Izuku is found at the hole in the Wall, only a few weeks old, with a letter addressed to Midoriya Inko and single, spun-glass flower clutched between his hands.
Later, Izuku’s mom tells the story often. Rarely about what came after, and never about before. But she likes to talk about that particular moment, when Izuku appeared with the first snowfall, the warmth of autumn still in the air. A child, left at the border marking the end of the world.
Even as a baby, Izuku is freckled and warm-skinned, with wide eyes and a dimpled smile. There is nothing strange about him, nothing to suggest that he was born in another world. He was, though, and so he is strange, and the rest of the village knows it.
Odd, odd Midoriya Izuku, who came from over the Wall.
Izuku’s village is accustomed to odd things, but they are accustomed to them being distant, removed. Every nine years, on Market Day, the man guarding the hole in the Wall steps aside, and the villagers are allowed into the world beyond. They cross the border into Faerie and marvel - at flying carpets and healing potions and young women who will tell your fortune in exchange for a lock of hair or a memory or a kiss. And then they return, retreat back across the Wall, and the memories fade.
The magic of Faerie is separate from their reality. They are neighbors. That does not necessarily mean they are friends.
And then Izuku appears.
The Wall is little more than a pile of stones. The only opening in it is a roughshod gap, like someone once kicked through it and never bothered to patch it up. But, for Izuku, the Wall is his beginning and his end.
He grows up followed by whispers. It’s like the other villagers expect him to sprout horns, or turn purple, or suddenly start speaking in tongues. He never does, though. He is only Izuku, both ordinary and odd, an average boy from a magical world.
“Keep your head down,” Izuku’s mom always tells him, gentle but firm, anxiety in her tone and the way she buttons up Izuku’s coat all the way to his chin. “Don’t draw too much attention to yourself. No heroics.”
By the time Izuku turns eighteen, he has long since learned. He will never, never be normal. And, he thinks, if he can’t be normal? He might as well try to be extraordinary.
Around him, the world turns. But Midoriya Izuku dreams of the stars.
What Izuku does not know is that the stars are dreaming back.
☆ ☆ ☆
Izuku’s life changes on a night that begins, like so many other things, with Bakugou Katsuki.
Everyone in the village agrees that Bakugou is extraordinary. Even as a child, he is singular. Clever, strong, volatile, born to a powerful family. Bakugou is the kind of extraordinary the village likes, the comfortable kind. The kind grounded in human things, not in magic and a half-formed sense of loss.
When they are very young, Bakugou is Izuku’s first friend. They are inseparable, competitive, troublemakers. Bakugou never looks at Izuku with pity or fear.
And then, one day, they try to scale the Wall. They’re caught by the guard before they can make it more than a couple feet up, but the damage is done. That day, Bakugou’s parents tell him that Izuku comes from the other side.
After that, Bakugou is Izuku’s first bully.
Izuku dreams of bigger things than the village beside the Wall - of travelling the world, becoming a hero, seeing what the stars look like from the other side of the earth. It is his misfortune that Bakugou does not appreciate the existence of bigger dreams than his own.
Bakugou is Izuku’s first punch to the face, his first insult, his first regret.
They grow up along parallel lines. Only, the night Izuku’s life changes, the lines converge, just for a moment.
It happens like this:
Izuku tells the owner of the shop in town that he’s planning on leaving for the city as soon as he finishes his studies. Bakugou hears. Even Kirishima Eijirou’s usually tempering presence is not enough to deflect Bakugou’s fury. A bruise blossoms into a supernova on Izuku’s cheek.
Bakugou snarls, “Stop fucking trying to show me up, Deku.”
Izuku dodges, and dodges, and dodges.
It seems like he’s spent his entire life running.
“It’s not about you,” he finally manages to gasp furiously. “It’s about me. All I’ve ever wanted from you is acknowledgement-”
“Fuck off with that shit.”
“What do I have to do,” Izuku demands, “to make you believe me?”
Profound pity crosses Kirishima’s face, but before he can interject, there is a sudden, very bright flash from above. The three of them look up, startled, in time to see one of the stars turn the night sky day-bright. It explodes, a thousand shades of purple-crimson-gold, shakes free from the heavens, and drips down like a firework across the sky.
The falling star speeds over their heads and glows very, very bright before disappearing over the horizon, behind the Wall.
After that, it is dark once more.
Bakugou turns back to look at Izuku, his face suddenly very calm.
“You want me to fucking acknowledge you, Deku?” he asks. “You want to be a fucking hero? Bring me that goddamn star, then. The one that just fell.”
Izuku gapes. “Bring you the star?”
“You fucking heard me.”
Kirishima frowns impatiently, opening his mouth to tell Bakugou off, but Izuku is staring in the direction that the star fell. Beyond the village. Beyond the Wall.
“All I have to do is bring back that star?” Izuku asks Bakugou.
Kirishima grabs Bakugou’s arm. “Dude, don’t be stupid,” he says, in a low voice. And then, to Izuku, “Midoriya. Come on. This isn’t worth it, and you know it.”
Bakugou lifts an almost apologetic eyebrow in Kirishima’s direction but doesn’t relent. “Within a week,” he adds, looking at Izuku. “Bring me that star within a week and I’ll admit you’ve got guts.”
