Midoriya is twelve years old and very, very itchy.
His uniform is choking him, his underarms itch, and overall he is having an absolutely miserable time at Amity Ball. Go to Amity Ball, Izuku, he taunts himself. You’ll have a good time, Izuku. You might even get to see All Might, Izuku. Well, he hasn’t seen All Might since he got here four hours ago, and now he’s lost sight of his mother in the mess of colorful dresses and dress uniforms.
He dodges a man in a dark blue uniform, gold-hilted saber at his side. He hops around a couple in purple nearly tripping over the woman’s dragging dress. And then he barely avoids colliding with an Endeavoran dressed all in gold, medals hanging proudly from his chest. All Midoriya wants at this point is the comforting wine red of his mother’s skirts, and the feeling of being enfolded in his countrymen rather than the countrymen of literally every other kingdom.
The ballroom is entirely too massive in the typical, over-the-top opulence of Endeavor. Every inch of floor space is covered in the boots and heels of the ladies and gentleman representing their respective kingdoms. Somehow, waiters dressed in black suits manage to effortlessly weave between the conversation circles while Midoriya can barely squeeze through them at a snail’s pace.
He eventually gives up on finding his mom, probably swallowed by the Royal Librarians from the other kingdoms and makes his way to the table of hors d'oeuvres. He picks up a biscuit, dodging the waiter insisting that everyone use tongs and a little china plate. Midoriya just wants to chew on his cookie and sit in a corner, bemoaning every decision that got him to this point in life, suffocating in formal attire and completely lost.
Actually, he’s barely holding back tears. All he wanted was to see the current All Might, legendary hero of his hometown and leader of their kingdom, maybe hear him speak, maybe even speak to him. But that’s hard to do when he’s hopelessly separated from his mother and the royalty are closely guarded anyway.
Midoriya’s throat tightens. He’s choking on frustrated, scared tears, or maybe that’s just his collar slowly killing him, but either way he needs air. Midoriya pushes open one of the ornate ballroom doors and steps into blissfully cool and clean air.
He finds himself in some kind of garden, a pretty little fountain bubbling away amongst flowers and expertly trimmed bushes. The shadowy greens illuminated only by moonlight are soft on Midoriya’s eyes, a far cry from the blinding light and shining gold and jewels of the ballroom. He doesn’t know how the Endeavorans do it. He prefers the simple luxuries of Yuuei’s far more humble palace.
This garden, at least, is a true jewel amongst the excess of Endeavor. Midoriya smiles and touches the blossom of a white flower that was blooming. Silly thing, Midoriya thinks. You should be blooming during the day.
He can breathe easier out here, and now that he is free from the crowd, his mind is at ease. He approaches the wooden gazebo at the center of the garden, surrounded by bushes of the strange white flower. He’ll just take a short breather out here in the peace of the garden before delving back into the ball and searching for his mother.
He registers that there is someone else sitting at the gazebo in stages. The first stage is opening his mouth to apologize for intruding. The second is taking in the fact that this person is wearing white and is therefore royalty and slamming his mouth shut. The third and final stage is noticing that not only is this royalty a kid like him, but he also has bright white hair, milky like the moon and just as beautiful. He opens his mouth again to let out a sputtering, dying animal noise.
The boy looks at him, revealing the other side of his hair as scorching red, apparent even in the dark.
Midoriya does what any sensible person would do, and sinks to his knees, bowing and squeaking. “S-sorry, Your Highness! I didn’t know you were here! I’m very sorry for intruding!”
A pause. Midoriya doesn’t dare lift his head up from the ground.
“Who are you?”
And then he’s swinging his head up in a panic to meet the eyes of the boy. “Midoriya Izuku of Yuuei, at your service!”
Another pause, and a slow blink. “Did my father send you?”
Father. Father? Midoriya pales. Wait, who is he? Shit, shit, shit…why didn’t I pay more attention to Mom’s lessons on the royalty. Oh, right, because I never thought I’d have to face them one-on-one like this! No, that’s not important, what’s important is who is he? Is he from Riot? Urabiti, maybe? No good, I have absolutely no idea how close he is to the crown either…
Finally, Midoriya says, “Your father, Your Highness?”
“Hm, I guess not,” he says. At least Midoriya must be close to his title; he doesn’t seem offended or surprised by being called ‘Your Highness.’
Of course, he doesn’t seem especially interested in continuing the conversation either, looking away from Midoriya and back to the white flower in his hands. He brushes the petals with a tenderness that makes Midoriya duck his head down again, embarrassed to be looking at him.
“What are you doing?” the boy asks.
Midoriya, having no idea how to extricate himself from this situation, cowers in his bowed position. “I, uh, Your Highness, I…wanted to take a break from the festivities? But since I'm bothering you, I will return. Sir.”
“You’re not bothering me,” he says.
Well, what the hell was Midoriya supposed to do now? He had planned to make his escape with that, and now he was stuck in this excruciatingly painful conversation. Please let me go, Midoriya begs silently.
