Bang. Bang. Bang.
Shouto’s heart pitter-patters at breakneck pace. The distant cheers of carolers and a sudden onslaught of white Christmas lights in his peripheral shock him back to attention, the latter twinkling under the early winter fog. The song floats by, operatic voices blending with a smattering of string instruments—a cello, a violin, and an out-of-tune guitar, his mandatory years of music lessons tell him. Though, someone must be in the middle of a sour note, because a chicken-scratch sort of violin solo pierces his eardrums, screeching like his tires did only moments ago.
Well, maybe that last part is just in his head.
Shouto takes a moment to curse every single god he can think of. And his father, because why the hell not. It doesn’t take much effort, anyway.
He thumps his forehead back onto gritted asphalt and heaves a spectacular sigh, ears still violin-screech ringing and breath coming out short with adrenaline. He vaguely registers the surface-stinging of skinned knees and what will surely become a nasty bruise on his neck by tomorrow—which unfortunately means he’ll have to somehow convince Momo that he’s not a victim of domestic abuse again, just like that time he accidentally ironed his pants while they were still on and she threatened to call the police because the shape of the burn looked like a hand, when really it was because Shouto kept dropping the iron back onto himself like an idiot.
On the bright side, at least that seems to be the worst of this little accident, save some minor damages on his bike.
And well, money isn’t much of an issue. His teacher’s wage alone wouldn’t be enough on it’s own, but with him occasionally nabbing a credit card or two from his father when he wants to treat himself to some sort of culinary delicacy—say, the rare breed of triple-stuffed Oreos from the supermarket, or a good old fashioned pineapple-topped pizza—Shouto is set for the foreseeable future. He’ll be doing a bit of familial theft for the next few weeks anyway, since winter break has finally settled in and he can’t see his kids.
So (he thinks while crossing out bullet-points on his mental in case of bad things happening to-do list), as soon as he checks on the stray cat he nearly killed himself for and grabs some bandages from the neon-esque corner store he likes that perches just around the block, he should be good to go. And if he’s fast, maybe he’ll catch the late night rerun of The Great British Bake Off and watch it for the fourth day in a row.
That enticing thought in mind, along with the acute knowledge that he’s mere weeks away from having watched every episode twice fuels him into action. He pulls himself up with only a brief dizzy spell, the shadow of bruised ribs, and some stress-humming to dull the ebbing ache in his lower back. He may be sore for a few days, but this pain level is a win in his book, considering he just one-eightied his fucking motorcycle into a ditch.
He takes in the state of his bike with a sort of dazed curiosity, noting a couple of chips in the paint, a splattering of silvers where pink should be, and he’ll probably have to visit Iida for another repair. Which isn’t much of a problem at all—in fact, he’s utterly pleased. The Iida family has a sweet old doberman whom Shouto would die for, and he’s looking forward to her curling up in his lap while he falls asleep to the hypnotic drone of brrr ing drills and woodwork. There’s nothing quite as comforting to him as an animal to lay his arms over and tuck his feet under, and after each visit he wants to hide the meter-long puppy in his bag and take her home.
And, knowing his track record for spontaneously fostering animals (not limited to, but including: his current two cats—one of which is so self sufficient that she only comes out of hiding once a week to shit on the carpet—three goldfish, a puppy that now lives with his mother because he loves her far more than he ever liked Shouto, and a pigeon that he released into the wild while shedding more tears than he ever had in his life), the catalyst for the crash may be coming home with him at the end of the night.
He dusts himself off, watching around as bits of gravel clatter to the ground. He starts his typical monotone catcall of ‘here, kitty kitty’—and sure enough, he spots a puff of creme fur on the ground. He would recognize that color anywhere; it’s the brand of one of his favorite strays from this area—a sweet Persian kitten with the fluffiest fur he’s ever seen. He pads over to her, flicking his phone flashlight on after a few tries, and—oh. She’s definitely gained weight, and a needle of jealousy pins his heart. Has someone else been taking care of the strays? And she’s gotten kind of...
And she’s smothered in a huge velvety red coat, and an array of beads and glimmering jewelry, and a fucking…crown? Obviously the crown must be plastic, but Shouto has seen enough gold in his life, and it’s a spectacular knockoff—and—oh.
