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a name born of ivy & war

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It’s too cold to be barefoot, but the grass is just getting used to the tenacity of March. The sensation warming his fingertips slowly travels through his body and down his legs until the brown tendrils sticking up between his toes come alive in a soft green. The sight sends a soft smile across Izuku’s face – looking out, he wishes he could somehow bring color to the whole valley unfurling bellow him. But his Magic is not strong enough for that, though he’s not sure anyone’s is. He’s okay with the resignation, however, because it would be such a shame to revive the grass only for it to fall again at the sure hands of tonight’s frost.

The view from the castle on the hill is the sight he knows best, better than April buds or his face in the mirror. The river that allows his home to flourish curves with the valley, and the mountains rise behind it in greys and browns. It has taken Izuku a long time to have any sort of appreciation for winter, but it makes the rebirth of spring that much better. That’s what he tells himself when he feels a snowflake on his nose, anyway. The earth is damp beneath his feet and the setting sun is telling him that he’s probably running late. He’s not in an outfit nearly respectable enough for the night’s events, so he takes one last look down at the valley and then makes for the castle behind him.

As he walks back, he can’t help but leave little patches of green grass where his feet touch the ground. His Magic is sitting heavy in his stomach, pooling with nerves about this evening’s banquet. Part of him wishes the snow would fall harder so the guests would have no choice but to stay home.

Like the wind is chuckling at him, it blows gentle whirlpools of tiny snowflakes in the gentlest of gusts.

He supposes he must fess up to the Queen and tell her that he’s not quite ready.

Once inside, Izuku makes for his quarters and passes his mother’s on the way. The light coming from the crack beneath the door tells him that she hasn’t left for the Great Hall yet, so he nods at the guard next to the entryway and knocks five times – “ come see me” – before continuing down the corridor and around the corner.

Behind closed doors, he sits on his bed and allows his mind to run rampant with a little bit more perturbation. He tries to tell himself that the Queen will understand, which she likely will, but she’s been waiting for this day for twenty years. On the other hand, there is a bigger matter to be celebrated tonight, so maybe it’s better that they don’t announce it after all.

Before his thoughts can run in further circles, there is one knock on his bedroom door and his mother walks in. She looks breathtaking, in an ornate gown of juniper, cinching at her waist in a tight corset. The ruffles on the bosom make her look less stout, and her long green hair sits at the back of her head in a tight bun.

He smiles at the sight of her – she has not looked so peaceful in Izuku’s life. It seems that the crows feet around her eyes have already lessened, the grey in her hair more subdued. “Your Majesty,” he greets playfully.

She walks to his bedside and places a kiss on his forehead, the heavy wooden door shutting behind her with a thud. “Your Highness,” she jokes back, before frowning a bit at the fact that he is not yet dressed for the evening. “Izuku, why haven’t you put on your Royal clothes yet? It’s their debut, after all.”

That’s more or less true. He sighs. “Well… that’s why I asked you to come see me. I–” His voice breaks. He knew she would have that look in her eyes, so earnest and hopeful for the future. He knows what she wants, but Izuku is simply not confident enough to give it to her. “Mom. I don’t think I’m ready to be a Prince yet.”

She sighs, and it sounds just like his own. “Izuku, my love. You’ve been a Prince your whole life.”

He had a feeling that she would say that. He looks around his room as he waits for her to continue speaking, because there’s no way she’s done yet. Not if she’s his mother, anyway. It’s a modest space. Not too big, with a rugged wooden floor. One wall is covered in ivy that he grows inside. He tends to it every morning with his Magic. There’s a shelf with gems and trinkets, all radiating a warm energy that he keeps close in moments like this. He clutches the emerald around his neck – it’s cracked, and Magic seeps out into his hand as he holds it.

“The war is over,” she tells him, and the moment alone with his trusted space is broken. “You’re safe now.”

Izuku looks at his mother. She’s so softly expectant, and he wants to please her so badly. She has worked her whole life to protect him and just about everyone else in this Kingdom. “I know that, Mom. The war being over is the whole reason I don’t feel ready. I’ve just… I’ve never had a chance to exist normally in this world. I want the chance to walk around town without a guard following me. If the Kingdom is told about me, then I’ll never have that. You understand, don’t you?”

His explanation was messy, he knows that. And he knows he might be asking for too much. His mother became Queen at seventeen. Her life has never been normal. She never got to have what Izuku is asking for, either.

Inko’s face, however, is soft as always. He sees tears begin to pool around her eyes and she wipes at them furiously for fear of ruining the kohl on her lids and the rouge on her cheeks. Her voice is hoarse when she speaks up. “Izuku, my love. I understand.”

Izuku lets out a sigh of relief.

“I can’t say I was not looking forward to sitting next to you at the Royal Table, but I know how you feel. It is something I’ve longed for my entire life.” His heart wrenches in his chest. He is so selfish for asking this of her. She’s been standing before a whole Kingdom of people essentially alone for 29 years. He should be strong enough to be by her side. “I am respecting your wishes, because I want you to see the world in a way I was never able to. But if I may, I am requesting that this not go on for long. You need to be a symbol for Kokyusenzai. I won’t be here forever, and as far as our people know, there is no heir to our throne. This war was a difficult time for them all.”

Izuku knows this. When his father was killed twenty years ago, Inko was eight months pregnant. She had been ruling ferociously but hiding her pregnancy from inside her home. All of the top ranking men that knew of her future child were sworn to secrecy, and they carried out orders on her behalf when she was bedridden. The King had been mostly an advisor and a figurehead compared to the Queen, but his prior to his death he had agreed with his wife to hide their child from the world. Izuku was born a decade into the war that just ended weeks ago – the Second Thirty Year War. He was raised in the castle, protected at all times, kept secret and dressed plainly to avoid any sort of suspicion.

While being hidden was at times challenging, he knew it was for his benefit, and his Kingdom’s. Kokyusenzai did not need any more threats of being infiltrated just for the sake of kidnapping or killing the crowned Prince. It was better if the world didn’t know, for Izuku’s safety and for the tide of the war. This decision was made to ensure the Kingdom’s invulnerability – with no heir, they had less weakness: only the power of the present moment.

Izuku looks down, fighting off his own tears. “Thank you, Mom. I’m not asking for a lot of time, I promise.” He clenches his fists, one around his emerald and the other on his trousers. “I want to be the symbol our Kingdom needs. I just need to be strong enough to do it.”

Inko smiles softly at him. “I know you are. You’re my brilliant boy. Just – dress nicely still, please. Everyone is going to be in their winter best.”

Izuku’s wardrobe has always been less than glamorous, needing to be modest for several reasons. Primarily, his Magic involved him getting dirty a lot, and his secrecy involved him blending in. But for the most part, he just felt comfortable in soft trousers and simple vests. He nods at her, toying with an idea of how to dress.

As she stands, Izuku reaches for her hand. “Wait,” he says, and walks her to the wall of ivy. He keeps her hand in his and with the other, touches the vines until in his hands curls an ornate crown of leaves. “For the Queen,” he murmurs. “You won, Mom. The war is over.”

He places it on her head. Inko never wears a crown. She’s too humble. It seems that rather than a crown, she wears a halo, a barely there glow of light that sits atop her head, made of kindness and Magic. This one, however, is perfect. Izuku knows it so.

She sniffles again, taking him into a deep hug. “My son, you will be a wonderful King some day. For now, enjoy being a man.”

“Tonight is about you and the people who fought for you, Mom. I’ll see you soon.”

As soon as the door closes behind her, Izuku bursts into tears, both dreading the night and revelling in its freedom.


 

Izuku takes one last look in his faded mirror and decides that he’s done pretty well by himself. His hair falls in his eyes, cheeks dotted in freckles, green eyes brightened by both the tears that just fell and the color of his jewelry. He has gone for subtlety – he kept on his emerald along with a simple choker of silver, and added dangling earrings. He donned tight brown pants and a belt to match. The buckle is silver, his boots leather and worn, his shirt white and ruffled, tucked in, of course. He wears two silver bangles on one wrist and a bracelet of ivy around the other. He hopes it’s not bold enough that people notice he matches the Queen, but he figures it’s now safe enough to risk it. If people noticed, it would be his own mistake, anyway. The statement piece of the outfit is a brown cloak that falls down his back, deep and velvety with gold embroidery of an ornate pattern of tree branches and imperial trellis.

It’s not a royal outfit, but he will blend in just fine with the Great Hall’s occupants: the highest ranking men and women of the Kingdom of Kokyusenzai.

By the time he makes it down there, the castle is swarming with unfamiliar faces. He knows the guards are on high alert, but his anxiety still twists in his stomach. He has to reconcile with the imbalance he is going to feel all night; it is very rare that he is with a mixed crowd of those who know his identity as the Prince and those who do not. Moreover, every guest here is one of importance to the war that has just been won. Officials, Commanders, rescue workers. This is more than a party, it’s a banquet of thanks for the men and women who went above and beyond to risk their lives for the people of Kokyusenzai. It’s a banquet of gratitude, and Izuku is disappointed in himself for not being able to thank them personally. He wants to shake their hands as a Royal, who owes them for reasons beyond just being alive and safe.

Izuku owes these Knights and nurses for his privilege, lifestyle, and family.

Shifting back and forth between conversation with the people of the castle and strangers is going to truly take a toll on him.

You asked for this, he reminds himself as his eyes scan the room. Immediately, he grasps onto two familiar faces amongst the sea of uniformed Knights and Officers. He makes his way across the room, ignoring whichever glances are sent his way and reminding himself that they are not for the reason he thinks.

He’s almost breathless as he plants a kiss on each of his two best friends’ cheeks. “Momo!” he murmurs excitedly, “Shouto! I’m happy I found you so quickly. I’m kind of nervous.” It’s like words are spilling out of his lips before he can process them, a side effect of anxiety and large groups of people.

Izuku rubs the back of his head and is greeted by two arms: one around his waist and the other around his shoulders. He’s calmed being embraced by his two friends on each of his sides.

“Don’t be!” Momo exclaims. “Tonight’s the night, is it not?”

Shouto gives Izuku a knowing look. Though they had not yet talked it over explicitly, Shouto has known his inhibitions. At Momo’s words, Izuku’s face falls. “Ah, no. I asked the Queen for a bit more time,” he whispered, making sure everyone around him was not listening. “We can talk more later.”

Momo nods, but reaches into the wristlet pouch she carries. “I made you this for good luck, but I still want you to take it tonight. It might help you.” She folds a small trinket into his palm, and he has to try not to cry as he stares down at it. An omamori. In particular, the happiness amulet. “For happiness in your new beginning. Whenever it may be.”

Izuku plants another kiss on Momo’s cheek, ignoring Shouto’s heavy stare. Usually that means, be careful , or we have to talk , but there is no time for him to do either right now.

Yaoyorozu Momo and Todoroki Shouto are amongst a lineage of families that have long allied with the Midoriyas and their Kingdom. They are Izuku’s two best, and perhaps only, friends. The Yaoyorozu family are blessed with an incredible Magic that they have been cultivating for centuries. Unlike most of the population, their Magic is strictly Alchemical rather than Elemental. 40% of people had Magic, and while Elemental Magic like Izuku’s made up the majority, those with Alchemical magic made up only 5% of the Magical population. Momo in particular is gifted at creation. Using equal and opposite exchange, she can use incantation, spells, and alchemic circles to make nonliving items. Izuku is sure that she created the omamori with her Magic – it buzzes heavily with energy in his palm.

The Torodorki family is also highly valued, with powerful elemental Magic that allows them to manipulate fire. Under a recent marriage, two Magical powers have conjoined and expanded to control of ice. Shouto himself is amongst a minute population of people who have Magical control over more than one element. He is, however, modest, and has become as a Royal Knight. Though he trained dutifully to master his Magic, he seldom uses it. He and Izuku have had many fights about that.

Both of his friends were raised as good as Royal, and more importantly, they know the full truth about Prince Midoriya Izuku.

“I can’t stay with you for too long,” Izuku says quietly, as he once again realizes how high profile his friends truly are. They stand out in the crowd, not only for their identities but also their dress. Momo’s gown is an elegant red, and Shouto is in his full Royal Knight uniform, sans armor like the rest of their guests, glistening milky blue and silver in the torches’ light. They are stunning, and Izuku wishes he could stay with them all night. With them, he is both safe and understood. “People might wonder why some random kid is hanging with you for so long.”

Besides, they will be sitting at the Royal Table once the feast begins, and Izuku will have to find a spot amongst the crowd. He hadn’t even thought about how uncomfortable that might be until now.

“Have a safe and pleasant evening,” Shouto murmurs to him, staring at Izuku deeply with those heterochromatic eyes. Grey and turquoise scan Izuku over before giving his shoulder a squeeze. Like a Todoroki, Shouto is always all business at important events or conferences. He rarely manages a smile, so Izuku offers a big one to make up for it.

To keep up with appearances, he bows to Momo and salutes Shouto before making his way into the crowd of uniforms. He feels as though he is going to be swallowed by silver and black, a sea of authority and honor closing in over his head. Before he can even pick a direction to wander, the band ceases their music and a man with Sense Magic booms his amplified voice over the hall. “Attention esteemed guests,” he begins, and the crowd falls quiet instantly. Izuku is suddenly reminded that this is the first event that the castle has held in thirty years, let alone including people outside of the inner circle of Royals, consultants, and their children. The Queen hadn’t dared to celebrate a thing. The closest thing to mere gatherings were meetings. “Please find a seat. The Queen will now speak before we dine and celebrate.”

Everyone takes his words seriously, and there is an overwhelming hustle to seats. The guests take their places at large wooden tables and benches dressed with white table clothes, lit candlesticks, and the castle’s finest silver. In all the haste, Izuku remains frozen as he sees his family and friends take their seats at the Royal Table. It is slightly elevated on a stage at the front of the hall. His mother sits proudly in the middle, Shouto’s father to her right and Momo’s mother to her left. Shouto leads Momo to their seats, his hand delicately placed on the small of her back.

Izuku is lifted out of his trance when Shouto finds his eyes and gives him a pointed look from across the Great Hall. He realizes he is one of very few still standing, and he scrambles to the back of the room where he sees an open seat at the end of one of the tables. His heart is pounding in his chest, torn between wishing he was sitting next to his mother as her right hand and wishing he wasn’t at this event at all. What if someone asks him how he was invited? People were sure to realize he was an unfamiliar face. He truly hadn’t thought any of this through.

As soon as he sits down next to a group of what seem to be rather high ranking Knights and first aid Officers, he is unable to think any longer, as his mother’s voice his suddenly laced with Magic and being projected across the whole room. It bounces off the walls, and it seems to coat the entire hall with the soothing Magical warmth that Queen Inko is known for.

“My revered guests,” she begins from where she has stood at her seat. At the sound of her voice, some of the hundred or so people begin to rise. “Please, stay seated my friends.” She smiles softly, and Izuku already feels his eyes begin to water at the sight of his mother at the front of a room full of people who love her. She’s gorgeous in her gown. Her crown of ivy sits firmly atop her head. He glances down at the vine wrapped around his wrist. “Brevity is my intention here, as we are here to eat and celebrate, not to listen to the Queen blab. We have just won a war.” She pauses, and the room bursts into applause.

The Knight next to him seems to be struggling not to rise to his feet, red eyes blazing as he claps with vigor. Izuku can feel the powerful Magic radiating off him, and he swears he sees sparks in between his palms.

Inko continues, “This is our second war in a century, each lasting thirty years. We have now proven ourselves as a people who can overcome. The people of the Chukan Valley, our allies, are safe, and we protected our society as one with a reputation that values life, the holiness of Magic, and each of our citizens’ livelihoods. You are all here tonight because I wanted to thank you personally, as the Queen of Kokyusenzai and a humble servant to your happiness. I hope you enjoy tonight’s provisions and libations. The Kingdom owes its victory you. Cheers, to the new era of peace.”

She sits, brief as promised, and the room erupts into a noise that begins as applause and transitions into chatter. Surely, Izuku thinks, the guests are exchanging thoughts on her words, the war’s outcome, and what is to come throughout the evening. The war has only just ended, not even a month ago. Some are still mourning their loses, readjusting to life at home.

Before Izuku can get lost muttering to himself, the lack of his mother’s speech distracting him reminds him of that Magic buzzing next to him, in that blonde Knight with hot hands. He glances at the man next to him, who’s busy pouring wine and talking to a red-haired Knight beside him and a blonde first aid Officer across the table. Izuku can’t even make out the words they’re saying, mostly distracted by such intense Magical energy coming from a Knight, but also his jawline, and the metal dragon pinned to his lapel.

As he looks a little closer, he realizes just how familiar the man next to him looks. A collection of memories flash behind his eyes, fuzzy but there. He sees a young boy delivering wartime weapons with his father, the local and most cherished metalsmith of the village just outside the castle.

Izuku notes his red eyes again, the pale color of his hair, and it hits him. One of his first memories about his name and identity unfolded when he was just about four. The son of the metalsmith used to come along with his father who consulted with the war council on weaponry. (As a matter of fact, that man met with the council until the very end of the war, Izuku knows his face quite well.) Sometimes, Izuku would hide in the corridor and try to listen in on the meetings. Usually, it just resulted in him watching the young boy who waited with a guard outside the closed door of the councilroom.

Once, the little boy had wandered off against his father’s will – while the guard wasn’t looking, of course – and found himself outside of Izuku’s room just as he was about to be escorted by his own guard to go Magic classes with Shouto. Izuku had gasped at the sight of another child, and his guard stood protectively in front of him, despite a young kid not being much of a threat.

The little boy had looked at the kanji on plaque outside of Izuku’s room and snorted, “Your name is Deku?”

Their conversation didn’t last long before Izuku was being ushered back into his room by another guard and that other boy was being escorted away. Izuku remembers thinking about him for the rest of the day, exhilarated by the idea of another kid to play with. And one who could read kanji!

That hair and those eyes. It had to be him. The metalsmith’s son.

Still shocked by the sudden vivid memory, he’s brought out of his revery when a gruff voice snaps at him, “What the fuck are you looking at?”

Izuku immediately blushes and looks away, hyper-aware of the sword at this guy’s waist and the vein in his neck. Of course, there’s a chance he’s wrong, and either way it hadn’t been any reason to stare, really. His mind goes rapidly back and forth between what he should answer, either you look familiar or your Magic is strong . He decides perhaps the first could somehow give him away, so he goes for the latter.

“Um, sorry! It’s just, I can feel your Magic. It’s really strong.” He knows he’s blushing hard , and he clenches Momo’s omamori in his hand.

“What the fuck?” the Knight says to him, brow furrowed. “How do you even know I–”

Izuku grins before he can even help himself. This is one of his favorite situations. It’s unusual for Knights to have Magic, so this man immediately is on edge. However, what’s more unusual is that Izuku knows he has it. Very few people are aware that there are ways of sensing others’ Magic simply from being close to them. Whenever another person reacts so surprised to learn this, Izuku feels like he’s opening up a whole new world to their eyes. Though, he gets the feeling this guy might not be so romantic about it.

“There are ways you can train your body to learn another’s Magic before you even see it in practice,” Izuku explains, smile still stretching across his face. He scans this Knight over once more, remembering the sparks as he clapped. His energy is hot, his emotions bold. “Let me guess… fire?”

The Knight raises his eyebrows, roused by his observation. “Close,” he mutters. He raises his gloved hands to show his exposed palm instead of the same leather that covers his fingers. A tiny explosion crackles, and Izuku understands. Pyrotechnics Magic. Impressive.

The same hand extends to shake Izuku’s. It’s warm from the Magic. “Bakugou Katsuki, newly named Officer, Knight 1st Class, Order of the Dragon. What’s your name?”

Before he can be impressed again by such a high rank for a young man, Izuku panics. That memory flashes behind his eyes again, the suspicion in the voice of the metalsmith’s son.

Who are you? Why are you here? He had asked those questions to little Prince Izuku hiding away in his chamber, and he hadn’t ever been able to give him an answer.

This isn’t Izuku’s first interaction with a stranger that didn’t know his identity. During the war, after he turned eighteen he was permitted to make occasional trips into the village with an incognito set of guards trailing behind. He even has some acquaintances there, like the girl from the flower shop, Uraraka Ochako, and the boy from the lumber yard, Iida Tenya, who he sometimes helps with his Magic. To them, he had come up with some bad lie about his identity and never brought it up again. To others, he tended to make sure his name wasn’t necessary to share.

For whatever reason, this feels different. Maybe it’s because he feels as though he knows this man. It’s a total stretch, a red string as a figment of his imagination. He wants this to be the metalsmith’s son. He wants to have another honest tie to his hidden reality, but it’s not his job to make it such. So he says, “Deku.”

He swears he sees something flash on Bakugou’s face. That being said, he seems to get over it pretty quickly, annoyance appearing on his face when Izuku doesn’t elaborate. “Just Deku?”

Some Magical people have unusual aliases, especially those who are extremely powerful or renowned. He rolls with it. “Yeah,” he replies, voice definitely a little squeaky with dishonesty. “I have Plant Magic. I’m training with All Might.” He realizes that the identity he’s constructing for himself isn’t a total lie, but it doesn’t quite fit the bill for why he might be at this dinner. He just hopes this Bakugou guy doesn’t catch on. Something in Izuku tells him that Bakugou is a little smarter than that.

While it’s an honor to train with someone with Magic and a reputation such as All Might’s, the Kokyusenzai Kingdom and the Midoriya family in particular have prohibited the use of Magic in warfare because they regard it as an ancient, historical blessing from the gods that should be cultivated and appreciated. This belief runs deep: the more Magic the better, and it should only be used to better society, for first aid, food, camps, and amongst regular civilian life, never to kill or harm. Different kingdoms have different beliefs about Magic, and this dispute is much of what fueled the last two wars.

Izuku’s mind is running rampant as he gets caught up in his lie. Plant Magic has many properties, most of them nonviolent. So perhaps he could be a valid guest here. But it’s hard for Magical people to rank in a way that would place them at this banquet. Inko had even mentioned having a different dinner for some Magical people that helped civilians rather than won the battles.

“Interesting,” is all Bakugou replies, and he seems suspicious still but also genuinely curious. Izuku’s nervous heart runs wild in his chest. He goes to grab at his emerald. “How’d you get All Might as a teacher?”

Izuku nearly chokes. He definitely doesn’t have an answer for that. All Might lives here, at the castle. He’s the most well known sensei of Magic in the region, and he has had only two students in the past twenty years, and it’s Izuku and Shouto. Not to mention to most of the Kingdom, it’s only one student, as Izuku does not exist. Really, he’s quite stupid for letting that slip.

Before Izuku can even begin to think of a response, the Knight next to Bakugou leans over and asks, “Bakugou, who’s your friend?”

“Yeah, who’s this?” the other man across the table asks, the one in the first aid uniform.

As soon as he begins to panic once again at the thought of having to lie more, Bakugou slings a heavy arm over his shoulder and grunts, “This is Deku. He’s got Plant Magic.” Something about his touch is aggressive, like the suspicion from before is evolving into something a little more irritated.

Izuku is saved. Now all he has to do is avoid talking about himself, and the night would play out wonderfully. These guys seem nice enough, both with friendly smiles on their faces and a flush of red on their cheeks from the wine.

“Awesome!” The one across from Izuku extends his hand. “Kaminari Denki, first aid Officer.” Izuku shakes, and a warm, gentle Magic skirts up his arm. A subtle jolt of electricity is laced somewhere in there, Izuku thinks.

“Pleasure to meet you,” Izuku says as another hand is thrust over Bakugou – whose arm has since disappeared from his shoulders.

“Kirishima Eijirou. Knight 1st Class, Order of the Dragon.” Izuku doesn’t sense any Magic on his body, but the little dragon on his lapel glistens proudly, and Izuku likes the two of them already.

He has somehow forgot how different people can be. And he has definitely forgotten what it’s like to introduce himself so casually. He nearly bursts with pride as they comment on the food and wine, getting drunk off freedom and celebration; he has to control himself with all his might to not boast about the castle staff who have been amongst his only friends his whole life, always so diligent and caring.

At one point, Kaminari slams his goblet onto the table and raises it into the air. “Fucking cheers, boys. They really treated us right tonight, those Royals.”

Izuku scans the three faces that have erupted into dignified grins as he raises his glass of wine, the four of them cheersing with such vigor that wine spills onto the lace detail of the tablecloth.

“I’ll fucking drink to that,” Kirishima says. “Damn war. The only thing that sucks about it ending is how much harder it’s gonna be to get a lay. Right, Bakugou?”

Bakugou elbows him in the side as Kaminari snorts into his drumstick. “You idiots are just bitter.” He looks at Izuku, who’s hoping his blush will pass as a side effect of all the wine he’s had. “These two just wish they got as much as I did.”

Izuku has to look away, suddenly a little hot and embarrassed under his cloak and extremely distracted by those red eyes.

Kaminari waves a hand around. “Well, that’s war for you. Sometimes there’s just not much else to do but fuck, you know?”

Izuku has to chuckle awkwardly in agreement but shifts uncomfortably in his seat, for when was the last time he’s even touched someone? Never, really.

Kirishima takes the opportunity to elbow Bakugou back so hard that he knocks into Izuku. “Breaking news, for the thousandth time since The Battle of the Upper River alone, Officer Bakugou has managed to be late for the strategy meeting again all because his dick was in some person’s–”

Bakugou slams a hand over his mouth. “I’ll fucking kill you, dipshit. Now get your act together, would you? This isn’t the place to be acting like a dumb bastard pervert.”

Kirishima just leans behind Bakugou to raise his eyebrows at Izuku, who is now holding in his laughter desperately. Kaminari, on the other hand, isn’t even trying, chortling loudly into his food as Bakugou angrily shovels potatoes into his mouth.

Izuku has a better time than he could have ever imagined. He spends the rest of the night talking to the three of them, Bakugou, Kirishima, and Kaminari. With some practice, he’s able to keep the conversation solely about them, and by the end of the banquet, he’s learned three things for certain:

Kaminari has powerful electric Magic that allows him to make light. He was one of the most important members of first aid during the tail end of the war – his light saved hundreds of soldiers injured at night, keeping fire away from the camps, preventing flame-induced PTSD and allowing midnight surgery.

Kirishima is non-Magical, but he’s kind, determined, and powerful. He and Bakugou rode together for three years in the war, both in the Order of the Dragon.

Bakugou is the son of a metalsmith, and he welded each of the swords his Order fought with during the final battle of the Second Thirty Year War.

Their dynamic is playful, aggressive, and loving, and Izuku would like to swim around in the feeling of drunk laughter with new friends for a little while longer.

He doesn’t really know anything quite like it.

Chapter Text

Most Magic is ancient, with unclear origins that some believe lie in the hands in gods and others believe were brought on through countless, subtle interactions with the universe. Magic sits deep within the core of the user, and in young ones it is often faint, like an old memory, perhaps from a different lifetime. The powers of Magic grow in each user, making familial lineages extremely important for cultivating both skill and technique. It blooms within the body, finding homes in unique places.

For Izuku, his Magic lives in his stomach and feet. He feels it there, buzzing all day long. It grows stronger when he is outdoors, in the sun. It unfolds within him like the first rays of light over the horizon, always making him yearn for the day and how he can make use of it.

But he has had the time to learn this. He has been able to figure out the quirks of his Magic. Perhaps more than anyone – he has had all the time in the world. He’s spent years of his life trying not to focus on ticking clocks or how slowly his vines crawl in the winter time. So far, learning his Magic has been his life’s devotion.

Others are not so lucky. Many people who do not live lives of privilege don’t have the time, space, energy, or resources to practice Magic. Some people might not even know that they possess such a force. There are countless tales of Magic dying out in families who are incapable of cultivating it. As it becomes unrefined, Magic gets harder and harder to teach and master, and it will become weaker until it fades away completely. Izuku thinks a lot about this dynamic of privilege at play for everyone in Kokyusenzai. The beauty of Magic is so much a part of why it is revered in their Kingdom. But its protection doesn’t necessarily serve everyone, particularly those without Magic or money.

The day after the banquet, he sits on the floor his room, surrounded by moss. He yearns for spring as faint winter light comes through the window. He urges more life to come through the cracks in his wooden floor, creating a soft bed of earthy warmth for him to study. So much life indoors allows him to ignore the fresh coating of snow outside, though the bluebird fluffing its wings on the tree outside his bedroom doesn’t seem to mind.

Today, he had risen early this morning to see All Might in his workshop, plucking books off the shelves and avoiding serious conversation. He had really only come to borrow some volumes on Pyrotechnical Magic, not to plan out this week’s lesson, or say, discuss what happened last night.

All Might’s name is Toshinori Yagi, and he is as much of a mentor to Izuku in life as he is in Magic. Toshinori enjoys listening to Izuku’s woes, giving him advice on family and friendship, and sometimes he even pries a little to get Izuku to open up. But, Izuku had not been in the mood, so he was able to sneak off with minimal conversation and has been cooped up with his books and his moss.

Just as he opened the chapter on the dangers of explosions, a faint knock rings out against the door of his room.

“Come in!” Izuku chimes, a little bit nervous about who it could be. Not too many people used to bother him in his moments alone, but things are changing in peacetime. No one is quite as busy.

It’s Momo, dressed in riding pants and a soft silken top, her big leather backpack slung over her shoulder. A thick, deep burgundy winter cloak hangs over her body. Izuku calms a bit. His nerves kept him up last night and have not left him in the morning. The sight of his beautiful friend paying him a visit makes him feel a little less alone in his thoughts.

“My Prince,” she murmurs easily, smiling softly. She sits next to him on the bed of moss and begins to run her fingers over its softness immediately. He plants a kiss on her cheek.

“How are you today, Momo? Headed out for a ride soon?”

She grins. “Of course. On a beautiful day like this, how could I not?” She cranes her head toward the window, and Izuku follows her eyes. That little bluebird still sits atop the branch, fluffing away. “After a storm, people always need a little extra help.”

Izuku hums in agreement.

The weather had picked up in the middle of the night, leaving more snow than Izuku ever likes to see. He glances again at his friend. She’s selfless and tactical, and Izuku wishes he could join her on her journeys. She’s very fixed on riding into the village at least once a week and working with every family who will accept her help, reading and taking notes on exchanges that she can make with her Magic. Her Alchemy is extremely powerful, but it’s rather complicated and formulaic, and sometimes even limited. She always carries notebooks and strong metals in her backpack for when problems arise.

“You looked beautiful last night!” Izuku compliments, remembering her shimmery red dress. “It complemented Shouto’s uniform quite well.” He teases her intentionally. Izuku has always thought they made the best team – Momo’s blush told him that maybe he wasn’t the only one. “And I wanted to thank you again for the omamori.”

Momo ruffles his hair affectionately. “Of course! I’m excited for your future. But speaking of which… I wanted to talk to you about your decision,” Momo says. She’s confident in her request, but Izuku wouldn’t deny her this even if she weren’t. “Why did you hold off the announcement?”

Izuku sighs. He’s not quite sure why explaining this causes him so much distress. Perhaps it’s because he thinks no one will understand. Although Momo would have to be the most likely of anyone to get it. “I just want to experience peacetime as a regular civilian, you know? Just for a bit of time. I know it’s selfish, but… But now I can go out into the Kingdom without guards stalking me, without anxiety about being murdered or kidnapped as a war crime. I mean, sure, there are still dangers, I know that. I just want to feel like a regular person before I’m the face of the Kingdom.”

Of course, there’s more to it than that. But he’s stumbling over his words, gripping the moss in his fingers. Momo has had to live her life in danger just like him. Though she is not a Royal, it’s not unusual for the Yaoyorozu family to be threatened. She’s just learned to deal with it, tough and cunning.

Nonetheless, she’s understanding. “I understand, Izuku. I can’t imagine going from nonexistent to in the spotlight. I guess it’s normal for you to want to take your time.” She pauses, makes to look him in the eye. “But – but you’ve been waiting your whole life. And I think you’re going to make a brilliant Prince. And an even more brilliant King. Besides, once Kokyusenzai knows who you are, we can go on journeys to help people together. I’ve been waiting for that forever, Izuku! I want everyone to know what an amazing friend you are.”

Izuku sniffles. Momo means so well. He squeezes her hand. “Thank you, my lady. I promise, I won’t be long behind you. Besides, the Queen will only allow this for a little while. She’s always reminding me that the threat to the Prince exists outside of war, so… I’ll ride with you soon.”

“I’ll be waiting,” she says. Glancing around Izuku’s room, her eyes scan the books scattered around him. She’s too perceptive for her own good. “So, did you meet anyone interesting last night? I don’t know too many people with Pyrotechnical Magic.”

Izuku blushes. The wine had gotten to him last night, and he definitely had leaned a little too close to that blonde Knight. He had enjoyed learning about the three of them immensely. Buzzed from the alcohol and excitement of the night, they had shared stories of their friendship during the war, their late night escapades, the lovers they had found. It had felt more natural and open than Izuku could have ever imagined. Part of him knows it’s because he feels like he’s connected to Bakugou. The red string on his fingers pulls taut like the strings of a violin – he so desperately wants to hear its music. But – he decides it’s better that he not say too much just yet; he knows that this tie to someone outside the castle might not be anything at all, might fall silent on his hopeful, deaf ears, but he still wants to keep it for himself.

“Um, yeah! I sat with two Knights and a first aid Officer. They were all really nice, and I think they were our age. One of the Knights had Pyrotechnical Magic, and I realized that I don’t know that much about it, so I’m just, uh, doing some reading!”

His voice is squeaky and high-pitched, and he wants to seep into his floor with the moss. He has no idea why he’s so nervous anyway. Nothing happened. He’s not even hiding anything, not really.

Momo hums, seemingly ignoring his flustered state. Izuku is unsure if it’s on purpose or if she’s just not paying attention. “A Knight with Magic, huh? That’s unusual.”

“I know. He wasn’t flashy about it or anything. I could just feel it, so I brought it up.”

“And was he high-ranking? He must be powerful, then.”

“Officer.”

Momo blew out some air. “Wow, and he’s our age? Impressive.”

Izuku laughs. “That’s what I said. His friends were lovely, too. It was nice to interact with people I haven’t known my whole life.”

“I’m sure.” Her voice is warm. “And who did they think you were? Did it come up?”

Izuku shifts uncomfortably. “Just to the one guy. I told him I was training with All Might. It was kind of stupid, but I panicked.”

Momo just shakes her head. “As long as he bought it, I suppose.” With that, she grabs Izuku’s hand and squeezes. “Anyway, I should get going. There’s a lot to tend to today!”

When she stands, Izuku follows suit. “Wait, Momo. If you don’t mind, could you do me a favor?”

“Of course, what is it?”

He rushes to the corner of room and picks up two miniscule plants in pots, the size of a roll of bread, maybe a bit larger. “The families of the lumber yard and the flower shop, could you take these to them? Say it’s from the plant boy.”

These plants are filled with Magic. They bear large fruits once a day, double the size of the plant itself. He often visits Iida and Uraraka and uses his Magic to assist them. Aside from whatever shaky identity he gave them, they know him as the kind plant boy who has helpful Magic.

Momo looks at him a little suspiciously, staring at his outreached hands. “Well, isn’t that a little suspicious, coming from me? Why would I know you? Is this something you normally do?”

Izuku shrugs. “Not too often. I don’t care if they think it’s weird that I know you.”

“Izuku, can’t you do it yourself?”

“Please, Momo. I just want them to know I’m thinking of them. I need some time before I can go see them… There are things I have to take care of. I know that they dine well on Sundays with their families, and I want them to have fruit for dessert. Besides, if I go to town today, it will just be to walk around.” He sighs, begging with his eyes. “Please. I haven’t thought this through enough. I need to decide how I handle this, now that I’m on my own.”

