he lets his eyes run over Izuku’s figure without reserve. The hybrid blushes at the attention, but says nothing. Katsuki is probably just checking for injuries. His lips pull to a crooked smirk.

“Glad you think so.” He seems a little lighter for a brief moment, but then he frowns once again. “What’re you doin’ up already?”

Izuku yawns. “Nightmare. But I’m up now.”

“‘Bout what?”

“Mom. Or…well, not mom. I dunno.” He scratches his head and yawns again. “It was weird.”

Katsuki raises a brow in question, and Izuku purses his lips and tries to think. “You know what was really weird though?”

“What?”

“She…knew I was dreaming.” Izuku hadn’t thought of that at the time, but it does seem weird that a dream would know it was a dream…right? “She told me to wake up. Screamed it at me, in fact.”

Katsuki’s face remains neutral. “And did you?”

“Yeah…but not…not on purpose. I don’t know how I woke up.”

Katsuki crosses his arms and leans against the wall. “You don’t seem too upset about this one.”

“I guess I’m just more…thoughtful? It’s made me question things…” 

He moves next to the elf and slides down to sit on the floor, knees bent and arms resting on top. Katsuki sits down next to him. 

“Like what, nerd?”

“Like how Aizawa knew I was my father’s son.”

The elf turns to look at him, brows crinkling with confusion. “Eij told’em, remember? That dumbass—”

“No, Eijirou told him my name. Katsuki, I can’t possibly be the only other Midoriya in the world.” 

Katsuki huffs. “Nah…guess you can’t. But you’re the only hybrid one, I’m sure. Maybe Eij let that slip. Maybe Aizawa figured it out because it fit the story behind the pointless slaughter of our people…” 

Smoke brushes Izuku’s nose, and he leans into Katsuki’s shoulder, willing it away. He nuzzles against him, relishing the burnt sugar that rises when Katsuki presses his cheek into green waves.

That’s better. 

Izuku closes his eyes and inhales deeply, letting the familiar flavor coat his palate, seep into his form as his body grows heavy with relaxation.

“It was just a thought… It’s alright. I don’t wanna talk about it right now anyway,” he murmurs as his lids shudder closed. “M’getting sleepy again.”

He feels Katsuki’s jaw shifting against his hair as he speaks. “Wanna go back to bed?”

“Mmm…” Katsuki begins to move, as though getting up, and Izuku jolts. “Wait, no.”

“No…?"

Izuku wrinkles his nose. “After being out here, that smell is gonna seem too strong.”

The elf snorts. “Fine, you can sleep in my room instead. I’m gonna go train anyway.”

Izuku smiles up at him drowsily. “‘Kay.”

It’s not long before he rouses, surrounded by Katsuki’s scent, face buried in the furs the elf surely slept beneath last night. The sweetness fills him with a sense of safety, and he passes out moments after being dropped to the mattress, letting long-building exhaustion pull him under once more. He doesn’t even notice when the elf leaves to train, too blissfully deep in a secure, comfortable sleep for the first time in what feels like forever.






Chapter Text

One week later…

Shouto rouses to an odd pinging sound on the glass of his window.  He rolls over and tosses the sheets back, groaning when he sees the light streaming in is still pale and pre-dawn. He doesn’t need to be awake for at least another hour, and yet… here he is.

He climbs out of bed and walks to the door, opening it to go outside and check on whatever is making the awful racket when he eyes a raven standing on the window ledge. The raven holds something rolled in its beak, and Shouto’s heart rises to his throat.

A letter.

He knows it’s from Hitoshi, because as much as old legends may pretend birds are smart enough to deliver  mail, they simply aren’t. Hitoshi, however, can pop right in their head to give them direct orders, and this is the result.

He steps forward quickly, holding out his hand for the letter with a simultaneous feeling of dread and relief. At least if they’re writing, they’re alive, right? The raven drops the rolled parchment into his palm, and Shouto quickly unties the ribbon, unrolling it to read Hitoshi’s nearly illegible  print scrawled across the page.

 

Shouto,

Hope you’re not too miserable back in Willesden without us. Things are certainly exciting here in Azmarin, and Izuku is doing pretty well under the circumstances.

He’s undergone his formal questioning already, and has been found “not guilty.” I still don’t know what they thought he was guilty of. The whole thing seemed like a farce to me. However, the elves have now come up with a convoluted plan to dethrone Hisashi, and they believe Izuku is to play a major role in it. He’s decided to stay in Azmarin for the time being. 

I know...That’s not what you want to hear. The plan, as far as I know, is to return to Willesden when everything has blown over, but I don’t know the details. I’ll stay by him and make sure he doesn’t do anything too stupid, just because I know you’ll give me frostbite if I don’t.

Anyway, I am just writing to update you so you don’t worry when we don’t return right away.

Take Care.

Hitoshi

P.S. Izuku misses you a lot. He smacked me over the head when he saw I was going to send this without letting him know. So, there you go.

 

His lips curve up at the edges when reading the post-script. This news is...not good, but at least it’s not terrible. Often times letters are delivered with news of death or sickness, laced with the haste of anxiety and limited time. He had not expected that Izuku be able to return immediately, though he’d hoped for it.

Missing Izuku is like a physical ache within his bones, worse as the weather wears colder and sharper when it rains. His life has changed a lot in the past month, and he’s still not quite adapted. He sighs and walks back indoors, digging through his things for some fresh parchment and some ink, leaving the door open for the bird he knows will wait for his response.

 

Dear Hitoshi,

I am glad to hear that you both are well and arrived to Azmarin successfully. Thank you for allowing Izuku the post-script. Please tell him that I miss him as well, and that I anxiously await his return. 

Is there any plan as to how long this ‘dethroning’ will take? I am making the assumption that I am not to notify the Seelie Court of said plan. In fact, I suspect you weren’t meant to notify me of it, either.

Please protect him.

Be well,

Shouto

 

He rolls the letter, tightly fastening it closed with his wax seal as opposed to the ribbon. Hopefully, Hitoshi will take the hint and provide a seal of his own so that the two will know if the messages are ever intercepted. It does not seem safe to discuss such sensitive matters in such a public way.

After the raven takes off into the soft pink fog of early morning, Shouto decides to go back to bed. He does not have any major duties today, and there is no one who requires his entertaining. He pulls the covers to his chin and rolls on his side, still reflecting on the letter: “return to Willesden when everything has blown over.” What does that mean? 

Do they not have a timeline for their strategy? Or does “everything” have something to do with requirements they’ve placed on the hybrid? Shouto half wonders if Izuku decided to stay, or if he was pushed to. If one of the elves had influenced him, the hybrid might tell Hitoshi it was his decision to protect them. Maybe Shouto himself should just go, and—

The faery scrunches his eyes shut and fills his lungs with fresh air, trying to dissipate the paranoia he’s been holding. Going out there is completely unwarranted. He should try to relax. No part of that letter felt ominous. He is making something from nothing, just because he wants Izuku to come home. Izuku is doing just fine, and he will continue to do just fine. He has Hitoshi. Hitoshi is strong and intelligent and not going to let him “do anything too stupid.”

Having at least pretended to reassure himself, Shouto measures his breathing and closes his eyes, cursed to see a bright and clear emerald gaze forever behind his lids. This is nothing new, though the moods hidden within them vary. All Shouto could see for days following Izuku’s departure were the sea green eyes lined in overflowing tears, the last ones he saw before the hybrid left. At least now, with some distance, he can remember what Izuku looked like when happy. He’s doing his best to be positive, to avoid dwelling on the what-if’s.

Because Izuku will come back. 

He will. 

Shouto can’t stomach the possibility that the hybrid may decide he doesn’t want this life anymore, doesn’t want him, so he simply doesn’t think of it. And when he drifts off, it’s to dreams of their reunion instead.

------

 

“You can do better than that.”

Izuku wipes the sweat from his brow with the back of his hand, then dries it on his trousers as he heaves to catch his breath. When Toshinori told him he’d help him to train, he knew it was going to be serious but this… This just makes him feel pathetic.

Toshinori told him that he should have the strength and speed of an elf, but the ability to strategize like a faery. Katsuki took offense to the statement, while Hitoshi just smirked with amusement. Izuku simply thought it over.

He does have more intense senses, and he’s grown up with the fae, drawing from their conversations, their intellect. He really should make better use of what he’s learned. 

Toshinori sends another headless and flexible practice arrow his way, and Izuku bends slightly backward to avoid it. He barely saw it coming in time to shift. Toshinori designed this game to help with his agility, and Izuku is meant to both dodge the arrows and work his way over to lay a hand on the other hybrid. Right now, he’s barely able to keep from being hit, and he’s been at it all day. 

He’s got to do better. But how?

His senses have got to be the answer. It’s the only advantage he really has…

He dodges another by side-stepping, but doesn’t make any forward progress before another comes right at his head. He drops to the ground, jolting the air from his lungs. He remains there, wheezing, and decides to use the break he’s sure he’ll be given to catch his breath.

His chest burns, but his mind still works, so he lies on the ground to think, considering how he can put his other senses to use. First: his sight. He’s already seeing the arrows as they come, but that’s not exactly helping anymore. Toshinori shoots them from beyond a blind, so Izuku can’t tell when they’re coming or from which direction until they’re already on their way. When he waits to see them, there is barely enough time for him to dodge, so he needs something more to help him out. 

Next: scent. As far as Izuku can tell, there isn’t much he can do differently in this department. It’s not as though Toshinori becomes afraid or overly excited when he shoots at Izuku, so there’s no change to detect. 

And finally, that leaves him with sound. Izuku hadn’t considered sound when dodging. Will he hear the arrow as it’s strung? He’s almost certain he’ll hear when it’s let loose. Maybe that will give him the extra second or two he needs in order to make a planned dodge and push forward.

It’s worth trying, anyway.

When he gets back to his feet, ready to go once more, he closes his eyes and peaks his ears. 

It’s windy, and the air echoes against his eardrums as he works to focus beyond it. Birds chirp in the distance, and people talk inside the castle walls. He waits. It’s not long before a shift in the grass alerts him to Toshinori’s change in position, and a low, quiet creak signals the stretching of the bow string. 

Izuku sets his feet. A snap sounds, a woosh of the blind as the arrow is released, and Izuku bounds forward before looking up to see the arrow coming toward his left thigh. Rather than dodge to the side out of panic, this time he tracks the arrow and jumps, dive-rolling forward to continue his progress. Another creak, and snap! This time it’s headed for his shoulder, and he only needs to lunge to avoid it. He only has another 5 steps to the blind, but arrows come faster now. Creaks and snaps override one another as Toshinori begins releasing them in quick succession. Izuku twists, turns, rolls, dives, and jumps. The motions have become automatic in response to the whistling sounds he’s now able to pick up as the arrow moves through the air, having attuned his ears to them at this point.

Finally, he reaches the blind. He throws himself forward, flinging his arm through the opening to finally end this game once and for all, but his arm is stopped when a hand wraps around his wrist and grips too hard for him to move.

What the hell?

He yanks on it, trying to pull away, but it doesn’t budge. After a moment of heedless struggle, the blind parts, and Toshinori’s too-large grin shows through the opening. 

“You still haven’t touched me,” he says.

“What! I made it all the way to the blind. You weren’t supposed to—”

“The only rules of this game are that being hit by an arrow requires you return to the starting line, and that the game ends when you are able to lay a hand on me. I can do as I please. Neither of those things restrict me.” 

Izuku’s eyes narrow and he huffs. “Fine. So, do I have to start again?”

“Don’t be so discouraged, my boy! You’ve come a long way! Making it all the way to the blind was no ordinary feat. I’ve only had one other student thus far whose been able to do that, and he still never truly won at this game.”

Izuku raises a brow, having a pretty good suspicion about who Toshinori is referring to. The cogs continue to work in his mind however, knowing that this other student was never able to finish. He is going to finish this, one way or another.

When his arm is released, he steps back, rubbing the area and groaning. “Ouch. This is probably going to bruise,” he mumbles, irritated. 

Toshinori rubs the back of his head in embarrassment. “Ah. Sorry, my boy. Didn’t mean to be so rough.”

A slow smirk forms on Izuku’s face as the other hybrid relaxes his posture, hands falling by his sides as he opens his mouth, surely to suggest they begin again. Instead, Izuku reaches forward and places his palm right in the center of his chest.

“I win.”

Blond brows jump toward the sky before booming laughter sounds throughout the training fields. Toshinori doubles over, shoulders shaking as he seemingly falls into hysterics. Izuku frowns. What’s so funny? He played by the rules, and he laid a hand on his mentor. That’s what he was meant to do, right? It was almost like a riddle, and Izuku solved it, fair and square.

He’s about to ask Toshinori what’s so funny when the hybrid stands and wipes at the happy tears that bead in his eyes. 

“Wow, Izuku. No one has ever done that before, but it was clever! Very smart way for you to end the game. You know, I’ve sent hundreds of elves through this same course and you’re the first to complete it!” He slaps a large, heavy hand on Izuku’s shoulder, and the smaller hybrid stumbles forward, unable to remain stable beneath the weight in the face of his exhaustion.

Toshinori grips his other shoulder and holds him upright, ocean blue eyes softening in concern. “You need some food. And some rest. Do you feel hungry?” He tilts his head slightly, awaiting a response.

Izuku nods weakly, feeling the day’s exercise finally catching up to him. “Food sounds good.”

 

---

 

Not ten minutes later, Izuku finds himself seated at a full table. It’s round and wooden with indentations and uneven edges, but the idea only makes him smile. It’s well-used, clearly, and covered in an assortment of meats, cheeses, and vegetables. There are no utensils, but the foods are all prepared such that using hands makes more sense. Eijirou calls it “finger food. 

Hitoshi looks at the table as though it’s from another planet, and Izuku just laughs. He doesn’t think that Hitoshi has touched a food with his fingers during a meal in his entire life. The fae are typically very proper in their eating habits, and this concept probably does seem a little savage to him. Izuku doesn’t mind though. He has fond memories of his mother bringing him chicken or turkey thighs that he’d hold in bare hands to gnaw on. It was messy, but fun, and honestly quite efficient.

He reaches out to grab a chicken leg now and drops it to his plate. Hitoshi gives him a look of disgust, and he responds by sticking out his tongue, then bringing the meat to his lips and biting off a mouthful.

“Think about all the other things you’ve touched today,” the faery says, arching a brow. “Then imagine putting those things in your mouth.”

Izuku grimaces, and Hitoshi grins. “See?” he says. “You—ow!”

He’s interrupted by Ochako, who smacks him in the shoulder. “Don’t freak him out! You have to eat this way, too, while you’re here! Unless you wanna starve!” She teases, then turns her megawatt grin to Izuku instead. “Don’t listen to him, Izuku. The food is great, and we’ve been eating this way all our lives. It’s silly to waste utensils and time cleaning them for food that’s more easily eaten without’em!”

Eijirou nods. “She’s right. It’s fine. In fact, I like it better… less effort.”

Katsuki snorts from his place beside Izuku.  “So damn lazy,” he mumbles.

“I don’t mind eating this way!” Izuku says. “I remember doing it when I was younger, and I lived with my mom.” The words come easily, despite the surprise written on Hitoshi’s face. He doesn’t really talk about his mom, but it feels okay right now.

“Oh?” Ochako prompts. “Where is she now?” Her head tilts in curiosity.

A thousand thoughts crowd his mind at the question. His first instinct is to say “I don’t know,” but that’s not true, is it? 

He does know. She’s dead.

But for some reason, his brain keeps jumping to his dreams. The horrid ones in which she’s still alive but suffering, still there but not the person he knew. Rot grows in his stomach, and he sets down his chicken, no longer hungry. As soon as his hand falls beneath the table, warm fingers lace his own. It makes him feel a bit better to have Katsuki’s hand in his. He’s not sure why, but it grounds him, and he finds he’s able to speak.

“She, um… she died. When I was little.”

“Oh goodness, I’m sorry! I didn’t even think to—”

“No, no. It’s okay,” he says, reassuring. “It was a long time ago.”

Beneath the table, Katsuki squeezes his hand, and Izuku finds a small smile forming on his own lips.

“She actually lived here when she was younger, I think. In fact… I think I lived here for the first month or so after I was born…”

“Really?!” Eijirou’s face lights up with interest. “I didn’t know that! I bet some of the older elves might know her, or remember her living here at least. Maybe you should talk with some of them and see.” He shrugs. “Never know what you might learn about her in her younger days!”

Izuku laughs. He can’t imagine his mother doing anything particularly interesting in her younger years. Inko was always such a mom. He was barely allowed outside growing up because she seemed so afraid of the world.

His smile falters.

Now that he knows what he does… Maybe she wasn’t afraid of the world, after all.

Maybe she was just afraid of Hisashi.

 

---

 

“Toshinori…?”

“Yes, my boy?” Deep blue eyes shift from the book in his lap to regard Izuku with curiosity.

Izuku shuffles his papers a little, nervous about what he may or may not learn. “D-did… did you know my mom?”

Blond brows lift, bringing the elf’s sharp features to appear even more severe. “Your mother…?”

He sets the pages aside gently, careful not to disrespect the teachings within their ink. They’d been reading about the history of the Seelie and Unseelie Courts, and while Izuku had no knowledge of their separation before, he wasn’t surprised about how they came to be either. He didn’t need to read anymore.

“My mother’s name was Inko—” He pauses, uncertain what to say about the surname before he settles on the truth. “Until recently, I thought her family name was Midoriya, but… well, I know now that wasn’t true, so I don’t actually know what her real surname is—I mean, was.” 

He’s been having a hard time with her death since these nightmares began. Seeing her in such a place filled his heart with dread, but also…somehow…hope. He knows it’s unrealistic and almost definitely impossible, but what if his mother really did escape from Brinestall that day? What if she did survive?

He tries not to think about it, because as much as her death hurts, the idea that she survived but didn’t come for him is painful, too. He blinks hard and takes a deep breath, turning his attention back to the other hybrid in front of him, who wears a surprisingly fond smile on his face.

“I know… I knew the moment I saw you who your mother was,” he says softly. “You look very much like her, you know.”

Izuku’s brow furrows. “So you did know her…?”

“I did.” He nods, looking around the library and humming. He closes his book in a plume of dust and sets it aside. “Your mother was really something. She was a strong woman, and very kind. No one cared more about the well-being of our people,” he says, fond look upon his face. 

Izuku leans forward in his seat, curious. Toshinori clearly knew his mother well… He wanted to hear what the hybrid had to say. Thankfully, he continues on without prompting.

“Inko was a gifted diplomat. She wasn’t set to inherit a seat on the Council, but her kindness knew no bounds, and the Council often found uses for her in dealing with the foreigners who came through…Hisashi Midoriya was one of those.”

“My dad came through here? And no one did anything?”

“Izuku… I know it’s hard to believe, but Hisashi did not always seem to be so... bad…” The younger/green hybrid makes a face at the word, like it isn’t the one he’d choose if there was another option. “Your mother spent a lot of time with him. He had dreams for the fae, wanted to unite the Seelie and Unseelie, you know. It was an honorable thought.”

That statement doesn’t align with what Izuku knows of his father, and it doesn’t sit well in his chest. Hisashi is an evil man. There’s no reason he should want to unite the two courts. 

“Looking back, I wonder…” Toshinori sighs. “Inko had always assumed that Hisashi wanted to reunite the courts in order to bring people together, but… I sometimes wonder if Hisashi only wanted them united to rule them both.”

Izuku is practically vibrating in his seat. This is so much more information than he’d ever expected to learn. It doesn’t seem that Hisashi’s previous time spent near the elves is often addressed. He wonders vaguely if that is on purpose. 

“Why did she think that, though?” he asks. “Did everyone think he was a good man back then?”

Toshinori turns contemplative. “No…” His mouth twists to a frown and he sits back in his seat, crossing his arms. “In fact, Aizawa never truly trusted him, despite their frequent dealings. Hisashi would just drop by to visit sometimes, claiming to want to see Inko, and the Councilman was certainly not fond of that.”

“So my mom and Hisashi… They…they were together?” 

A flash of pain crosses Toshinori’s face, and Izuku files that information away for later. There is clearly something more there that the hybrid isn’t telling him, and he’d like to know what. But he wants to know more about his own history first.

“Not officially,” Toshinori responds. “But it was no secret that she cared for him, and he for her. It was…odd, really. I myself am a hybrid but even I did not ever see my parents together. In fact, aside from Inko and Hisashi, I can’t recall any romantic meeting between the two races.”

“So people didn’t like it because she was an elf and he was a faery? Really? That seems…old fashioned.”

The hybrid shares with him a wry smile. “Yes, Izuku, it does. But, nothing has happened that would prompt a change. And when Inko went missing, the taboo was only reinforced. The elves certainly don’t trust the fae, and the fae seem to look down on the elves as some kind of…I don’t know…lesser creatures.”

Izuku clenches his fists. He’s well aware of the biases and prejudices. But he’s caught on a different detail. His eyebrows raise, incredulous. 

“What do you mean missing? She just…left?”

For a moment, Toshinori appears uncomfortable. He shifts in his seat, ocean eyes sweeping the floor as his blonde hair falls into his face and partially obscures it. He takes a deep breath as though buying time to think, and when he exhales, it’s audible. Finally, the deep blue rises to make contact with Izuku’s green, assessing. 

“Can I be honest with you, my boy?”

“O-of course, sir.”

A soft smile tugs at the corner of the hybrid’s thin lips. “You really are a good kid, you know.”

He sits back in his chair again, crossing his fingers across his thin belly as he does. “Your mother… She…checked in from time to time. For a while there, anyway.”

Izuku narrows his eyes. “…checked in? She came back?”

Valerian withers in the air as blue eyes flick to the side, seemingly deciding how much to say. Izuku watches and waits, not wanting to interrupt whatever thoughts seem to be flying through his mind. It’s not long before the waves settle and Toshinori looks to him again.

“Not…exactly. It’s hard to explain, but…she hadn’t gotten in touch in a very long time before the whole… Brinestall incident.”

The younger hybrid’s body tenses without his permission. A tingle runs down his spine like there’s some information there that strikes a nerve, but for some reason, he just can’t place it.

“When was the last time you heard from her?” he asks.

Toshinori seems to relax a bit at the question, and a little crooked smile lifts his lips. “Probably right about the time she found out she about you.”

Izuku frowns. “Was that… how long was that after she left?”

The smile falls. “Quite some time…”

Petals fall, and Izuku feels sad, too. He wonders if his mom was happy with Hisashi once upon a time, if he ever truly cared for her. He must have, right? To take her with him, for her to have become pregnant?

“So you think she ran away with him…?” Izuku asks. The question swirls sour in his stomach, fear making him anxious about the answer. He hopes she did. He hopes she left of her own accord, because if she didn’t…

He decides not to finish that thought.

He looks up to meet a deep, destructive blue, and the response is as quiet as the older hybrid’s scent.

“I don’t know…”

Chapter Text

Izuku pumps his legs, familiar burn beginning to ignite beneath his skin as he drives them to move faster, farther, more powerfully. Each step is bounding, and he easily scales the mountainous terrain, leaping from jutting stone to fallen trunk, from river bank to opposing shore.

Since starting to train with Toshinori, Izuku has felt increasingly more skilled. It’s as though he’s found some untapped power inside him, and he’s finally setting it free. The more experienced hybrid has taken him through all sorts of exercises to strengthen not only his body, but his brain as well, and the effort certainly seems to be paying off. Izuku feels much faster, much stronger, and far, far more analytical.

He’s honed his senses to scent anyone within 100 yards when he’s paying attention, and he finds it much easier to choose a sound for focus amongst the varied unintentional orchestras he usually picks up. The only thing that remains unchanged is his vision, and while that can’t be improved, his ability to observe certainly has.

And even beyond skill and power and technique, Izuku has found… something else. A sense of belonging exists when he spends time with Toshinori, and it’s not like what he feels with Shouto and Hitoshi, or even with Katsuki. It’s wholly different and unique in its own way. There is something binding about being different together in a world filled with the same. Also, Toshinori has been a wonderful mentor. He ensures that Izuku trains hard, but also that he rests adequately, eats healthfully, and takes time for mental recovery, too.  The blonde hybrid can always tell when Izuku has had one of his nightmares, just by looking at him, and he almost always forces Izuku to take the day off to recover.

This is not one of those days, but Toshinori gave him the day off anyway, as he had some Council business to attend to, and Izuku went promptly to Katsuki’s room to see if he had time to run together.

Katsuki often trains before sunrise, and Izuku trains just after sunrise, so they don’t often see each other in the mornings. In fact, they don’t see each other all that much at all during the week, as Katsuki has resumed his duties as head of the guard, and he’s now responsible for training all of the other hunters and warriors in the city. Apparently, that was something he did before his injury, too, though Izuku does still worry over the old wound occasionally. The sutured area has a pretty ugly scar, and though Katsuki doesn’t mind it, Izuku wonders if it has healed properly internally.

It certainly doesn’t seem to inhibit him. The elf, now back in his own element, leads Izuku through the vine-decorated forests. They traverse river rock and heavy brush alike as they press forward through the area surrounding the castle. They run silently, not speaking. Only their breath is audible amongst the rustling of leaves as they weave between them.

Izuku maintains extra vigilance, ensuring that he doesn’t trip or stumble over the unfamiliar grounds, which is why he notices immediately when Katsuki slows. It’s not dramatic—very subtle, in fact, but Izuku certainly recognizes the moment the elf becomes tired. He catches up almost immediately, and lets his sharp eyes flick over the blonde’s figure. He’s still got great form—straight back, high knees without too long a back-kick. His arms pump in time with his thighs, showing off the deep definition of his biceps, his deltoids. Apart from the scar that’s clearly visible from behind, there would be no indication that Katsuki had been injured at all.

As Izuku slows to match his speed, Katsuki shoots him a look—one that dares him to comment on his change in pace. He doesn’t, but he can’t help but worry about why it’s happened.

“You okay?” He sends Katsuki a questioning glance, hopeful that if he keeps his gaze soft rather than teasing, the elf won’t take so much offense. He has no such luck.

