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Starlight

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Izuku looked up at the night sky, the thousands of stars above reflecting in his bright green eyes.  He could have stayed there all night, watching the glow and twinkle of the distant celestial beings.  Inko, his mother, knew that he wouldn't hear her if she called to him.  His little mind was too far away.  Instead, she gently shook his shoulders and kissed his cheek.

"Bedtime, baby.  Tell the stars goodnight."

Izuku only partially turned to her, his attention clearly divided.  He was always like this at night, distracted between two conversations.  Inko waited patiently for him to finally look away from the sky.

"Already?" Izuku pouted.

"Were the stars telling you good stories?" Izuku's father, Toshinori, asked as joined them, picking Izuku up in his large arms.

Izuku nodded.  "But I like your stories better, daddy.  You tell big stories! The stars always whisper, so sometimes it's hard to hear."

"No wonder you always focus so hard." Inko laughed as they walked inside.

"If only we could get some of that focus during the day." Toshi added and Izuku giggled.

When he wasn't transfixed on the stars, Izuku was never holding still.  He was an energetic child, and a curious one.  He was constantly fascinated by whatever he found in front of him- grass, rocks, dirt, bugs, rain- and could spend hours asking how and why and what.  At least, until the next little thing grabbed his attention.  He was easily distracted, like most children his age.

"Will you tell me a story tonight?" Izuku begged as his parents tucked him into bed.

"What story do you want?" Toshi asked.

"The one where I came to live with you!"

"You love that story, don't you?" Inko laughed.

"Because I love you!" Izuku nodded.

"All right then, starlight." Toshi nodded and sat down at his side with Inko.  "Get nice and comfy."

Izuku snuggled into bed, pulling his blankets up just the way he liked them, pushing his pillow into the right spot, and hugging his favorite stuffed animal close to his chest.  He took Inko's hand and held it close to his face.

"One dark and stormy night," Toshi began the story the same way he always did and Izuku's eyes began to droop, "Your Mommy and I were feeling very sad.  We wanted to have a little one of our own, but no matter how hard we tried, one wouldn't come to us."

"I don't like that you were sad." Izuku said softly, squeezing his mother's hand.

"We didn't like being sad either." Toshi agreed.  "Your mommy and I thought, Why can't we be happy?  Why can't we have just this one small thing that we want more than anything in the world?  If we could just have this, we would never wish for anything again. And we didn't know what to do."

"What did you do?" Izuku asked, even though he'd heard the story hundreds of times.

"We made a wish." Inko replied.  "We wished on the only star we could see, peeking out through the clouds.  We wished for a little one to come to us."

Izuku held his breath.  This was his favorite part.  "What happened next?"

"The star that we wished on fell from the sky!" Toshi said as though he still couldn't believe it.  "It fell all the way down through the clouds and fell into our laps!"

"Were you scared?" Izuku asked.

"No, not at all." Toshi shook his head.  "Because when the star fell, it turned into you!"

Izuku giggled again, sounding sleepy.  "I was little back then."

"That's right." Inko agreed.  "And now look how big you're getting…"

"That's because you love me so much." Izuku said around a yawn.  "Things get bigger when you love them."

"That's right." Toshi nodded.  "They say that a star only has enough magic to grant one wish.  Your mommy and I are very blessed that your star gave us you."

"Me too." Izuku nodded, his eyes barely open.  "I'm glad I came to you and mommy."

A moment later he was asleep, his small chest rising and falling steadily.  Toshi and Inko sat with him for another few minutes.  Inko softly brushed Izuku's white curls our of his face, hair that glowed in the starlight.  They each kissed his cheek and Inko carefully pulled her hand out of Izuku's.  They left the curtains open so that the room could fill itself with starlight.  They knew the stars liked to look after their little gift from the heavens, watch over his dreams, keep him company while they were asleep… but they never thought that there might be something else in the skies that was looking for their little starlight, something that had been hunting him since the moment he fell into their arms.

⭐⭐⭐⭐

 "You look worried." Toshi said, making Izuku jump a little.  "What's wrong, starlight?"

Izuku bit his lip and nervously looked up at the sky.  "I think something is wrong." He said.  "The stars, they're all worried about something.  Some of them are missing too."