Momo sighs, but takes the plants from him. “Okay, I will. If they ask questions I don’t know how to answer, it’s on you.”

“I know, Momo. I’m sorry. I’m gonna figure this out soon.”

As soon as she leaves, Izuku lays on his floor and stares at his wooden ceiling. His breathing is heavy, and he has to fight tears. He’s in over his head on this, and he knows it. He’s made a decision without thinking it all the way through, and Momo called him out on his flawed logic. She was right –– he could go see his friends himself. Part of him never wants to leave his floor, though, and the other part is beating at him, telling him he’s wasting the time he begged for in the first place.

The snow heightens his anxiety, and frankly Izuku just feels sad . If he goes into the village he would feel dirty; now that he has the freedom to be honest about his identity as the Prince, he would feel like he was lying to his friends. They can know who he truly is but he’s not brave enough to be honest. He is cowering; he knows true friends don’t lie.

He sighs heavily, aware that he shouldn’t waste the day reading about the Magic of a man he may never see again. He really shouldn’t be even considering finding the house of the metalsmith family to ask for a new sword. He should be preparing for spring. He should be checking on Shouto, who owes a similar conversation to the one he had with Momo. He should have given those damn plants to Uraraka and Iida himself.

Before he can even get anywhere productive with his thoughts, let alone his body, there are five knocks on his door. Now his mother wants to see him? Looks like everyone is curious about his night. He groans and attempts to clean up his mess, leaving the moss be and shoving the books into a haphazard pile.

As he nods at the guard outside his mother’s room, he has to swallow his pride. He asked for this, damnit. He gave up a night as a Prince to blend in with the crowd, and he should have at least expected that a few people were going to ask how it went. He just hopes that he isn’t oblivious to something that went wrong last night.

“My Prince,” Inko exclaims at the sight of her son entering her quarters. It’s a massive room, with a huge bed and attached study, decorated with heavy, green velvet curtains and cut plants in silver vases. “I hope you had a pleasant evening last night.”

“I did, Mom!” Izuku answers cheerfully, coming over to the loveseat where she sits. He’s approaching with a bit of trepidation, prepared for some kind of chastisement. He scans Inko’s face, but she seems… pleasant, excited, even.

“So, silly me, your old mother, I forgot to tell you something when we spoke last night.” She’s so full of light – Izuku makes note again of how much happier she seems without war sitting as a heavy burden on her shoulders. “Well, really, it just occurred to me while I saw you talking with some of our guests.” She pauses to take Izuku’s hands and looks at him very, very carefully. “Izuku. You know you are to become King some day, yes?”

Izuku takes a deep breath. So he must have screwed up if she’s reminding him of how important his reputation is. He squeaks, “Yes, Mother. I could never forget.”

Strangely, she’s fighting a smile, he can tell. “You’re already twenty years old. I know it may not feel like it, but… you’re getting to the marrying age, my love!”

Izuku nearly chokes. The marrying age? The only person he’s ever kissed was Momo when he was five and he remembers distinctly not liking it. Marriage is something that seldom ever crosses his mind. Yes, he’s aware that it’s customary for Royals to be wed, and usually at quite a young age, but still. Izuku has only personally known a handful of people throughout his life, only two of them his age. He grew up without a father. He hasn’t had a lot of romance in his life, let alone a happy marriage to try to emulate. Before he can manage any words, Inko continues.

“The look on your face is positively adorable, dear. Listen, I’m not saying you have to get married now, my love, trust me. I just want it to be on your mind as you take the time before you’re announced as Prince, okay? I know that you will likely meet lots of young folks in the village your age, and I want you to be able to rule this land with a partner in a way I wasn’t able to.” Her face twists up with both sadness and resentment, but she pushes through. “I want you to marry for love, of course. You know I would never force a person onto you. However–” The Queen grows stern. “–think carefully about who you choose. This person will be a symbol for Kokyusenzai in the same way you will be.”

Izuku swallows. “Right, well.” What is he supposed to say to that? He hasn’t anyone in his life he wants to court or could see himself loving that deeply. After a lifetime with Momo, perhaps the most beautiful and intelligent girl he could imagine, with a level head and strong heart, he knows that he doesn’t really see himself with a woman. He’s known that for longer than he’d like to admit, perhaps, but he’s been raised to keep an open mind.

And maybe he stares at Shouto sometimes, when they go swimming together or relax in the springs, but love he has for him is as the greatest ally he could ever ask for. Aside from the fact that he’s incredibly beautiful, of course. Izuku just doesn’t know. Could a Kingdom have two Kings? After an era of incredible success with a Queen? Historically, it’s not completely unheard of, but still, he worries.

He only realizes he’s been muttering to himself instead of responding to his mother when she chuckles.

“I know this is a lot, Izuku,” Inko says. “I just figured it’s best to spring this on you now, before duties as Prince begin to overwhelm you.”

“Right,” Izuku says again. “Thank you, Mom.”

“Of course, my son.” She cocks her head at him. “You know, my love, you may marry whoever you choose.”

Her gaze is reassuring and warm. They’ve never talked about sexuality, and they haven’t really touched upon love so often, either. He knows his mother harbors a lot of anger toward his father, but it’s usually not a matter of discussion. It seems that there is always something just a bit more important at hand. The premise of their relationship has always been to encourage one another to make choices that ensure their happiness. He thinks of Momo’s omamori on the table in his quarters.

“I know, Mom.” He gives her a watery smile. “Thank you.”

Inko stands to excuse herself, planting a kiss on her son’s forehead. “If you don’t mind, I must make for the councilroom. The metalsmith is coming for a meeting about weapon production during peacetime – it’s an incredible moment for our people! Everyone is so full of joy.”

“Yes, go ahead,” Izuku breathes. It seems that the thought of the metalsmith’s son – Bakugou , his mind insists – is following him everywhere. For a moment, he considers asking his mother for the metalsmith’s name, but he decides against it. He is not one to meddle with fate.  “I’ll just be in my room doing some reading. I’ll see you for tea later.”

He does just that: goes back into his room and pours his soul into these books about Pyrotechnics, considering deeply what it would be like to teach this man with such a strong spirit and Magic to match. After years of solitude, gardening, and mastering his own power, Izuku has also spent his life investing himself in all the Magic literature he has available to him. In many ways, he is All Might’s predecessor as a sensei of Magic in the Kingdom, only with more duties. Nonetheless, within the confines of his situation, Izuku really hasn’t taught anyone anything.

As he rereads one incredibly interesting passage about the effect of cold on Pyrotechnical Magic, he’s interrupted for the third time today by a knock on his door. He had just been getting truly invested, almost glad that he never worked up the nerve to go out into town. What now?

He stands, brushes the moss off his shirt, and runs a hand through his messy hair. Peacetime is great and all, but sometimes he really wants to be left alone.

That thought is vaporized from his mind as soon as he opens the door, because the man on the other side is perhaps the last person who he thought he would see.

“Bakugou?”

The gentle sound of fate’s reign whooshes in his ears. This is Izuku’s proof. He has to be the metalsmith’s son. Why else would an Officer be in the part of the castle where he can reach Izuku’s room? He must have been here with his father for the weapons meeting, and now he’s standing in Izuku’s doorframe wearing civilian clothes, a deep green jacket and gorgeous beaded necklaces. Izuku doesn’t even have a chance to panic about how he’s dressed, because Bakugou pushes past him into his room and closes the door.

“I know who you are,” he mutters, looking Izuku in the eye.

Izuku has to fight to stop his jaw from dropping. Bakugou looks so angry. He must have snuck off just like when he was a little boy, remembering where Izuku’s room was.

He points at the flowers and moss all around Izuku’s room. “Did you lie about that, too?” He means Izuku’s Magic. Izuku frantically shakes his head, the adrenaline definitely the only thing preventing him from talking. Bakugou is incredibly demanding, but Izuku is mesmerised, still romanticizing him as his tie to the outside world.

Bakugou snorts. “You know,” he mutters, drawling the words slowly, eyes shifting from Izuku to the walls and floors back to Izuku, “there were some rumors about there being an heir to the throne, but no one really believed them.” He begins to pace, his red gaze wandering all up and down Izuku’s body. Okay, yeah, he’s definitely a little self-conscious about his dirty white shirt and worn pants. “But you look just like Queen Inko, and your Magic is just like hers. You were both wearing ivy… You, Deku. You were here when I was here like, fifteen years ago. In this room. You must be the Prince. It’s the only thing that makes sense.”

Izuku nearly gasps. Bakugou is incredibly smart, even perceptive enough to match the Magic that he and his mother use quite differently. “Wow,” Izuku breathes. “You really were paying attention, weren’t you?”

He still feels Bakugou’s angry stare raking up and down his body.

“Tch. It wasn’t that hard to figure out. You weren’t exactly subtle last night.”

No one else has approached me knowing that I’m the Prince, Izuku wants to argue, but he decides against it. It seems that Bakugou has a fiery ego, but he also seems to have more to say.

Izuku chuckles nervously. “I guess not then.”

“Why were you there last night? You’re either a secret or a Prince, why the hell were you sitting with us?”

Izuku feels his throat close up. He does not feel like explaining this again. “It’s complicated,” he mutters. This guy is really coming at him, like he’s not afraid of anything. Other than that one time as children, they only just met last night. How is he so comfortable in Izuku’s space? Out of nerves, flowers begin to snake up his leg.

Bakugou points. “Your Magic. That thing you did at dinner, with mine. I want to be able to do that.” The sensing, right. It seems that that’s the only thing that has impressed Bakugou out of any of this – not the moss on the floor, the flowers at his feet, or the fact that he’s pretty much yelling at the actual secret crowned Prince after sneaking into his room. He steps closer into Izuku’s space, and jabs a finger into his chest. “Teach me, idiot. If All Might is really your sensei, you must be pretty decent.”

To avoid falling backward out of fear, he forces the nerves in his stomach to translate into Magic, vines steadying his feet. He loosely guides a flowering branch over Bakugou’s ankle, who stares at it curiously. Izuku reaches out a hand for Bakugou to shake and agrees, “Okay.” He realizes after the fact that he’s making a decision without thinking it through. He doesn’t have any time to consider it further.

At the feeling of the hot Magic in Bakugou’s palm, he’s basically vibrating with nerves. Bakugou doesn’t seem to notice, or at the very least, he doesn’t care. He makes himself very comfortable in Izuku’s room, walking over to the shelf of Magical items and staring curiously. Izuku simply watches him as he runs his fingers over the ivy on the wall and carefully touches the leaves of the other plants that he grows in pots.

“Some room you’ve got,” he mutters.

Izuku is not sure if he’s being kind or judgmental.

“Ah, yeah…” is all he manages.

“So what’s your real name?” Bakugou asks him, walking back over and getting dangerously close to him. He always seems to have to be just too close to comfort, making Izuku shiver at the warmth coming from his body. “It can’t be Deku, right?”

Izuku shakes his head. “No, it’s Izuku. Midoriya Izuku. But you’re not wrong, I guess it could be read like that.”

Bakugou tsks and looks at Izuku with a curious glance. Izuku is hot all over, nerves and attraction swirling in his belly at this man who has just dared to invade his space. His words always take Izuku a moment to process. He’s not predictable, and something about his intentions seem deeply hidden. “I think I like Deku better.”

And exactly is Izuku supposed to say to that ?

Later, at tea, he coughs violently as Shouto leans into his ear and whispers, “So, tell me why I saw the metalsmith’s son walking out of your room earlier.”

Before he can even get out an answer, he sneezes. Perhaps he’s dug himself a little too deep.

Chapter Text

The sun streams in Izuku’s bedroom the next morning, and he regrets not undoing his curtains the night before. The snow on the ground seems to make everything brighter, and he groans as he turns on his side, away from the harsh light that woke him. It warms his back, now like the soothing touch of an old friend, and he checks the time on his watch.

It’s early, but he knows with sunshine like that he’s definitely not going back to sleep. As he flutters his eyes shut again, he replays his conversation with Shouto from last evening’s tea. Izuku had sat next to his mother, expecting her to want to talk more, but she was busy listening to Momo share stories about her morning nearly the whole hour they sat together. Izuku was thankful for this, as it gave him time to chat with Shouto, who was beside him with crossed legs and a pointed stare.

“So, tell me why I saw the metalsmith’s son walking out of your room earlier.”

Shouto had been smirking at him over the rim of his mug, looking so smug, as if he knew what Izuku was going to tell him already.

After calming his shock, Izuku recapped everything for him, from the story of their childhood encounter, to the banquet, to their reacquaintance just a few hours before. Shouto danced his fingers on his knee, barely reacting at all. Sometimes this drove Izuku crazy – he hadn’t shown any emotion the entire time Izuku spoke.

“So how are you feeling about your decision to stay hidden? Doesn’t seem to be going well, now does it?” Shouto asked.

Izuku frowned at him, looking down at the tea leaves floating in his cup. That seemed like an unnecessary dig, Izuku is trying his best. He had just failed to… anticipate a thing or two. He had never claimed to be prepared for this – as a matter of fact, he hadn’t been prepared for most of his life as a Prince. “One person knowing can’t hurt. It’s gonna happen eventually.” He twirled a piece of his hair around his finger. “Besides. He has potential. I want to teach him.”

Shouto scoffs. “I saw you at the banquet, you know. Sounds like you just think he’s cute.”

Izuku really should have known that Shouto would be able to read him a little better, but still. He can’t help his blush, or the way his lips part in indignation. He must have caught Izuku staring back during some of their afternoons in the springs. Oh, well. One less person to tell about that . A bit of weight falls off his shoulders, like a feather from a bird as it flutters its wings. “I barely know him.”

Shouto snorted into the elegant pottery of his clay mug and muttered, “And yet you didn’t deny it.”

Reliving the moment as soon as he wakes up has Izuku blushing in his bed, and he shoves a pillow over his face even though no one can see him. What Shouto said is true, yes. Bakugou is something to behold. That, however, does not change the fact that Izuku is genuinely looking forward to teaching him. While rough and a bit menacing, Bakugou truly seems excited and determined to learn. Though his first, Izuku thinks he will make an interesting and rewarding student— and it’s not like Izuku has a whole bunch of other opportunities. Can he be blamed for being curious?

Before Bakugou had left his room yesterday, they had agreed to meet outside at noon by the castle stables. They were to ride to Chukan, the Middle Valley. Now that the war was over, it’s safe to visit, full of open space and rushing water perfect for training Magic. The people there are friendly, or so Izuku has heard. He has never actually been – he’s only been told vivid descriptions by others. Chukan was too far of a ride for him to risk journeying to when he was hidden, but now that he’s free, he can go as he pleases. This is the valley he has been admiring from above for his whole life. Only today will he finally know with his own eyes what it holds. He figures it might not look the same as it used to, after thirty years of fighting on its grounds.

During the First Thirty Year War, the enemy, Buzkosaikyo, had attacked Kokyusenzai viciously. They struck by surprise, with a planned assault on the most powerful Magical people in the Midoriyas’ land. The rulers of Buzkosaikyo believed that if they could get rid of a majority of Magic in Kokyusenzai – as the holy and binding force it was, is – then they could rise as superior, with a political and economic advantage to claim control of the river that Kokyusenzai had ruled since its settling. Astonished by such an outrageous and unexpected attack on their people and their livelihoods, the Midoriya family fought a ferocious war and won – after thirty years of battling to uphold their ideals.

Thirteen years later, just a year before Inko was crowned Queen, Buzkosaikyo attacked again; this time, they struck in the Chukan Valley, where much of the Second Thirty Year War ended up taking place. The valley had been a neutral space for as long as most in the area could remember. It was a place where a small, separate society of people under no Kingdom’s command practiced their Elemental Magic, and they had been allies to the Midoriyas since the beginning of their reign. The Buzkosaikyo Kingdom attacked here tactfully, knowing that Kokyusenzai relied on the land and people for knowledge and resources. They knew that if they won, they could take the river and destroy the morale of their enemy by murdering their friends.

Nonetheless, Kokyusenzai had emerged victorious yet again, and to date, almost everyone across the land believes that Buzkosaikyo has learned their lesson. It was a long thirty years, after all.

Now, Izuku would be on the very battlefield his family and friends fought for. The idea of it puts a chill in his body despite the fact that the rising sun is still heating his dark winter blankets.

It takes him a ridiculous amount of time to decide what to wear. He knows he needs to be practical – it’s about an hour or more to Chukan, and he’s sure that the both of them will be getting dirty. It’s still cold and snowy out, so he has to be warm. Plus, he’d rather like it if he looked smart, like a sensei. He’s got a man to teach who seems impressed by just about nothing. Then of course Bakugou had been building himself quite the track record of looking absolutely gorgeous in whatever he was wearing, so part of Izuku felt as though he had to rival that as well. For confidence, if nothing else.

By the time he’s decided his outfit, he has to eat a piece of fruit hastily while shoving his things into a backpack before running outside to the stable.

Bakugou is already there, dismounted and leaning against the fence. “Thought you were never gonna show up, nerd.”

Izuku adjusts his backpack on his shoulders, pouting indignantly. “I’m not that late.”

Bakugou shrugs. “Whatever. We going or not?”

Izuku feels a little twinge of annoyance. He could really afford to be a little nicer. Izuku swallows his emotions and decides that this is going to be a part of the teaching. He is just going to have to crack this guy, and whatever the hell it is that makes him so irritable. “Yeah, one minute!”

Izuku walks into the barn. He swears he feels heavy eyes on his back but he doesn’t dare to look back, green cloak swishing up snow by his boots. Inside, one of the stable keepers is waiting, reins in hand and kind smile on her face. He had notified the staff last night that he would be going out at this time, only with the slightest inkling that his tardiness would prevail as it had.

“Thank you, Tsu.”

He receives a leg up and rides out to where Bakugou is now on his horse. He approaches slowly, perhaps to take in the view of Bakugou that he didn’t really get to process after being immediately chastised. He’s out of uniform once again, with laced boots that come to his knees and a tattered red cloak with a fur lining. It fluffs around his chin and shoulders, and Izuku swears he can see his eyes against the snow-painted background from all these feet away. He’s breathtaking.

“Oi, nerd. You got a habit of staring, don’tcha?”

Izuku blushes, but Bakugou is already turning away.

“Follow me.”

Bakugou leads the way, having done this ride many times as a Knight. He’s confident, but they have to move relatively slowly along the path that is still snowcovered. It’s clear that they are not the first to have taken it since the storm, but it’s nothing worth risking. The ride begins in silence, the two of them just trotting along next to each other. Occasionally, Izuku steals glances at him – his Knight’s posture, his lazy handling of his reins, his exposed collarbones that must be cold in his breezy weather. After maybe of fifteen minutes of silence, Izuku gets a little unsettled. This is no way to start a relationship that’s going to involve mutual respect. He imagines that Bakugou is built like Russian dolls, his innermost core hidden and full of golden intricacies. One thing he knows from his time with All Might is that the best way to teach someone is by knowing them well. Having a deep understanding on both ends creates the space to express frustration, give genuine praise, and build trust.

That’s definitely not going to happen if they don’t even talk – especially since most of their interactions so far have involved Bakugou getting completely up in Izuku’s face. Which wasn’t all bad, of course, but for the premise of building a good relationship, it could have been better.

“Jeez, Deku, if you’ve got something to say, just spit it out, would you? You’ve been talking under your breath and staring at me for, like, ten minutes.”

Izuku shuts his mouth despite having not known it was moving. The muttering thing is definitely going to bite him in the ass sometime soon. He considers apologizing, but decides to engage the opportunity that Bakugou just presented him with. His leather-clad fingers fiddle with the reins. “I was just thinking… I need to know a little more about you if I’m going to train you well.”

Bakugou grunts. “What do you need to know?” He’s so gruff, uninterested.

Izuku decides Bakugou definitely can afford to be a little nicer. He’s not so sure he likes this attitude, even if there’s something attractive about his aggression. Izuku sits up straighter in his saddle. “Well, don’t act so angry about it, would you?”

Bakugou scoffs. “Don’t tell me what to do, small fry.”

Izuku scowls at him. “This is part of class, you know.”

“Class? What is this, grade school?” He’s harsh, but Izuku, perhaps paying too close attention, watches his face and how it softens with what can only be a hint of understanding. “Seriously,” he tries again, “what do you need to know?” His voice has hardly eased up, but it’ll do.

“Tell me about your Magic,” Izuku asks.

Something in Bakugou’s expression seems to twist up, like he wants to lash out. Instead, he holds out a fist, and Izuku tightens his grip on the reins as Bakugou lets out the tiniest of explosions. Neither of their horses flinch, both trained for warfare. “Pyrotechnics,” he mutters, though Izuku remembers this. “I’m not that good at it. I haven’t had any time to train it. I used to fuck around with it as a kid, but my parents aren’t into Magic and shit. Neither were their parents. We didn’t really have a lot of money before the Queen – uh, your mom, I guess – hired us to start doing the weapons. So like, growing up they sort of groomed me to be a metalsmith right away. Which is cool, or whatever. I like doing it enough. Then I trained to be a Knight because the war pissed me off so fucking much, and yeah. That’s it. There was never any time to do anything about the fact that I can make shit blow up.”

Izuku nods along, eyes flicking back between the trail and the man next to him. Bakugou revealed much more than he was expecting. “Really, it’s a miracle you can still use your Magic,” Izuku notes. “You know that, right?”

Bakugou snorts. “Yeah, whatever. I ain’t special if I don’t know how to work it well.”

“I’m serious! Third generation of nonuse? No training? You have a gift, Bakugou.”

Bakugou shifts in his saddle, stands up in the stirrups as if to stretch with discomfort. Izuku wonders what it could be – surely twenty minutes on horseback for Knight isn’t much for him to feel unpleasant in his seat. “Whatever, just teach me how to use it.”

Izuku grins. “I plan on it.”

Still a bit shifty, Bakugou growls. “It’s just fucked up, you know? I mean, no offense, but I’ve spent my whole damn life trying to help this Kingdom out, and half the time they’re just trying to protect fucking Magic! There are so many people who don’t have Magic, and they can’t do a damn thing about it. Just have to bust their asses growing food and making fucking pottery or whatever.”

Izuku stiffens a little bit. Bakugou is not the first person who has said something along these lines. Kokyusenzai is a complicated place, with a complicated history. More than 60 years of war can make their ideals seem a little convoluted, sometimes. “The reason we protect Magic is because of how it can serve others,” Izuku defends.

“You think I don’t know that? Why do you think I wanna learn it so bad? I ain’t a fucking Knight for nothing.” Bakugou has gone tense with aggravated pride, then his voice softens with something like sympathy. “I’m just saying that it can be shitty for the people who don’t have it.”

Izuku can’t argue with that. Sometimes the guilt he has for having Magic at all, let alone mastering it, becomes unbearable. He’s had a lot of time to think about what he wants to do as a Prince. As King. So many of the citizens of his land blame Magic for the war just as they blame Buzkosaikyo – and they aren’t entirely wrong. Two wars fought because of Magic. This is a good portion of the reason why Kokyusenzai soldiers don’t use Magic to fight. Nonetheless, Izuku knows he wants to make it up for the people who have suffered on Magic’s account, especially those without it. He knows it’s an unjust system. He hopes that this peacetime will help those with Magic find the time to cultivate it, and those without it to know they are just as valued for their contribution to the Kingdom. He’s just not positive how he’ll ensure that that happens.

Bakugou’s voice rids him of thought yet again. “You okay over there? You look all sad and shit.”

Immediately, Izuku smiles, and it probably seems like he’s trying to contradict him. But the smile is genuine – Bakugou, checking in on him? Now, there’s the progress he needs if this is going to work. He makes a pleased noise of affirmation. “I’m fine! I’m excited to teach you, is all. You’re smart.”

Bakugou just snorts.  

 


 

 

Just under an hour later, their horses are tied up, and the two of them are standing in a clearing by the riverbank. Along the shore are icy boulders glistening in the midday sun, and around them are tall coniferous trees. In the snow, their surroundings are cold and bright, like silver. In the spring, Izuku imagines, this place would be a beautiful meadow of wildflowers. Chukan is much like he expected. He can’t see the castle from here like he has enjoyed fantasizing about for most of his dreamy childhood, but around him, he’s being enveloped by foothills and mountains. Trees and snow rise up around them, and at first, it’s difficult to catch his breath. He wants wildlife to close in around him, paint him warm tones of colors he has never seen before.

Their way down hadn’t been as bad as Izuku had anticipated. Occasionally he saw mangled trees and remnants of battle, like burns from Fire Magic or holes in wildlife from curses or acid. For the most part, nature and the people of Chukan seem to be making up for 30 years of damage already, and the valley is warm with sunlight and peace.

“Let’s sit,” Izuku says, making for the boulders. His whole body is buzzing with excitement to teach Bakugou. He had really enjoyed their ride together. Each time they spoke, Bakugou seemed to grow a layer more complicated, more interesting.

“Sit? I just sat on a damn horse for an hour, my ass could use a break. Besides, aren’t I gonna blow some shit up?”

Izuku laughs, but despite his complaints, he hears Bakugou’s footsteps behind him, crunching in the snow. “We’ll get there. I have something for you.”

They sit fairly close, and Bakugou’s whole body just seems to radiate warmth. Maybe he’s not so cold, after all. “Damn, Deku, a present? What, are you trying to make sure your student has a good impression of his sensei? You can’t buy love, small fry, I’m a little harder to get than that. Didn’t ride all the way over here just to act like it’s my birthday or something.”

As Bakugou groans on, Izuku smiles softly and reaches into his bag. A chain is cool on his fingers, the stone warm. He takes Bakugou’s hand – a bit nervously, yes – and folds his fingers over the necklace. His grumbling stops immediately, staring down at the ruby in his hand as he opens his fingers. “What gives?” he grunts.

Izuku has to stop the grin stretched over his face from growing any larger. He doesn’t want to scare his student on his first day. “It’s filled with Magic,” he explains. Bakugou’s pause surely had come from the warm, energy-filled sensation in his hand. “You can do this, too. Anyone with Magic is capable of putting some of their own into objects. Usually it provides a kind of emotional power. It takes a lot of concentration to move your Magic from your body into something else.”

He clutches at the emerald around his neck. Bakugou is still looking down, clearly intrigued. He remains quiet, so Izuku takes it that he’s allowed to keep up his explanation.

“The ruby symbolizes energy, passion, power, and love. Knowing that, I took those feelings from my own body and channeled my Magic into this stone. It should stay there as long as I continue to feel those things. It might be a little cumbersome for you to wear, at first. Especially if you’re not used to Magical items.” He watches Bakugou turn the stone over in his hand, and his eyes dart quickly over to Izuku, as if he’s turning his words over in the same way. “But this ruby now has my Magic, and it can help you with any of those emotions and actions that stem from them, once you get used to it. Chances are that you’ve interacted with a few Magical items before. They’re pretty common.”

Bakugou narrows his eyes, brow furrowing. “Tch. I’m not a damn idiot. ” The curiosity is still plain on his face, countering his tone. “I’ve felt Magical things before. My damn sword has Magic. All the weapons we make have Magic. It’s the reason my family’s business is so damn valued. We have pretty good relationships with some Magical families who add reinforcements and protection properties against Combative Magic, like fire and metal and shit.”

Izuku knew this already. As a matter of fact, he has one of the swords made by his family. After all, it was his mother who hired Bakugou’s father, wasn’t it? He leaves that thought be, feeling playful. “That’s wonderful!” he exclaims, and it’s genuine. “Maybe you’ll be able to wear this right away, then. Emotional Magic tends to sit a bit differently than Protective Magic.”

Bakugou grunts, still staring down at the ruby, as if studying it, almost wary. Izuku watches him carefully, speaks just the same. He reaches for the necklace in Bakugou’s hand. The touch of their fingers jolts through Izuku like the shock of static. Heat radiates up his arm – he’s still so amazed by how powerful Bakugou is – the force fire against the cold. “May I?”  

Bakugou doesn’t say anything, but he lets Izuku take the stone from his hand and closes his fingers around nothing. Izuku is meticulous as he moves. The air suddenly feels heavy, and he watches a cloud form where Bakugou’s soft breath leaves his pink mouth. Izuku reaches around his neck, gently brushing the hair away as he does the clasp of the necklace. He could give the blame for goosebumps arising on Bakugou’s skin to the cold.

As soon as Izuku lets go, Bakugou clutches it in shock. “It’s hot! And heavy, jeez.”

“Take it off if you want!” Izuku chimes quietly, mouth still close to Bakugou’s ear. He says those words knowing that this man is definitely the type of guy to take a challenge. Emotional Magic can indeed be burdensome, but it will help Bakugou open up and fuel his own Magic. “Go try blowing up some stuff,” Izuku jokes.

Bakugou walks to the middle of the clearing, one hand on his necklace and the other sparking violently.

It’s been a fair amount of time since Izuku has mastered channeling more of his Magic into items he’s already powered up. So even from far away, he’s able to whisper a spell for passion into the ruby, and he watches as Bakugou stands up a little straighter.

Izuku watches intently. He knows that if he is going to teach Bakugou right, he’s going to have to know a lot of things about him, both in regards to his Magic and to him personally. His time with All Might has led him to understand that, but he’s aware of how different this situation is. All Might began teaching him as soon as he could talk. Growing up with a mentor allows them to get to know you a bit better than someone you’ve spent less than a day with collectively.

Bakugou’s Magic is relatively simple – the books on Pyrotechnics taught him that much. A lot of people regard any kind of hot Magic, things involving fire and explosions, as fueled by anger. Bakugou seems to fit that mould, but Izuku knows better. Magic presents itself as whatever the user is feeling. You are always tied to your Magic. There is no undoing that. It’s a cyclical relationship that allows your mind to be influenced by a force that sometimes feels out of your control.

Right now, Bakugou is raging. Again and again, he uses his palms to create unruly clouds of fiery Magic. He’s shed his cloak, now getting wet in the snow, and he’s growling like an animal who’s just been stolen from. From where Izuku stands, he can feel the power pouring out of Bakugou’s body, and he knows he can’t keep letting him get reckless with this. Bakugou is the sovereign ruler of his Magic, and he’s allowing it to get away from him.

Izuku approaches quietly, the soft sound of snow beneath his boots far too soothing for the energy swirling beneath him. He’s not sure why, but he desperately wants to help this man. He feels something in his core, begging to grow.

“When you feel you magic, where does it sit?” Izuku asks him plainly, lilting the end of his question like a song, looking into angry eyes that feel less dangerous than they did a day or two ago. They glisten with the ruby on Bakugou’s chest, and Izuku resonates with the Magic that has left him to be there.

“Huh?” Bakugou grunts. Izuku notices he has begun to sweat.

“The Magic you feel in your body,” Izuku explains. “Where is it?”

Izuku watches him as he pauses to think – he flexes his fists, rolls his head on his neck. “My hands,” he states first, pauses again. “Um. My shoulders.”

All his tension, Izuku notes. He can see it.

“Hmm. Well, try to be mindful of it.”

Bakugou looks as though he’s about to roar. Izuku imagines all the birds fluttering away at the sound of his voice. “You came over here just to say that? Damn, nerd, fucking teach me something, would you? I’ve had enough of your damn wise-sensei bullshit.”

Izuku flinches internally at the insult but doesn’t let his pride get dampened. For one, he’s gladly going to accept that challenge. Besides, he’s very aware of how closely Bakugou listens to him when he speaks, so if he wants to be rude to make himself feel a little better, fine. Izuku can handle that.

He turns on his heel, the soothing song of the snow sounding beneath his feet once again.

“Oi! Where the hell are you going?” Bakugou shouts after him.

Izuku smirks as he turns from his new place just a few feet away. “Try not to shoot your Magic from your hands. Will it to appear by me.”

“Huh? How the hell…”

“Just try,” Izuku insists, smirk still firm on his face. If Bakugou wants to be a tough boy, Izuku is going to return the favor, just a bit. At least for now, to let him know who he’s dealing with. Izuku is not really sure where this confidence is coming from, but something about Bakugou fires him up. Makes him want to run by his side until they’re both out of breath. Makes him want to put his energy into something so much beyond himself.

Bakugou’s face grows dark and serious, a line of concentration forming between his brow. He takes a deep breath, and––

Nothing happens.

He tries again, and his frustration balloons as he repeats the intention over and over until his palms are smoking and he blows himself flat on his ass.

“What the fuck, Deku!” He really is roaring, now. “Aren’t you going to tell me how to fucking do it or are you just going to be a fucking dick?”

Izuku crosses his arms. There’s an interesting thing about Bakugou that’s nagging at him. As much as he rags on Izuku and tries to bring him down, he still wants what Izuku has to offer. It makes Izuku want to puff his chest out a little, though maybe the aggression should bother him a little more.

He looks down where a frustrated Bakugou is still sitting in the snow. “You seem like you’re used to everything coming easy to you.”

Maybe it’s a stretch, but other than this, he makes things look effortless. The way he rides, the Officer rank at twenty years old, the perfect body.

It doesn’t sit well. “You don’t fucking know me,” Bakugou bites, and it’s far more bitter than Izuku has heard from him thus far. It’s the taste of an unripe fruit – something spoiled before it’s given a chance to grow sweet.

He regrets the words, coming to sit down gently next to Bakugou in the snow. It’s cold, but even from some inches away he feels Bakugou’s heat. He looks at him warmly, trying to apologize without saying anything. “Listen,” Izuku sighs. “Everyone who has control of any kind of Elemental Magic is capable of controlling it outside of their bodies.” Curiosity blooms on Bakugou’s face again, so bright and eager. Izuku likes that look on him. “Think about my plant Magic.”

Izuku looks over at a tree and waits for Bakugou’s gaze to follow. With the tiniest bit of concentration, he makes the branches shake so that they become rid of snow. He swears he sees something at play on Bakugou’s lips when he turns back to him. He speaks firmly, with the passion he channeled into Bakugou’s ruby. “I didn’t have to touch that plant to make it move. A similar thing applies to all Elemental Magic. People with Water Magic can bend rivers and control water wherever it exists. Pyrotechnics are a little different, because at any time you’re using the elements in the air to create a reaction. Nonetheless, the same premise applies. Your Magic allows you to create explosions wherever you will them to appear. As long as you can see your target, it should work. I promise. They may not be as strong as when they come directly from your body, but they will happen.”

His last phrase is sharp and determinate, and Izuku doesn’t even bother to fight the grin that comes onto his face. He can’t seem to stop smiling around Bakugou. His fierceness is so invigorating, and his concentration as Izuku spoke is unlike what he had seen before. Yes, he definitely likes teaching this man.

“Huh,” Bakugou breathes out, intrigued.

Izuku stands, offers him a hand up. “Try again,” he pushes, and Bakugou meets his grasp. He holds on as he tells him, “Power doesn’t necessarily mean massive strength. To train the mind, you need know detail and stealth.”

Bakugou drops his palm in an instant, huffing. “Yeah, whatever.”

As he walks away, a bead of sweat rolls down his forehead. A moment later, just to the left of Izuku, a tiny explosion goes off. It’s just enough to make some snow billow up around his feet.

Bakugou will never know, but Izuku has to try really hard to avoid getting watery eyes.

“You did it, Katsuki!” Izuku exclaims, the first name leaving his lips before he even realizes it.

Bakugou doesn’t say anything more, just keeps at it, sending off fireworks in what seems like every direction. It’s beautiful, like the first starry night after a bout of overcast.

Izuku wants to embrace him, praise him with everything in his being – and if he could keep a picture of the satisfied grin on his face forever, well. No one would have to know. For now, he just watches.