“The fuck you mean am I okay? You see me runnin’ don’t you?!” The words are breathy, winded. Somehow, he still manages to sound threatening.

Izuku smiles at him. “I’m just checking!” He sing-songs, now teasing. The elf narrows his eyes at him, but he can tell it means nothing—Katsuki’s scent still smells pretty sweet. The hybrid looks ahead and pushes a little harder, just to prove a point. Katsuki coughs behind him, pushing to keep up, and Izuku looks back at him.

“How much longer do you wanna run?” He can’t keep the shit-eating grin from his face as he continuous effortlessly. He feels a little tired too, but not enough that he can’t fake it.

“Fuck you.” Katsuki responds.

Izuku laughs aloud, turning to jog backwards.

“Double fuck you.”

The hybrid slows to a near-walk and allows Katsuki to reduce the space between them. “I’m just teasing,” he says. “I’m ready to be done, too. We’ve finished, what… 8 miles?”

He stops when Katsuki catches him, and the elf stops too, leaning forward to rest his hands on his knees, breathing deeply.

“Yeah.” He coughs again. “Plenty.”

Izuku stands silently, waiting as Katsuki recovers. The elf risess and wipes sweat from his forehead, then uses his hand to wipe the perspiration from his neck, too. “Fuck, it’s hot today.”

“Mhm…” Izuku nods vaguely as his eyes follow the trail of sweat that drips down the line of Katsuki’s throat. It catches on his collarbone before falling between his pecs.

Izuku will never get used to looking at the elf bare-chested. It’s practical today, being shirtless-- Izuku is, too, to avoid the heat--but he’s sure there’s no way he looks half as good as Katsuki does when on display. It’s all he can do to swallow before the pooling drool escapes the corner of his lips.

He doesn’t realize Katsuki’s noticed his staring until a hand smacks the underside of his jaw, snapping it shut.

“Hm?” He looks up to meet crimson, blinking hard, trying to refocus. “Did you say something?”

Katsuki smirks. “Not a damn thing.”

He steps forward, bringing his hand back to Izuku’s chin. The touch is gentle when his thumb begins to rub along the line of his jaw.

“You’re really fuckin’ pretty… you know that?”

Izuku’s heart stutters in his chest as blood pools in his face. He looks away, hoping to hide his apparent blush. The elf’s thumb feels warm, rough against his skin, and Izuku inhales sharply as a forefinger lifts his chin, forcing him to make eye contact once more. The deep scarlet pierces Izuku through and through, a clean and intentional wound right through his will to resist.

Katsuki leans in closer, breath ghosting Izuku’s lips when he asks, “This okay…?”

His eyes flit from Izuku’s own to his lips, questioning. The hybrid stands frozen, incapable of doing or saying anything at all. All thought has left his mind, leaving a vacant space that retains no coherency, conceives nothing.

The elf smirks. He moves his thumb to Izuku’s lower lip and brushes over it. The feel of it sends a swarm of long-forgotten butterflies into panic within his abdomen. They seemed to have settled as spending time with Katsuki grew to feel so natural, so comfortable; but this… this is new. Izuku’s lips part, tempted to taste his skin, but Katsuki’s thumb stops moving. He rests it to the side of Izuku’s mouth and uses the knuckle below his chin to pull Izuku’s face a little closer. The elf’s eyes are half-lidded, searching Izuku’s own once more as the cocky half-smile falls from his face—gaze growing soft and serious before crimson is lost altogether to dark, full lashes.

Izuku inhales a sharp breath in surprise, cut off by the warm press of Katsuki’s lips against his own. His eyes widen for just a moment before his lashes flutter shut, and he loses himself in the taste of sugared smoke. He sighs into the kiss, savoring the gentle hesitance, the way their lips move in unison, slow and smooth. The elf brings a hand to the small of Izuku’s back, massaging his scalp with the other as he uses it to pull Izuku impossibly closer, deepening the kiss. Neither of them dare open their mouths, nor test their tongues. It’s languid and soft and Izuku is lost to the blossoming warmth that builds inside his chest, a dormant bud that’s waited patiently for far too long to bloom.

His knees feel weak as his heart pitter-patters to the beat of butterfly wings, racing and anxious but giddy with excitement as he realizes that this time is real. Katsuki is kissing him, holding him, wanting him. It’s not some distraction or unfounded sexual advance. It’s not teasing or practical. It’s true, and it’s special, and it means something.

He brings his hands to explore Katsuki’s muscled and sweat-soaked skin, pulling them flush to one another before the hand in his hair grazes down to his nape. Katsuki pulls back slightly, parting their lips just enough that Izuku can feel him smirk, breath cooling his lips where saliva lingers.

“Okay?” Katsuki murmurs, uncharacteristically quiet. His eyes shift back and forth between Izuku’s and the hybrid feels almost dizzy when he answers.

“More than,” he says, then stands on tip-toes to bring their lips together again. This time the elf doesn’t hold back. He drags Izuku’s body closer, mouth consuming as his tongue traces Izuku’s lower lip and then plunges inside. Their mouths are wide open, kiss only growing more messy when Izuku’s hands find their way to blonde spikes, pulling and pressing and truly at a loss for any sort of directionality. The soft bloom in his chest moves deep to his gut, grows stronger and branches out to test his control.

A shift in his feet cracks a branch beneath him and Izuku remembers: they’re not alone here. They’re out in the woods, on a trail. A public trail. But Katsuki doesn’t seem to care. His hands move to palm at Izuku’s ass, groping and pulling their hips together, dragging a small, surprised yelp from Izuku’s lips that apparently makes the elf nervous.

He pulls back, panting with an apologetic brow. “Fuck, sorry.”

“F-for what?” Izuku slurs. He reaches up for Katsuki’s lips again, and they move against his own for one...two seconds before the elf pulls away again. Izuku feels dizzy, feels intoxicated by the figure in front of him, against him. He sees and smells and tastes nothing but Katsuki in this moment. He loves it.

“Just wasn’t thinkin’… Couldn’t think.” His arms move to wrap around Izuku’s smaller form, and he pulls the hybrid in against his chest, squeezing. His breath fans over Izuku’s hair as he continues, trying to explain. “You just…do somethin’ to me. Makes me wanna do somethin’ stupid.”

Izuku’s lips curl to a small grin. He can understand that completely.  “Mmm…” He agrees, nuzzling Katsuki’s chest. “Me, too.”

After one more deep and heavy breath, Izuku is released from his hold. He licks his now kiss-swollen lips and adjusts his shorts before looking up to meet that gorgeous crimson gaze.

“Been waitin’ a long time to do that,” Katsuki says quietly.

Izuku doesn’t respond, too busy fighting the heat that floods his skin at the concept. His heart thrills in his chest, bashing against his ribcage in response to the happiness that floods his form. But he does wonder.

“Why now?” he whispers, genuinely curious.

Katsuki loosens his hold and shifts backward to look at him. His mouth opens and closes, as though he doesn’t know how to answer, before he shrugs. “Dunno. Felt like a good time.”

A smile splits Izuku’s face. So simple, but true. It does, somehow, feel like a good time. Izuku is feeling the best he has in years—maybe the best he’s felt ever—here in Azmarin. As off-putting as his arrival had been, it wasn’t long before he grew to be friends with a number of the elves present around the Castle. He loves spending time on the grounds, really enjoys the naturality of the buildings. There is so much life in Azmarin, and it’s been refreshing.

Katsuki’s lips curve to a rare, genuine smile in response, and Izuku laughs, unable to contain the raw joy that bursts inside him. When he’s finally calmed down, he looks up again.

“So, feeling ready to run back home yet?”

Blond brows raise in surprise. “Home, huh?”

Izuku pauses, tilting his head. He hadn’t realized that he’d said that; the thought surprises him, but feels true. Azmarin does feel like home, even after such a short time.

“Yeah, home.” He smiles.

---

It’s not long before the two of them arrive at the stone wall that divides the castle grounds from the forest. Izuku drops to the ground, sitting to catch his breath, while Katsuki lies flat in the grass, heaving.

“You prick. You got a head start,” he grouses.

Izuku sticks his tongue out at him. “I’m just in better shape than you.”

The elf grabs his arm and yanks him down to his sweaty, sticky chest and holds him there, tightly. Izuku squirms and pushes at him to get away. He was lost in the moment last time, but this time, he just feels wet and gross and doesn’t want to be anywhere near the elf until he’s cleaned up. The problem is, he can’t push away. Katsuki is too strong.

“Lemme… UGH… UP! Gross!” He yelps as he shoves fruitlessly.

Katsuki scoffs. “Now, who’s in better shape?”

Izuku immediately stops struggling and sighs. “Okay. Point taken. Let me up so we can grab clothes and go get clean. You are disgusting.”

The cage around him releases and Izuku pushes away just enough to see the elf’s face, which wears one of his rare, genuine smiles. Izuku can’t help but kiss him in the moment, and he does—quick and sweet and chaste before pushing himself back up to his feet. Katsuki groans when he pulls away, but Izuku only laughs.

“Come’on, lazy. We both need the river.”

“Yeah, yeaahh…” Katsuki mumbles. Just as he sits up, Izuku freezes, ears peaked and nose lifted.

Iron.

Thick and heavy distress.

Rosemary…?

A rustle of the brush… dragging, maybe. It certainly wasn’t footsteps. He looks around, searching each bush and tree for signs of motion before he catches leaves shifting close to the ground.

Katsuki looks bewildered for a moment before turning his head in the same direction. It’s clear he sees the shifting brush the moment his eyes narrow fiercely.

“Who’s there?” His voice is loud and intimidating, scent threatening as dry smoke permeates the air, overpowering the familiar but somehow twisted scent of olive oil.

A quiet whimper sounds from the brush, and Izuku startles. That sounds like a person! He practically sprints forward to see who’s there, and Katsuki is not far behind him when he arrives at the large, overgrown plant. Sniffling makes its way to his ears, and he leans in to spread the plants, searching.

His eyes catch a shine of gold—no, yellow. The color is bright, almost the same as Katsuki’s hair, if not a little bit more pale. Her hair is tied into messy, half falling buns, with straight bangs that fall into her eyes and give Izuku the oddest sense of deja vu. He reaches out to offer the thin, small girl a hand before Katsuki yanks him back by the other arm.

“The fuck?! Himiko?”

His brow is furrowed, some odd blend of anger and anxiety flitting to the hybrid’s nose Izuku looks from Katsuki to the girl with confusion. She’s clearly injured or sick. The poor thing is crying to the earth, clothes matted and torn, with blood smeared across her skin. She whines as her forearms give out, dropping her body to the ground and going limp, as though asleep. Though, with all the blood on her, Izuku suspects she’s unconscious.

He steps forward to reach out again, and this time Katsuki only eyes him with concern. When Izuku pushes on her shoulder to see if she responds, she doesn’t, so he rolls her onto her back and bends down to examine her injuries.

“Do you know her?” he asks.

Katsuki squats down across from him and looks her over. “Yeah, she’s an elf. From here, except… she hasn’t been here for years. Went missing about… four years ago? We all assumed she’d left on her own. Never been a pushover, this one.”

Izuku nods vaguely as he turns her arms to look at them. He doesn’t see any injuries there, so he checks her legs. None there either. He doesn’t want to remove her clothing, but they are bloody, so he just does a clinical exam on top of them, pressing around her abdomen and feeling for broken ribs. When he comes up short, he shifts his eyes to meet the crimson in front of him.

“I can’t… find anything. No injuries.” He sniffs, then frowns. “But, she smells like… she smells familiar.”

Katsuki scowls and crosses his arms. “Weird. Sure you ain’t missin’ somethin’?”

“Yeah… Maybe it’s not her blood. Let’s take her inside and see if she wakes up after resting for a while.”

The elf looks skeptical, hesitant, but he ultimately leans forward to slip his arms beneath her and scoop her up. He stands easily, and Izuku follows suit, returning to the castle.

---

“Momo!” Katsuki shouts from the entryway to the healer’s wing. Izuku hadn’t know there was a healer’s wing, and he’s a little miffed that no one thought to show it to him before now. As they pass through the heavy oak doors, Izuku senses are overflowing with the familiar smell of all the medicinal plants he might ever need. This part of the castle is bright with sunshine, casting a pretty beige color on the various flat stones that cover the floor.

Katsuki yells again, louder this time. “MOMO!”

The sound of tapping shoes reaches Izuku’s ears as a pretty elf with long black hair rounds the corner.

“No need to shout. I’m right here,” she says softly. Her eyes shift to Izuku and widen slightly before she holds a hand out to him. He shakes it, smiling.

“Hi. I’m Izuku.”

She nods. “Momo.” Then she looks to the unconscious girl in Katsuki’s arms. “What happened?”

Katsuki shrugs, still holding her. “Dunno. Where do you want’er?”

“Follow me.” Momo turns on her heel and walks down a smaller hallway to a small side room with a bed and a small side table. “Lay her here,” she says, then abruptly leaves again.

Izuku pulls back the blankets so Katsuki can place the girl—Himiko, apparently—on the mattress. He does, and Himiko whimpers, curling onto her side and clutching her abdomen.

Wanting to check her temperature, Izuku leans closer to place a hand on her head. He feels Katsuki’s eyes on him and looks up to find the blonde arching a brow.

“You think she’s sick?”

Izuku rolls his eyes. “There’s clearly something wrong with her, don’t you think?”

“More than one thing wrong with this girl.” Katsuki snorts.

The hybrid gives him a severe look in response before he huffs and gets to work on removing parts of her clothing. She feels more than just warm to the touch; her skin is scalding. She’s definitely ill. He’s not sure what Momo’s role is here, so he might be stepping on toes, but if Himiko is bleeding internally or somehow perforated her bowels, he needs to know now, so he’s not going to wait around for the elf to return.

As he lifts her shirt part-way, he finds her belly and ribs dark with blues and violets. Parts of them are still red, as though whatever trauma occurred happened recently. He feels around, but still doesn’t feel any fractures. Odd. He taps fingers to her belly, percussing to see if he can hear any fluid inside. Thankfully, it sounds normal. However, when he presses around it to feel for masses, Himiko wretches, jerking backward and whining. Her eyes flutter open, gold flitting around beneath her light lashes until they land on Izuku.

“It hurts. Help me,” she slurs. She reaches an arm out and grabs Izuku’s, near his wrist, and his heart crumples in his chest. He feels terrible. He wants to help, but he doesn’t have any of his usual herbs or remedies available, and he’s not sure where Momo has gone, and he still doesn’t really know what’s happened to her.

“Were you attacked? When did you begin feeling sick?” he asks. He hopes to get some information while shes conscious enough to respond, information that might help her to live. He can’t tell how bad off she is just yet, but he’d like to optimize her chances.

She nods weakly, rubbing her face against the pillow and heaving a shaky breath. “Y-yes… this guy… nowhere… needle…” she mumbles, and Izuku can’t catch it all.

It sounds almost as though she was injected with something…? He isn’t sure, but it makes him begin to wonder about poisons. A guy coming out of nowhere and attacking her would explain the bruises too, but why? If someone wants to harm her, why let her go? How did she get here?

Those are questions he can save for later. For now, he needs to work on finding an antidote. He shoves up from his chair just as Momo appears in the doorway with a satchel. She begins pulling a variety of pressed leaves from the bag and spreading them across the side table. The elf looks up at Izuku with a spark in her eye that he’s only ever recognized in his own. 

“Shall we begin?” she asks.

He nods. A hand presses his shoulder and Izuku looks up to see Katsuki beside him. 

“Oi. I’m gonna leave you to it. Come grab me when you’re done, alright?”

A warm bubble inflates in his chest at the thought that Katsuki wants him to check in. “Yeah, I’ll see you soon,” he says.

And then they get to work.

---

A few hours later, Izuku exits the room. His brain is fried and his nose burns, but he thinks they got it right. He and Momo tirelessly discussed the different possibilities of poison, and narrowed it down to a small variety. After that, the two of them worked to concoct a viable blend of antidotal herbs that they could get Himiko to drink. That was a problem in itself. There are several herbs which cannot be blended, else certain properties are enhanced and can become dangerous in themselves. 

Thankfully, Izuku’s enhanced senses allowed him to scent when that was the case, and Momo’s magic allowed them to eliminate those components before recreating the elixir. Izuku didn’t have time to think on her magic, but wow, what a neat ability.

Momo can basically impact the anatomic properties of her creations, or… well, probably anything? Izuku didn’t ask. But all she has to do is focus on the makeup of the object, and she can alter it. Creating liquids from leaves was much easier this way than the way Izuku usually creates them, by chopping and muddling and mixing. He wonders now what the limits are on her power. Could she touch him and turn him to a liquid? What about a gas? He decides he’ll ask her about it later. For now, Momo is tending to Himiko’s fever and monitoring her progress. She said she would let Izuku know of any change, and he believes her.

So it’s with a lighter heart and a more relaxed mind that Izuku works his way through the maze of the Castle, searching for Katsuki’s quarters. He’s never been to the royal quarters before, but he’s fairly certain that’s where the fiery elf resides, considering his rank amongst the warriors in Azmarin. Izuku meanders along, essentially choosing the routes he’s not familiar with on the assumption that one of them will eventually lead him that way. He’s seen most of the Castle already, so a process of elimination seems like a good idea.

Eventually, he comes to an area lined with beautifully embroidered tapestries. They elaborately display some of the previous Councilmen, along with the names and sigils of the families that maintain seats on the Council. Izuku runs his fingers along the rough fabric as he turns in that direction. The smells of dust and dirt are all that linger in the hallway until he nears the end. There, the smell of peaches teases his nostrils. 

He inhales the pleasant scent deeply, appreciating the softness, the slight sweetness that lingers as he turns to look around. This scent has become pretty familiar at this point, and he’s certain the Ochako is nearby somewhere. It isn’t long before she rounds the corner, face brightening and smile beaming when she catches sight of Izuku.

“Ochako!” He greets her, smiling, and the elf basically sprints to meet him. 

“Hey, Izu! I haven’t seen you all day! I missed you at lunch time, you know.” She turns her face into a deliberate frown—a faux pout, if Izuku has ever seen one.

His smile softens. “I’m sorry. I was caught up. Actually…” Right on cue, his belly rumbles. “I hadn’t realized how hungry I was until this moment.”

Bubbly laughter fills the air and Ochako grabs his wrist. “Come on, then! Let’s get you some food!”

Izuku stumbles a bit, trying not to walk too quickly. He’s supposed to be finding Katsuki right now, not finding dinner. His stomach twists and the sound of its emptiness echoes in the hall.

Okay, maybe just a quick bite.

He follows Ochako back around the twisted corridors until they enter what appears to be a kitchen. A large basket of rolls sits on the counter along with a big bowl of fruit varietals. Ochako gets to work pulling yet another basket from the cabinet before gathering plates and bread. She makes them sandwiches from dried, sliced meats, cheese, and some fresh greens in a dish nearby. When they finally sit down to eat, Izuku realizes his mouth is watering incessantly, and he scarfs the entire sandwich without saying a word. Ochako is only about halfway finished when he sits back in his seat, feeling the warmth and relaxation of a full stomach wash over him.

He yawns, and Ochako giggles.

“Wow, you really were hungry. I knew you weren’t at dinner, but I’d hoped you’d at least have gotten a snack!”

Izuku scratches the back of his head. “I, uh… I kind of zone out when I’m focused. I don’t think about things like... food… or sleep.”

Brown brows rise, and Ochako nods with her lips parted. “Um… oh… okay. Well… maybe you should try to work on that.” She tilts her head and laughs. Her pink cheeks round in a way that’s generically adorable. Ochako is a really cute elf. 

“Anyway. Are you still hungry? I could make you something more?” She adds.

The hybrid rubs his belly, still feeling rather exhausted thanks to his mental workout and now replenished body. “No, no… I’m alright. I was actually meant to be finding Katsuki…” he says.

Cinnamon gains ground in the air, and Izuku frowns, looking up to meet a wide brown gaze and a trembling lower lip. “What’s wrong?” he asks.

“Oh! N-nothing! Nothing’s wrong. It’s sweet that you two are close.” She smiles, but it doesn’t reach her eyes. “Honestly, it’s refreshing to see him care about something other than fighting and winning. He was really bothered when you weren’t at lunch today—worried, I think. It’s cute!”

Despite the cheery sound of her voice, the peaches don’t pick up again as she nibbles on her sandwich. When Izuku watches her with concern, she just smiles back at him, as though nothing is amiss. The cinnamon isn’t strong, but it’s there. He wonders if she knows he can scent subtleties like that. Another elf might actually miss it, it’s so faint.

He doesn’t bring it up.

Ochako finishes her sandwich and then walks him back toward Katsuki’s room. It turns out Izuku wasn’t in the right vicinity at all. Katsuki doesn’t stay in the royal quarters, but instead lives in the warrior’s wing because he insists on being nearby for early training and the needs of any of his men or women.

She gives him another big smile before waving goodbye, and he raises a fist to knock on the door. He doesn’t get to, however, because it opens immediately.

“The fuck you been?” Katsuki growls. 

Izuku’s hackles immediately raise. “Eating.” He spits. “I haven’t eaten all day. So excuse me for needing food.”

The snarl evaporates from the elf’s features, replaced by a look of surprise instead. Izuku supposes Katsuki isn’t used to him snapping like that, but he can’t help it. He’s exhausted. And he’d really, really like a nap right about now. He doesn’t have the mental fortitude for Katsuki’s rudeness at the moment.

The elf’s mouth hangs open, as though he wants to form words but his lips won’t work, so Izuku speaks again.

“Nap. I need a nap. Can I just sleep here?”

Katsuki snaps his jaw shut and nods, then steps to the side for Izuku to pass. The hybrid stomps right by him, walking straight to the bed and climbing in without a word. He pulls the furs up to his chin and closes his eyes, feeling his breathing slow as his body grows heavy, immediately edging the world of dreams.

It’s not long before the mattress dips with added weight, and Izuku smiles. He falls asleep with the elf’s warm body curled behind his own, smothered in the sweet scent of heated sugar and the comforting feel of Katsuki’s strong arm around his waist.

 


Chapter Text

“Mmnngh…” Izuku mumbles, extending his toes toward the foot of the bed in an effort to wake his limbs. He feels so warm, so cozy… As he shifts, he feels strong arms caging his abdomen, broad muscle against his back.

The air is sweet, and Izuku is… happy.

He rolls lazily, unthinking. A feeling of deja vu tickles his thoughts as he turns to bury his face in a warm chest, wanting to address the morning desire between his legs as his body works toward wakefulness. Sleep drugged fingers graze the other’s length through soft pants, barely teasing before he wraps them around to find the shaft heavy and thick in his palm.

Good dreams...? He wonders. He smiles to himself and presses closer, leaving slow, sloppy kisses on warm skin as his loose grip begins to stroke.

His ears fill with a low groan—deeper than he’d anticipated.

“Shit…”

His eyes snap open and meet two scarlet. He jerks his hand away with a pounding heart.

“Ah, I—I didn’t mean…” He trails off, basically slurring beneath the weight of sleep. He didn’t mean what? He’s got no excuse. He might have acted instinctively, but it’s not as though he didn’t recognize Katsuki’s sticky sweet scent, didn’t crave more of it subconsciously.

Still, he feels a little uncomfortable. This might have been something he and Shouto would have done, but he and Katsuki aren’t exactly there yet.

He shifts backward a bit, to put some space between them out of respect, but Katsuki’s arms press into his low back, pulling him closer again. Izuku places a hand on his bicep to maintain some—albeit minimal—distance between them.

A smug smirk graces wicked lips. “How ya feelin’ now, nerd? More awake…?” The low, sleepy voice stirs the lingering arousal in Izuku’s gut.

“I—um… y-yeah… I’m up.”

Rough hands move downward, falling heavy on his ass and pulling him closer still. The movement brushes their morning erections together, and a feathery whine falls from Izuku’s mouth.

“You don’t need any more distractions, do ya?” The elf’s voice is husky and thick with the disuse of slumber. It’s sexy, and Izuku does his best not to squirm.

“N-no,” he breathes.

Katsuki moves closer, their cheeks touching as he noses near Izuku’s ear. His hot breath fans the sensitive skin, and Izuku’s breath quickens.

“You want this?”

Those three words drip heated honey deep into his gut, and Izuku nods almost imperceptibly, unable to refuse despite his best intentions.

Katsuki presses chapped lips beneath his earlobe, drags his hips forward so they’re flush together through the cotton of their troublesome trousers.

“Good answer.” 

He nips the shell of Izuku’s ear, and he whimpers, tilting his head away while he laces fingers into the nest of Katsuki’s hair. The elf inhales deeply, audibly, rubbing his nose along Izuku’s throat. 

“Fuck, doc… you don’t know what you do to me…”

He leaves a lingering kiss at the pulse point.

“So damn humid and lush… green… wet…”

His lips press again, near the junction of his shoulder.

“You smell so fucking good for me...”

His tongue drags lower, sucking a mark against Izuku’s collarbone.

“And I can taste it on your skin.”

Izuku can’t find words to respond. Viscous sugar fills his nose, caramel sticky on his tongue when he pulls at Katsuki’s scalp to bring their mouths together in a sweet and desperate kiss. Katsuki immediately grips the hybrid’s hips and yanks him on top, shifting to lie on his back as he drags Izuku’s thighs apart. 

A solid press beneath him grinds up against Izuku’s tailbone, and when he shifts his hips, he feels a now-familiar dampness in his trousers. Izuku presses back down against him, and Katsuki’s mouth separates from his own abruptly.

The elf closes his eyes to suck a long and shuddering breath, and when they open, the crimson is consumed by black—pupils dilated with want.

“You’re wet for me,” he growls. His palms slip inside Izuku’s pants, moving to spread his cheeks, and Izuku grinds downward against him slowly. Katsuki groans , rutting upward. His hands move to pull off Izuku’s shirt, and then he’s sitting up, tongue roughly meeting Izuku’s chest. The hybrid releases a low, broken moan at the sensation, nipples hardening beneath Katsuki’s attention.

