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Lips Like Blood

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Kirishima Eijirou was said to be hypnotically beautiful.

He had his mother’s good looks, blessed with silky black hair and bright ruby eyes. Though his skin was fair, his cheeks were rosy, lips red and full like a carnation. His late father’s sharp features only enhanced his beauty as he grew, chubby cheeks giving way to a strong jawline. Even his razor-sharp teeth, the gift of some distant draconic ancestor, completed his face and smoothed the roundness of his eyes. There were whispers of a faerie’s blessing, as no mortal could hope to achieve his level of beauty, but no fae ever claimed credit for his attractiveness.

As the prince, he had more than a few playmates growing up. His beauty was only hinted at then, hidden beneath a childish face. As social as they came, he made fast friends with the children of servants and the others who lived at the palace. His mother threw a fit whenever he was found sparring with a bamboo sword or climbing the trees in the royal garden, but as he grew older he worked to stay close to his childhood friends.

The first trouble came on his fourteenth birthday.

A feast had been held in his honor, and as much as he disliked being the center of attention he had smiled and talked politely until his mother had patted his hand and told him he was done for the evening. Grateful, he swiped a platter of food and slipped into the courtyard. He let out two short whistles, and after a few minutes a few of his playmates surfaced. Their small group giggled and teased each other while stuffing their face with the snack, and for a few wonderful moments Eijirou forgot his status.

He was knocked out of the welcome distraction by a small cough, quiet enough to be mistaken for an accidental one. Eijirou turned and blinked at his friend, who had gone silent but very red in the face. “Denki? Are you alright?”

The shorter one jerkily nodded, poorly hiding something behind his back. He hesitated before pressing it into Eijirou's chest. The prince stumbled to catch the gift: a single tulip.

Eijirou blinked. Flowers were only exchanged on birthdays between lovers, but Denki… oh. Oh.

His shock must’ve shown on his face because Kaminari stiffened and took a step back. “I’m sorry, your highness, I should’ve known better.” He dashed through the corridor he had come through, almost hidden by the vines climbing down the walls.

Eijirou had been too stunned to call after him, but the others had seen the ordeal go down. Sero had ditched his plate to run after him after hastily saying goodnight. Everyone else gave him half-hearted birthday wishes before dwindling away.

After a few weeks of painfully awkward conversation, the two became close again, but it had taken its toll. People were starting to stare at him, with more wonder and awe than came from the usual glances he got from his position. Servants avoided his eye, former friends looked away too quickly and made excuses to avoid conversation. He didn’t understand it - he was still him, after all, the same Eijirou. He escaped from his lessons to talk with Sero under the gnarled apple tree one day. His plain friend sighed deeply. “Eijirou, listen, if you haven’t figured it out by now I gotta tell you: you’re pretty.”

The prince cocked his head, not sure where he was going with this. “I mean, I guess so, but what does that have to do with everyone avoiding me?”

Sero shook his head. “No, I mean you’re pretty. As in, you spiked from mildly cute friend to wildly attractive prince who happens to be a total sweetheart.”

Eijirou flushed with embarrassment. “Ah, I don’t think that’s exactly true-”

“Not my point.” Sero jabbed him with his elbow. “You became heartbreak material in ten seconds flat.”

“I…” His head spun, and he leaned into the tree for more support. “Oh, holy shit. You’re telling me I’m being avoided because I’m hot?!”

Sero tossed an apple between his hands. “Don’t believe me, wait it out. You’ll see I’m right.”

Eijirou opened his mouth to argue but was cut off by his teacher calling his name from somewhere inside the palace. He glared at Sero, who only shrugged.

As the weeks passed, it became harder and harder to ignore. The small group of people he had worked so hard to know became distant. Servants he didn’t know the names of blushed when he passed by and waved. Before he knew it, the only people he could talk to were his mother, Kaminari and Sero. A prince who used to have everything was suddenly painfully lonely.

He was fifteen when the marriage proposals started coming in.

At first they were occasional, one every few weeks from neighboring kingdoms, mostly for political alliance. He politely wrote back his apologies in that he hoped to remain single, but more and more extravagant letters came from all corners of his kingdom and beyond. Men and women he had never even met vowed to give their undying love and devotion to him if he accepted their proposal. As soon as he opened his bedroom windows, he was met with a crowd of people rioting for a look at his face.

He moved his things into a smaller room with a single window overlooking the garden, and it was then he became a prisoner in his own home. The staff suddenly consisted only of married citizens, with the exceptions of Sero and Kaminari. The new hires paid him no mind, their faces green with jealousy. His attempts at conversation fell on deaf ears. He felt as if he was drowning, deprived of fresh interaction he so desperately needed.

And so, six months before he was to turn sixteen, his mother summoned a mage and his two apprentices from King Endeavor’s lands. He was less intimidating than she had expected, more skeleton than man, but he was able to draw the attention in the room with his bright eyes and wide smile.

“Your majesty.” He bowed respectfully. His apprentices followed, though the blonde one did so reluctantly. “You wanted to see us?” 

Queen Kirishima nodded. “And hopefully more than that. Sit, I have a proposition for you.” She waved away the guards by her side as the three sat down.

The two knights dutifully shut the doors behind them, letting her examine them carefully. “I have not been told your true identity,” she said coolly.

“I apologize, your majesty. I am wanted by several crime syndicates and go by the alias All Might to protect myself and my apprentices,” the mage said evenly. “Let me introduce you to young Midoriya and young Bakugou.” The green-haired one - Midoriya - nodded at his name while the other stayed sullenly silent.

“A mage with more than one apprentice, interesting.” She eyed him suspiciously but didn’t press it. “My problem revolves around my son, Eijirou.”

“I’ve heard rumors.” All Might said grimly. “Is he cursed?”

Queen Kirishima inhaled sharply but nodded. “My husband made more than a few enemies, and his assassins planned to kill us as well. The guards were able to save our lives, but not before one of the attackers placed the curse on Eijirou.”

“Not a family curse, then. And assassins trained in magic.. that itself is near unheard of.”

“It was a consolation prize for not being able to take his life,” she said bitterly. “I assume you need to know the curse’s structure in order to lift it?”

All Might nodded. “I do not know how much we can do, but we need the curse’s exact wording.”

Queen Kirishima sighed, suddenly looking ten years older in her exhaustion. “It goes like this:

"Lips like blood and hair like night,

Born to make the wrong things right

Should he fall in love before sixteen

Eternal, then, his rest shall be."

Midoriya gasped, earning him a jab from Bakugou. “Shut up, Deku. This isn’t your first curse.”

“It’s the first one involving death!” he hissed back, green eyes wild. 

“Boys, please,” All Might said, patience strained. He turned back to Queen Kirishima. “From the dictation, there might be some loopholes I can exploit, but I need as much context as you can give.”

“The first part is straightforward, he inherited most of my physical traits.” She lifted a stand of her own black hair. “As for ‘born to make the wrong things right,’ my husband and I were in an arranged marriage to secure peace between our kingdoms that have been enemies for generations. Eijirou’s birth was supposed to solidify that peace.”

“I see,” All Might said. “And he is fated to die should he fall in love. I presume that’s where his rumored beauty comes in?” 

Queen Kirishima frowned. “Indeed. I can only guess that the curse strengthened any beauty he may have had beforehand and made it all too easy for others to fall for him. In any case, his sixteenth birthday is in six months. If he falls in love before then…” She trailed off, unsure how to continue.

“We will do everything we can, but we need time,” All Might vowed.

“I have a tower prepared for you. You will be treated like honored guests and have full access to the castle and anything else you may need. You may stay as long as it takes.” She lifted an eyebrow at his apprentices. “Bakugou and Midoriya, are they single?”

Midoriya nearly choked at the blunt question. “Yes, your majesty, but I have someone in mind. You don’t need to worry about me.”

Bakugou only smirked. “It won’t be an issue.”

The queen regarded him for a long moment. “Be sure it stays that way. One more thing: do not tell Eijirou what you are doing here.” 

“What?!” Bakugou sputtered. “You’re telling me he doesn’t even know he’s cursed?!”

“Young Bakugou!” All Might chastised. 

“He does not know of his curse and he will stay in ignorance,” Queen Kirishima said with an iron voice. Her gaze bore straight into an unflinching Bakugou. “He’s already miserable as it is, and I will not allow him to sink any lower by learning of it. Are we clear?”

Bakugou held her glare for another second before ducking his head. “Crystal,” he spat. 

She nodded, satisfied. “Excellent. Should you weaken the curse, your reward will be your weight in gold. Should you break it completely, it will be twice that. Are we in agreement?” 

“It will be difficult without alerting him of his condition, but it can be done.” He glanced at Midoriya and Bakugou, the latter scowling harder than he had ever seen him. “We accept your offer.” 

Queen Kirishima rose. “It’s settled, then. A servant will escort you to your quarters, and you are welcome to join Eijirou and I for dinner tonight.”

All Might got up and bowed deeply. “Thank you, your majesty. We will be sure to be there.” 

She smiled thinly. “And thank you, All Might, for what you’ll be working for. Any progress is better than none.”

* * *

Katsuki lasted seventeen seconds in the shared room before blowing up. 

“This is bullshit!” he yelled, chucking his bag at the bed.

Midoriya winced and put down the vial he was holding. “Kacchan-”

“Don’t ‘Kacchan’ me, shitstick! We’ve just been hired to lift a curse on pretty boy, something that requires us to be close to him, and he has no fucking idea! We can’t even tell him his old hag’s been a prick to him for most of his life and he’s going to kick the bucket unless we get our act together!”

“Kacchan!” Midoriya shouted, voice strained. “The situation isn’t the best, but we have to work with what we’ve got! Otherwise the prince will die!”

 “What we’re given is bullshit!” 

They went silent as All Might’s shuffling footsteps sounded from the room above. His gaunt stature stood tall but tired. “Young Kirishima’s circumstances are unfortunate, yes, but not impossible. He can still be saved, and we must work to ensure that his life is not cut short.” 

Karsuki glared at the ground and kicked at it with his foot. He bit his lip, visibly straining to hold back another wave of argument. Finally, he let out a resigned sigh. “Fuck this. Any castle worth its salt has swords, and I’m ready to kill something.”

All Might wilted slightly and Midoriya cleared his throat. “We passed by the armory on the way to our rooms, I think.”

Katsuki stormed down the hall, taking the wrong corridor three times before wrestling with his pride and taking Deku’s directions. Of course, he was right and Katsuki had walked past it without noticing at least twice. He growled. He was going to kill that nerd.

He considered stalking back to the room out of spite, but he’d be damned if he didn’t get rid of all the pent up energy he had from traveling the past few days. He kicked the door open, and his mood immediately worsened upon seeing someone else there before him.

The stranger was dressed in a simple loose shirt, but had obviously been training before Katsuki barged in, judging by the sword he held by his side. He couldn’t get a good look at his face, half hidden by the black hair that hung around his head, but Katsuki would be lying to himself if he said he didn’t notice the way his shirt hung just right over his shoulders. He scowled harder.

“The fuck is your damage?”

The stranger had the audacity to laugh, and Katsuki caught a glimpse of teeth sharper than steak knives. “I should be asking you that, man! You’re the one who nearly kicked the door down!” He pushed a lock of hair out of his eyes, and Katsuki's stomach twisted in disgust at the honest way they twinkled in the afternoon light.

Katsuki rolled his eyes with a grunt and picked up a blade, testing its weight in his hands.

The stranger smirked and leaned against the wall. “Do I at least get a name after that dramatic entrance?” 

“Fuck you,” he said primly, finally deciding on a broadsword that caught his eye.

“Aw, don’t be like that! You can call me Ei,” he said good-naturedly.

“I don’t care,” he snapped back, and the stranger took the opportunity to giggle. Katsuki turned to glare at him, which only made him laugh harder.

“Who spit in your stew, Blasty?” he teased.

“Blasty?! The fuck?!” 

“Y’know, 'cause of your explosive personality!” He smiled at his own joke as Katsuki glowered.

The sword clattered to the ground as Katsuki stomped over to him, jabbing a finger into his chest. “Oi, fuck you! You call me Bakugou or nothing at all!”

Ei’s face lit up. “Ooh, you’re one of the mages!”

Katsuki nearly bit his tongue in frustration. He had let this big-eyed idiot goad him in the two minutes he had known him, he needed to step up his game. He groaned and reached for the broadsword. If something didn’t die within the next five minutes, he was going to explode. 

“You know how to use that?” Ei’s eyes went wide with excitement. “There’s more room in the gardens if you want to practice there, you’re not really supposed to use it in the armory. It’s kind of cramped in here, anyway.”

Katsuki weighed the pros and cons of beheading him right there and decided that killing one of the castle staff wouldn’t be a great thing to do less than an hour after moving in. “Fucking whatever, Shitty Hair.”

“Hey!” he pouted, hand instinctively shooting for his head. “It may be a bit sweaty but it’s not terrible!” 

Katsuki pushed past him into the hallway and hefted the sword onto his shoulder. Ei hesitated for a moment before scrambling after him, face like the sun. “Wait up, Blasty!” 

Ei chattered the whole time, not minding that Katsuki was only half listening. Even so, he picked up on a couple of things from Ei’s rambling. He was close with some guy called Kaminari, an idiot even stupider than him judging by how he managed to get struck by lightning twice. He didn’t have a lot of friends, which Katsuki found odd, but didn’t question. He decidedly did not care what Ei did in his free time.