“Is…is there anything I can do for Your Highness…?” Midoriya offers, close to tears of pure suffering at the awkwardness between them.
“You can just call me Todoroki,” he says. “Saying ‘Your Highness’ must be tiring.”
Midoriya comes out of his bow and backpedals across the ground so quicckly that the boy flinches in surprise. “Todoroki?” Midoriya croaks. “As in Prince Todoroki of Endeavor? As in you’re in line for the throne?” He then slaps a hand over his mouth, realizing that he just confessed not knowing who Prince Todoroki, son of King Todoroki, the head of the royal family of Endeavor was.The hosts of this year's Amity Ball.
“You didn’t know who I was?” Todoroki asks.
Midoriya is dead. He’s dead meat, a dead man, dead before he even had the chance to see All Might in person.
“Interesting,” Todoroki says, leaning his head on the table in the center of the gazebo, still looking at Midoriya. “I’ve never met someone who didn’t know my name before.”
“I—I know who you are!” Midoriya protests. “I just…didn’t know your face, Your Royal Highness. My sincerest apologies.”
“You don’t have to talk so formally,” Todoroki says.
“Yes, I do. Your Highness.”
“Why? There’s no one here but us.”
“But—but you’re royalty!”
Midoriya gapes. What was all that about Endeavorans being obsessed with hierarchy, again? Weren’t they supposed to be militant about respect and politeness and deference to those of a higher status? Midoriya squints. “Are you really a Prince?” he asks, suddenly suspicious.
Todoroki huffs at that, almost a laugh. “Yes, I am. But you’re the same age as me, aren’t you? Why should you have to refer to me like people refer to my father?”
“That’s just how it is, Your Highness,” Midoriya says, standing and brushing some of the dirt off his uniform.
“Sit with me,” Todoroki demands suddenly. “You’re interesting.”
Dumbfounded, Midoriya sits across from him.
“My father told me I wasn’t to speak with anyone but foreign dignitaries and other members of royalty,” Todoroki says. “They’re all boring, though. They only want to get close to me to climb in power.”
“You can’t talk to other kids your age, Your Highness?” Midoriya asks.
“If you call me ‘Your Highness’ one more time, I’m going to cry,” Todoroki says. Midoriya is alarmed to find that he has no idea if Todoroki is bluffing or not, given his completely blank expression and flat voice.
“…Todoroki-sama,” Midoriya compromises.
“Better,” Todoroki says. “No, I’m not to interact with lowborn people, even though everyone invited here is supposed to represent the finest of their country. We must uphold the clearly cut social hierarchy.”
“Then…I should go?” Midoriya suggests.
“On the contrary,” Todoroki says. “You should stay so that I can report to my father about the absolutely fascinating conversation I had with a lowborn boy from Yuuei. He’ll be thrilled.”
Midoriya has the distinct sense that he’s somehow stumbled into a family feud of proportions he doesn’t want to contemplate, especially given that one of the parties involved is the king of the country Yuuei had just made tentative peace with two years ago.
“Sorry,” Todoroki says. “I shouldn’t involve you in my own petty family issues. You’re free to go if you’d like.”
Midoriya should go. He should find his mother and latch onto her and not let go until they were safely back in Yuuei. But… “What will you do, then?”
“Return to the gathering, I suppose,” Todoroki says, frowning.
“That doesn’t sound like much fun,” Midoriya says, leaning back against seat and shifting to make himself more comfortable.
“No, it doesn’t,” Todoroki agrees. He exhales, and there’s the slightest trace of relief in his eyes. “So. Is it true that your All Might chooses his successor rather than carry on a royal bloodline?”
“Yes!” Midoriya says, brightening. Any chance to talk about All Might was golden in his eyes. “We haven’t had any assassination attempts since we started picking an ‘All Might’ to lead us rather than a king. Our current All Might, Toshinori-sama, is the hero of my hometown, actually. He once saved one hundred people from a fire without ever breaking his smile.”
“That so? Is that why he was chosen to be the next All Might?” Todoroki asks.
“Among other things, yes,” Midoriya says. “He’s known for his kindness and strength, and wisdom in times of trouble. People always looked to him, so I guess it was only natural that he be selected as the next ruler. Well, it’s usually someone employed by the royal family.”
“But no one else in his family has a Quirk, am I right?” Todoroki asks. “And yet, All Might has arguably the most powerful Quirk of any of the royal families. How can that be passed on?”
Midoriya’s smile falters. “That’s a royal secret,” he says. “No one knows except All Might. Otherwise, the Quirk could fall into the wrong hands.”
Todoroki twirls the flower between his thumb and forefinger. “I always found Yuuei to be the most attractive and interesting of the five kingdoms,” he confesses. “Your people are humble, which usually earns the scorn of the other royals, but you’re undeniably powerful.” He puts the flower down. “It would have been better if I was born in Yuuei,” he murmurs.