“Okay,” Izuku says. “I’ll do it.”
Kirishima looks appalled, and Bakugou looks disdainful, but Izuku means it.
He means it.
(Bakugou had always treated Izuku like maybe he was worth something. Until he got old enough to know better.)
☆ ☆ ☆
“I have to go,” he tells his mom, and he pretends not to see the tears in her eyes as she pulls him close.
She takes him up to the attic and shows him, for the first time, the basket he arrived in. There’s a tiny, fragile-glass snowdrop flower and a cylindrical parcel tucked between the blankets, and his mom presses the parcel into his hands. She curls his fingers around it.
“The letter your father left for me told me to give this to you when you were ready,” she tells him, her voice watery but sure. “And you’re ready, Izuku.”
He tucks the glass snowdrop into the inner pocket of his coat and unwraps the parcel. A jet-black candle rolls out onto his hand, and his mom takes it from him, gently, to allow him to read the words scrawled onto the inside of the wrapping parchment.
Izuku, my boy, it says. Know that I would not have given you up if there had been any other way. Think of me when you light this, and it will take you to wherever you most need to be. After all, the best way to travel is by candlelight.
Fondly, your father.
“He’s a good man,” Izuku’s mom tells him, wiping tears from her eyes. “And he was a good friend to me. And you were so small, Izuku, and bright. Of course I wouldn’t turn you away when he asked me to take you in.”
Izuku strikes the match and sets the wick of the candle alight.
“I’ll be back soon,” he tells his mom. “I love you.”
She beams at him.
And then he takes a step.
The first step he takes brings him to the center of a forest. The trees are tinged with a grayish sort of light, and seem to quiet when Izuku appears. Wind, like a whisper, passes between them. The candle, in Izuku’s hands, seems to tug him forward. This is not the place Izuku most needs to be.
The second step brings him to the outskirts of a city. The city is tiered and grand, built into the side of the mountain, stretching upwards to the sky. Lights burn in the windows, a thousand watchful eyes. The castle, at the highest tier, stands dark and silent. This is not the place either, though it is beautiful, in a mournful sort of way.
Izuku takes a third step.
This time, instead of landing softly on his feet, he slams into something, hard.
The world spins out from under him. He’s on the ground, on his hands and knees, wheezing a little to try and reintroduce breath to his lungs, when a voice below him says, “Get off.”
Izuku huffs a startled breath and blinks rapidly. His vision comes into focus; underneath him, their noses almost touching, is a boy with very bright, very oddly two-toned eyes. They are close enough that Izuku can feel the rise and fall of the boy’s chest as he breathes.
“Ouch,” the boy says, pointedly, and Izuku gasps.
“I’m so sorry!” he says, scrambling up and back, scooting away from the boy. “Sorry, sorry, I’m so sorry.”
The boy opens his mouth heatedly, and Izuku braces himself to be hit, but then the annoyance on the boy’s face fades into something more like pain, and he doubles over to clutch at his leg.
The boy is… striking, Izuku realizes, as he hovers over him anxiously, unsure what to do. Almost luminescent, his hair oddly iridescent, golden-white and warm red at once, a different color every time Izuku blinks. He is slim-shouldered but long-limbed, with delicate features and a downturned, expressive mouth. He’s dressed in a silvery tunic and pants, barefoot and jacket-less, despite the chill in the air.
His head is bowed, spine curved, and his hands are white-knuckled against his leg, which is bent at an unnatural angle beneath him.
“Are you alright?” Izuku asks, still a little breathless. His heart is beating very hard in his throat, though he can’t really say exactly why. “I didn’t hurt you, did I?”
The boy makes a sound halfway between dismissive and pained.
“Tolerably alright,” he says, his voice a little strangled. “My leg’s broken, though.”
“God,” Izuku says, aghast. The boy looks up at him, at that, his face emotionless.
(He’s very lovely, Izuku thinks, and then he wishes desperately that his brain would be silent for once.)
“Can I take a look?” Izuku asks.
The boy lifts an eyebrow, but he shifts his hands away from his leg to give Izuku a better look. The break doesn’t seem too atrocious; there’s no blood, and the boy doesn’t flinch when Izuku presses careful fingertips to his thigh. Probably a clean fracture.
“I think you’ll be okay,” Izuku tells him. “We should get you to a doctor, though. Where’s the nearest village?”
“I wouldn’t know,” the boy says, looking terribly unimpressed.
Izuku’s forehead wrinkles. “You wouldn’t?”
“I really am fine,” the boy informs him, a little imperiously, through obviously clenched teeth. “And would be even better if I was left alone.”
“Oh.” Izuku shoots to his feet immediately. Something very small inside his chest aches a little, at the dismissal. Which is absolutely foolish - this isn’t the first time Izuku’s realized that he’s not wanted. There’s no reason at all it should hurt more now.
“I’m very sorry again,” he says, ducking his head and trying not to sound too miserable. And then he turns to go, to leave the boy alone.
Izuku takes a good look around himself. He is standing in the center of an enormous crater, gouged into the earth. It’s deep, the edges rough, ringed by blackened trees, still smoldering with leftover heat. The center of the crater is shining and packed down hard, as if it had been calcified in the fire of an impact.