“Oh, I have to tell you what Hanta did once he found out Denki was messing with his stuff-” 

“We’re here, Shitty Hair.”

“Really? I didn’t even notice, wow.” He rubbed the back of his neck sheepishly. “And it’s Ei, not Shitty Hair.”

Katsuki snorted, not pointing out that Ei was the one leading them there. He shrugged off his cloak and stretched his arms a bit, vaguely aware of Ei doing the same before reaching for his sword. He stopped short and whipped his head around to catch Ei staring at his arms. “Oi, the fuck are you looking at?!”

Ei went pink in an instant. “Ah, sorry! I’ve just never seen a tattoo like that before! Does it mean anything?”

Katsuki scowled and resisted the urge to cover the symbol on his shoulder. “Not to you, it doesn’t.”

Ei raised his hands in mock surrender. “Fine, don’t tell me! A deal, then: if I beat you in a spar, you have to explain it to me.”

“What makes you think I’m interested in sparring an extra like you?” Katsuki said lightly.

Ei’s smile grew at his poorly hidden competitiveness. “I’ll raise the stakes. If I lose to you, I’ll tell you my name. My full name, I mean.” He scratched the back of his neck - a nervous tic. So this meant more than he was letting on.

“Prepare to be pounded into the ground, Shitty Hair.”

Ei bit back a smile and unsheathed his own sword, an old but well-crafted saber. The two got into position and circled each other warily. Ei’s eyes flickered with uncertainty before Katsuki lost his patience and violently jabbed at him. He dodged easily, much to Katsuki's surprise, and from there things spiraled. Ei returned every irrational slash and hack, parried away every thrust and was able to jump back just in time when he was overpowered. Katsuki was rusty, for sure, but he missed this, missed having an opponent who could keep up with him. Ei was clearly struggling but he was holding his own, staying on the defensive with a crazed grin that rivaled Katsuki's.

With a final yell, Katsuki swept Ei’s leg and pointed his sword at his neck, pinning him to the ground. Ei let out a defeated huff against the foot on his chest and dropped his saber with a dull clang. “Geez, Blasty, you don’t let up.”

“Never said I did,” he answered smugly. His face twisted into a dangerous smirk. “I seem to remember someone promising to give me their actual name if they lost instead of some shitty nickname.”

Ei scowled in distaste but froze at the sound of approaching footsteps. He shoved Katsuki's foot off of him and stood up in a panic, hastily retrieving his sword. Katsuki grabbed his arm and yanked him back. “Oh no you don’t, hair-for-brains, no one runs away from a bet with me.”

“Bakugou, you have to let me go right now or else things are going to go to shit.”

Katsuki's retort died in his throat at the genuine terror in Ei’s eyes. Ei must’ve sensed his hesitation and took the chance to slip out of his grip, sprinting before Katsuki could grab him back.

“Oi, what’re you-!”

“I’ll explain at dinner, I promise!” Ei called over his shoulder. He rounded the corner and took off, leaving a very disgruntled Katsuki behind.

The footsteps from earlier grew slightly louder as a disheveled man entered the gardens, black hair wild and bags under his eyes. Despite his exhaustion, he carried an air of danger around him and Katsuki knew in an instant he did not want to make him an enemy. The guard zeroed in on him and crossed his arms as he approached. “You’re one of the mages.”

Katsuki stiffly nodded, choosing to stay silent. The man’s heavy scarves shifted slightly and floated around his shoulders as he narrowed his eyes. In any other situation, Katsuki would’ve fought tooth and nail to see the enchantment up close.

“Have you seen the prince since you arrived?” he asked in a monotone.

“Not yet,” Katsuki spat, meeting his glare. 

The man’s scowl deepened. “Are you certain?”

“Fucking positive,” he said through gritted teeth. “Pretty sure someone with a crown is hard to miss.”

The guard studied him for a second longer before his scarves drifted back to their original position. “If you see him, inform him to go straight to his quarters. He is late preparing for tonight’s dinner.” 

Katsuki could only stare as he stalked past to interrogate the next person who was unfortunate enough to cross paths with him. If he wasn’t intimidated (he wasn’t scared, but he could recognize when someone was a threat) he would’ve gone after him and demanded an explanation. Unfortunately, the conversation was an unwelcome reminder that he was running late as well. He didn’t care for the formalities associated with royalty, but All Might would have his head if he messed up the first real job they had in weeks. He swore and quickly made his way back to his room, not bothering to return his sword to the armory. 

Midoriya jumped as Katsuki busted into the room and immediately frowned. “Kacchan, it’s nearly time, where have you been?”

“None of your fucking business, that’s where!” he hissed.

Midoriya sniffed indignantly. “You don’t need to be rude, but hurry! And yes, you do need shoes.”

Katsuki wondered not for the last time why he decided to take All Might’s apprenticeship as he dug through his trunk. He slipped on a change of clothes and fished out his worn but sturdy boots before giving himself a once-over in the small mirror. Deeming himself presentable, he threw on a cloak just as All Might walked down the steps.

Their teacher smiled tiredly. “Are you boys ready to see what you’re working with?”

Midoriya nodded eagerly as Katsuki raised an eyebrow. All Might merely chuckled and patted him on the back with a bony hand. “Fear not, young Bakugou. You only need be polite for one meal.”

Katsuki shrugged his hand off and crossed his arms. “It’s whatever. Let’s just give the queen her precious dinner and get it over with.”

All Might sighed quietly but opened the door and led them out. Before long, they arrived at the great hall and the guard Katsuki had met earlier escorted them in. Queen Kirishima rose and nodded her head in greeting. “Thank you, Aizawa.”

He bowed curtly and left with the door cracked. She shook her head slightly. “I apologize, Eijirou will be with us soon. Please, sit down and eat. I’m sure you’re hungry after your journey.” 

The three bowed and took their places, leaving the spot for the prince open. Katsuki's mouth watered in anticipation at the sight of the stew, and to his amazement, it tasted just as good as it looked.

“I must thank you again for your hospitality, your Majesty,” All Might said. “Everything has been delightful since we’ve arrived.”

Queen Kirishima hummed, distracted. “Of course, you are my guests and it’s simply my duty as a hostess to ensure you feel welcome. I’m glad you all-”

The heavy oak door opened as Ei flew in, hastily apologizing to Aizawa. He was dressed in a simple red silk vest over a clean shirt, and Katsuki saw a small scar over his eye he hadn’t noticed when his hair was down. It was now tied up in some sort of bun, but Katsuki's attention was more directed at the thin golden band circling his head.

“I’m sorry mother, I lost track of the time with my studies.” He glanced up sheepishly and bit his lip.

Mother?! He was vaguely aware of his spoon dropping into his stew. “What-”

Queen Kirishima clicked her tongue in mild irritation. “Whatever the reason, you are late. Sit down.”

Ei ducked his head slightly and joined them at the table. Katsuki's brows creased. What in the hell was Ei doing there? The queen had only mentioned herself and her son meeting them for tonight-

Oh.

Oh no.

Katsuki's eyes widened as Queen Kirishima sighed. She waved a hand and Katsuki suddenly felt like he was falling, falling without a thing in the world to stop him.

“Everyone, this is my son, Eijirou.” 

Chapter Text

“You asshole.”

Katsuki had cornered the prince after the very aggravating dinner, but he could hardly call it a cornering when the shitty imposter had more or less let himself be dragged into the hallway.

Ei - or should he say Kirishima, damn him - smiled nervously. “Surprise?”

“Oh, fuck you,” Katsuki spat. “I’m not dealing with your lying bullshit.”

“Hey, I didn’t lie to you!” he whined. “You never asked!”

“You never corrected me, and you know damn well that’s not something you gloss over!”

“I was going tell you, when you beat me,” Kirishima said quietly. He chewed on his lip and glanced at Katsuki. “You won fair and square, but I didn’t want you to get in trouble from Aizawa seeing you pinning me down with a sword.”

Katsuki wanted to ram his head into the wall. Of fucking course Kirishima had a savior complex on top of his ludicrously nice personality. He made the mistake of meeting Kirishima’s eyes and felt his resolve waver. He was certain Deku had mastered the kicked puppy look after years of practice, but Kirishima blew his out of the water with his big doe eyes. Katsuki wanted to hurl.

“You absolute asshole,” he repeated, disturbed it came out more exasperated than angry.

Kirishima offered a weak smile and looked at the ground.”I’m really sorry,” he said. His voice was brittle, like it was seconds away from breaking. “I just wanted to make a friend without making it weird, I guess.” He let out a choked laugh and blinked rapidly.

Katsuki bit his tongue to keep from screaming. This fucker was about to cry because he hurt his feelings, how dare he. “Stop right fucking there,” he commanded.

“Huh?”

“If you want to be buddy-buddy with me, you don’t do it by lying to my face. Cut this pity party shit out and say what you mean.”

Kirishima looked up in surprise and slowly nodded at his words. “Oh, Um, okay. I’m sorry for being an asshole.”

“Good. Keep going.”

“I want to get to know you as a friend.”

Katsuki thought he was fucking insane, but that could wait. He nodded in affirmation. “Alright. Now, how are you going to make up for the tomfuckery you pulled?”

One of Kirishima’s teeth poked out as his eyebrows scrunched together in thought. It would’ve been endearing if Katsuki cared about that kind of thing. Kirishima’s eyes lit up suddenly. “We could spar again! When you’re not doing mage stuff and I’m not doing prince stuff, we could keep doing the thing from earlier where whoever loses has to answer the winner’s question.”

Katsuki was almost impressed. “Now that’s a proper fucking apology.”

Kirishima’s face broke into a relieved grin. “Oh, thank god, I thought you were never going to talk to me again.”

“It’s still on the table,” Katsuki grumbled. The idiot’s smile refused to falter and Katsuki had to look away. “Goodnight, Shitty Hair.”

Kirishima squawked in indignance as Katsuki turned away. “That’s a low blow! You know my name now!”

“Do I?” Katsuki said, not bothering to look back as he started walking.

Kirishima laughed and left in the other direction, and if Katsuki smiled to himself as he went to his room, well, no one had to know.

* * *

Midoriya quietly scrawled on parchment as the sun touched the horizon, painting the sky a brilliant orange. Katsuki sat on his bed, not quite willing to draw a bath just yet. He was content to let the tense silence continue, but Midoriya cleared his throat. “What did you think of the prince?”

His jaw clenched at the disturbance in peace, but he knew from experience it was impossible to dodge magic-related questions from the nerd forever. “He’s an asshole,” Katsuki grunted. He could practically hear Midoriya's eye-roll.

“You think everyone’s an asshole, Kacchan.”

Katsuki silently cursed the day Midoriya grew a spine. “Yeah, well, he’s especially an asshole.”

“He didn’t seem that bad to me,” Midoriya said mildly.

Katsuki almost laughed out loud. “Good thing I don’t care about your opinion, then.”

Midoriya sighed. “Fine. Be prickly. What do you think about his curse?”

He frowned at the ceiling. “You mean how he looks and shit? He’s decent at best; his old hag was really fucking exaggerating.”

Midoriya gave him an odd look. “No, I don’t think she was, that’s what I’m trying to say. He’s unnaturally pretty. I’ve never seen another human look like that. A fae or two, sure, but not without glamour magic.”

Katsuki snorted. “I thought he was one of the castle staff, he can’t be all that great.”

Midoriya chuckled. “When was this?”

“Right before we ate. Bastard challenged me to a duel.”

Midoriya paused his writing for a moment. “And you accepted?”

“Weren’t exactly a lot of other options, seeing as you still won’t learn how to use a sword.”

Midoriya made a face and turned back to his letter, not taking the bait. It was an age-old argument they both knew was a cheap attempt to push him into snapping. “If he’s alive after a fight with you, I’m sure he can take care of himself. My only question is how you mistook him for a servant in the first place.”

Katsuki narrowed his eyes and snarled. “Eat shit and die,¨ he said. “Wax more poetic bullshit for the half-and-half bastard and get off my back.”

Midoriya traightened in surprise. “It’s not a love letter,” he said tightly. Katsuki relished in the shade of pink the nerd’s ears went. “It’s a normal letter between friends. That’s it.”

Katsuki raised an eyebrow at a sketch at the end of the desk, ink portraying bicolored hair in perfect detail. “Right, because that’s real fuckin’ platonic.”

Midoriya snatched the parchment and glared at him, earning himself a smirk but nothing more. His shoulders slumped. “Try and change the topic all you want, but if you really can’t see his curse you need to tell All Might. The spell is… strong. Scarily so.” He laughed without humor.

Katsuki narrowed his eyes but stayed quiet. Midoriya dripped wax from the candle onto his letter and sealed it without another word, yawning. The sun had only just set, but Katsuki could feel his own eyes start to feel heavy. His bones ached from all the traveling, and before he knew it he had fallen into a dreamless sleep.

 

The next morning, Katsuki rose with the sun. He silently shrugged on a cloak to ward off the pre-dawn chill and risked a glance at Midoriya, still sleeping as light filtered into the room. His temper simmered at the sight of the moonstone amulet around his neck, rising and falling with his quiet breaths. He cursed to himself and tightened his hand around the sunstone bead that rested between his own collarbones. They were supposed to compliment each other, All Might had said. Midoriya’s cool determination was meant to act against his fiery attitude, but all he saw were too many arguments and broken bones.