As they continue with practice, excitement begins to boil up in Izuku, akin to the feeling you get when you meet with an friend after many days apart, or the taste of a new flavor. He can’t get enough. He has never felt more filled with passion and life. He’s overwhelmed by the freedom of the valley.

Although Bakugou is frustrated and hot-headed, and although he grows angry when he gets things wrong, and although he gets irritable at the fact that Izuku starts him off with the basics, he’s a wonderful student. He’s filled with fervor that radiates off him. He’s that sunlight in the morning – so unbelievably warm that you feel like you must bask in it forever.

He hits a wall after, say, ten minutes.

His explosions are either huge or minuscule, and his disappointment and exasperation seeps out of him violently, like the steam from a kettle left to boil for too long. His sounds of anger match his actions, and eventually he kicks up snow in defeat. “Just teach me the damn sensing thing, all right?”

Izuku sighs. He had been having a good time coloring the needles of some of the trees with life as he watched Bakugou get himself overwhelmed. As much patience as Izuku has, it seems that his partner in this has not got him matched. “You know, there’s a lot more you have to learn before then! I’ve been studying Magic all my life and I still have room to improve. That technique in particular can be really hard to master if you’re not in touch with the people around you.”

Bakugou crosses his arms, visibly insulted. “Tch,” he mutters angrily. “Whatever. I’m a fast learner.” He walks up close again, red eyes just inches away from Izuku’s own. His voice is low. “Now show me.”

Izuku’s ideas are at war with one another. He’s not sure if Bakugou is so pushy because he thinks he’s better than Izuku, or because he respects Izuku’s teaching. That little something in his glance, the way he’s so expectant of what Izuku is going to show him – those things tell him that it’s the latter. And that’s despite that the bristly exterior he has working, the one he seems to try so hard to maintain.

Again he sighs, trying not to pay too much attention at Bakugou’s gaze staring down at him. He supposes he just has to go for it. He holds out a hand.

“When you touch my wrist, what do you feel?”

Bakugou raises his eyebrows at him, but doesn’t seem off-put. Izuku is now starting to realize that this guy seems to like to be an asshole for the fun of it, not because he really means it. “Oh you got us holding hands, already? Tch. I’m not here to be your best buddy, Deku.”

Izuku rolls his eyes. He decides a little attitude won’t hurt. Two can play at this game – maybe it works better with someone like Bakugou. “And I don’t have to be here at all. Just answer my question.”

Bakugou takes Izuku’s wrist. His touch is gentle and warm, his thumb resting lightly on Izuku’s pulse point.

“Skin, idiot.”

Izuku narrows his eyes, has to stop himself from yanking his arm back. “Take this seriously would you?” There’s bite in his voice. He feels Bakugou’s grip adjust slightly. “It’s easier to start sensing Magic with touch before you can do it from a distance, okay?”

Bakugou’s eyes flutter shut – Izuku wishes he could control his heart rate. After a long pause, Bakugou’s voice rings out quietly. “It’s like – it feels like something is growing. Like getting bigger. I don’t know how to fucking explain it.”

When his eyes open, Izuku looks at the ground, knowing Bakugou will follow suit, and he makes one of spring’s early crocuses that has just peaked above the snow come into full bloom.

Bakugou must know his answer was right.

Chapter Text

After the third time Izuku and Bakugou ride to Chukan to train, Momo finds Izuku at the stable as he puts his saddle and bridle away. Bakugou had just left (not without a stern reminder to practice ), so Izuku thanks whatever force is out there that stopped his two friends from meeting. He is not quite prepared to handle that interaction – maybe eventually, but definitely not now.

Momo peaks her head around the entryway of the barn, a coy grin on her face. She’s in full armor, perhaps coming here to train herself. As soon as she was of age, she requested to learn to be a Knight, but the process has been slow. For one, her family was very adamant about protecting her during the war; additionally, her Magic was highly coveted at that time, therefore occupying most of her hours. Peacetime has been serving her well. She’s a raging force of power and mean with a sword.

Her armor clanks as she approaches Izuku, helmet by her side, hair pulled back neatly. Izuku hangs his bridle and kisses her cheek. “My lady,” he says, tone wavering just a little.

Her smile is knowing. “A little birdy told me that the Prince was out riding with a boy the other day.”

A little birdy is definitely Shouto… who Izuku has told a thing or two.

Izuku squeaks. “Oh, really?”

“The metalsmith’s son, perhaps?” Momo asks, her intention obvious. Even if Shouto hadn’t told her anything – which Izuku is sure he had – she had likely picked up enough from Izuku’s own behavior when they had talked a few weeks ago anyway.

Izuku blushes in response and hangs his head a bit. “I’m teaching him. It’s not like we’re just going out for leisurely rides.”

Momo hums. “And? What’s he like?”

The dam breaks. Izuku decides that there’s no point in holding back when talking to her. Besides, he hasn’t spoken to anyone about Bakugou, and there are a few things he’d like to say. So many feelings have been pooling up in his stomach, mixing with his Magic. “He’s… intense. He’s made more progress with his Magic than I could have ever imagined. He can be kind of harsh and irritable, but he’s determined.”

Momo waves a hand, breaking up the words he just uttered. “Allow me to rephrase: what is he like with you?

Izuku’s blush burns brighter. “What does that mean?” Momo gives him a pointed look. “I don’t know! He’s… he’s kind of mean, really. He’s quick tempered and angry and gets frustrated very easily. He snaps at me a lot.”

Momo takes his pause as a chance to interrupt. “So you don’t like him?”

His throat tightens at her words. He’s not really sure what he feels toward Bakugou but it’s definitely not dislike. “No!” he responds, a little too quickly. “He– he listens to me. He pretends he’s not patient, but he’s really hardworking. And even though he gets frustrated he never tries to tell me that I don’t know what I’m doing. I think he trusts me.” That last sentences weighs a little too heavily in his mouth. “As a teacher, anyway.”

His face is burning, and he has to keep looking away from Momo’s warm and mischievous eyes.

“Well,” she says, donning her helmet. “Get him to be a little nicer to you, and I approve.” She smirks. “He’s cute.”

She turns on her heel and walks around the corner of the barn.

Approve? As a student and a friend, she must mean. They aren’t anything else, and it probably would be a bad thing if they were.

Izuku sighs. Despite a red face he must be pretty transparent.


Izuku is pacing. It’s before sunrise, and he and Bakugou had decided to meet at eight in the morning. Saturday – three weeks since the banquet and one since Momo had corned him in the barn. Bakugou had asked him to bring his sword today. He cannot possibly think of a reason why. Does he want to battle it out in a match that Izuku would surely lose? Does he want to know who made it? Does he think that Izuku would need it even though they would be returning to the same quaint space they had been training each time?

He doesn’t know, and he can hardly reason with himself as to why it would help the two of them train Magic .

Izuku dresses hastily. He can feel in the air that today is going to be warmer. April approaches, and the snow has since melted from the storm that he had so dreaded those weeks ago. He hasn’t come as far as he thought he might have in that time, but – he’s happy with his freedom. He’s gone into the village alone a few times, not yet gathering enough courage to see his friends Uraraka and Iida but rather to pick up fresh bread or to visit the book shoppe with the kind keeper. He’s mostly been focused on Bakugou, how to help him, how to keep that motivated glint in his eye, how to keep him coming back.

Part of Izuku is a little worried at how quickly Bakugou is advancing. At this rate, his ego might get to him in a few weeks’ time, telling him he no longer needs a teacher. No longer needs Izuku.

But Izuku knows he shouldn’t feel this much anxiety about the situation. Regardless of how quickly Bakugou advances, all students outgrow their teachers eventually – the agreement they had made isn’t supposed to last forever. All Izuku knows is that he doesn’t want to lose him in an instant. Izuku spends their days apart reading on his Magic, dreaming up what to teach him next. Bakugou has crept into his mind, wrapped around his thoughts like the vine of the morning glory, blooming each dawn as he wakes.

He brings his sword, noting the insignia on the pommel. Pressed into the metal is what he now knows to be the crest of the Bakugou family: an elegant script B engulfed in sparks. He wonders if it was Katsuki himself who made it, or his mother or father. The metal is warm in his hand with Protective Magic, and he is left only to wonder.

On his way down to the stable, he stops by the kitchen to gather the bentos he asked the staff to prepare, and he carries on. He yawns as he steps outside, not used to the morning air. He wraps his cloak more firmly around his shoulders.

As usual, Bakugou is there early, dismounted, leaning against the fence. His hair is rustling in the wind, his jaw square, and his posture relaxed. He’s watching Izuku approach with dark red eyes, and Izuku feels his whole body flush at the attention. Even as Izuku looks at his boots in the brown grass he still feels Bakugou’s gaze, and he can’t help but wonder why Bakugou stares so keenly.

“M’not late this time,” he mumbles.

“Huh?” Bakugou grunts. “Speak up, would you?”

Izuku walks closer instead of making for the barn like he probably should. Instead, feeling bold, he saunters right up to Bakugou so that the tips of their boots nearly touch. He looks up from under his hair into eyes like wine and smirks. “I’m not late this time. You’re early.” Bakugou remains what at first seems nonplussed, but then Izuku watches as his eyes glint like his dangly earrings in the light. “So you can’t yell at me.”

“Wasn’t planning on it, nerd.” He’s smirking, too, and Izuku can feel his warm breath wash over his face. From here, he smells like mulled wine and hot metal. It takes some strength for Izuku to not lean any closer.

“Yeah, right,” Izuku jokes. “I just wanted it on the record.”

Bakugou’s eyes flit down to the sword on Izuku’s waist. “Uhuh. Now go get your damn horse. We have shit to do today.”  

“You’re telling me!” Izuku scurries to the barn, knowing he probably looks a little ridiculous as he runs. He’s filled with anticipation for the day, charged with the energy from Bakugou’s eyes.

A majority of the early morning is spent with Izuku only giving small pointers. Bakugou trains in just a tanktop today, and his Knight’s physique serves him well as he begins to master agility. With Magic like his, he needs to be able to move quickly, get out of his own way, and understand that defensive tactics will help him just as much as his offensive ones. Izuku watches carefully: he’s gorgeous.

If Bakugou has been right about anything thus far, it’s that he truly is a quick learner. After a few hours of practice – mostly made up of Bakugou working on hitting specific targets and creating controlled explosions – Izuku asks Bakugou to join him for lunch.

“Bakugou, come sit with me!” He has laid out a quilt on the riverbank, pulled out a canteen of water, and set up two bento boxes filled with lunch made by the people of the castle. There’s white rice, salted salmon, fresh winter vegetables, and delicious pickles. The breeze carries warm air, and Izuku looks at Bakugou expectantly, who’s sweaty and panting from his practice.

“You brought a damn picnic?” Bakugou asks, walking over.

Izuku blushes a little, distracting himself by making the wildflowers on the river’s edge bloom. It brings color to the surroundings that are still mostly dulled by winter. “We left early today!” Izuku argues. “I figured we’d get hungry. We’re working hard.”

Bakugou sits next to him, dropping to the floor heavily. “Well, thanks, nerd.” Izuku has to try so hard not to stare at the vein in his neck that appears when he tips his head back to drink some water.

They eat mostly in silence. Izuku watches as Bakugou stares out at the running water of the river, chewing with patience, clearly in another world. As time passes, anxiety builds up in Izuku’s chest. His thoughts from earlier begin to overwhelm him, so he blurts. “You don’t mind that we’re working on stuff other than sensing Magic, right?”

Bakugou raises an eyebrow. “Huh?”

Izuku looks away, too distracted by his blonde hair being rustled in the wind and the shine of the ruby necklace still unwavering on his chest. Izuku wonders if he keeps it on all the time. Bakugou is always like this, so gruff, presenting only the obvious. Izuku treats him like a challenge. “I just– I thought. You asked me how to sense Magic, and so far we’ve mostly been working on other stuff. So I want to make sure it’s okay, and that you like the things you’re learning.”

He wonders if his fear of Bakugou giving up on him is as blatant as he feels it to be. He stares down as he pushes rice around with his chopsticks, shoulders taut. He is aware that his hopes are far too high, but he just can’t help himself. Perhaps it’s too soon to say, but this is his first friend outside of the confines of what has been his reality forever. Bakugou is freeing. Not even the sound of the water running rapidly with snowmelt next to him is soothing; Izuku likes knowing that that sound may waver but will never stop. He’s broken out of his rice-staring revery when Bakugou’s knee nudges into his. His face is as soft as he’s seen it, concern around his eyes but lips smug. “This is fun for me, believe it or not,” Bakugou mutters.

It’s the most pleasure he’s uttered aloud. Usually, his face reads differently and Izuku can see when his angry tone is met with a contradictory grin. This, however, is raw. It’s a flower cracked open toward the sun.

Bakugou clears his throat. His eyes are clear, buzzing with light from the coming spring. “Besides, I asked you to bring your sword because I figured I could repay you. You might be the damn Prince, but I’m no fucking moocher . Especially now that you’re bringing me lunch and all.”

Maybe he’s pushing it, but Izuku is pretty sure that his words mean thank you. Izuku blushes intensely, pink as the sakuras sure to come next week. “It’s nothing. I just wanted to… make sure you want to be here, you know?”

Bakugou cocks his head as he gazes at Izuku still. Izuku can’t read his eyes. The wind blows, and Izuku smells wood fire and warm sugar. “Deku. It’s my damn time off. I want to be here. I want to master Magic.” He pauses. Eyes sharp as throwing stars that glint in the light. “Like you.”


The sun is stronger by noon, and with no obligations for the day, they take their moments after lunch to lie in its warmth. Izuku is placated by Bakugou’s words. He knows how much potential Bakugou has, and he now feels like it’s his duty to tap into it. With such a drive, it would be a waste not to – and that grin he flashes when he gets something right tells Izuku their banter is worth it. He closes his eyes knowing that Bakugou is laying next to him staring at the puffy clouds in the sky. The smell of spring washes over him like conviction for tomorrow, and he doesn’t realize that he’s fallen asleep until his eyes snap open to the site of Bakugou standing above him, hand on the sheath of the sword perpetually around his waist.

From down here, there is a halo of gold around his blonde hair from the eager sun. He’s grinning madly, teeth splitting open his face, and Izuku can feel the buzz of his Magic rushing through the air faster than light itself.

“Oi,” Bakugou says. “You fallin’ asleep on the job?”

Izuku doesn’t even have it in him to wake with a start. Instead, his eyes flutter open and closed, and he smiles sleepily. “Sorry.” He yawns. “It’s the sun. Feels good.”

Bakugou tsks and offers a hand. “Yeah, yeah, you got all night to sleep. Now get the hell up, it’s my turn to be sensei.”

Sleep still clouds Izuku’s mind, so he allows himself to be pulled up before he realizes what’s unfolding. Dizziness spills over him as he stands, so he grips Bakugou’s hand a little tighter as he steadies himself. “What are we doing?” he asks, rubbing his eyes.

“Damn, Deku, pay attention!” He squeezes Izuku’s fingers, making him jolt and blush. He drops it in an instant. “We’re teaching you how to use a sword.”

Izuku stands up a little straighter, hoping posture will help him look more confident than he truly is. Now he is to be on the other side of the playing field, the learner instead of the teacher. “I know how to use a sword,” he argues – weakly.

Bakugou raises his eyebrows, pulling his sword out of it’s leather home and flashing it in the light. It’s thick steel, scratched from use and radiating power. “Plant Magic won’t save you from everything,” he bites, raising his weapon in the air and stopping it just in between Izuku’s eyes.

He knows it’s not supposed to be menacing, but his heart rate picks up as he chuckles awkwardly. “Ha! Trust me, I know. Why do you want to help with saving me, anyway?”

People have been trying to do that all his life.

Bakugou scoffs, his sword still unwavering. “Tch. I want you to be able to save yourself. You’re the damn Prince. Someone’s gotta want to cut your head off, right?” With those words, he lowers the sword toward Izuku’s jugular just for an instant, and then back to his side.

Izuku rubs the spot where it nearly touched. His blood is pumping fast, like the river during a storm of heavy rains. “Well yeah, I suppose you’re right. That’s basically the whole reason why no one knows I exist.”

He’s always so damn blushy around Bakugou. He wants to lay back down in the sun to save himself from the flustered feeling he always gets around this Knight.

“Well, I do. So I’m gonna teach you how to swing a fucking sword. Consider it a thank you, if you want.” He looks away as he says the last line.

I knew it, Izuku thinks, and his heart rate does not relent.

Bakugou makes him show off the movements he knows, and it’s embarrassing. He knows he’s no good with a sword – sure, he’d learned when he was younger but that was before his arms filled in with muscles from working in the gardens and exercising with Shouto. Now, he’s awkward and clumsy, the weapon like a weight in his hands instead of a lifeline. The harshness of the sun is making him squint, but he doesn’t dare look toward Bakugou, whose arms are crossed in focus and eyes narrowed to absorb detail.

Izuku clearly lacks finesse. He lowers his sword in defeat, too busy panting and thinking with worry to notice that Bakugou has snuck up behind him and placed a hand on his bicep. Izuku’s breath catches. His back is quite nearly pressed up against Bakugou’s torso, the only space between them reserved for Magic and tension ricocheting off of one another.

Slowly, Bakugou runs his hand down Izuku’s arm, surely feeling the muscles ripple with nerves. At the junction of Izuku’s elbow, he pushes up gently, getting Izuku to raise his sword again. His mouth is close to Izuku’s ear as he speaks, low and gritty and somber. “The sword is an extension of your body,” he explains, “as I’m sure you know.” His fingers slide down to Izuku’s wrist, and Izuku has to stop himself from trembling, as the hummingbird does when she drinks. He tightens his grip on the hilt. He does know.

“That’s only true if you treat it as such,” Bakugou notes, and his hand skirts back up to Izuku’s shoulder, where he squeezes firmly. Izuku can hear his soft breath in his ear. “I made this sword, you know. Make damn good use of it, Deku.” Izuku swears Bakugou’s nose brushes the hair at the base of Izuku’s neck as he backs away, removes his hand – yes, like the hummingbird, Izuku trembles, but God, does he drink.

The chill Bakugou leaves running up Izuku’s back doesn’t seem to vanish despite the warm breeze. He has to recover quickly from the moment, though; Bakugou is quick to direct him through blocks, binds, and parries. The motions are unnatural to Izuku, he seldom practices swordsmanship and feels graceless without his Magic to aid him. Many of these movements lead to him falling forward with the sword’s weight. At the very least, he winds up with grass stains on his knees, and he feels a little closer to home.

After what is probably his fourth or fifth tumble, Bakugou looks down at him with smug, crossed arms from where he’s on his knees in the grass. “Tch,” he scoffs. “Thought we might actually get to sparring today.” He shrugs as he looks Izuku dead in the eye, the color of wine glinting playfully in the light. “At least you ride well, I guess.”

   Izuku nearly chokes. That would be enough for the day. He blushes extra hard this time, feels it spread to his chest. He can’t help how much he’s been turning over the idea of Bakugou in his head, especially when his body is always warm and his words always in jest. What he had said to Momo just a few days earlier plays in his head. He listens to me. And he always gives it back. He takes Izuku’s advice to challenge, to outdo, to excede. His determination might seem headstrong, but he’s taking the time to unfold Izuku, give him skills and push him to fight. He’s a powerhouse running hot, and Izuku always craves that warmth.

Mostly, this feels like a game. The hot, burning rope of tug-of-war. Fiber in your fingers. Backwards, backwards, relying on someone else to tell you when you’ve won. Both sides toppling down once it’s over. That’s what this is. Izuku’s digging his heels into the ground to stop in his tracks before spilling over himself with the resolve he cannot contain. He’s not so sure if Bakugou is playing to win or winning to play, but he is certainly in the game. The breath by Izuku’s ear told him so.

So on the way back, both of them slumped and tired in their saddles, Izuku decides he has it might not be so bad to lose.

“You know, you’re really amazing, Katsuki!” he exclaims. To his right, an eyebrow quirks, but nothing is said. Izuku exhales. “Thank you for trying to help me with my swordsmanship, you really don’t have to do that. I guess I’m not as fast of a learner as you.” He chuckles, knowing that he’s talking too fast and too loud. “What I really mean is, it’s wonderful how much you care about Magic, you know? You never got a chance to do it, but now it’s clear how passionate you are about it. I just think it’s great, your determination, yeah.”

He’s awkward and gushy with praise, but if there’s one thing that Izuku knows about himself, it’s that he’s terrible at it’s hiding his emotions. He had anticipated the attitude from Katsuki, but he hadn’t foreseen the high-spirited mischief, the man who looks over his shoulder, who leaves a soft word amongst throws of stone. It seems that from the beginning, Izuku has wanted to trust this person, has wanted to lay himself bare as everything he could have never been until now.

He doesn’t know why it’s Katsuki.

“Don’t thank me for that,” Katsuki says, unusually ignoring the praise. “Magic is just something I need to get better at. Gotta be the best.”

Izuku thinks back to the first day they trained together. He’s progressed exponentially, his determination driving him forward. Despite the fact that Katsuki never got to practice Magic on his own, he’s willing it to grow within him – willing his Magic to become his own. Izuku finds this comforting, and he feels the red string tightening around his finger, his mind yet again insisting that the two of them are tied. He shifts his reins in his hands, thoughts reeling. In a way, he considers, the two of them had both been trapped in the confines of their realities. They had both been missing things; just as Izuku was missing life unfold outside the castle, Katsuki was missing Magic – Izuku has realized that nothing is going to make him happier than giving it to him.

“I’ll make sure that you are,” Izuku responds with a grin, the buzzing in his stomach growing, sparking and hot. “I mean it when I say you’re amazing, Katsuki.” He pauses. “Is it okay that I call you that?”

“Sure, whatever, Deku. I guess you know me well enough.”

Izuku exhales as if the air from his mouth will cool the blood rushing to his cheeks and fails to keep his smile to himself.

They’re getting somewhere.


The next few days come like spring: never soon enough and always getting warmer. Katsuki made sure to tease Izuku to practice his swordsmanship in the same way that Izuku does to him about Magic, so Izuku spends the days he’s not doing Magic with Shouto, brushing up. They don’t talk much – but that’s the thing about the two of them. They’ve known each other for so long that they don’t always have to. Izuku is sure Shouto knows that he’s enveloped in thought, fortified by a house of red threads insulated by Magic. If there’s things that need to be said, they’ll get there eventually. For now they just laugh when it becomes too silent and fight hard.

They always root each other on, even if it’s just practice. Because they’ve been training together since they were children, they know each other’s ins and outs: Izuku’s determination and dedication, Shouto’s composure and judgement. Afternoons are made up of fast darting glances and the chink of metal. They balance one another, even if they’re just sword fighting in the gardens.

This, however, is just days off.

The rest of the time it’s Izuku and Katsuki, now caught in a cycle of each trying to outdo the other in their own game. The lamb of spring is fast, and so the days blur.

On a Tuesday, Izuku poses challenges.

Katsuki has to find his way across the river without touching the water: he uses Magic to jet himself across.  

Katsuki has to block every single one of Izuku’s attacks: he parries like it’s breathing, and Izuku guesses he’s mastered defense.

Katsuki has to make fireworks, and maybe that’s just for Izuku to watch. He fell in love with the beauty of Magic first, so Katsuki is just going to have to learn that, too.

On a Wednesday, it feels like the season has receded into itself, an unusually cold day for March making Izuku shiver. They’re both tired, and the weather is making them curl up, craving fire and sleep. They take a long break, and for a change, it’s like the silence blankets them in warmth instead of tension. They sit under a maple, just beginning to get its first buds.

“Remind me why you want to do Magic?” Izuku lilts, expecting the annoyed noise he gets in response.

“Have I not told you a million times, nerd?” Katsuki’s head is resting on the trunk of the tree behind him, his eyes are closed, and his arms are crossed. Despite the twinge of irritation on his face, he looks quite peaceful.

“Well, not really,” Izuku starts, feeling playful. “You just sort of say that you have to. Not really why.

Katsuki huffs, sitting up a bit straighter. When he turns to look at Izuku, his red eyes are more soft than menacing. Maybe Izuku has broken down some of his walls after all, as tall and fortified as they are. “You’re always asking about me , y’know,” Katsuki notes. “I don’t know jack shit about you.”

Izuku smiles, considering it, trying not to read too deeply into what he means. He doesn’t feel very guarded around Katsuki, but if he had to categorize it, he supposes they only really talk about Magic. Not that Katsuki ever asks. “I think you know more than you’d care to admit. Anyway, answer my question.”

Izuku settles into the tone of Katsuki’s voice when he begins to speak, warm in spite the lion of March getting its payback and simply glad to have someone to talk to. He’s realized this much – Katsuki makes him feel comfortable. Perhaps it’s ironic, since Katsuki is all harsh angles and loud noise, but Izuku can always count on it being just the two of them, in some unknown place, with no one to bother them. Here, they’re not oppressed by expectations or duties or lofty requests. Instead, they can just be, surrounded by trees and springtime birds and warm Magic. Maybe that’s why these moments always make Izuku feel like he’s playing a game or running a race. It’s knowing that they always have to go back to that other place, the one of mold-fitting and hot metal and setting fast and being exactly as they’re told to be.  

Here, it’s languid: the matter in the air never cools and is always moving. Izuku wants to be in this freedom forever.

“You’re nosy,” Katsuki is saying, but continues anyway. “My hag of a mother and damn old man were really insistent about what I was supposed to do with my life, and we needed the money, so I did it. And even now that we’re comfortable and working with your family, I’ve only been able to focus on being a better Knight.” He pauses, eyes flicking over the grass, unsure. “It’s just – I was fucking born with Magic, right? Shouldn’t I know how to fucking use it?” He snorts at his own words. “It’s damn stupid, but I just feel like I’m supposed to know.”

Izuku looks down at his own hand on his knee as his fingers twitch. He has to work really hard not to suck in a loud breath.

He doesn’t realize he’s been silent for a while until Katsuki snaps. “Hey, you damn nerd! You can’t fuckin’ ask me to start blabbing about my life and then not say anything back to me!”

Izuku notices the blush on his cheeks and tucks it in the back of his mind for later. “Oh!” he splutters. “Sorry, I was just thinking! I didn’t realize I had been quiet!”

“Tch,” Katsuki snorts, looking away, blonde hair flopping over his face.

Izuku leans over him to follow his gaze, not realizing how close they are until Katsuki’s eyes widen. His arm is twisted at a funny angle to reach his position over Katsuki’s body, and he retreats almost instantly. But Katsuki’s looking at him again, so he says, “That’s how I feel about Magic, too. We must have it for a reason, right? I mean, there sure are a lot of literary debates about its origins, but that doesn’t matter as much to me. Well, they’re interesting to read but, um. Anyway, we have it and it’s ours. I think it’s really special.”

Katsuki doesn’t say anything after that, but he has that focused looked on his face, eyes closed again, a semblance of a smile taking over his mouth.

The silent blankets them for a while once more, but Izuku’s thoughts have picked up again, knowing the day is ending.

“You know,” Izuku starts carefully, part of him hesitating to break the comfortable atmosphere that has flourished around them, “speaking of working with my family... I have a question.” Katsuki just raises his eyebrows in response. “What do you think about – about me? I mean, who I am.”

Izuku is blushing madly, unable to hide how much anticipation he feels for the answer. He’s never talked to anybody about this. It’s ironic, really, because to everyone else in his life, he’s never been anyone else but royalty.

“I don’t give a fuck that you’re the Prince, if that’s what you’re trying to get at.” Bakugou is gruff, and he isn’t meeting Izuku’s curious glance. Izuku is not so sure if his reaction is a good thing; he finds that more often than not, apathy is worse than concern. At the very least, caring always means you feel something.

He might not like it, but Izuku is pretty sure that Bakugou Katsuki is a feeler.

“Oh,” Izuku says softly. “Really?” He’s starting to work himself up a bit now, feeling warm and shifty. “It’s okay if you do. I really wanna know how it makes you feel.”

He pauses, considering if he should keep talking. There’s a beat. Katsuki still isn’t looking at him. “You know, um. You’re the only person who knows outside of the castle.”

That peaks his friend’s attention. Katsuki glances at him incredulously. “Still?”

Izuku shakes a bit with anxiety. “You haven’t told anybody, right?” Worry spills out of his mouth and pools around them – he knows that once this ball gets rolling, the rumor will be out of his hands in an instant.

However, Katsuki snorts, and strangely enough, that’s soothing. “Who the fuck would I care to tell that I attend fuckin’ Magic 101 with some plant nerd?” He rolls his eyes. “Nah, I keep to myself.”

Izuku toys with the tassels around the collar of his shirt nervously. “Well, okay. So it doesn’t bother you?”

Katsuki is starting to look exasperated, but Izuku can’t bring himself to regret bringing this up. It’s something he needs to know. This scenario is just going to keep playing out around him, with everyone he’s met outside of castle walls. “I told you already,” mutters Katsuki. “I don’t give a fuck who you are. S’long as you teach me Magic, whatever.”

The last word is punctuated harshly, and it stings Izuku a little bit. Maybe that’s Katsuki trying to say it doesn’t matter that it’s Izuku who’s his teacher, that it could be anybody and Katsuki would feel just the same, but he doesn’t go down that road. Instead, he stops to consider exactly what Katsuki is telling him. He’s a man who is always concerned about being the best – could his definition of greatness possibly just stop at strength and power? Could the ability to win trump status and money and prowess for Katsuki? It’s frankly hard for Izuku to believe that Katsuki doesn’t care at all about the fact that Izuku is a Royal; after all, he’s strived this hard to become an Officer at twenty years old.

He decides to press harder. “Would you tell me if it were otherwise?”

Katsuki snaps, hot fist twisting in the grass. He’s no longer leisurely leaning against the tree trunk. He looks angry and frustrated, like he wants to bolt or fight. “Would you quit it with the fucking questions, you shitty nerd? Relax for a fucking second. I’m not a damn liar like you, so just give it a rest!”

Izuku flinches, hard. Like me? He thought Katsuki understood now why he lies, but maybe he and Shouto are not too unlike. Maybe Katsuki thinks that Izuku is being a coward, too. Maybe he thinks that Izuku staying hidden is just a cop out. So many questions swirl in his mind, eyes stinging, but.

He does not ask.

The way home is not silent from fatigue but something else entirely, yet neither dare to stir the beast that now lurks angrily around them. He stares at the path in front of him, thinking too hard, trying not to feel the tug of the red string around his finger and at his chest.

If he sniffs, it’s just the pollen of spring.


The next day he makes for the village, emboldened by his conversation with Katsuki and the new day’s warm air. Anxiety constricts his chest on his way there, thick vines of worry wrapping their tendrils around his body. A sour concoction fuels his emotions. Primarily, he’d been shaken up by his exchange with Katsuki the day before. Just moments prior to when they’d had their spat, he had been so warm with the energy and fluttering Katsuki always left him.

They’d truly felt like friends. But this is not the first time that Izuku has had the sharp, chilling realization that true friends don’t lie.

Which is exactly the reasoning behind the other causes of Izuku’s worry. Today, he is going to visit Uraraka, the girl from flower shop. This hadn’t really been his primary intention for the day, but at breakfast he had been cornered by his mother and taken into one of the castle’s many sunrooms. The light had been harsh on them, and Izuku had to squint as his mother stared up at him. Izuku, honey , she had said in that soft, concerned voice of hers. He had known what was coming.

It’s already been far longer than I would have liked. Please, remember your promise to me. We need a symbol of peace sooner than later, my Prince.

Sweating and sorry, that had been that. He had not asked for a lot of time and now it had already been more than a month since the banquet. The clock is ticking, always ticking, and the Kingdom’s people only gross restless faster with no war to distract them. A lack of war isn’t enough to keep citizens happy. Peacetime isn’t always synonymous with prosperity. They await a message, an heir, a Prince, and Izuku still hasn’t figured out how to be that. He hasn’t tried yet, is what his mother would say, what Shouto would say, what Katsuki would say.

Therefore, on his ride into town, he decided would begin down that road, even if it’s just the smallest of steps. Usually, when he goes to see Uraraka, he has some kind of excuse. In winter, it’s to help with the cold; on Sundays, it’s to bring fruit; in summer, it’s to fight drought. Today, though, is the perfect spring day – her flowers will be at ease in the warm air, caressed by the lazy sun weaving in and out of clouds. Izuku’s Magic will surely go unneeded.

That doesn’t matter, he has to remind himself, because that’s not the reason he’s going. It usually isn’t, anyway – despite Uraraka not knowing his true identity, he considers them quite good friends. He’s missed her.

He arrives at midday, and the shop’s doors are closed as he expects. He ties up his horse and heads around back, finding his friend exactly where he figured she’d be: kneeling in the garden beds, muddy pink gloves and bonnet shielding her exposed skin from dirt and sun. She looks up at the sound of his boots on the warm earth.

Her eyebrows raise in surprise at the sight of him.

“Uraraka!” he exclaims cheerfully, but he’s shaking a bit, ridden with anxiety. He’s never done this before. With Katsuki, there was no need. He just knew, like he always seems to. He breaks down barriers like they never even stood a chance.

This, however, might not be so easy. He’s certainly having trouble reminding himself to play it cool.

She gasps and shucks her gloves to the dirt. Immediately, she dashes over to him and embraces him in a warm hug. Some of the tension eases. It’s just Uraraka. Perhaps the only person who loves plants as much as he does. His friend. “My goodness,” she utters. “It’s you! I–I thought something had happened, I haven’t see you in so long. Has everything been all right?”

She’s flushed, messy brown hair falling in her face from a day of work. Izuku rubs her back for a moment and takes a deep breath. “Don’t worry about me!” he says in an attempt to be cheerful as they move apart. “Everything’s been fine.” He pauses, worries his bottom lip between his teeth. “But… there’s actually something I wanted to talk to you about. Could we go sit?”

She seems to sense his apprehension but is already making for the back entrance of the shop as she replies, “Yes, of course.”

They head inside the back room of the shop where a grand wooden table is laden with clipped flowers and potted plants and a dusting of soil. They sit on two stools, and it’s familiar. Izuku remains silent, and his friend chooses to acknowledge his anxiety.

“You’re sure everything is okay?” She avoids his name, and Izuku feels guilt twist up in his belly. What excuse had he even given her last to cover up his identity? He couldn’t even remember.

He nods, looks at her big, round eyes and soft face. She looks so beautiful and wholesome, and Izuku wishes this could have happened a little differently. He takes her hand that is resting on the table, and she flushes gently. He figures there are only two ways to go about this, and just as he’s about to stumble through some long-winded explanation, that barrier-breaking Katsuki pops into his mind with a sword and a hot fist telling him to spit it the fuck out, so he exhales deeply and says, “My name is Midoriya Izuku and I’m the crown Prince of Kokyusenzai. I’m sorry I didn’t tell you sooner.”

Obviously, it’s not so simple. It takes about an hour of them talking to set the record straight, including a lot of moments of Izuku toying with the blooming flowers in the room and apologizing profusely. It’s a little messy and at times he grows hot with discomfort, but it’s not bad. Uraraka is patient and warm and listens to him when he explains himself. She seems to get it.

“When Lady Yaoyorozu came on your behalf a few weeks back, I was so confused!” She glances behind him, where the plant he gave her is growing on a shelf. “It all makes sense now.” She pauses thoughtfully, head cocked, eyes scanning Izuku’s face. “No offense, but you never seemed like the type to have connections with the Castle.”

Izuku smiles softly at that, unsure if it’s a good thing or not. He decides not to dwell on it, and instead he mumbles, “It’s all I really know. Thank you for being so understanding, Uraraka. I would love to stay your friend, after all this.”

She just laughs at him. “Who would turn down a friendship with the Prince?” she asks, and the sentiment behind her words twist uncomfortably in his stomach.