“Todoroki-sama?” Midoriya asks.
“It’s nothing,” Todoroki says.
Midoriya swallows. “You’re the first royal I’ve ever met,” he says. “I must confess—you’re nothing like I ever imagined you would be. Especially Endeavor royalty! I thought you would all be huge and frightening.” Midoriya hunches his shoulders. “So…thank you. For not being scary. I don’t know anything about your family life, but I think Todoroki-sama is a kind person.”
Todoroki looks at him like he’s grown two heads. Midoriya yelps. “Was that too personal? Did I cross a line? I’m sorry, I’m sorry!”
“No one’s ever thanked me for being kind,” Todoroki says. “No one’s ever called me kind before, either.”
“I think you are,” Midoriya says. “You’re smart, too! And regal!”
“Now you’re just flattering me.”
They both pause, glaring at each other, before Midoriya gives in to a fit of near-hysterical giggles. Here he was, a commoner who simply got himself lost, giggling with a prince. Todoroki huffs again, amused. Then, almost shyly, he says, “Can I show you something?”
Todoroki lifts his hand, pulling off his glove finger by finger. He tucks the glove into his pocket and touches the table with a single finger. From that finger, a thin layer of ice spiderwebs out from that point of contact with the table. The ice thickens and hardens, running off the table into fat icicles and frosting over.
Midoriya’s breath catches in his throat, and when he exhales, it is a visible puff of air. “Todoroki-sama…” he whispers. “This is…?”
“My Quirk,” he says softly. “Yes.”
“It’s incredible,” Midoriya says. “I’ve never seen anything like it.”
“That’s not all,” he says, and holds out his left hand. From the tips of his fingers, a flame lights, billowing over his skin until it completely engulfs his hand.
Midoriya’s eyes are wide. “Ice and fire?”
Todoroki nods. “I inherited the perfect combination of my mother and father’s Quirks. You can touch it if you want to.”
“Eh?” Midoriya says. “The fire? I’ll get burned!”
“You won’t,” Todoroki says. “Trust me.”
Midoriya, impossibly, does. He reaches out a trembling hand of his own, feeling the heat of Todoroki’s tamed flames before he even touches them. He hesitates. Meets Todoroki’s eyes. There’s nothing malicious in them, just the same openness, the same vulnerability he’d shown since revealing his Quirk to Midoriya. Midoriya touches his outstretched palm.
The warmth spreads over Midoriya’s skin too, engulfing his hand. He gasps, but it’s not painful, just comfortably warm, like heating his hands in front of a hearth. Todoroki’s palm is soft against his and Midoriya runs his fingers over Todoroki’s skin without thinking. Todoroki visibly shivers, and Midoriya jerks away.
Before he can completely pull away though, Todoroki catches his hand. “No, no, it’s okay,” he says. “I was just surprised.”
“I shouldn’t be touching you like this,” Midoriya says. “You’re royalty.” His cheeks burn, like the fire has transferred its heat to his face rather than his hand.
“It feels nice, though,” Todoroki says. “No one’s ever…”
No one’s ever treated me like this. He doesn’t need to say it for Midoriya to understand what he’s saying. Midoriya swallows. Sucking in a breath, he intertwines their fingers. The flames whip and flare before settling down, divided evenly between their hands. Midoriya offers Todoroki a shaky smile. Todoroki gives him a shaky almost-smile back.
Todoroki says, “Izuku—”
“Prince Todoroki-sama! Prince Todoroki-sama!” The call cuts Todoroki off mid-sentence and he winces, flames flickering out and ice melting away.
“That’d be me,” Todoroki says, slowly extricating his hand from Midoriya’s.
“Izuku! Izuku!” Midoriya’s mother’s voice.
“And that’s me,” Midoriya says. They get up from the gazebo, going their separate ways.
“Izuku,” Todoroki says. “I will see you later, yes?”
“As you wish, Your Highness,” Midoriya says, bowing, but he’s smiling.
Predictably, his mother chews him out for getting lost in a foreign place and not coming to look for him. He’s irresponsible and unappreciative and she’s been worried sick. She pulls him into a tight hug and tells him to stick by her side for the rest of the evening. Midoriya thinks that’s probably for the best too. He decides to wait and tell her about the Prince of Endeavor later.
All Might is everything Midoriya had expected and more. His voice carries the love and pride he feels for his country and its people when he gives his speech for the evening. All Might is larger than the life but just big enough to be Midoriya’s dream. He resolves to work his way closer to All Might if it breaks every bone in his body.
Midoriya looks for the prince when King Todoroki Enji speaks, but he’s too short to see over the crowd. His parting with Prince Todoroki is the last time he sees him. Even when he tells his mother about meeting the prince, she doesn’t believe him. Still, Midoriya is convinced that Prince Todoroki wasn’t a dream.
That year, Midoriya gets a job as All Might’s personal page and Todoroki gets a tea kettle full of boiling water poured over the left side of his face.