Katsuki let out a shaky sigh. It was too early to think about their mangled relationship, he decided, and promptly shoved the topic to the back his mind to suffocate.

Scowling, Katsuki grabbed the sword from the day before and left, only for him to realize he had no idea where the prince’s quarters were. Fucking excellent. He stalked down the hall and let his footsteps echo, though his anger stayed a dull roar in his ears. The castle was just starting to wake, servants greeting each other as they passed by. Katsuki gritted his teeth and stopped. He was going to get nowhere if he kept going like this. Finally, he yanked aside one of the staff, making him yelp and nearly drop the tray of food he was carrying.

“What the hell, man?!” He crowed, glaring at him with unnerving yellow eyes. “You could’ve just tapped me on the shoulder!”

Katsuki squinted at the jagged black streak in his hair and immediately decided he didn’t like him. “Oi, Sparky, I need to get to the prince’s room.”

“Sparky?! Cause of the-” His free hand flew to the dark highlight. “Oh! That’s actually pretty clever.”

Katsuki snorted. “You have low standards. Did the shitty nickname make you forget how to get to his royal pain in the ass?”

The servant blinked once before bursting into a laugh. “Oh my god, you’re Bakugou, aren’t you? I thought Eiji was exaggerating, but geez, he wasn’t joking.” He stuck out his hand fearlessly. “Call me Kaminari.”

Katsuki narrowed his eyes. “I do not give a single fuck about your name. I was promised a duel, and that shitty-haired bastard better deliver.”

Kaminari just snorted and turned around, waving for Katsuki to follow him. “Whatever, man. He’s gonna bitch about waking up early, though.”

“He can bitch all he wants, he’s not running away from me this time.” He grudgingly fell into step next to him and glared at the floor.

Kaminari's shoulders shook with restrained laughter before finally giving up and cackling at Katsuki’s stormy expression. “You just casually threatened the prince in front of me, of all people! I’m only his servant if you want to get technical, but no one can knock out somebody faster than me so that makes me his bodyguard too.” He grinned and let a few loose sparks fly from his free hand.

“And you’re just letting me make those threats,” Katsuki countered. “Some bodyguard you are.”

Kaminari shrugged. “Maybe. I would’ve electrocuted you by now if Eijirou hadn’t mentioned you beforehand.”

Katsuki pushed down the wave of questions that came with that sentence and clicked his tongue instead. “So you’re telling me you have lightning magic strong enough to kill intruders and you’ve never even fucking tried to become a mage or some shit?”

Kaminari made a face. “I wanted to when I was younger, but I go brain-dead when I overuse it. Hard to learn other magic when you can’t master your own.”

“Chicken shit.”

“Am not!” he said defensively. “Going away to apprentice some old magic-man would’ve meant moving away from my bros, anyway. Hanta would probably want to come along, and that would be awesome, but Eiji-” he stopped mid-sentence and clamped his mouth shut.

Katsuki's hands clenched into fists. “But ‘Eiji’ what, fuckmunch?”

Kaminari looked pained in a way that made Katsuki's questions die in his throat. “Eijirou doesn’t leave the castle,” he said flatly. “If you want to know more than that, ask him yourself.”

The two walked in silence after that, the tension nearly palpable. They took a few more turns and went past what Katsuki recognized to be the gardens before Kaminari stopped in front of a door identical to the other spare rooms. He balanced the tray of food in one hand and quietly opened it.

The prince’s room turned out to be nothing more than a repurposed guest room, the inside roomy but modest. Where Katsuki's room had two beds, this one had only one, tucked into the corner in a mess of cream sheets. The large window gave a generous view of the garden and let light seep into the room with a warm glow. Morning had done nothing to disturb the single occupant, however. Kirishima laid sprawled on his bed, limbs flung out and a line of drool dribbling out of his mouth. His hair stuck up in every direction, making for a truly monstrous bedhead.

“He looks like an idiot even in his sleep,” Katsuki grumbled.

Kaminari raised an eyebrow and set down his tray. “You’d be the first to say that, that’s for sure. Everyone without a sweetheart falls head over heels for him.” He met his eyes with a knowing look.

“Guess I’m the exception,” he said shortly, not caring to repeat the conversation from last night with Midoriya. He prodded Kirishima with the handle of his sword, which only made him mumble and roll over.

Kaminari winced. “Oh man, you really don’t want to do that-”

Katsuki ignored him and jabbed Kirishima harder, making him groan. “Rise and shine, asshat.”

Kirishima opened his eyes blearily, their bright red color hazy from sleep. “Wha…?”

“Duel, right now. You owe me.”

Kirishima stuck out his bottom lip in a childlike pout, movements slow. “Not ‘n the mornin,’” he mumbled, turning back over.

Katsuki laughed dangerously. “I don’t remember leaving it up to you.” He yanked back the sheets with a swift tug.

Kirishima yelped and rubbed his arms in a vain attempt to gain the heat back. “Bakugoooou,” he complained, yawning. “Taking someone’s covers away is unmanly!”

“So is lying about your identity, but here we are.”

“Are you really going to use that card?” Kirishima whined, running a hand through his unruly hair. To Katsuki's amazement, the black strands stubbornly stuck up.

“I’m going to keep using it until you finish your damn apology,” Katsuki said. “And the fuck is up with your hair?”

Kirishima laughed openly at that, his thin nightshirt shaking with his shoulders. “I don’t know, man! It just does this in the mornings!”

“It’s true,” Kaminari butted in, finally speaking up. “Ever since we were little his hair would stick up like crazy before it was brushed.”

“It’s stupid,” Katsuki said decisively, to which Kirishima only laughed harder.

“You should see my mother's bedhead, it puts mine to shame,” he giggled.

“I’m pretty sure I’d have bigger fucking problems if I saw the queen in her nightgown. Are we going to fight or what?”

Kirishima shook his head but stood up. “I can’t exactly go to sleep after that very unmanly act, but let me get ready for the day first. Not all of us wake up ridiculously early.”

“It’s dawn, it’s not early, fuck you.”

Kirishima hummed and ignored his insult, choosing instead to flip through his wardrobe and pull out a similar shirt and pants from the day before. Katsuki turned around and waited for him to finish. He was a jackass, not a pervert. Kirishima plucked a hairbrush from the desk by his bed and stubbornly yanked it through his hair in a way that made Katsuki wince. “You brush your hair like a toddler.”

Kirishima stuck out his tongue, proving Katsuki's point and making Kaminari howl. He tied his hair back with a thin strip of cloth before lacing up his boots and smiling at him. “Ready to go, captain!”

“Not a chance,” Kaminari said, eyes narrowed. “You gotta eat some of your breakfast or your mother’s going to have my head.”

Kirishima pouted again but dutifully stuffed a piece of toast in his mouth. Finally, finally, the prince was ready for the day. He barely had time to grab his sword before Katsuki yanked his arm and started dragging him to the gardens, Kaminari staying behind. Katsuki wasted no time. He stretched his arms a bit and scowled when he noticed Kirishima eyeing his tattoo again. “Stop staring, asshat, you’ll get your answer if you can best me.”

Kirishima perked up and unsheathed his sword, the steel glinting in the morning light. “Fine! That’s still my question, but you’ve got to ask one too.”

Katsuki didn’t pause his stretching, racking his brain for something to count for his part in the wager. He was content fighting for the hell of it, the strain of muscles and the sweat of an effort-filled fight, but the bet added something he wasn’t quite sure how to swallow. “I want to know where you got your scar,” he said eventually.

Kirishima’s face flushed red for a moment, piquing Katsuki’s interest. He wasn’t particularly invested when he asked, but if it was something that embarrassed him, Katsuki was all for hearing the answer. “Alright, get ready to spill about your tattoo then!”

“You wish,” he taunted. He drew his own sword and the two started circling one another, looking for an opening they could exploit. This time it was Kirishima who struck first, a sharp slice Katsuki barely blocked. He grinned, not giving Kirishima time to react as he countered. The prince’s eyes flickered with challenge and threw himself back into the fight, putting in all his effort even as Katsuki deflected strike after strike. The mage was forced to go on the defensive as Kirishima pushed onwards. His attacks lacked speed and diversity, but the ones he landed were solid and powerful enough to send tremors through Katsuki’s bones.

Katsuki’s mistake came when he stepped back, expecting cobblestone but tripping over his own cloak. He fell down with a yell and Kirishima did not waste a second pinning him to the ground.

“I guess wishes do come true,” he teased. His face was close enough for Katsuki to see small flecks of gold in his eyes, too indistinct to be seen at any other distance.

Katsuki's stomach did an involuntary flip, something he did not want to think about the implications of. He shoved Kirishima off him. “Apparently only for shitty-haired idiots, they do.”

Kirishima’s smile turned smug. “At least me and my hair won, Blasty. Pay up.” He got up and patted the space side him on the marble bench.

Katsuki took a long look at the sky and wondered why he ever agreed to stay at the palace. Sighing dramatically, he sat down next to him and glared at the ground. “It’s a marking thing. Every family has a different symbol where I’m from.”

“You still have your cloak on,” Kirishima said softly. His face was a gentle expression Katsuki couldn’t decipher. “Am I allowed to see it?”

Katsuki stiffly angled his left shoulder to him and let him push back the fabric, revealing the stark black ink on his skin. Kirishima let out an awed breath, eyes filled with wonder. He reached out to touch it but hung back, unsure. “Can I…?

He nodded once, shakily. Kirishima extended his fingers, and Katsuki's breath hitched at the contact. He traced the angry yet graceful curves of the design, his touch like pins and needles against Katsuki''s arm. “A sun,” he said reverently. “It’s beautiful.”

Katsuki tensed but let his arm be held a moment longer before answering. “It’s similar to my homeland’s symbol for fire magic.’”

“Is that the kind of magic you have?”

Katsuki took his arm back, the symbol disappearing underneath his cloak once more. “That,” he said, “is another question.”

Kirishima’s face fell but he nodded. “My mom wants me to help out with a negotiation today, but I can spar with you most of the day tomorrow.”

“I need to check in with Might anyways,” he grumbled. He sheathed his sword and stood, not bothering to offer a hand to Kirishima. “You better be ready for another round same time tomorrow.”

“Not cool, Bakugou! We have all day tomorrow, we don’t have to start so early!”

“Starting early just means more sparring, Hair-for-brains.”

Kirishima groaned but stood up, his smile quickly returning. “Alright, alright, I’ll just ask Denki to wake me up when he comes in. See you tomorrow, Blasty!” He waved and headed for his room, his grin making Katsuki's stomach twist for the second time that day.

Katsuki kicked at a pebble before starting for his own room, scowling the whole way. Damn Kirishima and his stupid smile, his stupid eyes and his stupid hair. He made himself take in a breath of false calm as he arrived at the door. Feeling weird was normal. That’s what the shitty-haired prince was supposed to do. He, Midoriya, and All Might would figure it out, and he would never have to worry about it again.

He opened the door to find Midoriya and All Might waiting for him, leaving the last chair at the small table open. All Might smiled grimly. “Young Bakugou, there are some things we must discuss regarding young Kirishima.”

“No shit,” he said dryly. “Make any fascinating discoveries?”

Midoriya shook his head. “We only have theories, but they’re the best we have.”

All Might waited for Katsuki to sit before starting. “His aura suggests his curse was cast by a mortal, but a very powerful one.”

“So we’ve got a shot at lifting it,” Katsuki finished. “Good.”

“Lifting it is a possibility, yes, but our first step is to weaken it. It was made as a conditional curse, one that will only take place if another event occurs. This alone makes it strong, but there may be a loophole in its wording.”

“Should he fall in love before sixteen, eternal, then, his rest shall be,” Midoriya recited. “Oh! The consequence isn’t very specific! If we’re careful, we could turn it away from him dying if he falls in love!”

“Correct, young Midoriya!” All Might praised, eyes bright. Katsuki squashed the inkling of jealousy that threatened to bloom.

“So you’re saying we have to make it literal rest instead of him fucking dying before we do anything else. Wonderful.”

Might chuckled and patted Katsuki on the shoulder. “Don’t be so bleak, young Katsuki. We must consult a fae to confirm it was not cast by a mortal, but from there I know how to undo it. There is hope yet.”

Katsuki leaned back in his chair, resigned. The mid-morning light patterned the loose parchment at the table and made the moonstone around Midoriya's neck shine brilliantly. Finally, he loosened his grip on the fabric of his cloak and let out a breath. “Fine. We need to be sure before we do anything. Know any faeries willing to lend us a hand?”

All Might shifted in his seat. “The few fae I know I cut ties with long ago. They won’t be happy to see me, much less help me on any magical endeavor. Luckily, we may not need to rely on them. Most royal families are tied to important fae families in a mutual bond, and the Kirishimas are no different.” He paused to meet both his apprentices’ eyes.

“It is time to summon the Ashidos.”

Chapter Text

It had been a week since Queen Kirishima had reached out to the Ashidos, and Katsuki’s patience had begun to wear thin. He distracted himself by sparring with the prince, but that had its limits seeing as Kirishima often opted to talk with Sparky and another servant whose name he couldn’t remember. On that particular afternoon, however, he discovered something very interesting.

“You’re telling me you’ve never fucking met your fae family?!”

Kirishima scratched the back of his neck. “It sounds bad when you put it that way, but I guess? My mother said they haven’t talked since her coronation.” He swung his legs over the counter and crossed them, completely ignoring the chair. “Is that weird?”