Toshi looked up at the starry sky.  He couldn't see much difference, but Izuku had always had a special connection with the stars.  He could even hear them speak, something they kept a secret from the other villagers.  It helped that they lived on a hill just outside the village, where things were quieter and the stars could be seen better.  He couldn't see anything different, but if Izuku said there was something wrong, he believed it.  Izuku was honest, and he wasn't one to worry either.

"Did something happen to them?  Maybe they granted a wish and fell like your star did."

Izuku thought about it for a moment, staring up at the sky.  Then he shook his head.  "It feels… different.  They didn't fall.  They were… eaten up by something.  The other stars are scared, they don't want to talk about it."

"A star eater?" Toshi frowned.

Izuku nodded, looking even more anxious.  "It gobbled them up.  It ate all of their magic and light and now they're gone."

"It even ate the light?" Toshi looked back to Izuku and felt his heart start racing.  Izuku's hair was glowing again, as were his eyes.  Under the direct starlight, even his freckles glowed.  Sometimes, on the clearest nights, he seemed as though he were made of light.  He was their light, the light and joy of their lives.  A dark feeling started to settle over Toshi's heart.  He reached out and took Izuku's hand.  "Let's go inside."

Izuku nodded, but looked over his shoulder the entire way back inside.  Toshi couldn't tell if he was only listening to the stars, or if he was watching for something that could be after him.  Either way, he wasn't sure he wanted to let Izuku outside at night anymore.

⭐⭐⭐⭐

"They say it's called All for One." Izuku said softly as Toshi sat down beside him at the window.  "It's like the opposite of a star.  It eats up all the light and magic and it never gets full.  It used to stay away, but lately it's been swallowing all of them up."

"Are you scared?" Toshi asked gently.

Izuku swallowed and nodded.  "What if it wants to eat me too?"

"I wouldn't let you get eaten, starlight." Toshi promised, putting an arm around him and kissing the top of his head.

"I don't understand." Izuku's eyes suddenly filled with tears.  "Why would it want to get rid of the light?"

Toshi felt a stab in his chest.  He remembered the first time Izuku had stepped outside after he'd fallen into their arms.  For a child that was sent from the stars, it was like he had never seen light before.  His tiny toddler eyes had filled with stars and wonder, too much for his small body to handle.  Even now that he was bigger, sometimes he would get the same look in his eyes.  Izuku loved the stars, he loved the light.  He couldn't bear the thought of something trying to destroy it.

"I don't know, honey." He pulled Izuku into his arms and hugged him tight.

Inko walked into the room and paused at the sight of her husband and crying son.  Toshi gave a small shake of his head and glanced towards the window.  Inko carefully drew the curtains close and sat next to them, placing a hand on Izuku's shaking back.

"I don't want to get eaten!" Izuku cried.  "I want to stay here with mommy and daddy!"

"Nothing is going to take you away from us." Inko promised.  "You're safe here with us, baby."

⭐⭐⭐⭐

Inko set her laundry basket aside, a slow creeping of anxiety crawling into her chest.  She hadn't seen or heard Izuku for a while.  He hadn't gone outside.  Izuku always came inside early these days, as soon as the sun started to get close to setting.  He would come inside and close all the windows and doors, pull the curtains shut, stuff rags in all the cracks that might let starlight in.  She was worried about him, and even more worried now that she hadn't seen him in nearly 20 minutes.

"Izuku?  Where are you, starlight?" She called.  She checked all of his usual places first- the kitchen table where he liked to draw and write, the pile of blankets next to the stove where he liked to curl up and stare at the fire, the bookshelves where he would make his way through all the stacks of books… it was only when she heard a small whimper from his bedroom that she finally found him.

Izuku was curled up under his covers, hands over his ears.  His face was nearly as pale as his hair, his lips tightly pursed together to hold in his cries.

"Izuku, baby, what's wrong?" Inko sat down next to him and gingerly placed a hand on his back.

"They're so loud." Izuku cried.  "Mommy they're all shouting and screaming and they're b-being so mean."

"The stars?" Inko glanced towards the closed window.

Izuku nodded.  "Mommy they're so loud."

"It's okay, baby." Inko coaxed Izuku out of bed and into her lap.  She placed her hands over his and rocked him back and forth.  "Shhh… they can't hurt you.  You're safe here."

"Th-they say that it's all my fault." Izuku cried.  "It's my fault that All for One is hurting them.  How is it my fault?  What did I do? I don't want him to hurt them!"