Think of me when you light this, and it will take you to wherever you most need to be.
Wherever you most need to be.
And Izuku had been looking for the fallen star.
“Wait,” Izuku says, whipping around to face the boy again. The boy lifts his head to meet Izuku’s eyes. “I’m so sorry, I don’t mean to bother you again, but… Okay, I know this is going to sound a little strange, but did you maybe see a star fall somewhere around here?”
The boy says, flatly, “Oh. Ha-ha. Very funny.”
“No, I’m serious! I know it sounds crazy, but it would’ve fallen right around here, I think, and-”
“Oh, it would’ve,” the boy confirms, a flush of anger turning his cheeks pink. “Pretty much right exactly here, to be precise. It would’ve been minding its own business when a giant ugly meteor flew out of nowhere and knocked it out of the sky. And then it would’ve landed in the dirt and, just when it was starting to get its bearings, it would’ve been hit yet again by a flying dumbass who doesn’t know how to properly use a Babylon candle.”
“If it makes you feel better,” the boy says, “my leg was broken before you landed on me.”
“You’re the star,” Izuku whispers, slowly, as understanding dawns. “You’re the star. The one that fell.”
“I am,” the star confirms. “And you were just leaving.”
Izuku scrambles back over to the star’s side and crouches down next to him. The star reels back a little, eyes going wide as he stares at Izuku.
“I can’t leave,” Izuku tells him, wide-eyed and earnest. “I came all this way to find you! I need you to come back with me.”
“Come back,” the star echoes. “Where?”
“To my village,” Izuku explains. “It’s… kind of a long story but basically I told someone I’d bring you back to him within a week, and I didn’t realize you’d be a… a human person, but a promise is a promise so, if you wouldn’t mind-”
The star’s eyes narrow. “I’m not going to be a trinket for you to show off to your lover.”
Izuku grimaces. “No, no, not my lover. My… friend. Childhood friend. Rival, maybe. I don’t know, exactly, what to call him.”
The star waves a hand. “Either way. I’m not a collector’s item to show off.”
“Please,” Izuku says. “It wouldn’t be for free. I’d give you something in return.” And he reaches into his pocket and digs out the remains of the candle he’d used to get here.
“The best way to travel,” he says, “is by candlelight.”
The star’s eyebrows lift, the expressionless mask breaking.
“You don’t know what you’re offering,” he says, slowly. “Babylon candles are worth more in gold than you’ve ever seen in your life. More than you ever will see.”
Izuku holds it out. “It’s yours. If you come with me. I swear it.”
The star eyes the candle in his hand. “There’s only enough there for one trip.”
Izuku nods. “You can use it to get back to the sky.”
The star looks at him for a moment, serious and appraising. And then, before Izuku can blink - before he can think - the star is on top of him, pinning him to the earth, one hand hovering above Izuku’s throat. Izuku can feel the heat from it, pulsing off of him in waves. Sunlight, starlight.
It strikes Izuku, very suddenly, that there is a rather large difference between a human and a star.
“And what’s stopping me from killing you and taking the candle for myself?” the star asks, voice silken.
Izuku takes a slow, deep breath.
“The kindness of your heart?” he offers, weakly.
“Hmm,” the star says. And then he reaches forward, steady, and presses his hand to Izuku’s chest, above his heart. He tempers the heat, slightly, but Izuku can still feel his warmth, a solid weight on his chest.
“I wonder,” he says. “There’s kindness in your heart. Is there kindness in mine?”
And then, before Izuku can answer, he drops his hand and unfolds himself from the ground, wincing only slightly when he places his weight on his leg.
“Let’s go then,” he says, dusting himself off. “Midoriya Izuku.”
☆ ☆ ☆
It’s slow going as they pick their way out of the crater and through the surrounding woods. Izuku figures out pretty quickly that the star’s in a lot more pain than he’s letting on; his face stays carefully stoic, but his breathing is ragged and arrhythmic.
“Will you be okay?” Izuku asks, nervously hovering around the star, hands fluttering ineffectually. “You can lean on me-”
For all his hometown’s fear and reverence for Faerie, Izuku finds that the other-world really isn’t altogether that different from his village. There’s something slightly altered in the air, maybe, and every once in awhile he sees something startling and strange - fairy wings, talking trees, a faraway glimpse of a unicorn. The moon and the stars, though. Those are the same.
Except for one slight difference.
“It’s odd,” Izuku says, craning his neck to peer at the sky between the trees. “You can’t see the Evening Star, here. Where I’m from, it’s bright enough that you can see it even during the day.”
The star lets out an annoyed huff.
“Wow. Strange,” he says, shuffling forward with a little more furious gusto. “Can’t imagine why that would be.”
Izuku blinks. “Wait. Hang on. Are you-”
“Keep up,” the star grumbles, and Izuku jogs a little to catch up to him.
They walk in silence for awhile, Izuku’s gaze trained on the ground, the star letting out a pained breath every once in awhile.
“Could I ask you a question?” Izuku asks, hesitantly.
The star hums, and Izuku takes it as a confirmation, so he plows on.
