Early morning painted pinks and oranges and violets across the skyline as Izuku sat impatiently on top of the stable roof. It was far from the highest point on the castle grounds, but it was the one with the clearest view of the southern mountain borders. He’d been up sitting up on the roof since moon high that night, unable to sleep from excitement.
The spring equinox was in a few days and that meant lavish parties that the capital was known to throw. Granted, Izuku had spent an entire childhood celebrating the smaller, more intimate parties that the villages hosted. While it was an excuse to bring out the pomp in the cities, in the countryside, the spring equinox marked the beginning of the planting season, of the cycle of the world turning over once more; Izuku had always held a special place in his heart for the small celebrations. He remembered wandering the streets of his village, his mother at his side as they sang music and danced and enjoyed the first warm, comfortable days of spring. But in the capital, the celebrations would last for days because, really, it wasn’t like the world was going to fall apart if the magistrate nursed his hangover for a week. These long celebrations were also the perfect excuse to invite important someones from across the continents. Invites would be dispersed in the dead of winter and as the warm fingers of spring started their caress life into the land, they’d receive returns, dignitaries and ambassadors promising their attendance.
Throughout the past few days, they’d received a few representatives of the kingdom to the east, King Todoroki and his envoy from the west, even Joura Tabitha, Grand Mistress of the Coven of the Fae to the North. The next few days until the actual solstice at the end of the week would see even more people coming from different principalities, even a host from across the seas. That morning, however, Izuku was watching the horizon with a weathered eye for shapes that he had seen in dreams for weeks now.
Most people would think nothing of the dots of red, of black, maybe of green that would tease over the mountains first and foremost. It wouldn’t be until the first deafening roar of a dragon that anyone would respond, then masses would race out to watch the Dragon Riders of the South skim low over villages as wing and claw graze over homes. Sure, the spectacle in that of itself of dragons was exciting and everyone lived for the stories that they brought with them, but Izuku’s excitement was a bit more… personal.
So, there Izuku sat watching the sun rise higher and higher from the corner of his eyes. Stable hands came out to feed and to care for the horses, but Izuku didn’t move an inch. After four years, they knew now to bother Izuku where he sat hardly daring to blink.
“Are you going to sit here all day?”
Izuku’s head snapped up around noon to see Ochako standing patiently at his side, her smile smug.
“Ideally, not all day.”
Ochako snorted. “I’ve heard that you’ve been out here since midnight.”
“I’m just… I merely am… Well, someone has to be here to--”
Izuku let himself trail off when Ochako dissolved into laughter, taking the spot beside him.
“Does the Empress know?”
Ochako shook her head before letting it rest against Izuku’s shoulder.
“She is under the impression that her vizier is doing important party preparations, not sitting on a roof wasting time.”
“I’m not wasting time!”
She gave him a look before turning her own gaze back to the skies. “Has he written to you?”
Pulling out a tattered piece of paper, he handed it off to Ochako. For the number of times he’d read through it, Izuku could mostly quote it to memory.
“Kacchan said that he was supposed to be here by early morning. Uh, try not to look at that second half...”
“Noted. Zuzu, you know how he likes to make an entrance. He’ll be here and he’ll be completely fine.”
After the years that they’d known each other, growing up in the same village, Izuku could appreciate her foreknowledge about what really bothered him. He knew she was right, she always was, and Katsuki was probably safe, but that did very little to pacify that knot in his chest or the flighty beating of his own heart. Katsuki and his dragon were incredible together, had faced the very worst that the world had to offer them both with and without Izuku. A simple flight across the badlands and the Serenno mountain range couldn’t possibly hold Katsuki up.
“They probably… just left late,” Izuku reasoned. “Ember is… really finicky about when and where she flies. Also terrible to get moving. Oh gods, and she’s almost as bad as Kacchan. There was a time when we were on our way to Salfur’s Trading Post…”
A few hours passed on as the sun dipped lower and lower in the sky, Ochako and Izuku sitting hip-to-hip as they kept up comfortable conversation. Despite her best efforts, she couldn’t coerce him into the kitchens to eat, but she did manage to get him to eat what was brought to him and Izuku knew that was some kind of victory for her.
An hour after Ochako went back inside of the castle to help the staff finish their preparations for the evening’s events, Izuku was ready to call defeat. There was no sense in flying this late, they’d like be there the next day. With a sigh, he started to scoot towards the edge of the roof where one of the trees had a branch hanging just within reach. Then he saw it. He went rigid as he something arched over the range of the mountains, hardly discernible as more than a speck in the sky. For a few moments, Izuku swore that it was just a trick of his eyes, but it didn’t go away.
Its wings didn’t bend like a bird and it didn’t disappear in the wind like smoke. Distantly, he heard someone in one of the watchtowers call out. Dragons .
Up onto his feet, Izuku sprinted the length of the stable roof to the outraged shouts of workers below. Reaching the edge, he leapt into a taller tree without hesitation, dashing up the branches like a rabid squirrel. His head poked out from the canopy of blossoms, paying no mind to the way that the bare branches threatened to bow under his weight. Grom the very top, he could see not one, not two, but three steadily growing figures flying high above the countryside past the capital walls.
The smile on his face was manic as Izuku dropped from the tree, tucking and rolling back onto his feet. He was covered in twigs and grass, but couldn’t have given less of a care, tearing across the grounds like his life depended on it. Wriggling through a low window and into the corridors of the sprawling castle, he vaguely registered the angry shouts of castle staff, likely due to the way that he was tracking the muck of the outdoors across their pristine floors. Izuku rattled off a half-hearted apology as he tore off to the courtyard. With the size that they were when he was in the tree, accounting for the time it took to get across the castle and the likely chance of Katsuki speeding up the party as they neared said castle… Izuku wasn’t surprised when he finally made it to the courtyard, face red and heaving, that Katsuki and the rest of the Riders weren’t there yet. In spite of that, the royal family was gathered at the fringes, waiting patiently for their very late guests. A few of the Ladies in Waiting turned a harsh eye to Izuku before motioning angrily for him to fall into place.