That is a face. A human face, and he is not a cat, apparently. Not even a little bit.
In fact, the assumed-cat-confirmed-man is just about the strangest phenomenon Shouto’s come across in his twenty-five years of living, and he’s walked in on his brother Touya sticking about twenty acupuncture needles in his face “to see if it tingles”. He situates himself so that he can see the whole body (not dead, thank god; it’s be hard to miss his abs rippling through each breath) and reflects on how the hell he mistook this—what? Six-foot-four—giant for a kitten.
First of all, the guy is ripped, which excuses the fact that he’s also half-naked—muscles littered with scars and ink, all crawling down to a surprisingly thin waist. The tattoos are all bold and intricate, even in low-quality phone lighting; their lines criss-cross meticulously, shaping flowers and hulking creatures on rugged skin. The accessories hang everywhere, and Shouto is particularly drawn to tooth-like earrings and a necklace of multicolor misshapen beads. They’re reminiscent of marbles, but an almost glowing quality flows about them, as if electric currents run inside.
And then his face; it’s all edges and angles, jawline to slice glass and sharp eyes with thin eyebrows. Yet, even with the oddball battle-gear get-up, the moonlight makes him soft—pretty, Shouto would say under extreme duress, and on his head there’s—
Oh, shit. There’s a giant purpling bruise, actually. It’s grossly swollen—nearly mottled green now—and Shouto kicks into action.
Shouto hisses and slaps a palm to his forehead. He’s in so much fucking trouble. He crashed his bike into a man—a man with an actual sword that he only just noticed, holy shit. He picks it up, and blanches at how heavy—how real it feels. Carvings lay etched into the hilt, familial to the tattoos from before, and Shouto doesn’t want to try his luck by testing if it’s as sharp as it looks. And it looks.
He ponders who the hell and what the hell for a moment. Is this man some sort of...reenactor? Live action role-player? He’s heard that phrase somewhere, probably from Touya, and that sounds right.
Anyways. That’s really not the issue at hand, and the issue at hand is far above Shouto’s pay grade (which is saying something), and far above what he can handle. He’s only equipped for bad things happening, not complete disasters.
So he does what he always does in a crisis, dragging the heavy man (what is he, pure muscle? Shouto was half joking with his starstruck musings earlier, but maybe this is Adonis) to his bike while dialing a phone number he could recite on his deathbed. He sits behind the lump of a man, wrapping his arms around to reach the handlebars. They would look like a couple if cat-man wasn’t slouched entirely against Shouto’s chest. Hopefully no one will report Shouto for an apparent kidnapping; that would be a way to end the day.
Click. The ringing picks up in time with his engine, and a familiar voice greets him. He revs his motor, petting his bike as it starts up.
“Fuyumi,” he says lightly, precariously balancing the man as he begins the trek home and maneuvers across traffic at high speeds. Car horns roar at him in every direction, and still stilted snores continue.
“Hey Shou!” His sister hums her sugar-sweet greeting, “What’s up?”
Shouto swallows, hair whipping his cheeks, “Well. Nothing in particular. But I require your assistance. Can you get to my apartment in ten?”
Papers rustle, and murmured sentences conjoin, too soft for him to hear—though, he can guess it’s Fuyumi’s husband, a dull yet lovely man who sometimes walks around the lake with Shouto and indulges in his continued mission to feed every single duck there. He would say his hello if he wasn’t hyper focused on not dropping a human being off of his vehicle.
The voices appear to settle, and a high pitched giggle warbles cuts off as the sound of a door shutting trickles through the speakers. Fuyumi’s generously decorated car keys tinkle, and she picks up her hello as well as an obligatory sisterly interrogation, “Yes, of course I’ll come! But Shou, where in heaven’s name are you? Is something wron—?”
“Nope,” Shouto pops the ‘p’, an incriminating action in itself, as he has never been a p-popping type of person. Maybe the old man cussing him out from his truck will drown out the mistake, “Uh, also. Fuyumi?”
He cups the speaker with one hand to hopefully disguise the roar of car engines and honking, “Bring first aid.”
“Sure. Okay, and what time…”
“Wait, Shou, what—?!”
“—bye. See you soon. Love you.”
And with that death sentence, Shouto switches his phone off and rides into the night.