“It’s that you’re part fae, ain’t it?” The elf murmurs between nips and licks, lifting his gaze to catch Izuku’s. “No wonder your scent’s so damn amplified… You can breed…” Lust clouds Katsuki’s eyes, intent growing further as his hips snap upward against Izuku’s ass more forcefully than before.

He sinks sharp canines into the side of Izuku’s neck, deep enough to hurt. It burns, sending more blood to his already painful cock before Katsuki pauses to sooth the pain with a skillful tongue. He continues the pattern, biting and licking, stinging and soothing, until Izuku’s a breathless, whimpering mess—pants soaked and senses overloaded.

His body feels like a livewire of sensation. Molten, smoking sugar devours his nose as Katsuki’s tongue tastes every inch of his fervid skin. Izuku aches to reciprocate, and he grabs at Katsuki’s back for purchase before the elf grabs his wrists and pins them down. 

“Patience, doc.” He growls, and Izuku can’t help but whine in response.

Katsuki’s husky breathing and Izuku’s own whimpering pants resound in his ears, drowning out the outside world as the elf’s rough hand moves to grip Izuku’s swollen, sensitive cock tightly.

The attention feels nothing like what Izuku’s experienced before. All he’s known thus far has been sweet and soft—careful. This is harsh and thoughtless, amazing and all-consuming, and Izuku can think of nothing but the way Katsuki feels against his body, on his skin. He leans forward to press their mouths together again, feverish and impassioned as his tongue maps Katsuki’s mouth thoroughly, tasting as the elf draws blood from his lower lip, hand dragging and pulling on Izuku’s engorged, pulsing cock.

Every stroke feels volcanic in intensity, and Izuku bucks up into Katsuki’s brutal hand as the elf fucks up against him from below, grinding against the dampness of Izuku’s pants. Smoke and fire and sticky sweetness surround him while their movements become more frantic, more fierce by the second. The tension in Izuku’s gut grows heavier, fuller as he feels the elf’s thick cock dragging between his cheeks, even through his clothing. He moans against Katsuki’s lips, arousal pulling taut in his belly, so tight that it could snap.

Until it does.

Tremors erupt in consuming waves that wash through his every sinew. The air leaves his lungs in some broken, inhuman sound, and he rocks his hips slowly, grinding into Katsuki’s fist just as the hips beneath him stutter. The elf’s orgasm is audibly punctuated by a hitch in his breathing, a curse that blends to a soft groan inside Izuku’s lips even while he strokes the hybrid through release. Katsuki continues thrusting lazily against Izuku’s ass while they both ride out their highs, and eventually, Izuku collapses forward onto his chest, burying his face against his neck. 

The scent of the same flame that licked at his arousal just moments before has now become more soothing… softer and less intense, more like the fireside warmth that lulls him back to sleep in the night. He nuzzles into it, bringing now-free palms to smooth up Katsuki’s sides. Katsuki shifts him a bit to pull his hands from Izuku’s pants and wipe them off, then rubs them up Izuku’s back, into his hair, pulling him gently closer. He kisses him on the mouth, steady and languid, laced with a desire that makes Izuku’s spent cock twitch with want all over again. 

When they finally need to come up for air, Katsuki smirks.

“Been waitin’ too damn long for that.”

Izuku snorts. “I appreciate your patience,” he retorts, rolling his eyes. He presses a kiss to the tip of Katsuki’s nose, and then slips from his lap, only to realize how disgusting his pants feel. He grimaces, and Katsuki barks a laugh.

“Wanna borrow some clothes?” he asks, a brow raised in amusement. “Ain’t got any fancy plumbing here. We’ll have to head to the river.”

Izuku groans. He’d forgotten how convenient plumbing was for times like these. “Don’t you have a canteen or something? I can at least soak a cloth… I don’t have time for the river right now. I’ve gotta go check on Himiko. She should be awake by now.”

Smoke spikes at the statement, but Katsuki only grunts and walks to his wardrobe on the opposite side of the room. He unbuckles and drops his pants, tossing them in a basket beside the wooden structure and grabbing two cloths from inside. Izuku watches the muscle in his ass flex as he takes a few steps over to the nearby table and throws the rags in a bowl, which he promptly pours water into. When he wrings them out, the strength of his shoulders ripples, too, and Izuku wants so badly to reach out and feel him.

He walks over to meet the elf, just staring as Katsuki drips some sort of scented oil into the water tub, rinsing the cloths within it. When he finishes ringing them out a second time, he looks up to meet Izuku’s gaze, which Izuku promptly lifts from where it had been tracing the definition of Katsuki’s abs. The elf snorts.

“Here,” he says, holding one out. “You’ll still have to borrow clothes though. Unless you like the idea of walkin back to your room in those…” He looks at Izuku’s wet trousers pointedly, with one side of his nose crinkled.

Izuku smacks him in the chest. “Hey! It’s your fault they’re like this!” He laughs, but takes the cloth anyway. Katsuki slips two fingers into the waistline of his pants and uses it to drag him in.

“Damn right, that’s ‘cause of me. Don’t you forget it, either,” he says lowly. The words send a tingle down Izuku’s spine, and Katsuki’s lips on his own turn the tingles to electricity, meeting his groin and encouraging him to seek more. It takes the time of four more slow kisses and the involvement of some tongue before he is able to finally snap himself out of it. 

Izuku really does need to go check on Himiko. He can’t stay here for… ah… round two. When he pulls back, it’s with a bright blush on his cheeks and the knowledge that taking his pants off will be a little more difficult around his half-hard dick. But he’s got to clean up and get going, sooner rather than later. Katsuki smirks at him and moves his two tucked fingers to instead untie Izuku’s pants, letting them fall to the floor. 

“Yeah, yeah… I know… You gotta go…” He says with amusement. He lets his knuckles trail over Izuku’s partial erection before his touch pulls away completely, and Izuku whimpers in spite of himself. Katsuki huffs a laugh, then grabs the second cloth from the bowl and starts to clean himself off. “Clean up. I’m gonna grab you some shorts to borrow ‘til you can change.”

Izuku sighs in relief and starts to wipe himself down. “Th-thanks…”

The elf arches a brow at him, a grin tugging at the corner of his lips. “Any time."

 

------



“Did it finally happen?!?” Eijirou smacks a palm on Katsuki’s shoulder, eyes wide in excitement. “Man, ANSWER ME! I gotta know!” His brows are raised so high that Katsuki is concerned they’ll be lost in his hairline. He rolls his eyes. 

“Dude. Come on… ” Eijirou whines. “I know Izuku didn’t sleep in his room last night.” He pouts, trying to make Katsuki feel guilty.

It isn’t going to work. 

Katsuki just continues strapping his boots, preparing to head outside and resume training the newbies. It’s only been a couple of hours since Izuku left, and he’s still feeling giddy. It’s fucking ridiculous, really. They didn’t even have sex, just… got off on each other like a couple of damn teenagers. And yet, it was one of the best orgasms he’d ever had.

He’s pathetic.

Regardless, he was happy. And he doesn’t need anyone around here pokin’ at Izuku and makin’ the nerd uncomfortable about it. He doesn’t want anything to compromise this. It feels… important.

He huffs and double knots the lace he’d been working on, doing his best to tune out Eijirou’s whining.

“Man, I can smell him on you.” When Katsuki looks back up, the other elf’s face looks stern, one brow now raised skeptically.

“Who gives a shit? We spend a lot of time together. In fact, we ran together yesterday morning, so I would smell like him.”

Eijirou narrows his eyes at him. “You would… but… ugh!” He throws his hands up in frustration. “I’d be happy for you guys, you know! Why don’t you wanna tell me?!”

The sound of the armory door swinging brings his words to a halt, followed by the scent of jonquil. Katsuki clenches his jaw, letting his teeth grind to prevent him from doing or saying something stupid.

“Tell him what?” 

Nosy fucker.

“None of your damn business, ya fuckin’ creep.” Katsuki practically spits at Shindo, but the elf only remains amused.

“Does this have something to do with our new visitors?” he asks.

Eijirou looks between the two of them, seemingly confused, before Shindo continues on. 

“If it does, I have the right to know, don’t you think? As your second in command, I should be privy to all matters that will affect the safety of this castle. Isn’t that right, Bakugou?”

“Nobody’s damn safety is bein’ compromised.” Katsuki grumbles. Boots set, he stands and turns to grab his bow from where it hangs on the wall. He throws a few arrows in a quiver, then slings that over his back as well. He reaches for Eijirou’s bow, too, then turns and tosses it at him with a little more force than probably necessary. Eijirou is prepared, already familiar with Katsuki’s mood swings.

“I’m not so sure that’s the case. When were you planning to tell me that Himiko Toga had returned to town?” Shindo asks, tone lilting like a poisonous but pretty flower.

“When I fuckin’ saw you, dumbass. I already spoke with Aizawa. Ain’t my fault he didn’t think you needed to be in on the conversation.”

At that, Shindo looks stricken, but it’s not long before his features are schooled back to the same fake pretty boy bullshit he typically puts on display. “Fine. But if Izuku is treating her, I wanna be there.”

Katsuki whirls around, growling. “Why?”

“Because, I like him. I’d rather he not be murdered by that psychotic freak. Wouldn’t you?”

As if Katsuki would let Izuku die at the hands of that chick. Besides, Izuku is perfectly fuckin’ capable of takin’ care of himself. It’s not like Katsuki needs to protect him… right?

“Y’know… It isn’t well known, but that girl has some serious powers of deceit.  I wouldn’t leave him alone with her, anyway. He’s not, right?” Shindo asks the questions with interest, as though he genuinely cares about what happens to the hybrid, but Katsuki knows that’s impossible. The leech doesn’t care for a damn thing. He just wants to make Katsuki look thoughtless by comparison, and it’s pissing him off. A weight grips his bicep and he looks back to see Eijirou shake his head.

Katsuki takes a deep breath. “Momo was with’im last I checked,” he responds.

Shindo nods slowly. “Ah. Well, good.”

Katsuki huffs. “Fuckin’ done grillin’ your superior now?”

“For now,” the elf grins.

 

 

---


Katsuki spends the next four hours taking his frustrations out on every available target in the training grounds. He decided to base today’s training on limited time in extreme circumstances: hit as many targets as he can while moving in a particular time frame. It’s the perfect way to burn off his anger and all the pent up energy he’s had since seeing Izuku this morning. 

Once wasn’t enough. He misses the nerd already. Damnit. What’s wrong with him?

He stomps, scowling, to Izuku’s room, then scowls further when he receives no answer at the door. He knocks harder.

“Doc! You in there?”

Still nothing.

Can’t smell him, either.

He turns on his heel. If Izuku isn’t in his room, there are only a few other places he can be. The first place Katsuki decides to look is the healer’s wing. It takes him a good twenty minutes to walk there, but when he does, he isn’t disappointed. He can already scent Izuku from the hallway, and immediately feels his posture relax. At least he’s here. He’s safe.

Wait… safe? When he start worrying about his safety here in the walls of the damn castle?

That fuckin’ Shindo must have gotten under his skin more than he thought. Ugh.

He steps forward to knock on the door, initially receiving no answer. This time, he tries to be patient, knowing Izuku is inside. He waits, listening.

“N-no... please? Don’t go! Don’t leave me!”

Katsuki frowns. Is that Himiko? He doesn’t remember her being quite so pathetic. He knocks again.

“Noooo… Izuuuu... please! Don’t go!”

That time his eyes widen. She’s begging Izuku to stay? Why? Also, why the fuck is she calling him a nickname already?

He can scent the storm coming on in the forest, practically feels Izuku’s inner turmoil as he debates whether or not to leave the girl. God damnit. Katsuki is literally at the damn door. He won’t even have to leave the suite . This is fucking ridiculous. He knocks harder.

Finally, he hears footsteps, then watches as the door handle shifts, the door creaking open to show him soft, emerald eyes.

Immediately, freckled cheeks round in a smile. “Katsuki! I didn’t expect you to come by. I thought you were training?”

What? Does he not want Katsuki here? Something sour rises in his gut, and the elf doesn’t like it. He bites it back.

“Yeah, well… I’m done,” he responds. “Thought I’d come see how things’re goin’ here.”

Izuku’s brows raise slightly, but he nods. “Sure, um… come on in!” He steps aside and waves for Katsuki to enter.

As he does, he lets his eyes dart around the room, searching for signs of any other presence.  When he’d told Aizawa that Himiko was here, Aizawa suggested that Katsuki be vigilant. Innocent until proven guilty is a thing in Azmarin, but no one knows why Himiko disappeared in the first place, and it’s a little more than concerning that she returned to them injured. 

It almost feels like some sort of set-up.

Fortunately, the room is empty save for the salves and dressings that it seems Izuku was reorganizing. There are empty baskets and some full ones on the shelves, with a multitude of items spread over the table. When Katsuki turns to look into the next room over, he sees Himiko sitting up in bed. The kohl around her eyes is smeared as though she’s been rubbing it, and her hair is back up in her trademark pigtail buns, bangs loosely falling in her face. 

She smiles at him, displaying her unusually long fangs and waving her hand in greeting like a child. 

“Katsuki!” She yelps. “I didn’t think I’d see you here!” Her eyes seem a bit wide with surprise, and it makes Katsuki arch a brow.

“Where else would I be when someone who’d gone missing years ago pops back up? Part of my job to keep this place safe, ya know.” 

She frowns. “I-I know… I wish I could…” She whimpers and holds her head, brow crinkling with distress, and Izuku rushes over to her bedside.

“Himiko, I need you to tell me what’s happening… okay? It’s important that I know how you feel right now.”

She sniffs and whimpers again, and Katsuki rolls his eyes. You gotta be fuckin’ kidding. There’s no way that sentence upset her so much. She’s just avoiding the damn questioning she knows she’ll get as soon as she’s well enough.

“I-I caaann’t!” She whines.  She looks up at Izuku with misty eyes and starts to cry in earnest, throwing her arms around his shoulders and burying her face in his neck.  His eyes widen, and his hands hover in the air for a moment before he awkwardly pats her back.

“I-it’s okay, Himiko… It’s okay. You don’t have to… Just… calm down, alright? It’s okay…” he whispers in her ear sweetly, trying to calm her, and a fire flares in Katsuki’s gut. Izuku is too damn nice. She’s going to play him easily if he keeps this shit up.

The hybrid smooths his hand over her back, rubbing it up and down as he waits for her breathing to calm. When it does, he moves to let go, but she only seems to squeeze him tighter, shaking her head.

“D-don’t go… don’t leave me! Everyone else here hates me. I need you Izu. I need you!” Her shouts are muffled by his skin, and the idea of her lips grazing where Katsuki’s just did pisses him the fuck off. 

He stomps over, leaning against the wall nearby and crossing his arms.

“Oi, doc. I need to talk to you.”

Izuku looks up at him with his brows raised, still patting the back of the pathetic fucking thing in his arms. 

“Now,” Katsuki adds. “Privately.”

Himiko wails, and Izuku looks at Katsuki in desperation. “I can’t,” he mouths, looking from Katsuki to Himiko pointedly. 

“Now.” Katsuki growls. This time, it sounds like an order. And while he doesn’t like the idea of bossing Izuku around, this is important.

The hybrid’s fixes him with an irritated glance before he gently peels Himiko from his chest. “Himiko, I’ll be right back. I promise. I’ll be really quick, okay?” 

She looks like he’s just smacked her in the face, but after a moment, she wipes at her eyes and nods. “O-okay…” she says.

With that, Izuku stands, and Katsuki wastes no time stalking out of the room.

When they get outside, he keeps walking, far enough down the hall that he’s sure Himiko will be unable to hear.

“What do you think you’re doing?” The hybrid spits at his back. Katsuki whirls at the accusatory tone.

“What the fuck do you think I’m doing?” Katsuki snaps back. “I’m getting your ass away from her.” 

“What?! Why?” Izuku looks furious, fists clenched at his sides and forest branches whipping in the winds around them. If Katsuki isn’t careful, he’ll get himself lost in a typhoon he’s not yet ready for. “I don’t need you to take care of me.” The hybrid spits. 

Katsuki does his best to keep his voice level. “Look, doc. You’re too fuckin’ nice. She’s playing you.”

Izuku reels backward, anger replaced with confusion. “What? What do you mean?”

“Himiko Toga was an outcast before she went missing… She had a thing for…” He grimaces. “For people’s blood. If she liked the way you smelled, she, ah...  wanted it…”

“What do you mean she ‘wanted’ it?” Izuku asks, frowning. He crosses his arms over his chest and chews his lip. The stance makes Katsuki uncomfortable… The hybrid’s scent has settled, but it’s certainly not back to baseline. Something is bugging him.

“That fuckin’ psycho used to drink blood… like some kind of vampire or somethin’.  You know, like the legends? Bodies would go missing, and no one could ever pin her, but they’d found vials of what looked like blood in her room. When she disappeared, a lot of us thought she’d tried somethin’ on the wrong person and wound up dead, to be honest...”

Izuku doesn’t respond, just looks down at the floor, emerald green darting back and forth as if lost in his own little world. His scent falls quiet, just the barely-there brush of tea tree and mint left lingering, and Katsuki becomes suspicious.

“Izuku…” He starts.

The hybrid looks up at him, questions still in his eyes. His brow furrows as he waits for Katsuki to continue. Katsuki doesn’t really want to, because he doesn’t really want to know the answer to what he’s about to ask.

Then again, he’s pretty sure he already knows.

“She told you she likes your scent… didn’t she?”

He holds his breath, but it’s not long before Izuku nods slowly. 

“Well, yeah, but… she hasn’t done anything that seems suspicious. In fact, she’s been super sweet since she woke up. I think she’s just a little…scared? She seems reluctant to be alone, honestly. In fact, I should probably get back there now…” He turns on his heel and heads back toward the room, and it takes Katsuki a moment to react because how fucking stupid can he possibly be?

“Doc!” Katsuki reaches out to grab his wrist, and Izuku stops, looking down at his hand in disbelief. 

“Are you serious?” He whisper-shouts. “She’s a terrified girl whose been out on her own in the wilderness for who knows how long! If everyone in this village thinks she’s as crazy as you do, it’s no wonder she’s clinging to me!”

Katsuki takes a deep breath, trying really hard to remain calm. It’s not working. “You fucking idiot. If you spend enough time with her alone, she’s going to take her chance, especially because she likes you. I’m not leaving you alone with her. At least if I’m there, she’ll have a damn witness, so she probably won’t try any—”

His voice gives out when Izuku rips his wrist away. “God, Katsuki! You know, I thought you, of all people, had faith in me!” He scoffs. “But you don’t. You’re not any better than anyone else whose tried to ‘take care of me.’ I don’t need taken care of, damnit. I can take care of myself.”

The elf stands there stricken for a moment as Izuku begins to walk away. How could Izuku have taken what he said as something so damn offensive? He fucking cares what happens to the hybrid, and it’s not easy for him to say that shit. If it were anyone else, he’d let Himiko tear them to pieces for being so goddamn stupid. And yet, here he is, practically fucking begging Izuku not to go. Katsuki feels pathetic. He feels like a dumbass for even trying. 

He’s not actually going to beg. If Izuku wants to be stupid as fuck, he’ll let him. 

But that doesn’t mean he’ll like it. 

He still doesn’t want the hybrid to go, still wants to go with him if he does. Like hell he’ll say that, though. He’s not sacrificing that much of his pride in one day. This has been embarrassing enough already.

Izuku’s hand is on the infirmary door when Katsuki finally sucks enough air to respond.

“Fuck you for thinkin’ that’s what I meant.” He snarls. “If you wanna go in there, fine. But don’t say I didn’t fucking warn you.”

The hybrid pauses, waits long enough to be sure that Katsuki’s finished, but he doesn’t look back. He doesn’t say anything before he walks inside.

The sound of the door closing is an arrow through Katsuki’s chest.

Chapter Text

“So, ah… what’s up with you and Blasty?”

Izuku arches a brow. “Blasty?”

“Yeah… It’s my new nickname for Katsuki. I kinda like it.”  

Hitoshi grins at him lazily from across the table, and Izuku sighs. Himiko will probably be ready to go home later this evening. Izuku hasn’t talked with Katsuki about that yet—he’s been avoiding Katsuki for over a week now—but he presumes he’ll have to soon, given Katsuki’s job is essentially to hold security of Azmarin, and he seemed to be concerned that Himiko might be a threat to that.

Izuku suppresses the urge to roll his eyes at the thought. The idea of Himiko being dangerous just seems preposterous. The girl might be needy, and… sort of clingy, but sweet enough. She’s not done anything that’s concerned him so far. In fact, she reminds him of his mom a bit. The two of them have similar scents, and Izuku appreciates the tinge of rosemary and olive oil that clings to his skin after she’s hugged him. It makes him feel relaxed, safe… like he has his mom watching over him.

He picks at the bread on his plate, and Hitoshi clears his throat pointedly.

“So….?”

“So, what?” Izuku asks.

“So what happened?” The faery presses.

“Nothing important.”

Izuku feels a weight in his head, like wading through water to organize his thoughts, and he narrows his eyes at the faery across from him.

“Hey!” he yelps.

Hitoshi bursts into laughter. “If you don’t tell me, you know I can find it….” He wiggles his brows, clearly teasing.

Izuku knows it doesn’t usually feel like much when Hitoshi takes a look. He’s asked his friend to peek in his mind before, out of curiosity, and he almost didn’t even notice when the faery sifted through his thoughts. This therefore was meant to be noticed. He basically prodded Izuku’s brain with a branding iron to catch his attention and prove a point.

The hybrid pouts. “Fine.” He pops a piece of bread into his mouth and leans back, taking his good old time to chew it before continuing.

“Katsuki didn’t want me taking care of Himiko.”

At that, Hitoshi’s brow crinkles. “What? Why?”

Izuku rolls his eyes. “He thinks that poor girl is dangerous. And just like everyone else, didn’t trust me to handle it.” He props his elbow on the table, resting his chin in his hand. “He wasn’t even tactful about it, just told me I shouldn’t because she’d steal my blood or something.”

Hitoshi’s eyes narrow as he frowns, cloves rising as he clearly runs the information through his mind. “Why didn’t you tell me?” he asks, almost accusing.

“Because it’s ridiculous. Himiko is a nice girl. She’s a little needy, but she’s scared. No one else here has been kind to her since she came back, and she needs my help. There’s no reason for him to be so freaked out.”

“Hmm…” Hitoshi stirs his cup of tea, looking thoughtful. It’s a moment before he responds. “Where is she now?”

Izuku opens his mouth to answer, and then realizes exactly why Hitoshi wants to find her, and immediately snaps it back closed. He’s not going to have Hitoshi going in there to freak her out further, especially when he inevitably looks into her mind.

“You won’t need to meet her. She’ll be going home tonight anyway.”

The faery leans inward. “Well, where is home?”

That one, Izuku doesn’t have an answer to. He’s not sure what the Council is planning to do with Himiko now that she’s well enough to leave the healer’s wing. He’d assumed she would go find her family, but since no one had been here to see her since her arrival, he now wonders if she has any at all. He frowns. Poor thing.

Maybe she could stay somewhere here in the castle…?

“Not sure,” he finally answers.

Hitoshi yawns. “Fine. Well, just… don’t be an idiot, ‘kay?”

The simplicity of the statement makes Izuku smile.

“I’ll keep that in mind.”

 

---

 

“Izuuuu!” A high pitched shout assaults his eardrums the moment he opens the door. Not a moment later, Himiko attaches her figure to his own, clinging like some sort of barnacle he can’t possibly pry off. 

“Uh, hi Himiko,” he laughs, bringing his arms around her and carrying her back toward the bed. He tries to set her down, but she digs in, resistant. He sighs. “Come on, you’ve got to let go some time.”

She giggles. “Not yet!” She nuzzles his throat and hides her face there, squeezing him tighter.

Izuku takes a seat in the chair nearby, resigned. Himiko will probably be in his lap for at least the next half hour, if the past few days have been any indication. Her face remains buried against his neck, and he absently smooths his hands over her back as he waits for her to decide that she’s ready to move. It usually takes a few nudges from him before she lets him go, but he doesn’t really mind. She seemed to prefer his company to Momo’s from day one, outright asking the other elf to just leave her alone, so Izuku feels responsible for her care even though this isn’t really his primary space. If this is what it takes to make her feel safe and secure, he’ll do it time and time again.

“So… Himiko?”

“Hm..?” He feels the puff of air against his neck. It makes him shiver.

“Where do you go after this?  Do you have a home to return to?”

He feels her stiffen, and he begins to rub circles with more pressure over her back, hoping to calm her. She shakes her head.

“Where do you want to go after this?” he asks, hoping for a more positive response.

“Wanna stay with you, Izu…” she murmurs. Her lips brush his skin, and he squirms a little, uncomfortable. Her hands begin to move up his sides slowly, a little too deliberately for his tastes, and his own hands stop their motion.

He clears his throat. “Himiko, I need you to stop.”

She doesn’t. Instead, her lips press to his throat more sweetly, nose rubbing up and down the length of it, inhaling… scenting.

“Himiko.” He grabs her by the shoulders and pushes her back. 

She looks stricken, like she had no idea what she was doing was unacceptable. Her eyes mist over and her lower lip trembles.

“I’m s-sorry… I just… I want to stay with you…” she says. Her voice is lower than usual, with an intensity Izuku hasn’t heard from her before. It gives him pause.

She doesn’t sound very sorry.

“Himiko, I’m not… I’m your doctor. I want you to feel safe, but I’m not… this isn’t…”

Her eyes narrow at him, and a metallic scent spikes through the soft comfort of olive oil, harsh against his senses. ”You’re not leaving me,” she growls.

Izuku is careful to hold her further away. It’s hard to do with the elf seated in his lap, but by sliding his hands part way down her arms, he’s got her pretty well immobilized. He speaks to her gently, being careful not to set her off.