Katsuki still wasn't sure how he ended up in the kitchen with Kirishima, the other chatting away like they had known each other for years. They had an arrangement for trading information, but if Kirishima was going to talk without an incentive Katsuki wasn’t about to stop him. The boy in question chomped on a freshly baked roll and Katsuki tried not to stare at the shark-like bite he left.

He rolled his eyes. “Hell if I know. The Todorokis invited the Yaoyorozus to visit every few months but the damn half-and-half bastard made friends with their daughter.”

Kirishima’s eyes crinkled as he bit down on his lip to conceal a giggle. He cracked as soon as Katsuki glared at him, laughing so hard his shoulders shook. “The fuck is so funny, Shitty Hair?!”

“Really?! ‘Half-and-half bastard?’ He’s really quiet but I can’t think of anything he’d do to make you so touchy!”

“He’s a bastard,” he said curtly, sending Kirishima into another round of giggles.

“He’s really not, I swear! He just doesn’t understand how to act around people sometimes.” He shifted and raised his eyebrows dangerously. “Kind of someone I know.”

“Oi, watch it.” Katsuki punched his shin, the only part of the prince he could reach from his seat. “You didn’t have to deal with him making heart eyes at fucking Deku for months.”

Kirishima’s eyes lit up. “Midoriya and him are together?!”

Katsuki snorted. “As if. King Endeavor can’t stand All Might and Icyhot’s too chickenshit to cross his old man directly so they both have been pining like dumbasses.”

Kirishima laughed but didn’t comment, letting them fall into a comfortable quiet. Katsuki despised small talk, but with Kirishima, it didn’t seem so trivial. The prince never talked to be polite, he talked because he seemed to genuinely enjoy being with Katsuki, something that baffled him to no end.

He huffed quietly. If Kirishima insisted on talking to him and his company wasn’t a direct annoyance, the least he could do was show interest. “How do you even know Icyhot, anyways?”

Kirishima positively beamed at the prompt. “I’ve known him since we were really little! His family used to visit for days at a time and we just clicked.” His smile faltered and turned sad. “I didn’t see him as often after he got burned, though.”

Katsuki let his eyes fall to the floor. He just had to be stupid and reopen an old wound the one time he made an effort to hold a conversation. He bit his tongue and racked his brain for something to break the tension.

“He still comes around, yeah?”

Kirishima shrugged. “Around once a year, I think. King Endeavor doesn’t show, there was some bad blood surrounding his missing son and the attack on my family. I don’t know the details but I’m just grateful my mother and I survived.” He chuckled weakly. “Things could’ve been a lot worse.”

Katsuki swallowed thickly, not trusting himself to speak and nodding instead. Things were a lot worse, and he suddenly understood why Queen Kirishima refused to tell him about his curse. At least this way he could be optimistic through his isolation. If he were to know the truth… Katsuki didn’t want to think of a Kirishima that didn’t smile.

“I’ve been thinking,” Kirishima said quietly, staring at the ceiling.

“Now I’ve seen everything,” Katsuki muttered.

The prince shot him a dry glare. “Rude. But I’ve been thinking about family a lot, especially since you came.” He sucked in a breath. “I lost my father too early, and if there’s another faerie family that’s supposed to be a part of my life, I don’t want to miss out on it.” His eyes searched Katsuki’s, looking for some type of sign.

Katsuki tugged at the edge of his cloak. “If you decided to ditch them without giving them a chance, you’d be a real dumbass.”

Kirishima smiled again, a small and grateful one. “Thanks, Bakugou.”

Katsuki jutted his chin and pointedly looked away, but not before he felt the tips of his ears go pink. “It’s common sense, Shitty hair, don’t patronize me.”

“Whatever you say, Blasty.” He slid off the counter and offered a hand to help Katsuki up.

He stared at it with more confusion than anger. “The fuck is that supposed to be?”

Kirishima rolled his eyes in exasperation. “I’m trying to give you my hand, Bakugou. It’s something friends do.”

Katsuki bit back a retort and grabbed his hand, pulling himself up. Kirishima’s shy smile turned blinding and Katsuki tried not to think of the way his hand fit snugly into Kirishima’s larger, softer one.

Too soon, Kirishima let go. “Come on, let’s go to the gardens.”

Katsuki let out a breath he didn’t know he’d been holding. “Oh, thank fuck. Kiss your beginner’s luck goodbye, asshole.”

Kirishima rolled his eyes. “You’ve beaten me the last three times, Bakugou. This isn’t for sparring.”

Katsuki scowled. “Are you getting cold feet, your-fucking-highness?”

“Not everything’s about fighting! I wanted to meet up with Denki and Hanta before Jirou arrives.”

His shoulders stiffened. “I don’t want to meet with any extras.”

“They’re my friends, not extras.” Kirishima sighed and chewed on his lip, making its cherry red color even more pronounced. After a beat of silence, he turned away. “I’m sorry, that was out of place. I can’t force you to spend your time with-”

“Tomorrow.” Katsuki’s eyes widened at his own interruption. He swallowed and carefully met Kirishima’s gaze. “I’ll go with you to meet whoever those people are tomorrow.”

Kirishima’s smile got impossibly bigger, and Katsuki’s heart leaped into his throat. He stared at the floor and tried not to flinch as Kirishima threw an arm around his shoulders. The prince didn’t say anything, but his expression was soft with gratitude.

Katsuki shifted, breaking the spell. “Stop looking at me like that.”

Kirishima snorted but let his arm slip, and Katsuki refused to linger on the empty feeling it left.

“Alright, alright. See you tomorrow, Bakugou!”

He only shook his head, but Kirishima’s laugh rang in his ears long after he left.

* * *

The next morning, Katsuki’s exit was blocked by Midoriya, arms crossed and mouth in a tight grimace. “Kacchan.”

“Deku.” He leaned against his sword, eyes sparking with a silent warning. “Is there a reason you’re forcing a conversation?”

“There is, actually.” He cleared his throat. “You’ve been spending all of your time with the prince. There’s not a lot to do without being able to start on the spell, but we both know that’s not the whole truth.”

Katsuki glared coldly. “Who I spend my time with is none of your goddamn business.”

“Except when it interferes with what we’re here for. Kacchan, we’ve only been in the castle for two weeks, but he’s the only person you’ve bothered to talk to!”

“So what if he is?! He’s the only person in this hellhole who will actually put up a fight against me! If you’re so fucking worried, spar with me yourself!”

“Do not make this conversation about me,” he said coolly. “If there’s something more going on than a polite friendship, it needs to stop now.”

“I’m not a goddamn idiot!”

His hands sparked suddenly, making both of them jump.

Midoriya’s anger quickly melted into worry. “Kacchan-”

“It’s fine,” he spat. “My fire is fucking fine, and so am I. Just… listen for one goddamn second.” He let out a breath, long and slow. “Kirishima and I are friends. It’s not his fault a curse is fucking up his life, and I’m not going to cut him off for it. I’m supposed to meet with the extras he likes, so stop flipping your lid over it just being him.”

Midoriya lowered his head. “You’re right.” He sighed, and Katsuki felt just how burned out he was. “Just promise me it’ll never get to that point.”

Katsuki averted his eyes and kicked at the ground. “If anything happens, I’ll be a fucking adult about it.”

Midoriya nodded and stepped back. “Thank you, Kacchan.” He straightened up suddenly and rummaged through his pockets. “This has nothing to do with anything we talked about, but could you please give this to the messenger that’s supposed to come today? I’m going to be in the village and don’t want to miss her-”

“I’ll take your fucking love note,” he interrupted.

Midoriya’s ears went red. “You’ll take my friendly, non-romantic letter, you mean.”

“Whatever, nerd.” He snatched the parchment and gestured to the door. “Are we done here?”

“That’s all I wanted to talk about.” He sat down in the chair and hesitated, shaking his head. “Be careful, please.”

“I’ll be careful when I’m dead,” he grunted.

He pushed the door open and stepped into the hallway. By now the route to the garden was little more than muscle memory, barely paying attention to where he was going. He soon spotted Kirishima leaning against the trunk of the massive apple tree in the corner, talking with Sparky and another servant he’d seen one or twice. He half-considered going back to his room, but Kirishima locked eyes with him before he could go through with it.

The prince’s face broke into a grin and waved. “Bakugou! I was starting to think you wouldn’t come! Don’t scare me like that, man!”

“Shouldn’t have gotten your hopes so high, then.

The servant whistled in mock appreciation. “So this is the mage you won’t shut up about it. Didn’t know you had such poor taste.”

Kirishima ignored him. “You already know Denki, and this is Hanta. He’s apprenticing under Hakamata to be a tailor.”

“Sparky and Plain face,” Katsuki shortened.

Kirishima glared but moved over to make room for him. “I told you their names for a reason.”

“And I didn’t use them for a reason,” he said and sat down.

“Your personality is outstanding, really,” Kaminari said dryly.

“With what Eijirou was telling me, I was expecting someone a lot more,” Sero waved his hands, “charming.”

“I’m a fucking delight to be around, jackass!”

“Bakugou,” Kirishima said sternly. “Play nice.”

He huffed and let his head fall against the trunk, giving Kaminari just enough time to yank the letter from his hands. His eyebrows shot up at the name. “Geez, man, you’re writing to the legendary ice prince?! You didn’t strike me as the type of guy to have a ring of royal buddies.”

Kirishima frowned. “I thought you hated him, what-?”

“I lived in his castle for a full damn year, if I wanted to talk to him I would. It’s fucking Deku’s love note.”

Sero wiggled his eyebrows. “Whoever Deku is, he’s lucky to have the youngest Todoroki to himself. It’s been a few months since I’ve seen him but let me tell you, he’s a real piece of eye candy.”

“Treachery!” Kaminari cried, bringing a hand to his chest. “You’d abandon me for him!”

“It’s a tragedy, I know,” Sero snickered.

Katsuki’s eyebrows knit. “The hell are you talking about?!”

Kirishima laughed and rubbed the back of his neck. “They’re stepbrothers, don’t let any of what they’re saying fool you.”

Kaminari nodded seriously. “My bro is speaking of betrayal, this is no laughing matter.”

“Like you wouldn’t leave me for Jirou in a heartbeat.”

Kaminari immediately perked up. “Speaking of, when’s she supposed to get here?”

“Relax, Denki. She arrived an hour ago, she’ll be here as soon as she makes her rounds.”

He groaned and sunk further into the grass. “That takes forever! My poor, pining heart can’t take this.”

Katsuki opened his mouth to tell him how pathetic he was being but stopped short at seeing a thin girl come into the garden. Kirishima nudged Kaminari’s shoulder. “You should speak out loud more often, man! Hey, Jirou!”

“Hey, Kirishima.” She smiled and plunked next to Sero. “Didn’t expect to see you here, Bakugou.”

“Fuck you,” he said easily.

Kaminari bolted up and gave Bakugou a snarl. “Don’t talk to Kyouka like that! She deserves the whole world on a silver platter!”

“We’re not on a first name basis, Kaminari,” she shot back, but Katsuki didn’t miss the tinge of pink on her cheeks. “Any of you have letters I need to deliver?”  

“Just this one,” Kirishima said and gave her the parchment.

She smiled faintly at the label. “Midoriya’s still flirting with Todoroki, I see. Anything new happen while I was gone?”

“Nothing other than Bakugou, Midoriya, and All Might coming,” Kirishima shrugged. “What kind of gossip have you heard about on the road?”

Jirou shook her head. “Same old things. Nothing interesting, unless you count an affair between nobles in Dagohba.”

Kaminari gave her a winning grin. “I’d love to have an affair with you.”

Sero cackled while Kirishima choked. “That’s not how you win over someone, man!”

“I’m doing my best!” he shouted, face red but otherwise undeterred.

Jirou shuddered. “Please never speak again.”

Kaminari wailed in dismay. “She’s immune to my charms.”

Jirou smirked and pulled two letters out of her bag. “Two letters this time. One from your parents, Bakugou. Write back every once in a while.”

“Can it, Ears.”

She ran a hand over one of the fins that poked out of her hair. “Suit yourself. This one’s yours, Kirishima.” She handed him a sharply folded envelope with a gold seal. “From the Ashidos. Your mother got a separate one.”

Kirishima bit his lip but took it, flipping it over and breaking the seal. The three crowded around him to see the calligraphy better.

“Eijirou,

We apologize for not getting to know you sooner. We have been busy, but that does not excuse failing our responsibilities as your fae family. Time is… different in faerie lands. No one had fully realized how much you had grown. We will arrive in three days time, and we look forward to meeting you.

Sunset and Moonrise,

Taiyo and Hayama Ashido”

“Sunset and Moonrise?” Kaminari broke the silence, frowning.

“It’s a fae greeting, don’t think too hard about it,” Katsuki grunted.

Sero hummed. “Three days, huh? When did you get this?”

“Three days ago.” She smiled. “Looks like you’ve got company tonight, Kiri.”

He put a hand to his forehead. “Oh man, this is going way too fast.”

Sero patted his shoulder sympathetically. “Better get ready, Ei. Your mother’s going to want you in your full prince getup tonight if you’ve got long-lost relatives coming.”

Kirishima winced but got up. “You’re right, I just wish that stuff was more comfortable. If you plan on staying, Jirou, I’m sure my mother has something that would fit you for dinner.”

She made a face but nodded. “See you in an hour or two, then.”