Izuku trusts Uraraka. She’s a good friend. He knows he doesn’t have to worry about her intentions – everyone else’s, however, he isn’t so sure.


Izuku decides he won’t bring up their conversation from the other day to Katsuki – he’s sure it was mostly his own insecurity making him feel so devastated by Katsuki’s words. Besides, Katsuki said it himself that he’s not a liar. Thus far, Izuku has no reason not to believe that. Katsuki is a taunt, and this is another challenge. Izuku has decided to just use what he felt for his own advantage. It’s why he went to see Uraraka. It’s why he’s going to go see Iida next. Instead of reminding Katsuki how he clammed up and grew hot with worry, on a Friday, he relays to Katsuki that he’s told one of his friends from the village his identity.

Katsuki smiles with something that can only be described as delight. He’s as cheeky as ever. “Good for you, Deku, now if your secret gets out, you can’t blame it on me.” He winks, grinning wickedly as he gently bumps shoulders with Izuku. He’s fiery and energized, ready to take on the day’s learnings and mold them until they’re his.

Here’s the truth: he’s a maddening provocation, a demanding trial of patience and drive, but Izuku wants to figure out every last bit of him.

Later, he watches Katsuki splash water on his face, the tips of his blonde hair hanging heavy in his eyes. His shoulders are rounded and muscular, and his sleeveless shirt shows off his triceps, tattooed and scarred and strong from battle. He looks undone here, like his walls are down. As a Knight, it’s customary for him to be holed up, covered in armor, impermeable. But Izuku has learned a thing or two about this man who he’s come to call his student, just as he had planned to all along. Katsuki doesn’t take no for an answer. He’s steadfast and staunch, like iron. A glinting front of solid metal, Katsuki seems to be the infrangible Knight the castle needs, but he relents, like an alloy with heat he bends and softens.

He stands and turns, catching Izuku’s eye. With a roll of his muscled shoulders he grins, knowing he’s being watched, and – that’s exactly what Izuku means. He lets a smile slip where there is normally a crease between his brow. He gives into the moment. That’s Katsuki. From here, Izuku can feel his Magic, brazen and blazing and ready to blow. How could a force like that have stayed repressed for his whole life? Everyone had told him since he was young that he was going to be the best, and yet, Katsuki himself had never really had a chance to pursue something for his own sake. It was metalsmithing for the family and Knighthood for the Kingdom.

Izuku gets caught up in his daydream, despite the fact that, no, this is real, and Katsuki is stretching his arms over his head in front of him, tall and brimming with energy and Magic. He’s unfolding like a bud in the sun. His Magic is becoming his own with each extra moment he focuses on it. Izuku is watching him brim with passion, and it’s beautiful. Iron to magnet he’s drawn with slow force, and there’s no turning back.

When Katsuki approaches and squats before him, he’s cheeky, one elbow on his knee to prop up his chin. “Looking at something interesting?”

Maybe Izuku’s emboldened by the sun that he feels like he’s always missing. Maybe he decides this game is always going to be worth playing. Maybe it’s because Katsuki’s Magic reaches for him with fiery tendrils of impetus that compel him always closer.

“Yeah,” Izuku breathes. He cocks his head. “You’re kind of a lot to take in, you know.”

Not really worth noting comes afterward, just the way Katsuki bites down on his lip and quirks his eyebrow.

Chapter Text

A couple of weeks ago, the clang of swords clashing probably would have made Izuku jump.

Today, however, the wind is stirring the petals of fallen sakura into pink tornados of spring, and he has a sense of power and confidence in his footing. He isn’t winning, per se, but he’s keeping up. It’s quite hard not to get distracted by the warm breeze in the trees and the smell of flowers enveloping the air, but he can’t afford to do anything but parry quickly. As long as he doesn’t want to end up with his back against the wall. Again.

He’s sure to stay light on his feet as he bounces atop the cobblestone. His sword and body feel connected as he blocks and thrusts.

By the time the spar has gone on long enough to make Izuku’s arms hurt, they end with a handshake.

“Well done, Midoriya. You’ve truly improved.”

Izuku grins sheepishly at his opponent, the formality of his family name sounding funny from a childhood friend. Nonetheless, the decorum is a sign of a true compliment. “Thank you, Todoroki . That means a lot coming from you.”

He means it. The fact that he can even come remotely close to keeping in step with Shouto, a Royal Knight, is a testament to his determination over the past few weeks. With Katsuki gaining more skill and adeptness each time they meet, Izuku figures he needs to have a thing or two up his sleeve to match Katsuki’s competitive nature.

Shouto goes to sit on the stone wall that encloses the garden, sheathing his sword and wiping the sweat from his brow. His face dons a wicked grin. “Working to impress that Knight of yours?”

Izuku blushes. Of mine? he wants to argue. He imagines Katsuki would have quite the bone to pick if he heard that sort of phrase. He hangs his head a bit as he comes to sit beside his friend. Izuku is heartened by their successful afternoon of practice and by the notion that sometimes Shouto needs his cheek handed back to him. He chooses to cock his head so his eyes glint playfully in the light and states, “The same way Yaomomo is training to impress you, I’m sure.”  

She’d been out in the field training everyday this week, rapidly becoming artful with a sword and oh so elegant on a horse. Frankly, she, like Shouto, managed to seem like she was born to have Magic and be a Knight. It makes Izuku wonder how the two worlds don’t collide more often outside of war.

Shouto looks away from him with a faint bit of color on his cheeks. His red and white hair falls onto either side of his face as he tips his nose up haughtily. “Lady Momo is training for herself.”

Izuku shrugs, just the slightest bit proud that for once, Shouto is the one who’s shifting in his seat. “She can have more than one reason to want to improve,” Izuku says, matter of fact. He pauses, looking at his friend in the soft light that fades in and out as the clouds roll over the sun. His face is expressionless now, cheekbones high, mismatched eyes not meeting Izuku’s. “You’re not so easy to keep up with, you know.”

There’s humor in his voice, and it’s enough to make Shouto crack a smile, surely thinking of how many times he was able to quickly knock Izuku’s sword straight out of his hands this afternoon. Clearly, Izuku’s having trouble himself. Shouto has always been a natural at Magic and swordsmanship. For the most part, it served as encouragement for Izuku – a reason to keep up. Nonetheless, he could be quite intimidating sometimes.

He’s sure their discourse and banter is going to continue, but speak of the devil, and there she appears, dressed in a red silken kimono for the change of the seasons. Momo’s shiny black hair is down and framing the sharp, captivating features of her face.

She waves to the two of them happily, entering the cobblestone enclosure and coming up to place a kiss on each of their cheeks. The sunlight dances in her hair. Next to him, Izuku notices Shouto shift in a way that’s unusual for him – he rarely loses his composure, especially around Momo, with whom he’s spent his entire life.

“Shall we walk?” she asks, and their answer is unspoken. A day like this one says it all. Izuku and Shouto, both having been a mixture of trusting and reckless, had been practicing without armor, so they stand at once. With their swords by their sides, the two of them flank Momo and begin to explore the castle’s gardens. The enclosure is a space they know well; it’s where they’d play when they were young. Izuku is amongst the main caretakers of it, but he admires it nonetheless. Spring always brings about a sense of rebirth; there’s always something new to be seen.

“It’s a beautiful day!” Izuku says cheerily. He’s in a pleasant mood, calm and warm. His friends make similar noises of affirmation. “Did you train this morning, Yaomomo?”

She nods. “Yes! Just on horseback, though. Sensei wants me to be a well-versed equestrian should I ever reach official status of Knighthood. We were jumping courses.” Her voice sounds a little disappointed.

“That’s bullshit,” Shouto mutters. “He’s just making you do that because you’re a woman. You should really say something, Momo.”

Momo blushes. “That’s not true!” Her indignance fails her. Mostly, she sounds just as disheartened as him.

He sends her a pointed look. “How come I never had to learn anything like that, then? Being a Knight is about discipline, honor, and how well you can wield a sword – not whether you can jump a three foot fence on the most well-tempered mare in Kokyusenzai. You should say something,” he reiterates. “If you don’t, I will.”

She huffs a bit. “I can do it on my own just fine.”

“Then you should,” says Shouto earnestly. It’s quite clear to Izuku that he just wants what’s best for her. Her potential is unbounded, after all.

“Momo, I think you should, too!’ Izuku pipes up. “I’ve seen you fight so much lately, you deserve approval straight away. I can talk to the Queen, if you like…”

“No, thank you.” She stares straight ahead, the wind blowing hair in her eyes. “I’d like to do this the proper way. I want to become a Royal Knight without the help of, well, being Royal, if you understand.”
“Of course,” Izuku says. “You can do it!”

She flashes him one of her beautiful smiles, cocking her head slightly. “Speaking of Knights, how’s… what’s his name, Bakugou?”

“Oh!” Izuku says with a start. He rubs the back of his neck and quickly stops to prune some of the dead leaves he sees on the tsubaki flowers, red buds about ready to burst with spring. This is something his friends are used to. He’s always ducking aside to straighten up plants with Magic or use his hands to turn the dead parts to fertilizer. “H-he’s, um, good! He’s good, I think. I mean, I haven’t seen him in a day or two.”

Just because he can’t help himself, he makes a few of the tsubakis bloom.

Shouto stares at him with knowing eyes. “The flower of perfect love,” he says dryly.

Izuku flushes red, standing up right in an instant. “Shush! I–I don’t love him, gosh.”

Momo bumps her hip into him. “But you do like him, right?”

Izuku immediately becomes flustered, because he feels a lot of things about Katsuki. Like is probably one of them, but he’s not really sure how to explain it. He tugs on his hair a bit. “I guess?” he squeaks.

Shouto rolls his eyes. “I guess? C’mon, Izuku, you’re with the guy every other day.”

Izuku squirms, still warm from his spar from before and flushed at all this attention. “We’re teaching each other!” he splutters. “There’s a lot to cover.”

Momo swings an arm around his shoulder. “It’s okay, Izuku. I told you already, I think he’s cute. He being nicer?”

Shouto narrows his eyes protectively. “Was he being anything less than that before, Izuku?”

Izuku waves his hands around frantically. He’d been updating Shouto on quite a bit of things, but he’d tried his best to leave Katsuki’s attitude out of his stories. “He’s very nice, I swear! He’s got a funny way of showing it, but I think he really cares about me!”

He’s frenzied and frenetic, feeling a bit ridiculous, but it’s true. Katsuki is cocky and arrogant, but it’s an impressive front – especially toward Izuku. Their past few days together had been calm and full of patience and snacks from the castle. He’d even allowed Izuku to take some time out of their day to teach him the names of all the plants that were blooming in early April.

“I’m happy for you,” Momo declares.

“Since you’re making so much progress on that front,” Shouto starts, voice pointed and nearly bored, “how’s the whole telling-the-entire-Kingdom-that-you’re-the-Prince thing going?”

Izuku frowns. Jeez, he’s bitchy today. He had a sneaking suspicion that it had something to do with their little Momo conversation, but he isn’t about to push that topic any further. “I actually am making progress!” Izuku insists. “I’ve told a couple of my friends in the village now! They were all really understanding.”

He’d gone back to see Uraraka once more as well as tell Iida, and the workers at the bakery and bookshop. It’s not outstanding progress or anything, but Izuku is still plenty nervous about what coming out entails. He may be avoiding another conversation with his mom, just a little bit.

Momo squeezes his shoulder as they walk, arm still tightly around his shoulder. Shouto, however, is clearly waiting for more of an explanation. He’s not so sure why Shouto wants him to get on with it so badly. Maybe it’s the Knight in him, worried for the security of the Kingdom.

Izuku pauses and sighs. “You know, my mom wants me to get married.” He had been trying not to think about it, but that’s another reality behind all of this. Once the news is out, he’s not exactly going to be in charge of his own life anymore. He’s going to have to make appearances and speeches and sit in on more meetings than he does now.

“Well, speaking of Bakugou…” Momo trails teasingly.

Izuku swats her arm. “Shush! That’s not why I brought it up!”

She laughs melodically, and Izuku watches Shouto’s eyes follow her as her head tips back with glee. “I’m teasing. Is it really news, though? It’s not like you didn’t know you were Prince all this time. Of course you’re to marry!”

Izuku hangs his head, blush intensifying. “I know, I know! It’s just the reality of it, it’s finally sinking in!”

“You’ll make a wonderful husband, Izuku,” Shouto says. “Now want to go raid the kitchen?” Clearly, he’s done with this conversation. He speaks with a mischievous glint in his eyes, and the three of them agree in silence. Then, they’re kids again. When they were young, they often had nothing better to do. They’d devise plans that they thought were absolute genius, and sort of wreaked a bit of havoc inside the castle walls. Since it was wartime, they would get in trouble for eating so much. Supplies were always low, but Shouto had this thing for pissing off his dad. He liked to track dirt in his room and intentionally misplace his sword, say swear words when he shouldn’t and slurp loudly at the dinner table when his father was trying to talk. Nonetheless, the pranks of eleven-year-old Todoroki and Midoriya went down in fame. Though now, at twenty, Shouto tends to spend his spare time drinking tea instead of actually letting out his angst.

The three of them secretly lived for moments like this, after a lifetime of Royal expectations, of being told to be complacent and to “stay in line.”

They have quite a nice snack, that afternoon.

 


 

 

They’d been practicing long range attacks, but lately they’ve been doing a lot of talking. The breaks slip in naturally, like all the pauses are meant to be filled with quick quips and soft words. Part of Izuku wants to point out how much they’ve just been… hanging out, for lack of a better word, but he gets the feeling that that might irritate Katsuki, so he just keeps the moments for himself. Waits for them, even. Katsuki is smart and thoughtful, always willing to question.

Right now, they are beneath a tree again, because the sun is quite strong after a winter spent mostly indoors. Izuku sits with his legs criss-crossed, head propped up on one arm as he listens to Katsuki talk. He’s really rather distracting, in tight pants and a button down only done up to just above his belly button. His pecs shift as he leans forward adjust his back, and Izuku may have to look away. He’s so attractive in the midday light, jaw strong, lips pursed in thought, eyes wickedly red and devilishly knowing. Okay, Izuku likes him, he’s accepted that now, but yeah – he might want him a little bit, too.

He blinks hard to snap out of it, because he cares about what Katsuki is talking about. He’s discussing Magic again, as they often do, ignoring the fact that he’s a walking miracle for still having it at all and instead focusing on how he’s going to make it his own. “I want to be the right hand man, you know. The guy people rely on, who gives advice. But to be a hero, I’ve gotta be the best.”

Izuku doesn’t dare bring up the fact that he, as the King, one day will be the person calling the shots and receiving that aid.

“I know we aren’t supposed to use Magic in war,” Katsuki continues, “I fucking get it, it can lead to corruption and danger and shit. But I think my magic is fucking important. Hell, combustion is good for building, and clearing, and it’s badass as hell. I don’t know, I just think sometimes we could put up a damn good fight with it.” Katsuki wears an annoyed expression, and his knit eyebrows and strong shoulders are sexy. He looks like he wants to do something about it.

Izuku stares at him, eyes twinkling. “I agree with you. And there’s something just beautiful about it, right?” He knows he’s a romantic, but with Katsuki, he’s safe. Katsuki is a major tease with quite the attitude, but he always listens and never hates. Like this, Izuku feels that he always learns the most. That’s the thing about Katsuki – as snappy and aggressive he may be, most of his words are overblown. Izuku’s not so sure he’s disparaging at all. Merely quick to speak. “Magic can take on the form of your emotions. The heat and energy you expel will always have the potential to be transformed into something new. It’s one of the first things we learn! Each action has an equal and opposite reaction. To make, you have to give.” He grins, bubbling forward with excitement. Magic does that to him. Teaching does that to him. “Think about all the things your Magic can be that you haven’t even explored yet!”

Katsuki gives him a look then, one that involves a cocked head and a deep stare of crimson. His eyebrows come together for just a moment, and then he says, decidedly, “You know, you’re not a bad teacher, nerd.”

Their faces are close, so close. Katsuki had come forward to stare, and now Izuku has to try so hard not to let his gaze flicker down to his lips. He allows his eyes to flutter shut and reopen, and for a second, he thinks about leaning in. The air around them is thick, like honey straight from the comb, and just as sweet. Katsuki smells like cinnamon and mulled wine, and it would so easy to just tilt his face and cup his cheek but – he panics. That’s not a risk he’s willing to take just yet.

“So!” he squeaks, basically jolting backwards and going to rifle through his bag that’s leaning against the tree. He glances at Katsuki for just a second from beneath his green hair that’s falling into his eyes. He looks… nonplussed. A little amused, a little perplexed at what just unfolded, but really he just wears the same smirk he always does. Lips quirked up at the corner. Soft blond hair rustling in the wind. Necklaces sitting prettily on his collarbones. Ruby centered amongst them. Biceps–

Yeah, Izuku looks away.

“Did you bring something like I told you?” Izuku is very much aware that his voice is disastrously high-pitched. How fitting to match his red cheeks.

Katsuki just chuckles and pulls out a small knife from his pocket. He holds it out for Izuku to inspect. It’s a delicate silver with a subtle engravement of plum blossoms, inlaid with what looks like red tigers eye. Izuku knows both the flower and the stone well. Perseverance, hope, insight, confidence, strength. Powerful symbols for such a small weapon.

“Did you make this?” Izuku asks.

Katsuki snorts. “Tch. Course.”

“Do you feel ready?” Izuku asks. Katsuki answers him with a gaze that seems as though it would accept any challenge. That, or it’s saying stop asking so many damn questions . Izuku hands him back the blade and takes a deep breath. “Once you master your own Magic – and I really think you’re well on your way – you’ll start to pick up other types. Like, spell casting and emotional Magic. Think of that like willing, like manifestation. Basically, those types of Magic exist within everyone who has even a little bit of Magic, it doesn’t matter what type. So you and I,” he says, gesturing between them, taking note of how close they still are, “essentially have the same capacity for that. Which is pretty cool if you ask me!”

He’s expecting Katsuki’s face to read something like, Get to the point already, stupid nerd, but he’s watching Izuku carefully. Listening intently. Izuku considers that maybe this is stuff he doesn’t know. He continues, “But it won’t really work unless you believe in it. I know that sounds sort of goofy, but just think about it as having, um, pure intentions. If your intentions are true, it should go well! My mother and I have studied this a lot , and that’s basically one of the reasons we don’t use Magic in war. Of course, we don’t want to taint it, ‘cause that can lead to some real nasty stuff for the user, but it can also become super dangerous when it’s fueled by darkness.”

Katsuki is nodding along carefully, as if weighing over the idea in his mind. “Makes sense,” he grunts. “So how’s it done?”

He’s clearly eager, and Izuku grins. On a whim, he takes Katsuki’s hand and folds it carefully over the dagger. His fingers are warm, and Izuku stays holding them as he speaks, looking into those red eyes firmly, because this is important. “First find your Magic, wherever it is in you. Focus on that place and send whatever you feel to your hands. Your hands are the transfer point here – it’s gonna go from your fingers to that knife. Then you just have to concentrate on whatever emotion you want to convey, and that’s pretty much it.”

He’s sheepish as he removes his hand and concludes sloppily. Katsuki raises an annoyed eyebrow at him. “That’s it?”

Izuku scratches the back of his head. “Well… yeah! I can’t really explain it further than that. You’ll just know.”

Katsuki grumbles. “Don’t make me take back what I said about you being a good teacher, you idiot. Can’t you elaborate a little?”

Izuku shrugs and smiles at him. “It’s very personal. Don’t worry, Katsuki, I know you can do it! You already took your tiny bit of Magic and made it huge – all you need is a spark to start a fire, you know? This is no different. Just focus, and your Magic will move, I promise!”

Katsuki grits his teeth and closes his eyes. “Fine. Can I get a little space?”

Izuku jolts. “Oh, yeah, of course! I’m sorry!”

He gets up from underneath the tree and heads several feet away to fiddle with his Magic, building a bridge of vines to cross the river just for fun. He usually doesn’t like to manipulate plants into tools, so he covers the branch in flowers so that no one will cross. Not that many people live in Chukan, anyway.

He lets Katsuki be for maybe fifteen or so minutes, and once he’s about to go check on him, he’s shocked by a tap on his shoulder. He’s really not sure how Katsuki is so good at sneaking up on him. Sure, Izuku might have been distracted, but it’s not exactly like Katsuki is delicate or light on his feet.

“Oh! How’d you do?” Izuku asks him, looking up and shielding his eyes from the sun. Katsuki’s face is surprisingly neutral – he’d expected either triumphant or furious.

Katsuki is soon squatting down next to him, his exposed chest shining in the sun and fierce eyes glowing. Their faces are close once again, and Izuku has to hold his breath. Before he knows it, his hand is grasped, fingers closed around hot metal. It buzzes actively in his hold, despite Katsuki’s lingering touch on his fist. “For you, nerd,” Katsuki grunts. “In case you ever need a bit of backup in a fight, you’ll have a piece of me.” At last, he smirks. “And I don’t lose.”

He backs away with what feels like the wind, and in Izuku’s hand the knife of silver and red tigers eye swells with emotional Magic, buzzing confidence, strength, perseverance, confidence, strength, perseverance…

 


 

 

A few days later, and Izuku is basking in the fair weather. He’d nervously shed his shirt because he was sweating so much after the combined exertion of the ride over and their first half hour of practice. With pointed confidence, he declared they take a break, and now sits with the ends of his pants rolled up and his legs in the water. Though there’s not much of a breeze in the valley, the water cools him.

“Come put your feet in, it’s nice!” he calls to Katsuki, who’s currently practicing concentrating his explosions onto smaller, more precise targets. Basically, he’s just shattering rocks, and the noise is really starting to affect the ambiance.

Katsuki turns to bark over his shoulder, “I’m sure it’s fuckin’ freezing! I ain’t splashin’ around in that river. April’s barely fuckin’ spring.”

He sets off another explosion with his Magic, and Izuku harrumphs. “Quit being so childish and come here! The flowers would beg to differ about the season, Kacchan.” All around him are purple violets and chrysanthemum creeping their way toward the nourishing water of the river.

Katsuki snaps around with vigor and approaches, stomping. Got him.

“Kacchan?” Katsuki grunts, clearly annoyed, but he’s peeling off his boots nonetheless.

“Hey, we sort of knew each other when we were kids, right?” asks Izuku, tipping his head back all the way over his shoulders to stare at an upside down Katsuki rolling his pants up and peeling his sweat-soaked shirt off. “It’s fitting, since you’re always acting like a baby.”

At that, Katsuki plops down next to him so their hips and shoulders bump, sticks an open palm right above the surface of the water, and sets off an explosion. It sort of backfires on him in the long run, because they both get soaked. “The fuck?” he asks, but it’s light. Dare Izuku think, warm.

“See,” Izuku giggles, bravely tipping his head onto Katsuki’s shoulder, “you just proved my point, Kacchan. ” He points at the water and looks up at Katsuki from underneath his eyelashes. “Childish.”

“Tch,” is all Katsuki says, and he nudges their arms together. Izuku dares to keep his head on Katsuki’s shoulder, and they just sit for a moment, spring enveloping them with soft, new arms. The water is rushing fast from the season’s snowmelt, and it’s splashing up around both of their calves, splattering their pants with lines and dots.

When Izuku picks up his head, he asks, “See, this is nice, right? Don’t you want to relax a little bit?”

Katsuki rolls his shoulders backwards, flexing his lats and delts. “Oi, nerd, I don’t know if you realize, but we’ve been relaxing plenty. This training is nothing compared to what the military puts you through.”

Izuku pouts even though he’s fully aware that Katsuki’s right. “ Hey, it’s not nothing.”

Katsuki elbows him with a gentle, playful smile. Izuku feels a rush of butterflies unleashing from their cocoons right in the center of his stomach. He almost worries to open his mouth again, for he fears they might spill out. “You know what I mean. Either way, I’m relaxed, okay?”

Izuku is not so sure. There’s an energy in Katsuki that seems to never fizzle. He’s always working on something. There’s a persistent line that likes to reappear between his eyebrows. Not to mention how angry he is when he fails, and how eager he is to learn whatever’s next. He’s consistently tuned in – just like when he dared to call out Izuku for not being forthright about his status as Prince, to both him and others. His passion is beautiful, but perhaps not so much relaxed. Indeed, Izuku would beg to differ.

“You’re saying there’s not a day where you want to enjoy the moment of peace we’re in?” he presses. “A day you don’t have to fight or spar or swing a sword at all?”
Katsuki shrugs, but he’s not looking Izuku in the eye, so there’s no real way to know if he’s lying or not. “Not really. We were expecting fuckin’ peace after the last war, weren’t we? Can never be too prepared. I ain’t takin’ no risks, not with those crazy fuckers we fought. You didn’t see it up close.”

His voice drops off by the end, and Izuku wonders if this is an appropriate place to pry or not. He fiddles with his fingers. Of course he’d heard many stories throughout a lifetime of war meetings and council sessions, but Katsuki’s right. He doesn’t really know what they face out there head to head. He hasn’t seen it with his own two eyes. He’s not quite sure when he ever will. He decides to push. If Katsuki doesn’t want to share, he’ll just say no. He’s sure they’re in that place, by now.

“Well, maybe you could tell me some stuff?” he asks nervously, kicking his feet about in the water. “I mean… it’s not too long til I’m in a real position of power, and I want to know. Even if I’ve never fought, I at least want to be able to understand better.”

He turns his gaze, grinning hopefully, to look at Katsuki. His ashy blonde hair is glowing golden in the sun. His taut body gorgeous as he slouches forward. On his round, toned bicep sits a tattoo, a stark and thick rendition of his family crest. He wears earrings like daggers today, and they make him look fierce. A warrior. The sight of him makes Izuku suck in a heavy breath.

Maybe Katsuki doesn’t realize, or maybe he doesn’t care, but aside from their first few moments when they arrived, they don’t practice a single thing that afternoon. They only share stories over the hushed music of the river that keeps them company. It’s a grim few hours, full of tales of death and danger and vengeance, but Izuku owes Katsuki for a whole load of things. The fact that he is even willing to go here with him, to this place of dark memories and trauma no one really wants to recount, means a lot. Izuku considers, perhaps he can repay him by going there, too. Another time, he’ll share his own stories – not just soldiers are victims of war.  

More and more, Izuku thinks, Katsuki looks like the leader he’s striving so hard to be. Izuku knows that he’s going to have to work exceptionally hard to keep up, because he’s very well aware that he’s next. Even though they exist within different realms of leadership, this all feels very parallel. Izuku takes a glance next to him, and decides that this isn’t something he’d mind keeping pace with.

 


 

Hearing Katsuki’s stories serve as a reminder of how smart Izuku’s mother is. Even though the world didn’t know about Izuku, Izuku surely knew about the world, and kitchen raids aside, he spent his childhood studying hard. He, Shouto, and Yaomomo spent hours at round tables discussing war strategy and resource management. They were groomed for the future and invested in their home. Izuku knows very well what Inko was thinking when she arranged all of this. Despite the fact that nearly every leader wants to be well-received, she made sure that she was both kind and likeable, though that is really not all too far off from her true nature. She was aware that not everyone on the front lines of a war might understand all of her strategies, and her good-natured approached compensated for it. The ban on Magic in war, for example, often displeased her soldiers. With a warm hearted approach to her explanation, she was always able to leave out some details. A queen never tells all her secrets.

The Second Thirty Year War was marked by attacks on food supplies, weapon stores, and civilian farmlands. Inko intentionally excluded Magic from the war because when it’s used for evil, it’s never strong enough – a facet of Magic that not too many people understand, not even those fighting for her. But it worked. And it raised morale, keeping casualties low on both sides. She had been hard and fast from day one about not repeating the events of the first war. It had taken so many people from her.

It didn’t take long for the first few battles of the second war to claim her husband. She had always been the face of the Kingdom, but the loss had disrupted the confidence. Hisashi was not missed all too much by Inko, for he knew the betrayal of a wife more than that of a Kingdom. Nonetheless, the Midoriyas had fought with no Magic at all to prove a point:

They were strong, and they would never go down with a fight. Not even Magic could take down their civilians.

They didn’t need Magic to be powerful.

 


 

On the third day of training in a row, Izuku finally breaks. He’s exhausted from it all, so surely Katsuki has to be, too.

He’s there, waiting for Izuku by the stable like he always is, but instead of preparing for their ride to Chukan, Izuku walks wordlessly in front of him, leads his horse into the barn, and has one of the hands untack it. Katsuki just watches him go, but when Izuku returns he’s met with a frown and angry crossed arms.

“The fuck?” Katsuki asks. “You tryin’ to fucking walk to the Valley? Because that’s gonna take a damn minute.”

It had taken Izuku essentially all week to decide to work up the courage to even go through with this plan, so it doesn’t exactly help to know that Katsuki is going to be both angry and attractive while he attempts to execute it. Nonetheless, he perseveres as he rolls his eyes. “I basically told you this already, but I really think you’re working too hard.”

Katsuki huffs, crossed arms seemingly growing tighter. His biceps bulge in his silk, navy shirt. “Uh, first of all, Deku, dipshit, all you do is work, so don’t be a damn hypocrite. Second of all, isn’t that what we’re here to do? Fuckin’ work?”

He looks away from Izuku’s gaze, and Izuku has to focus quite hard to stop his face from falling. He can’t tell if Katsuki is being indignant or not. He decides not to point out the fact that they’ve been doing much more than just working. Not to mention, it was his idea to get together nearly every day this week. Stick with the plan , Izuku tells himself. He’d already thought this over, anyway. It’s not like he hadn’t considered rejection when this idea came to him. Especially since he’s attempting to work with someone as stubborn as Katsuki.

“Can’t we just hang out?” Izuku presses. “There’s something fun we can do.”

Katsuki snorts, but his eyes turn back to Izuku’s, accompanied by that glint of curiosity that Izuku has come to know quite well. “Whatever, nerd. If I ain’t ready for the next war, it’s on you, Prince.”

Talk about a double entendre. He ignores it and mumbles a thing or two under his breath about Magic needing both practice and time to improve. He turns to start walking but doesn’t hear footsteps follow behind him. No, Katsuki is still standing there, arms firmly crossed, irritation written across his face like it’s the only emotion he’s ever known.

“Are you coming?” Izuku asks.

“Are you gonna tell me what the hell we’re doing?”

Izuku blows out some air. “Jeez, you really don’t know how to relax. I’ll tell you when we’re closer. We’re staying in the castle today, okay?”

He watches as Katsuki grows a bit stiff, but he straightens his shoulders and uncrosses his arm with confidence. “Fine,” he mutters, and follows Izuku back up the pathway toward the castle on the hill.

Izuku is nervous, so he takes Katsuki to the gardens. They perch themselves on a bench, and Katsuki looks around in wonder. “You do this?” he grunts.

Izuku smiles sheepishly. “Most of it,” he all but whispers.

He watches Katsuki swallow. “Nice work.”

“Can I show you around?” Izuku is toying with the lace of his shirt as he speaks, suddenly overwhelmed with nerves. He hadn’t fully considered what hanging out with Katsuki would be like in an unfamiliar context. The last time that had happened must have been the banquet, and Izuku wasn’t exactly composed that night.

Katsuki meets his eyes with an ardent stare. “You sure that it’s okay that I’m here?”

He likely asks out of courtesy, the kind he has to have as Knight. Izuku smirks at him, feeling playful and bold. Sometimes, Katsuki is too easy. “I thought you didn’t give a fuck that I’m the Prince. This is just my house, right?”

Katsuki huffs, but his eyes say touché, and he follows Izuku willingly through a tour of the garden.

Izuku didn’t expect it to be so easy to be at home with Katsuki, someone usually so brash and intrusive. Instead, he listens as Izuku explains how to take care of fruit bearing trees, accepts graciously when Izuku grows strawberries to snack on right in front of his eyes. Izuku catches his gaze on him quite a bit, but he writes it off as more of a symptom of being at the Castle, where there are guards and high walls closing in on them.

“What do you think, Kacchan?” Izuku asks once they’ve made it all the way through the maze of shrubbery. He plops himself in the soft grass and crosses his legs, staring up at the man before him. Izuku’s beneath Katsuki’s shadow, who towers golden in daylight, all hard muscle and delicate clothing. He’s dressed simply, that silk shirt tucked in to white, flowing pants that cinch at his boots.

Katsuki crouches beside him, and Izuku squints in the new light, only to be distracted by Katsuki’s face coming in so close to his own. His eyes stay darting around Izuku’s face. “What do I think, huh?” He looks all around him as he seats himself at Izuku’s side, so their arms and legs touch. Izuku’s breath nearly hitches at the proximity. That smirk of his appears, and he remarks, “Your plant Magic is nerdy, but I like it. This place is beautiful.”

Izuku beams. “Thank you, Kacchan! I work hard on it! It’s why I love spring so much.”

Katsuki says nothing, just smiles fondly and stares at the castle that erupts out of the ground in front of them. “Can’t believe you fuckin’ live in this place,” he says after some moments filled with only the sound of the wind and the birds that ride it. “Ever get lonely?”

His voice is unusually soft. Izuku shrugs in response. “Not really. I was lucky to have good friends growing up who also lived here. Of course, they were able to leave, but it’s not like I was always alone. Just… secret, I guess.” He smiles softly while Katsuki mulls over his words. “My two best friends who lived with me are Sir Todoroki Shouto –” Katsuki rolls his eyes at the name “– oh don’t make that face – and Lady Yaoyorozu Momo. Do you not like Todoroki?”

“That fucker thinks he’s the shit,” Katsuki grumbles.

“Kacchan, you also act that way.”

Then Izuku is being shoved into the grass, and Katsuki’s hovering over him with a snarl. Their noses nearly touching, he mutters, “Oi, nerd. I am the shit. Don’t you forget it.” Izuku bursts out laughing even though a grumpy Katsuki growls above him. “This ain’t funny!”

“Yes, it is! You’re so full of yourself!”

Katsuki leans a little closer. “You saying I don’t have a reason to be?”

Izuku holds his breath, eyes shining up at pools of red. “Never, Kacchan,” he giggles.

“Tch, that’s what I thought.” A moment later he’s grabbing Izuku’s hand so he sits upright again, and Izuku has to try not to melt into the warmth of his touch. It should be aggressive, but instead it’s gentle, pulling Izuku like he’s something delicate. “So those are the friends you blab about all the time. You hang out with the two of them a lot? I know their faces. Didn’t really put two and two together that the Royals would be your friends.”

Izuku smiles fondly at the thought of his companions. “I did everything with them when we were younger. As we got older they started to do more stuff on their own, especially because they were allowed to leave and I wasn’t, but we still make time for each other. We have tea at least once a week. They’re good people. I love them!” He pauses. “How are Kirishima and Kaminari?”

“Fuckin’ stupid,” Katsuki responds. Izuku nudges him, saying seriously? “Nah, they’re fine. They’ve been stuffing their faces and hanging out at home, mostly. They like the time off.”

“Oh, so they’ve been relaxing?” Izuku teases. “How foolish!”

“Shut up, nerd,” Katsuki grumbles.

Izuku jumps to his feet. “Nope! Time to go!”

He holds out his hand and helps Katsuki to his feet, relishing in the few moments where their palms meet. Magic sparks between them. Izuku swears he imagines it, but before Katsuki lets go, he swipes a gentle thumb over the inside of Izuku’s wrist. Goosebumps race up his arm to his shoulder.

“Where we are we going?” asks Katsuki from Izuku’s side.

Izuku blushes despite himself. “Just – um. You’ll see, okay?”

Katsuki raises his eyes in suspicion, but still, like always, he follows.  