"You love the stars." Inko agreed.  "You wouldn't want anything to happen to them.  This isn't your fault.  You haven't done anything wrong."

"Th-they say I have to come back but I don't want to!  I want to stay with you and daddy!"

"You aren't leaving us, starlight.  They can't make you."

"They're hurting." Izuku cried.  "They're scared and sad and they want it to stop.  Stop.   Why are you so loud?  You're hurting me, it hurts, please stop."

"Toshi!" Inko called for her husband as Izuku's voice began to raise.

Toshi immediately appeared at the door, having already been on his way to see what was wrong.  He glanced at the window, then crossed the room in two giant steps.  He picked both Izuku and Inko up in his arms and carried them through the house to the cellar door.  He set them both on the ground, then went back upstairs.  He came back once with an armload of blankets, then again with a box full of candles.  He lit the candles while Inko bundled Izuku up in the blankets, then went upstairs again.  Izuku was starting to calm down by the time Toshi returned for the last time, dragging his and Inko's mattress with him.

"Come here." He told them both, holding his arms out.

Inko walked their sniffling son to her husband.  He hugged them both close and they all settled onto the mattress.

"Is it quieter down here?" Toshi asked softly.

Izuku nodded.  "Daddy… why are the stars being so mean to me and each other?"

"Because everyone makes bad choices when they're scared." Toshi answered.  "We try not to, but sometimes fear brings out the worst in us.  Stars included.”

“I just wish they would stop.” Izuku sniffled and nuzzled down in between his parents.  “They’ve been getting louder and louder… I was scared and I didn’t want you to worry… I’ve never been scared like this before.”

“It’s our job to worry about you.” Inko said, brushing his hair away from his face.  “We wished for you to come to us so that we could love you and take care of you.  Parents are supposed to worry about and help their children.”

“The stars got rid of All for One before.  Do you think they can do it again?” Izuku asked.

“I’m not sure, love.” Toshi admitted, glancing up at Inko.  “All I know is that I’ll do everything to keep you safe.”

“Can I sleep down here from now on?” Izuku asked quietly.

“Of course.” Inko nodded, pulling the blankets up over him.

In an even softer voice, Izuku asked, “W-will you stay with me?”

Toshi lay down and pulled Izuku and pulled him and Inko in close.  “Of course we will, starlight.  You don’t have to be afraid as long as we’re here.”

Izuku took a short breath that seemed to release the tension in his body.  “I hope the stars get rid of that monster soon.”

“I’m sure they’ll do something about it.” Toshi assured him.

Izuku quieted down after that, holding his mother’s hand and cuddling as tightly to the both of them as he could.  He seemed to have something heavy on his mind, but he didn’t say anything.  He just drifted off to sleep, safe with his parents, down deep in the cellar where the stars and their hunter couldn’t see him.

⭐⭐⭐⭐

The night sky had gone mostly dark.  Stars were missing, devoured, but most were simply hiding.  Izuku missed their light.  He missed their kind voices.  He missed their loving presence in his life.  He missed his life, the happy nights he’d spent with his family, not hiding in the cellar.  It wasn’t fair.  His star had sent him here, hadn’t it?  It had granted his parent’s wish.  Now all the stars wanted was to take him away from them and feed him to that monster to save their own lives.

Izuku was getting desperate.  He wanted the stars back.  He wanted his freedom back.  He wanted for his parents not to have such worried faces every time he looked at them.  And, in his desperation, Izuku remembered that there was something strong enough to save him.  It was risky, but after everything, he believed it would work.  It had to work.

He waited until both his parents were asleep before he carefully slipped out from between them.  Izuku kissed each of them on the cheek, then tiptoed up the cellar ladder.  The stars had grown quiet lately.  The silence made Izuku shiver.  Even before the star eater, they had never been like this.

After taking several deep breaths, Izuku stepped outside.  The stars didn’t seem to notice him at first.  He could sense them looking over their shoulders, watching for danger, searching for a place to hide.  Izuku took a deep breath, afraid to talk to them.  He’d never talked to the stars before, only listened to them.  Talking to stars was for making wishes, and Izuku had just one wish.

“Please, if any of you can hear me, I need you to grant my wish.” He felt the heaven’s attention slowly turn to look down at him.  “Please, I-I just want to be safe and happy with my mommy and daddy.  I’ll never wish for anything again, but please-!” He choked on a small sob.  “Please, don’t make me leave.”