There’s a good five minutes of charged silence, and it's the probably the most uncomfortable Shouto has ever felt around his otherwise kindred sister—or really, around anyone ever. His shoulders tense up and he fidgets with his knuckles in apprehension.
He hasn’t been this properly sheepish in years. Even Debbie keeps her distance, tail wrapped perfectly around her so that she could pass for a large cotton ball. Traitor. Why is it she only exhibits caution when Shouto’s the one in trouble, and not when she swallows the leg off his favorite All Might collectible action figure? The fucking Silver Age one, too.
“Ahem,” he coughs, shifting from foot to foot while he glares stony-eyed at his cat, “Will he be alri—?”
“Shouto,” Fuyumi whirls on him, smoke shooting out of her ears, and he shuts up fast, “What the fuck were you thinking?”
Let him make this explicitly clear: Fuyumi may be uptight sometimes, and she can stand up for herself—but she is not the cussing type. Not like every other member of the Todoroki legacy, including Shouto’s cats and goldfish.
“Well, you see—” he starts, withering into taut quiet under his sister’s seething glare.
“What I see is an unconscious man in some sort of...” she gestures at the red heap on his bed, sputtering, “...discount Lancelot getup, and—oh yeah!—did I mean ruin that you ran him over and then proceeded to not take him to the hospital?!”
Shouto wants to point out that Lancelot looked nothing like his new foster-slash-hostage, but he restrains himself, pulling out the essay he mentally prepared on the frantic drive over here.
“You know how father is about this sort of stuff, Fuyumi. After writing and presenting his case on why I won’t be allowed to own a motorcycle or have free will for the next year, he’s going to find a way to spin the accident against this innocent person,” he waves at the man, who's knocked out on his bed and snoring like a truck. He crosses his arms in his sleep, “Not to mention he won’t care how insignificant the accident actually was. Father will merely try to drain his bank account for sport. And succeed.”
Fuyumi throws her hands up, “Why must you assume father will always do his worst, Shou?”
And well, fuck. That’s a good one. Shouto lifts his eyebrows to the stratosphere, “Fuyumi. Don't jest.”
“I’m not!” She huffs, cheeks puffing, and she’s pacing now—a tried and true sign of Fuyumi’s displeasure that used to scare Shouto into offering his portion of caramel chocolate after dinner, “I’m just—ugh. I hate that you’re able to predict what he’ll do. And I hate that you’re right.”
“Father’s behavior isn’t difficult to unravel. Just assume the worst and ad-lib from there.”
“Shou, be nice.”
“Maybe,” Shouto muses, because he’s pretty sure he’s a nice guy, but on the off-chance he isn’t, he doesn’t plan on changing anytime soon, “Don’t you have a daughter to attend to?”
Fuyumi startles for a moment, hands flying to her cheeks in that very Todoroki Rei way of hers that causes little flowers to bloom in Shouto’s chest; he smiles lightly as she fumbles with her watch, scrambling to the door, “Oh, goodness! Shou, why didn’t you tell me how late it was? It’s about time for her to start her three-in-the-morning screamfest, isn’t it?”
“Sounds right,” he says, shivering at the doomsday babysitting war-flashbacks that flit through his mind. He loves his niece to death, but he didn’t know a human could physically produce the noises that she comes up with, let alone a three-year-old—and it’s truly tragically ironic that Touya of all people is the only sibling she tolerates. He’s already got her obsessed with Black Sabbath—and has brings at least one piece of personalized toddler merch every time he sees her.
Fuyumi fishes her car keys from her purse and points them at the sleeping man, narrowing her eyes at Shouto as she gestures back-and-forth, “He should be fine in a couple hours, and make sure to give him some pain meds when he wakes up. And call me if he’s still out by tomorrow morning.”
Shouto nods and stuffs his hands in his pockets, “Alright.”
Fuyumi rolls her eyes at his bland response and tugs him into a swift hug, “Don’t be a stranger, little brother.”
He relishes the moment, smelling familiar peppermint on her hair as he pats her back, “Couldn’t even if I wanted to. Bye, Fuyumi.”
She holds his cheeks between soft fingers, kissing his forehead before she steps through the door’s threshold, “Bye-bye, Shou.”