They go through a back door and round several corners, only passing guards and staff who don’t bat an eyelash at them. They stop at a set of great arched doors, and heat radiates from behind them. The guard greets Izuku, “Your Highness.”

Izuku’s hot blush returns with fervor, but he speaks nonetheless. “Sir, please allow no one to join us. We’ll be needing the space for the rest of the afternoon.”

The guard just nods, standing straight up, spear in hand. “Of course, Your Highness.”

Izuku pushes the doors open, and they’re greeted by a puff of steam. Once it clears, they stand in an open room with bamboo floors and large boulders. In the center are two steaming hot springs, warm and inviting. The whole space smells like eucalyptus, which grows tall by the wall up to the ceiling, where a sky light illuminates the whole space.

“Hot springs?” Katsuki mutters, taking in the space, eyebrows raised once again.

Izuku smiles sheepishly, wringing his hands. “I thought it would help you relax!” he squeaks.

Katsuki gives him a look.

“I’m serious! It’s good for you! And your shoulders are always so tense!”

Katsuki chuckles, deep and low, and starts to undo the buttons of his shirt as he walks over to the area with towels and storage. As he sits to unlace his boots, he looks up at Izuku, who’s frozen in place. “You coming?”

Izuku scrambles. “Ah! Yeah, uh. Sorry, I-I just zoned out.”

Katsuki smirks, walking behind a shoji screen to strip. Izuku disappears behind his own, cursing himself for not realizing how flustered he would become in this situation. He ties his towel firmly around his waist, and by the time he emerges, Katsuki’s towel is on the floor by the pool, and his body is submerged in hot water, head tipped back, lips just separated.

“Hurry up, idiot.”

His blush is unrelenting, and Katsuki, for once polite, closes his eyes as Izuku drops his towel and makes haste to get in the water. Beyond the awkwardness of changing, it’s beautifully peaceful. The trickle of water through bamboo tubes makes a gentle music, and they’re enveloped in a haze of steam, warm and sweetly smelling of eucalyptus. He takes a moment to look at Katsuki, who’s the most peaceful Izuku’s ever seen him. His head is still tipped back past his shoulders, eyelashes touching his cheeks, elbows propped up on the ledge of the pool. His arms are built and strong, his fingertips dragging in the water.

In the warmth, Izuku sees phosphenes in the mist – the colors, light perceived by the eye where there is none, even though it seems to envelope him. Katsuki is bathed in blue and pink and a warm yellow.

He’s interrupted by a flash of red and another pointed, toothy smile. “You got a bad habit of staring, Deku.” Izuku hopes his blush is masked by the heat of the springs. “That and fuckin’ muttering.”

Izuku just chuckles awkwardly. “Ah, sorry. I was just – is this okay? That we’re here?”

They’re not sitting too far apart, but Katsuki scoots closer. Rolls his neck to the side to look at Izuku in a way that seems to say, are you kidding? “Chill, nerd. This is awesome. Glad you got me to come.” He lets out a soft breath. “Feels good.”

Izuku grins triumphantly, and he raises his arms up to mimic Katsuki’s position. Their arms don’t touch, but their pinkies do, and Izuku swears he feels the red string pulling on the end of his finger. He makes to close his eyes, but then Katsuki’s linking their pinkies, locking them tight. Izuku glances at him nervously, but Katsuki’s eyes are closed. His sharp collar bones shine with water, his chest rising and falling with his breath. Atop his wet, glistening skin sits the ruby Izuku gave him. Like always.

Izuku feels a tenseness in his body despite the warm water all around them, his back stiffening, his heart rate picking up. He stares at the ripples in the water, not totally sure what to do next. Before he has a chance to overthink it, Katsuki is pulling his hand beneath the surface and tangling their fingers for real. “Oi, nerd. You’re so uptight, you know? Thought we were supposed to be relaxing.”

“Hah, yeah,” Izuku breathes. His knuckles are against Katsuki’s bare leg underneath the water. Calming down isn’t exactly easy.

Katsuki growls in annoyance and scoots closer so their legs touch. He uses his free hand to cup Izuku’s cheek, thumb brushing underneath his eye. “Deku. Relax. ‘Kay?”

Izuku nods, and then Katsuki’s free hand is gone, the other now resting on Izuku’s leg, entwined with his own. Quiet wraps them up again, and Izuku chooses to focus on the thumb rubbing on the knuckle of his pointer finger.

“Kacchan,” Izuku says after a while, “you really are the best, you know. Thanks for coming with me even though I wouldn’t tell you what we were doing.”

“Shut up, don’t thank me for that.”

“Still–”

“Deku. I’m the one thanking you. Now try to enjoy yourself, I can still feel you freaking out.”

“W-well–” Izuku splutters. He tightens his grip on Katsuki’s hand.

“That bothering you?” Katsuki murmurs, opening his eyes to look at Izuku. A blush illuminates the freckles scattered across his cheeks.

“No!” Izuku says. Still, Katsuki drops his hand. Izuku’s heart sinks and swells in an instant, because next he finds one hand in his hair and the other back cupping his cheek. The water jostles with the movement.

“Can I kiss you, then?” Katsuki asks, looking away. “Figure I should ask, since you’re the Prince and all.”

Izuku gapes. “Kiss me?” he repeats.

He swears Katsuki blushes. He looks so inviting then, red eyes filled with reflections of the water, pink lips slightly parted, skin soft and shimmering with a light sweat. The hand in Izuku’s hair cards through the curls gently. “Is there a damn problem?” Katsuki demands. “You’re the one who’s already gotten me naked.”

“No, I–”

“Good,” grumbles Katsuki, and then he kisses him. The race they’ve been running, the game they’ve been playing, hurdles to an end. This must be what’s at the finish line, because they’re suddenly crashing into each other. There are colors flashing behind Izuku’s eyes, and Katsuki’s hand is so gently moving through his hair, the other hot on his cheek. Izuku doesn’t even have time to be awkward; he’s pliant under Katsuki’s mouth, moving against his slowly at first, but then, it’s everything all at once. Katsuki slips his tongue into his mouth, and Izuku can’t help but suck in a deep breath through his nose. A chill runs up his back when Katsuki’s hand runs down his neck, and he’s suddenly reminded how naked they are.

He nearly whines when Katsuki pulls his mouth away, but it winds up on his neck, kissing lightly enough to make Izuku desperate. There’s a hand running across his chest, down his arm. For the most part, his mind has gone blank, but in an instance of clarity he says breathily, “You know, t-this is pretty erotic for a first kiss.”

“First kiss?” Katsuki replies, breath just as heavy as he moves his mouth up and down Izuku’s jaw. His head tips farther back instinctually. He wants Katsuki everywhere.

He lets out a gasp when Katsuki starts to mouth at the shell of his ear. “Yeah I-I’ve never–”

“It’s okay, Deku. I’ve wanted you for so long. Lemme kiss you, okay? I wanna kiss you, baby.” He places a sloppy trail of kisses from Izuku’s temple to the corner of his mouth. “You’re so – fuck.”

Then he’s kissing Izuku again, tongue in his mouth, steam rising up all around them.

“Wait,” Izuku manages to say, pulling back. Maybe it’s the heat that’s getting to him or the confidence boost that’s born from Katsuki running his hands all over his sides and chest, but he asks, “I’m so what?”

“I dunno,” Katsuki mumbles, kissing his neck. “Fuck, you’re–” He grips a strong hand in Izuku’s hair and looks into his eyes. Red stares back at him, glassy. Pupils blown. The red of his cheeks complimenting them perfectly. He’s a vision. “You’re amazing, I dunno.”

Izuku’s breath hitches, and he finally remembers that he has hands, too. He runs his palms on those fucking biceps and that chest and lets himself be kissed. Beneath the water, a fleeting hand runs up and down his obliques, sneaks close to his waist where his cock is now hard. A thumb flicks at his nipple, and he shudders.

Izuku lets himself be touched, wrapped up in the man who seems to be strong enough to never have to let go.

Chapter Text

Izuku’s seeing in patterns, a shift from black to red to black and back to red again. His eyes are squeezed shut, letting the pleasure that starts at his jaw run down his body like the crashing of a wave, building up and then releasing all at once. He lets out a gasp, and when he dares to opens his eyes, there’s Katsuki, hovering over his face, smirking with his bitten-red lips to match that red gaze.

“Feel good, Deku?” Katsuki rumbles, knowing he’s teasing.

Kacchan,” Izuku gasps, unable to say much else. Katsuki had gotten him out of his shirt more than fifteen minutes ago, and since then time has melted into a rushing whirlpool of quick breaths lost to the walls of Izuku’s bedroom.

He can’t even keep track of where Katsuki moves his mouth, only fists his hands into his silk sheets and lets it happen. Before he can even dream of catching his breath, Katsuki is by his ear, weight heavy and hot on Izuku’s lap, and he’s whispering, “You like being kissed, baby?”

Izuku bites his lip to stifle a moan and only manages to sigh, “Yes,” before Katsuki is kissing his way across Izuku’s collarbones. “I like you, Kacchan.”

The chuckle that escapes Katsuki’s mouth reverberates all the way across Izuku’s skin from where warm lips are pressed to his sternum. Izuku knows that he’s probably falling apart too easily, but he and Katsuki have been making out and not talking about it for ten days now, so he just lets go. It’s too good not to. Not with that look in Katsuki’s eye. Not with the way he’s been leaving fleeting touches all over Izuku’s body. And ones that are not so ephemeral, too.

Like now, for instance. He’s dragging his mouth slow and hot and wet down Izuku’s bare chest and stomach, viciously unhurried and deliciously deliberate. He stops to lick at his nipples, kissing all the way down his abs until his mouth lingers just at the line of Izuku’s loose pants. He’s looking up at Izuku with those eyes like he knows every secret in the damn world, and Izuku is so hard he could cry. He’s about to attempt to make some kind of demand, or maybe something more like a plea, but Katsuki starts to mouth at his cock over his pants and uses one hand to press Izuku’s hip down into the bed.

“So glad you finally brought me in here, nerd,” Katsuki murmurs. “I’ve been thinking about you so much.” His breath is warm over the tent in Izuku’s pants, and Izuku has to try not to wrythe around. He wants Katsuki so badly – has never wanted anything this much. “I can’t stop thinking about this.”

As he says the words, he reaches underneath Izuku’s waistband to pull out his cock, and he smirks snarkily up at Izuku above him, green hair splayed on the pillows, flushed from cheeks to chest. Izuku’s breath has picked up even more, because even though Katsuki has been kissing him and touching him, it’s been nothing like this. He’s been mostly sweet and horribly sexy, but always gentle. He backs away just before it gets out of hand, for some reason that Izuku cannot place. Katsuki is not the type of person to hold back.

Now, Katsuki places a gentle kiss to the head of his cock, tongue licking wetly, and – there are five knocks at Izuku’s door. The groan Izuku lets out is not a sexual one.

“Shit,” he says, head flopping back hard into the pillows.

Katsuki raises his eyebrows at the swear word, but his hand is still around Izuku’s cock, and when he flicks his thumb across the head Izuku has to bite his lip, mumbling, “Ah!”

“So I can’t suck you off?” Katsuki asks.

It’s painful, but Izuku shakes his head no.

“That’s too bad,” Katsuki murmurs, and he takes Izuku’s length into his mouth once, all the way back, just for a moment, before pulling off and tucking him back into his pants.

Izuku’s eyes roll back into his head. “Y-yeah. You’re telling me.”

Katsuki comes up the bed to sit next to Izuku who rights himself up. He thumbs at Izuku’s bottom lip before kissing him deeply, pulling away with a bite. “M’gonna give you head, Prince Deku. Just you wait.”

Izuku can only suck in a shaky breath and allow his head to smack against the headboard as he leans back in frustration.

“I take it that knock means something special,” Katsuki assumes. His hand has found its way back to Izuku’s stomach, rubbing with a warm, gentle touch. He fingers leave goosebumps spinning in circles on Izuku’s skin.

Izuku nods, finding it incredibly hard to focus with Katsuki’s touch on his bare torso. “My mom,” he replies, staring down at Katsuki’s hand that keeps dipping close to his waist. “ Kacchan,” he whines, “stop it!”

Katsuki straddles him again, places both hands on the junctions of his shoulders and his neck, and stares deeply. “I don’t wanna stop,” he says plainly. “I want you.”

Izuku can’t even believe any of this is real. He can feel Katsuki’s hard length pressed up against his, and again he’s groaning before Katsuki kisses him, splaying out his warm fingers gently onto the top of Izuku’s back. They fall back into making out without even realizing it – Katsuki’s hands are suddenly in Izuku’s hair, his fingers toying with his bottom lip. Just as Izuku takes Katsuki’s thumb into his mouth there are five more sharp knocks on the door and a booming voice that comes through the wood.

“Prince Midoriya, the Queen would like to see you and Officer Bakugou. There’s an emergency briefing in five minutes.”

Izuku’s heart speeds up in his chest. How did she even know Katsuki was in here? The only people who had seen them come in after training were the guards. They know him by name, of course, but it still makes Izuku squirm to think his mother might suspect what they’re up to. For all she knows, they’re continuing their studies inside, but he still shifts a bit on the bed as Katsuki gets off of him. Not to mention that there’s now an emergency, apparently.

Running careful hands through his blonde hair, Katsuki adjusts himself in the mirror, buttoning his shirt all the way to the top to somewhat resemble the dapper front of a Knight, donning his cloak and grinning cheekily at Izuku who stays frozen in bed, a bit mesmerized by the man in front of him.

“Oi!” Katsuki called. “Earth to Deku! We got five minutes, nerd. Get your shit together. I didn’t even get to blow you, and you’re still acting like I rocked your fuckin’ world.”

Izuku blinks, thinking, but you did.

Katsuki pulls him up from the bed then, leaning into his ear to whisper again, “Just you wait, Prince,” and helps him back into his shirt. Izuku catches a glance of himself in mirror – there are marks sucked into his collar bones, covered by his button down, and he’s thanking Katsuki for having half a mind not to make him look totally wrecked.

Izuku slaps his own face once and blinks hard, snapping out of it as Katsuki chuckles and walks out of the room first, paying no mind to the guard and pretending he knows where he’s going. They find their way into the conference room, and though Izuku is expecting a whole table full of people, the only ones seated are Queen Inko and Todoroki Enji – Shouto’s father and Chief of the War Council.

“We can’t possibly be early,” Izuku mumbles under his breath. The door closing behind them leaves the space eerily silent.

The two of them sit, and it doesn’t take long for Izuku to realize that this meeting is not at all about him. Katsuki had bowed when he walked in, and now he remains upright and attentive in his seat, sharp and accountable. This a version of him that Izuku doesn’t see very often – this is Officer Bakugou on duty.

“Officer Bakugou,” Enji starts, “Izuku.” His name is like an afterthought. This meeting is for Katsuki. “There’s been an uprising across the valley, and we need a stake out in place immediately. We’re not willing to take any risks with the war having ended so soon, so we would like the Order of the Dragon to go.”

Katsuki nods succinctly, his neck a bit tense. Izuku has to remind himself that he’s not supposed to be only looking at the man next to him. He redirects his eyes to his mother. “Any details about the situation?” asks Katsuki, voice deep and serious.

Inko speaks up to respond. “Not much, unfortunately. So far all we know is that a group of Magical people were getting disorderly close to the Chukan-Buzkosaikyo border and that some of our allies there were beginning to hear rumors about another attack. Given our intel, it sounds suspicious, especially with peace just settling in, but getting information is critical. We need to know what’s happening down there. We had a brief written up for you regarding location and red flags.”

Katsuki bows his head and clasps his hands. “It will be an honor to serve you, Queen Inko. I’ll prepare a small team, and we’ll head out at dusk.”

Inko grins. “You continue to impress me, Officer Bakugou.” She looks at Izuku, who’s twitching a bit in his seat, overwhelmed with the harsh contrast of this moment and the one he had been lost in just a few minutes ago, in his bed. “My son, you were summoned because this situation is to be highly confidential. Those in this room, our intel, and a select few members of the Order of the Dragon are to be the only people who know about this. We do not want to be spreading panic at a time like this. I trust you can keep a secret.”

She looks between the two of them, and Izuku’s stomach twists in knots. “Of course, My Queen,” is all he says, “I appreciate you including me.”

She smiles, though it’s a bit tight. “It is simply a matter of fact that you must be informed. You are the Prince. Such is your obligation.”

Izuku swallows, suddenly avoiding Katsuki’s gaze rather than being drawn toward it. He glances at his watch, and he realizes suddenly that dusk is not too far off. Katsuki would be going to a stake out, and he would be stuck within the castle. Useless.

With the meeting adjourned, the pair walk quite stiffly back to Izuku’s room. Izuku becomes ridden with emotions – anxiety about his secrecy, worry that Katsuki might be in danger, guilt toward his mother, and perhaps a bit of jealousy that he is not really needed. He pulls at his sleeve in annoyance as they move through the halls. All that kissing feels so far off now. Instead, Izuku is loathing the situation he’s put himself in. Had he been more courageous, would his role in circumstances like this be different? Part of him thinks that his mother would never ask him to serve the Kingdom on a stake out, whether he was in secrecy or not. Part of him thinks he should just go anyway.

Once they’re in Izuku’s room, Katsuki gathers his bag and sword, making to leave. “Well, I guess I won’t be seeing you for a while, nerd. Thanks for the lesson today, it was good.”

He brushes past Izuku, shooting a smile that’s tense even for him. Izuku catches his wrist as he heads for the door. “Katsuki,” he mutters. “I wanna go with you.”

Hah ?” Katsuki exclaims. Izuku can feel the pulse in his wrist. He doesn’t want to let go. “What are ya, crazy? No way, Deku. I ain’t lookin’ the damn Queen in the eye and telling her I’m bringing her son to get killed.”

Izuku tightens his grip around Katsuki’s wrist. “Get killed? You think that’s what this is gonna be?” Katsuki looks away. Izuku tugs. “Either way, I’m not some damsel in distress. You said yourself how much I’ve improved.”

“Deku,” Katsuki starts, grumbling. He runs his free hand through hair. “Maybe this is not the best time to start seeing the real world. This shit is important, you know? I got a feeling that something bad is going on down there.”

Izuku sighs. “When is the right time then, Katsuki? Do you think I’m gonna slow you down or something? I asked you to tell me stories about the war because I need to know. I want to see for myself.”

“Fuck, Deku, don’t be so petty. The truth is that you probably will fucking slow us down. It ain’t on you. We just have the experience.”

Izuku scowls, drops his wrist. “This isn’t the first time I’ve thought about leaving. It’s like you think I’m weak or something. I’ve been hidden my whole life to be prepared for moments like this. I’ve always had to be able to defend myself.”

“Tch, I don’t think you’re weak, idiot. Why would I ask someone weak to teach me? All I’m saying is, you couldn’t sword fight for shit a few weeks ago. Besides, you’ve had a few months to get out there and see the world, and you still haven’t.”

Izuku flinches, and then his glare intensifies, a frustrated glint appearing in his eyes. “This is different, and you know it. Announcing that I’m the Prince and going on a stake out with you aren’t even on the same level.” He pauses, eyebrows tightly knit. “And I’m telling you that that’s not my only trick up my sleeve. You’ve never seen me fight for real.”

Katsuki cocks his head, dropping his bag to the ground with a thud. Suddenly Katsuki’s big hands are pressed into the small of Izuku’s back, and red eyes are staring down at him, laden with mischief. He wears a smirk, and Izuku has to catch his breath. “That a challenge, nerd?”

Izuku grabs Katsuki’s collar, standing on his tiptoes to get their noses to touch. The eye contact between them is heavy and hot as Izuku quips, “Are you accepting?”

Katsuki pushes at Izuku’s back and crashes their lips together. They kiss hard, just for a second, and by the time Katsuki pulls away, Izuku’s pupils are blown and his eyes are glassy. “You’re fucking dangerous,” Katsuki mutters. “Talk to your damn mother. And if you even think about slowing us down, you fuckin’ owe me one.”

Izuku bats his eyelashes. “Whatever you want, Kacchan.”

Katsuki blows out some air, hands sneaking under Izuku’s shirt. “Fuck.” A moment later, he’s pulling away and picking up his bag again, and Izuku is hit with a pang in his chest. “I gotta go, okay? People to round up. I don’t have a lot of time.”

Izuku grabs his wrist again, and Katsuki shoots him an irritated glance. “Wait. Can you just – can you just stay here? While I talk to her? Then I can just go with you. We can get a messenger to gather the people in the Order who you want to come.”

Katsuki raises his eyebrows. “You really think she’s gonna say yes?”

Izuku runs his fingers across the back Katsuki’s hand. He nods hesitantly. “T-that, and I think she might… want to talk to you about it. She trusts you a lot, and she knows we’ve been working together, so. It might go over better if you’re here to talk to her.” He clears his throat. “Officer Bakugou.”

Katsuki laughs. “Whatcha been telling her, huh, Deku? She know about your little crush?”

Izuku’s blush blooms beet red. “I-I don’t have a crush!” he stammers. “I just told her that we’re training each other! She’s happy I’m learning how to swordfight! And that I’m working on my teaching skills!” he insists. Katsuki’s words are making his body hot; he feels like he’s been caught stealing something.

Katsuki is chuckling again, and Izuku squirms. He lets go of Katsuki’s wrist to protect himself with crossed arms. He stares down at the floor until there’s a hand under his chin and a hot mouth leaving him a wet kiss.

“You’re so easy to fuck with,” Katsuki murmurs, uncrossing Izuku’s arms for him. Izuku is begrudging, but he doesn’t put up much of a fight.

This is too much for one moment. He can’t balance his feelings for Katsuki while dealing with how to join this mission at the same time. It’s just that Katsuki treats this like it’s the easiest thing in the world. He ignores whatever shift happened in the hot springs and kisses Izuku like it’s simply what he’s supposed to be doing. It makes Izuku just as nauseous as it does adrenalized. Maybe it’s just his confidence, but Katsuki always acts like everything makes sense. He never lets the swagger leave his gate.  

Izuku is never quite sure if Katsuki is teasing or genuine or just being snarky. If this is just convenient, or for fun. But he’s always there, standing right before him.

He’s reminded of what different worlds they come from. Even though they’ve wound up at the same place, Katsuki had to work for his status, and that’s never going to stop. Still, he’s established an immense sense of trust between himself and the castle. Izuku wonders if perhaps he’s just an asset. Or in the way. His doubt is contested by the way Katsuki is looking down at him, open and unguarded.

“Go talk to her. I’ll wait. Send someone if you need me.” Katsuki pauses, still gripping Izuku’s jaw. “You’re fuckin’ lucky, kid.”

He’s smiling, though, so Izuku has to push down the butterflies in his stomach as he heads to his mother’s chambers. He tells a guard to send a messenger to go speak to Katsuki about gathering the Order of the Dragon, and he vibrates with nerves as he walks. Izuku feels the red string drag behind him as he leaves his room around the corner, and he clenches his fists. Izuku is always pliant and emotionally ready, but it’s as though Katsuki unwinds him, leaves him as a pool of red thread, totally undone.

This is not something he can be vulnerable for. He has to be ready to fight. He has to see what his Kingdom is up against so he can ensure that their livelihoods are never threatened again. This is his way out into the open – he just hopes his mother can understand that.  

She looks stressed, reading over documents at her desk. A puzzled look is written across her face at the sight of her son. “What is it, Izuku?”

He can tell immediately that she’s incredibly uptight, but he tells himself that he mustn’t let his empathy get in the way of what he wants. “I want to go with Ka- Officer Bakugou,” he blurts.

“Pardon me?” she replies.

“The stake out. I want to go.”

“Izuku, no. It’s not your place to be on that type of mission. Besides, it’s going to be dangerous.”

Izuku sighs in frustration. “I’m prepared for danger. All Katsuki and I have been doing is preparing for danger. Can I explain at least?”

Inko just hums for him to continue, a grimace sunken deep into her face.

“I’m twenty years old. If I’m going to be in charge of this place soon, I need to know what we’re up against with my own experience. There’s no other way to rule well. This… this is what you want, right? I don’t want to just stay here anymore.”

Her face is unreadable, and she does not respond. Izuku continues playing with his sleeves, and he thinks of Katsuki, waiting in his room. Not only is this something he feels like he has to do, but he also feels as though it’s a way of proving his capabilities. To his mother. To Katsuki. To himself.

On a whim, he adds, “Besides, I’ll be with uh, with Bakugou. And I know you trust him. You’re the one sending him on this mission, anyway. I know it wasn’t Enji’s idea.”

He watches his mother turn over her thoughts in her mind. She raps her nails on her desk just as he often does. After a tense moment of silence, she declares, “I want to speak with him on the matter. I know he’s the best we have, but just because he’s a fine Knight doesn’t mean that he’s fit to take care of my son.”

Izuku wants to protest about not needing to be taken care of, but she’s acquiescing more than he’d imagined she would. There’s also something unusually knowing in her voice and eyes, so Izuku looks away, putting a hand up to his neck. Maybe there’s a mark showing after all. Could his mother see that there was something going on between the two of them? Just from those few moments where they sat next to each other in the council room? Staring at the floor, he supposes it’s mother’s intuition, as it usually is. That’s always been one of Inko’s strong suits.

“Is he still here?” she asks, that look in her eyes unrelenting as Izuku comes to meet them again.

He’s sheepish when he replies. “I asked him to wait, because I figured you’d want to talk to him. He’s in my room. Should I send for him?”

She nods tightly, cocking her head at Izuku who’s fighting a blush. He scurries away before he becomes too jittery, and he sends the guard for Katsuki. A few moments later, when he meets Izuku in the vestibule, he looks down with an expression that almost… concerned? He puts a gentle hand on Izuku’s hip to keep him close. It’s a subtle touch, but it makes Izuku relax.

“Need me already?” he quips.

“She asked for you,” is all Izuku responds. “Let’s go.”

Inside the room, Izuku catches Katsuki looking around in wonder at the Queen’s chambers, but he remains collected. Inko now stands, and she greets Katsuki with a simple nod of the head. “Do you think this is a good idea?” she asks, voice tight.

Izuku is shocked by her brashness. Katsuki takes a moment to respond, and Izuku grows more nervous with each passing moment. “Yes,” replies Katsuki. Inko’s face is enough to tell him that such a reply is insufficient. “Your Majesty, I promise to protect your son. He’s right to want to join the Order of the Dragon on this stake out.” He pauses, weaving his fingers together in front of his waist. “I believe he will be of great assistance to us. Prince or not, he has a lot to offer.”

Izuku burns bright red. Katsuki’s tone is different as he speaks, and Izuku isn’t sure if something in him has changed or if it’s just because he’s speaking to the Queen. It’s formal, but it feels real.

“Understood,” Inko affirms. “But Bakugou, you must bring a team that’s suited for this. I don’t care how many people it is. No risk taking, do you understand? And that’s not just for Izuku’s sake. It’s too soon to be taking risks. Too precarious.” She turns to look at Izuku’s hopeful eyes. “I’m not saying yes or no to this. I suppose it’s no longer my place to be giving permission. Just make good choices, Izuku. Decision making is going to be your life from now on.”

He nods solemnly, and with that, the two of them are shown out.

Aftwards, things begin to play out very quickly. Izuku packs in a rush, shoving things into a rucksack and planning to stop by the kitchen for the food he knows will be prepared. As he grabs his sword on the way out, Katsuki stops him with a firm hand atop his.

“Leave it,” he grumbles.

Izuku quite nearly grows angry. “Kacchan, are you kidding? I’m not about to do this without–”

Katsuki wrenches his hand away. “Fuckin’ trust me, would you? I said leave it. We gotta damn hurry.”

With Izuku swordless, they ride to Katsuki’s home where it was arranged that all of the members of the stake out team would be joining them. They’re earlier than the rest, just as the sun begins to settle into the valley. Izuku wonders who is going to be joining as Katsuki disappears inside his house to gather things. When he emerges, he’s dressed darkly, out of uniform to be covert: black boots, black cloak, a sheer black shirt that Izuku is sure would show the muscles of his stomach if light passed through it. His mouth goes the tiniest bit dry.

He works fluidly, hooking his pack to his saddle and clipping canteens of water to the metal hoops on the leather. He’s so efficient that Izuku doesn’t even notice that he has two swords at his waist until he unsheathes one and holds the tip a few inches from Izuku’s chest.

“For you, idiot. You don’t use it right, I kill you.”

Izuku blinks as the sword drops, and he has trouble processing anything as the pommel is pressed into his hand. “Is this yours?”

Katsuki rolls his eyes, moving the leather covering from his own belt to Izuku’s. As he fiddles at Izuku’s waist, he grows hot. “I swear, you’re fucking dense sometimes. I made it for you. Your old one is shit. You’ve outgrown it. You don’t want it? I’ll take it back.”

Izuku holds the pommel tightly in his grasp. He runs his finger over the crest, knowing he’ll have to take some of extra time to look at the engravement of willow trees over which his fingers are holding. “Kacchan,” is all he manages, voice low. “You didn’t have to… You already gave me the knife...”

Katsuki scoffs, winding his fingers into Izuku’s belt loops. “I wasn’t gonna give it to you yet, but whatever. Like I said, just fuckin’ use it right.”

Izuku nods, looking around the land of Katsuki’s backyard before deciding that kissing him is a good idea. “Thank you,” he says, and he cups a gentle hand around Katsuki’s face before kissing him lightly. It’s too gentle – not hot and charged like they usually are.

Katsuki doesn’t look at him after, only barks at him to get on his horse and to quit his dilly dallying.

It’s quite near dark when they get out of the village, and some familiar faces join them. Kirishima and Kaminari, the men from the banquet who he hears about quite often, greet Izuku warmly. They’re accompanied by two other Knights, Ashido Mina and Sero Hanta. They seem familiar, like maybe they had been at the banquet as well. Izuku thinks for a moment that they’re quite a small group, but he knows that Katsuki is sure of his plan. As a matter of fact, Izuku has seldom seen him unsure of anything. The ride is supposed to take about three or four hours, but shrouded by gentle light from Kaminari they can move through darkness.

The first few minutes are marked by Katsuki going through a briefing, but as soon as it’s over Kirishima turns to him, asking,“You again?” He’s grinning wildly from atop his roan colored horse that matches his red hair and eyes. “Good to see ya, Deku! Didn’t know people outside the Order other than Kami would be joining us. What are you doing here?”

Izuku quite nearly panics, but he’s coasting atop a wave of freedom with Katsuki trotting next to him, so he looks around at the group, all warm and welcoming, and decides fuck it. If there’s anyone lurking or following them, he could be compromised or threatened in an instant, but the clock has been ticking for far too long. Katsuki and his mother are enough to remind him of that.

He opts to declare, with as much might as he can muster, “My name is Midoriya Izuku, Prince of Kokyusenzai, and I’m here because I need to know what the hell is going on across the valley!”

He breaks into a gallop, and the rest of the horses follow. He just barely catches Katsuki’s grin shot at him, but he can feel it in his chest. Can sense it. In the little knife attached to his belt. In the buzz of Magic that always ricochets off of Katsuki and onto him. He has to accept that he’s made the right choice because Kaminari is saying, “Oh, fuck yeah,” and they’re sucked into the eeriness of night with the strain of uncertainty weighing on all of them.

The rest of the journey is mostly tense and quite exhausting. They move down a similar path to one that Izuku and Katsuki take when they go to the valley, but they continue much deeper down, father to the West and along the river. Izuku is laden with anxiety, having never been this far from home. Since the first day he and Katsuki went to Chukan, he always feels a jolt of fear when he leaves the Kingdom for long, but this is beyond that. He’s going away, and it’s his choice. Decisions, his mother had said.

It’s breezy and cold at night, and Izuku is worried that he’s going to be uncomfortable sleeping outside. He’s not used to journeys or operations like this, and it hits him hard when they finally arrive at where Katsuki deems base: a small clearing in the woods that appears to be familiar to everyone but him.

They tie up horses and set up camp quickly – Izuku mostly just feels in the way as they work as an efficient team, pitching tents and building a small fire to heat up food. It doesn’t take very long for there to be a fully functioning base established, and just as Katsuki finishes feeding the horses and throwing his and Izuku’s bags haphazardly into one of the tents, Izuku nervously approaches him and mumbles, “I want to help.”

“Bit late for that, idiot. We’re done.”

Izuku grimaces, crossing his arms in front of him protectively. “I – I know a spell for concealing Magic. I can make sure no one finds us. So we’re safe. At least for the night, I guess.”

Katsuki just nods. “We shouldn’t need it, but whatever. Thanks.”

He walks over to the fire where Sero is serving food, and he leaves Izuku to say the spell to himself. Closing his eyes, he pushes down any of the emotions twisting in his gut to make sure this goes smoothly. When he makes it to where the group sits, Katsuki shoves food into his hands, and he’s immediately sucked into the laughter of the group of friends.

The Order of the Dragon, he reminds himself.

At least they’re a bit less tense than Katsuki, who’s not talking at all. As they eat, Katsuki sits with his body curled inward, not his usual, confident and languid self. He barely says a word to Izuku – surrendering his usual teasing and smiles and touch for a reserved frown. Izuku wants to reach out to him so badly and make sure he’s doing okay, but his ability to totally ignore Izuku serves as a reminder of how in over his head Izuku knows he is. He’s sure that if he so much as attempted to lay a hand on Katsuki, it would be slapped away in an instant. He’s always known that he likes Katsuki too much, but this version of him is more curt than cordial toward even his friends, and he’s making as if Izuku isn’t there at all. Is he embarrassed? Or just disinterested when it comes to more important things?

Izuku lets his eyes wander the to crackling flames, lost in his thoughts until Kirishima pipes up loudly once more. “Hey, Midoriya! So have you and Bakugou been hanging out? You met the same night we did, right? It’s so awesome that you’re the Prince. We’ve heard some rumors, but it’s pretty cool that it’s you.

Izuku flushes, feeling Katsuki tense up next to him and ignoring the spike of heat coming from his Magic.

Kaminari chimes in, golden eyes brightly ablaze with the light from the fire. “Yeah, man. I have a question or two.”

Izuku watches as Ashido and Sero look at each other with puzzled glances as they eat, clearly a bit lost about both Izuku’s past and his present, having not met him at the banquet like the others. He’s perhaps just as confused as them, because it’s jarring that Kirishima and Kaminari don’t know that he and Katsuki have been hanging out together. They’re supposed to be Katsuki’s best friends, and yet, they don’t even know that he has a teacher for Magic. He’d figured that he would have at least mentioned that they see each other almost every day, but instead, Izuku’s left wondering if any of them even know Katsuki has Magic at all.

He fiddles with the emerald around his neck and responds, flustered, “Well, Kacch– Bakugou and I have been working together since then. We, uh–”

He’s cut off by a jab in his side, courtesy of Katsuki’s elbow. He turns to meet the glowering gaze next to him, but Katsuki makes eye contact with only the fire. “Would you guys quit it with the small talk? Just finish your fucking dinner and get to bed. We all need rest. If you wanna fuckin’ live it up and be all buddy buddy, wait ‘til after we’ve figured out what the damn situation is here. I ain’t fuckin’ around. This is important.”

His tone is grating against the soft sounds of the crackling fire and nearby river. Izuku wonders again if he’s always this serious, or if something is truly wrong, but a moment later another’s words tell him it’s the latter.

Ashido chuckles as she starts to clean up. “Who put the stick up your ass?”

Izuku watches Katsuki clench his fist in anger, but she soon wanders away, pink hair rustling lightly in the wind as she enters the tent where she and Kirishima have already put their stuff. So this isn’t normal, Izuku decides. Based on all the stories he’d heard between Katsuki and his friends at the banquet, he hadn’t thought so anyway. Sure, Katsuki is a ferocious leader who takes his job seriously, but he seems to love his friends and clearly had time to have fun with them during the war.