Izuku held his breath and waited, watching with desperate eyes to see a star come streaking down to him the same way his star had sent him.  The stars stayed quiet.  Tears filled Izuku’s eyes and he tried again.  “Please.  I just wish that me and mommy and daddy could be together forever.  Please.  Can’t one of you grant my wish?”

There was a small tremble from the heavens and Izuku felt his falling hopes rise again.  He wiped his eyes and smiled, eyes scanning to see which of the stars had decided to fall down and grant his wish.  Everything would go back to normal.  Mommy and Daddy wouldn’t have to hide him.  He and the stars could be friends again.  As Izuku strained his neck, he heard a scream and spun around.  Inko was at the doorway, her face pale and Toshi right behind her.

A shadow fell over Izuku.  He felt his heart stop as he turned to see what it was.  A darkness loomed over him, blocking the stars from view.  It twisted and from its depths, Izuku saw a wide smile and a large hand reaching towards him.  He heard a low voice, one he felt that he’d heard before, speaking softly.  “There you are, my starlight.  I’ve been looking for you.”

“No!” Izuku screamed, falling back.  He could hear his parent’s coming for him, but the darkness was starting to swallow him.  He didn’t want to go, he wanted to stay here!

“No, go away!” Izuku screamed and a burst of light erupted from his body.  The darkness was momentarily driven back.  Izuku was just as startled.  His body had never done that before.  Where had all of that light come from?  Still, he didn’t stop to think about it.  Izuku scrambled to his feet and ran back towards his parents.  He had just fallen into their arms when he felt the darkness return behind him.  He tried to make the light come back, but his body only flickered.  It wasn’t enough.  The darkness was about to swallow him up- and his parents with him.

“All the stars in the heavens and you had to wish on mine.” Izuku heard the darkness say angrily as it grabbed his arm.

They were all screaming, Izuku, Inko, and Toshi.  Their screams were drowned out by another flash of light, this one twice the size and power as Izuku’s.  It had come crashing down from the heavens, exploding between them and the darkness and driving it back.  By the time Izuku blinked the stars out of his eyes, he was huddled in Toshi and Inko’s arms in the cellar once more.  Had they carried him?  Had he run himself?  He wasn’t sure he could remember over his racing heart.

The cellar was brighter than Izuku remembered.  He looked around, trying to see where the extra light was coming from.  The soft color reminded him of starlight, but they were in the cellar, weren’t they?  He jolted hen he saw the source of the light, coming from the last source he expected.

There was a man standing in the room with him.  At least, he had the appearance of a man.  He seemed to be made fully of light, glowing in a warm and familiar way.  His hair was white, down to his shoulders, floating softly around his head.  He was wearing a thin robe, just like the one Izuku had been wearing when he first fell down into his parents' laps.  He looked angry.  He was shouting at Izuku.

“What were you thinking?”

Izuku flinched and grabbed more tightly onto Toshi and Inko.  A small whimper escaped his throat as he stared at the strange man.  “A-Are you a star?  Are you here to grant my wish?”

The man paused, then his expression slowly softened.  “I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to frighten you.  I was just so worried… Izuku, that was very dangerous.”

“How do you know my name?” Izuku asked, shrinking back into his parents’ arms.

“I’ve known you for a very long time, little star, before you were stolen away from us the first time.” The man crouched down to Izuku’s eye level.  His soft features and kind eyes made Izuku relax, but only a little.

“Stolen?  First time?  What are you talking about?” Izuku shook his head.  “I-I was sent here to fulfill a wish, right?” He looked up at Toshi and Inko, who hesitantly nodded.  It was what they had always believed, what they had always told him.

“You came here to fulfil a wish, yes, but no one sent you.” The man agreed.  “You didn’t come from a star, you are a star.”

“What do you mean?” Toshi interrupted.

“I can only stay until dawn.” The man shook his head, then looked at Izuku again.  “But… perhaps it would be best if I told you the story.”

“A story?” Izuku glanced up at Toshi and Inko.  “About me?”

“About you, and me, and the darkness that used to be my brother.” The star agreed.  This time, when he spoke, he looked as though there were something heavy on his shoulders.

“Izuku?” Inko asked softly.