“Earlier, you knew my name. I didn’t tell it to you, though. So, how…?”
“There’s not a lot to do up there,” the star says. There’s a hint of red in the tips of his ears, along the back of his neck.“Just… you know. Shining. That kind of thing. So we… keep an eye on things down here. I’d seen you before.”
Izuku says, mortified, “Oh, no.”
The star huffs out another breath, and this time Izuku recognizes it as a laugh. “Don’t worry. I haven’t seen anything too terribly humiliating.”
“What have you seen then?” Izuku asks.
The star shrugs languidly, one corner of his mouth tipped up in the barest hint of amusement.
“You burn very brightly, Midoriya Izuku,” he says. “You’re rather difficult to miss.”
And that is something that no one has ever told Izuku before.
You burn very brightly. The words catch in Izuku’s chest. Sink into his veins.
Mercury, in his heart.
He smiles, hard enough to hurt.
“What’s your name, then?” Izuku asks. “So we can be even.”
The star glances at him appraisingly for a moment before saying, “Todoroki Shouto.”
“Todoroki-kun,” Izuku tests, and Todoroki looks a little surprised, but not displeased.
They reach a tiny, forest town not too long after that. It’s small, almost hidden among the trees, but a road snakes through it, and there appears to be both an inn and a town physician.
“You should see a doctor, now that we’re here,” Izuku says, and Todoroki frowns.
“I won’t,” he says. “I’ll heal soon, anyway. And a star’s magic isn’t like the magic you have down here. I don’t want to attract more attention than I’ve got to.”
“Are you sure?” Izuku asks, and Todoroki shoots him a very pointed look.
“Okay,” he squeaks. “No doctor.”
Instead, they get a room at the inn, which the innkeeper exchanges for Izuku’s singing voice. “At least let me take a look at your leg,” Izuku says, once they’re inside their room, and Todoroki sighs.
“It won’t do any good. Injuries for me don’t work like yours do,” he points out, but Izuku folds his arms over his chest and adopts his best, most insistent pout.
Todoroki sighs. “Fine,” he says, and immediately goes to unbutton his pants.
Izuku blanches and lunges forward to grab his wrists.
“I don’t think you need to do that,” he says, a little too loud and high-pitched. “Just. Um. Let me roll them up, okay?”
Todoroki looks at him for a long moment before shrugging and sitting down on one of the beds, allowing Izuku to kneel in front of him and carefully push the silky-silver fabric of his pants away from the injured leg.
It’s definitely bruised, now, stained night-colored against Todoroki’s skin. There’s no swelling, though, and no other sign of injury. Izuku presses gently on the ankle, and Todoroki moves his foot to show that he has full range of motion.
“I’m a fast healer,” he says. “The bruises will be gone by morning.”
“You’re incredible,” Izuku breathes, earnestly, before he can think better of it.
The words catch up to him quickly, and he immediately blushes crimson, guiding Todoroki’s pant leg back down and stepping back. When he looks up and meets Todoroki’s eyes, Todoroki is flushed, too. Pink along his cheeks, his ears. His eyes have not left Izuku’s face.
Izuku rambles, too quickly, “Anyway, I think your leg is probably okay, so we should probably try and get some rest, I think we should probably leave early in the morning-”
“Yes,” Todoroki agrees.
“Goodnight,” Izuku blurts.
He hurries over to the other bed, pulls off his boots, and curls up small. A new ache, one he does not have a name for, settles in his heart and makes a home there.
☆ ☆ ☆
They head out early the next day. Izuku exchanges his knowledge of the word parenthetical for a map of Faerie, and the innkeeper helps them mark a path to the market down that borders the Wall. Todoroki’s moving better today, able to put most of his weight on his leg, so they make better time, reaching the next town before nightfall.
Six days, Izuku reminds himself. He has six days to bring Todoroki back to his village beyond the Wall. Six days to be accepted, to no longer feel like a stranger in his own home.
The next day is equally uneventful. Todoroki has softened towards him considerably, but Izuku still sees him thoughtfully staring at the pocket where Izuku keeps the Babylon candle. Every once in awhile, he thinks about the heat of Todoroki’s hand against his throat, his breath against Izuku’s mouth.
There’s kindness in your heart. Is there kindness in mine?
The fourth day before the deadline, they pass alongside the sea. Izuku has never seen the ocean - has never even seen a lake before, not properly - so Todoroki sits in the sand while he runs through the waves with his shoes off and his pant legs rolled up. Evening falls quickly, the sun staining the sky the most brilliant shade of violet Izuku has ever seen.
“We should keep going,” Todoroki tells him, as the sun dips fully below the horizon, so Izuku tugs his boots back on and they keep moving.
They head up, away from the sea, through a path that curves around a rocky hillside. It’s oddly quiet around here, no sign of travellers or merchants. And they find out why, when Izuku takes a turn around a corner and finds the world spinning out from under him, one of his arms jammed behind his back, and a knife pressed icy into his neck.
“Don’t move,” the bandit tells Todoroki. His hand is very steady, holding the knife. “One step and I cut his throat.”
“Hmm,” Todoroki says.
Izuku’s chest is very, very cold.