“Of course, Himiko. I’m not leaving you. I’m right here. Don’t worry. I’m right here.”

As her expression relaxes, a small smile tugs at the side of her lips, and Izuku thinks she must be over it.  Her mood swings are really volatile. He wonders what she must have been through to have such a fragile mental state. Maybe she'll need to stay one more day, just to be sure that she feels ready.

“Okay, Izuku…” She says pleasantly. 

“Think you can climb out of my lap now, take a separate seat? I just wanna get a few things together for you so we can make sure you’re still on the up-and-up.”

She nods and lifts from his lap, moving to take a seat on the edge of the bed. She taps her feet in uneven patterns, jittery.

Satisfied now that she’s sitting on her own, Izuku pushes himself to a stand and walks to the cabinet to grab a few herbs that will help her to relax. Izuku had planned to discharge her from the healer’s wing today, but maybe one more night of good rest will prepare her better.

Once he’s got what he needs, he turns to go back toward the bed, and realizes the tapping has stopped. The bed is empty. His eyes widen in surprise, but before he can open his mouth, he hears a giggle behind him.

When he turns to see where she’s gone, warmth suddenly smothers his lips. There’s something bitter about it, something besides the sudden physical contact that makes him cringe and jerk away, and he finds Himiko pouting in front of him.

“Don’t you like me?” she asks, lower lip jutting out. 

Izuku’s head whirls. What? “I-I’m… seeing someone,” he settles on.

Her eyes seem to flash in fury for a moment before she reigns it in. Still, she frowns. “So you were just being nice?”  She clarifies.

He nods. “You… you seem to need someone to rely on. Just because… Just because this isn’t a romantic relationship, doesn’t mean it isn’t real. You can still rely on me, you know.”

He’s doing his best to take care of her. He didn’t think she’d assume…

He sighs. Izuku should have thought of that. Her behavior had just been so childlike, he really didn’t think something like that would cross her mind. He indulged her because he believed the touches were innocent, that it was to help her heal and feel cared for, not because… 

“Fine,” she says. “I want to sleep. Can you leave now?” Her voice suddenly sounds bored, and he feels like he has whiplash from the drastic swings in emotion.

“Y-yeah… I’ll go…” He responds hesitantly. “Just, um… Think about where you wanna go tomorrow, when you’re released okay?”

She rolls her eyes. “‘Kay”

When he leaves, something sits uneasily in his gut. Himiko has never been so cold with him before. Maybe Katsuki’s right and he should keep a closer eye on her. Regardless, he should probably talk to the elf about what’s happened. As much as he’d like to stay mad at him forever, Izuku knows it’s not realistic. He already misses him.

Izuku groans as he rounds the final corner to the hallway which houses his room. When he reaches the door, the hybrid exhales in quiet relief. His original plan was to stop here to freshen up and then head straight to find Katsuki, but now that he’s so near his bed, he feels so exhausted, so ready for some rest. His head feels like it’s spinning, and he really, really needs to lie down for a nap.

He fumbles with the doorknob for a moment before he actually gets it right and the latch releases. The room seems to blur in front of him, color drifting in and out of focus. It’s all he can do to drag himself to the bed before he collapses on top of it. White noise  fills his ears as the world falls away around him, and then… there is nothing.

 

---


“Oi, you seen the nerd anywhere?”

A lavender eyebrow lifts. “The ‘nerd’?”  He clarifies.

“Izuku.” Katsuki deadpans. Obviously, he meant Izuku. God, he hates this faery sometimes.

“Oh.” A grin teases Hitoshi’s lips, one that makes Katsuki want to punch him. “He’s still not speaking to you, is he?”

The elf rolls his eyes, huffing. “I just haven’t fuckin’ seen him.” He crosses his arms. “Before today, I’d at least heard about what he’d been up to around the castle grounds. Today… nothin’.”

Hitoshi sets down the book he was reading and frowns. “Nothing?”

Katsuki’s patience is wearing thin—not that it was particularly hardy to begin with.

“That’s what I fuckin’ said, ain’t it?”

“Touchy, touchy…” Hitoshi sing-songs. “Seriously, though… I haven’t heard from him since yesterday when had lunch together. I figured he was in the infirmary.”

His heart sinks rapidly, empty rib cage echoing with the silence of its absence.

“Himiko Toga left this morning,” Katsuki growls. “I figured he’d discharged her since Momo didn’t know about it until going to check on her this evening. She’s gone, so there’s no one there for him to treat. Isn’t it your damn job to look after him?!”

Hitoshi takes a deep breath. “I’ll find him.”

Without another word, he turns to go, leaving Katsuki gaping. His anxiety only grows once he’s alone. Bees buzz around in his chest, stinging and pricking and making it hard for him to swallow down the phantom lump in his throat.

“FUCK!” He shouts to the empty room. Sparks burst from his palms, sending embers streaming to the stone floors.

He knew he should have apologized sooner. He should have found Izuku the same day they’d argued and made him understand, made sure the two of them were okay. If they were, he’d never have… 

What?

Never have what?

Katsuki doesn’t even fucking know where he is. Shit, what if he didn’t leave of his own accord? What if he’s…

Nope.

Not fucking going there.

He steels his nerves and sets a brutal pace, sprinting toward Izuku’s room in the hopes that maybe the nerd is just holed up studying or something. He wouldn’t put it past him.

At least that’s what he tells himself as he races to find him. 

Izuku likely just found a new remedy he wants to try, some new medicinal recipe to develop. He’s probably too caught up in his work to come out, to eat... to see literally anyone within the castle grounds for the past six hours. Or longer, maybe. 

Shit.

When Katsuki arrives, he knocks on the hardwood of the door. If Izuku were here, he would have scented Katsuki right away, probably would already have been waiting on the other side to open it. But no sound comes out.

He knocks again. It certainly smells like Izuku, but it’s his room, so that doesn’t necessarily mean anything.

He waits for a response.

Nothing.

On a whim, he tries the latch… just in case. To his surprise, it shifts, the door creaking as it opens. Immediately, he hears claws skittering across the floor, feels them clinging to his pants. Aki climbs onto his arm and hisses. Katsuki isn’t really sure what it means, but he doesn’t like it. 

The small animal quickly takes to running laps around him, across his chest, over his shoulder, down his back, and repeating. Normally, it would be cute, but it’s such an obsessive and fast pattern that it seems to be stress-related, panicked. After a few moments, he stops it, grabbing Aki and cupping his tiny form between two palms, hiding him away from the world like Izuku does when the glider seems anxious. Aki calms, stilling as Katsuki raises his eyes to the room. He remains in the doorway, too terrified to step foot inside, to make this real. 

He’s got a rotten feeling about the whole situation. His breath comes faster as he scans the room.

His eyes land on Izuku, and he’s not sure how to interpret the body lying in the bed, fully clothed, on top of the furs. The hybrid looks like he’s sleeping, except… it’s all wrong. His position, his dress… He can’t be sleeping like that, face down on the bed in that splayed, awkward position. Katsuki moves his hands near his pocket, encouraging Aki to switch locations, and though the glider crabs a bit, he eventually moves, burrowing down into it.

The elf steels himself as he forces himself forward. It’s not until he’s right next to the bed that he sees the hybrid’s back moving with shallow breath, and Katsuki’s chest suddenly fills with air he hadn’t realized he was restricting. He coughs, choking on the life he’d inhaled, then presses a hand to Izuku’s shoulder.

He gives him a little shove. “Doc,” he grunts.

No response.

He raises his voice and tries again, this time shaking the hybrid a bit harder. “Izuku, wake the fuck up.”

Izuku’s body shifts without resistance as Katsuki’s hand pushes and pulls at his shoulder. When he still doesn’t get a response, Katsuki flips his body over, onto his back to see his face.

His stomach drops, the empty pit in his gut swirling with nausea.

His lips are far less pink than Katsuki’s come to expect, and his freckles look particularly stark against pale cheeks. The elf tries pressing a hand to his cheek and then his forehead to see if he feels too cold, to see if he has good blood flow. His skin feels the same temperature it always does, warm to the touch and soft against Katsuki’s fingers. He feels for Izuku’s pulse at his wrist, like the doc had done to him so many times, but the normalcy of it leaves the elf at a loss. What has him looking so pale? So ill? Why isn’t he waking up?

Is he sick? 

Fuck. Katsuki’s not sure what to do. He doesn’t want to leave him here alone, but he’s not sure how to help, either, and it hits him that he needs to talk to Momo. After a moment of hedging, he slips one arm beneath Izuku’s legs and the other under his back to scoop him up. His head lolls like a rag doll, and Katsuki curses beneath his breath, shifting him to lean it against his shoulder instead. 

What the hell could be wrong with him?

Katsuki runs through the possibilities in his mind as he speed-walks the doc back to the infirmary, hopeful that it’s something that can be fixed. It has to be.

But what could it be?

His initial thought was blood loss because of that damn girl, but despite Izuku’s pallor, he’s still warm, still has a strong pulse, so that can’t be it. But why so pale? Why so… unconscious? It’s almost like…

He’s in a coma.

Shit. 

Katsuki remembers Izuku talking to him about comas in one of their many question/answer sessions, which the elf consistently pushed for when the doc would come by to change his dressings. It was one of his favorite things to do—watching the nerd discuss his art. The way his face lit up, the excited rise and fall in the cadence of his voice…

Damnit. Not the time.

There was one… It was named something weird as fuck… Arnador…Arunora...Arnudorn… No. What the hell was it?

“Arundinaera?” A voice interrupts his thoughts. “Curcuma Arundinaera?”

He looks up to see Momo right in front of him, eyes wide and brows furrowed as her gaze flicks over Izuku’s limp body in his arms.

“Is that what’s wrong with him? Oh my god… He’s… Oh my god. Bring him in and lie him on the bed…” She turns around and opens the door, waving him inside. Once Katsuki has laid Izuku down, she continues. “How did this happen? When did this happen? How do you know?”

“Fuck. I don’t. I don’t know. But I just found’im like this in his room, and Aki was freaking out, and… Shit. I don’t know! I shoulda been there with him, but instead I was bein’ fuckin’ petty about this stupid damn argument, and fuck!” 

Katsuki drags his hands down his face from where they’d been fisting his hair. He takes a deep breath with his eyes closed before looking back up at her. “Do you think that’s what’s wrong with’im?”

Momo looks over Izuku’s body, feeling pulses, opening his eyes to see his pupil reactions, checking for any abnormal physical findings as she responds. “It certainly wouldn’t have been my first thought. It’s so rare. I’ve honestly never seen it in action, but I have read about it, and…” She frowns, looking back at Katsuki. “It can cause a coma-like state…”

Katsuki curses under his breath for the umpteenth time in the past half hour. 

“How did you even know of it?” she asks, somewhat incredulous.

“Nerd taught me a lot of stuff. Had to pass the time somehow during those mundane dressing changes in Willesden.” The words leave his mouth but don’t sound like his own. Katsuki feels numb, disconnected.

Momo nods absently. “Okay… well… He doesn’t have any other health problems right? I’ve never known him to be sick before, so it’s not likely sugar or hormone related… Let’s work with poison as our current diagnosis, because it’s time sensitive, and anything else I can think of will give us more time before mortality… so it makes sense for us to treat that first…”

Katsuki snaps. “What the fuck? Mortality? He’s not gonna fucking die!” His heart is thundering in his chest, sweat collecting on his brow as he begins to hyperventilate. Izuku isn’t dying. He’s not. He fucking can’t. There’s no way in hell he’s….

“N-no, I’m sorry.” Momo backtracks. “No, we’re going to do everything we can to prevent that,” Momo responds, placing a hand on his shoulder. “I can’t promise anything, but I will do my best. I swear it… Try—I know it’s hard, but try your best not to worry, okay? It won’t help us think…”

Katsuki jerks his shoulder away. Panic continues its rampage on his heart, but he does his best to calm his breathing, to refocus. He needs to help, to think, to…

God damnit. He can’t fucking lose him.

He’s got to pull it together .

“Okay,” he breathes, still looking at the floor, seeing nothing. “I’m okay. Let’s… Fuck, okay. What do we do?”

“I’m, um…” She starts quietly. “I’m not totally sure… I vaguely remember there being… something people used to try to delay it… maybe? But I don’t know of a cure, per say…”

“Izuku did.” Katsuki suddenly interrupts. “Or… well, he thought he might. There was… there was another plant.” He looks up at her, eyes widening. “What’s the one they use to delay it?”

She takes a deep breath through her nose, chewing her lip. “I can’t recall… Let’s—I’m going to go to the library, okay?”

“I’m not gonna leave’im,” Katsuki says quickly. He won’t— can’t. Not like this.

“No, no… You don’t have to. Let me just— I’ll just grab a few texts and bring them back here. We can review them together. I’m sure it’ll be in there somewhere… We’ve got to be quick.”

Katsuki nods in full agreement. He remembers this poison, remembers how serious Izuku became when it came up. He recalled the nerd saying that it renders magic ineffective, leaving the victim immediately comatose when given in high enough doses. Izuku didn’t know of a cure, but he had an idea..

Katsuki just needs to remember what it was.

Momo exits the room in a flash, and Katsuki’s left alone with Izuku, who continues to lie stock still on the bed. He can’t help but reach out to run fingers through his waves. It seems wrong that they feel so soft, so normal, just as they did the last time Katsuki ran fingers through them, when they’d woken up in bed together and…

Katsuki breathes deeply, willing the memory from his mind. It’s too painful in the moment, to consider he might not have that again, might not feel the hybrid’s lips moving against his own, hear his laugh, feel his embrace. He intertwines his fingers with Izuku’s and massages the back of his hand with a thumb, waiting.

It’s not long before Momo returns, sprawling a stack of textbooks out across the floor. There are a number that look familiar, titles having sat on the bookshelf in Izuku’s small home back in Willesden, so Katsuki figures they should start with those. One of them will definitely contain what he’d been taught.

With a final squeeze, he frees his hand and slides down to the floor, reaching for the first familiar text and getting comfortable as he flips it open to the index. He doesn’t see any plants that look familiar, so he flips instead to the front and reviews the table of contents for poisons and remedies. Unfortunately, this book doesn’t even have a section on them.

He tosses it aside and moves on.

After some time, Aki climbs from his pocket and goes to climb on Izuku, hissing and barking at his form off and on before eventually burrowing beneath his arm and nuzzling there. It only lasts a moment before the barking starts up again, and Katsuki’s heart breaks further. He eventually moves to scoop Aki back up, wrapping him up in a soft piece of cloth and setting him in his lap to share his body heat. Katsuki knows he’s no substitute for Izuku, but at least the glider won’t have to feel alone.

He and Momo continue searching through texts for hours. The sun of the next day has risen before Katsuki’s exhausted eyes glaze over something that rings a bell in his brain.

The Carex Ligustrina is an uncommon, small plant found only in caves. Leaves are narrow and heart shaped, usually a bright lime green. It also grows large flowers, which can be light blue, dark blue and light yellow. They rely on winds to carry their seeds away to reproduce. Once pollinated, they grow small, bitter fruits which are ready for harvest in late winter.

These plants grow in small groups, but it's very easy to control and maintain their growth.

They can be used as an energizer when eaten. As a defense mechanism the Carex Ligustrina mimics the overall look of a different, poisonous plant.

That’s it, that’s the plant!

He flips the book so Momo can read the page. “Ligustrina’s the plant we need!”

Her eyes light up, though darkness remains beneath them. How long had it been since they started reading? 

“Yes! They use the fruit’s juices to delay! At the very worst, until we can figure out a cure, we can do that. We just have to find some plants, right? It states here that they’re present in caves, although…”

Her voice trails off as she frowns. “It won’t be late winter here for another two months. We don’t… we don’t have that kind of time, Katsuki.”

His stomach drops like a stone, all the hope that had bloomed now collapsing to a lead weight that drags it further into the dirt. 

“We can’t fuckin’ wait for that then.” He scrunches his eyes, leaning back on the wall and tilting his head back to knock against it, suddenly feeling a spark in his mind. He sits back up quickly. “What about the plant? It fruits then, but what about when it blooms? Izuku said… he said the leaves might help. We should try crushing them, extracting the juices or maybe even just… feeding him the entire fucking leaf. It can’t make him any worse, right?”

Momo frowns, bringing a hand to her chin and tapping her finger on her lips. “No, it can’t… you’re right… Let’s find out when they bloom. There are caves not too far from here. If they’re ready, we can send someone to get them…”

She picks up another text from beside her and begins flipping through it frantically. It seems the plants are listed alphabetically, and it doesn’t take her long to find it. Her eyes widen, brows lifting excitedly.

“Now. They’re in bloom right now! This is the earliest part of their season.” She points to the page where it shows the description, and Katsuki nods.

“We gotta send someone to get’em. We’ll just have’em bring back a whole plant so the leaves are fresh.”

“Yes, good idea,” Momo agrees. “In the mean time, we’ll have to find a way to sustain him… He’s going to need liquids, and food of some kind… I’ll go speak with the kitchen about liquifying things. We can use a tube, if we have to…”

Katsuki makes a face. He doesn’t like the idea of Izuku having a tube down his throat… doesn’t want to think about it. Instead, he considers who he wants to send to get the Ligustrina. He toys with the idea of sending Uraraka, but ultimately, it’s not her that he trusts the most. There’s only one person he can be sure would treat this with the utmost importance, who he’d trust with his own life.

“Can you tell Eijirou to come up here?” he asks.

Momo nods. “Of course. Should I tell Izuku’s faery friend, too…?”

“Yeah. Yeah, he’ll need to know what’s goin’ on…”

“Right on it,” she says, then turns to leave without further ceremony.

Katsuki heaves a deep breath, releasing it with a good portion of the tension he’s been holding. They are certainly not out of the woods. Izuku’s unconscious form is still lifeless in this bed, but at least they have a plan—they have hope.

That hope is the only thing tethering sanity to his mind at the moment, and he’ll hold that rope like his life depends on it.

Because Izuku’s does.

Chapter Text

As soon as the door opens, Katsuki’s slammed with a wave of nausea, right before his ass crashes into the chair sitting behind him. He didn’t decide to sit down, but he can’t stand back up, either. His head throbs, body feeling like it weighs a ton.

 

“What the fuck?” 

 

“What the hell happened, elf?!”

 

He lifts his eyes to catch a deep purple, and suddenly his inability to move makes much more sense. Wow, this faery is powerful. Much more powerful than Katsuki realized, anyway.

 

“I don’t… Fuck, I don’t know!” He grits out. “I think he’s been poisoned…”

 

Hitoshi’s expression shifts to surprise as his gaze shifts from Katsuki to the bed, where Izuku lies unconscious.

 

“C-could you release him?” Momo’s soft voice flows from the entryway, and Hitoshi turns to look at her. “He stayed up all night looking for some sort of cure, and… I think we’ve found one.” 

 

A lavender brow raises. “You have the cure?”

 

“Not exactly…” She backtracks as Katsuki’s head begins to spin. The world feels like it’s tilting around him, and he’s sure that’s not a good sign. He still can’t fucking move.

 

“Let me go, dumbass, and I’ll explain,” Katsuki growls through clenched teeth.

 

Hitoshi turns back toward him, gaze serious. “You’d better have found a solution.”

 

“I fucking have.” 

 

All at once, the pressure in Katsuki’s skull releases, and he slumps in his chair, feeling as though he might pass out. He grips the wood beneath him and leans forward, elbows to his knees as he breathes deeply. “God damn faery. I’m trying to help him. Obviously.”

 

“Explain,” Hitoshi demands, voice cold steel. It leaves no room for negotiation. 

 

Katsuki tries to steady his thoughts so that he can respond intelligibly, scrunching his eyes closed for e moment. When he opens them, he keeps them fixed on the floor, where nothing moves. 

 

“Where the hell’s Shitty Hair?” he grumbles. “Might as well only do this once…”



---



“Katsuki… it’s gonna be alright, dude. We’re gonna get the Ligustrina. I’m gonna get it. I swear.”

 

Katsuki closes his eyes and buries his face in his palms, pulling at his hair. “Where’s the closest bed of it. Do you even know?”

 

“Uh… N-no, but… I know someone who will.”

 

Scarlet snaps up to look at him. “Who?”

 

Eijirou makes an odd face, scratching the back of his head. “You won’t like it…”

 

“Who, Eijirou? I don’t have time for this shit!”

 

“Sh-Shindo… He, ah… He uses the fruits for energy before morning trainings. He harvests it himself, so he’s got to know where—”

 

“No.”

 

“What do you mean, ‘no’?!” Eijirou protests. “We need the plant—”

 

“No! Fuck that. Fuck him. I don’t want that asshole within a mile of Izuku, let alone responsible for his fucking cure. I don’t trust that damn snake.”

 

“Katsuki, we need —”

 

“I SAID NO!” He shouts, palms sparking. God damn it. He’s not willing to bet Izuku’s life on that two-faced, scheming bastard’s sense of decency. Izuku is too fucking important. He can’t just—

 

“What’s the shouting about?” Hitoshi crosses his arms in the entryway. “I leave for five minutes and already things are a mess here. What’s the plan? We have a location?”

 

“No, but we will,” Eijirou says, glaring pointedly at Katsuki. “I know someone who uses the plants. I’ll just ask him where they’re located, and we can go get them.”

 

“Who?” Hitoshi asks.

 

“His name is Yo Shindo.”

 

Hitoshi tilts his head, narrows his eyes. “Do I know this elf?”

 

Katsuki growls. “He’s the fucker who had Izuku in ropes after his questioning.”

 

Hitoshi’s eyes flash and his brow furrows. “And we’re meant to trust him with Izuku’s life? No.”

 

Eijirou sighs. “Look, I don’t like it any more than you two, but we don’t have another choice. Plus, he likes Izuku. He said so himself. He’s not likely to purposely kill him off by sending us on some wild goose chase. He’s the one who pointed out that Himiko was a threat, that we should keep Izuku safe from her! From what I can tell, she is the one who poisoned him before skipping town. There’s no other explanation.”

 

Katsuki’s cheeks burn with shame. He’d thought about that already, more than once. Shindo did warn them. The guy might be a dick, but he’s got good instincts, and he didn’t have to warn them about that. In some weird fucking way, he does seem to like Izuku. Maybe he will want to help them after all. If that’s their only option...

 

He crosses his arms and sits back in his chair, looking over to Hitoshi. “Can you read him? If we ask for his help, and he refuses… you could still find out where the plant is if he thinks of it, right?”

 

Hitoshi nods. “I can tell if he’s lying, too.”

 

“Good. Go fucking find him.”

 

“You’re not coming…?” Eijirou looks at him wide-eyed. “What’re you gonna—”

 

Katsuki frowns and looks over to Izuku’s form, silent and unmoving. “I’m not leaving him.”

 

“R-right… Okay. Hitoshi and I will go then. I’ll come back to let you know what we learn.”

 

After the two of them have left, Katsuki moves to sit on the bed. Izuku lies atop the sheets, and Katsuki decides to cover him up instead. He sits beneath the blankets next to him, setting the hybrid’s head in his lap, carding through his waves.

 

Why didn’t they do this sooner? Why’d he wait so damn long to make a move? He and Izuku could have been together, been established. Maybe then Izuku would have listened when Katsuki voiced his concerns… 

 

What had he done that led Izuku not to trust him? Why didn’t Izuku listen when Katsuki tried to warn him? Why? 

 

What had Katsuki done wrong here?

 

Fuck. He’d tried to warn him, but still… He should have done more. He can’t stop thinking there was something else he could have done. Then maybe Izuku would be here laughing with him instead of being comatose as his remaining life slowly ticks away…

 

Shit, he needs to calm down. He’s not going to be any help to anyone if he can’t even think straight.

 

He takes a deep breath in, then lets it out.

 

Shindo had better not fucking cross them.

 

---

 

“So how far is it?” Katsuki grunts. 

 

Yo Shindo stands in front of him, hands in his pockets and leaning back against the wall, obsidian eyes locked on Izuku’s comatose form in the bed. Katsuki is fighting the urge to force him from the room. He doesn’t like the way the fucker fixates on the hybrid. He wants him to stay away, but the asshole insisted on seeing Izuku himself before he’d agree to show them his Ligustrina stash.

 

“About 2 days journey.”

 

“Two fucking days?!” Katsuki’s gut tightens with fear. That’s too long. Is that too long? Will Izuku make it until then? He doesn’t know. He can’t remember the timeline of the poison. Maybe a book somewhere…

 

“On foot,” Shindo adds. “We can take horses, cut the time in half. We could be back by sundown two days from now.”

 

Katsuki raises a brow. “We?”

 

The other elf cocks his head. “Surely, you’re coming…?” His eyes narrow in accusation. “Or don’t you care about saving his life..?  You’re gonna send someone else to do it?”

 

Blood boils in Katsuki’s veins as his palms pop with sparks. Tendrils of smoke raise into the air, and Shindo’s brows raise with them. 

 

“Fuck you,” Katsuki spits. “I don’t trust anyone enough to leave him here alone. Eijirou’s going in my stead.”

 

Shindo laughs harshly. “Just like you. Sending someone else to do your dirty work, huh?” He smirks. “Don’t worry, I’ll go and pick up the remedy your pretty hybrid needs. And when I get back, I’ll be sure he knows who it was who saved him. I’m sure he’ll want to thank me...”

 

Katsuki lunges, only to be stopped in his tracks by restraints of granite. Explosion after explosion releases from his hands as he erupts in fury. He snarls, but Eijirou holds him back.

 

“You mother fucker . Don’t you fucking dare…”

 

Eijirou has moved in front of him, blocking his path further, trying to calm him down. “Katsuki! You can’t set fire to this room, man… Izuku’s here… remember? He’s here… You need to keep this place safe, right?! Calm down… You’re gonna catch this place on fire!” 

 

Shindo grins from behind him, crossing his arms where he slouches near the door frame. Katsuki wants to kill him, but manages to stop his explosions for Izukus sake. He takes deep breaths, counting the seconds in an effort to calm himself.

 

“He’s not fucking going.”