Izuku took a deep breath and gave them both a squeeze.  “I want to hear the story.  I want to know who you are and why the darkness wants me.  It- it called me his starlight.”

“The others call me First.” The star introduced himself.  “I’m the oldest… at least, the oldest who is left.  Long ago, my brother and I were the only lights in the sky at night.  I don’t know where we came from.  Perhaps we were made by others before us, or we simply popped into existence.  No matter our origins, my brother and I were both born with the light and magic to grant wishes from those in the world below us.”

“But there were only two of us, and so many mortals.  The work was too much.  My brother, always the smarter of us, came up with a plan.  We would make new stars to help us grant the wishes.  We used our light and magic to start building new stars, each with just enough magic to grant one wish.  The sky was full of beautiful little stars and they would rain down to grant wishes faster than we could make them.” First paused to smile as he remembered it, but he looked sad.

“We built nurseries.” First continued before Izuku could ask him if he was okay.  “Full of tiny stars.  So many little ones… and one of them my brother took special care making.  My brother had grown tired of granting wishes, of making new stars.  But he loved that little ball of light.  He would come and tuck it in every night.  I thought he was happy at last, I thought that he had finally found peace in our calling.  I was wrong.”

There was a long, uncomfortable silence.  Izuku didn’t like this story.  He wasn’t sure he wanted to hear the rest.  He squoze Toshi and Inko’s hands as tightly as he could.

First finally spoke again.  He sounded even sadder now.  “The magic we were blessed with was made to grant the wishes of mortals.  If a star uses their magic to grant their own wish then their magic will turn on them and consume their light.  My brother… used his magic to wish for more power.  It turned on him, and he became a monster of darkness.  He raged across the heavens, consuming the light of any star that crossed his path.  We couldn’t stop him, even when-.” First’s voice broke and Izuku felt a lump in his throat as well, “Even when he broke into one of the nurseries.  So much new light was lost that day… they were just children, and he consumed them all.  All but one.  All except for you, Izuku.  He remembered how much he had loved you, how he used to take care of you.  He may have even gone there to get you.  I don’t know.  All I know is that he took you away and kept you locked away from us, somewhere that our light couldn’t reach you.”

“Stop.” Izuku cried suddenly.  Tears were rolling down his cheeks.  “D-Don’t talk about that.  I don’t like the dark, I don’t- I want to stay here.”

“I know.” First nodded, his eyes full of compassion.

“Then how did Izuku come to us?” Inko asked.

“When a star grants a wish, they use all of their light to fall to the earth and all of their magic to grant the wish.” First explained.  “When all of that is gone, they are mortal like you.  They lose their memories and can no longer hear the whisperings of the stars.”

“But Izuku isn’t like that.” Toshi frowned and Inko nodded.

“Izuku has used all of his magic, but he still has his light.  I’m not sure why.  It was stormy when Izuku fell, so I didn’t notice he had come back until my brother began searching for him again.  I didn’t realize that he could still hear us either.” First shook his head slowly.  “Perhaps because Izuku’s light is so old, older than most of the stars in the heavens.  Perhaps because of his time with my brother.  He’s… much more like us than the rest of the stars.  My brother made him special.”

“What can we do to keep him safe?” Inko blurted at last.  “How do we keep that monster away from him?”

“There are two ways.” First seemed reluctant to continue.  “The safe way is for Izuku to give up the last of his light and become mortal.  Since his magic is already gone, if he lets his light fade away slowly, his memories should remain intact.  My brother won’t be able to take him away.”

“What about the other stars?” Izuku asked.  “What will happen to them?”

First gave him a sad smile.  "We've had our peace for thousands of years at your expense.  It's time we paid the price."

"What's the other option?" Izuku asked, trembling.

First didn't look happy.  "The other option is to destroy All for One."

"How do we do that?" Izuku asked.  "I did something before that made him go away for a bit."

"Most stars are strong enough to produce a burst of light powerful enough to drive the void back for a moment, but not enough to destroy him." First shook his head.  "You would need much, much more light to get rid of him all together."

"But if I get that much more light… will I have to go back to being a star?"

"Not necessarily.  But it would be dangerous, and if you fail he will take you away again with all of your light and I don't think we'll ever get you back."

Izuku shivered and looked up at his parents.  "What should I do?"

"I… I don't know, starlight." Toshi admitted.