Kaminari sighed dreamily as she picked up her bag and disappeared behind a hedge. “What a girl.”

“You’d have better chances with her if you didn’t act like a total idiot around her,” Kirishima said and offered Katsuki a hand up. He scowled but accepted it.

“Like you guys are any help,” he pouted.

Kirishima shook his head. “I think you’re doing that all on your own.” He helped Kaminari up and turned to Katsuki. “Are you going to eat with us?"

“Is that an invitation?”

“If you want it to be.” He winked, sending Katsuki’s heart into a somersault.

He shoved his arm just hard enough to make him stumble. “Fucking whatever, Kirishima. I’ll meet your dumbass faerie family.”

The prince smiled, and Katsuki had a hard time remembering why he’d wanted to say no. “Awesome! See you then, Blasty!” He waved much too energetically and slipped behind a bush, Kaminari right behind him.

It was quiet for a moment, but it didn’t last. Sero shifted and leaned against the tree to face Katsuki. “You used his name.”

Katsuki bristled. “He earned it. There’s nothing else to it.”

Sero raised an eyebrow. “Is there? When you add that to your statement, it makes it sound like there is, in fact, something else you don’t want to address.”

“Watch it, fuckmunch,” he said dangerously.

“I’m not saying anything!" He leaned closer and wiggled his eyebrows suggestively. “However, if I was to say something, I would say you’ve got a thing for our little Eiji.”

“What?” he deadpanned. His heart thudded against his ribcage. This was not something he was going through. He was Bakugou-fucking-Katsuki, not some silly village girl with a crush.

Sero shrugged, smug at the red creeping down Katsuki’s neck. “It’s not exactly something that’s hard to do. I’ve seen plenty of people angrier than you fall head over heels for our beloved prince - not that you set the bar low.” He hummed, feigning thoughtfulness. “I have to know: was it his gorgeous red eyes?”

“Fuck off,” he mumbled staring straight ahead.

“That long, inky black hair? Let’s not forget that beautiful figure! All that working out does not go to waste. Did you know he works out? Because he works out."

“Fuck off!” he said louder. He grabbed his sword suddenly and stalked towards the low stone arch.

Sero cackled. “Ooh, I know! It has to be his stunning smile! Even our resident mage swoons at the sight of those-”

“FUCK OFF!” he shouted, flipping him off without bothering to look back as he ducked into the hallway.  He distantly heard Sero laugh harder, making his insides twist. He was fine, he could deal with a little discomfort. Kirishima’s curse was supposed to mess with people’s heads. Having weird feelings just meant whatever odd blip at the beginning had worn off.

He took another breath in, then out.

He was fine. This was normal.

Above all, he did not have feelings for Kirishima Eijirou.

 

Chapter Text

Katsuki tugged at the tight collar of his shirt, silently grateful Midoriya and Might had left for the town. Alone, he could deal with the embarrassment of dressing up. Logically, he knew if the prince was expected to look his best, he’d have to meet that standard, but that didn’t stop the uncomfortable itch at his throat when the fabric pressed just close enough. 

He forced himself to breathe out. It was only for a few hours. The collar wasn’t going to kill him, and the damn earth mage who had gotten close was locked somewhere far, far away in King Endeavor’s dungeons. He was safe.

Katsuki grimaced as he drew a thin line of kohl above his eyes. Deku was going to be pissed when he found out he hadn’t waited for him, but even he would have to admit passing up the opportunity to meet the Ashidos was foolish. 

Deku could deal with it, Katsuki decided. He looked himself over in the mirror once more and left for the dining hall, vaguely remembering the path from his first day. He entered quietly, this time using a side door. To his immense relief, the only other person there was Jirou, fidgeting in a plain grey dress. He sat beside her and prayed he wasn’t making a mistake. 

Jirou regarded him carefully. “You showed up.”

Katsuki lifted his chin and shot her a glare. “I’m a fucking mage, Ears. Of course I want to meet fae.”

She shrugged, unconvinced. 

Katsuki scowled and leaned back in his seat. Fuck Ears, and fuck the other extras making a connection that wasn’t there. It wasn’t that goddamn surprising he made a friend, and it was none of their fucking business if he wanted to see him outside of a spar. He groaned internally and slouched. If he was going to have to wait for Kirishima, he was at least going to make himself comfortable. Damn it, why was his collar so tight?

Thankfully, the doors opened after a few minutes. The two hastily stood and bowed, but when Katsuki lifted his head, he couldn’t help but stare at Kirishima. 

His usual ponytail had been woven into an intricate braid, brushing over his shoulder as he walked. His bangs were held in place by a simple golden band, and without a curtain to hide behind, his eyes glittered in the glow of the sunset. He was dressed in a deep red vest similar to the one he had seen him in before, but the one he wore now had subtle rose designs in gold thread. Katsuki dimly registered the prince talking to a girl a bit shorter than him - did she have horns?! - before Kirishima sent a shy wave his way. Katsuki looked away and cursed the heat he could feel rising to his cheeks. He hadn’t expected to get caught.

Katsuki chewed on the inside of his cheek, mind racing. Why had he stared speechless like another fucking extra?! Was his curse starting to affect him? He willed the thought away. No. He was stronger than the weaklings distracted by a pretty face. To even think he was on their level was laughable. He was just… surprised by Kirishima’s attire. He was surprised. 

Katsuki refused to think otherwise.

The queen strode in front of Kirishima, snapping Katsuki out of his dilemma. He managed to keep an impassive face as the queen smiled politely. “Hayama, Taiyo, Mina, it’s been too long. Please, sit down. We have a lot to catch up on.” 

He glanced at the people who had followed the royal family. His first thought was immediate: Pink. There were three of them, all with skin and hair the color of rose buds. He struggled to remember what Half-and-half’s mother looked like, but he knew she didn’t have the same tint as Kirishima’s fae family. Their other features were no less jarring. As they approached the table following Kirishima and his mother, he noticed he hadn’t imagined the twisted golden horns sprouting from their heads, tall and proud like gazelles. 

The tallest two nodded and took their places, their daughter awkwardly doing the same after exchanging a glance. Katsuki realized with a start that the whites of their eyes were a glossy black, making their gold irises even more pronounced. He suppressed a jump when Kirishima sat beside him and ignored his nervous smile. 

The father - Taiyo? - cleared his throat after servers set food in front of them in silence. “We’re flattered by the invitation, Ito. Who might your guest be? I recognize the messenger from her visits.”

Queen Kirishima visibly relaxed. “How rude of me. This is Bakugou Katsuki, an apprentice to the mage staying here.” 

He grit his teeth at being introduced like a child but tilted his head at his name. “Nice to meet you,” he grunted. 

Kirishima kicked him under the table with a frown. Play nice.

Taiyo hummed, unaffected. “I see.” His strange eyes searched Katsuki for a moment before looking back, satisfied. Katsuki couldn’t shake the feeling he was being tested. 

The older fae studied the queen and tucked one of her countless braids behind her ear. “You’ve grown, Ito. You can’t be much younger than we are.” 

Jirou and Katsuki exchanged a surprised look but the queen only smiled, nostalgic. “You look the same as last time, Hayama, Eijirou and I are the only ones who’ve changed. Mina, you’re near his age now, aren’t you?”

The girl, her curly hair cut short, seemed to recognize Kirishima for the first time. “Oh, shoot! I didn’t even say anything to you yet! I’m Mina!” She stuck out her hand fearlessly across the table. “Sunset!”

Kirishima cautiously took it and stared at her metallic tattoos in wonder. “Moonrise…?”

Mina’s face stretched into a larger smile. “Yeah, that’s how you say it!” She shook his hand enthusiastically. “I can’t wait to get to know you!” Kirishima smiled back, relieved.

She dropped his hand and turned to Katsuki. “It’s cool to meet a human magic user! You’ve got to show me what kind of spells you can do. Let me guess. Fire mage?”

Sparks flew from Katsuki’s palm involuntarily. “More or less.” 

Hurt flashed across Kirishima’s face but Mina gasped in awe before he could question it. “Incredible! It’s nothing like my corrosive magic!” She snatched an apple from a fruit bowl and held it carefully. As he watched, the red covering started to smoke where her fingers met, breaking and crumbling apart in chunks. 

Hayama rubbed her temples. “Mina, please refrain from melting our host’s food.”

“I don’t mind. It’s been a while since I’ve seen her talent.” The queen said distractedly, a faraway look on her face. 

Mina put the ruined apple down and wrung her hands sheepishly. “Sorry, I just got a little excited.” She looked at Katsuki and did a double take. “Oh wow, you look really similar to a girl I used to know. Do you know anyone by the name of Mitsuki?”

Katsuki’s mouth fell open. “What?!”

Kirishima kicked him under the table again, hard, but Katsuki was still busy trying to make sense of Mina’s sudden question. 

“She lived in the mountains so Ito and I didn’t see her often, but she was the coolest to talk to!” 

Queen Kirishima looked up sharply. “Mina, that’s enough.”

Katsuki’s head spun. “No, Racoon Eyes! Mitsuki is my fucking old hag!” 

The table fell silent. Mina’s hands rushed to her mouth, blushing red against her pink cheeks. “Oh, stars, I didn’t mean to imply anything!” She shook her head slowly. “It really has been a long time, hasn’t it.”

Taiyo squeezed his daughter’s hand, his ringlets long and loose over his shoulders. “I think Mina was trying to ask if Mitsuki was in the castle or not.” He said quietly. “They used to be quite close.” 

Katsuki swallowed and tried to imagine the bubbly girl in front of him being friends with his mother, all spitfire and rough edges. The short fae appeared young, but he had no way of knowing how old she really was. “She’s not here,” he managed after a tense pause. “She’s dealing with a territory war in the East with another mountain clan.”

“Ah.” Mina’s shoulders sagged, and Katsuki wondered what made her eyes flash with a deep sadness. “I see. Thank you.”

The quiet dragged onward, the only sound being silverware scraped on plates. Hayama forced a smile. “Jirou, was it? How has your family been?” 

“My mom’s doing alright. Her jewelry business is doing well and she’s thinking of moving to the capital to open a store.” 

“I’d love to see what kind of stuff she makes!” Mina chimed in. She stuck out her arm to show off her heavy golden bangles. “You can never have too many shiny things. Oh! Yaomomo says hello, by the way.”

Jirou’s cheeks turned pink. “I’ll be sure to stop by on my way back.”

Taiyo leaned forward. “And your father? He’s a siren, is he not?”

“I haven’t seen him in a while.” She shrugged stiffly. Her fins poked out from her hair, subtly giving away her discomfort. “King Endeavor’s getting testy with his pod and it’s hard enough to visit my sister and him as it is.”

“I apologize for prodding,” Taiyo said, uneasy. “I wish them the best of luck with their struggles.”

Jirou shrugged, her fins slowly receding into their hiding place under her hair. “You didn’t know.”

Hayama sighed. “Thank you for the meal, Ito. It was wonderful to meet Eijirou and your guests, but I think we’re all quite tired from the journey.”

“Of course. You’re free to stay in the rooms you used last time.”

Hayama nodded and stood, the rest of her family following. “Sunset.”

“Moonrise,” Queen Kirishima said softly. Kirishima and Jirou soon left, Katsuki right behind them, when a slender hand on his shoulder stopped him. Any protests he might have had vanished on seeing the queen’s deadly serious expression. “Bring All Might and Midoriya back to this room with you as soon as they arrive.”

Katsuki could only nod as her hand slipped back to her side. She smiled tiredly. “We may have a chance against Eijirou’s curse yet.”

* * *

“What do you mean, you met the Ashidos without us?!” Midoriya cried, hand running through his hair.

“What the hell was I supposed to do, Deku?! Ignore them?! Waste time while you did some stupid sightseeing?!” 

“You could’ve gotten a royal escort to bring us back!”

“There wasn’t time!”

“Boys!” All Might interrupted. The two fell silent under his glare. “Young Bakugou, what you did was rash, but you had more to say, did you not?”

Katsuki let out a breath, willing some of his anger away with it. “You didn’t let me finish. Queen Kirishima wanted to see all of us as soon as you two came back.”

“Then it’s not polite to keep her waiting,” he said simply. He dropped his traveling bag and started out into the hallway. Katsuki and Midoriya exchanged a glance before rushing to follow him. Aizawa stepped aside as they pushed open the double doors. 

Queen Kirishima smiled thinly from her seat, and Katsuki blinked upon seeing the Ashidos sitting with her. “Welcome, mages. It appears we have some things to discuss.”

She waited until they sat to continue. “All Might, Midoriya, these are Hayama, Taiyo, and Mina.” The three nodded their heads as Queen Kirishima introduced them. She placed her hands primly on the table. “There’s no point in asking this lightly. Can the curse on Eijirou be lifted?”

All Might opened his mouth to speak but was cut off by Taiyo. “If it was cast by a mortal, yes, but I don’t think that’s the case.”

Midoriya shook his head wildly. “We were lead to believe it wasn’t cast by a fae! What are you implying?”

“A halfling,” Mina whispered. No one dared to speak she raised her head. “My family is certain it’s not mortal magic, and if you’re sure it’s not fae magic, then there’s no other explanation.”

Queen Kirishima bit her lip. “What does that mean for Eijirou?” 

“It means we don’t know if the curse can be nullified,” All Might spread his bony fingers. “Fae and mortal magic are fundamentally different. When a child is born with mixed blood, it makes their abilities… temperamental.”