 

Eijirou releases him. “We need him to go, man. He knows where the plants are.”

 

“I don’t give a fuck. I don’t want him involved.”

 

“He has to go,” Eijirou responds, seemingly exasperated. “He’s just trying to rile you up. And you’re letting him.”

 

At that, Katsuki pauses. Eijirou’s right. This is exactly what Shindo wants. He wants Katsuki to fuck up so he can have his spot back as number one. Katsuki’s gotta chill the fuck out and keep his shit together.

 

“Fine.” 

 

“...Fine?” Eijirou’s brows lift.

 

“I said it’s fucking fine, okay? Take his deceiptful ass with you. Just… be careful.”

 

Eijirou nods just as Shindo slinks from the room, smug smile pasted on his face.



---



Katsuki isn’t alone more than an hour before his mind starts racing. He pictures all the horrible things that could happen on their journey. What if there are more orcs? What if they don’t make it this time? What if they get there and someone’s already harvested the Ligustrina? What if they’re robbed of it on their way back? What if—

 

“You’re doing it again…”

 

Katsuki looks up to see Uraraka staring at him, sympathetic curve on her lips. 

 

“Doing what?”

 

“Your palms are smoking…”

 

“Oh…” He looks down to find the book he’d been holding somewhat scorched, and he sets it aside. He’s got to stop this. What has him so fucking freaked out? “Shit, sorry...” he mumbles.

 

“It’s okay,” she says softly. “You can’t help it…”

 

He frowns. “The fuck you mean I can’t help it? I’m just as responsible for my actions as the next person. We always have a damn choice.”

 

“Not when it comes to love,” she smiles sadly. “We don’t get to choose who we love, or how hard we fall for them. We just… do.” 

 

Katsuki leans his head back against the wall, gaze flicking down to his side where Izuku lies still as stone. “I’m not in fuckin’ love.”

 

She giggles, then covers her mouth to stifle it. “Sorry. I didn’t mean to laugh.”

 

He glares at her. 

 

When she finally stops, it’s with a sigh. “Oh, come on. Of course you are. If you could see the way you look at him, you’d know it, too. I can’t believe you’re in denial…”

 

“What the fuck? I’m not in denial. We just started… whatever the fuck this is. It’s new. It’s not… It’s not that.” 

 

“If you say so…”

 

“It’s not. Just—Fucking drop it, okay?”

 

Uraraka’s lips form a tight line, but she nods. “Okay… I’m going to go and get some food. Should I bring you anything?”

 

He huffs. “No. I’m fine.”

 

She nods again, then exits quietly through the door, leaving Katsuki alone with Izuku’s form in the bed beside him.

 

He watches as the hybrid’s chest rises and falls. The motion is less certain now, more shaky. His face looks gaunt, and his skin seems pale. Freckles stand out starkly, contrasting harshly against the bruises forming beneath his eyes.

 

Katsuki’s chest clenches.

 

His eyes burn as he reaches out a hand to trail over Izuku’s cheek. He just found the stupid nerd. He can’t fucking lose him already.

 

He can’t.

 

He likes spending time with him, being close to him, touching him, and… Hell, Katsuki would die to feel that body writhe against him like it did the other night, to see his face when he loses it. He’ll never get enough of Izuku’s lips against his own. And even so… that alone wouldn’t be enough.

 

Katsuki likes his laugh, too. He likes his damn pretty smile, and that glint in his eyes when he knows he’s right about something… When they’re apart, it seems like Izuku’s all he fucking thinks about anymore, and—

 

Hell.

 

He huffs and leans back against the headboard, closing his eyes, trying to think of literally anything else.

 

Katsuki’s not sure how much time passes while he waits. He doesn’t leave Izuku’s side longer than he has to in order to relieve himself. Momo brings him food for the next day or two, but he doesn’t eat a whole lot. Eventually, he takes up reading. He wants to come up with a backup plan. What if the Ligustrina doesn’t work? What if they don’t find it?

 

What if Shindo fucks them over on purpose?

 

He grits his teeth.

 

He won’t. It’s going to be fine. Eijirou will make sure that doesn’t happen. Katsuki needs to stop fucking worrying. He just has to wait until they return.

 

He stops paying attention to the hours. He knows he’s sat through two moons, which means they should be back by now. But he doesn’t count. He can’t.

 

What if they aren’t coming?

 

No.

 

They will.

 

A creak sounds from outside the door.

 

He looks up, catching the briefest whiff of summer sun. Is it his imagination? Are they here?

 

He jumps from the floor, where he leaned against the bedframe as he read the umpteenth text. He hadn’t found anything useful.

 

Are they back?

 

His heart climbs to his throat as he waits.

 

The handle turns, and red peeks around the corner.

 

Holy shit. They’re back, they’re back, they’re back. 

 

The words escape his lips without his permission when he is truly sure it’s Eijirou. 

 

“You’re back,” he whispers.  The organ stuck in his throat increases its pace as his stomach begins a circus act in his abdomen. He steps forward, hopeful. “You found it...?”

 

“‘Course we did! I told you we would, didn’t I?” Eijirou shoots him a shark-toothed grin.  “It’s right here.”

 

The redhead digs through the satchel he wears and pulls out a smaller one, tied at the top by drawstring. He passes it to Katsuki. “Hope it’s enough… It’s all we could find.”

 

“It’d better be,” he grunts, snatching the bag and opening it to pull the leaves and stems. Izuku had mentioned trying the juices directly from these parts… He’d just have to crush them, and maybe he could…

 

A hand presses his shoulder, and his head snaps to the side: Momo.

 

“I can handle that,” she says softly.  She takes the plucked plant in hand, then holds it over a bowl settled on the table near the bed. Closing her eyes, she squeezes the green stems, and thick liquid seeps from her fist into the bowl.

 

“This should do it…” She smiles and passes the bowl to Katsuki, who takes it gingerly.

 

His palms are shaking as he sits on the bed and pulls Izuku partially upright. The hybrid is dead weight against him, and while Katsuki would normally relish the feel of him so close, he doesn’t like it like this—doesn’t like the cool feel of his skin or the loll of his neck when his head droops.

 

Katsuki moves a hand to tilt his head backward, opening his jaw.

 

“Alright, doc…” he mumbles. “You gotta swallow this… I need you to fucking swallow it, okay?” He brings the bowl to his lips and tips it, doing his best not to spill any of the precious liquid, hoping to whatever Gods might be listening that Izuku will swallow. 

 

Please let him be okay.

 

Please let him be okay.

 

He has to be okay. 

 

Fuck.

 

When the entirety has been emptied into Izuku’s mouth, Katsuki moves the bowl to the side and closes his jaw. He moves his fingers to massage at the hybrid’s throat, hoping it will encourage him to swallow. His adam’s apple bobs, and Katsuki exhales in relief.

 

He waits.

 

And waits.

 

He watches as Izuku’s lashes twitch, just slightly… but then go still.

 

His breath catches.

 

But nothing happens.

 

He waits.

 

Fuck.

 

Fuck. Fuck. Fuck. 

 

Shouldn’t he be waking up?

 

How long does this shit take?

 

Crimson eyes raise to see the others watching curiously, their own eyes wide with nerves. For once, anise is totally absent. Obsidian eyes are narrowed, brows frowning. Shindo stands near the door, hands in his pockets as he observes silently. Momo’s scent is indecipherable from where she sits with glassy eyes, as is Eijirou’s. Instead, a harsher smell reaches Katsuki’s nose: cloves. Burnt and flaming cloves—sharp and harsh and threatening. 

 

Katsuki looks back to Izuku quirkly, unable to meet the faery’s gaze. He knows Hitoshi isn’t one to panic… but the faery is sure as hell panicking now.

 

Katsuki can’t help but feel this is his fault, can’t help but feel he should have done better.

 

He may not have said it aloud, but Hitoshi’s trust was inherent in the breadth he gave Izuku when he knew that Katsuki was close by The faery thought the hybrid would be protected, thought Katsuki would protect him.

 

He didn’t.

 

He fucking didn’t.

 

Izuku’s head lolls backward, and Katsuki pulls him to his chest, feeling tears prick the corners of his eyes. Turbulance roars in his gut. He feels like puking.

 

He won’t.

 

He’s gotta wait.

 

He’s got to keep his shit together.

 

Izuku will wake up.

 

He will, damnit.

 

Katsuki just… he has to wait.

 

---



Shouto is returning from the Iida household when he sees the raven perched along his sill. This time, he feels a bit less nervous to receive it. This time, he assumes it is an update regarding their progress. If he’s receiving news, there must be some change . Any progress is good. Progress means he’s that much closer to seeing Izuku again, right? A smile tugs his lips as he increases his pace. It feels like so long since he’s received any word.

 

Shouto reaches forward for the scroll, finding it unsealed yet again. He sighs, hoping there isn’t anything too sensitive in it this time. Hitoshi can be so hardheaded. The raven caws, shifting its feet as though anxious, and Shouto frowns.

 

As he unrolls the parchment, dread grows in his chest. The edges are wrinkled, words sprawled in a hasty and uncharacteristic fashion. Sure, Hitoshi’s writing is never neat, but this… this is not his usual…

 

Ice seeps through his veins as his eyes scour the text.



---

 

Shouto,

 

I don’t know how to tell you this exactly, so I’m just going to say it: Izuku is ill. He’s been poisoned by the Curcuma Arundinaera, we believe, and he’s now been comatose for about 24 hours. Please try not to panic. We know the location of what we believe will be a cure, and the elven healer here is very good. She’s ensuring that he has proper sustenance until the curative plant can be obtained.

 

I am sorry to have failed you. I know this is something I should have protected him from. I swear to you that I am doing everything in my power to ensure he is healed, and I will update you as soon as any change occurs.

 

Exactly how he was poisoned and who was involved is currently only speculation, but I will update you on that as well when it becomes clear.

 

Best,

 

Hitoshi Shinsou

 

---

 

Shouto’s mind goes blank. He thinks of nothing as he goes through the motions of packing a bag, and it’s no time at all before he’s in the saddle and hitting the trails. 

 

He’s never been to Azmarin before.

 

He’s made no plans for his village to function in his absence.

 

He doesn’t know anything about the curcuma poison.

 

It doesn’t matter.

 

He needs to be there.

 

He needs to be there, now. 

Chapter Text

Shouto covers ground like a bat out of hell. He takes his horse through Azmarin with abandon, galloping past tiny shops and maneuvering between bodies in the busy streets, unwilling to wait for carts and walkers to pass.

 All he knows is fear. All he feels is ice. 

 He chances a glance backward to find a trail of it in his wake. Unsurprising. Poor Spirit; hopefully, she’ll warm up quickly after they arrive at the castle.

 When he bursts through the gates, an old elven woman tries to stop him. She shouts and waves, but he ignores her, barreling right up to the entrance. It’s here that he finally dismounts, leaving Spirit outside. He feels a bit bad for not tying her out and providing her with food or water, but he needs to get to Izuku. Now. 

 Where is he?

 Shouto pushes at the giant wooden doors, surprised to find that they give way but not waiting to examine them. Are they charmed? It seems odd that a castle would remain unlocked and open to any passerby, but he doesn’t really have time to worry about it.

 He’s searching.

 As he runs down stone clad hallways, searching for any sign of Izuku, he finds himself lost. He has no idea where he is or where he came from. He’s not going to know anyone, and he’ll be immediately recognizable, thanks to his hair coloring. This was not smart.

 In fact, in retrospect, it was quite stupid.

 He slows to a walk, closing his eyes and taking a deep breath.

 Okay, think. Where would they be keeping him if he was ill? Some sort of hospital wing, right? There must be a way to—

 “Who are you?”

 He quickly turns to take in the elf whose deep voice startled him from his thoughts. Shouto was expecting anger to decorate the elf’s features, but instead, he sees only concern swimming behind blue eyes.

 Shouto’s lips part, unsure of how he should respond.

 “Look, I’m not going to hurt you. I just need to know what you’re doing here. I do have a suspicion, mind you… but, it’s always polite to ask.”

The faery frowns, licking his lips. He doesn’t have time to waste. It’s probably best to just be open.

 “My name is Shouto Todoroki. I’m here for Izuku.”

 Ocean eyes soften, and the elf shares a sad, crooked smile. “I figured you’d come eventually. Follow me.”

 

---

 

He follows the elf as they take an insurmountable number of twists and turns along narrow, torchlit hallways. Tree roots and greenery break through the stones at odd angles, and Shouto focuses on them as he walks, rather than allowing himself to wonder too much about his current circumstances.

He could be being led anywhere...but as long as it gets him to Izuku, he doesn’t care.

Eventually, they reach a closed wooden door, and the elf stops, turning to face him.

“Shouto, I assume you’ve already heard about what happened to young Izuku…”

Shouto waits impatiently for him to continue, nodding his head to confirm.

“We expected him to be well by now, you see. We found what we believed to be a cure, but… well, it was given to him almost two days ago, and he’s not yet woken up.”

The faery’s eyes widen and he does his best to swallow down the sudden lump in his throat. His eyes burn, so he summons his ice internally, hoping it will cool him down. Why does he feel so hot? He takes a deep breath and it crystalizes in the air. Frost accumulates beneath his feet. For some reason, his eyes still burn.

The blond elf in front of him places a heavy hand on his shoulder, and Shouto turns to look up at him. The world seems blurred and foreign. He sniffs.

“Listen, my boy. We’re not giving up on him. I will personally continue working until a cure is found if this is unsuccessful… But as it is, our healer, Momo, believes it is working… just slowly.”

Fear simmers beneath Shouto’s skin like water at the base of a near-boiling pot. With it comes ice and flame, waiting to burst forth. He’s doing alright at keeping his emotions beneath the surface, he thinks. If he loses it, he won’t be able to see Izuku. He can’t lose it.

 He nods slowly, clearing his throat. “I’d like to see him now.”

 The elf whose name Shouto still does not know gives him another kind, saddened smile, then motions to the door beside him. 

 “Just through there... Although, you should know: he’s not alone.”

 Shouto’s brow furrows a bit, but he nods anyway, reaching for the handle.

 He enters to some general common area, though it is stocked with bottles and tools along the shelving. He’s certain this must be a healing ward. It’s not long before he spots another door to the side, and he pushes through it unthinking, unprepared.

 Dread unfurls within his chest, black and all consuming when his eyes land on Izuku’s body. The hybrid does not look himself… not at all. His waves have grown longer, body with more tan than he’s ever seen it before… except somehow drab, tainted by a pallor he doesn’t recognize on anyone but the ill. The musculature in his arms is leaner, better defined than it was before he left, evidence of his training before his body gave out and began to eat away at any remaining fat.

 Shouto steps forward, reaching for him when someone clears their throat. He looks up to find the one person he’d be happy to never see again, and he can’t help it when one side of his nose twitches to a snarl.

 “How could you let this happen?” He spits lowly, accusing and angry. “Hitoshi trusted you. Izuku trusted you. And you—you sit here by his bedside? What are you doing sitting here, doing nothing? Why hasn’t he gotten better, elf?”

 Though his voice is quiet, its tone is harsh and unforgiving. He knows how serious he comes across. He knows he’s allowing emotion to slip free, but he doesn’t care. 

 Crimson eyes widen helplessly in surprise. The muscles of the elf’s jaw work against his clenching teeth for a moment, visible in the candlelight as his gaze is schooled to a glare.

 “Let’s talk outside,” Katsuki grunts, kicking back his chair. He stomps past Shouto without another word, swinging the door wide open and entering the hall. Shouto follows gladly.

 When he exits, he’s half-surprised to find the hall is empty once again, blue-eyed elf nowhere to be found. But it doesn’t last long, attention immediately stolen by the fiery one in front of him, the one partly responsible for Izuku’s safety...or lack thereof.

 “Say what you need to say.”

 The defeated tone catches Shouto off guard. He was expecting a fight, a vengeance, at least some kind of anger from Katsuki. Instead, he finds only exhaustion and sadness.

 Shouto frowns, puzzlement blunting his anger temporarily. “What happened to him?”

 Katsuki crosses his arms, slouching against the wall. Shouto doesn’t miss the dark circles beneath his eyes, the sharpness of his cheeks. Is he sick too?

 “Found’im like that,” the elf responds.

 Shouto’s brow furrows. “You found him that way? Found him where?”

 The elf sighs, rolling his eyes. “The dumbass was hell bent on helping an injured girl who found her way back into the city. I didn’t trust her. No one did. But he insisted she was only fuckin’ scared. She attached to him like a damn parasite, never let’em leave once he came by to check on her… Shit was obsessive.” Katsuki sighs, scrunching his eyes shut for a moment. When he opens them, his voice is quieter, taking on a somber tone. It’s odd to hear the brash elf speaking so softly, so hesitantly. It’s confusing, and frustrating, and Shouto doesn’t want Katsuki to be soft right now. He wants him to get angry, to be motivated, to do something. But he continues on all the same.

 “He went off to help her a lot. Alone in the healers’ wing. I can’t say for sure it was her who did this, but I found him in his own bed, out cold about five days ago, and she went missing at the same time. He hasn’t so much as budged since then…”

 Smoke rolls in slow waves through the air, dispersing to a grey fog that begins to cloud the hallway. 

 It’s an exact contrast to the ice that licks at Shouto’s palms, just waiting to be released. He bites the inside of his cheek to keep from interrupting. How could this have happened? If no one trusted her, then why the hell was Izuku left alone with the elf? Why wouldn’t Izuku listen if she wasn’t trusted?!

 And now… now…

 “You left him alone with her. I trusted you and you left him.” Shouto’s voice sounds a lot steadier than it feels. The ice is building in his body, legs and hips numb from the cold, fingers twitching with the effort it takes to hold it in. He’s furious, more furious than he’s ever been, and he doesn’t know that he wants to hold it back anymore.

 “He’s DYING in there!” Shouto snaps. Ice bursts across the floor, sharp icicles erupting from the ground around him. 

 The elf growls, standing straighter. “I didn’t fucking leave him. I did the best I could, god damnit! I’m here, aint I?! I’m here watching his ass do nothing because I can’t fucking leave him, okay?! I’m trying.”

 “You’re not trying hard enough.” Shouto snarls, sending another unintentional streak of ice across the floor, just barely missing Katsuki’s legs as he sends a flood of heat toward it.

 “You need to calm the fuck down, faery. You can’t come into my fucking territory and start throwing wild ass accusations at me. You think I’m not already blaming my fucking self?” Katsuki speaks lowly, explosions bursting uncontrolled from his fingers.

 “HEY!” A shout comes from right beside them, loud enough to shock them both from their attention to each other. A glare of red and blue shifts to the side, ice creeping across the ground to follow it. 

 A sudden gust shoves against his chest and Shouto stumbles back a step, eyes widening. 

 “I’ll knock you both on your asses if I have to!” 

 Explosions burst from Katsuki’s palms, but they don’t seem directed at the female elf who interrupted them. Shouto shifts his attention back to her.

 “Izuku is ill, and the two of you fighting over it isn’t going to fix a single thing!” The elf stomps her foot. “I don’t even know you, faery, but you have no right to come here and start pointing fingers! I assume you are Izuku’s friend, but Izuku is sick, and you are not helping.”

 Shouto’s brows lift as the ice quiets. She turns her attention to Katsuki instead.

 “And you! You were in there moping two seconds ago and now all of a sudden you’re furious?! Cut the crap, Bakugou. You’re just hurting and looking for someone to take it out on. Instead, you’ll have to just deal with your damn feelings for once, okay?! UGH!”

 Katsuki’s expression shifts to something reminiscent of a pout. “Oh, fuck you , round cheeks,” he mumbles.

 “Who are you?” Shouto asks hesitantly. She knows Izuku. He wonders if they’d become friends.

 She eyes him uncertainly for a moment before stepping forward and offering her hand. “I’m Ochako Uraraka. I’m a warrior here, and I’ve come to know Izuku pretty well. We’re uh… friends, I guess.” She gives a weak smile. “You must be the one he’s close with back home, right? ...Shouto, was it?”

 He nods. “I am. I… I’m sorry for my behavior. ...He’s important.”

 “I know he is,” she says softly. “But Momo seems relatively confident that the plant could still take effect… We just… have to wait a bit longer to see. I know that it’s hard, but I still have hope.” Her brown eyes brighten, smile widening minutely. “But you two… You need to keep it together. Do you really think Izuku would want to wake up to something like this?” She arches a brow, looking pointedly at the floor where melting ice has formed puddles and explosions have scorched the earth and roots that had broken through.

 She’s right. Shouto knows she is. It’s just hard to contain this… feeling. Whatever it is. Concern? Fear? Love? He doesn’t know exactly what he’s got brewing inside him, but it doesn’t feel good. He doesn’t like it. He just wants to hold Izuku, to see his smile, to watch his freckles lift on his cheeks as he giggles. He misses him. This is not how he wanted to see him again. And it’s all just… it’s unreal. He can’t accept that Izuku won’t come back, so instead, he’s got to hope.

 Shouto sighs. “I understand.”

 Katsuki grunts, but says nothing. He opens the door and rolls his eyes, waiting.

 Shouto eyes him warily, and the elf huffs. “Get the fuck inside. That’s what you want, ain’t it?”

 Ochako laughs. “Wow, real welcoming Bakugou.”

 “Fuckin’ bite me.”

 The corner of Shouto’s lips tug as he walks back into the room where Izuku continues to rest.

 

---


Shouto yawns, standing from his chair to stretch. He and Katsuki have been sitting by Izuku’s bed for hours, with nothing more than a deep breath or an eyelid twitch the entire time. He wants to stay, to watch. He wants to be there when Izuku wakes, doesn’t want to miss anything, but it’s not long after he sits back down that a familiar purple gaze meets his from the doorway. Anger rises in his throat, but it’s overpowered by the sheer relief of seeing a friendly face during such an awful situation.

“Hitoshi.” Shouto sighs. “Where have you been?”

The lavender faery eyes him slowly, warily. “Outside, training. I check in every few hours. I’d go crazy sitting next to this nutcase for more than a few minutes.” He thumbs at Katsuki, and the elf pointedly ignores him. “I, uh… I’m sorry, Shouto. I—”

“Let’s not discuss it right now.”

An awkward silence falls momentarily, in which Hitoshi’s lips part as if to respond, but instead, he nods. Long fingers run through his messy hair before he rubs at his eyes. 

“You haven’t been anywhere but here since your journey, have you?” He looks to Shouto. “You need to eat.”

“I’m fine.” Shouto refuses. “I want to be here if he wakes.”

“I know you do, but nothing’s changed since you got here. You can spare 10 minutes. You need to stretch your legs and get some food. Now that you’re here, I’m back to taking care of you too, got it?” Hitoshi arches a brow, and Shouto takes a deep breath, considering.

“Fine. But not for long, alright?”

Hitoshi gives him a half-hearted salute, then slides his eyes to Katsuki as well. “You should get something to eat too, you know…”

The blond grunts. “Nah. Ate this mornin.”

“Katsuki, it’s past sundown. You can’t eat just once a day.”

“I can and I fucking will. Take half-n-half and go.”

Hitoshi rolls his eyes and looks back to Shouto. “Just us then. I’ll show ya where to find the grub.”

Shouto hesitates a moment, but ultimately decides he should go. As much as he wants to sit here with Izuku, Hitoshi is right: nothing has changed. He’s still far closer than he was from Willesden, and he could get back with a moment’s notice if needed, right? He should eat.

He stands slowly, stretching his arms over head once more before following Hitoshi from the room.

“Wanted to catch you alone, anyway.” His old friend admits once they’re down the hall. “Need to talk to you…”

Shouto frowns at the somber tone to his voice. What could be worse than Izuku falling sick? He’s already well aware of that. He doesn’t understand this new seriousness.

“I’m glad you got my letter, but I wasn’t expecting you to come all the way out here.” The faery laughs to himself. “Then again, that was stupid of me. I should have known you’d come.”

He nods. “Of course I came. Izuku needs m—”

“That’s the thing…” Hitoshi interrupts. His face is apologetic, sympathetic, and Shouto can’t figure out why.

“What do you mean?” he questions, eyes narrowed.

“Well… I don’t think he does… need you, that is.” He backtracks when he catches sight of the glare Shouto gives him, waving his hands out in front of him. “No, no. I don’t mean—I mean, of course he needs you. That came out wrong. You’re his best friend, but he’s… well, he and Katsuki have grown close.” He coughs. “Uh… Romantically, I think.”

Shouto’s chest grows numb, lips unable to move. He just waits to hear more. 

“A-and, uh… That’s not all that’s changed. He’s gotten really strong, too. He’s been training with Toshinori. And he’s… Well, he’s somethin’ else. I mean, he was strong before, but now… Now he seems damn near unstoppable. I certainly can’t hold my own against him anymore. Izu was always fast and smart, but now he’s on another level. I dunno how Toshinori taught him so quickly, but honestly—”

“What do you mean romantically?” Shouto asks quietly, unsure he really wants to hear the response. He knows Hitoshi has moved on but he hasn’t gotten his brain past those words. “...with the elf?” His voice breaks a bit on the last word. His heart feels like a separate, isolated part of him, like it sits before his eyes, crumbling. He should have expected this. He should have.

But he didn’t.

Hitoshi sighs. “Look… the elf really isn’t as bad as we thought he was. He’s… well, I’m pretty sure he’s head over heels for Izu. He does everything for him. I’ve never seen someone so pathetically doting.”

Shouto nods slowly, swallowing. Adrenaline pumps through his veins, palms shaking by his sides as he tries to warm himself and reign in his ice. He does his best to think logically through what Hitoshi is telling him. He can believe this. The elf looks a wreck. He’s clearly beside himself over Izuku’s condition. Izuku is amazing. It’s entirely possible that Katsuki has fallen in love with him. It makes sense.

“But does... “ He takes a deep breath and speaks with his eyes closed. “Does Izuku love him, too?”

When he doesn’t get a response, he turns mismatched eyes to his friend, waiting. The quiet is answer enough. Shouto clears his throat. 