"You don't have to choose tonight." Inko told him and the star nodded his agreement.

"Why are my only choices to either stay here with mommy and daddy and let all the other stars die, or leave them and never come back?" Izuku asked, on the verge of tears again.  "It's not fair."

"It's nearly dawn, I have to go." First said.  He stood and looked down at the family, both mother and father hugging their little star protectively.  He bent down and kissed Izuku's forehead.  "When I found out that you were safe… I can't tell you how happy I was.  You're a very special little star, Izuku.  You were made to do more than just grant wishes.  You bring hope, happiness.  It's no wonder my brother wanted to keep you for himself."

"Thank you for saving him." Toshi said and Inko nodded.

First gave them a small smile.  "Keep him inside after sunset.  I'll do my best to slow my brother's rampage while you make your decision.  Stay safe, little starlight."

The light faded from the room, leaving just the candles burning.  Izuku blinked a few times.  He had been talking to a star.  He was a star.  And that monster didn't want to eat him, but what it did want might even be worse.  To take him away from his family?  Lock him up in the dark, all alone?  Izuku started to cry.

"It's all right, it's over now." Toshi soothed him.

"What are we going to do?" Izuku cried.

“We’ll figure something out.” Inko promised, kissing his forehead.  “No matter what you decide, your daddy and I will always be here for you, starlight.”

⭐⭐⭐⭐

Izuku was troubled.  A week had already passed and he was no closer to deciding what he was going to do.  No matter how he thought about it, he just knew that there had to be another way.  A way that he could live happy with his parents, and that the stars would be safe, and that the darkness stopped chasing him.

It was late at night.  The candles were still burning and he could hear that Toshi and Inko were both sleeping beside him.  Izuku stared up at the cellar ceiling, quietly twisting the sheets in his hands.  The stars were quiet again tonight.  He couldn’t help but worry that he had waited too long to make a choice and that the stars were all eaten by now.  He didn’t like that thought.

Izuku pulled the blankets up over his head and started to cry.  Very softly, so that he wouldn’t wake his parents.  He was scared and worried and there was so much pressure on his small body that he was afraid he was going to break and let everyone down.  He just wanted to be with his mommy and daddy.  Was that too much to wish for?

“Why are you crying, starlight?” A soft voice whispered over him.

“Daddy?” Izuku quickly tried to dry his eyes.  “I- I don’t want to go back there.”

“Why don’t you want to come home?  You were so happy there with me before.”

Izuku froze.  Now that he was paying attention, that was not Toshi’s voice.  He started shaking, too afraid to pull the covers off of his head.  “Go away.”

There was a low chuckle that seemed to wrap itself around him.  “You don’t remember me, do you, my little one?  You don’t remember how happy we were together, just you and me, up in the heavens… so how can you say that you don’t want to return?”

“You’re a monster.” Izuku whispered back, trembling.  “You’re hurting the other stars.  You want to take me away from my family.”

“They aren’t really your family.”

“Yes they are!” Izuku shouted before All for One could say anything else.  “They wished for me and I came to them!  You c-can’t take me away!  It’s not fair!”

“You understand so little of your magic and destiny.” All for One sighed.  “That’s why I had to keep you safe.  Your light is different from the other stars.  It’s eternal.  You will outlive these mortals, and all of the other stars.  I tried to protect you, tried to keep you from them so you wouldn’t have to go through the pain of losing them, but you came here instead and now you’re in pain.”

“You don’t know anything!” Izuku shook his head back and forth.

“You know I’m telling the truth, my little star.  You know that you were happy with me.  You know that I love you more than anyone or anything ever could.”

“Then why was I so lonely?” Izuku asked softly, making All for One pause.  “Why did I want to leave?  Mommy and Daddy wished for someone to love.  They said they would never wish for anything again, and I wanted to be that someone.  I wanted them to love me.  I wanted this.”

“They lied, you know.” All for One sounded a little angry now.  “That’s what all the mortals say when they make a wish.  That they’ll never wish for anything again, that if they could have this one thing they’ll be happy.  And they never are.  They always wish for more.  They’re greedy, selfish, they don’t deserve your magic or your light.  None of them do.”

“You’re the one who’s being greedy” Izuku shot back.  “You just want to keep me all to yourself!  I don’t want that!  I want to share my light with them!  I love them!”

“They’re using you, starlight.”