“Halflings have incredible power, but it’s never stable,” Hayama said softly. “Their spells have a hard time keeping their shape.”

Queen Kirishima paled. “You’re saying Eijirou’s beautiful because his curse became tainted.”

Taiyo nodded solemnly. “We don’t know what else has changed from the original spell.”

The queen stayed silent, resting her head in her hands for a moment before taking a breath. “What can be done?”

Katsuki cleared his throat. “When we undo mortal curses, we usually prepare a countercurse and use our gemstones to make our magic more powerful than the caster.”

“For fae ailments, we take something of ours and something of the victim’s and use it to banish the malicious magic.” Mina twisted a copper ring on her finger, uncomfortable.

“Can our methods be combined?” Midoriya asked hesitantly. Katsuki had to look away from the sparkle of pride in All Might’s eyes. 

“I would say there’s a fair chance that could work, young Midoriya.”

Taiyo shook his head. “We’ll need something as a medium. Conflicting magic won’t hold together by itself.”

“A binding spell, then,” Hayama said. “If our two abilities are forced to work together, it should be enough to overcome the young prince’s curse.”

All Might looked troubled. “I know of a potion that would fit our requirements, but the ingredients are sparse and hard to come by. I’d need to leave the castle for an extended amount of time to gather them.” 

Queen Kirishima shook her head. “Do what you have to do. If a problem arises here, I trust your apprentices are capable enough to handle it.”

Taiyo got up from his seat. “Then it’s settled. All Might will create a binding spell, with Bakugou and Midoriya as a safeguard.” 

“I’ll stay behind too,” Mina said suddenly. “If something goes wrong we’ll need both a fae and mortal to figure it out.”

Hayama regarded her daughter carefully. “Are you certain? You know staying here will make it harder to leave once Eijirou is free.”

“I’ve made up my mind.”

Taiyo sighed. “If you insist.” He pulled her in for a hug, then let her go to her mother. Katsuki tried not to feel awkward at their affectionate goodbye. 

Hayama gently placed her arms around Queen Kirishima, and to Bakugou’s surprise, she returned it. “Sunset, Ito. Write to us as soon as All Might returns.”

“Moonrise, Hayama. It was… nice to see you again.” 

The two fae slipped out of the great hall, leaving the mages alone with the queen and Mina. She sighed and took off her thin crown, flipping it over between her fingers. Katsuki was struck by how normal she looked. For just a moment, she wasn’t a ruler, only a mother worried for her child. She looked exhausted. 

Queen Kirishima shook herself out of her daze. “Prepare for your journey, All Might.” She glanced at Mina. “We have a few things to catch up on ourselves.”

 

Chapter Text

“You’re leaving already?!” 

Hayama smiled down at the prince, ruffling his hair from her tall height. “Don’t worry, Eijirou, we’ll visit as often as we can. Besides, your mother is allowing Mina to stay at the castle. I’m sure you’ll have more fun making a friend your own age.”

Taiyo nodded, the morning light glinting off his horns. “Time in fae lands is much more fluid. We can’t leave our territory unguarded for more than a few days in mortal country. There’s no way to tell whether a few hours or a few weeks will pass in that time.” 

Hayama wrapped Eijirou into a hug, enveloping him in her long white robes. He froze, unsure what to do, before unsteadily hugging back, leaning into the sensation. Too soon, Hayama pulled back and squeezed his hands. “Remember, we’re only a letter away, little prince.”

Kirishima ducked his head, embarrassed. “I hope I get to see you again soon. Sunset, Hayama and Taiyo.”

“Moonrise, Eijirou.” Taiyo gave him a small smile. “We’ll be back before you know it.”

Kirishima stayed quiet as they slipped through the gates to mount their horses. Mina chuckled to herself, swinging her hands to make her bracelets jingle. “That’s kind of weird.”

“What is?” Katsuki snapped.

“Nothing. My mom just used to call Ito ‘little princess’.” She shook her head. “Eijirou being ‘little prince’ is going to take some getting used to.”

Kirishima cocked his head. “How old were you when you saw my mother last?” 

“Fourteen, I think? Yeah, that sounds right. She was only two years older than me at the time.”

“How old are you now?!” Katsuki choked.

Mina puffed out her cheeks. “Only seventeen, don’t get your tunic in a twist! Didn’t anyone ever tell you that’s rude to ask?” 

“How does that work?” Kirishima asked, intrigued. 

“No idea,” she grinned. “Fae lands are crazy, Eiji.”

Kirishima fidgeted, shifting his weight from foot to foot. “How come you didn’t visit before now?”

“Ito and my family had a falling out right before she was crowned queen.” Mina didn’t meet his eyes. “She still holds a grudge towards my parents. I don’t think she’d want us talking about it.”

“Oh.” 

The silence stretched onward, with no one knowing exactly how to break it. Finally, Kirishima raised his head and smiled nervously. “So, uh, Mina, do you want me to give you a tour of the palace? I’m sure a lot of things have changed since the last time you were here.”

“Sure!” She spread her arms wide, bracelets knocking together. “Lead the way, Eijirou!” 

Kirishima brightened and tugged on her wrist, pulling her into the main hallway. Katsuki followed, frowning. He stayed quiet as the prince pointed out details Mina had missed as the two chattered. Soon, the three found themselves in a quiet corridor lined with large paintings of people Katsuki couldn’t begin to recognize. Kirishima walked slower, voice hushed.

“This is the Hall of the Remembered. It’s not a creative name, but it honors the past rulers of Iwa. I’m sure you’ve seen it before, but I wanted to show you something.” 

They continued down the corridor in silence, Kirishima never wavering. Katsuki’s eyes were drawn to the portraits, and the further they walked, more details caught his attention. A tall woman had the same rounded face as the prince. Another had his large eyes, though hers were brown. The countless paintings seemed to gaze at the group as they moved, each one more similar to Kirishima than the last. 

“Here.” 

The prince stopped walking, eyes on the painting above him. It was a man with smiling eyes and wild red hair, a fur cloak draped around his shoulders. A sword hung loosely in his hand, nicked and clearly used. He was smiling, expression carefree and mischievous. Katsuki was struck by how young he looked. The man couldn’t have been more than twenty-five. The mage finally noticed the small bronze plaque under the portrait, inscribed with a single name: Kirishima Kaito. 

Mina sucked in a breath. “Is that…?”

“That’s my father, yeah.”

“He was a good man, you know,” Mina said quietly. “I only met him once or twice, before he married Ito, but he was kind and so, so full of laughter. He could make anyone feel at home.” 

“He didn’t love my mother,” Kirishima whispered. He said it simply, a fact he had already accepted. 

Mina shook her head sadly. “No, he didn’t. Even so, he loved you. Look at his face. Someone doesn’t look that happy without love in their lives.” 

Kirishima shrugged, blinking quickly to ward away tears. “I guess so.” 

She patted his hand. “We should move on.” 

He nodded shakily, letting her take the lead through another hallway she remembered. Katsuki found himself next to Kirishima, the other’s head hung low. He could hardly see his face through his thick black bangs. 

“You never showed me around the castle,” he mumbled, voice hushed.

“You never told me you were a fire mage.” Kirishima countered icily. 

Katsuki was at a loss for words, startled by Kirishima’s tone. The three of them walked without words until they passed the gardens. Mina gasped suddenly. “Eijirou, it’s beautiful!” She smiled excitedly as she leaned out the window, black eyes shining. “There, that apple tree in the corner, that was barely a sprout when I was here! And the rose bushes! I’ve never seen them so in bloom!” 

Kirishima laughed in an attempt to lighten the mood. “It’s pretty insane what the gardeners can do! I don’t think any of it’s enchanted.” He pointed to a door just ahead of them. “That’s my room, actually! You can stop by anytime. Bakugou and Midoriya are in the one further down if you need them.” 

“You didn’t need to tell the pink bitch where I was,” he spat.

Kirishima ignored him. “There’s one more place I want to show you. Have you been to the library yet?”

“No, but now you have to take me!” 

“Aye aye, Cap'n!”

Katsuki rolled his eyes as the two idiots all but skipped through halls, giggling like fools all the while. Soon they found themselves in front of an ornately carved set of double doors. Kirishima eagerly pushed them open, and it was like entering another world completely.

Sunlight poured in from the large windows, illuminating the large room with a soft yellow glow. Bookcases lined the walls to the ceiling, each one filled with faded books. Overstuffed furniture was placed tastefully in small groups, but Katsuki’s attention was brought to a small mound of cushions and pillows nearly hidden in the corner, books stacked and littered around it. 

“This is so cool!” Mina gushed. “We don’t have a lot of books in faerie land, it’s a lot of scrolls and spellbooks. What kind of stories do you have?”

“A lot of it is historical records, we have some spellbooks but I’ve dug around and found accounts of adventures and quests.” He bit his lip nervously. “I’ve always thought knights are the manliest.”

Mina rocked back on forth on her feet absentmindedly. “Which one’s your favorite?”

Kirishima blushed and looked away. “Uh, here, let me find you something to read.”

Katsuki frowned at his obvious aversion, but Mina didn’t seem to notice. 

“Oh! I think you’d like this one.” The prince pulled out a battered book, pages yellowing, with a sketch of a masked knight with a white cloak. Though the text had faded, the title was still easily read. 

“Nebula: the Story of Thirteen?” She turned it over in her hands carefully. 

“Thirteen was a halfling knight when my mom was growing up. They had destructive magic, kind of like yours, but they saved so many people with it.” 

Mina’s eyes sparkled. “Thank you, Ei! That’s really thoughtful of you.”

Kirishima’s cheeks flushed. “It’s nothing, I’m glad you like it!” 

She hugged him suddenly and flounced into the nearest armchair, sitting sideways and letting her bare feet dangle off the armrest. Kirishima picked up a book from the top of a stack and sunk into his miniature nest, not saying a word to Katsuki. Sighing, the mage picked out a thick spellbook and slid down next to Kirishima, leaving plenty of space. He tried to focus on the words, but every time he squinted too hard, the looping cursive seemed to scramble itself further. He sighed and glanced over at Kirishima. The prince seemed totally engrossed into the story already, curled into himself to read it better. 

Katsuki let out a breath. “Hey, idiot.”

Kirishima tensed but continued reading. Katsuki winced. Maybe insulting the person he was trying to talk to wasn’t the best move. “Kirishima.”

The prince sighed, shoulders sagging. “What do you want?”

“Why’re you ignoring me? I don’t remember doing anything stupid to you.”

Kirishima snorted. “Funny, ‘cause that’s not what I remember.”

“Shit, what did I do? I’m not a fucking mind-reader, Kirishima, that’s not my line of magic.”

Kirishima pressed his lips together in a thin line. “It’s petty.”

“If it has you this upset, it’s not petty, just tell me what’s going on.” Katsuki nudged his shoulder.

“I’m upset you told Mina you were a fire mage, okay?” He sighed and rested his chin on his knees, book momentarily forgotten. “We had this whole thing going on to get to know each other. I had to literally fight you to get details out of you, and Mina asks one question and you answer it like it’s not a huge deal.” He groaned softly and hid his face behind his hands. “Except it’s not a huge deal and I’m just being dramatic about it.”

Katsuki blinked. He hadn’t expected that, of all things. He shook his head and leaned back into the pile of pillows. “I didn’t want to answer her question. My hands just…” He struggled for words, frustration building. Sparks flew from his palm, crackling softly like a twig burning. Katsuki slumped back, defeated, as the popping quieted. “They just do that when I’m especially irritated or upset. There was no point in lying to her once it happened.”

Kirishima’s eyebrows scrunched together. “How come I haven’t seen it before?”

Katsuki cursed the heat rushing to his cheeks. “Think about it, dumbass.”

“I don’t… you’re not angry around me?” His eyes were wide, mouth parted slightly as his face dusted pink. Shit, Kirishima should not have been allowed to be that stunning. 

“No shit,” he grumbled, no heat behind it.

“Aww, Bakugou!” Kirishima leaned over and threw both arms over his shoulders, tugging him close. “That’s so sweet!” 

Bakugou froze at the sudden embrace and shoved down a sound of surprise, even as he felt his face burn. Sero had not been lying about Kirishima’s strength. His sleeves hid his muscle well, but the hug made him feel small and protected. His instincts screamed at him to get away, but he couldn’t help but relax into the touch.

Kirishima pulled his arms back, letting them rest at his sides so their shoulders brushed. He smiled at Bakugou but didn’t say anything, content with the easy silence. He picked up his book again and turned the page, unfazed by the continued contact. Katsuki exhaled slowly. At least the prince had the brains to ignore his red face. He leaned over to get a better look at Kirishima’s book. “What’re you reading, anyways?” 

He ducked his head, embarrassed. “Oh, it’s nothing important.”

“Let me see.” Katsuki placed a hand over Kirishima’s to flip it over and read the title. “The Complete Adventures of Crimson Riot.”

“I know it’s a children’s tale,” Kirishima mumbled, staring at the floor. “I know he stopped going on quests before I was even born, but everything about him is so manly, I guess. He was always polite and never said a bad word against the people he was fighting. Every story talks about how he saved people who couldn’t save themselves, no matter how much danger it put him in.” He laughed to himself. “Crimson is the kind of guy I want to be. He was like a role model to me before Fatgum came on staff.”

“Fatgum?”

Kirishima waved his question away. “He’s the head chef, I’ll introduce him to you soon. Tamaki gave him the nickname a long time ago.”