“I guess we can talk about it when he wakes then,” he says, doing his best to remain composed. He looks straight ahead and focuses on the path in front of him, knowing Hitoshi is watching.

Izuku should heal before Shouto gets worked up about his feelings. Izuku hasn’t even seen Shouto in months. Maybe when he wakes, things will be different. Maybe when they’re together again after such a long absence, Izuku will feel differently about him.

 

---

 

Darkness. Darkness and warmth. And soft scents. Coal..? It’s blended with sugar… so that doesn’t make much sense…

Water, too. Rivers… Choppy waters.

Everything is blurring in Izuku’s mind. His body feels heavy, lids weighing too much to gift his eyes with a view. He groans. At least, he thinks he does. He doesn’t actually hear the sound come out, just feels a rumble in his chest.

His throat burns, and he tries to clear it.

Everything hurts.

He scrunches his eyes, feeling sandpaper beneath them as he tries to open, expecting the brightness of early morning. He’s surprised by the blackness that meets him.

He frowns, trying to sit up.

He can’t.

His body doesn’t want to move that way.

He groans again. 

Jasmine blooms against his nose, bright and intense and bursting.

“Hitoshi…?” He croaks. His voice doesn’t sound like his own. It hurts, and he whimpers.

“I’m here, Izu. You’re… You’re awake? You’re really awake?! How are you feeling?!”

A weight dips the softness beneath him, and he sinks. He must be in a bed. He tries to roll to his side, coughing.

“I’m up…” he says hoarsely. “I feel like… I feel horrible.”

Hitoshi laughs wetly, and Izuku realizes he must be crying. Why would he be crying? Izuku has never seen Hitoshi cry before. Is it a good cry? Is it bad? What’s wrong?

Arms promptly wrap around his torso, squeezing tightly. Izuku whimpers again. 

“Hurts,” he breathes.

Hitoshi laughs again, releasing him. “Shit, I’m sorry, Izu. I just. I can’t believe you’re okay. I’m so relieved.”

Relieved? Why? Why wouldn’t Izuku be okay? He’s growing confused, and his head hurts. Hell, his everything hurts. His heart speeds in his chest, pulse pounding in his ears as panic sprints through his veins. 

What happened to him?

“Katsuki should be back soon, and Sh—”

In that moment, he hears the door slam to the wall, opened with clear force. Flame and then sugar overtake his senses, and his pulse quiets.

“K-Katsuki…?” he asks tentatively. He isn’t imagining him, is he? He smells him. He can smell him and he must be here. Izuku isn’t crazy, after all. He’s tired, but he’s not insane… right?

He feels fingers in his hair, warmth spilling down his spine as caramel overwhelms his nose.

“Holy shit, Izuku… I thought I could smell you, and holy fuck. You’re… you’re okay. I can’t believe it.” Lips find Izuku’s hair as Katsuki mumbles against it. “God, you scared the hell outta me. Don’t ever do that shit again. I can’t— fuck, I can’t do that again.” He continues rambling, squeezing Izuku tighter. The pain doesn’t bother him now, so soothed by Katsuki’s scent, by the sound of his voice, by his touch. “I fucking love you, you hear me? I’m so damn glad you’re alright. Don’t ever fucking scare me like that again, you got it?” 

He continues speaking to Izuku’s waves, saying things the hybrid can no longer process. He’s too caught up in the sensation, in the smell, in the feeling of being loved. He did catch that word. He’s hung up on it. Replaying it. The elf is in love with him? He loves Izuku. Is that real? Did Izuku dream that? He can’t figure it out, can’t separate dream from reality, fact from fiction.

He’s had so many visions, seen so many things. He’s been too many places now to differentiate them.

Is he awake?

Really awake?

Arms wrap his form more gently this time, and he recognizes the touch. It’s definitely real. Izuku relaxes into it, nuzzling against the strong chest that presses his face, appreciating the familiar scent and sweet intention. His breathing slows. Feeling safe and comfortable for the first time in what seems like forever, he drifts off once more. This time, his sleep is dreamless.

When he wakes the next time, there’s light in the room. His eyes burn when they open, but it’s a normal sort of burn. The sort of burn that happens when you’re force yourself to face the blinding sun when all you want to do is bury under blankets.. He grumbles against said brightness and burrows back into the warmth, sugar spiking against his nose. His lips pull to a smile.

“You awake?” A husky whisper comes from above him, fingers gently tracing his spine.

 Izuku nods, cheek rubbing against soft fabric. “Mhmm...”

“How do you feel?” Katsuki asks quietly.

Izuku shakes his head this time, burrowing deeper. “Huh uh.”

“I didn’t ask you a yes or no question, idiot.” Katsuki snorts.

“Don’t wanna.”

“Don’t wanna what?”  Katsuki huffs, but his fingers still tickle Izuku’s back. The hybrid shivers.

“Don’t feel like moving.”

“Then don’t,” the elf responds simply, barely a whisper. “Stay right fuckin’ here.”

Izuku tilts his head back, waiting, and Katsuki laughs. “Thought you didn’t wanna move?”

Izuku’s eyes flutter open lazily at the denial. His green takes in the soft crimson above him, beautiful in the morning light. “Mmm.. Just wanna be here. With you.” He frowns. “Feels like… feels like it’s been a long time.”

As his eyes begin to focus further, he catches the worry reflected back at him. Why? Why is he worried…?

Izuku sits up, but immediately grabs at his head and scrunches his eyes shut. Hell, that hurts…

When he opens his eyes again, Katsuki is sitting up, too, watching him with nerves apparent in his gaze. Flame flits past his nose… accompanied by the damp coals he hates so much. 

“Why are you so worried?” Izuku asks, brow furrowed. “What… what happened?”

He hears a scrape across the floor, like… like a chair, and he shifts to see that they’re not alone.

How had he not noticed that? Now that he’s focusing, he smells it...strongly. 

Raging rapids, sealed beneath frozen waters.

Excitement and fear and longing. Confusion and panic.

Shouto.

Shouto is here.

Chapter Text

Shouto’s gut sits permanently in his chest. Nausea roils there, blocking his throat and making it difficult for him to breathe.  He swallows, taking in the immediately guilty expression that finds its way to Izuku’s face.

 

Just hours ago, he’d have done anything to see those gorgeous green eyes locked to his own, but now, the thought of facing them only brings nerves. Seeing Izuku immediately wrap himself in Katsuki’s arms upon waking was…uncomfortable.

 

When Shouto returned from his brief walk to stretch and relieve himself, he learned from Hitoshi that Izuku had woken briefly. He’d entered the room practically bursting with excitement before listening to what the other faery had to say, and it wasn’t long before he saw Izuku cuddled to Katsuki’s chest, back asleep…just as he used to press against Shouto’s.

 

Izuku didn’t know Shouto was here; he wasn’t in the room when he’d come out of it, so why would he look to Shouto for comfort? There was no reason for the hybrid to seek him out.

 

Still, it hurt. And now… Now Izuku knows he’s here. He’s not sure how that will change things.

 

For the moment, he decides to simply focus on the hybrid’s health. The rest doesn’t matter. They can address it later. Much later. Maybe not at all.

 

Shouto really doesn’t want to address it.

 

“Izuku…” he says softly, standing from his chair. The hybrid sits forward, lifting himself from Katsuki’s chest in what looks like a somewhat painful motion and grins.

 

“Shouto! When did you get here?” His voice cracks with disuse, though his eyes brighten significantly. He pushes himself to the edge of the bed and tries to stand. The effort is obvious, and Shouto’s heart does a little backflip at the sweetness of the gesture. He wants to be near Izuku, too. But, the hybrid shouldn’t strain himself.

 

“No, no… Don’t stand. Just rest. You should rest.” Shouto moves forward to sit on the edge of the bed, and Izuku wraps arms around his middle, resting his head against the faery’s shoulder.

 

“Missed you so much,” he mumbles, nuzzling and inhaling.

 

Shouto’s chest loosens, and he takes a deep breath. “I missed you, too. More than you know.”

 

The hybrid lifts his head to look at him, tears brimming in the corners of emerald eyes as freckles lift high on his cheeks in a watery smile. “I’m really glad you’re here, Shouto.”

 

“Me, too. I’m sorry for the circumstances, though…”

 

Izuku tilts his head and furrows his brow with concentration. “Right. What… what happened?”

 

Shouto runs a hand through his hair, brushing it back from his forehead, and the bed shifts. Katsuki clears his throat from where he leans against the headboard. 

 

“You were poisoned,” the elf says bluntly.

 

Izuku turns to look at him, waves falling back into his eyes. “I… I was?” He frowns. “I can’t… remember… It’s weird, but… I just think I have things mixed up.”

 

“What do you mean?” Shouto asks. 

 

Katsuki’s brow furrows, eyes narrowing at the hybrid. “What things?”

 

Izuku moves away from Shouto, smiling apologetically before he leans against the headboard as well. The relief Shouto felt a moment ago feels fragile until Izuku’s eyes catch his own again.

 

“Come sit by me.” Izuku smiles weakly. “Too hard to sit up completely at the moment…”

 

Shouto scoots to sit on his other side, barely fitting the three of them along the bed. He extends his legs forward and crosses them, trying to take up a little less space than he might otherwise, and brings a hand to trace circles on the back of Izuku’s.

 

The hybrid flips his hand and laces their fingers before he tilts his head back against the headboard and closes his eyes. Shouto takes deep, heavy breaths. Izuku’s hand feels good, solid… real against his own. Izuku is here.  He’s alive, and recovering, and he’s going to be okay.

 

It’s finally sinking in.

 

Just a few seconds later, the hybrid speaks again.

 

“I mean… I thought I was dreaming that whole time… But… I dunno. Remember how my dreams felt so real?” He opens his eyes and turns to the elf on his left for confirmation. Katsuki nods seriously. Shouto frowns, remembering how intense and horrifying those dreams had been.

 

Izuku was still having those?

 

“It felt like that. Except, well. I think it makes more sense now. I didn’t know then, but now… Now I think I understand...”

 

“Understand what?” Shouto presses. These words sound like riddles, and the faery isn’t following.

 

A knock sounds at the door, interrupting their conversation. 

 

Katsuki shouts at the newcomer to enter, and it creaks open to reveal the blond elf who helped Shouto when he first arrived. He tenses for a moment, but relaxes when he catches the excitement on Izuku’s face.

 

“Toshinori!” Izuku grins fondly. The elf smiles back and steps in to take the chair Shouto occupied before, pulling it right up to the edge of the bed. So this is the elf that’s been training him, the one Hitoshi mentioned.

 

Shouto sizes him up all over again, seeing him in a new light with the fresh knowledge. The elf is lanky, but he is lean. He doesn’t look all that strong. Then again, maybe he’s older. Shouto can never tell an elf’s age. They seem to look young for at least a hundred years. 

 

“Izuku, my boy.” Toshinori claps his hands together with a loud, deep sound. “I’m happy to see you awake!”

 

Izuku’s smile grows to show his white teeth. “Me, too! I was just telling Shouto and Katsuki, though… when I was asleep…”

 

“Asleep?” The elf questions.

 

Izuku nods. “Yeah… I was dreaming.”

 

The elf’s blond brows raise, lips dropping to form a firm line. “You were, were you?”

 

Shouto watches as Izuku’s face falls in response. He, himself, frowns with concern. What does this elf know that he doesn’t? The faery really hates being out of the loop, being unprepared, running the chance of being caught offguard. He squeezes Izuku’s hand a bit, and the hybrid leans his head onto Shouto’s shoulder in response, forest waves tickling his neck.

 

Katsuki sighs from beside them both, breaking the tense silence. “You think he’s a dream-walker, too…don’t you.” It sounds more like a statement than a question, and Toshinori nods seriously.

 

What on earth is a dream-walker? And if it’s a true ability, why hasn’t Shouto heard of it? Is it a power that only runs in elven lines? Is it something kept secret?

 

“His mother was, too.”

 

Shouto opens his mouth to question this, but the hybrid beats him to the punch.

 

“What does that mean?” Izuku presses, lifting from where he rested to sit forward with interest. To do it, he releases Shouto’s hand, and Shouto does his best not to acknowledge the sting. “Is it magic? Is that how you said she visited before?”

 

Katsuki wraps an arm over Izuku’s shoulders and pulls him back against his body. Shouto bristles internally.

 

 “Don’t exert yourself so much, nerd. The facts ain’t goin’ anywhere.”

 

Izuku slumps against the elf, crinkling his nose adorably in annoyance. Shouto can’t help but feel a little annoyed himself. The elf shouldn’t be manhandling him like that. He’s fragile, sick. He shouldn’t be pulled around in such a way.

 

The hybrid smacks Katsuki’s chest playfully. “I can sit up on my own, you know.”

 

“I know.” Katsuki smirks. “I just want you here instead.”

 

Shouto watches as Izuku’s cheeks form a pretty blush, and while he’s not particularly happy about where it has come from, he is happy to see Izuku with some color. Happy enough not to react to the display. Instead, he redirects the conversation.

 

“What exactly is a dream-walker?”

 

“Exactly as it sounds,” Toshinori begins to explain. “It’s a rare gift. Very rare. In fact, the only elf I’ve ever known to possess it was Inko. When I met her, she already knew how it worked, had already mastered the hidden functionality of her skill. But that is how she would describe her ‘dreams:’ like the waking hours, except her body rested here while her mind sent her elsewhere.”

 

Izuku shifts a bit to look at Toshinori. “What do you mean her mind sent her elsewhere?”

 

“I mean she could manipulate the world around her in her dreams. The places she went… They were the dreams of others. She could interact with the dreamer who created it, and the dreamer would recall the events. While they weren’t real situations, the interactions were .”

 

Shouto’s breathing quickens. This sounds unbelievable. “Like..some kind of mind connection? Through dreams? It doesn’t sound like that could have any impact on the real world… almost like hallucinations…”

 

“It feels like I’m there,” Izuku whispers. “I think… I think I’m really there… not in a dream, but in the real world. Is that possible?”

 

“But what about your body here?” Shouto asks, brow furrowing. This doesn’t make sense. How can this possibly be true? Not that the concept of Izuku’s mother’s power made much sense to begin with, but at least a mental connection seems more likely than some sort of teleportation.

 

Toshinori clears his throat. “There are legends which speak of that.” He brings a hand to his chin, thoughtful. “Almost as the reverse of what Inko could do, I guess. In which Izuku is asleep, but his targets are not. Think of it as a projection … His true body remains here, but he can function in another space, a real space. Reality. I’m not sure how much influence he could have on it though… I’m sure there are limitations.”

 

Izuku jerks from Shouto’s shoulder, startling upward. 

 

“My mom!” He yelps. His brows carve with concern as green eyes wash with tears. Izuku’s begins to chest rise and fall with ragged, deep breaths. “My mom! Then she’s— oh my god…” 

 

His body shakes with sobs that rapidly rip from his throat, and Shouto aches to hold him, to bring him some kind of comfort. He sits so close, right next to the hybrid, and yet he feels so far away when Katsuki wraps his arms tightly around him and drags him even closer, beginning to card through his hair. Shouto glances to the elf’s face and catches seriousness, concern. He appears to be thinking. 

 

“Is she… were those—” Izuku sniffs hard, hands gripping the elf’s shirt so hard his knuckles are white. “I’ve talked to her. I’ve watched her scream, and cry, and—” He breaks off into a horrific sound, cries choking off his airway as he begins to hack on his own mucous.

 

Katsuki closes his eyes and buries his nose against the waves, shifting his hand to rub up and down the hybrid’s back. The motion is surprisingly tender, much more compassionate than Shouto believed the elf capable of, if he’s being honest.

 

It doesn’t help though. Izuku’s shoulders continue to shudder, sniffs and sobs muffled by the thin t-shirt in which he buries his face, each sound an unpleasant weight that adds to the heaviness of Shouto’s gut. Watching the hybrid in so much pain is unbearable.

 

“Those couldn’t be her. They had to be dreams. It can’t be her. It wasn’t her. She’s dead. My mom is dead.”

 

The words are barely intelligible through his tears, but Shouto catches enough to piece it together, enough to send those weights sinking further at the implication.

 

Izuku must have been seeing his mother in his dreams…in his apparently very real dreams. And if they’re real…that must mean she is, too.

 

Alive.

 

Shouldn’t that be a good thing? What exactly has he seen in these dreams?

 

Izuku certainly cries a lot, but these tears… these are definitely not happy ones.

 

Shouto itches to reach out to him. He could make him feel better. He knows he could, just like he had before. 

 

But he refrains. It wouldn’t be helpful to cause tension right now. 

 

As much as he hates it, Katsuki is doing a good job of comforting him.

 

Shouto takes deep breaths, trying not to panic over Izuku’s mental state, doing his best to maintain whatever inherent boundaries are meant to be present between friends.

 

Just friends.

 

Katsuki reaches for Izuku’s legs and pulls them across his lap to hold the hybrid completely. He lifts Izuku’s chin and forces the hybrid to look him in the eyes.

 

“Calm the fuck down. I know it’s scary, but… you’ve gotta talk. This crying shit isn’t gonna help.”

 

The words sound harsh, but his face is… soft. It makes Shouto question everything he knows about the abrasive elf to see him so gentle with Izuku. It’s a little unnerving.

 

The hybrid sniffs harder, wipes his nose with the back of his hand and scrunches his eyes shut. He begins to take deep, full breaths as he nods in agreement.

 

“Y-yeah, I know. I know.” His cries shake his words, but he seems to be calming.

 

Shouto remains silent, waiting.

 

After a moment, Izuku sits up on his own and blinks away his tears, continuing his shuddering breaths. Katsuki reaches forward to wipe beneath his eyes, to dry his cheeks, and Izuku shares with him a wet and trembling half smile. It’s wry, not happy, but still is an improvement.

 

“I… what if she’s alive… what if that’s… that woman… that’s her?” 

 

No one says anything for several long moments, and the silence hangs heavily in the air. Izuku’s breathing is the only sound within the room as everyone seems to wonder the best way to approach the situation. 

 

It’s Hitoshi who speaks first. Shouto honestly had forgotten his presence. His gears were probably turning this entire time; the faery is nothing if not intelligent.

 

“Then she’s alive, Izu… and that’s not a bad thing.”

 

The hybrid turns toward him, swollen eyes widening, but before he can speak, Hitoshi holds out a hand to stop him.

 

“I know you had nightmares about her, and that she seemed… not herself. I’ve heard you guys discussing your dreams. But if she is alive, and she is in a horrible situation… at least now we know, right?”

 

He arches a brow and stands from his chair at the side of the room. “And you, Mr. Almighty dreamwalker… You can find her.”



---



It takes some convincing and some additional panic from Izuku before the hybrid finally settles back down. They try to talk sense into him, to convince him that going after his mother with no plan or idea what they’re up against is a horrible idea, but he doesn’t listen. Eventually, Hitoshi has to convince him to get some more rest. The guilt is clear on the faery’s face, but everyone in the room is in agreement: Izuku is not well enough to lead a hunt.

 

It’s not too long after Izuku is back asleep that Shouto meets the first person he’s ever despised more than Katsuki Bakugou.

 

He knows from the moment he lays eyes on the dark haired elf that the newcomer is full of himself. He walks around with a perpetual smirk and an air of confidence only given off by those who are falsely so. Shouto is unimpressed. He lets his eyes shift to the reaction of others in the room, but the only one who seems to tense is Katsuki.

 

Interesting.

 

The elf sits on the bed with his jaw clenched, muscle visibly flexing. It’s almost comical watching the anger clearly written through his posture while he gently combs through Izuku’s waves. He certainly has two sides to him.

 

“How is he?” the new elf asks.

 

Katsuki glares at him without responding, and Shouto frowns. It’s Hitoshi who speaks.

 

“Better. He woke up for a while a bit ago…”

 

Black brows rise. “And…?”

 

“And he seems like himself. Definitely still exhausted and ill… but… at least he’s up and talking.” Hitoshi shrugs. “Why do you care?”

 

Shouto’s frown deepens. Why, indeed? He still doesn’t have a good idea of who this elf even is, let alone his importance to Izuku. The way Katsuki is behaving, however, he would venture a guess that this elf has a special interest in the hybrid.

 

He hadn’t thought about how unique and unusual Izuku would appear to the elves. While Shouto certainly doesn’t fit in any better, he is at least accustomed to being different. Even the fae tend to have one natural hair color—not two.

 

He crosses his arms and leans back in his seat, waiting to see how this plays out. It’s rare that Hitoshi pushes someone without reason. Shouto would like to know what that reason is.

 

The elf’s cheeks pink slightly, in spite of his irritated expression. “I told you that I’d bring the cure. I had to make sure it actually worked, didn’t I?”

 

The elf approaches the bed, where Izuku sleeps curled up against Katsuki, and Katsuki all but growls at him, hissing through his teeth. “The fuck do you really want, Shindo? He’s sleeping, and you’ve got shit to do.”

 

The hybrid stirs, and everyone’s eyes widen, freezing where they stand or sit and looking to their charge. Izuku sighs, burrowing deeper into Katsuki’s side, bringing an arm to wrap his waist. When he stills with the heavy breath of sleep once more, everyone relaxes.

 

“As I said, I wanted to see how he was doing.” The elf—Shindo, apparently—walks closer to the bed, then stops mid-stride, as though his momentum has suddenly stopped.

 

Shouto stifles a laugh as his eyes flick toward the only other faery in the room.

 

Hitoshi smirks. “You know, I don’t make a habit of doing this, but… he’s sleeping. He’s sick. He’s exhausted. I can’t take any chances that he won’t get the rest he deserves.”

 

He then releases his magic, and as Shindo’s weight drops onto his forward foot, he stumbles slightly. He whirls with anger written in his brow, obsidian eyes glaring daggers at Hitoshi for a moment before shifting to make contact with vermillion and blue instead.

 

“You’re a faery, too, huh?” the elf says. The word sounds like an insult, and Shouto fights the urge to free his ice.

 

Instead, he nods, seemingly unaffected. “Is that important?” Shouto asks.

 

Shindo smirks. “No, guess it isn’t. But, any friend of Izuku seems to be worth knowing. He’s got an… interesting crowd.” Darkness flicks over Hitoshi again, and the other faery shifts his eyes to meet the elf’s, expression bored.

 

Hitoshi yawns. “I don’t think Izuku cares much for you… and I know we don’t.”

 

Shouto watches Shindo’s jaw clench, muscle flexing with tension as he breathes deeply through his nose.

 

Katsuki chimes in before he can respond. “He’s fine. Get the fuck out and go back to work.”

 

Shindo says nothing, just lets black eyes rake over Izuku’s sleeping form where he curls closer to Katsuki’s body, nuzzling. Not for the first time, Shouto wishes that he could smell emotions the way that Izuku does.

 

Is he a threat? Does he actually care for Izuku?  Shouto still doesn’t totally understand how they met, but the elf seems too adamant to see him for simply a passing aquaintence. It doesn’t make much sense. 

 

Suddenly, Shindo grins. It’s attractive and bright… clearly fake. “No worries then...” He shoves his hands in his pockets and shrugs. “I’ll just talk to him when he wakes. I’m sure he’ll want to thank me.”

 

“Fat fuckin’ chance, asshole.”

 

A white brow arches when Shouto hears that response. In all honesty, if this Shindo elf really did bring Izuku’s cure, it’s unlikely that Izuku would go without thanking him. Izuku is nothing if not polite, and that seems like a great feat to let go unnoticed. Then again, Katsuki seemed pretty confident in that remark. 

 

The dark-haired elf’s perfect smile only widens. “We’ll see.”

 

With that he turns toward the door, lifting a hand in the air when he reaches it. “I’ll be seeing you all later.”

 

When the heavy oak shuts behind him, the room remains silent. Shouto is lost in thought, still teasing the elf’s words in his mind. He behaves much like a faery, if he’s being honest. The easy, yet somehow threatening countenance is disturbing. Katsuki seems certain that Izuku has no taste for this elf, and Shouto can’t help but wonder if that may be why. The twisted truths of the fae in Fortaare were too much for the hybrid then, and he doubts that being blindsided with such behavior by an elf would go over very well.

 

He turns to Hitoshi. “Have you seen his thoughts?”

 

Lavender brows raise as he shifts his matching eyes to meet Shouto’s, but a growl from the bed brings Shouto to break the gaze.

 

“That motherfucker…” The mutter is harsh beneath Katsuki’s breath, and Shouto doesn’t miss it. He turns back to look at Hitoshi, awaiting explanation.

 

Hitoshi clears his throat.

 

“That’s Yo Shindo. He’s, from what I understand, the second in command for the elven warriors… beneath Katsuki.” He clears his throat, purple darting past Shouto’s shoulder toward the bed for a moment before reconnecting. “When we arrived, the Council was uncertain of Katsuki’s, uh… loyalty. And Shindo ended up being Izuku’s “keeper” for a short time as we awaited the results of his questioning…It wasn’t long, but it was apparently enough to garner his… interest.” His nose wrinkles on one side as he says the word in obvious distaste, and it makes Shouto curious. It is obviously meant to imply something.

 

He frowns, tilting his head in confusion. “What sort of interest…?”

 

Katsuki snorts from where he sits on the bed, and Izuku stirs slightly. The elf’s expression softens, and he starts to comb Izuku’s mussed waves slowly as he looks up toward Shouto.

 

“Fucker’s got an active imagination.”

 

Hitoshi cuts him off. “He thinks of Izuku as attractive, likes to imagine...the things he could do with Izuku”

 

Mismatched eyes widen as ice drips to Shouto’s stomach. When he takes a deep breath, the air clouds with chill. Something tells him that the statement is a euphemism. He inhales slowly, collecting himself before speaking.

 

“And what does Izuku think of him?”

 

It is unusual for Izuku to think badly of anyone, always so kindhearted and generous with his compassion. If this elf has done anything nice for the hybrid ever, Shouto knows that he will remain in Izuku’s good graces regardless. It’s difficult to turn the sweet hybrid’s opinion toward distaste. 