There is an obvious choice, here. Let the bandit kill Izuku. Kill the bandit. Todoroki would be free from obligations, he’d have the candle he needed to get home. He could probably take whatever loot the bandit was carrying, as well. What was Izuku worth, against odds like that?
“I want your valuables,” the bandit says. “Everything you’ve got. And you better not think about any funny business with magic, or your friend here bleeds out.”
“Midoriya,” Todoroki says, his voice calm. “Don’t move.”
“I do have a knife to my throat,” Izuku points out, weakly.
Todoroki’s mouth tilts up, another almost-smile. “Extra don’t move, then. Also, close your eyes, probably.”
The bandit snarls, “I said no funny business,” and the knife digs into Izuku’s skin. But it is too late - Todoroki opens his palms and his body catches flame, bursting into a brilliantly crimson light. Izuku yelps and squeezes his eyes shut, but he still sees the burst of fire from behind his eyelids, feels the bandit release him, feels the heat flare, blistering, against his cheek.
When he blinks open his eyes, the bandit is gone, charred footprints left behind on the grass where he’d fled. The fire surrounding Todoroki is dying down, sinking back into his skin like it belongs there.
Todoroki’s eyes are burning, glowing, unfamiliar. They meet Izuku’s, and for a moment Izuku is frozen, transfixed. And then the fire dissipates completely, and the glow disappears, and Todoroki is back.
“Are you okay?” he asks.
Izuku says, “Absolutely,” and then topples forward.
Todoroki catches him before he hits the ground, easing him to a seated position. When he touches Izuku’s neck, his hands come away scarlet.
“It’s okay,” Todoroki tells him. “Midoriya. Stay with me.”
And Izuku would like to. He would.
But his vision is already blurring, and now
☆ ☆ ☆
Izuku dreams of bright things - of sunlight, of his mother’s laughter, of careful and familiar hands against his skin. He dreams, a little bit, of Todoroki. The brightest thing of all.
When he comes to, he comes to slowly, the world fading into place around him like fog clearing. The ground beneath him is rocking gently, rising and falling, steady.
Izuku blinks sleep from his eyes. He’s in an unfamiliar bed in an unfamiliar room, the walls paneled with a warm wood, portholes lining the walls.
In the corner of the room, Todoroki is curled up in an overstuffed armchair, eyes closed. Izuku’s limbs feel heavy, ungainly, but he pushes himself up slowly anyway. At the sound of the movement, one of Todoroki’s eyes opens.
“You’re awake,” he says, and his face is impassive, but there’s unmistakable relief in his voice.
Izuku lifts a hand slowly to his throat. There’s a bandage pressed to the place where the bandit’s knife had caught his skin.
“I didn’t die,” he says, and he finds he’s very pleased about that.
“You didn’t,” Todoroki confirms, and he looks a little pleased himself, another one of his almost-smiles tugging at his mouth.
Izuku peers around the room. “Where are we?”
“We hitched a ride,” Todoroki says. “Don’t try to move too fast, you’ll hurt yourself.”
“What do you mean, we hitched a ride?”
As he asks the question, there’s a knock at the door. When Todoroki makes an affirming sound, a girl pushes her way into the room. She’s round-faced, with a crop of brown hair and an outfit that would give some of the ladies in Izuku’s village a heart attack - a smart jacket, dark pants, laced boots, with a sword and a pistol hanging at her waist. There is a lightning bolt embroidered onto the lapel of her jacket.
“Oh, he’s awake!” she says, with a sudden, dazzling smile. “It’s nice to meet you, Midoriya-kun. My name’s Uraraka Ochako.”
Izuku makes a small, strangled sound that approximates the word hello.
“How are you feeling?” she asks, leaning on the frame of the door. “You look much better. You were in a pretty bad state when we picked you guys up.”
“I feel fine,” Izuku tells her. “Where are we, though? What is this place?”
“Oh!” Uraraka says. “Sorry. Goodness, where are my manners? You’re on a pirate ship.”
Izuku says, “Oh.”
Todoroki’s eyes twinkle. “A sky pirate ship,” he says.
Izuku wheezes, “What.”
And, slowly, he swings his legs out of bed, shuffles over to the nearest porthole, and peers out.
They are, indeed, on a ship. It cuts its way through the summits of clouds, carving through the sky like an enormous, round-bellied bird. The sky is endless, unbroken, a shade of brilliant blue Izuku has never seen before and couldn’t even begin to describe. Like summer, or noontime, or happiness. The ground is too far below to even see - they are riding the currents of the air, and Izuku takes a stumbling, shocked step backwards.
“Welcome aboard Yuuei,” Uraraka says, a note of pride in her voice.
“Oh, my God,” Izuku whispers.
Todoroki tells him, later, that he’d used what was left of the Babylon candle to get them away from the bandit’s territory as fast as possible, since he was certain to call for backup. He says that the candle launched them upwards, into space, onto an enormous, frothing stormcloud. The crew of Yuuei had found them there, miles above the earth and rain-soaked, Todoroki trying to press heat into Izuku’s body with his hands.
“The candle’s gone, then,” Izuku says, a hand pressed against his chest. “I’m so sorry, Todoroki-kun. How are you going to get home now?”