“It’s not stupid to look up to someone,” Katsuki muttered.

“Huh?”

“I said, looking up to someone isn’t stupid. You didn’t exactly have a lot of heroes in your life so it makes sense you’d idolize someone you’ve never met.” He smacked the back of Kirishima’s head lightly. “Don’t think too hard about it. As long as Crimson Riot was a good knight, then there’s not a problem.”

Kirishima was staring at him openly now, not unlike he had done a few minutes earlier. He shook himself out of it and knocked his fists together. “Saying what you believe in is super manly, Bakugou! Thanks for telling me!”

Katsuki rolled his eyes. “I said not to think about it too hard, Kirishima.”

“I’m not, I promise! I just really appreciate what you said.” His goofy grin was back, somehow making his razor-sharp teeth look endearing. 

“You’re impossible,” Katsuki grumbled.

“Like you’re any better.”

“Oi, watch it.” He shoved Kirishima’s arm without any real force. The prince chuckled but turned back to his book, satisfied. 

Katsuki opened the spellbook and tried to read over the enchantments, but it was hard to concentrate with Kirishima leaning against him, entranced by a story he had read a hundred times before.

Chapter Text

“You’ve got to be fucking kidding me.”

“Unfortunately not, man,” Kirishima smirked down at him but lifted his sword from Katsuki’s neck. 

The mage let his head fall back on the stone tile with a thunk. “You’re a bastard.”

“Not a smart thing to call royalty! Answer the question, Blasty.”

“Call me Blasty one more time and I’ll show you just how explosive I can be,” Katsuki grumbled. He huffed as Kirishima helped him up. “I grew up in the High Mountains on the border of Kasai, but I was the only magic-born in my clan. My old hag was the chief and only knew a bit of practical magic so I had to teach myself how to use my fire. You can only get so far that way, so when I heard Might was in the area, I jumped at the chance to learn from the best.”

“So that’s how you became a mage!” Kirishima nudged his shoulder. “Sharing wasn’t that hard, was it? How long have you apprenticed under him?” 

“Three years,” Katsuki grunted. “He’s a pain in the ass and more dramatic than a theater troupe, but he knows his stuff. I’d be an idiot to walk out.”

“And Midoriya?”

Katsuki grinned wickedly. “That’s a different question, your highness.”

Kirishima groaned but picked up his saber. “Fine, fine. You’re the worst, Bakugou.”

“Whatever helps you sleep at night.”

The two shifted back to their fighting stances before Katsuki lost his patience and charged, sword hitting Kirishima’s with a violent clang. Kirishima smirked. “You know, it would be a lot easier if you just asked me what you wanted to know instead of trying to kill me for it.”

Katsuki pulled back, nearly sweeping Kirishima’s leg. “I see what you’re trying to do, and it’s not going to work.”

The prince rolled his eyes. “Usually people have conversations that don’t involve swords after two months of knowing them.”

“Two months and eight days. Watch your footwork, it’s getting sloppy.” 

Katsuki took the second Kirishima wasted to glance at his boots to swipe again, only for it to be blocked at the last moment. “You’re proving my point!” 

“Shut up for three seconds, will you?!” 

Kirishima snorted but didn’t comment again. He pushed Katsuki away and set himself up, refusing to show his exhaustion after three spars one after another. Katsuki almost smiled. Now there was a worthy opponent. He doubted Deku could match Kirishima’s brute strength even if he ever got over his distaste for swords. 

Of course, Kirishima’s silence didn’t last. He eyed Katsuki coyly after a few more jabs. “You know,” he said calmly, “you look really cute when you’re focused on something like this.”

What.

Katsuki’s mouth fell open. He sputtered, floundering for a response, mind reeling. Kirishima only raised his eyebrows and hit him with the smooth side of his sword, sending him tumbling to the ground. He quickly pinned Katsuki’s hands to his sides and placed a knee over his legs. The prince laughed, making Katsuki’s insides backflip. His heart thumped so loudly in his chest he was sure Kirishima could hear it too.

“Geez, Bakugou, I didn’t know you were so easy to fluster.” He winked, making Katsuki’s face go even redder. Distantly, he wondered if it was possible to die from embarrassment. 

He opened and closed his mouth a few times, struggling for words. “What in the actual FUCK, Shitty Hair?!”

Kirishima’s mouth quirked up at the panicked note in Katuski’s voice. “Shitty Hair, huh? Haven’t heard that one in a few weeks. Besides, it’s manly to compliment a friend!” 

He squirmed under Kirishima’s hold. Damn it,when had he gotten so strong?! Oh, gods. Kirishima was leaning in so close his bangs tickled Katsuki’s forehead. A small, small part of him wanted to reach out and feel its smooth texture. 

Fuck.

Fuck

Somehow, someway, he was crushing on the shitty-haired idiot. 

Katsuki’s throat constricted. Kirishima was right there and it was suddenly too much. The prince cocked his head in concern. “Bakugou? Are you alright?”

Katsuki couldn’t think. He couldn’t breathe. 

And so, he did the one logical thing he could do with this new and terrifying information. 

With shaking hands, he kicked Kirishima in the stomach, wrenched out of his hold, and bolted into the hallway without another word.

* * *

Katsuki paced through the halls, completely lost in both direction and in his head. He could only hope he would make it back to a part he recognized before Kirishima found him. 

His mounth went dry. Kirishima. He was the whole problem, wasn’t he? An eternal fucking source of happiness ruined by a curse he couldn’t control. Katsuki shook his head wildly. He could have his internal crisis later, right now he needed to find a place to hide before he was seen. The prince obviously knew his way around the castle better and saw where he had run. His time was limited. 

Katsuki was so lost in his thoughts he didn’t see the other person in the hallway until he had already run into them. He brushed past, too scattered to mutter an apology, when a hand rested on his arm. 

“Bakugou? What’s wrong?” 

He whipped his head around, ready to flee, but it was only Mina, black eyes wide with concern. “Is everything okay?” 

Katsuki forced himself to relax. “Fucking excellent, Raccoon Eyes.”

She pursed her lips. “I can’t make you talk, Bakugou, but don’t lie to me.”

He swore at the sound of footsteps coming from behind him. “Fucking- I need to get out of this hallway and away from Kirishima.”

Mina’s eyebrows shot up but she didn’t question him. “Come with me.” 

She pulled him through the corridor and slipped through a door Bakugou hadn't noticed, closing it behind them. 

Katsuki took a second to catch his breath and stare into the unfamiliar room. From the outside, it had looked like another unused guest room, but Mina had clearly made it hers. Prisms hung by the wide window, sending rainbow flecked light onto the walls and floor. Scrolls, crystals, and strange jewelry littered the table, but Mina ignored it in favor of the bed. She sat, leaving room for Katsuki and eyeing him expectantly. 

“Listen, I don’t expect you to share everything, but I think I at least deserve an explanation as to why you’re running away from your best friend all of a sudden if you’re going to crash in my room.”

Katsuki sunk down and rested his head on his knees. “Just give me a second, Raccoon Eyes.”

Mina leaned back and waited, the thin chains around her horns twinkling. She had long ditched her plain white robes for more bold and colorful clothing, today wearing loose red and gold pants with a simple blouse. The familiar clashing colors brought a sense of normalcy to Katsuki. He let out a breath to steady himself. “I was sparring with Kirishima, he said something stupid and it surprised me enough for him to gain the advantage and win.”

Mina hummed quietly. “And you’re that much of a sore loser?”

“No,” he grumbled, frustrated. “It was a fair fight until then. He complimented me with no fucking warning, being flirty as a joke, and it messed me up so bad I lost.” He looked up and met her stare. “Somehow his curse got through to me.”

Mina blinked. “You didn’t know?”

Katsuki’s blood ran cold. “The hell did you mean, I didn’t know?!”

“Nothing! Just the way you acted around him seemed like you had already been affected and you were okay with that.” She shook her head. “Obviously not!”

“It shouldn’t have been a big deal!” Katsuki ranted. He yanked on the sunstone charm around his neck. “This should’ve protected me from pre-existing curses and hexes!”

“Halfling magic, Bakugou! The rules don’t apply!” Mina said exasperatedly. “I told you already that Eijirou’s curse was tainted.”

Katsuki’s stomach twisted in a ball of nerves. He dropped his forehead on his knees. “Fuck,” he said, with feeling.

“That’s a good way to sum it up.” 

The two shared the silence for a moment longer before Mina shifted. She played with a loose string on her shirt. “What’re you going to do about it?”

Katsuki looked at the ceiling, hoping for an answer that wasn’t coming. “I don’t know,” he said truthfully. “I don’t like my emotions being tampered with but it’s not even fucking real.”

“You should apologize to him, you know. You ran away from him without telling him why. It’s not his fault.” 

Katsuki pushed down his temper at being ordered around. The faerie was right, for once in her life. He let out a shaky sigh. “Yeah,” he mumbled. “None of it is.”

Mina slid off of her bed and offered Katsuki a hand. He hesitated, Kirishima’s words ringing in his ears. 

I’m trying to give you my hand, Bakugou. It’s something friends do.

Slowly, he reached out and took hers. She pulled him up with a small smile. “C’mon, Bakugou,” she said knowingly. “You have another friend you need to talk to.”

* * *

Katsuki fidgeted outside of the kitchen’s large doors. “This is a really fucking bad idea.”

“You know it’s a good idea, you just don’t want to do it.”

He shot Mina a withering glare. Damn her and her reasoning. She was nowhere near as airheaded as their first meeting implied. She planted her hands on her hips. “Stop pouting and open the doors already.”

Katsuki grit his teeth and shoved it open, making it hit the wall with a resounding bang.

A strangled noise came from inside the kitchen. “Bakugou? What are you doing here?”

Kirishima stared at him with wide eyes from his usual seat on the counter, mouth hanging open stupidly. Oh, Katsuki was not ready for this. He kicked at the ground, jaw clamped shut. 

Mina flashed a quick smile. “Bakugou here was just having a little trouble finding you, Ei! I can’t stay, I left in the middle of brewing an enchantment and it really shouldn’t sit much longer.”

“Oh. Um, okay.”

She gave him another short grin and walked out, closing the door behind her. Katsuki took back every good thing he thought about her. She was a traitor and a coward. 

Kirishima rubbed the back of his neck. “Hi?”

Katsuki sighed and sat down. “Hey, Kirishima.”

He ignored the prince’s questioning glances, keeping his eyes on the nicked counter in front of him. A willowy man placed a batch of pastires in front of them and eyed Katsuki warily from behind his massive bedhead. Kirishima cleared his throat. “Oh, Thanks Amajiki!” He nudged Katsuki with his leg. “He’s worked under Fatgum for as long as I can remember. Amajiki, this is Bakugou! He’s the mage I’ve told you about.”

Katsuki nodded his head at him but didn’t initiate conversation. Amajiki looked relieved at the lack of interaction and turned his attention back to a lump of dough.

Kirishima coughed awkwardly. “So, Mina said you wanted to find me?”

Katsuki nodded. “Yeah. I… fuck. I need to talk to you about earlier today.” He let out a long breath. “I shouldn’t have run away like that. It was pretty shitty of me.”

Kirishima winced. “It kind of was, man. I don’t really know what I did wrong.”

Katsuki averted his eyes again. He wanted Kirishima to know it wasn’t his fault, that the only one at fault was his goddamn pride thinking he was invincible. His tongue felt heavy in his mouth. Kirishima deserved the truth, but revealing why his feelings were a mess would only result in more pain. “It was my neck.”

“Huh?”

“You touched my neck while pinning me down. Don’t do that.”

Kirishima frowned, one of his teeth poking out of his lips. “I don’t remember doing that, but I’m sorry, man. I didn’t know you were uncomfortable with that.”

As much as Katsuki wanted to tell him he had never gotten close to his throat, he kept his head down and shrugged. “It wasn’t your fault. It was bound to happen eventually with all the sparring.”

“What happened?”

He closed his eyes. He could share this is it meant the alternative was kept secret. “An earth mage nearly suffocated me right before I was supposed to meet All Might. I fought back but his mud kept putting out my fire. I would have died if it wasn’t for fucking Deku.”

Kirishima leaned back to think. He stared at the ceiling, contemplative. “Did you win?”

“What?” Katsuki searched Kirishima’s face. Concern laced his features, with traces of anger and fear, but the prince didn’t carry an ounce of pity. 

“You got out, didn’t you? Accepting help when you need it is manly, Bakugou. The earth mage lost to Midoriya and you.” 

“Yeah,” he said quietly. “I guess he did.” 

Kirishima smiled at him, sweet and full of sincerity. Katsuki’s heart lept in his throat as his pulse pounded in his ears. It was Kirishima’s curse, nothing more. “C’mon, Bakugou. We’ve got a spar to finish.” 

As the two made their way to the gardens to start where they left off, Katsuki couldn’t help but stare at Kirishima as he talked, hands moving wildly to play out his words. His face lit up with joy every time he mentioned something he loved, voice loud and unrestrained. Katsuki was entranced. As Kirishima babbled on, he found he couldn’t look away even if he wanted to. In the back of his mind, he knew their relationship was limited. Even as his heart swelled from simply listening to the prince talk, he knew it was going to be a long four months before Kirishima’s curse was lifted.

Chapter Text

“And you’re telling me this is natural?”

Kaminari smiled sheepishly as Mina poked at the black streak in his hair. “Yeah, I’ve had it since I was a kid.” 