The rest of them begin to clear out, and as Kaminari makes to leave he claps Katsuki on the shoulder, leaning close to his ear. With raised eyebrows, he mutters, “Eh, sleeping in the tent with the Prince, huh?”

Instead of the playful quip or even a glance in Izuku’s direction, he responds evenly, “I promised the Queen I would protect her son.”

And apparently it’s as simple as that.

Kaminari shrugs and walks away, and then it’s just the two of them again, like it always is. They lean close to the fire that’s about to go out. Izuku wraps his arms around himself, cold and exhausted, feeling dirty and nervous. He’s not used to this Katsuki – this reserved, up tight, angry man. He’d forgotten all about this terse version of him, the one who rarely smiles and never takes no for an answer. No, he’s used to the Katsuki who holds a hand out for him, teases him with a snarky grin, gets up in his face just for an excuse to be closer.

The pop of fire crackling sounds like Katsuki’s Magic, and Izuku considers that he may have just fooled himself. A relationship in isolation is never going to emulate what it is in the real world, with other people to influence it. With a swallow, he realizes how that is something he’s going to have to consider about all of his relationships – not just Katsuki. He curls his pinky, wishing the red string he never ceases to imagine would just burn up between them.

Still, he asks, “Are you okay?” because he can’t help himself.

“Fine,” comes Katsuki’s curt response. He stands, stomping on the fading embers of the fire to put them out for good. “Let’s go bathe.”

He doesn’t hold out a hand to help Izuku up.

Green eyes stare up glossily at red, both pairs now dulled without the firelight. “But – Kacchan, it’s gonna be so cold.”

Katsuki looks away, crossing his arms. “Tch. Relax, nerd. I’ll take care of you.”

Izuku’s heart sends a surge of emotion through his chest, and he’s suddenly more at ease than he has been in hours, just at the sound of a few words.

They strip by the bank of the river, and Izuku is freezing. It’s really just a few moments that they’re in the water, but the sun hasn’t done nearly enough work on the river yet to make the temperature close to bearable. Goosebumps aside, however, Izuku still finds his cheeks and chest flushed, because Katsuki doesn’t take his eyes off him for a moment. He washes up as quickly as he can, drying off with a towel from Katsuki’s pack and scurrying to the tent with a cloak pulled tightly over his body.

Inside the small fabric shelter, there are two mats unrolled next to each other, a lit lantern, and a messy pile of their belongings from when they had thrown their bags in after arriving. He hastily puts himself back into long sleeves and stays huddled under the cloak. Trying to get warm, he sits atop one of the mats and covers himself in his blanket, feeling an overwhelming sense of anxiety about spending the night next to Katsuki. It feels too intimate for the mood that’s been hanging over them all night. Everything coming off of Katsuki has been reeled in and taut: the hesitance, the resistance, the uptightness.

Izuku is reminded that the last smile he got from him was when he had shouted his identity as the Prince to his friends, all those hours ago.

He’s so wrapped up in his thoughts, staring at his feet under the blanket and trying not to shiver, that he barely notices Katsuki walk in. He certainly doesn’t notice when he sits behind him, wrapping his arms around Izuku’s waist and pressing his chest into Izuku’s back, impossibly warm. He gasps at the touch, surprised.

He lets out a breath through his nose as hot hands make their way under his shirt. “Kaah – Kacchan is so warm. How are you so warm?” he murmurs.

“Shouldn’t you know, nerd? S’my Magic. I run hot.” He presses his face into Izuku’s neck, the heat from his breath coasting over Izuku’s skin to leave goosebumps.

“Y-yeah, but,” Izuku stammers, “the water was so cold.”

Katsuki coasts his lips along Izuku’s neck. “Don’t worry about it, Deku, jeez. Just let me fucking warm you up. You’re trembling, for fuck’s sake.”

Despite an evening full of self-doubt, nothing will change the fact that Katsuki’s mouth on his skin feels right. Whatever other emotions that are in question still melt at his touch, and Izuku is still terribly, terribly in love with him. And as hot hands run over his body, he’s quite sure that he’d have that thought even if it were fingertips like ice tracing his skin.

Katsuki kisses up and down his neck wetly, pushing the cloak and blanket aside to get at his shoulder where his shirt’s neckline droops from wear. Izuku tips his head back against Katsuki’s hard, warm chest, and it’s true that his body gets hot quickly. Katsuki’s fingers are tracing the muscles of his stomach, ghosting up his sides, past his nipples. He gasps when Katsuki sinks his teeth in gently at the base of his neck, sure to leave another mark.

“That’s a pretty sound, Deku,” Katsuki tells him. He scoots away then, gently laying Izuku down onto the mattress and coming to straddle his waist and hover above. Izuku is hit with déja vu, remembering this afternoon and how he felt with Katsuki’s mouth on his cock. He lets out another sound as he stares wide-eyed above him, Katsuki holding himself up with one arm as the other runs down Izuku’s neck delicately. “Can I kiss you?”

Because Katsuki knows the answer, his infamous smirk returns, and Izuku swears he feels himself melt into the mattress. “Always, Kacchan.”

The kiss Katsuki hits him with is hard and bruising, mouth taking and taking as Izuku comes undone beneath him. He cups Izuku’s face with both hands, fingers moving along his jaw and into his hair to keep him close. Izuku can’t decide if he’s still just new to this or if Katsuki is just something else, because he’s everywhere. Murmuring in his ear how nice he sounds, licking at his collarbones, tugging at the neck of his shirt. As he kisses wetly along Izuku’s jaw and runs his tongue down his neck, Izuku moans.

“Kacchan,” he breathes.

Katsuki just noses along the shell of his ear. “What is it, baby?”

Izuku’s eyes roll back into his head at the name. “Kacchan,” he repeats again, whining.

Kacchan, Kacchan, Kacchan.

It’s all he can say. All he can think. Can’t even bring himself to mind how Katsuki has flipped a switch from brooding to just on the edge of loving. Izuku moves his hands that had been carelessly roaming the soft skin and hard muscle of Katsuki’s back to pull him closer for another kiss on the lips. Katsuki licks into his mouth, kisses hot but gentle.

He teases his hands under Izuku’s shirt as they kiss, fingertips like weapons as they get Izuku to jump and jolt. They trace his abs and sides, either feather light or pressing desperately. It’s typical Katsuki fashion: always keep Izuku guessing. He keeps playing his own game, going in and out from underneath Izuku’s shirt until all Izuku can do is whine, “ Please, Kacchan.”

“Hmm?” Katsuki hums, as if he’s truly unsure of what Izuku is asking. He minds his business, still keeping his nose buried into Izuku’s neck as he kisses warmly.

“Take it off,” Izuku mumbles. “Please.”

When Katsuki sits up, Izuku quite nearly gasps at the loss of heat between their chests, but the sight of Katsuki leaning over him makes up for it. His lips, red and swollen, are only a few shades off from the color of his eyes, glinting in the faint light of the tent. He shifts his weight forward, and Izuku’s hips buck forward as their clothed cocks rub together.

A coy grin spreads across Katsuki’s face as he toys with the end of Izuku’s shirt. “Oh, are you warm enough?” Izuku is basically sweating now, a heat pooling in his stomach where his Magic usually sits. “Want me to take this off?”

Katsuki is teasing, playing their game and refusing to throw the match. Izuku knows he’s going to do whatever he can to win. He digs his nails into Katsuki’s sides. “ Please, ” he says again.

Izuku is awarded with a low chuckle from Katsuki, who sits him up so gently to pull his long sleeve over his head. His chest is heaving when he lays back down, and then, Katsuki takes his time. For someone who can be so damn impatient, and for someone who had just ragged on his friends for needing to get some rest before tomorrow, Katsuki doesn’t seem to care how long this might last. He touches Izuku like if he were to keep his hands away for more than a moment he might turn to stone. He teases Izuku’s nipples and kisses the smooth skin atop the hard muscle of Izuku’s stomach until Izuku’s flush has spread all over his chest.

He moans Katsuki’s name every time he remembers to speak. When Izuku is covered in marks, head spinning, he doesn’t even get a chance to catch his breath. Katsuki finds his way back down Izuku’s body, mouthing over his pants like he had this afternoon. “Right,” he mumbles cheekily. “I almost forgot, I owe you something.”

He gets Izuku out of his trousers so smoothly, and Izuku doesn’t remember ever being cold. Their cloaks and blankets are shoved haphazardly to the side, and he’s suddenly fully naked while Katsuki is still clothed. He props himself up on his forearms to look at the man between his legs, and Katsuki pushes the sleeves of his sweater up, still with that cheeky grin on his face. Before Izuku can even begin to panic about his body or his lack of experience, Katsuki takes his cock into his mouth, and as much Izuku wants to watch, he flops back down, toes curling into the mattress.

He takes Izuku’s cock deep, nose not too far from bumping against Izuku’s body. He’s just as slow and deliberate as he was with the kisses, gripping Izuku’s thighs hard enough to leave bruises as he bobs his head up and down, stopping to run his tongue along the length and swirl it wetly along Izuku’s head. In a moment of strength, Izuku uses his abs to sit up and stare down at the man before him, looking up at him from under dark eyelashes, with even darker eyes.

“Feel good, Deku?” he asks after he pulls off. The wet sound of his lips leaving Izuku’s cock is enough to make a shiver run down his spine. “You feel good in my mouth.”

Izuku moans loudly at that, his head falling backward with a thump as Katsuki sucks hard. He has to fist his hands into the mat to avoid bucking his hips up. He really doesn’t want to come yet. “Feels good,” he breathes. “Feels really good.”

Katsuki keeps bobbing his head, hollowing out his cheeks. When a hand ghosts between his legs, Izuku can’t help the way his hips jerk, head of his cock hitting the back of Katsuki’s throat. Who barely even splutters. Who just pulls off and wipes the spit from his bottom lip. Who asks, “That okay?” as his index finger circles Izuku’s hole.

“Yeah,” Izuku breathes, Katsuki’s mouth still ghosting over his hard length. “Wait I- I have – um, I brought–”

“Huh?” Katsuki asks, quirking an eyebrow.

“My bag, in the pocket. It’s–”

Katsuki leaves Izuku exposed and debauched as he crawls to the other side of the tent to rifle through Izuku’s things. He returns with a little container of a jelly-like liquid that he spreads onto his fingers, settling between Izuku’s legs again to mouth at the inside of his thighs. Izuku can’t fucking breathe.

“What’re you doin’ with this, huh, baby?” Katsuki murmurs into his skin, finger pad still just touching gently at Izuku’s entrance, not daring to push in.

Izuku’s hips buck up even though he’s flushed with embarrassment. “I – I make it. It’s not just for this, ah.” Katsuki sinks his teeth into the milky, soft skin of his inner thigh. “It’s herbal, and healing. You can use it for wounds, but it also helps with, you know, um, t-the burn. The next day.”

Katsuki snorts into his leg. “Of course you have fuckin’ Magical lube. Use this on yourself a lot, then?”

Izuku blushes bright red, a memory of fingering himself to the thought of Katsuki flashing through his mind. Just yesterday, he’d writhed on his bed with his fingers in his ass, moaning quietly until he came, fueled by the thought of being back in the hot springs, Katsuki leaning over him to lick hotly in his mouth. Maybe it’s the reality of this all, but he’s hit with a wave of confidence. So he says, “I’m sure you’ll do it much better than I can, Kacchan.”
He knows what an inflated ego does to the man above him, but he’d never thought it would feel so good. Katsuki mumbles, “Tch, right,” just before he takes Izuku’s cock back into his mouth to get him to relax, and he pushes one gentle finger into Izuku’s hole.

He opens Izuku up slowly. It burns a bit, but Izuku has done this to himself plenty, and Katsuki is exceptionally gentle with him. He scissors and twists his fingers until Izuku is undone beneath him, writhing as his cock curves up to his belly and leaks, now ignored by Katsuki’s mouth. Katsuki just stays comfortable between Izuku’s bent legs, watching his own fingers fuck into the tight hole. Izuku is flushed with embarrassment and desire but fuck, he wants this so badly.

By the time Katsuki has three fingers inside him, Izuku is whining quietly because it’s so close, but it’s not what he wants. “Katsuki, please,” he moans.

“Deku, I told you already. Let me take care of you. Don’t go gettin’ impatient on me,” Katsuki rumbles. His voice is gravelly and low, and he bites lightly at Izuku’s thigh just as he finally, finally curls his fingers to brush against Izuku’s prostate. A wanton, high pitched sound rips from Izuku’s vocal cords, and Katsuki grins with pride, like he’d been timing this moment out just right. “Can I fuck you?” he asks, as if it wasn’t already implied that that was what they were going to do. Fingers still moving shallowly in and out of Izuku’s hole, he moves up the mat, coming to kiss along Izuku’s jaw again.

He chuckles, and Izuku is desperate, filled with a love and a desire for the snarky, gorgeous, tender man above him. “Figure I should ask, since you’re the Prince and all.”

Izuku can barely laugh in response to hearing those words again, because Katsuki is working his fingers faster now, hard and deliberate. “W-what if they hear?” Izuku asks, knowing that he’s beyond the point of having even a semblance of self control.

He barely makes out the words from how quietly muffled they are into his neck, but Katsuki replies, “They’re used to it.” Izuku’s heart clenches in his chest at the idea that maybe this isn’t special, but he’s in love, not stupid, and he’s too turned on to think too hard about it.

He settles for sighing, “Fuck me,” airily, and trying not to whine at the loss of the fingers inside him as Katsuki pulls away to strip.

He makes quick work of his clothes, and Izuku relishes in the familiar sight of him pulling his shirt over his head. His shoulders flex, muscles rounded and strong. Izuku wants to be held by him so very badly. In an instant, he’s kneeling between Izuku’s legs, cock hard and skin looking impossibly soft. Izuku can’t even help but gasp, having never been able to admire him fully naked for longer than a second.

“Katsuki,” he breathes, judgement leaving him, “you’re beautiful.”

When he turns his head to the side to avoid making eye contact as a blush graces his face, he is met with the sight of a gorgeous shadow cast on the fabric wall of the tent. The lantern light flickers gently over their skin, coloring them soft hues of orange. The dark, shadowy image of Katsuki leaning over him to give him a kiss will stay in his mind for a long time.

Katsuki is all patience, taking time to kiss Izuku more as he slicks his cock and lines up to push in. Izuku closes his eyes, and he feels the lips on his neck move to speak. “You’re perfect, Izuku. You’re fucking perfect.”

Izuku isn’t so sure if he believes the words, but he’s pliant in Katsuki’s hands. He wraps his legs around Katsuki’s waist as he pushes in carefully, and it burns but it’s so fucking good. Katsuki kisses him the whole time, and all Izuku can do is pull away to croak, “ Move,” when he feels ready. It’s not perfect, not by any means, but it feels good, and Katsuki knows what he’s doing. He holds Izuku close, fucks him slow and hard, whispers how good he feels into Izuku’s ear, and it doesn’t last nearly long enough.

Izuku claws desperately at Katsuki’s back, neck exposed to attentive teeth, and he pushes back onto Katsuki’s cock sloppily. He’s not sure how he’s waited so long to feel something like this, but when Katsuki tells him he’s not going to last, he’s glad they’re at least on the same page.

“Please touch me, Katsuki,” whines Izuku. “You feel so good, y-your cock is so good.”

As if he’s incapable of handling those words, Katsuki growls, “Fuck!” before slamming his cock into Izuku, lifting him by the hips to get at his spot. Izuku’s moaning loudly now, unable to help himself, and when Katsuki grips his length with a rough hand, Izuku sees white and comes over his fist.

Katsuki finishes not a moment later, hips stuttering as he pulls out and comes onto Izuku’s abs. Thick white ropes shoot onto his chest, and with a shaking arm, Katsuki lowers himself next to Izuku, whose legs are now supple and buzzing.

“Didn’t want you to be a mess,” Katsuki mumbles. “Guess that didn’t work. You okay?”

Izuku stares up at the ceiling, hair sticking to his forehead. He doesn’t expect to feel the soft hand carding through his green locks. “Yeah. That felt really good.”

Katsuki fails to hide his smile and presses his lips to Izuku’s temple. “Good. You’re hot.”

Izuku snorts.

“Let me clean you up.”

He retrieves a towel, wiping himself and Izuku down. Before Izuku can throw on his shirt, Katsuki shoves the sweater he was wearing before into his hands. “Brought this. Should keep you warm through the night.” Izuku is tempted to say, but I have you, but he’s spent and starting to grow a bit nervous in the afterglow, worried that Katsuki might not touch him again for a while. But, he accepts nonetheless, because it smells like cinnamon and mulled wine.

They dress in silence, and when Katsuki lowers on the flame on the lantern to as dim as it can get without going out, Izuku thinks for the first time in his life that he might be afraid of the dark.

He stares up at the tarp ceiling as Katsuki climbs onto the mattress next to him, trying to focus on the sound of the wind outside.

“What are you doing?” Katsuki snaps after the silence goes on for too long.

“What do you mean?” Izuku squeaks, heart rate picking up.

Katsuki drags Izuku’s body closer so that their legs touch and his head rests on Katsuki’s chest. “Said I’d keep you warm, didn’t I, idiot?”

He wraps his arms around Izuku, and the silence continues for a little longer.

It weighs a bit too heavily on Izuku.

Their eyes meet for a moment, and Izuku is not sure what he sees in the dark pools of red that spill down towards him. Katsuki presses his lips to Izuku’s forehead briefly, then shifts, mumbling, “G’night,” as he settles under the blanket. Izuku rests his head on Katsuki’s chest, feeling the thump of his heart beneath his ear, and he does his best to ignore the gentle fingertips that have snuck beneath the sweater to sweep up and down the plain of his back.

Once Katsuki’s hand stops moving, it remains warm in its stillness. His breath grows even, and Izuku wonders how he can possibly wish for a moment to last forever as much as he wishes it would end. He closes his eyes, but he can’t sleep. The nerves sewn beneath his skin keep changing shape – his anxiety jumping from one subject to the next. Now, it remains fixated on Katsuki, who is simultaneously causing the racing heart in his chest and the crushing feeling spreading into his shoulders. He knows he’s in love, but fear overtakes the perfect home he’s constructed for himself in the past few months. Doubt delivers dread to his uneasy head.

The war ended, and he’s managed to reel Katsuki into his mess of emotions and away from freedom, despite the future he has ahead of him. Katsuki has even said it himself: he’s devoted so much of his life to helping the Royal Kingdom. The Royal Kingdom, which is an inseparable part of Izuku. Who is Izuku to say that Katsuki would want to be in a relationship – in a relationship with a Royal, no less? He thinks back to the banquet all those weeks ago, when he’d been reduced to a spluttering mess with no sense of direction. Had all that much changed since then? Still he’s busied himself making heart eyes at the dreamy Knight and finding a million excuses for why he can’t.

Besides, Kirishima had mentioned how many people Katsuki fucked – they were used to the noise, right? Maybe Izuku is just another body. Maybe Katsuki is this gentle with everyone. Gives them his sweaters and holds warmth in the space between their chests. Amidst Izuku’s thoughts, he threads their legs together, because no one ever said that doubt stands in the way of a soft heart. Katsuki is so open in his sleep, strong arms unwavering, warm form unlocked.

Even if he isn’t another body, even if there’s some part of Katsuki who wants him as something other than a teacher and a lay and perhaps a friend, how can Izuku assume that he wants to be committed to the throne for his whole life? Always working for others? Based on his relationship with Magic, Katsuki has almost never had time to explore things for himself. He’s always had to be the best, to work the hardest, to get the most done. Even though it’s strong, proud Katsuki holding him close in bed, Izuku feels like the one trapping him.

He’s felt the red string tied around each of their pinkies, but maybe he was just wearing rose colored glasses.

Izuku sighs, opening his eyes to stare at the dimly lit tent. Their shadow looks different now, like a morphed black blob flickering gently. Like a figure with indistinguishable limbs. Like there is no way of telling where Izuku ends and Katsuki begins. He forces his eyes shut again, as if that’s going to help. He’s still being shrouded in Katsuki’s warmth, breathing in his smell, hearing his heartbeat thrumming beneath his ear. In the moment of comfort, his anxiety warps again, moving away from Katsuki – the man who supposedly does not lie – and back onto himself.

Midoriya Izuku, the Crown Prince, who’s spent his whole life running and hiding. Even when he had the chance to dress his best and stand up in front of his people, he just stayed in his comfort zone – and now, he’s on a critical mission, and he’s foolish enough to think that he’s fallen in love , for god’s sake. With the only person outside of the castle that he’s ever had any semblance of a relationship with, no less? What kind of leader does that make him? A symbol of peace is not meant to put himself first.

He’s been too scared to take charge for others, so now he’s hiding in this heedless haze. With a man who he knows is more than a shelter, even though he’s treating him as such. As Katsuki shifts in his sleep, his grip on Izuku tightens, parted lips resting in green hair.

I just want it to be on your mind as you take the time before you’re announced as Prince, okay? I know that you will likely meet lots of young folks in the village your age, and I want you to be able to rule this land with a partner in a way I wasn’t able to.

The image of his mother looking him in the eye is unwavering. Marriage is something Izuku can’t afford to be thinking about right now. Surely the people would want a King who can take care of his people before they’d want a King with a spouse.

He forces sleep into his bones.

 


 

Even from inside the tent, Izuku can tell it is not yet light out when he wakes. He stirs at the hand carding through his air, eyes fluttering open to see Katsuki staring down at him from where he sits.

“Time to get up, Deku. Stake out starts now.”

Izuku groans, rolling over to press his face into Katsuki’s thigh. “S’so early.”

Katsuki keeps petting his hair, grunts. “I know, idiot. That’s why we have to get up now. Earlier the better.” He pauses to blow out some air. “Besides, I know I’m gonna have to wake up those dumbasses snoozing away in their tents.”

Izuku sits up to stretch, feeling a slight sting in his muscles from last night. It’s manageable, and as he comes to from sleep, he’s suddenly filled with adrenaline for the day. He’s going on a stake out, and it’s going to be dangerous. He’s thought about a day like this many times but had never been able to imagine it. He certainly wouldn’t have guessed that it would start with him next to Knight who’d fucked him last night.

He peels the sweater Katsuki loaned him over his head and shoves it back into his arms. “Thanks,” he mumbles, making to stand.

He’s stopped by a hand wrapping around his wrist. Katsuki glances at him with a cocked head, other hand coming to gently run over the jagged scar that takes up a good portion of his right bicep. “Oi,” he says softly. “Been meaning to ask you about this. What’s the deal?”

Izuku’s heart picks up in his chest, and as much as he relishes in Katsuki’s warm touch he knows this is not the time to have that conversation. He stands despite the hands on him, and he smiles down at Katsuki as convincingly as he can, feeling a bit vulnerable in his shirtlessness. “Oh, nothing! J-just a scar from an accident I got in when I was younger. You know, learning magic got a little out of hands sometimes! Plus I was clumsy! Ha!”

Katsuki raises an eyebrow, but he knows better than to push it. He must figure that he has bigger fish to fry today, anyway. “Whatever, nerd,” he responds, getting up to hover over Izuku who’s still awkwardly standing in the middle of the tent. He grabs Izuku’s jaw with perhaps a bit too much force to kiss him deeply, uncaring of how they’ve just woken up and haven’t had time to wash their mouths. Izuku can’t help his gasp – as much as he knows he needs to begin his withdrawal from this man, something keeps pulling him back in, over again and endless.

He knows his eyes are glassy as he stares up at Katsuki when their mouths have separated. “Now get ready, dweeb. We got shit to do. Ready to fight some stupid motherfuckers?”

Not much later, Katsuki is briefing them all while they eat bread and fruit from atop their horses, and Izuku is incredibly impressed with his ability to come up with a plan on a whim. Once again he’s reminded that this is what Katsuki does.

Katsuki glows golden during sunrise, and Izuku can’t help but keep his eyes on him the whole time they ride to the first base of the stakeout. It’s fully light by the time they arrive, and Katsuki splits them into teams. He and Izuku are together (to protect him, he says), and they’re each assigned a destination. Izuku casts a spell to disguise their horses as part of the woods, and they leave them tied up, claiming the high ground they arrived at as base. If anything goes wrong, they were to report back here.

According to the intel Katsuki was provided by Enji, there are three sites of commotion where gatherings have occurred each morning. Apparently, the people of Buzkosaikyo have been meeting during the day in an attempt to avoid attracting attention, but that has failed for two reasons. For one, the Midoriyas’ men and their allies in the Valley are far smarter than that after all these years. Secondly, and perhaps more importantly, they’ve done a horrible job of laying low. From what the Order of the Dragon knows, these people are getting extremely out of hand, in both volume and violence. The plan is to move in on the capital of Buzkosaikyo, where Izuku and Bakugou would focus on town center, Ashido and Kirishima would focus on the outskirts and farmland, and Sero and Kaminari would go to the small river port.

They arrive at a conflict as soon as the team breaks. As Katsuki and Izuku start their descent downward toward the town, they meet a gruff looking man in the woods, sword at his belt, appearing to be on some type of morning journey. Izuku immediately wonders if he’s alone.

The gaze the man casts toward Katsuki is unsettling. He’s shifting in his stance, and Izuku’s guard raises even more than it had been. “Hey,” the man starts, tone menacing, eyes still on Katsuki, “you’re–”

Izuku can barely keep up with the movement that follows; Katsuki has sword at the man’s throat in an instant, eyes narrowed and posture confident. “One more word out of you about who the fuck you think I am, and you’re dead.”

Izuku is so caught up in watching the interaction unfold, reminding himself of the reputation Katsuki has built for himself as one of the highest ranking officers, that he barely notices when the two men coming up from behind him. As he looks behind his shoulder for an instant, he notes the knife approaching his neck. The sword nearing his back.

He’s just a foot or two away from Katsuki, back turned uphill with a menacing cliff to his left. There are not too many places to turn to, and it’s truly a nasty place for a fight. One misstep and you could fall to your death beyond the precipice, the river of his childhood suddenly unforgiving here in Buzkosaikyo.

But the forest has always been his friend, and all it takes is a snap of a twig beneath someone’s foot for him to realize that he’s been surrounded. The sensation of Magic other than his and Katsuki’s own rushes over him, and he knows he has to act fast. He’s not sure what the people of Buzkosaikyo are made of, but he knows they’re not afraid to use Magic. As a matter of fact, he’s quite sure that they’ll use it at any cost.

Another quick turn of the head, and he sees Katsuki is now fighting two people at once, the clash of swords like a metronome, reminding Izuku of the countdown he faces. Neutralize the situation, and then they can get to the real problem – not just one that involves some thugs in the woods who happen to have a bit of a vendetta against the Officer who helped turn the tide of the war. Perhaps it’s more on instinct than technique, but Izuku is overwhelmed with an energy he has never felt before. Like all he has to do is wave a hand for conflict to cease, he does what he knows best.

With a tightening of his fist, the roots of the trees beneath all of their feet takes out the four offenders at once. A power brews within him as the four men’s ankles are swept from beneath them, bringing them to the ground where the plants bind them. Quickly, he disarms them all, and on a whim he decides to throw their swords and knives off of the precipice into the rushing river below.

He’s breathing quite hard after it all, ignoring the groans from the men who have thumped their heads. He catches Katsuki trying not to laugh at their struggles and complaints from where the roots keep them helpless.

“No Magic in war, huh?” Katsuki jokes, sheathing his sword and bumping Izuku’s shoulder with his own.

Izuku blushes, not even realizing how quickly he’d turned to Magic as a solution. “Who said this was war?” He blurts, his new sword suddenly heavier on his belt. Katsuki’s grinning madly. “Besides, I didn’t hurt them. They’re just, ah… becoming one with the trees now. Maybe it’ll be good for them.”

Katsuki bursts out laughing, swinging an arm over Izuku’s shoulders. “Chill, Deku,” he snorts. “You were badass. Just keep your fucking guard up. Almost got your neck slit.”

The interaction leaves them on an adrenaline high, and they run side by side through the woods, morning light growing warmer as time passes. Whatever joy that came with the rush of working alongside Katsuki ceases in an instant when they reach the alleyway Katsuki knows to lead to the townsquare. Even from here, they hear the sounds of Magic and uproar. A feeling of dread sweeps over Izuku as he peers around the corner of a building.

Out of the corner of his eye, he can see someone being dragged toward the plaza, his hands bound behind his back. Izuku feels intense Magical energy coming from him, and he knows this isn’t good. “Do you think they’re hoarding Magical people?” Izuku asks.

Katsuki grunts. “Huh?” he says in a whisper. “What do you mean?”

“That guy they were dragging… he had Magic. Strong Magic. We need to find out what’s going on here.”

He watches Katsuki swallow, and they creep slowly along the buildings to the plaza. Despite the beautiful day and brightly shining sun, there’s a darkness shrouding the space. Colors seem to fly everywhere, different types of Magic being shot across cobblestone, men and women lined up and bound by their wrists. “Round up the Magicals!” a man is crying. “Tie them up!” People are screaming, being yanked from their friends and hit with spells to make them complacent.

“You,” a menacing figure says, pointing at a teenage girl watching from behind a fruit stand. “I know you have Magic. I can feel it from here. We’re going to come for you too, girl. Don’t think your exempt. The Buzosaikyo cause can only be achieved if we all participate,” he sneers. The girl cowers, looking desperately at who seems to be her mother.

“How does he know she has Magic?” Katsuki wonders. “Can he sense it?”

Izuku is at a loss – how is he supposed to approach this situation? Sure, he’s lived a lifetime of discretion, always keeping his identity secret, but he’s always been able to keep to himself. They can’t just start asking questions. It’s too obvious. Especially if people can recognize Katsuki with just a glance. For a moment, he’s glad he’s kept his identity hidden this long. Like a reminder, it’s as if fate tightens around his finger.

“There’s a chance,” Izuku responds. “It takes a long time to learn, but that doesn’t mean there’s no way of doing it. And if it’s true… I think we’re in trouble.”

He looks desperately at his partner, feeling his green eyes sting with anxiety.

“Yeah, no shit,” Katsuki grits. He’s digging his nails into his gloves.

“What do we do?”

Katsuki grumbles, running a hand through his hair. “This isn’t fucking good, but we have to interrogate someone. I just don’t know who.”

“Kacchan, people recognize your face! We can’t!”

“I can’t,” Katsuki quips. “No one in the damn world knows who you are.”

“What do I even ask? Who do I ask? If I were from here, wouldn’t I know what was going on?”

“People go on journeys all the time. You could just be passing through. It’s normal to be curious.”

Izuku glances around wearily, having trouble locking his eyes onto the Magical people crying in desperation. “If you say so…”

Katsuki claps a hand on his shoulder. “I’m going to hide. Just stop the next person and start blabbing. You’re good at that.”

In any other situation, Izuku would have blushed or frowned, but his lips stay pressed in a firm line, nervous. “Kacchan…” he whispers, unsure of himself.

“Izuku,” Katsuki responds, placing a gentle hand on his shoulder, “you can do it. Just relax.”

With that, he disappears behind a corner, but as soon as he’s out of sight, Izuku feels a jolt of Magic at his waist, where the little knife sits, tiger’s eye glinting at him in the sun. Folding his fingers around it, he’s reminded, confidence, strength, perseverance. To avoid looking aggressive, he drops his hand – but still the Magic runs through him. Katsuki’s energy lingering when he needs it most. He’d clearly forgotten about the weapons so diligently made for him when he was actually in a conflict – he’s going to have get better at not relying on Magic.

It takes no time for a villager to pass by; Izuku thanks whoever is watching over him that it’s an old man, hobling with a cane. He knows it would be unwise to drop his guard just because of his age or stature, but he relaxes some anyway and prepares himself to lie. Throws caution to the wind and rolls with the first thing he comes up with.

Approaching, he mumbles nervously, “Sir, might I trouble for a moment of your time? I’m journeying eastward toward the ocean, and I heard that your village was a good one to pass through. There seems to be some commotion in the town center. I was just hoping to find some food.”

The man’s eyes widen. “Son, I hope you don’t have Magic. I would find another town to rest up in. Things are looking grim here…”

“What do you mean, you hope I don’t have Magic?” Izuku presses, heart running rapid in his chest. He’s so nervous, he’s surprised he doesn’t shake. He knows that not every traveler would be so curious, but he can’t back down. Confidence, strength, perseverance. It’s like he can nearly feel Katsuki’s eyes on him from around the corner he disappeared to.

“There’s a bad man in charge here. They’re rounding up all the folks with Magic and forcing them into a draft. We just got out of a war, you see, but these people don’t let up. You say you’re not from around here?” He glances at Izuku curiously. He’s not sure what would give him away, his clothes simple and his accent inoffensive.

“No, sir. I come from the North.”

“Well, I’d head back there. It’s gonna get bad here soon… the cavalry they’re brewin’ up is lookin’ to start attackin’ again. They got a thing against our neighbors. The clock’s tickin’, boy. You stay here, and you watch folks die.”

Izuku gapes, and he doesn’t have to feign his fear nor shock. “Oh,” is all he mutters. “Thank you for your time, sir. I think I’ll be going.”

“That’s right, kid. Run along. I wouldn’t come back.”

He nods, and the man moves slowly away. Izuku swears he can hear his old bones creak. Katsuki emerges from the shadows, casts Izuku an affirmative look, and they journey in silence back out of the town, both understanding that their job was done. It’s not until they’re back with the horses that Izuku can dare to utter what he heard, and not without a silencing spell to shroud them for a few moments.

“Deku,” Katsuki grunts, as the reality of the situation settles in for real. Buzosaikyo is forcibly building a Magical army to fight the Midoriyas, and they’re going to do anything they can to win. And with a man who can sense Magic, Izuku knows they are going to have to think carefully about their strategy. “I think I can feel your Magic. That whole time you were talking to the old fucker, I could feel it. ”

Izuku blushes, bubbling with pride for his student but also feeling as though a part of him is exposed. The part of himself that’s becoming more and more tempting to hide. “Really, Kacchan? I’m so proud of you! Finally!”

“Tch,” Katsuki grunts, avoiding Izuku’s eyes. “It’s no good if you it’s just you. I know you. I think I could sense you anywhere, after all this.”

With that, Izuku knows his heart and his head are not going to give him an easy battle. As always, war looms in the valley, like shadows are borne from the sun.





Chapter Text

When Izuku tries to let go, his knuckles lock in place. When he tries to look away, his eyes stay fixated on that golden light before him. When he tries to say, “You should go home and get some rest,” he ends up murmuring, “Please come in.”

After two more days of the stake out, they wind up at the castle again. Exhausted and dirty, everyone goes their separate ways when they make it back into the village, but Katsuki insists on bringing Izuku back safe, like he promised. He’s roughed up and unkempt, tired and proud, and Izuku wishes he wanted to be apart from him. Instead, he’s being drawn closer and closer, wanting more and more, like how the light makes the darkest things the warmest. When they reach the stable, Izuku knows he should reel in on himself. Knows he should take the time to be alone. To fold in on himself and his stupid heart.

The dirt smeared over Katsuki’s brow tells him otherwise. His broad shoulders and protective stance tell him otherwise. His gut tells him otherwise, and honestly, he wishes he could throw up.

They wind up in Izuku’s private bathroom, and it’s so easy to be desperate. The steam that fills the room feels familiar as they draw the bath, and Katsuki moves in on him at first so gently, unbuttoning his dirty shirt and kissing along his neck and collarbone like the last time they bathed wasn’t the river. He’s kissing him like they aren’t on the brink of war. Izuku lets out these little breathy noises, whining through his nose, melting into the warm air of the room.