“There are lots of different kinds of homes,” he says.
☆ ☆ ☆
They spend four days with the pirates, aboard the sky-ship Yuuei. The crew is headed by a scruffy-faced, long-haired man named Aizawa, who terrifies Izuku for about twenty-four hours or so, before he sees him wandering around the deck wrapped in a blanket, mumbling instructions half-asleep.
The crew’s job, Uraraka tells him, is to harvest lightning. They contain the bolts in barrels and then bring them down and sell them on land. Witches use them for spells, common folk for power, and the rulers of the kingdom for weapons.
“They would if we had a ruler, anyway,” Kaminari interjects, cheerfully. “The king’s been missing for ages.”
“Ages? Why don’t you just replace him, then?” Izuku asks.
“That’s human politics, not ours,” Momo explains, from across the deck. “The king is the rightful ruler of Faerie. He has to appoint his successor. No one else can.”
“Rumor has it that he’s cursed,” Tokoyami says, from his perch on the mast. “They say he can’t return to the throne until his rightful heir has been found.”
“The heir is lost?”
Aizawa growls, from across the deck, “He was sent away for his own protection, during a period of civil war when it looked like the king was going to be overthrown. And he’s going to stay lost, probably, so this conversation is pointless. Get back to work.”
When they fly into their first storm, Izuku is frightened almost to tears; it’s one thing to watch a thunderstorm from below, but something else entirely from the inside. The sky around them is gray-black, the winds howling, cold rain battering down on them, sticking to their hair and eyelashes. Uraraka and Asui - “Call me Tsuyu!” - teach Izuku and Todoroki how to catch the lightning and contain it. Todoroki picks it up quickly. It takes Izuku a little longer. Soon, though, the storm transforms from terrifying to almost exhilarating, and the wind in his hair and the rain on his face become a fire in his chest.
This, Izuku thinks, must be what being extraordinary feels like.
That night, after the first storm, Izuku wakes up to find Todoroki’s bed empty. He scrambles out of his own bed and wraps a blanket around his shoulders, shuffling up to the deck. Todoroki is sitting with his legs over the side of the ship, between the railings. He’s staring upwards, into space. The stars seem to stretch on forever, out here, clouds of nebulae splattered like ink across the heavens.
Izuku walks over and settles beside him, wrapping his arms around the wooden posts.
“Do you miss it?” Izuku asks, quietly. “Being up there?”
Todoroki shoots him a sidelong glance. “I’m not sure,” he says. “It was really, really quiet.”
The crew of Yuuei agrees to transport Izuku and Todoroki as close to the Wall as their normal route will take them. On their last night aboard the ship, they have a particularly successful storm-chase. Izuku catches his first lightning bolt without help, and it makes Uraraka smile so much he thinks her face must hurt.
“We have to celebrate,” Jirou says. “Captain, seriously. We have to give them a good send-off, after that.”
Aizawa pauses only a second before acquiescing. Jirou and Kaminari knock knuckles, Sero letting out an enthusiastic shout. Izuku helps them haul up their instruments to a corner of the main deck, and watches as the rest of the crew hangs up strings of lanterns lit by sparks from the lightning bolts.
Izuku has never heard music like the kind that Jirou and Kaminari play. The sound seems to take up the whole of the sky, unpredictable and lovely and resonant, with the kind of weight that reverberates in your throat and your chest. The rest of the crew starts to dance, Uraraka sweeping Asui into an intricate tango, Mina and Tooru clapping enthusiastically along with the music to keep time.
“Just going to stand?” Aizawa asks Izuku and Todoroki, from where he’s sitting on the steps up to the bow of the ship.
“Midoriya-kun, Todoroki-kun! You should dance!” Uraraka calls, untangling herself from Asui to wave them over. The rest of them pick up the call, reaching over to tug Izuku and Todoroki onto the dance floor.
“I can’t dance,” Todoroki tells them, a little helplessly. “I’ve never learned.”
Aizawa shrugs, something like amusement in his eyes. “No time like the present,” he says, and then he lifts an eyebrow towards Izuku. “I imagine you know how, Midoriya-kun?”
“I… I mean, yes, but I’ve never been very good-”
“No one ever said dancing had to be good,” Aizawa says, already turning away. “We don’t dance to prove a point.”
Uraraka laughs at the bafflement on Izuku and Todoroki’s faces. “What he’s trying to say is that the point of dancing isn’t to be good at it,” she says, nudging Izuku forward with her shoulder. “The point is to feel.”
And so Izuku allows the crew of Yuuei to push him and Todoroki to the center of the deck. Jirou gives a shout of approval from her corner and plays a little slower, her music morphing into a tune that’s rhythmic, easier to follow. Kaminari adjusts with her, falling into an easy harmony.
“So, you, um,” Izuku mumbles, stepping close to Todoroki. “I guess I’m leading, so you put your hand on my shoulder, and I. Um.”
Todoroki takes Izuku’s wrist and lifts it, guides Izuku’s hand to his own waist. His skin is very warm, even beneath the soft cotton of his shirt. Izuku thinks he might very possibly combust.
“I’ve seen dancing before,” Todoroki reminds him, quietly. “I’ve just never done it.”