“You’re one to talk about weird hair,” Katsuki said. He ducked to avoid Mina’s smack. 

The faerie puffed out her cheeks. “Mages are so rude.” 

“I’m inclined to agree with you,” Sero said smugly. 

Katsuki narrowed his eyes. “Big fucking talk for someone without magic.”

Kirishima shoved his shoulder lightly. “Don’t be mean, Bakugou! Hanta can cook and sew anything without help from magic. I don’t have crazy hair or magic but I can, uh…” he trailed off, unsure. 

“Oi, Kirishima, you’re the only one here who can actually hold a sword and fight me fairly. Don’t you fucking dare think you’re useless.”

Kirishima’s mouth clicked shut, eyes wide in alarm as his cheeks bloomed pink. Sero grinned wickedly. “Oh, I see Bakugou has a favorite!”

“Fuck you! If he thinks badly about his skills, that’s insulting me as his opponent!”

“I don’t think Ei was talking about his combat ability,” Kaminari said innocently. 

Katsuki leveled a glare at him. “Talk to me when you can use a lightning spell correctly, Sparky.”

Kaminari yelped indignantly. “My mom was a storm nymph, you know that’s not how it works!” 

“Tough fucking luck!”

“Boys,” Mina groaned. “You’re all drama queens. Let’s just eat already, please?”

“I am not cooking with these hooligans around.”

Sero rolled his eyes. “Fine, fine, we’ll get out of your hair, Bakugou. It better be some amazing curry.”

Katsuki angrily started pulling spices from the cabinets as the three left for the table by the windows, still in sight but too far to hear what they were saying. “Fuck Plain Face, it’s going to be the best damn curry he’s ever tasted.” 

“I’m sure it will be,” Kirishima said easily. Katsuki turned to glare at him. The prince was sitting on the counter again, like the chair next to his dangling feet was a foreign concept. He smiled at Katsuki sweetly. 

Katsuki pushed down the bubble of fondness at his stupid expression. “Oi, I said hooligans out of my working space.”

“I’m not a hooligan, I swear!” Kirishima earnestly made an ‘x’ motion over his heart. “I am one hundred percent not-hooligan!” 

Katsuki sighed. The prince was going to be the death of him. “Off the counter, Kirishima. If you’re staying, you’re working.” 

Kirishima beamed and hopped down, black bangs dropping into his line of sight. Katsuki’s lips quirked up as he handed him a cutting board. “Vegetables, your Highness.” 

Kirishima pouted but dutifully rinsed off the potatoes and carrots. He started slicing the carrots, tongue poking out in concentration. He was trying, that much was obvious, but the carrot pieces were crooked and different sizes. He grinned sheepishly under Katsuki’s critical eye. The mage sighed. “Give me the knife, dumbass.”

He shoved his way into Kirishima’s space and took the knife haughtily. “Take your time if you have to. Don’t rush through it for a bad result.” He made a few cuts carefully, too aware of Kirishima’s eyes on him. “Your turn.”

Kirishima took it back and tried again, going slower. It was better, but not where it needed to be. He shook his head. “C’mere.” Katsuki laid his arm over Kirishima’s and wrapped his fingers over his and the knife. “You’re close,” he mumbled. “Needs some practice.” He gently guided Kirishima’s hand into slow and precise movements, cutting the carrot into exact slices. He could feel the prince’s pulse under his fingers, acutely aware of their shared space. 

Soon, the vegetables were properly cut and Katsuki backed away. He ignored Kirishima’s surprised look and busied himself with the rice, refusing to mourn over the loss of contact. “That’s all you get to do,” he mumbled. “Bother the idiot brigade while I finish.”

Kirishima stepped back and frowned, staring distantly at the group of three across the room. “They’re your friends too, you know. If you’ll let them be.”

Katsuki didn't meet his eyes and stirred the rice harder.

The prince shook his head and drifted to the other side of the room. Though Katsuki couldn’t hear from where he was working, he saw the three welcome him excitedly to the table. Something inside him twisted uncomfortably, not unlike the effects of the curse he was more than used to. Kirishima had friends. Not many, but he trusted them. Katsuki… he had Deku, but he wouldn’t try to call their relationship a friendship. Jirou and Todoroki were acquaintances, but when was the last time he tried to contact them?

He frowned and dished the rice into bowls. People were complicated. Swordplay and magic were much easier to understand, but meeting the prince had changed his outlook for better or for worse. Kirishima had friends, and he managed to be happy even if he couldn’t leave his home. He seemed to think Katsuki would benefit from them too, but it had been so long since he had tried to make a connection he had forgotten how.

Katsuki scowled and piled the bowls onto a tray. He didn’t have the slightest fucking clue how to form a friendship, but he had to try. Kirishima trusted his friends. It was Katsuki’s turn to trust him. 

With shaking hands, he held his head high and carried the tray to the table. Kirishima’s face lit up as soon as he saw him, and suddenly his impossible task looked less daunting. “Bakugou! You finished!”

Katsuki rolled his eyes. “It’s not exactly the toughest recipe in the book.”

The prince laughed. “Yeah, I guess so, but still more than I could do.”

Mina blew on her bowl tentatively. “Is this going to incinerate my tongue? I know how you like your food, but I prefer to have a little substance with my spice.”

“Oh, holy shit, this is actually good!” Kaminari said, mouth full of rice. 

Sero elbowed him. “Seven years in the castle and you still don’t practice basic manners. Unbelievable.” He waved a hand at Katsuki. “I have to give it to you though, this is pretty amazing. Guess you’ll have to cook for us all the time now.”

Katsuki bit back a sarcastic response. Friends were… nice to each other. “Your cooking isn’t the worst, you could handle yourself.” He slid into the extra chair as Kaminari let out a whine. 

“Bakugoouu, you wouldn’t let us starve, would you?” 

Mina giggled. “Well, when you put it like that…” 

Katsuki let the others drive the conversation and slowly ate. It was wonderfully strange to see them interact with each other. With him, he realized. He didn’t know how to lead the discussion, but it didn’t matter. He was content to give dry comments as the subject shifted too fast to keep up with. 

At some point, Kirishima had shifted so their arms gently brushed against each other. His large ruby eyes flicked from the door to Katsuki in a silent question. Do you want to leave?

Katsuki’s focus drifted back to Mina, Kaminari, and Sero as they bickered. He allowed himself a small smile and shook his head. He was alright. For the first time in longer than he could remember, this was alright. 

 * * *

“I almost had you this time! If you hadn’t moved at the last second-!”

“Nice try, your highness. This round’s mine.”

Kirishima groaned and let his head thunk against the ground. “I’ll just have to beat you in the next spar. Help me up.” 

Katsuki pulled him to his feet and sat next to him under the winding apple tree. Though its shade protected them from the late afternoon sun, it did nothing for the sweltering summer heat. Kirishima cocked his head slightly. “You wanted to know about Denki and Hanta? They moved into the castle seven years ago with their father, I think. Hanta was nine and Denki was seven, and I’m pretty sure having a terrible trio of kids around nearly made my mother lose her marbles.” 

Katsuki grunted. “You said they’re stepbrothers?” 

“More like twins,” Kirishima snorted. He wrung his hands, unsure. “Denki’s mom died before he could remember her. It’s not my place to tell you the whole thing, but don’t poke fun at his magic. It’s not his fault he didn’t have anyone to teach him to use it right.”

“I won’t bring it up again. Is that why he doesn’t like me so much?”

Kirishima grinned sheepishly. “Not exactly. He just doesn’t appreciate that I spend a lot of time with you now.”

Katsuki kicked at the ground half-heartedly and ignored the warmth in his cheeks. “You’ve known them for a long time, huh?”

“I wouldn’t trade it for the world,” Kirishima said honestly. “They’ve helped a lot with…”

“With what?”

“It can be lonely.” He waved vaguely. “There’s only so many people in the castle. It’s easy to be by yourself here.”

Katsuki frowned. “What do you mean, ‘people in the castle?’ You haven’t been outside the gates?” 

Kirishima shrugged stiffly. “Not since my fifteenth birthday. My mother says it’s too dangerous with the whole ‘pretty’ thing.”

“And you’re agreeing with her? Just like that?”

“I attract too much attention. The last time I went out, it was hard to even make it to the town square.”

“Fuck that! It’s your kingdom, and you’re going to be ruling it one day! How can you not leave your home?!”

“I can’t, Bakugou, it’s not that simple,” the prince mumbled. “I have to trust my mother’s reasoning even if it makes me feel…” 

“Lonely all the goddamn time?! Stand up for yourself, for fuck’s sake!”

“I won’t! It’s not like that!” Kirishima snapped. He let out a shaky breath. “It’s gotten better since you arrived. Since both you and Midoriya arrived. Neither of us has to like it, but she’s my mother and your queen.”

The two sat silently under the tree, the sprawling garden quiet except for the burbling of the small stone fountain. Katsuki pulled at a loose string in his glove and sighed. “Sorry,” he spat. “I shouldn’t have pressed when it’s your mother’s fucking rule.” 

“Yeah, you shouldn’t have.” Kirishima crossed his arms and looked away. “It’s hard enough for my mother to lead Iwa without help from my father or Hayama and Taiyo. She doesn’t need a rebellious son to make things worse.”

“I just fucking apologized!” Katsuki snapped. He swore quietly and leaned his head against the tree. “Fuck, I’m sorry. I’m no fucking good at this, but making yourself feel bad to make your mother happy isn’t a solution.”

“You think I don’t want to go out there? To leave my own home once in a while and see the place I’m supposed to lead, the people I’m supposed to care for? It doesn’t matter what I want, it’s her decision.”

“She may control your circumstances, but your life is your own. Sometime soon, you’ll have to take it for yourself.”

Kirishima looked away and stayed silent, black hair covering his eyes.

Katsuki bit his lip and stood, not bothering to look back at the prince as he walked down the worn path to the castle. Damn it, why did Kirishima have to be so bullheaded?! Katsuki knew it was none of his damn business how Queen Kirishima reacted to the prince’s curse, but locking him up wasn’t doing Eijirou any good. Even the fullest roses withered without sunlight. Kirishima wasn’t dumb, he knew it wasn’t healthy, but refusing to do anything about it was only making it worse.

He scowled and kicked at a loose pebble harder than he intended to. The small rock skittered across the floor and hit the wall with a hollow thunk. Katsuki’s eyebrows rose. The stone under the tapestry was not supposed to sound like that. Carefully, he lifted the edge of the fabric to reveal a small door, plain except for a hole where the handle once was. 

Katsuki brushed off the dust silently. He recognized its design. The Todoroki family had similar hidden doors for servants and spies alike to sneak through the castle undetected. While the royal family of Kasai used their passageways often, this door looked on the verge of being abandoned. With no one to suspect of treason and no nosy nobles to avoid, it had lost its purpose. 

The mage stepped back and let the faded tapestry cover the entrance. He could explore the corridor later, but not now. It would be too easy for Kaminari or god forbid, Aizawa, to stumble into the hallway. He shook his head. He felt jumbled up from his argument with Kirishima - was that an argument? - and poking around was not in his best interests. 

Katsuki left the door and wandered through the castle, the sunset giving its pillars a reddish glow. He kicked open his door boredly, its frame smacking against the wall. 

“Dryads and Naiads, Kacchan! Can’t you ever knock?!”

“Nagging me already, huh? What are you, my old hag?”

Midoriya slowly unclenched his hand from his charm. “I might as well be if you won’t open her letters.”

Katsuki hung up his cloak and ignored the parchment with the crude flame seal. “She knows I’m busy.”

“No one’s that busy, Kacchan.” Midoriya cautiously emptied ground leaves into his dented cauldron, turning the concoction an off-white. 

“The hell are you even brewing, anyways? You’ve got a long fucking time before the witching hour if you want it to be any good.”

Midoriya rolled his eyes. “Soothing spells have to sit before midnight. You know that Shou- well, Todoroki’s eye can bother him sometimes…” 

Midoriya shook his head and stared into the orange-blue sky, the warm colors quickly fading into the night. In the dim light, his unruly hair seemed limper.

“Any news from the fire prince?”

“Nothing yet. You know King Endeavor can be… strict, with him. He must be reading my letters even if he hasn’t written back.”

Katsuki scoffed. “Or half-and-half’s a bastard.”

Though Midoriya’s back was turned to him, it did nothing to diminish his choked sob.
Kacchan.” 

Katsuki kicked at the ground absently. The other mage gave him a strained smile, eyes watery. “I hope he gets my spell. Do you know any flower merchants in the city?”

“I haven’t been inside the town yet.” 

“It’s alright. I’ll find him a few carnations tomorrow, enchant them so their petals won’t fall during the journey.” He smiled to himself, the expression sad and reminiscent. “He’s always been fond of white carnations.”

Midoriya turned from the cauldron, arm brushing over yet another letter to the ice prince as he dipped his quill in ink. His quill never hesitated in its writing, his script cramped and characters fighting for space on the parchment. 

Katsuki looked away, embarrassed. Though they had talked freely, it felt like he had trespassed on something personal. He shook his head and ran his fingers over the flame symbol embellished in wax. Even as he frowned and tossed the still-sealed scroll back, Midoriya never so much as glanced behind him. His bushy head never left the parchment in front of him, completely engrossed in his work. Katsuki wasn’t sure how many more letters he could write before the silence crushed him whole.