Katsuki eventually loses patience, growling as he grips Izuku’s jaw and says, “Fuckin’ hell, just kiss me.”

They meet like it’s do or die, and maybe soon it will be. Katsuki pushes Izuku up against the bathtub, his leg pressing between Izuku’s and grinding desperately as they kiss. Soon Izuku is gasping for air, unable to think about anything other than this moment. Not the war. Not his bleeding heart. Just the way his clothes fall to the floor and the mouth moving from his lips to his ear to his collarbone.

“Fuck, Deku,” Katsuki rumbles in his ear. “You were so fuckin’ good out there. You weren’t kidding when you said you had a few tricks up your sleeve.”

He laughs breathily, trying to ignore the way his body reacts at the praise coming from Katsuki. “Says you,” he says back. “It’s no wonder you’re at your rank so young.”

Katsuki chuckles lowly, kissing up Izuku’s neck and pushing his hands into Izuku’s hips, so he’s held firmly against the bathtub. He looks Izuku square in the eye before moving to whisper in his ear, “I’m happy you’re safe.”

Izuku can’t help the way his neck tips back at the words and the shiver that runs up his spine. He feels so vulnerable in that moment, so dependant – but he can’t bring himself to care. He’s going to have this time here, and then he’d work on letting go. “We should actually use the bath,” Izuku points out, thumbing at some of the dirt on Katsuki’s collarbone, avoiding the scratch next to it.

“You’re probably right,” Katsuki chuckles, and at his smile, Izuku goes a little bit easier on himself. How could he not get lost in a moment like this? They’re in a warm room that’s covered in lit candles dripping purple wax. There’s ivy crawling up the wall. Everything smells sweet and clean, and there’s a voice in his ear telling him he’s safe. Maybe he deserves to be in love for just a minute.

Katsuki peels his shirt over his head, and even when he’s exhausted he’s beautiful. Izuku has to stop the words from leaving his lips again.

Katsuki, like he tends to be, is one step ahead. “Oi, gorgeous. I know you’re a prince, but I ain’t helping you in. Have at it.”

Izuku blushes, remembering that he’s already naked as Katsuki slides a hand against his stomach and presses their waists together once more. Sinking into the water is easy. He dunks his head once before he’s joined by Katsuki, who’s smirking.

“Castle has decent amenities,” he jokes, floating over to Izuku in the huge tub to straddle his waist and start kissing him all over again. “After this, I’m gonna fuck you again, okay?”

It’s not really a question. All Izuku can do is nod numbly, because Katsuki is rubbing soap into his hair and gently massaging. The water is so hot that they both begin to sweat, but there’s a cool washcloth that they run along each other’s faces and necks. When he watches a droplet of water leave Katsuki’s hair and kiss the surface of the bath, he can’t help but think about all of the times water has brought them closer. When they sat with their feet water in the valley, when they kissed in the springs, when they bathed in the river, and now – this. This is leaving Izuku gasping for air, not sure if he wants to breathe or drown.

When they’ve finally allowed themselves to clean each other up between kisses, Katsuki finds his way back to Izuku, hovering over him so that their noses brush, so close that the strands of their hair exchange moisture. “What do you want, huh, Prince?”

Izuku wants to roll his eyes at the label, but all he can do is think about the question. He stares at Katsuki’s warm red eyes and broad biceps, trailing his gaze downward along the ridges of his abdomen, to his narrow waist. He asks, “Sit on the ledge?”

Then Katsuki is smirking again as he lifts himself out of the water to sit. His back rests against window panes with a view of a small garden that no one has access to. Around him are towels and candles and plants, and steam rises off his body just as it does from the water. Izuku nudges his legs apart gently, settling between them with just a bit of nervousness. Rather than panic, he looks up at those eyes that have come to feel so trusting, and he’s met with a roughened hand gently cupping his jaw.

Katsuki’s thumb swipes across his bottom lip, and all Izuku can think to do is take it into his mouth. He swirls his tongue around the finger and lets Katsuki feel the smooth warmth of the inside of his mouth until he pulls back with a pop. He feels a small sense of pride at the sigh Katsuki lets out and dares to run his lips along the inside of his thigh.

“You wanna suck me off, baby?” Katsuki asks. He places two fingers in front of Izuku’s lips, and he takes them in his mouth again without thinking.

“Can I?” Izuku asks once his mouth is free again. He blushes faintly. “I’ve– I’ve never–”

Katsuki laughs gently, the hand that’s still cupping Izuku’s face brushes softly on his cheekbone before he drums the two fingers that were just in Izuku’s mouth against his shoulder insinuatingly. “I think you’ll be fine,” he says cheekily, and Izuku’s blush intensifies. He carefully pushes up on Izuku’s jaw and murmurs, “C’mere.”

Izuku stands up between Katsuki’s thighs, the water rippling around his body. Katsuki wraps two big hands around his waist and pulls him closer, and he gasps when their cocks brush as their stomachs press together. Katsuki threads his fingers through Izuku’s hair and kisses him soundly, licking into his mouth until he moans. He’s so lost in the warmth of Katsuki’s mouth that he doesn’t realize one of Katsuki’s hands has come between their bodies to jerk their two cocks together, the warm wetness of their time in the tub making Izuku gasp with pleasure.

“You’ll do so good,” Katsuki murmurs against his lips. “I wanna feel your mouth so bad. Just take your time, okay?”

Izuku flushes again, nodding. His head is so fuzzy, his skin overrun with the feeling of Katsuki’s hands and lips on him. “It’ll be good for you. Promise.”

The red of Katsuki’s eyes have been eclipsed by black, and he keeps their gazes locked as Izuku sinks back down into the water, hands coming to grip Katsuki’s thighs, mouth ghosting the inside of his leg. Once more, one of Katsuki’s fingers comes to brush at Izuku’s lips, and as he takes it into his mouth, Katsuki murmurs, “You look nice down there, Prince.”

Maybe it’s the name or the slide of the finger across his tongue, but arousal surges inside of Izuku, makes him curl his toes in the water and dig his fingernails into Katsuki’s skin. All hesitation dissolves, and he licks his lips before parting them to take Katsuki’s cock into his mouth. He tries to remember how it was for him, when Katsuki made him see stars – so he closes his eyes swirls his tongue around the head experimentally. He takes the sigh that leaves Katsuki’s mouth as affirmation that it’s good. As Izuku draws his head back to look up at the man before him, he lets his eyelashes flutter against his cheekbones before meeting that red gaze that’s not expectant but so eager.

Izuku takes Katsuki’s cock in his hand and thumbs at the precum that leaked from the head. Holding in a private smile, he holds eye contact as he licks his finger the same way he’d licked Katsuki’s, and he decides that he’d quite like to hear Katsuki breathe, “ Fuck, Izuku,” like that for the rest of his life.

Whining gently, he takes Katsuki’s cock into his mouth again, starting to bob his head. As he grows more comfortable with his mouth stretched around the length, he pushes a roughened hand into Katsuki’s hip bones and focuses on making Katsuki feel good. There’s a soft thumb brushing against his cheekbone as praise, and eventually he finds rhythm, going deeper each time he bobs his head, the little airy breaths and moans leaving Katsuki’s mouth making him shiver even in the warmth of the water.

Once or twice, Katsuki’s hips buck up into his throat, and Izuku does his best to relax, thinking of the way Katsuki’s nose had nearly touched his stomach without even a flinch in response. He pulls off to kiss at the inside of Katsuki’s thighs again, pushing his cheek into the warm hand that cups his face.

“You’re a natural,” Katsuki jokes, and Izuku rolls his eyes, chomping down on his hand in response.

“Taught me well,” Izuku rasps, swollen lips coming to roll his tongue over the head again before sucking hard.

Part of him almost wants to laugh at their student-teacher dynamic coming into every part of their life, but Katsuki’s letting out those noises again, so all Izuku can do is speed up until Katsuki is muttering, “Fuck, fuck, fuck, ” and guiding his mouth away, everything becoming frantic all over again. He gently pushes on Izuku’s jaw so that he stands again, immediately biting into his neck in a way that’s going to leave a mark damnit, but all of Izuku’s regard for reality has dissipated again. Katsuki’s voice has lowered, and as he kisses Izuku’s neck and presses hot hands against his lower back, he mutters, “Fuck, Deku, you’re so fucking hot. You’re so good, I’m gonna fuck you, okay?”

And all Izuku can do is stand there, dripping water into the warm tub surrounded by steam, and absolutely fucking mewl. Tipping his neck back, he breathes, “Please,” before their lips meet again, furious and so needy for one another. Focusing on the place where their skin meets, Izuku does his best to translate his love for lust – and while that isn’t too hard, his mind keeps asking him why he can’t just do both. Why he can’t just have both.

He’s given nearly no time to think, though, because Katsuki growls, “Let’s get out,” and shoves a towel at him that he barely gets a chance to use. Katsuki steers him toward the wall, grabs his hips, and bends him over. Propping himself up with his hands, Izuku’s eyes roll back into his head as Katsuki positions himself behind him. There’s an mouth by his ear whispering, “Gonna fuck you so good, baby. You’re fucking perfect.”

Body heat disappears and reappears, footsteps pad to one side of the bathroom and back, and then Katsuki’s mouth is kissing at his shoulder blades as a lubed hand slips between his legs. Katsuki stays close the entire time he opens Izuku up, biting along the back of his neck, kissing down his spine, using his free hand to rub up and down the skin of Izuku’s abdomen even though he refuses to touch the hard length of Izuku’s cock that hangs between his legs.

It doesn’t take much to break Izuku down. Soon his forearms are shaking against the wall and he’s gasping, “Please, Katsuki, just–”

“I know, baby,” Katsuki breathes in his room. “Just want to make sure it’s perfect for you. I don’t want to hurt you. You’re so good.”

“You’re not gonna hurt me. I just want it,” Izuku whines, and the fingers inside him curl once to make him inhale sharply before withdrawing.

Just as Izuku begins to buck his hips backward, two strong hands are on him, and Katsuki’s warm chest is pressed against his back. The slick head of Katsuki’s cock nudges at his hole, and Katsuki murmurs lowly, “This okay, Prince?”

Izuku simply whines and pushes his ass back until Katsuki’s all the way inside of him and the hands on his hips are flaming hot and the nails on his skin are leaving crescent moons where they rest. “Fuck me,” Izuku responds desperately.

“Yeah, okay,” Katsuki responds, and once his hips snap forward one time the world comes tumbling down around them. The angle is dirty, but he’d bend over any time if it meant he was going to be fucked like this. It’s fast and messy – Izuku shakes against the wall as Katsuki pounds into him. He can’t keep track of where Katsuki’s hands go, but he knows they make him moan and gasp. He knows it’s not long before he’s begging for his cock to be touched, and as he comes into Katsuki’s hand, Katsuki slams into him once more before pulling out to come on his back.

“Shit, gorgeous,” Katsuki breathes, forehead pressed in between Izuku’s shoulder blades. He leaves a trail of gentle kisses there until he noses into the back of Izuku’s neck, where the soothing warmth of his cheek quickly starts to feel like a burn. As lust starts to evaporate as steam, he’s left with love dancing all over his skin like static. Izuku bites out a swear only because he knows he’ll get away with it right now, in the post-sex haze.

He shudders when Katsuki pulls out, and they’re both sweating. With a heaving chest, Izuku stands up gingerly and immediately waltzes his way back toward the bath, a bit nervous to look at Katsuki in the eye knowing what will begin to unfold as soon as they let the bathroom door close behind them.

 


 

When Katsuki leaves later in the early afternoon, he hikes his rucksack over his shoulder and lingers by the doorway of Izuku’s room. Things had been quiet after the bath, but in a way that was passable. They both had plenty to think about. The stakeout had been more than revealing, and what’s next for both of them is far from pleasant. The days practicing Magic by the riverside would surely come to a close. All of May’s flowers would have to simply belong to spring, instead of serving as a backdrop for their picnics and flirtation.

As Katsuki makes to leave, he turns over his shoulder to look at Izuku. He’s all cleancut now, after they’ve bathed. He looks official – the tiny dragon on his lapel glinting in the afternoon light. “C’mere,” Katsuki says, and Izuku figures it would probably be worse if he just said no without reason.

When he approaches, Katsuki curls a gentle hand around his wrist and faintly presses his lips to Izuku’s forehead. “Good luck,” he murmurs. “I have a meeting with the Queen later. Maybe I’ll see you?”

It takes all of Izuku’s strength not to let tears spring up in his eyes. “Yeah,” Izuku breathes. “Maybe.” He refuses to look at Katsuki’s gaze, but he’s met with the same red of the ruby glinting on his chest. It’s like the love Izuku put in it is scoffing back at him.

“Later, nerd,” mutters Katsuki, and then the warmth around his wrist is gone, and the door closes, and Izuku is alone in his room where he started.

There’s a vacancy in his bedroom now, and even though he hasn’t been here in three days, he can’t look at his silk sheets without thinking about the way Katsuki laid him down. He can’t curl up in his space without thinking about the voice that teased, “ She know about your little crush?” He can’t stop picturing the look in Katsuki’s eyes that glinted sharply when he called Izuku dangerous.

Sitting down at his desk, Izuku sighs desperately. It’s so much more than a crush. It’s been everything for Izuku these past few months. Katsuki opened up the world to him. Taught him how to stand on his two feet. How to rely on more than just his Magic. What it feels like to come home to some place that’s not walled in. Izuku fell in love, yes – is that what makes him dangerous?

At first thought, Izuku wants to rage. If he’s learned anything from Katsuki, it’s confidence. He can stand on his own. Fight on his own. He would never want the premise of their relationship to be Katsuki as a guardian. This has never been a game of Protect the Prince. They teach one another, as equals. They give and take – this dance they’ve started, it’s always been the perfect chase.

If love is what makes him dangerous, then Katsuki can back the hell off. He seemed to be fine at doing that when they were around other people. At the sight of his friends, Katsuki so keenly withdrew. And at the loss of him, Izuku could feel his whole chest cave in. If Katsuki changed so much around his friends, perhaps that’s a sign that this whole thing – this relationship, these first sparks of love – is not what he wants it to be. Or maybe it’s something that shouldn’t be. He barely managed to be comfortable when the six of them were travelling together just because of the way Katsuki shifted. He morphed into something hard and unforgiving, and Izuku wants nothing to do with it.

Or he wishes he did. Because if loving is dangerous, part of Izuku is sure that Katsuki is just as much of a threat. To Izuku, Katsuki often seems like he’s positively teeming with love. Still at his desk, Izuku raises his head to stare outside his window. The grass seems greener than ever, glistening in the springtime sun. Images flash through Izuku’s mind. The way Katsuki cocks his head at him to listen to him teach. The slide of his hand down Izuku’s bicep when he goes to fix his form. The way he dragged his lips down Izuku’s chest. The curl of his body around Izuku’s as they laid down to sleep in the tent, warm light of the lantern flickering over them wordlessly.

Izuku knows he’s more than just a first love. Katsuki is so much bigger than that.

He runs a frustrated hand through his hair. “I hate this,” he says to no one in particular, and he decides it’s no good to hold on to beautiful moments right now. No, he needs the ugly ones. He needs the way Katsuki’s throat grew tight around his friends. The way he stomped on the fire. Spat out words like they were sin.

In love or not, Katsuki knows how to turn his heart inside out, and today, Izuku isn’t a teacher or a lover: He’s the Prince of Kokyusenzai, and Bakugou Katsuki is an asset.

That’s going to remain true for the rest of his time as a Knight. After these past few days, Izuku is more than sure that his title of Officer is suitable. He’s powerful, efficient, stealthy, and poised. He’s so close to mastering Magic – and that is going to make all the difference, with the ideas that have been brewing in Izuku’s mind since they ran into that disaster in the Buzosaikyo town square. Izuku know he’s going to need him, whether that’s as a servant to the castle, a friend, or a lover, he has to tell himself that that doesn’t matter. Both of their futures are going to exist in battle.

He goes to his mother.

When he bursts through the wooden doors of her chamber, she looks unsurprised as he begins to rattle off everything that’s been on his mind (aside from Katsuki, that is). “Mom, we need to strategize. We have so much to consider after these past few days. I know you were given the written brief and that Kacch– Officer Bakugou is returning to talk tonight, but I wanted to get to you sooner so we can discuss some of my questions. Why do Buzosaikyo feel ready to attack again already? It’s only been four months time since the end of the war… And we’ve barely been able to restock food, or – or weapons. Not to mention the harvest is still months away! Are they so confident in their Magic that they’re willing to fight solely on the premise of anger? They’re usually way more strategic than tha–”

His rambling is cut off by his mother standing and wrapping her arms around him. Leaning into his chest she says sweetly, “I’m so happy you’ve made it back safely.”

Izuku blushes faintly, using one hand to hold her and the other to rub the back of his head. “Of course I did, Mom. I told you I would…”

“That Katsuki did his job?” she asks.

“He led well, yes,” Izuku grits.

“And protected you well?” Inko presses, pulling back from the hug.

“He didn’t have to,” Izuku insists. “I’m strong.”

Inko laughs airly and goes on her tiptoes to ruffle her son’s hair. “I know you are, Izuku baby. Just making sure the man can keep a promise.”

Izuku bites his lip, and to himself, he faintly wonders the same thing.

“Now let’s sit,” declares Inko. “I know you didn’t just come in here to rattle off random ideas. I’ll have some tea prepared for us, and you can tell me what you saw. And what you think.”

Izuku nods succinctly, and soon they find themselves hunched over documents from the Second Thirty Year War and the write up Ashido had prepared from the stakeout. Izuku relays his information carefully – the words of the old man, the commotion in the square, the violence. The green tea they drink releases steam onto his face as he holds his cup close to his mouth, and he mumbles along the rim of the porcelain. “It just doesn’t make sense.” He lets his hair fall down into his eyes as he stares down at the words and maps before them. “I don’t know how someone so evil can have such a solid grasp on sensing Magic.”

Inko sighs. “Unfortunately, Dark Magic is still powerful. It has its drawbacks, of course, its weak points, but bad intentions have never stopped someone from learning.”

“You’re right,” Izuku replies. He swallows all his anxiety and forces himself to stop drumming his nails on the table. Setting down his tea, he declares, “Which is why I think we need to use Magic for this battle.” He keeps a careful gaze on his mother’s face, whose expression immediately tightens into something sour. “We won’t be able to win without it,” Izuku insists. “Otherwise… we might have another war.”

Something flashes in Inko’s eyes, but she was never a woman to give up easily. “Izuku, you know my philosophy on that.” Her voice is stern, but he knows her better. She’s curious. Something inside him warms despite the tension in the room, knowing that his mother values his opinion on a matter of leadership. He sits up a little bit straighter in his seat. It’s time he starts acting like a Prince, isn’t it?

“Please listen. I’ve been thinking, okay? Whatever Magic we use won’t be violent, and especially not for evil. After… after all these years of training, I know better than that. It’ll be exactly the opposite. You’re the one who’s taught me that light can always overtake the dark.”

“Izuku…” Inko starts. “You knowing that isn’t enough–”

“Mom,” Izuku says harshly. “Let me finish. I’m not the only one who knows anymore. Bakugou… he’s good. And I know you value you him as a leader. If we work together, I really think we can explain our beliefs and methods. We’re both good teachers, and I really – I really think we’re strong enough. The Magic we can surround ourselves in, with the help of the army, it’ll be enough to ward them off. Their Magic will crumble at the purity of it. We’ll be too bright.”

He gets a little fired up while he speaks, voice rising, eyes shining. The thing about Izuku is that he’s always been an optimist. He’s never had a problem believing, even when he was at his smallest, his weakest, his most useless – he’s always walked on, chin up.

But he’s never has a purpose, and the idea of being able to do something and do it well makes pride unfurl in his chest. The idea of doing it with Katsuki, well. That leaves him uncertain. He felt so powerful on the stakeout, when they beat those wanders in the woods, when they rode in the dark, when he talked to that rickety old man. He’d felt powerful, but he also felt small. He refuses to let his love come between this. As a lover, or whatever they are, Katsuki was able to make him feel like he was cracking open at the seems. But as a partner, he felt unstoppable, and for now, that has to be good enough.

“The training...” Inko starts, voice heavy and concerned. “The training you would need to provide these people with would be immense. I don’t know if we have enough time.”

Emboldened, Izuku stands, clenching his fist. “We can’t afford to think about time! If we send regular knights and serfs into this battle, they will die. It doesn’t matter how many protective spells or reinforced weapons we provide them with. They will die. They’re creating a monster over there, and the King doesn’t even care. Not even a little. From what we gathered, I think they want to be the only Magic people in the region. They want people to fear them. And it’s not even a dispute over land anymore. It’s a battle of ideals, and they think we’re arrogant. They think we’re sacrificing our non-Magical people for the sake of protecting others. They think we’re hierarchical.

“They’ll never see the change in strategy coming. Plus, we’ll still be protecting the sanctity of Magic while making sure Kokyusenzai is safe.” He takes a nervous breath to reveal to her, “They’re gonna target the non-Magical farmers, Mom. The people we rely on most and probably don’t cherish enough. We heard them say so.”

As the reality of the situation hits him again, he sits back down, hands hitting the table with a heavy thump. He doesn’t expect his mother’s warm palms to fold over them. He doesn’t expect the soft, teary gaze that looks just like his own to meet his eyes. At least, not so soon. He expected to have to try much harder to get her to agree to this. Inko starts wearily. “If you’re wrong about this, Izuku...” she warns. But with a determined smile he watches as, in so many ways, she passes the torch to her son. “I have to trust you. This is your future. Your Kingdom. Just tell me what we need to do.”

“I will,” Izuku breathes. “Thank you for trusting me.”

His mother smiles almost sadly. “It’s not about my trust in you anymore, Izuku. I’ve always believed in you. Right now, you need to make sure that everyone else has faith in you. Do you understand? A lot of things are going to change.”

Izuku knows that is the absolute truth. His time to reign is fast approaching, and for the first time in his life, he feels more prepared for it than ever. Still anxious, still terrified, still not entirely confident in himself, but each day he takes a new step forward. This next one might just be a leap.

He makes to leave, knowing how indefinitely busy Inko is going to be, but he stops when the hands still covering his squeeze tight. “One more thing,” his mother says, cocking her head. Her brow wrinkles, and she corrects herself. “Well, two things, I suppose. Officer Bakugou – does he know about the plan?”

Yes, that confidence Izuku spoke of? It shrivels inside him, just a tad. His shoulders slump as he grows sheepish, cheeks staining red. “Ah. I just. Um. Haven’t told him yet.” His mother’s looks grows grossly concerned. “I was gonna! I swear.” He starts waving his hands around in that way he does, growing increasingly more frantic, because well, maybe he hasn’t thought this through very much. Being in love with Katsuki sure is throwing him a lot of obstacles, huh? Ones like being so caught up in having thank fuck we’re safe sex that they didn’t even talk about the next steps beyond the recap they had had with the Order of the Dragon before splitting up.

“I just thought it would be best to tell you first,” Izuku tacks on lamely, knowing his mother will see through the excuse. She nods suspiciously, and Izuku keeps talking despite the fact he knows it would probably be best for him to shut his trap right about now. Sometimes, with Inko, honesty just gets the best of him. Mother’s charm, perhaps. “And… to be honest, I don’t know how he’s going to take it just yet. It’s a lot of change really quickly.”

To say the least.

Absolutely everything has been changing around them lately.

The Queen nods. “Well, I’m counting on you. And him. You better not be in over your head, young man.”

Oh, trust me, Mom, he wants to say. I hope I’m not in over my head either. Even though he knows so much of himself already is.

“I know, Mom,” he manages to squeak out. He breathes, adds, “He listens to me.”

Inko considers his words. She takes her hands away from her son’s only to prop her chin on her knuckles. Izuku does not like the look in her eyes. “It seems that he does. Which leads me to ask – are you and Officer Bakugou… involved?”

Izuku chokes and splutters. “What? Mom! What makes you say so?” His blush is absolutely painful, and he knows there’s no way he can cover this up if he tries. His reaction was as good as gold already.

“Well, first of all, there’s an interesting bruise on your neck that doesn’t quite look like the kind that would come from a scuff down in the Valley.”

Izuku’s hand shoots up to the part of his neck where Katsuki sunk his teeth earlier, right below his jaw. For a quick moment, he’s taken back to the heat of the bath, the sensation of skin on skin, that blooming feeling taking over his chest. But he quickly regains composure (if one can even call it that) and exclaims, “Oh my god, Mom. Please be quiet.”

“Second of all,” Inko continues, ignoring her son, “I saw the way you look at him.”

It feels like something warm blooms in his chest and sinks in his belly simultaneously. Of course his love is written all over him. How could it not be? He stares down at his lap as he mumbles, “What do you mean?”

Inko smiles softly, so unaware of Izuku’s turmoil. “I think you know what I mean.”

Izuku hangs his head further. His damn heart on his sleeve biting him in the ass again. Maybe she sees the red string holding him hostage, too. Of course he knows what she means.

“You know,” continues Inko. “I wouldn’t mind if that young man was the one you led the Kingdom with.”

Izuku stands abruptly at those words. That’s not a thought he can afford to be having right now. Instead, he straightens his shirt and makes to leave once more. “Your Majesty, if you don’t mind, I’d rather not discuss that right now. We have other things to think about.”

He shows himself out without another word, thinking only of how much he hates the way his mother knows him. No, that ache in his chest isn’t yearning. It can’t be. He refuses to let it be – even if his mother saw right through that facade, just like she always does.

 


 

 

Outside, the day has folded in on itself, the once cloudless sky now overtaken with a shallow overcast that releases a steady rain onto the courtyard. It’s good for the plants, Izuku tells himself. He refuses to hide under any sort of cover, so soon his green curls are plastered to his forehead, and he stares out into space until a shock of red and white appears before him.

Shouto takes one analytical look at him before drawing his sword, apparently deciding that Izuku doesn’t need words just yet. “Well?” he starts. “Shall we?”

Izuku just unsheathes his own weapon and prepares to lose.

He does lose, but only once, because Shouto must deem his previous assessment wrong. “You know,” he murmurs lowly, in that Shouto way that Shouto does, “if you wanted to talk, you could have just asked to talk.” He puts his sword away, and Izuku follows suit.

“I know,” Izuku replies honestly. “I just didn’t know what I wanted. I thought maybe practice would help.”

Shouto shrugs wordlessly. “Want to stay in the rain?” he asks, and even though it’s phrased like a question, for both of them, it’s already answered.

They sit on the cobblestone wall of the courtyard where they have sat a million times, and they let the rain wash over them. They’re silent for a long while, listening to the sound of the water. Izuku can see Shouto’s eyes tracing the design on the pommel of his new sword, but he doesn’t bother to bring it up. He’s sure Shouto knows where it’s from, anyway.

Finally, the silence begins to make Izuku itch, so he asks, “Um, what’d I miss?”

Shouto cracks a wry smile. “Nothing. It’s always the same around here.”

“That’s not true!” Izuku replies unconvincingly. Lately, it had been truer than ever. At least, until now, he supposes, with an uprising a few hundred kilometers away.

“Better question is what did I miss?” Shouto responds. “There gonna be another war?”

Izuku sighs. “I’m gonna try to make sure there’s not.”

“Are you?” Shouto asks, and if it were anyone else, Izuku might have been a little bit offended. But Shouto is not trying to challenge him. Rather, he’s checking in. Encouraging him.

“Yeah,” Izuku breathes. “It’s my job, isn’t it?”

“I guess it is.”

They pause again, and even though Izuku is painfully aware they’d basically said nothing at all, he already feels better. They’ve known each other so long that the way they trade words hardly makes sense to anyone else. Instead, they pass ideas to one another. Through tone. Through a glance. And it makes Izuku feel at home. Something stirs in him as he turns to look at Shouto, his downcast eyes, his wet hair sticking in big clumps to his forehead.

He tries to speak again. “Has Yaomomo said anything about her training? I haven’t really been around much lately… even before the stakeout I was busy. Which is strange, I guess.” He chuckles awkwardly. “It’s never been that way.” With a pause, he waits until Shouto’s mismatched gaze meets his, and he asks, as rawly as he can, “And how are you? I miss you.”

He watches Shouto’s as expression shifts into not-quite-a-smirk, but it’s certainly more smug than it is warm. “I’m glad you miss us.” He tips his head back to let the rain wash over him. “You’ve never really had a reason to say that before.” Then his smile spreads. “Doesn’t it feel good?”

Izuku rolls his shoulders and trails his gaze to follow Shouto’s, trying to understand the feeling. “It’s… new. I guess it does feel good.”

“Life only gives us new things every so often. Hold onto that.”

Izuku can’t control the little laugh that pushes past his lips. He cracks a smile, because it’s something so ridiculous and so Shouto for him to say, but then – he’s crying, small tears flowing down his face as he sobs once. All of which makes Shouto laugh, too, because that’s something so Izuku to do, and then Izuku is laughing and crying at once, muttering, “I know, I’m so predictable.”

As Izuku sniffs, he thinks that the catharsis feels good. The rain feels good. It’s a perfect cliché, and it’s exactly what he needed.

“I love you anyway,” says Shouto. “So, are you gonna tell me or what? Because I know you’re not crying because you missed me and Momo.”

Izuku cracks another smile. “I don’t even know why I’m crying. It’s too many things at once.”

Shouto nudges him. “Well, let’s start with one.”

“I don’t know where to start,” Izuku whines, even though he knows exactly where Shouto is going to take this topic of conversation.

“The Knight,” Shouto answers for him, as Izuku predicted. “You’re in love with him.”

“I–” Izuku opens his mouth to deny it, but he figures it’s not worth it. This conversation would surely be less worth his while if he does. “How can you tell?”

Shouto gives him a look. “Izuku, it’s written all over your face. Whenever you talk about the guy, everything about you just… softens.”

“As if I’m not soft in the first place,” Izuku mutters dismally. “My mom could tell, too.”
“Well, no shit. She’s your mom. What’s the problem with loving him, anyway? I thought you said he’s good to you.”

“It’s… complicated, I guess.” In his mind, he thinks of all the different reasons he could give Shouto. First love. Wedding. The stakeout. Their lack of words. “I mean, he is good to me, but we never really talk about anything. And while we were away, he did some stuff that was really confusing, and it hurt my feelings.”

Shouto raises an unimpressed eyebrow. “Some stuff?” he deadpans.

Izuku sighs. “Sorry, I guess I don’t know if it’s a valid reason to be mad or not. He just – we were around his friends, right? His team. The Order. And he sort of withdrew from me? Even though he’s been so sweet to me otherwise? But as soon as we were alone he was back to normal.” He pauses to bite a hangnail, and Shouto swats his hand away.

“You’re not telling me everything. I’m not gonna judge you, Izuku. Matters of the heart aren’t always easy. Besides, you’ve heard most of my bullshit throughout our lives. I think I owe you one.”

“Maybe– maybe I just feel stupid for falling in love with the first person I’ve met from outside the castle. Is it– um. Do you think I’m naive, Shouto?”

“Midoriya,” Shouto says firmly, “I think I would be the first person to tell you if you were being naive. You don’t get to help who you love. I think you just know. It doesn’t matter if they’ve been there with you your whole life or if you’ve just met.”

Izuku glances at him with blazing eyes, watching the water roll down his face. He is sure Shouto is speaking from the heart.

“You might have been sheltered, Izuku,” Shouto continues, turning to look him in the eye. “But you’re not stupid. You have a good heart. It doesn’t hurt to trust it.”

Izuku raises his hand to bite at his nail again, but lowers it as soon as he realizes Shouto is still watching him. With a shaky breath, he asks. “But should I trust him?”

Shouto shrugs, as if the burden of the weight of the conversation will simply fall from his shoulders. “Depends. Can you really love someone you don’t trust?”

They sit in the rain until they both shiver, and the sun begins to set.

 


 

 

As cold as the rain made him, Izuku’s fatigue and chilled body are not enough to stop him from thinking. The reeling in his mind is as unceasing as the tide, a constant ebb and flow of one worry to the next. But as much as he misses the peace of mind that he used to know before he was swept up into the affairs of the castle, he admits he will never wish to go back to the ignorance he used to shroud himself in. Even as he takes another warm bath and sinks his head below the water, Katsuki appears behind his closed eyes, whispering with lips sweet, warm, and wet, “You’re perfect, Izuku.” As he comes up for air, he gasps when his nose and mouth come above the surface of the water, and he pulls at his hair, thinking of what Shouto asked him.

Does loving Katsuki make him easier to trust, or does trusting him make him easier to love? Can he even have one without the other? Sinking back beneath the water, he thinks to himself sorrily, even if he does trust Katsuki, that doesn’t mean he should.

The clock on the bathroom wall tells him its nearly 5:30. Katsuki is to arrive soon, and Izuku is sure that he will be faced with a knock on his door either before or after his lover has tea with the Queen. The thought of Katsuki in his room again enters his mind so easily. It makes his chest tighten with what feels like cowardice. He doesn’t have it in himself to be convinced that the feeling is anything else. Maybe I’ll see you? Katsuki had asked.

In the language of trust that had meant: I’ll be seeing you. I’ll come find you. I promise. And Izuku knows that that’s exactly what he had heard it as when Katsuki spoke to him. It leaves his heart racing with a combination of both excitement and fear, and as much as he wants to be kissed, to be laid down, to ask how Katsuki’s day was, to whisper that despite all of his thoughts he’s missed him so much – he knows he can’t right now.

So Izuku avoids him, and dressed in the most comfortable yukata the castle has to offer, too tired to dress himself beyond that, he knocks on the bedroom door of someone who hasn’t made time to visit in weeks.

When he’s told to enter, there’s already a second cup of tea poured and a kind, low voice saying, “I’ve been expecting you, my boy.”

Izuku begins to bow and apologize, but he’s soon being taken into a fierce hug, and the voice by his ear murmurs, “Took you long enough. Don’t forget to visit your old sensei from time to time. I assume we have much to talk about.”

Izuku nods, and he feels warm in the arms of his old mentor. It’s a moment of safety.

Even though the Midoriyas have never used Magic in war, Toshinori Yagi is perhaps the biggest psychological threat they can pose to their enemy. Or, he used to be. A legend amongst Magicals, a hero amongst civilians, All Might is both a powerful figure and a mystical one – though he used to teach the masses as a kind and wise sensei of Magic, in the middle of the Second Thirty Year War, he retreated into seclusion and has since lived the life of a recluse in the great castle of Kokyusenzai. Before then, however, he had been known for his immense skill, healing abilities, and the symbol of peace in the Magical world. He has long been able to maintain morale and prosperity in Kokyusenzai, even when the economy had collapsed in post-war years and food stores ran low.

He always taught the citizens Magic and encouraged them to fight with heads held high. Above all, Toshinori continuously reinforced the ideal that Magic and war did not have to be intertwined in order to be successful in both arenas. People always believed him and proved him right. They had two successful wars as proof.

Those facts alone probably should have been enough to deter Izuku from coming to discuss his strategy with his old master, but as they say, desperate times call for desperate measures, and Izuku increasingly feels like he has to cling in order to make this work. They make idle small talk as they sit at the table in Toshinori’s room, sipping tea and attempting to catch up despite the elephant they both know is in the room.

Only after a long while of beating around the bush and the prolonged song of the noise coming from Izuku’s fingernails drumming on the table that the elephant finally rears its head and trumpets loudly.

With one great leap of faith, Izuku just decides to ask, “What do you know about using Magic in war?” And he’s blunt not only because he’s jittery, but also because he knows that this is his teacher – a man who he can ask anything.