“Right,” Izuku squeaks. “Okay. Follow my lead, then.”
And he begins to guide Todoroki through a simple waltz. Todoroki is graceful, as always, a quick learner, and soon they are just moving , Todoroki’s breath soft against Izuku’s face, his eyes fixed on Izuku’s.
“Do I have something on my face?” Izuku laughs.
Todoroki hums. “You have stars of your own,” he says, and when Izuku looks confused, he lifts his hand, and traces his fingertips along the dusting of Izuku’s freckles.
“I…” Izuku says, which is a decent enough start to a sentence. Unfortunately, he can’t seem to put together enough words to finish it.
Todoroki says, “I’m glad I met you, Midoriya.” And then he smiles, a real one, and Izuku doesn’t know if it’s his imagination, but it looks like he’s glowing just a little bit brighter. Like all the stars in the sky are reflected in his eyes.
☆ ☆ ☆
The crew of Yuuei drops Izuku and Todoroki off on the outskirts of the Market Town at dawn. Before they disembark, Uraraka hugs Izuku tight and whispers in his ear, “Don’t end this adventure with regrets, Midoriya-kun. You have to chase the people you care about.” And then she pulls back, and allows Tokoyami to shake Midoriya’s hand and Momo to wrap him in a quick hug, and then they are leaving, going.
The Wall is less than an hour’s walk from here. There’s an odd lump in Izuku’s throat, a weight on his shoulders.
It never occurred to Izuku to think about what would happen after he brought Todoroki back to the Wall.
You have to chase the people you care about.
“Should we… rest a bit, before we keep going?” Izuku asks, hesitantly.
They find an inn at the center of the Market Town, where Todoroki trades his ambidextrousness for a place to stay. The inn is mostly booked, so their room is small, and only has one bed. Izuku, exhausted, collapses into it, for once too tired to overthink. Todoroki curls up beside him, and Izuku feels, in the moments before sleep takes him, Todoroki’s fingers curl into the fabric of Izuku’s shirt.
They wake around mid-afternoon, limbs tangled, Todoroki’s arm draped over Izuku’s shoulder. When Izuku blinks his eyes open, he sees that Todoroki really is glowing, for sure this time. He’s almost too bright to look at - though, if he’s being honest, Izuku isn’t sure if that has anything to do with the glow.
Izuku reaches up to draw his fingers through Todoroki’s hair, wonderingly. The light scatters, reflects off the ceiling, off the walls.
“You really are glowing. Back at the ship, I thought I’d imagined it,” he says. “Why?”
Todoroki looks at him, very seriously, for a moment. And then he says, “I wonder,” and leans in, one hand flat against Izuku’s cheek, to kiss him.
It is starlit. Sunlit. Todoroki’s mouth is achingly warm, meltingly gentle. He kisses Izuku like it is all he has ever wanted, and more.
“Maybe,” Todoroki says, pulling away just a fraction of an inch, “that’s why.”
Izuku says, “Oh,” and then Todoroki rolls on top of him, and kisses him again.
They don’t leave the inn until evening falls.
☆ ☆ ☆
Izuku lets Todoroki lead the way out of Market Town. It’s bustling and colorful, with a thousand different smells and sounds. His skin itches with the feeling of Todoroki’s. There is something very quiet and scared opening up inside his veins.
There’s nothing keeping him here, Izuku’s mind informs him. Nothing, nothing. Once you bring him across the Wall, there’s no reason for him to stay.
Why would he stay?
They are on the outskirts of the town, about to reach the road to the Wall, when a voice calls to them from one of the caravans. They turn to see a very tall, very gaunt man sitting beside a table of glass flowers, a delicate silver chain around his wrist, leading back to the inside of the caravan.
“Young man,” he says. “Forgive me, but I hope that you’re not thinking of taking that star beyond the Wall.”
Todoroki frowns and says, “Midoriya, let’s go,” but there is something here. Something, something.
Izuku says, “I was. Why?”
“You’re not from Faerie,” the man says. It is not a question, but Izuku nods in confirmation anyway. “There is no magic beyond the Wall, as you know. Once you pass the boundary, he will become what the humans expect him to be.”
“And what’s that?” Todoroki asks, more curious than concerned.
“A rock,” Izuku realizes, with dawning horror. “Like, a chunk of space rock. Seriously? He’ll turn into a rock?”
“And he will not turn back,” the gaunt man confirms.
Izuku opens his mouth, maybe to swear, maybe to tell Todoroki that they have to turn back. And then the gaunt man leans forward and presses his thumb gently to Todoroki’s forehead. When he pulls away, a single, silvery mark is left behind, glowing gently.
“You have an hour,” the man says. “Before he has to be back here. Be careful, young men. And use your time wisely.”
Todoroki and Izuku exchange startled looks before turning back to look at the man.
“Thank you,” Izuku says, and the gaunt man smiles.
At the Wall, the guard nearly keels over in a dead faint when Izuku emerges through the hole. Except on Market Days, no one except Izuku has ever come from the Faerie side of the Wall, even once. And now Izuku has done it twice.
Extraordinary, the guard mumbles, as Izuku and Todoroki retreat, and Izuku stifles a smile.