Shouto stares blankly at the rhythmic movements of his ceiling fan, contemplating this: should he allow his body to doze off like it so desperately needs to after his untimely adrenaline crash, or should he endeavor to pry his eyes open until the man next to him wakes up? The former sounds like a blessing from above. The latter could be in the morning—and could mean he doesn’t get any sleep, and if there’s anything Shouto values more than his own life, it’s rest on a Saturday night.
So naturally, he dozes—and just as naturally, some foreign deity punishes him the moment his body gets a modicum of rest.
It starts as an intense pressure on his chest and then the heated breath of someone speaking directly in his ear. Shouto’s eyes shoot open to the golden light of his bedroom, and he thanks god that he can’t sleep without a nightlight, because otherwise he surely would’ve missed the giant fucking knife pressed to his throat.
The sleeping man is very much not asleep now, and red, red eyes pour into Shouto’s, sparked with pure and unrestrained fury. His knees trap Shouto underneath him, one hand rests by his face, and the fuzzy fabric of that cloak brushes his calves. It tickles a bit, and Shouto certainly doesn’t mind the position.
“It’s okay. Please calm down, sir,” Shouto jumps to reassure for some reason, probably because he’s distracted by biceps. He’s heard somewhere that giving an intruder a name can make them more sympathetic. He’s never been the actor of the family; that was always Touya’s thing, but he tries anyway, “Um. My name is Shouto—”
That gets the man’s attention, and he tightens his grip immediately. His eyes pinball around the room as he begins his interrogation,“Shouto. Who has sent you?”
Shouto chokes a bit, straining his neck as far away from the daunting point of that knife as he can, and he almost disappears into the embrace of his bulldog pillow pet, “Ah—what? No one. I just—”
“Where is your homeland?”
Shouto’s breath shortens now, and his words come out choppier than his usual composure would allow for—and his mind doesn't yet register just how bizarre that question is, “Um. I mean, here. If you’re asking where I come from, I don’t really feel comfortable sharing that—”
And thank heavens, the knife—fuck, sword, he thinks, now that he sees how long it spans unsheathed and can rememeber last night—pulls away, giving room for his lungs and thought process.
The man bangs the butt of the sword on his own nose. He inhales deeply, and from this angle, his tattoos reveal themselves far more intimately than before, and Shouto catches glints of reds and blues and golds among what he assumed was merely black ink. The lines wiggle alongside steady breathing, and Shouto blinks, entranced. It’s quite a pleasing movement.
“Tch,” the man suddenly tosses his weapon to the side. It clanks obnoxiously, and Shouto’s soul nearly evacuates with the severity of the noise. It chops his trance in half, “Then which bloodline are you from, prince?”
Okay, now he’s properly confused. That’s quite a roundabout way of asking if he’s a Todoroki. Most people just openly gape and point at his scar, miming the cookie-cutter question he’s learned to expect at this point. He supposes it’s a nice change, if he gets past the knife—sorry, sword—thing.
“Prince?” He echoes, fear finally fully abating to make way for pure bewilderment—so, back to his usual state of mind, “What’s that for?”
“Fool,” the man scowls like an animal and crouches back on his haunches, and Shouto takes the opportunity to stretch his sore muscles while calloused hands grip at Shouto’s white side, “You think I don’t recognize a royal’s locks when I see them?”
Oddly enough, the hair-pulling hardly alarms him, and he simply considers the question for what it is, “I’m unsure what you mean by ‘royal’, but it’s quite rude to touch people’s hair without permission.”
“Don't play coy,” the man dismisses Shouto and plucks his paw-print nightshirt between his fingers, disdainful, “You must be from the North nations. No man on my side of the border wears silks at this time of year.”
Shouto locks eyes with a tomato sauce stain over his belly button and strokes the fabric absentmindedly. Silk? No, “This is...cotton.”
That earns him an enraged squint—and oh, the sword-knife thing is back; damn this man is fast—
“Do you take me for a low-born?”
Shouto blinks slowly, pushing the blade away with one finger—which, surprisingly works, at the cost of a bead of blood rising on his skin, “I’m sorry, I don’t particularly know what that means.”
Oh, wait—never mind. It’s back again, and so are the man’s rough-voiced threats. It’s a nice voice, gravelly and deep and caked in gruff syllables, “Watch your tone, prince. No matter who you command on Northern land, I will not tolerate any treason on my soil.”