 

“I don’t think Izuku likes him much…” Hitoshi responds, one side of his mouth tugging crookedly as he slouches further in his seat. 

 

“Says he stinks,” Katsuki adds.

 

Shouto can’t help but feel a pull at the corner of his own lips. He can just see Izuku’s nose wrinkling up in response to a bad scent. That’s one thing the hybrid is sensitive to. 

 

More shuffling draws his attention back to the drowsy hybrid in the bed, where Izuku turns his head toward Katsuki’s chest, burying his face there. He groans.

 

A deep inhale sounds where he—presumably—takes in Katsuki’s scent before sighing in relief. A quick heat brushes Shouto’s neck, floods his ears as his pulse thuds inside his head. Izuku used to do that with him, with Shouto’s scent.  

 

 His voice is muffled against the elf’s clothing when he speaks again. “I smell anise.”

 

In response, Katsuki shifts to wrap both arms around the hybrid, dragging him higher to bury his face against the elf’s thick throat, and Shouto looks away. He can hear Izuku hum in pleasure at the new scent that surely floods his impressive senses, and Shouto feels his gut threatening to evict itself. Frost forms on his fingertips, and he decides very quickly that he should go.

 

It’s not his place to interfere.

 

Izuku is happy. He needs rest.

 

He should go.

 

He’s working to count his breath through his nose, working to build up the brief and simple goodbye he’ll need to muster to leave the room in a respectable manner when a hand presses his shoulder.

 

He looks up to meet sympathetic eyes. “C’mon. I’ll show you the library.”

 

Shouto nods gratefully at his friend, then follows Hitoshi from the room.




Chapter Text

A loud squeal, piercing and somewhat crazed, draws Izuku’s attention. He knows that voice.

As he blinks the sleep from his eyes and his vision clears, he’s unsurprised to meet with bright, kohl-lined gold. This time, the kohl looks cleaner, applied more recently and making her eyes look more piercing than ever.

Himiko smiles at him, sharp canines coming into view.

“Izu-baby! I’m so glad you’re here!” She shouts, hopping up and down, clapping her hands together like a school girl. “I’m so happy you didn’t die! I knew you could do it. No baby of mine would be so weak.” 

The last word is said with an air of disgust, a dullness to her eyes that somehow speaks more volume than her words. In that moment, Izuku notices the darkness of her lips, the stain upon her skin. A blanket of anxiety falls over his senses, itchy and uncomfortable. He frowns.

“You’re prettier when you smile, you know.” The blonde elf saunters towards him, licking her lips. “Why aren’t you smiling? Aren’t you happy to see me?”

He steps backward, uncertain. “H-Himiko, I just didn’t expect to see you,” he says. He tries for a quiet laugh, for nonchalance, but it comes out somewhat choked.

Her eyes narrow.

“Why not? Aren’t you here to see me? Aren’t you here to visit me?”

Izuku’s brows rise to the ceiling. Is he? Why is he here? He’s clearly not really here… is he? He focuses, working to utilize his senses to the extremes of which Toshinori taught him.

Iron. Rosemary. Olive oil. Rotting wood and wilting leaves. Tree bark. Smoke.

Where is he?

“Hello?! Earth to Izuku!” Himiko snaps, now right in front of his face. “You’re here for me, right?!” Her smile broadens, maniacal now. It looks unnatural—dry ice skittering across his skin.

“Uh, y-yeah! I am. I must be,” he muses, still searching his surroundings. The floor is solid cement. Water drips in the distance. The air is heavy with humidity, but it’s clammy and cool. 

...Underground? 

He wracks his brain. This whole situation is familiar. The place feels familiar. It’s brighter with lanterns and less noisy than before, but still...

“Himiko…” he begins hesitantly. “Haven't we met here another time…?”

She cocks her head, brings a finger to her lips in thought. “Hmmm…” She looks up toward the ceiling, pulling her lips to the side. “Huh. Yeah! I think we have!”

He thought so. This place is familiar because it’s where he heard the screaming—the first time he’d heard it, when he didn’t know who’s voice it was. Adrenaline courses through his veins, feels like lightning across his skin. His mother is here. She must be!

“Are you here alone now?” he asks, making direct eye contact. 

Himiko giggles. “I’m not! But, I could take you somewhere that we will be…”

Vomit rises in his throat, but he plays along anyway, wanting to know who else is around, wanting to know if she is here. He coughs, trying to will away his gag reflex.

“Who would interrupt us?” he asks softly, hoping that he’s believable enough. 

Apparently, he is, because Himiko latches right onto it, brightening immediately and leaning forward so she can whisper directly into his ear.

“The wretch is here. Right now, she’s sleeping, but if she knew…”

The words trail off, and now Izuku is even more curious. “Knew what?” he asks. 

Himiko suddenly straightens, waving him off. “She’s not important.” Her lips tighten to a pout as she begins to mutter. “Izu-baby is back. Master will be happy, but I don’t want him to know. He’ll take Izuku away. No, can’t have that. Don’t want him to go. He can’t know.”

“Who can’t know, Himiko?” 

She startles, golden gaze blowing wider as if she’d forgotten he was here. “Just come with me!” She shouts, reaching for his hand.

Her fingers pass right through him, tingles left in her wake. Without the odd sensation, he wouldn’t have known she’d touched him at all. It doesn’t seem she can get any purchase. She reaches again.

Her eyes darken, and something harsh crosses Izuku’s nose. It’s acrid and sharp. The iron, growing stronger. Is that…blood?

“Izuku. You are coming. Now!” She snaps, brow furrowed in an overdramatic frown, giving her the appearance of an angry child. “If you don’t, they’ll find out I didn’t kill you, and I’ll get in trouble! They’ll take you away!”

“Himiko, I can’t. I-I don’t know why, but I can’t take your hand. It doesn’t work here.”

She huffs. “If you don’t come, I’ll have to kill you.”

The words are pretty nonchalant, all things considered. It almost sounds like a simple inconvenience as opposed to the homicide she’s discussing, and Izuku isn’t completely sure how he’s meant to react.

“Are you supposed to have killed me…?” He asks, confused.

“Obviously the poison didn’t work.” She rolls her eyes. “Now, come on!” This time, her hand claws harshly, and he jerks backward to avoid her grip. Those deep red lips contort into a snarl. 

“You’ll look even prettier covered in blood,” she says.

Then she lunges.

Izuku hadn’t noticed the knife she clutched tightly, the one that would have gutted him had he truly been present. Instead, he feels nothing but an odd prickling at the site of impact. It’s his head that hurts. Some sort of yapping sound echoes in his ears, tugs at his consciousness.

Himiko dives at him again, fast and shifty. He doesn’t have the coordination to dodge, and he stumbles backward in his instinctive attempt.

The barking continues, throbbing against his temples.

His tailbone aches from the impact with cement. Hot liquid pulses from his throat in time with his heartbeat, soaking his skin. The metallic scent is overwhelming, dizzying.

And then it all goes black.



---



Izuku.

Izuku.

“IZUKU!”

His eyes fly open, chest heaving and clothing drenched in sweat. 

“Doc, where the hell were you?”

The voice is harsh and loud, grating against his eardrums. He frowns as he pushes himself upright and groans. “I… don’t know.” He still feels the weakness of his bed rest, the residual effects of the poison. His body doesn’t obey as readily as it should. 

More motion from the bed startles him, and he’s quickly distracted by a tiny, fluffy creature climbing up his arm. The little claws tickle his skin, sharp as they are, but Izuku doesn’t care one bit.

“Aki!” He yelps excitedly, dream all but forgotten at the sight of his small friend. Happiness bubbles in his chest, despite his previous concern, as the sugar glider skitters all over his body. He giggles when Aki finds his way to his hair, and he has to pull him out of it.

“How have you been holding up, little guy?” His eyes shift to Katsuki. “I hope you’ve been well taken care of…” 

The elf rolls his eyes and holds out a hand, to which Aki jumps readily, trading for the newest jungle gym. Izuku can’t help the smile that spreads over his lips. Aki must have stayed with Katsuki then. They seem pretty comfortable together.

After a while, the little glider tires of climbing on them and hops off the bed to the floor, where his claws click as he sprints to and fro around the room. The sun is up, so Izuku expects he’ll become drowsy soon. The energy won’t last much longer.

He and Katsuki sit in silence as they watch Aki play, climbing chairs and gliding off, working his way back up the bed, only to jump back down. After a bit, Izuku lies back down to observe instead, still plagued by a dull ache in the back of his skull. As Izuku suspected, the glider becomes sleepy. He comes back to the bed and climbs under the covers to Izuku’s lap, burrowing in between his legs as the hybrid sits up to help him. He scoops the sleepy critter in his palms and redirects him to his pocket, where Aki curls right back up to sleep, a welcome weight against his thigh.

His eyes raise to find Katsuki watching him, waiting.

He’s probably expecting Izuku to tell him about his dream. And normally, Izuku would. But this time feels different; it’s the first time he’s had contact with someone he’s actually seen recently. 

“Well, you sure as hell didn’t seem to be sleeping comfortably.”

Izuku winces. He hates that Katsuki’s worrying over him even in his sleep these days. 

“Yeaahh…” Izuku yawns. “We can talk about it, but I want to get out of this bed, this room. Can we go for a walk or something?”

The elf examines him skeptically. “No.”

“What?” Izuku isn’t even sure why he asked permission. It’s not as though he needs Katsuki’s approval to perform his normal tasks, but somehow, he feels he owes it to him, to check in. Katsuki has been by his bedside since he fell ill, and Izuku still isn’t ready to admit that if he had listened to Katsuki… maybe he wouldn’t have been poisoned in the first place. Though now that Himiko has admitted it to be true, he probably should.

Assuming that was real.

How can he tell?

He sighs. “Why not? I’ve been doing well. You said so yourself.”

“No, I said you weren’t completely useless yesterday. That doesn’t mean you’re not still a damn invalid.”

The hybrid gasps in offense. “I am not!” He gives Katsuki a weak shove that the elf doesn’t acknowledge. “I’m feeling a lot stronger! I wanna get out more!”

Katsuki smirks at him, and Izuku’s heart jumps in his chest. Even while he’s downright exhausted, there’s something about the danger to that lazy smile that draws Izuku in. He knows Katsuki’s only glad about Izuku’s enthusiasm, and the grin isn’t meant to make his belly warm, but something stirs in his gut nonetheless.

“Someone else wants to see you first.” Katsuki grumbles, expression darkening.

Who? Izuku hadn’t even thought about catching up with the people he hasn’t seen. The only time he’d been around anyone but Katsuki is when Toshinori was there to discuss his new… power. All his mind has circled around are these dreams, trying to remember what he’d seen while under the effects of the poison. He’d definitely dreamt extensively, but was almost impossible to tell which were fever dreams and which were real events witnessed through his magic. If his mom truly is out there, as he’s fairly certain she is, then he’s got to find her. To do that, he needs to focus, to learn how to use these dreams to his advantage. He will find a way to learn her location. But he has to dream of her first, to communicate with her.

He hasn’t quite figured that out yet.

Fingers snap before his eyes. “Oi, nerd. Did you fuckin’ hear me?”

Izuku startles, sitting straighter. “What? No, I didn’t.”

The elf growls. “‘Course ya didn’t.” He rolls his eyes and shoves the covers back to climb out of bed. Izuku shivers at the chill in the air. “I said that half-n-half wants to talk to you this morning.”

Katsuki doesn’t seem too happy about it, but Izuku is pleased at the idea. He’s missed Shouto immensely since he’s been here. The faery’s arrival in Azmarin was certainly unexpected, but Izuku is glad he came, in the end. He looks forward to talking with him and catching up on their time apart from one another. 

He wonders how things are going back in Willesden. Who is tending to the village right now, with Shouto gone? Did he pass off the position to someone else or just leave irresponsibly in a rush? That would be unlike him, actually… He surely left another in charge But who?

He’s still busy muttering his thoughts beneath his breath when Katsuki gives him a squeeze. “Ay, if you’re worried about it, ya don’t have to do anything. Only if you’re up to it. Don’t be an idiot just so someone else can feel better.”

The hybrid nods enthusiastically in response. “Of course I’m up for it!” 

He wants to know what he missed in his time asleep! How long was he asleep anyway? He’s still a little blurry on the details of what happened, if he’s being honest. All he knows is that somehow, Himiko poisoned him, and then somehow, the elves came up with a cure. Katsuki stayed with him in Azmarin, and Shouto arrived shortly before he woke. Come to think of it, who did go to get the cure?

He must have zoned out in an obvious way because a flick to his forehead startles him from his thoughts. “You in there, nerd?”

“Oh! Yes! I was just, uh. I was thinking, is all.” He scratches his head, fingers tangling in his matted hair. When he works his hand free of the mess, he sighs. “I should probably get to the river today too…”

Katsuki snorts. “Yeah, actually… we should probably do that first.”



---



Not long after, Izuku finds himself lying back to enjoy the cool current rushing by his naked form. Wow, he’d missed this. He glides his arms and legs back and forth through the cold water, feeling liquid caress every surface of his overheated skin. He didn’t realize how sweat soaked and sticky he was until he finally began to rinse clean. 

The hybrid brings fingers to his scalp, working through the knots in his hair before dunking it beneath the water once more, hoping it helps improve the somewhat-hopeless appearance of his curls. The pleasant experience is only made moreso when he inhales deeply, taking in the scent of hot sugar and smoke. The smell extends from Katsuki in waves that rival the rush of the river. When he’s finished, he turns to see the elf watching him intently from the bank.

“Don’t you need a bath too?” Izuku asks, smile audible in his voice. Katsuki shrugs, hands in his pockets. His body language is tense. Izuku raises a brow. “You could join me…” he offers.

Katsuki smirks briefly. “Another time.”

Izuku sinks deeper in the water, disappointment curling in his belly. He’s not sure why Katsuki is avoiding him. Sure, he lets Izuku cozy up to him in bed or when they’re sleeping, but he hasn’t touched Izuku since he’s woken up. He hasn’t so much as kissed the hybrid, and Izuku is becoming conflicted. On one hand, he’s frustrated and angry that Katsuki is treating him like glass. On the other, he’s sad and insecure, unsure if that’s the real reason he’s being avoided or if there’s something else that he’s not being told.

Katsuki had said he loved him, hadn’t he? They hadn’t discussed that yet, but why would that declaration cause more distance?

“Why?” Izuku asks softly.

Katsuki’s brow raises at the question. “The fuck you mean, why? We’ve got shit to do.”

“You haven’t wanted me at all,” he mumbles, sinking back into the water. Anxiety curdles in his stomach, heating his cheeks with shame. He should be focusing on his mother, not on this. And yet, he can’t help it. He wants Katsuki to want him, and it seems that since he’s woken up, he’s been repeatedly rejected.

The harsh smell of coal overpowers the sweetness in the air, but the elf doesn’t respond right away. His red eyes flit across the water as Izuku watches, waiting for an answer. In the interim, silence billows into the atmosphere, suffocating and viscous and only exacerbating Izuku’s stress. 

It must be clear in his scent, because Katsuki’s nostrils flare before he shoves into the water, fully clothed.

“You’re such a fucking dumbass, you know that?” He wades forward, splashing all around until he’s less than an arm’s length from the hybrid. Tattooed fingers reach out to jerk Izuku inward by the hip, and their bodies practically slam together, Izuku wincing at the force. Katsuki grabs his chin and tilts it upward, leaving him no option but to meet the smoldering crimson, narrowed in challenge.

“You really think I don’t want you?”

Izuku huffs, unwilling to back down. “You haven’t even kissed me.”

Katsuki squeezes his hip a bit harder, and Izuku whimpers quietly in pain, the reaction unbidden and bringing blush to his cheeks. He hopes it escapes Katsuki’s attention, but he’s never been that lucky.

“That hurt, didn’t it?” The elf asks lowly. When Izuku doesn’t answer, he squeezes again, and the hybrid yelps. His entire body is sore and sensitive right now. It’s vastly improved from when he woke, but the pain is definitely still there.

Katsuki releases him and snorts a sarcastic laugh. “You can’t even handle my grip and you think you can handle the rest of me?”

Izuku groans, setting his jaw in anger now. “That says nothing about the fact that we’ve not even kissed!” 

The elf snaps his mouth shut, eyes darting down and to the side. It reminds Izuku of young children when telling a lie, and his eyes begin to sting.

Is Katsuki about to lie to him? Suddenly, he feels like he might vomit. He hadn’t thought about lying in a long time, hadn’t realized how implicit his trust in Katsuki had become. 

Why does he have to ruin that now? 

Scarlet meets his gaze, lined by an uncharacteristic worry and discomfort. It looks foreign on the elf, and Izuku hates it.

“I’m trying to give you space.”

What? 

Why would Izuku need space? He didn’t ask for that. He doesn’t want that.

“Why?” he asks. His voice is laced with venom-dipped fury  at Katsuki’s audacity to continue deciding what is best for him without his consent. He’s sick of others deciding for him. This should be his decision. His alone.

“What’s changed?” he demands.

It smells as though those coals were tossed in the river to drown, soaked to the core and incapable of burning, well beyond ever sparking ever again. The elf himself looks downtrodden and tired, darkness beneath his eyes giving away his recent stress, his exhaustion.

For some reason, it only makes Izuku angrier.

If he cares so much, why is he pushing Izuku away?

When he looks into Katsuki’s face, all he sees is sadness, but the elf’s voice tells another story.

“That faery is in love with you.” The tone is flat, unfeeling.

Izuku narrows his eyes in disbelief. “That’s not something that’s changed.”

“Oh, come on, Izuku. You really think that if you saw Shouto every fucking day, you still woulda hooked up with me? Are you fucking kidding me? That damn faery looked like a kicked puppy when he saw us together, and you’re tellin’ me you’re okay with that? You don’t feel for him?”

He’s snarling, growling, but he cuts off sharply to wait for a response. He’s waiting for Izuku to deny it, to fight him. Izuku knows that’s what he wants, can tell by the pain in his eyes.

But he’s not going to lie.

Of course he’s not okay with hurting Shouto the way this will. And no, he can’t say for sure he’d have been so affectionate with Katsuki if Shouto had been around to see it. But now…? The damage is done. He’s too deep in this relationship, too lost on Katsuki to change the way he feels.

So no, he doesn’t want to hurt Shouto, but he isn’t willing to give this up, either.

He sighs, parting his lips to speak when Katsuki loses patience.

“That’s what I fuckin’ thought,” the elf spits. He sounds angry, livid even. But his scent doesn’t change. No smoke burns Izuku’s nose now. No flame licking at his senses. Everything is washed out, dull and colorless. 

Izuku begins to chew his lip, appreciating the distraction of the sting as he mulls over what to say, how to fix this. After a moment, Katsuki rakes his hand through his hair and heaves a deep breath. 

“Look, I’m right here. I meant what I said before… when you woke up… I just. Fuck, I just figured you’d want time to figure your shit out with him, alright?”

Izuku’s eyes burn, but he refuses to cry. He’s tired of weakness, of being someone that people feel the need to take care of. He looks up at the sky, at the grey clouds that block out the sun as they wait for the right time to weep, and he blinks back his own tears.

“Fine,” he says, refusing to meet the elf’s gaze.

He’s not sure why so much anger simmers beneath his skin. He should be glad, relieved even that Katsuki is giving him this time to talk to Shouto first. But somehow, it feels like a slap in the face. It feels like he’s calling Izuku insensitive, trying to teach him how to handle his own friendships.

That, or he’s pushing Izuku right into the faery’s arms.

Somehow that feels even worse.

Thankfully, he’s already done bathing, and he’s meant to meet with Shouto this morning anyway. He shoves past Katsuki to climb out of the river, pulling on the fresh outfit he’d brought with him from his room.

Maybe this can all be over fast enough that he’ll wonder why he worried in the first place.



---



Izuku stands in an empty hallway, relishing the near silence that greets him. Although it’s only been about forty-eight hours since he’s woken, he hasn’t had a single moment to himself. Katsuki brought Izuku to this wing, where he knew Shouto was staying, and dropped him off right outside the door, figuring he’d be safe enough to enter on his own.

But Izuku doesn’t want to. His palms still shake from his prior conversation with the elf, exhaustion and anxiety fueling a need to do something. His brain jumps topics like bees to flowers, and he just can’t focus on any one thing. He figures it’s probably a lingering effect of the poison, but that doesn’t mean it bothers him any less.

He leans back against the wall, bringing fingers to his eyes and rubbing, as though clearing his vision will clear his mind. It doesn’t work, of course, and his brain is still battered by the look of pain that crossed Katsuki’s face in the river, the complete lack of shame Himiko felt at his attempted murder, the primal anger and fear on his mother’s when he found her in that horrible place. Smoke, coals, rosemary, blood. It’s overwhelming, and he huffs a shuddering sigh as he tries to collect himself.

He has to push all of that away now. He’s not here for that. He’s here to talk to Shouto. 

Shouto, whose scent was catastrophic when Izuku woke, who he can barely smell now. He can only imagine that the faery is training his emotions to feel near nothing, and the idea breaks Izuku’s heart. He doesn’t want his greatest friend to be in pain, most certainly not because of him. 

Speaking with him isn’t going to fix it, either.

He only hopes that Shouto can forgive him, will still want to be his friend.

Izuku straightens, tugging at the hem of his shirt and taking a deep breath. Then he raises his fist and knocks.

It’s only a moment before he hears shuffling on the other side, the sound of soft, familiar footsteps approaching the door. When they grow closer, Izuku finally catches a scent.

It’s not the thrashing ocean storm that he expected. It’s soft, slow moving waters. Quiet and calm, if not somewhat subdued. It’s not a pristine trickling stream, but it’s soft all the same. Pleasant in a different way. Soothing.

That all changes when Shouto opens the door.

Mismatched eyes instantly drop to meet Izuku’s, forehead wrinkling in surprise before his lips curve in something like a smile. The motion is subtle, almost nonexistent, but Izuku knows it’s for his benefit because his nose isn’t fooled. Riverbanks are flooding, and Shouto is most certainly not calm anymore.

“Hi,” Izuku says hesitantly, gaze searching Shouto’s. Does the faery even want to talk to him? Guilt slithers up his spine like a snake, venom deadly and just waiting to strike. Did he make a mistake by coming here? He reaches down into his pocket instinctively and welcomes the shift of fur against his fingertips.

“Hi,” Shouto responds. “I’m surprised to see you.”

“O-oh, well… I just thought. I mean, we haven’t really talked since I woke up…”

“Right.” the faery nods. His hand raises to rake through his hair. “Well, you seemed to be well taken care of…”

Izuku’s lips part in surprise. As bitter as it may have sounded, Shouto must mean what he says, must actually believe that Katsuki has been doing a good job.

Not that Izuku needs taken care of.

“I, um. Y-yes. Yeah. I guess I have.”

“But I am glad you’re here. Do you want to come in?” His brow curves slightly in the middle, soft with uncertainty, as though Izuku might refuse. He won’t, of course, but the hesitance stings. It tells Izuku that Shouto doesn’t trust him. Not the way he used to.

He musters a smile and nods. “I’d like that.”

Chapter Text

“What’s up?” Eijirou tilts his head back to look at Katsuki upside down. He lies on his back, legs hooked up over the back of his chair while he reads. Katsuki can’t remember the last time he saw Eijirou reading, and he’s almost curious enough to ask him what the fuck his book is about, but he’s too pissed off about what just came to pass to side track.

“I dunno what to do about Izuku,” Katsuki blurts.

Red brows shoot to the ceiling, and Eijiou quickly closes his book, flipping positions to sit upright. “What? What happened?!”

Katsuki sneers. “Why the fuck are you freaked out about it? I’m the one with the goddamn problem.” He throws his shit down on the cushion beside his friend and then plops down on the next one over, dragging hands down his face. “Y’know, I was fuckin’ dumb enough to think that goddamn hybrid felt the same. But no. I was obviously mistaken.”

“Woah, woah, woah… Hold on, dude. What actually happened?”

Katsuki glares at him from the corner of his eye. “I asked him outright if he’d still wanna be with me if half-n-half had been around, and he couldn’t answer.”

This time, Eijirou’s brow furrows. “What do you mean you asked him?”

“I mean, I fuckin’ asked him!”

“But what did you say, Katsuki?”

“I asked if he woulda hooked up with me if he saw Shouto every day, and he didn’t fucking answer.” 

The look on the hybrid’s face had said enough: overwhelming guilt swam behind those gorgeous green eyes, and it made Katuki’s heart skip a beat. Why would Izuku feel guilty about anything if not for using Katsuki as a space-holder? Is that all he’s been? Would Izuku have gone back to Shouto if the faery had been here the whole time, if half-n-half is who woke him from his nightmares? Katsuki sinks backward into the cushion, trying to maintain his anger before sadness can overcome it. 

He’s made it his entire fucking life without a partner. He can do it now, too. No fucking difference.

Eijirou brings a hand to his chin, elbow resting on his knee as he slouches forward in thought. “You know, he wouldn’t want to lie…”

“No shit, dumbass. Why the fuck do you think I’m pissed he didn’t respond?” 

What a fucking idiot Katsuki has for a friend. Why’d he even come here? Talking about this isn’t doing him any damn good. He should just go to the sparring quarters, or—

“No, I mean… just because Izuku wouldn’t have hooked with with you with Shouto around doesn’t mean he doesn’t care about you. He probably just feels bad, man! I mean, I’m pretty sure that hybrid’s in love with yo—”

“He didn’t say it back.”

Eijirou looks at him dumbly, lips hanging open enough to expose his sharp teeth. “What?”

“I—” Katsuki swallows, feeling his ears begin to burn. “I told him I loved him, when he woke up. I just—fuck, I was so excited that he was alright, and I—it just fuckin’ slipped out, y’know?” He folds forward to bury his face in his hands, eyes focused on the floor. “The fucker never said it back.”

He hears Eijirou shift awkwardly beside him, then feels a firm grip on his shoulder. He looks up to find him smiling. 

Katsuki snarls. “What the fuck are you smiling at?!”