“Are we going to find him, then?” Todoroki asks. “Your friend? Rival?”
“No,” Izuku says. “Actually, I have someone I’d like you to meet first.”
Instead of taking Todoroki to Bakugou, Izuku takes him to his mom. When she opens the door and finds him on the doorstep, she bursts into tears. Izuku smiles as she holds him close, and smiles even more when she kisses Todoroki on both cheeks, after Izuku tells her he’d saved his life.
“I’m so proud of you,” she tells Izuku, and he hugs her hard enough to ache.
They drink tea, Izuku’s mom asking Todoroki about everything - about magic, about their adventures, about what he thinks of her son. (Izuku has to duck his head in embarrassment when Todoroki says, with a hint of amusement, “He’s incredible.”) Time moves too quickly, and soon the mark on Todoroki’s forehead has almost faded.
“I don’t think we have time to take you to Bakugou,” Izuku says, decisively.
Todoroki says, “No?” but he doesn’t look very confused - maybe satisfied would be a better word for it.
“No,” Izuku confirms. And they wind their way out of the village, walking back along the Wall.
The guard steps aside immediately when they approach. Izuku watches him retreat from the gap, watches his back as he walks away. Only looks back when there is a brush of fingertips against his palm, just briefly.
“Thank you,” Todoroki says, letting his hand fall away from Izuku’s. “For everything, Midoriya.”
Izuku scrunches his shoulders up.
“You don’t have to thank me for anything,” he mumbles. “I should be thanking you. For putting up with me, and for helping me. I wish I still had a candle to give you.”
“You look sad,” Todoroki says, his eyebrows furrowed. “Why? Isn’t this what you wanted?”
“Ah.” Izuku winces, scuffing the ground with his toe. “Well. It is. It’s what I wanted. But it’s not what I want.”
Todoroki goes still.
“I don’t understand,” he says.
“I love you,” Izuku tells him. And then, again, miserably: “I love you.”
“I’m sorry,” Izuku says. “I don’t want to be selfish. I just… I would’ve liked to stay with you.”
Todoroki says, “Then stay.”
Izuku freezes, slowly lifting his head so that his eyes meet Todoroki’s. His face is serious, no hint of joking in his eyes.
“You love me,” Todoroki continues, “and I love you, Midoriya Izuku, so stay.”
And Izuku smiles, and maybe cries, just a little bit. “If you’ll have me-”
“Always,” Todoroki says, fiercely, and then he surges forward and sweeps Izuku into a kiss, his hands cradling Izuku’s face, his lips burning on Izuku’s mouth.
Izuku flinches and leaps back, one hand slapped over his mouth. Several feet away, Kirishima and Bakugou stand on the path to the hole in the Wall, Bakugou looking horrified and Kirishima with an almost impressed tilt to his head.
“I’m glad you’re okay,” Kirishima tells him, earnestly, humor in his tone as he looks Todoroki up and down. “We were worried, though I guess we didn’t have to be.”
“Like fuck we were worried,” Bakugou says, a little defensively. And then, curiously: “Did you find the star?”
“Is this who you wanted to bring me back for?” Todoroki says, surprised, staring at Bakugou.
Izuku grimaces. “A bit. Yes.”
“Ridiculous,” Todoroki says, fondly, and then he reaches up to touch his forehead and says, “Midoriya, I think we’re out of time.”
“Okay,” Izuku says, and then he turns to Kirishima and Bakugou and gives them a wave.
“Bye, guys.” And then, to Bakugou: “Good luck.”
They cross back over, through the hole in the Wall, and head back into the Market Town. Izuku takes Todoroki’s hand as they walk, and offers him a beaming smile when he glances down at their linked fingers, surprised.
“What now?” Todoroki asks.
“Anything,” Izuku says, with a grin. “I’ve always wanted to see the world.”
Before they leave, though, Izuku leads them down familiar streets until they find the caravan with the gaunt man, who smiles at them when they approach.
“Young men. You’re safe,” he says. “I’m glad.”
“Thank you so much for your help, sir,” Izuku says, and he reaches out to shake the man’s hand.
As soon as they make contact, there is a rush of wind and energy. Izuku reaches up to cover his face, and when he opens his eyes again, the gaunt figure before them has been replaced by an enormous, muscle-bound man with shock on his face and a circlet on his head, clothed in armor of gold.
There is a gasp that ripples through the Market, silence falling fast. Then a whisper passes from person to person, mouth to mouth.
The lost king.
The lost king is found.
“Izuku, my boy,” Toshinori Yagi says. “You’re back.”
And Izuku gasps, “Dad?”
☆ ☆ ☆
Midoriya Izuku and Todoroki Shouto are crowned princes of Faerie on a summer evening, under the watchful eye of a thousand stars. They stay in the kingdom of Stormhold for just long enough for Izuku to receive some training and get to know his father - his father , the king of the realm, finally returned to his rightful place. And then they are gone again, exploring the kingdom top to bottom on the deck of a sky-ship, manned by pirates who harness thunder.
The odd prince of the kingdom, who came from over the Wall.
Around him, the world turns. But Midoriya Izuku dreams of the stars.
(And a fallen star presses his lips to Izuku’s hand, and dreams back.)