All Might grimaces, and Izuku watches the skin pinch around his mouth and hollow eyes. He immediately wants to feel like he’s disappointed his sensei, but he doesn’t let himself. He’s come too far to allow himself lose confidence so quickly. “Ah,” Toshinori says. “I think I see where you’re going with this. I suppose I should have expected it.” Izuku is not sure what he could possibly mean by that, but he doesn’t dare interrupt.

“Before I was a sensei – and there was a time when I was young, I swear! – I fought as a young man in the First Thirty Year War. I used my Magic in the way we were told to: to reinforce weapons, provide mental strength, and ensure the health and safety of our fellow soldiers. But I never used it to hurt others.”

“I know this,” Izuku mutters, impatient.
“For that reason, Young Midoriya,” All Might continues, “I have never doubted the philosophies of your mother. Even after my injuries and illness forced me into retirement, I have always remained true to the beliefs of this Kingdom.”

Izuku sighs and stares down at the tea leaves floating in his cup. Unsure of the best way to approach this, he decides to just be honest. No front would help him get to a better solution, and all he can think about is how this plan needs to be absolutely flawless. There’s no point in lying about it. “I don’t really think I’m going against our beliefs,” he murmurs, and it’s blunter and stronger than he intended, but it feels good. “At least, that’s not what I want to be doing. The last thing I want to do i-is undo what… what we’ve built here. We can’t progress without change, right? If you listen to me, I think you’ll see that, All Might. I’m not trying to betray our ideals – I just want to build on them.”

He takes a deep breath before continuing. “The truth is… I am not you. And I’m not Mom. If I’m gonna be in charge, I need to be able to do things my way, too. Your guidance means the world to me, but for the sake of the people, I want to win this thing.”

In response, All Might takes a long sip from his tea, glancing at the fireplace that’s warming the room and casting a soothing orange light all around them. He speaks slowly. “Tell me your thoughts. Then I’ll give you some advice, if I can.”

Izuku does his best to explain everything. The training. The stakeout. The uprising. The Dark Magic. He often stumbles over his words, backtracks to add in a detail he had forgotten, takes deeps breaths to mask the way he mutters. The only reason why he doesn’t feel nervous is because this is All Might. His hero, his teacher, who’s been dealing with him and his scatterbrain for years. Izuku doesn’t feel nervous because he trusts him. All Might would never allow him to get into something that had no potential. Probably in the same way that Katsuki wouldn’t let him do something stupid, either. (Even though Katsuki doesn’t know about this plan yet.)

As he talks to All Might, of course he mentions Katsuki. At this point, their lives become so entwined, he’s no longer a detail that can simply be left out. He realized this a long time ago. So much of his thinking now is because of Katsuki. All Might knows him because of his rank and through Inko, who had come to All Might for the same reasons Izuku had – to get insight and advice on a conflict that required victory.

It’s only when All Might doesn’t start talking immediately after he finishes explaining his plan of using pure Magic to destroy the darkness that he begins to grow nervous. He’d rather take someone laughing in his face that receive no reaction at all. To calm his mind, he cradles his tea and stares into the crackling fire that pops and snaps and sounds just like Katsuki. For a brief moment, he remembers that Katsuki is in the castle, too, and as he stares down at his hands around his mug, he watches as the red string appears and tugs gently.

A pang in his chest.

The warmth of a Magic so unlike his own.

He wonders if Katsuki can feel it, too. Is it the same for him? Is Izuku there, all around him, all of the time?

Izuku sniffs in a strange attempt to get All Might’s attention without being rude. He’s buzzing with anxiety now, and part of him wants to just blurt, “ Well?” but if he knows one thing about his mentor, it’s not to rush him when he’s thinking – and by the look on his face, he’s deep in thought. He sits on his hand to stop his fingers from tapping on the table, and underneath the heavy, warm weight of his thigh, he crosses his fingers. Maybe war isn’t a time to be superstitious, but he knows he needs good luck right now.

“You know,” All Might starts, carefully, like one steps upon a stone that rises out of a quickly flowing river, all caution and a bit of fear, “the enemy doesn’t know I’ve officially retired.”

Izuku nods immediately, some of the tension of the silence slipping away. He knows this. He honestly thinks that some of the people of his own Kingdom might not even know that All Might is retired. What’s the difference when it comes to peacetime, anyway? Before he can open his mouth for affirmation, All Might continues.

“But if they find out, and I’m confident that they will find out, we’re going to need something bigger and better than I ever was. We need a beacon of hope, a symbol of peace… something impervious to whatever Dark Magic they bring to the table. Your plan is fine, my boy, but remember how vulnerable people become when threatened. Dark Magic is tempting. We need something to resist, and I am quite sure that that something has to be you, Izuku.”

Izuku’s breath hitches, even though part of him knew that All Might would put him up to a task. At least no one is laughing in his face. No, instead, All Might is laying it all on the line and leaving it to rest upon his shoulders. Izuku opens his mouth to reply even though there are no words resting on his tongue. “Listen, Young Midoriya. This is not a role you need to fill alone.”

The sharp red of the string around his pinky catches in the corner of his eye, and Katsuki flashes in his mind before he can push the thought away. He already knew that he would need Katsuki for this, needs him for so much, but All Mights words sound heavier than he can possibly lift on his own. Guilt twists in his stomach – is he pushing Katsuki away for the wrong reasons? It’s like he can sense Katsuki in the building, and he can’t stop the feeling of love that blooms in his chest. He misses him so much, for a moment he can’t breathe. Is that what love is? A constant missing.

He’s snapped out of his thoughts when All Might keeps talking. “I never thought we would have to use this again, but the truth is, my boy, I have something for you. Something only you and someone of your choosing, who has a place deep in your heart, can successfully use.”

With a clenched fist and a tight chest, Izuku can only wonder what it might be.

Chapter Text

Two halves of a broken whole stare at Izuku for three days before he himself breaks. There is so much that he has to fix. He’s been loitering between the space of end and beginning, hating the finish but too scared to start again. He fills his time training, making plans, pouring over books. There are two pairs of watchful eyes, one set monochrome and cold, one set the very reflection of his own, who watch his every movement. He’s faltering, and every question and every doubt there could possibly be berates his mind. 

Are you a good enough successor to All Might? Should we really be the first ones to attack, even though we haven’t been formally threatened? Do you think you can do this alone, idiot? Why haven’t you reached out? Why haven’t you filled the gap? Have you read enough? Done enough? Are you strong enough? 

Shouto is just leaving his room. The sun is making the air hot, and Izuku swipes at the back of his neck as two cold eyes stare at him more passively than usual. Shouto brushes past, and he makes their shoulders bump; it’s just as cruel as he deserves. He knows he’s wasting time. 

Shouto tosses his head over his shoulder to glance at the broken thing on Izuku’s desk, the one that’s glinting in the sunlight. He laughs coolly and mutters, “You should probably do something about that.”

And yes, Izuku probably should. But for as motivated as he was a few days ago, he now has something to do about a lot of things. He watches sand fall through the hourglass, knowing that the longer he lets pass, the more powerful his enemy becomes. 

Meanwhile, he only feels weaker, despite the fact that his strongest weapon is sitting right before him. 

I have something for you. Something only you and someone of your choosing, who has a place deep in your heart, can successfully use.

He had felt kind of strange, walking through the halls of the castle with two halves a sword each bigger than any single one he has ever wielded. Since that evening with All Might, the sword that was violently split in the final battle of the First Thirty Year War has sat in two pieces on his desk, waiting to be mended. All Might had said that this would be the only thing to get them through the battle to come – that, and the fact that it is now somehow implied that Izuku can successfully be All Might’s replacement, that he could be the one to shock the world so much that his mentor’s retirement would seem inconsequential. 

The part of Izuku that knows he won’t be doing this alone stirs more and more each day. He knows this sword has to be used as one, and he knows the one in his heart also happens to be the one who can fix it. Funny, how many problems can have one solution. Funny, how it takes so much out of him to dare to solve it. 

He sighs heavily once Shouto closes the door behind him, and heaving both halves of the sword onto the floor, he sits on a patch of moss he raises with his Magic to examine them for what feels like the hundredth hour. The gash that separated the two halves left each edge jagged. Izuku doesn’t know what split it – didn’t dare to ask – but he is sure that it was something dark. In this state, All Might said, the swords would be unusable. They need to be mended, as two, back to something both smooth and light. 

He nearly knicks his fingers as he touches along the sharp points, and for the first time since receiving them, he attempts to fit them together. Even as a whole, they look dark and old and grossly unpowerful. 

Izuku releases another sigh, and as the morning light streams in, he knows where he has to go today. 

He is aware that he hasn’t been avoiding fixing the sword so much as he has been avoiding Katsuki. He’s okay with admitting that, because for all his anxiety, there is still anger. The mistrust he had felt has evolved into the feeling of a clenched fist. He keeps it tight, until his fingers cramp – because he knows as soon as he lets his fingers ago, love will find its way back in so easily. And when it comes to Katsuki, love seems to overshadow everything else. 

Katsuki has taught Izuku how to be strong against everything aside from perhaps himself. At this point, he’s just far too easy to love. But there are a million and one things he has to tell him before I love you. They all start with the prevention of a war. Being in love with your greatest ally sure makes relationship problems pale in comparison to the death of a kingdom. In the back of his mind, he hears his mother’s voice, saying marriage. He tells himself that as the Prince, perhaps the problems are not so separate. 

He rolls Shouto’s words from the other day around in his mind as he begins to unbutton his shirt and unlace the criss cross drawstring of his pants. In the three days he has spent angry at Katsuki, he has become unwaveringly sure that he trusts him. And at the admission of trust, there has been so much room for love. If he did not trust, he would not want to share this sword. If he did not trust, he would not want to lead along alongside him. If he did not trust, he would not have spent the past three days avoiding his mother, just so she wouldn’t ask him why Officer Bakugou wasn’t here with him, why they weren’t making plans together. Like they should be. Like they have been, before all this.

He steps out of his clothes, standing bare in the sunlight of his room. His skin feels warm. Moss is soft under his feet, and he rifles through his closet carefully, thinking that as good as he wants to look, he might also need to fight. He’s trusting, but angry, and if he’s sure of one thing, it’s that Katsuki does not like to be ignored. They’ve always been better at communicating without words, only with meeting metal and Magic. Clenching his jaw, he decides he might as well look nice. At the very least, Katsuki always wants him, even if he’s capable of closing himself off. 

He pulls a red silken shirt over his head. The ruffled sleeves come to his elbows, and the fabric glides on his skin. Normally, he would never wear such a dramatic color, but it reminds him of Katsuki’s eyes, and it makes him feel powerful. He dresses in dark, high rise pants and boots that come up to his thighs. 

He puts rubies in his ears. They were carved from the same stone that Katsuki wears. He wonders how he can so badly want to feel close to the man who had tried so hard to push him away. Anger coils in his belly once more. 

He fills a rucksack with supplies for the day – money, food, something to write on – and finds two sheaths big enough to fit each half of that massive sword. On a whim, he takes the happiness omamori and brings it with him. Happiness has felt a little far away, lately. He feels a bit ridiculous by the time he heads out, slipping past the room where his mother is conferencing and mounting a horse with three swords and a dagger clipped to his belt. 

He does not bother with a cloak, the weather already too hot for that, and decides that today, if anyone were to ask who he is, he would just tell them. He decided that a while ago, now. The boy with a million names who comes into town for flowers and bread is no longer. 

He rides slowly, anxiety creeping into his chest. He fiddles with the reigns, angry at Katsuki but fearful that Katsuki will be in turn angry with him. He arrives far too fast. 

The Bakugou family has a gorgeous house built into the side of one of the hills. Their property is backed into one of the creeks that runs into the valley’s river, and straddling the flowing water is a structure that allows the creek to run through it – the metalsmithing workshop. They constantly need a flow of water to make sure metal goods cool property, and for whatever reason, Izuku is sure he will find Katsuki in there, today. He needs him to be in there.

The last time he was outside this house was the first stakeout. The memory makes him frown, clench a fist. He wonders what version of Katsuki he will get today. He hopes it’s not the one who spoke into the fire instead of meeting his eyes. 

Izuku ties up his horse, avoiding the house slightly out of fear of running into Katsuki’s parents. It might be rude, but the last thing he wants is to introduce himself to them. Would they even know that their son has been training with the Prince? Maybe Izuku is something not worth mentioning to them, either. Just as he wasn’t worth mentioning to Kirishima and Kaminari. 

He walks through the tall grass, hand on the pommel of his sword, leaving a trail of purple flowers in his wake that have been waiting to bloom. He looks at the way the creek disappears and reappears through the structure like it’s nothing. Maybe going in and out could be just as simple for him. With a deep breath, he does his best to peel expression from his face, and he raises his knuckles to the door of the workshop. Listening closely, he hears water trickling downstream. 

His stomach flips as Katsuki opens the door. He’s sweating from the roaring fire, and if there was any surprise on his face at the sight of Izuku, it vanishes instantly to be replaced with a smirk. His red eyes narrow, and he looks mean. He looks like he did the first day he barged into Izuku’s room, vicious and demanding answers. 

Of course, he’s still beautiful. His black shirt must have been unbuttoned hours ago, and Izuku can see beads of sweat rolling down his neck and pooling in his collarbones. The red ruby sits untouched. Some of the cuts from the stakeout are still healing, and around his hair he glows with an orange fiery halo brought about from the coal that simmers behind him. 

Katsuki folds his arms across his chest, raising a brow. “You been avoiding me, nerd?” His voice matches the way he looks.

Izuku is baraged by all the times he told the guards to turn Katsuki away when he’d come by the castle or stables over the past three days, making them pass on the message that he was busy or in meetings or unwell. They were plain lies, but Katsuki had never pressed, apparently. 

Though it’s only been a few days, it’s strange to stand before him, their steady pace of seeing each other nearly every day now shattered and reborn. Izuku is not sure Katsuki is happy to see him, after all. 

He ignores the question – he’s not ready to address the elephant in the room. He’s already decided that there are much more important things to be handling. “I need your help.” 

Katsuki scoffs as he retreats back into the workshop, knowing Izuku will follow. He heads to one of the long tables, looking down at his latest work and beginning to sharpen the metal of a knife. “No surprise there. What else can I do for you, Prince Izuku? You know it’s an honor to serve.” He spits his words, and Izuku flinches. 

He had forgotten how mean Katsuki can be. The rudeness of the way he chooses to prey on Izuku’s insecurity as Prince slaps him across the face. He stares down at the toes of his boots even though Katsuki isn’t looking at him anyway. He didn’t think Katsuki would be so mad that he took some time for himself, especially at the way he had withdrawn during the stakeout. 

They’d been intimate now, yes, but only behind closed doors. The future would demand they were always in public, if Izuku’s daydreams played out. 

His anger reignites. He’d been immature, turning Katsuki away – but he isn’t so sure he deserves this. 

“Are you just going to be an asshole or are you going to listen to me?” Izuku snaps. 

Katsuki looks up at him with clear eyes. Sweat drips from his forehead, his cupid’s bow. “Tch. You’ve been bossing me around for months now. Of course I’m gonna damn listen.” 

It’s tense, but when their eyes meet, Izuku is sure he’s being honest. Like always. 

He’s sure Katsuki has noticed the extra swords at his belt by now, but he forgoes explaining that first, suddenly aware of how much he needs to catch his partner up on. He pulls up a stool, watches Katsuki’s gloved hands work metal, and tells him everything he told his mother and All Might. Katsuki doesn’t interrupt him. He listens in silence as he stitches a leather pommel onto the knife. Izuku’s voice doesn’t shake nearly as much as it did when he first came up with his plan, because after sitting with it these past few days – even though he was sitting with it alone – he has faith it will work. And part of him knows Katsuki will, too. 

That trust skirts under his skin like it’s his blood. Like it’s his lifeline. 

Part of him knows the two of them could probably do anything together. 

He finally looks up when he begins to finish his story, saying, “The plan and the fight aren’t the only things I need your help with, though. All Might gave me something, and I think you’re the only person who can fix it.” 

Katsuki meets his eyes unwavering. There’s an intensity to them, a burning, that Izuku can’t quite read. His fingers have stilled on the knife, and he watches carefully as Izuku heaves the first half of the sword out from its sheath and on to the table. Katsuki moves by his side then, gloved hands coming to the other sheath and taking out the second half. Their skin doesn’t touch, but it still leaves him a little breathless. Atop the table, they push the two pieces together, and although it shouldn’t feel any different than this morning, when the metal slides together, it’s like he can feel an energy radiating from it, with Katsuki next to him. He’s sure it’s Magic, though he has no idea what kind. 

“You don’t need me to put it back together, right?” Katsuki breathes, seemingly in awe of the weapon before him. He traces his fingers down the worn blade. 

“No,” Izuku answers. “No, I think it’s supposed to be two.” He clears his throat. “So we both can fight… if you’ll have me as your partner.” 

Izuku is faced with a brief moment of insecurity, wondering once again not only if he’s strong enough to lead, but if he’s strong enough to stand by Katsuki’s side. 

It’s interrupted by hand on his waist. Katsuki’s brow is knit and his eyes are serious. “Of course I’ll have you.” He cocks his head, thumb pressing hard into Izuku’s hipbone like he’s trying to ask a question. “It’s going to take a long time, but I know what I have to do.” His other hand comes to linger on the small of Izuku’s back. “I could use some company, though. I think we have a little lost time to make up for.” 

Izuku tenses, and Katsuki’s hands drop immediately. His worried expression asks a million questions. 

“A-aren’t you mad?” Izuku blurts. “Are you done being mad?”

Katsuki jerks his head over his shoulder. “I mean, I was,” he bites. Then his face softens, and he looks at Izuku’s eyes again. “But I mostly just missed you.” When he speaks, his cheeks cover with a rare blush, and Izuku melts under the weight of the fact that he can have that effect on Katsuki. “I don’t like when people take away from how much time I get to spend with you. And that includes you, avoidin’ me and shit.” 

Big, warm, gloved hands come to sit on his hip bones, and there’s a nose at his neck. Katsuki breathes in his scent, and Izuku shivers despite himself. He’s surprised as Katsuki hums. The gentlest of lips run along his neck. He watches as Katsuki carefully sheds his gloves to the table before cupping Izuku’s jaw. 

When Katsuki leans down to kiss him, he turns soft and malleable, like the hot wax of a lit candle. He’s overwhelmed with Katsuki, whose thumb runs gently along his jawline, whose lips coax his own open, whose smell of metal and fire and wine fills him up. Izuku becomes blindsided by the kiss; all he can think about is asking for more. The wetness of their mouths make sounds to contrast the sparking of the fire behind them, and Katsuki seems to hold him closer than ever. His big hands wander along the silk over Izuku’s back, they card through his hair, trace gentle shapes into the side of his neck. 

It turns almost desperate as Katsuki reaches under Izuku’s ass to hoist him onto the workshop table and stand between his legs. Katsuki pulls back, but he doesn’t go far, kissing up the length of Izuku’s neck before whispering in his ear, “I missed you. You showed me how damn amazing you are and then just left me dreamin’ about you. Not fair, Prince.” 

Izuku whines as Katsuki tilts his head back to kiss on the underside of his jaw, his adam’s apple, the space between his collarbones. He’s become viscous at Katsuki’s touch – liquid and so easy and yearning. 

Katsuki’s hands move to Izuku’s thighs as he comes to kiss him again, hotter and wetter this time. He pulls back only to say, “And this fuckin’ outfit.” His fingertips trace along the silk hem of the shirt, the seams of the leather thigh highs. “Not fair,” he grits again.

Izuku gasps when hot fingers finally slip beneath red silk, but he manages to say, “W-wait,” with airy breath. “I have to tell you something.” 

Katsuki withdraws right away, but he doesn’t take a step back. He just looks at Izuku with clear and curious eyes and raises one hand to cup Izuku’s cheek. His thumb swipes back and forth beneath Izuku’s eye. “Hmm?” he asks. 

And Izuku is having another one of those moments, the one where he has to ask himself how he couldn’t possibly fail, how he couldn’t possibly be weak to this. His heart rate picks up in his chest. 

“Something about how you missed me, too?” Katsuki quips, and Izuku almost, almost laughs. At his straight fact, Katsuki lowers his hand and both come to rest on Izuku’s knees. He’s not going anywhere. 

“We have to talk.”

“You’ve made that clear.” Katsuki seems to be on the defensive again. Izuku is still unsure of how he can go back and forth so easily. 

“About your attitude.”

“My what?”

Izuku fiddles with his hands. “About… the way you treated me, in front of your friends. You acted like you barely knew me. You were kind of cruel to me. It’s– it’s not my prerogative to be angry over what you choose to share with them, but you acted like we weren’t even friends.” He swallows, and he decides to just go for the kill. If the two of them aren’t going to be completely honest with one another, there’s always going to be something in the way. “When you wouldn’t look at me or touch me, it hurt my feelings. I thought we were closer than that. Or, I guess – I didn’t think it would be so easy for you to act like there’s nothing between us.” Unless there is, some wayward part of Izuku thinks. 

Katsuki’s hands stay on his knees, and Izuku feels sort of weak, sitting up on the table with him between his legs. He feels even weaker know the way Katsuki is about to snap to defend himself. “Listen,” he starts, eyes glowing that deep red. “I wasn’t about to be all over you in front of people you barely know. Especially right after you told them that you’re the damn Prince. How you choose to establish yourself is your business. I wasn’t going to be the one to fuck that up for you.” He shrugs, but then he stops meeting Izuku’s eyes. “You could’ve touched me if you wanted, but I ain’t gonna get in the way of who you want to be for other people.”

At first, Izuku feels something like guilt, maybe fearing that he had misread the entire situation, but all he can remember is how much it hurt to be pushed away, and his anger reignites once more. He pushes Katsuki’s hands off his knees and hops to his feet, for a moment extremely aware of how much shorter he is than Katsuki when he has to look up, but still feeling stronger, less trapped. 

“It can’t be just that!” shouts Izuku. All of his pent up emotions and questions seem to spill out of him. “You were so withdrawn and cold to me! It was so hard for me to think about spending time with you this week because all I could think about was the version of you who could barely look me in the eye! I just kept asking myself the same thing: how can Katsuki come and go so easily? How can you just remove yourself from the situation? It shouldn’t have been that easy!” His chest rises and falls as he yells, but as tears begin to well up in his eyes, his voice softens. “It wouldn’t have been that easy for me. I– I don’t think I could be around you and not want to be close to you.” 

Not a moment after he finishes speaking, Katsuki closes the gap between them and holds Izuku close to his chest. Izuku clings back, drawn ever-closer by a red string and fear for tomorrow and so much of what he knows is love. They stand, silent aside from the little sobs and sniffles that Izuku can’t stop from leaving his chest. 

Katsuki eventually begins to speak softly into his ear, and all Izuku can do is stand there and listen and feel the soft circles that are being drawn onto his back. “I made a promise to protect you. I know you didn’t need protecting, so don’t– don’t fucking worry that I thought that. But if there’s one thing I gotta be, it’s true to my word. That was my responsibility, Deku, and I think I got my priorities a little mixed up. I didn’t want to even think about you getting hurt. I didn’t want the shit we saw to be true. I knew it was going to be bad, but fuck. It was the worst news for you, for your future. I focused on being a good leader and someone who could protect you and it put me all up in my head. Made me mean. I should’ve just been trying to be good to you.” 

He pauses, and Izuku begins to cry again, fisting his fingers into the fabric of Katsuki’s shirt. He’d never imagine Katsuki would open up to him like that. He forgets that they often share similar burdens, trying to uphold the image that people want them to be. He forgets that Katsuki truly is the only one who knows everything he’s going through. He’s the only one who can match his feelings. 

“I’m sorry, okay?” Katsuki murmurs in his ear. “I’m never gonna be too stubborn to apologize to you.” 

After a long moment, a moment Izuku is sure he needs to take, he finally lets out a heavy breath. He steps back from Katsuki’s chest so he can meet his eyes. The hands on his waist aren’t going anywhere. “It’s okay,” Izuku says at last. He brings his own cautious, sometimes-still fumbling hands on either side of Katsuki’s face to cup the sharp line of his jaw. 

“I missed you too, by the way,” says Izuku, a blush coming to paint his face. “You were right.” 

The look on Katsuki’s face does not change. He does not smile or smirk – he just presses his lips to Izuku’s forehead, and Izuku feels safe. 

They take the time they think they need just to be in their moment and adjust to their new reality while also realizing the way what’s to come has begun to bear down on them. Eventually, Katsuki steps away to examine the two halves of the sword. 

“Tell me again,” demands Katsuki, “what All Might said.” 

Izuku fiddles with his hands. He explains more in depth than he had the first time, when he was still angry and riddled with emotion. “He was the symbol of peace, you know? In his prime, he was unstoppable. He never lost, always knew how to make people feel safe. He told me that it’s my turn to be that, w-which terrified me. But I can’t afford to be scared, not when we’re using the light of our Magic to fight something dark. I – I have to be the symbol of hope. I know that’s my job now.” 

He takes a shuddering breath before taking Katsuki’s hand where it sits next to the two swords. “All Might also told me that this isn’t something that I have to do alone. That’s when he gave me the sword. But it’s hard to believe in yourself if there’s a chance you can’t do it. Having hope only goes so far if we don’t win. You’re the symbol of victory for me, Kacchan.” He blushes, rubs the back of his head. “Well, for everyone.”

“I can fix them,” Katsuki states. “And we’ll win.” 

Izuku looks at him with fiery eyes and a cocked head. “You haven’t even tried to say no. You haven’t even hesitated once. Even before, when we were mad.”

Katsuki smirks. “Why would I? Even if we were arguing or angry, I wouldn’t pass up fighting at your side.” His smirk eases into a smile. “We stand for the same things.” 

“Yeah,” breathes Izuku. Yeah, he thinks. Yeah, we do. I might just have to marry you for it, if we make it out of all this. 

“It’s going to take all day,” Katsuki tells him, lifting a sword into the firelight and studying it closely. “Luckily the old man doesn’t need the workshop today. If I work until sundown, I think I can do it.” 

Izuku clenches his fist with joy. Love begins to surround him. It’s a beautiful glow of light. “Okay. We can’t afford to lose any more time.” 

Katsuki lowers the sword to grab at Izuku’s waist. He leans toward his ear to ask, “Not even a little?”

Izuku blushes. “Well, we should at least get started first, right? And then we can, ah, take breaks.”

Katsuki breathes lowly on the shell of Izuku’s ear before he pulls away. “Whatever you say, Prince.”

Watching Katsuki work is a beautiful process. He is methodical, deliberate, and silent, and all of this reminds Izuku of how good he is – as a leader, in his craft, with his passion. He gathers supplies first, leather for the pommels and gold for the blades. 

At the sight of it, Izuku gasps from where he had been patiently watching Katsuki work. 

Kintsugi?

Katsuki nods, weighing and measuring the metal carefully, not looking up. 

“Why?”

“Don’t you think this is a time worthy of it? I do.” Katsuki has very clearly made up his mind. 

Kintsugi. The art of precious scars. It’s an ancient method that uses gold to highlight a history. When fixing something, kintsugi makes gold the metal of choice – drawing attention to broken things, drawing attention to how something is mended. This was once a broken thing, but now we’re better for it. Gold not just to repair but to strengthen. Not to conceal but to make brighter. 

A broken thing is not forever. 

Subconsciously, Izuku runs his hand along his forearm. Precious scars. 

Gold is going to tell their story. 

“It’s just – gold is… At least, let me give you some. The castle, we have–” Izuku stammers. 

Katsuki looks up at him with an unimpressed expression. “We have gold, Izuku. Clearly. Besides, is money gonna matter if we fucking die? Just let me do this for us. I want to.”

His eyes are determined. He stares at Izuku until Izuku nods in agreement. 

“Okay. I trust you.”

Katsuki’s face doesn’t waver. “Thank you.”

Izuku watches as he puts the gold into a metal vessel that Izuku supposes must most likely melt at a much higher temperature than gold. Using tongs, he lifts the vessel and leaves it in the hot coals of the fire. He watches it for a moment before wiping his brow and turning away. 

Heading for the door, Katsuki turns over his shoulder to look at Izuku. “C’mon, s’nice out. That’s gonna take a while to melt down.” 

Izuku is quick to follow him out. Katsuki has discarded his shirt fully now, and he uses his hands to gather water from where it flows downstream and beneath the workshop. He splashes his face a few times before finding a seat. It’s much cooler outside. It’s not until the wind gusts that Izuku realizes how much he had been sweating. 

They sit in the grass in silence, and out of nervous habit, Izuku makes flowers shoot up between his fingers where they rest on the ground. He tucks his knees to his chest. Outside, on the perfect spring day, seeing it, the world and all of its constant growing and shifting – Izuku becomes horribly aware of how everything has changed and is changing. There’s a funny feeling in his stomach that not even the flowers or a lover by his side can ease. 

Unsure of where to start again, thinking how serious all of their conversations have been lately, he blurts, “Are you hungry? I brought, in my bag–”

Katsuki interrupts him by sliding their fingers together. “Why are you nervous?”

“I’m not–”

Katsuki squeezes his palm. “Deku, I know you.”

Izuku takes a deep breath. Katsuki knows him. 

“I know it’s not the gold,” says Katsuki. “Is it me? Or Magic?”

Izuku shakes his head, watches all the new spring leaves dance with the same heavy breeze that’s cooling them down. 

“It’s a lot of things,” he admits. “You know me,” he echoes. “I get nervous about everything.” He watches as Katsuki exhales and cracks a smile but continues to let Izuku speak. “But there is something I want to tell you, I guess. That I’ve been thinking about a lot. It’s not necessarily about any of those things, but. You-you were honest with me, before, in there, so I think it’s about time that I’m honest with you.” 

Katsuki doesn’t flinch. For as reactionary and explosive as he can be, he’s still calculated. And it seems that the last thing he would want to do is make Izuku more nervous. In a moment of dreaminess, Izuku wonders how they wound up here. He squeezes Katsuki’s hand, so unbelievably grateful that they did. 

Izuku swallows before he speaks. He’s never told this story. It’s largely because he’s never had anyone to tell, but even Shouto and Momo only know because of hearsay. It was so long ago anyway. Fiddling with the hem of his shirt, he says, “Don’t make any jokes,” before he pulls his hand from Katsuki’s and lifts the red silk over his head. 

Their fingers rejoin immediately. Katsuki’s face stays unchanged, only focused. 

With his shirt off, his right bicep is exposed in the sunlight. 

“I know you know I lied to you the other day, during the stake out. About the scar.” 

He watches Katsuki’s eyes move quickly from his arm back to his face. 

“I was upset with you then, and we had a lot of other things to worry about, so I didn’t want to tell you yet. It was a really long ago, so it’s not a huge deal nymore, but. When I was thirteen, y’know it was during the last war, um. I was kidnapped.”

Katsuki’s eyebrow twitches. More flowers sprout by their intertwined fingers from Izuku’s heart rate picking up. That was a thing of his childhood, too. When he was young, whenever he got nervous or emotional, he couldn’t control his Magic. 

“Back then, I wasn’t as scared. I was still nervous, but just – not scared. I don’t really know how to explain the difference. But, um. Anyway. I was young, but I was that age where I guess I was starting to realize my situation. The fact that I was a secret sort of made me angry, which shows how naive I was. I wanted to be able to make friends and do stuff, since this was the age that Todoroki and Yaoyorozu were both starting to get more responsibilities. One day, they were going with Enji on some trip–” He chuckles, then shifts. “–but it was so long ago that I don’t even remember to where, or why.”

He blinks hard, and Katsuki squeezes his hand. 

“So I snuck out.” He half-heartedly chuckles again, his nerves spilling out in the most perverse way. “And I didn’t really make it very far. I’d spent most of my childhood being forced to study maps, but my sense of direction didn’t really carry over. So I just walked as far from the castle as possible. The thing is,” Izuku chokes out, “I don’t even think the guy knew I was the Prince. I was just walking, all slow and angry. I was really small then.”

“My memory of it is pretty hazy. All I remember is that one minute I was walking, and the next, a man with a knife was pressing me against a tree and trying to bind my hands. He kept pulling at my clothes.” He pauses to take a deep breath, still not looking at Katsuki. “I don’t know what he was trying to do, or where he wanted to take me. He was so close to succeeding, too. My hands were so close to being immobile. I thought I was going to be pushed into the back of a carriage and taken so far away. Fear was this close to beating me out, but I had been training with All Might since I was young, and honestly, my Magic does this thing when I’m scared where it just sort of acts on its own. It happens less now, but that day, the roots of the trees helped me, y’know? At least, it felt like it was more their doing than mine. They held the guy down, and I was able to run back to the castle. Not without him getting my arm, but…” 

He shrugs and rolls his shoulder. He suddenly feels very exposed without his shirt, but Katsuki just yanks his arm and pulls him into a hug. His big hands run up and down Izuku’s upper back. Skin meets skin. A warmth washes over him. 

“Izuku,” Katsuki whisper. 

He blinks back his tears. “I gotta finish.” 

Katsuki nods, but he kisses Izuku’s temple before he pulls back. Their hands stay connected, sitting in a pile of spooled up red thread. 

“I told the guards. They got him, since he was actually a really poor fighter and super close by. Life got a lot stricter after that, at least for a couple years. My mom wasn’t as mad as I thought she’d be. She doesn’t tend to go for anger, actually. I think she understands my situation really well, since she was the one who decided to put me in it. After that… it took me a long time to gain the confidence to want to go outside the castle again. The thing I resented became my greatest comfort. I had to think – if that guy didn’t know who I was and still wanted to hurt me, what about the people who did know?”

Izuku shakes his head to move the thought away. Again, Katsuki squeezes his hand. 

“Anyway, um. When I was eighteen I was allowed to leave the castle again, but the months leading up to that were hard. The first time I left home was hard, even though there were guards following me in disguise. Eventually I felt strong enough, you know… to buy flowers or bread or even just to go see something other than the same walls. But it definitely took time. And – yeah. That’s the scar. Or, the story of the scar. Ah, that was tough. I’m sorry if I–”

Katsuki springs up, pushing down Izuku’s knees to straddle his lap. Up on his haunches, he reaches for Izuku’s face and cups it gently in his hands. “Don’t you dare apologize. Not for any of that.” 

He waits for Izuku to nod, and then he presses their foreheads together. Izuku can hear his deep inhale, exhale. “You’re amazing,” says Katsuki. “Can I kiss you? I’m gonna kiss you, and then I’ll talk.” 

Izuku does cry, then, letting the tears spill over as he nods once more. It’s hard to kiss someone when it feels like the wind is knocked out of you, but Katsuki is both soft and passionate. Both gentle and intense. 

Izuku winds his arms around the neck of his lover, and he takes a few breaths through his nose once their lips separate. 

With a cocked head and glowing eyes, Katsuki asks him with a pressed voice, “You were still able to come all the way across the valley with me? After all that?” 

Izuku gives him his biggest smile, watery though it is. With the most tender hand, he puts his palm up against Katsuki’s chest. Before he speaks, he thinks, I’m going to marry you. 

“You make me feel safe,” Izuku says plainly. He feels the heart beating against his fingertips. He knows he must look weak right now, but he feels anything but it. “But I don’t want you to feel like you have to protect me.” 

Leaning closer, their noses brush. The wind rustles the new leaves of spring. Inside, gold is melting to mend and make beautiful scars. There’s a battle coming, but with it is hope and sure victory. 

There are a million faces that Izuku pictures when he thinks of who he must fight for – only now is he sure that he can. Scars have only ever held him to healing. He has had to choose to grow. 

“You’ve made me strong enough to be able to fight on my own,” Izuku says, coming closer and closer, their lips brushing, their eyes closing. “And I owe you for that.”