Sharp teeth only become more visible. “You told him you loved him?” Eijirou sits forward in his seat, invading Katsuki’s personal space.

“I just said that, asshole.”

Strong arms wrap Katsuki’s form and he thrashes to push them off. Eijirou only wraps him back up in an even more rock-solid grip. “Man, I’m so proud of you!” 

“Get the hell off!”

This shit is suffocating. What an asshole! Katsuki’s baring his damn soul and this dick has to go and be fucking patronizing.

“I can’t! I’m too proud! My best friend is in love!” 

Frustrated, Katsuki gives up and sits still, letting Eijirou squeeze the life out of him with a scowl on his face. “Oh, fuck off,” he grumbles.

Eijirou laughs, finally releasing him. “I know, I know. I’m sorry.” He nudges Katsuki with his shoulder. “But honestly, I can’t imagine that Izuku doesn’t return the feeling. That guy’s been head over heels for you since you guys met.”

Katsuki grunts. Izuku was definitely interested when they met. The physical was never the problem. But whether that intrigue resulted in an emotional attraction as strong as the physical is yet to be determined.

Since the beginning, the doc had fucked him up. He’s never felt like this before, never cared what others thought of him. Yet from the moment they’d met, that damn hybrid has been different. He shouldn’t care so much, but he does. He can’t helpit. He needs to stop being so goddamn pathetic about it.

He rubs the space between his brows, too tense for too long. A dull throb pulses between his eyes. 

“You want me to talk to Izuku…?” Eijirou rubs the back of his head, lips tugged in an apologetic frown. “I didn’t mean to make light of it, man. I’m just… I’m pretty confident that this thing you guys’ve got is real.”

“No,” Katsuki’s voice is hard, tense. “I want him to have time to figure it out. What he wants.” He sighs. “It pisses me off, but if he feels anything for that damn faery, I don’t want him to regret this shit later on.”

Eijirou nods solemnly, and silence falls over them both.

“He’s with half-n-half right now,” Katsuki finally says quietly.

“Ah.” Eijrou stands up to stretch, then turns around with a grin. “Well, you can’t show Izuku what he’s missin’ if you’re moping around in here!”

Heat suddenly floods Katsuki’s throat, his face. 

“HAH?” He isn’t fucking moping! He was just stating the damn facts. Like hell he’ll ever talk to this asshole about this kinda shit ever again. “I’m not moping,” he growls.

“Sure looks like it to me.”

Katsuki narrows his eyes and stands, looming over his so-called-friend in threat. What a dick. It’s so fuckin’ rare that Katsuki talks about this shit, and all he does is make light of it? Anger simmers beneath his skin, ready to burst from his palms.

“Wanna fight?” Eijirou lifts a brow, smiling brightly. “I bet it’ll help!”

Suddenly, Katsuki remembers why they’re friends. 

Hell yeah, he wants to fight. He’s gotta get this energy out somewhere. 

“Let’s fuckin’ go.”



---



Izuku stares into Shouto’s eyes: stony, unrevealing. The faery has grown so good at hiding things… When did he learn to do it? Shouto never had to hide from him before. 

But who is Izuku to judge? He does the same thing: hides behind a soft smile. A fake smile. One that’s well-practiced. He’s such a hypocrite sometimes.

Nonetheless, he mourns the distance between them. What is less than a meter in physical space feels like an emotional canyon, a chasm he just can’t cross.

“I miss you…” he finally  murmurs, gaze breaking from the faery’s to stare into his tea. “I know that this is not the way you wanted to meet again…but I’m glad that you’re here.” Izuku swirls the liquid and thinks, wondering what he can say to broach this topic amicably.

“You’re right, it’s not.”

The hard tone is a sledgehammer in the glass casing of Izuku’s fragile heart, but he doesn’t have time to be upset, because Shouto continues brisquely, words sharp with irritation in ways Izuku has not heard for a long, long time.

“I can’t believe—I don’t understand how you got yourself into such a situation. I know that you want to help everyone, but it simply doesn’t make sense. Even Katsuki said that he warned you about that girl. And yet, you were still caught unprepared. You nearly died.”

The words are quiet beneath his breath, despite their harsh intonation. His face is serious, composed, but a brief cross of unfamiliar fury flashes through his eyes. Fear skitters beneath Izuku’s skin like an unwelcome swarm of spiders, and he sits straighter, pulse thudding faster. Shouto has been upset with him, worried about him, concerned for him before; he’s never been outright angry. 

And yet here he is.

The room doesn’t feel cooler. It feels hot. Sweat drips from Izuku’s brow as he fidgets in his chair, no longer interested in the warm tea within his mug. 

Shouto blinks. “What’s wrong?”

With the faery’s recognition of Izuku’s anxiety, he seemed to calm down. The temperature drops suddenly, and Izuku fills his lungs. “I—You—It’s really hot…” He wipes his forehead, perspiration clinging to the back of his hand, and Shouto’s brow curves in an obvious display of distress.

He reaches a hand out to Izuku, lies it atop the one which toys with the hem of his shirt. “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to upset you.”

Izuku arches a brow. If Shouto wasn’t a faery, he wouldn’t have believed a word. Except, he has to be telling at least some version of the truth. Maybe he isn’t angry at Izuku after all. Just… angry in general…?

“I didn’t,” Shouto says. “I’m just...frustrated.”

Right. With Izuku.

The hybrid brings his other hand to rest on Shouto’s, effectively sandwiching it between his own, and the faery reaches beneath himself to drag his chair closer, knees almost touching.

“Let me start again,” he says softly. His eyes search Izuku’s face as he speaks, and he licks his lips before going on. “I’m sorry for what happened to you, and I...” 

A palm reaches out, thumb caressing Izuku’s cheek, shifting down to his jaw. The touch is soft and smooth, gentle. Shouto has leaned in, sharing breath with the hybrid, and Izuku’s body feels warm again. His face is hot, mind growing a little fuzzy at their proximity, at the familiar feel of hot air on his lips. Heat curls in his belly—familiar and pleasant—as Shouto brushes his nose with his own.

“I’ve missed you, too,” Shouto whispers.

This close, Izuku can see each one of the faery’s lashes: red on one side, white on the other, all intensely long and full. Beautiful.

The currents pick up speed, though the rivers don’t spill over. The water moves elegantly between stone and branch and falls alike; Izuku breathes it in greedily.

And then their lips meet.

Izuku’s reaction is automatic, and their mouths move together softly, gently. The faery’s smooth fingers shift to Izuku’s nape, toying with the curls as a hand finds his waist. The sensation against his skin makes him shiver. Izuku’s craved intimate touch since he woke up, and this is exactly what he needed. He sighs into the kiss. 

It’s so easy, really. Comfortable and safe. There’s nothing scary or intense about it. It’s just… Shouto

Izuku melts into him, palms sliding up the faery’s firm chest, one moving to his hair. The strands are silky between his fingers, soft and smooth, and the affection is pleasant. It’s warm. It makes him feel wanted and cared for and loved. 

It’s Shouto. His best friend. His rock. The one constant in his life. The one thing he’s always counted on.

...Except that’s not true anymore.

He’s not the only constant now. He’s not the only one Izuku leans on, not the one he’s supposed to be kissing.

Eyes flying open, Izuku pulls away, pressing gently against the faery’s chest to part their lips with a quiet gasp. Tears already flood his eyes. He’s so stupid. So very stupid. How awful can Izuku be? How can he be so inconsiderate? So heartless? How can he toy with his best friend like this? Again?

This is why Katsuki gave him space, why the elf doesn’t want him. He probably knew Izuku couldn’t control himself. He sniffs, parting his lips to apologize, when Shouto shocks him with a smile.

It’s a small one, not one easily noticed by anyone else. But it’s there.

It’s sad, but it’s genuine. Fragile, but true. 

It’s confusing.

Before Izuku has the chance to speak, Shouto shakes his head. “You don’t have to say anything,” he says. “I know.”

Izuku frowns, but Shouto continues.

“I’m sorry for kissing you… I figured that—well, I suppose I simply needed to know that what we had was over…”

“B-but Shouto, I don’t want us to be over; I just want—”

A small laugh escapes the faery’s nose. It’s the soft kind that Izuku loves, the kind he does when he’s exasperated with Izuku for something silly, and it does just a bit for making the hybrid’s heart feel whole again. 

“I’m not going anywhere. You’re still my best friend, and I still love you. I just… I’ll need some time to get used to you loving other people, too, I suppose. We can still be close without being physically involved.”

Tears well beneath the hybrid’s eyes again; this time, from relief.

“I can learn to share you over time, I’m sure.” 

Izuku’s brows lift, and he’s just about to protest that language when Shouto continues.

“I know you’re not an object to share, per say.He brushes a curl back from Izuku’s eyes. “Look, if you don’t want… If you don’t want to be involved this way anymore, I need some time away from you, for a bit. Just to make sure I can keep myself in check when I’m around you.” Mismatched eyes drop down to Izuku’s lips. “Because right now, there’s nothing I want more than to kiss you again.” 

Heat blooms along Izuku’s spine once again. He does his best to ignore it, biting his lip and gripping the chair beneath him. That’s his body, not his mind. His body is just craving touch. It would be leading Shouto on, and being unfair to Katsuki were he to pursue it. He doesn’t love Shouto in that way. His gaze falls toward the floor as Shouto continues.

“But I know that I can’t. You don’t want that. I can see that...” He takes a deep breath. “So I won’t touch you that way.” He lifts Izuku’s chin once again, eyes meeting, this time clear as crystal and wide open with affection. “But, I’ll always love you. And I’ll always be here if you need me…or if you change your mind. Okay?”

Izuku nods, hot tears wetting his cheeks. He’s not sure why he’s crying, not sure if he’s happy, sad, confused, angry, or all of the above. He doesn’t like feeling awkward around Shouto. He wants things to feel natural again. 

But he also knows this is for the best. 

 

---

 

Izuku practically drags himself back to his room after their discussion, body feeling like a lead weight. He’s physically exhausted and emotionally drained. Nothing sounds nicer than being wrapped up in Katsuki’s strong arms, but Izuku would also be happy to take a motivational speech from Eijirou, or even a mocking laugh from Hitoshi. At least that last would make his problems feel less intense, less imposing and all-consuming. 

Unfortunately, he doesn’t have the mental energy to see any of them.

He just needs to go to sleep, become one with his bed and think of nothing for as long as he can get away with it. He’s going to miss his lunch, but he’d rather starve than force himself to fake a smile at a large table of people. He’s ready to collapse.

As Izuku fumbles with the lock on the door, something sweet tickles his nose, despite the stuffiness from crying, and he lifts his head, trying to sniff like some sort of wild animal. His eyes close, and he sniffs hard, drawing a breath beyond his blocked sinuses. The action makes him cough. He can’t even smell right now. He’s such a mess.

Self-loathing leaks from his eyes as he wipes at them frantically, unable to keep the soft sobs from escaping.

Why is he crying? Why does he keep crying? He’s not even really sad right now! He’s just tired. The thought makes his stomach bubble with shame and he cries even harder, making it impossible to unlock his door through the blurring vision. He sinks to the floor and surrenders to the stress response of his body, shaking with its stupid, visceral reactions.

He slips his hand in his pocket to pet Aki, and the glider chirps. It must be nice to be so easily satisfied as his small friend. Nonetheless, the tiny hug to his finger is welcome. Aki’s tail curls up around his fingertip as the glider attempts to block the light from entering his haven, and guilt rises again in Izuku’s throat at having disturbed him. He withdraws his hand and instead focuses at picking his nails until they’re perfectly clean, chewing his lip as a distraction when he runs out of fingers.

He’s still sitting there sniveling when a booted foot kicks his own.

“Oi. Doc. The fuck d’ya think you’re doin’?”

Izuku glares up at him and wipes his nose. “What does it look like I’m doing? I can’t— hic —stop crying!”

Katsuki raises a brow. “I can see, you idiot. I mean why’re you cryin’ out here?”

The hybrid’s brow crinkles and he buries his face in his hands. “I don’t— hic —know!” he whines. “I just am, okay?!”

The elf squats down in front of him and snorts a laugh. “Okay,” he agrees. “So what’s the damn problem?”

Izuku shoves at his chest to push him away in frustration, and the elf wobbles a bit where he balances on his toes. “I don’t know!”

Katsuki laughs outright, and Izuku’s cheeks burn hot. “It’s not— hic —funny!” He wipes at his eyes and his nose in quick succession, motions sharp with anger, but the elf only smirks.

Katsuki drops the rest of the way to his knees, then sits back on his heels. “Okay, killer,” he says. His hands move to spread Izuku’s legs before he grips the back of his thighs and pulls him closer. “C’mere,” he grumbles, guiding Izuku’s arms around his neck. “This doesn’t change anything. But I can’t leave you out here such a goddamn mess. Shit’s embarrassing.”

Izuku doesn’t have it in him to protest. He’s so tired. With a sniff, he pulls himself to Katsuki’s body, wrapping his legs tightly around the elf’s waist, just as encouraged. His softening sobs still shake his figure as Katsuki carries him back toward his own room.

Up close like this, he can taste the elf’s sweet, warm scent. Soft embers crackle beneath a cozy fire, and Izuku is curled up right in front of the hearth. 

It’s so soothing, so appealing..

He doesn’t even remember hitting the pillow.



---



Katsuki sighs, looking down at the pathetic hybrid curled up in his sheets. The idiot cried himself to sleep as soon as Katsuki dropped him into bed and Katsuki didn’t have the heart to wake him. It’s barely even lunch time, but he looked downright exhausted.

He wonders vaguely if those dreams feel anything like rest. Izuku doesn’t seem to wake very well-rested. Then again, he didn’t seem to wake pleasantly at all. The fucker had kicked Katsuki multiple times in his sleep, thrashing around and making all sorts of odd noises, and he still didn’t tell Katsuki what it was all about. He can only imagine that he’d wound up somewhere else in reality, with someone else unpleasant.

The thought gives Katsuki the sudden urge to reach out and touch him. Izuku reeks of the damn faery, but he also stinks of stress, of sadness. It’s raining in the forest, rotting earth and dilapidated wood assaulting Katsuki’s nose, and all he wants is to get rid of it. 

But he can’t.

He promised Izuku he’d give him space, and that’s exactly what he intends to do, even if the river scent clings to the hybrid like a disgusting second skin. The elf wrinkles his nose, trying to clear it of the stench as he grabs an extra blanket and lies it over Izuku’s sleeping form. He hums softly, in an adorable way that only Izuku can, and Katsuki groans, raking a hand through his hair.

He’s such a fucking idiot. Why’d he have to offer space?

The heartbreak on Izuku’s face when Katsuki said he should work things out with Shouto first was enough to send Katsuki’s own heart sinking to his damn shoes. Katsuki doesn’t even give a shit about the stupid ass faery, but he knows that Izuku does. And if they don’t work things out beforehand, if Shouto doesn’t accept Izuku’s relationship with Katsuki, the hybrid will never forgive himself.

So Katsuki has to play nice. He’s playing the long game.

What’s that bullshit saying about setting something free?

He plops down on the bed, bouncing the mattress gently as he kicks off his boots. He’s not really tired, nor is he clean enough that he should be sleeping in this bed, but he just can’t take this awful smell anymore.

He pauses after lying down, waiting to see if Izuku will wake, but he doesn’t move. Usually, he’s a light sleeper; he must be ridiculously tired. It certainly seemed that way when he sat outside bawling like a damn baby. Goddamn hybrid. Why’s he gotta be so fucking cute?

Katsuki reaches slowly to brush a curl from Izuku’s freckled cheek, salt-stained from tears and still somewhat pale from his sickness. Again, Izuku doesn’t move, so Katsuki feels a little safer scooting in. He positions himself behind the hybrid, tucking himself along Izuku’s back and gently wrapping an arm around his waist.

He knows he’s meant to give him space, but even in his sleep the hybrid stinks of stress. Katsuki’s scent never fails to relax him, to calm him down. So maybe it will work now, too. He rubs his nose over Izuku’s throat, nuzzling against him.

Against his neck as he is, he can finally scent the faintest hint of those sun-filtered forests, of vine-covered branches and dark, rich soil. It’s been one day since they’ve been “taking space,” and Katsuki already misses this scent. He inhales deeply, savoring as it grows stronger, as the riverside stink washes away.

Izuku mumbles something, a small smile forming on his face, but he doesn’t seem to wake. Katsuki stays close, unable to make himself move away, unable to separate from the soft skin and soothing scent he’s now got filling his nose. It’s so comfortable, so natural to be close like this. His body doesn’t want to give this up, instinct holding him in place.

The hybrid shifts, curling in on himself, making it easy for Katsuki’s knees to bend behind his, to wrap Izuku up completely within his arms.

“Mmm… K-Katschaannmmmm..” Izuku mumbles, and a small huff of air escapes Katsuki’s lips in spite of himself, unable to keep from chuckling at the awkward pronunciation. 

Izuku stirs.

Blood pounds heavily in Katsuki’s arteries, speeds through his veins and flushes his face. He’s going to get caught. He shouldn’t be doing this. He asked Izuku for space. He freezes.

But Izuku isn’t deterred, he wiggles his hips and stretches his legs out, rolling over to face him. Gentle arms drag across Katsuki’s waist, a leg slipping between his own as a sleeping Izuku buries his face in against Katsuki’s chest, crushing close against him in his slumber.

He sighs dreamily, and the elf’s blood settles, sinks to a soothing warmth that spreads beneath his skin. He buries his nose in green curls, unable to keep from pressing his lips to Izuku’s scalp.

Yeah, Katsuki is most definitely not willing to lose this. He can be patient. He can wait for half-n-half to bow out gracefully. In the end, Izuku will come back. He has to.

Katsuki needs him.

Chapter Text

Izuku wakes slowly, feeling his body become restless before he’s willing to open his eyes. He nuzzles against the form he holds within his arms, appreciating the sweet smell that billows into the air as he does. He yawns, then blinks blearily, opening his eyes to a pile of fabric.

He frowns, sitting up abruptly and shoving the pillows away as though they’ve offended him.

Was he alone this whole time? He could have sworn…

Disappointment is a rough and jagged stone that sinks inside his abdomen. This is only Katsuki’s room. He’s been scenting him because he’s surrounded by his things. Katsuki isn’t actually here.

He’s alone.

With one more glance around the tidy space, Izuku sighs. He folds back the covers to climb out of bed, cool temperatures of the stone flooring sending chills across his skin. He shivers. It must be early still, if the temperatures are so low. 

Rubbing his arms roughly, trying to stir up some heat, he decides to find something warm to cover with before he goes. Katsuki won’t mind. It only takes him a couple of minutes of rummaging before he comes up with a thick, crimson cloak, fur trimming around the neckline, covering the shoulders. It’s rather decadent, but..

It’s so soft. Izuku immediately wraps himself up in the cloak, rubbing his face against the fluffy lining and breathing it in.

Wow, it smells so much like Katsuki. Izuku doesn’t want to put it down.

But it is quite unique. Perhaps it some specially designed piece for some particular occasion. Izuku does not want to offend anyone by choosing to wear some sort of traditional garb around.

Do elves have traditional garb? Is that a thing? Izuku isn’t sure.

He’s still in the process of debating when the latch shifts on the door, followed by a view of blond, messy hair and sharp, red eyes.

“O-oh! Katsuki. I, um—” He tugs at the cloak, preparing to remove it.

“Keep it,” Katsuki grunts. He wipes his forehead with his forearm, and Izuku notes the sweat that drips from his hairline. He must have been training.

“No, no! I couldn’t! I just— It was so cold when I woke up, and—”

“Really,” Katsuki says. “Keep it.”

Izuku begins to unwrap it from himself anyway, fully intending to put it away and half-jog to his room to minimize his time feeling cold instead, but his motions are stopped by a hand on his shoulder, gripping the material tightly.

“I said, keep it.” Darkened scarlet glares down at him, Katsuki’s scent overwhelming so up close and personal, drenched in sweat as he is. Izuku’s lips part instinctively with anticipation, eyes falling half lidded. Katsuki leans in more closely, too, before he suddenly seems to realize what’s happening, jolting backward and away.

The urge to reach for him is powerful, but Izuku is doing his best to respect Katsuki’s decisions. Once he’s an arm’s length away, the elf clears his throat. “Looks good on you,” he mutters, cheeks the slightest pink.

Izuku’s cheeks bloom with heat, too. He pulls the cloak in more tightly, until the fur covers the lower half of his face, easily dwarfing him in the amount of material. He nods, and Katsuki smirks. They simply watch each other for a moment, before Izuku realizes they’re both just standing there like idiots.

“I was, um… I was just going,” he says quietly.

“Got plans with Icyhot?” His voice lacks the fire that Izuku’s grown to love.

“No, actually,” he admits. “No plans. Just don’t want to impose.”

“Ah.” 

Again, with the awkward silence. Why are things so weird between them? Izuku rubs his lips together, ears growing warm.  “O-okay, so I’ll...see you later, I guess.”

He bunches the cloak to keep it from dragging, and moves to brush past Katsuki for the door, when an arm stops him again, this time with a gentle grip on his bicep. He pauses, looking back.

Katsuki doesn’t make eye contact with him. Instead, he seems to examine something very interesting on the floor.

“Don’t.”

Izuku hesitates, wanting so badly to stay. He doesn’t enjoy this stilted dynamic. He’s already spoken with Shouto, already made his choice—not that there was much of a choice which required making. He’d already known where this would end, and with whom. He’s happy to stay.

He hopes Katsuki will ask him to.

“Don’t fuckin’ leave like that,” the elf grunts. “This shit’s awkward enough as it is. Just…”

Green eyes search him, his harsh posture, uncomfortable body language. Everything about Katsuki screams that he’s unhappy, and Izuku hates it. He wants to make it better. Desperately.

“Just what?” he asks softly, hopefully.

Stay. Kiss me. Be with me. Don’t go. There are so many things that Katsuki could say. So many ways he could so easily fix this. Izuku wills him to say at least one of them. He doesn’t want to go.

But he doesn’t. Instead, the elf huffs a heavy breath and releases him.

Izuku frowns further. “...Kacchan?”

“Nevermind, nerd. Go do what you’ve gotta do.” 

What? He just told Katsuki that he didn’t have anything to do. Why is he acting this way? Izuku clenches his jaw, grinding his teeth in an effort not to growl. Yes, he’d agreed to space, but it was only to talk to Shouto anyway, which Izuku has already done! And on top of that, now he is being forced to give Shouto space too.

This isn’t fair! Izuku was poisoned. He couldn’t help what happened, and he sure as hell can’t help that neither of these two idiots can deal with their own feelings.

Maybe he should just ignore them both for himself!  Maybe he’s the one who needs some space.

He turns abruptly and opens the door without a word. The cloak slips down around his shoulders, and he scowls. Why is he even wearing this?! He pulls it off and throws it onto the bed, watching briefly as it slumps into a pile Katsuki’s mouth opens to protest, but Izuku doesn’t let him.

“Thanks, but no thanks,” he says venomously. Then he slams the door behind him.

---

Izuku is still thinking on it hours later in the library. He’s somehow more calm, but more upset at the same time. He doesn’t feel like slamming things around now; instead, he feels like curling up to cry, which he did for a little while, and still found no release. He’s so… frustrated. 

He’s trying very hard to focus on the “Strategies of War” text he’s buried his nose in when the cushions sink beside him. He’d heard the door open a moment ago, but has been using all of his willpower to crush the tiny pebble of hope that it is Katsuki or Shouto coming to apologize.

He hates to admit it, but he feels a little lost without either one to lean on. It makes him feel weak. And again… frustrated. He channels his energy into not-scenting the air and smelling the thick, musty parchment he holds between his fingertips instead, into tracing the lines of black ink along the pages with his eyes. He’s resolutely ignoring this person. Whoever it is. Because he doesn’t want to speak to anyone.

“How are you?”

His eyes widen and his gaze snaps up immediately to meet obsidian.

Not who he was expecting.

“Shindo?”

A smirk grows across his mouth, lips full and shiny as though he’d just applied some oil or something. Izuku tilts his head. “What are you doing here?”

The elf leans back on the cushions. “I came to study.”

Izuku squints. “For what?”

“Anything and everything. If I want to someday beat out Bakugou for that spot, I’ve got to be every bit as smart as he is, and right now, I hate to say it, but he’s got me beat.”

Izuku closes his book. That was surprisingly mature for what he knows of Shindo so far. He clears his throat. “Well, I guess the library is the right place to do that…”

Black brows lift. “You’re not gonna argue with me about taking Bakugou’s spot?”

Setting his text aside, the hybrid rolls his eyes and leans back against the armrest, facing Shindo in earnest. “If he’s dumb enough to lose it, he deserves to.”

The elf laughs. The sound is surprisingly pleasant, smile surprisingly attractive. He’s being genuine, for once, Izuku realizes. He seems like a different person this way, and Izuku finds himself laughing, too.

“I thought you’d defend him to the ends of the earth,” Shindo finally says. “You guys seem pretty close.”

Suddenly, Izuku’s stomach sours. He doesn’t want to talk about this, and it must be obvious, because the bright smile falls immediately from the elf’s face. Instead, he backtracks.

“Oh, ah.” He scratches his head. “Sorry, didn’t mean to stir somethin’ up. Just thought you were together is all.”

Izuku’s eyes trace the deep burgundy stitching of the pillows beside him. He doesn’t want to respond to that, doesn’t know how to respond to it. He heaves a deep breath. “It’s complicated,” he settles with.

Shindo doesn’t reply for a moment, and Izuku isn’t sure what the elf is doing, because he is still counting threads. He’s only gotten to 50 before Shindo’s weight shifts on their shared seat.

“Well, I’m glad to see that you’re doing alright. That patch of Ligustrina isn’t always reliable, but the one I typically use had been grazed over…so I was a little nervous about the one we gathered.”

Izuku feels his brow tense as he looks up to see the elf appearing sheepish. “You went to collect it?” he asks. He hadn’t known Shindo was involved at all. No one told him. 

“They didn’t tell you, huh