“Go away!  I’ve made up my mind- I’ll get rid of my light and then you won’t ever be able to find me again!  I’m not ever going back with you, not ever!  I’ll stay here with mommy and daddy forever and ever no matter what!”

“My brother came to see you, didn’t he?” All for One circled around Izuku again, drawing closer to him.  “He told you that you only had two choices, didn’t he?  Abandon the other stars or try and fight against me.  He’s mostly right, you know… but either way, you lose what you want most, starlight.”

“Wh-what do you mean?”

“The only way for you to get enough light to fight against me is if all the other stars sacrifice themselves and bestow their light upon you.  You would be the only star left in the skies, fighting against me alone.  And then I would have everything I want, just you and me, like it was meant to be.”

“No!” Izuku cried.  That wasn’t right, that couldn’t be right.  “W-We’ll all fight you together!”

“It doesn’t work that way, starlight.”

“Then I’ll give up my light and stay here!”

“If you stay here it will only delay your destiny.  Give up your light if you wish, but after I’ve hunted down all of the stars, I’ll find you and force their light into you.  It might hurt, but then you’ll be back in the heavens with me again.”

“I thought you said you loved me” Izuku whimpered.  “Why can’t you let me be happy then?  Why does everyone have to die?  Why can’t I stay with mommy and daddy?”

“You belong with me, starlight.  No matter what you do, you’ll end up at my side again.”

“Can’t you wait?” Izuku begged, then froze as his words sank in.  “Th-that’s it!  You can wait, can’t you?”

“What are you saying, starlight?” All for One was frowning, but Izuku was excited.  There was a third option, one where everyone could be happy.

“Y-You said that my light wouldn’t ever go away and that I’ll live forever, right?  Then let me live here with mommy and daddy until they die.  Then I’ll come back with you and none of the stars have to die!  Everyone gets what they want.”

“So all I have to do to get you back is get rid of these mortals you’ve attached yourself to?”

“No!  That’s not what I meant!  If you hurt mommy or daddy or me or- or First or any of the stars then- then- then I’ll-.”

“You’ll what, starlight?”

“Then I’ll hate you!” Izuku shouted at last.  “You can lock me up but I’ll never talk to you and I’ll never listen to you and I’ll never forgive you!”

All for One chuckled.  “You’re just as bright and feisty as you always were, starlight.  And what if I decide to just take you home right now?”

Izuku blinked.  His lip started to tremble before he burst into tears again.  He wailed over the sounds of All for One trying to soothe him, kicking and screaming to free himself.

“Don’t cry, starlight.  What’s wrong?  Why are you upset?  It’s all right, little one, you don’t have to cry.”

“Go away!” Izuku screamed.  “Leave me alone!  You don’t love me at all, you big liar!  Monster!  I won’t go with you!”

“Starlight?  Starlight!  Izuku!”

Izuku gasped as his head was pulled out from under the blankets.  Someone was shaking him.  He blinked the tears from his eyes.  “Mommy?  Daddy?”

“You were screaming in your sleep.” Inko looked worried.  “What’s wrong?”

“He-He said he was just going to take me!” Izuku cried, latching onto her.  “Mommy, don’t let him take me!”

“It was just a dream, love.” Toshi assured him, his strong hand rubbing Izuku’s back to calm his sobs.  “You’re safe here, he can’t take you away.”

“H-He can’t just take me!” Izuku insisted, still mostly hysterical.  “It’s not fair!  I don’t want to go, I don’t want to lose you or the stars!”

“You aren’t going to lose us.” Inko said and her calm, certain voice made Izuku swallow down the bigger tears.  She held his head to her chest and hummed softly.  “We’ll always, always be with you, starlight.  So don’t be afraid.  Your daddy and I will love you forever.”

⭐⭐⭐⭐

The sun hadn’t been set for long when the cellar began to fill with warm, white light.  Izuku smiled and ran to greet First as he finished descending from the heavens.

“First!  You’re okay!”

“Hello, little starlight.” First smiled and placed a hand on top of Izuku’s white hair.  “It’s good to see you again.”

“Is everything all right?” Inko asked anxiously.

“I’m not sure.” First admitted.  “I… talked with my brother.  He came to see me last night, he said that he’d talked with you, Izuku.”

Izuku paled.  “I- I thought that was a dream.”