He kept his head low as he mumbled apologies to the royal family, stopping at the Empress’ elbow as he tried to shake the dirt from his hair and clothes, much to the disapproval of the Ladies in Waiting.
As Ochako had said, Katsuki really did love to make an entrance. Izuku’s smile reached the point of aching as a roar shook the very castle to its foundation. He knew that sound anywhere, excitement reaching a dangerous point as Izuku watched Katsuki and Ember touchdown in the center of the courtyard.
Izuku was vaguely aware of the Empress stepping forward once the rest of Katsuki’s Riders landed, of welcoming the Dragon King and his court into her home with waving arms and words full of vibrato. However, his attention was focused completely on Katsuki, standing nervously at the edge of the court. He looked good. Really good. The year had been kind to Katsuki, had softened the scars that Izuku had counted the last time that he’d been there as much as it had given him a few brand new ones for Izuku to fret over. Katsuki looked well-fed and he’d only gotten taller, only had gotten more handsome since the last time that Izuku had seen him.
While Katsuki didn’t let his gaze wander from the Empress, Izuku took solace in the way that Katsuki’s right-hand man, Eijirou, looked over at Izuku and waved. He returned it in kind, only wincing when the Empress’ lady in waiting glared at him. After that, he fell still, listening to the Empress and Katsuki trade words of good will back and forth. He promised his loyalty to the land as she promised the same, eventually rounding out in a welcoming speech that bored all parties involved.
Finally (finally), she dismissed the courts and informed Katsuki that he could find the places to care for his steeds where he always did. The Empress was whisked away in a flourish of skirts and whispers until just the bystanders and the guards were left behind, a few of the staff immediately rushing upon Katsuki and his court, fawning over the dragons and the man himself.
It was hysterical to watch, in Izuku’s opinion, as Katsuki struggled to get away from the far too eager women. Izuku stood off to the side, arms across his chest, waiting with an astounding patience before Katsuki looked up to see him.
They held each other’s gazes for the longest time, both too stunned to move. Izuku felt his heart stop, that longing feeling he’d been wrestling with since the last time that he’d seen Katsuki finally dissipating. His heart only started again when Katsuki’s lips broke into a toothy smile. Izuku didn’t wait for another second, racing forward before leaping at Katsuki.
In an instant, Ember swung her head around and caught Izuku straight in his chest, sending him tumbling onto the cobblestone. A weak groan escaped as he registered a sharp pain shooting through his body. His attention was immediately diverted, however, as Ember started to nose at his chest insistently, releasing growls and huffs until Izuku started to rub at her snout.
“Yes, yes, yes. Hello to you, too. I missed you.” He pulled back, laughing then kissing at her nose, the scales always surprisingly smooth beneath his hands and mouth. The scales around her face with smaller, easier for Izuku’s fingers to scrape across like he was scratching at a dog’s face. She always seemed to enjoy it, pleased rings of smoke easing from her mouth.
“Holy hell, you scaley bitch, get off.” Izuku looked up to see Katsuki with his fingers dug into the ridge at the base of her neck, pulling at Ember until she let Izuku back up. “Always have to be the centre of attention.”
“Like rider like dragon.” Katsuki threw Izuku a dirty look as Izuku got up to his feet. Izuku put his hand up onto the side of Ember’s face, smothering a few kisses against the side of her face, feeling a sliver of satisfaction as she sent up a few more rings of smoke in response, chirruping.
“She just missed me.”
“I missed you, too, don’t see me knocking you on your fucking ass.” Katsuki stood on her other side, rolling his eyes.
“No, I guess not.”
For a few moments, they regarded one another on either side of Ember before Katsuki rolled his eyes, grabbed Izuku by the front of his shirt and hauled him into a fierce hug that threatened to cracked Izuku’s ribs. In spite of that, it was as warm and wonderful as he remembered. The panic ebbed away in a matter of moments ashe sunk into the feeling of Katsuki clinging onto him. Izuku smothered his own laughter into Katsuki’s shoulder, letting out a shriek when Katsuki picked him up; he’d really, really missed this.
Moments passed and Izuku wrestled with what to say, what words could possibly bridge a year’s worth of loneliness, before Katsuki made up his mind, seizing Izuku’s mouth in a kiss that was firm, but full of meaning. Izuku barely restrained himself from smiling, trying to re-memorize the feeling of Katsuki’s mouth on his own, soaking it in for everything that it was--relieving, sweet, satisfying.
Izuku was distantly aware of the cheering from Katsuki’s envoy when the finally pulled away, laughing himself as he allowed their foreheads to rest together.
“You’re late, you know that?”
“I’m just keeping you on your toes is all.”
“Is that what we’re calling it?”
“Why? What would you call it?”
“You’re inconsiderate as hell.” That swooping, warm sensation built heavy in Izuku’s stomach as Katsuki dissolved into further laughter before pressing a kiss that was far too innocent for Izuku’s desire to his lips.
“I think I will allow you that. As you know, however, Ember does hates to do anything unless she is completely forced to. Inconsiderate, really.”
Izuku laughed when Katsuki growled at him. He wasn’t deterred in the slightest, pulling Katsuki closer by a firm hand on the furry mantle that Katsuki wore about his shoulders.
“Convenient for you, Kacchan, I do have an idea or two about how you can make it up to me…”