“He said that you tried to make a deal with him.” First looked apprehensive, as did Toshi and Inko now at his words.

“I… I told him that I would go away with him as long as he didn’t hurt anyone.” Izuku said slowly, thinking back on what had happened in his dream.

“He said that you asked him to wait.” First knelt in front of Izuku so they could see eye to eye.  First was so tall… were the rest of the stars tall like that?  Why was Izuku so small, he wondered.

Izuku shook his questions aside and nodded.  “Until mommy and daddy’s wish was over.”

“He… said that he would agree to your terms.” First said it as though he didn’t quite believe it.  “I guess he’s willing to wait if it means you won’t hate him.  From what I understand, he accidentally upset you.”

Izuku nodded again.  “He said he was just going to take me away anyways!  And that he would eat up all the stars so I was the only one left!”

“Are you really okay with this?” First asked.

“He told me what would happen if I tried to fight him.” Izuku said softly.  “That all of you would die to make me stronger.  I c-can’t do that.  No matter what, he wants me to be the only star left.  Either he’ll kill you, or I’ll outlive you.  And if I try to run away, he’ll just use all the magic he’s eaten to bring me back.”

First cupped izuku’s face in his hands and let out a long sigh.  “You always were such a special little star… So brave, so loving, so kind… Is this your choice then?”

Izuku looked over his shoulder to Inko and Toshi.  They were holding hands, silent tears in their eyes.  They smiled at him, nodding in encouragement.  Izuku looked back at First.  “Is he really going to let me stay?  And not hurt the other stars?”

“That’s what he told me.” First nodded.  “I don’t think he wants to hurt you again.  You always were his only weakness, starlight.”

“Then I want to stay.” Izuku couldn’t hide the desperateness from his voice.  “I want to stay with mommy and daddy for as long as I can, and grant as many wishes as I can before he takes me back.”

“You found another way.” First smiled.  “Your parents should be very proud of you.”

“We are.” Toshi nodded.

Izuku grinned and ran back to them,  jumping into their arms.  “We won’t have to sleep in the cellar anymore!  We can look at the stars together again!”

“He’ll keep his word, then?” Inko asked, looking up at First.

“I believe he will.  He knows that Izuku will outlive all of us, and he knows how short mortal lives are in comparison.  As long as Izuku keeps his word, I suppose he’s willing to wait.”

Izuku buried his face into his parents’ embrace to hide the tears of joy building in his eyes.  “I don’t have to go.  I don’t have to leave.  I can stay here with you.”

Inko and Toshi both hugged Izuku, tears of relief on their faces as well.  First smiled and stepped back.  “I’ll let my brother know that this is what you’ve decided.  I’ll see you again, under the stars, Izuku.”

“Wait!” Izuku called after him.  He ran over and hugged First one last time.  “Tell him thank you.  I know he’s mean and awful and- but tell him thank you.  And that I’m sorry I didn't believe him when he said he loved me.”

“His love is twisted and misguided for sure.” First agreed, hugging Izuku back, “But he doesn't want to make you cry again.  None of us do.  So live happy down here while you can, starlight.  We’ll be watching over you.”  He kissed the top of Izuku’s head, then disappeared again, rising back to the heavens.

Izuku ran after him, back upstairs, through the kitchen, and threw the front door open.  He stumbled outside with Inko and Toshi close on his heels.  The sky was dark, except for one star.  Izuku knew that star.  It was the brightest star, one he had always been able to find in the night sky.  It had to be First.  Inko hugged Izuku from behind, Toshi wrapping one arm around her and the other around Izuku.  As they stared up at the sky, the other stars began to return.  First a few at a time, then rippling out from the center where First rested.  In moments, the entire sky was full of glowing lights, twinkling in the atmosphere.

Izuku’s breath hitched the same way it had the first night he’d seen the other stars.  It was so beautiful, so breathtaking.  He could stand here all night.

“Mommy, Daddy?”

“Yes, starlight?”

“I’m glad you wished for me to come to you.  I love you.”

“We love you too, Izuku.” They each kissed his cheek and he giggled.

 

Far above, in the darkness beyond the stars, All for One watched the happy family with narrowed eyes.  “I love you too, my precious little starlight.  It won’t be long before I have you again, all to myself, where you belong.  All mine… my starlight.  I won’t let you get away from me a second time, no matter what.”