Shouto averts his gaze to his ratty green couch, trailing over the cat-scratch marks littering its surface, and he takes a moment to curse his pets for abandoning him in his time of need, “I’m ninety-nine percent sure this is my apartment.”
The man mouths ‘apartment’ to himself, as if Shouto’s the one spouting nonsense, and snarls, “Prove it.”
Shouto doesn’t know how to appropriately react to that in the slightest, so he just slides out of bed, pointedly ignoring the man’s half-backflip and subsequent shift into a battle stance. He tugs open his floral-patterned curtains so that the city greets them, familiar and rowdy as usual.
Heavy-booted footsteps halt behind him, followed by a sharp intake of breath, “Is this your land?”
Shouto mulls over the question, crossing his arms, “It’s where I grew up, so—um. Sort of,” he gestures to the old gas station. At this time of morning, its lights burn a highlighter orange that illuminates that dreariest parts of the city, “I saved you from over there.”
Within a second, he’s spun around by a vice-tight fist. Shouto sways to a stop, a tad disgruntled with this man’s brashness, but also a tad infatuated by red and red and—
“You dare claim you saved me?” fire practically engulfs his every word, “No one saves Bakugou Katsuki. I am the Barbarian King.”
Shouto resists the urge to run that name on his lips, eyes shifting, “Um. I did. From a motorcycle crash. I would know. It was my motorcycle crash.”
“I’ve never heard of that sort of creature before. Are you lying to me, prince?” the man accuses, but then immediately transfixes on the bustling activity out the window. His eyes widen exponentially, and his face flips a switch, radiating wonder instead of that unrestrained anger, and Shouto can’t decide which he prefers, “Gods. Which Kingdom are we in?”
Shouto’s beginning to think these are trick questions; maybe he’s on one of those trashy prank game shows that Touya always said would target him for his gullibility, “Mustafu?” he offers.
“Strange name. Our cartographers have not marked this land yet,” the man—Katsuki—murmurs. He snaps his fingers and lifts his sword at Shouto, more in acknowledgment than threat this time, judging by his flippant grip, “Take me to your witch. That will solve our grievances.”
Shouto thinks about who could possibly be a witch and comes up blank—in part because the question is frankly ludicrous, and in part because Debbie opts to reveal herself, padding out from behind Shouto’s bathroom door, pale fur reflecting the city lights. Katsuki regards the animal with disdain, which is starting to seem like his default emotion.
Shouto scoops her into his arms, “We don’t have a witch, I believe.”
Katsuki scoffs and spits at his shoes, “Blasphemy. No respectable kingdom lacks a head witch.”
“We must not be very respectable then,” Shouto shrugs, and Debbie curls up in his lap. These questions are really getting away from him, but at least this interesting man hasn’t tried to leave yet, “Who’s your witch, then?”
Katsuki’s entire expression sours as if he’s sucked on a few too many lemons, and Shouto finds it delightful, “My mother. She probably got me into this mess—old hag. Always threatening to send me somewhere I can’t escape without paying the price.”
“That sounds terrible,” Shouto sympathizes, because yeah, it does—and if anyone knows a thing or two about fucked parenting, it’s him. Though Katsuki’s wording is quite bizarre. Maybe he’s foreign. There is an accent there; he just can’t pinpoint it. Shouto humors him, “What prices does she want you to pay?”
“She wants me to,” he cringes, pausing for what Shouto can only assume is dramatic “barbarian” effect, words knotting up in his throat, “Be nicer.”
Shouto stares. Wow, relatable. He can dredge up a few memories of those exact words leaving Fuyumi’s mouth, and maybe his therapist’s too.
“And! She keeps demanding I take a bride from the North—as if I would wed one of those prissy highlanders!” he hisses, gesticulating wildly.
Shouto pushes the coffee table out of the way just to be safe, “A tragedy.”
“Indeed,” he purses his lips, “Now, prince, I must speak with a witch. I care not for skill level or notoriety—just baseline Divination or Occulence.”
Shouto doesn’t know what either of those words mean, but he gets the gist, and he’d like to help. He assumes he is partially to blame for any mental damage, the ever-present sword and well-worn cloak notwithstanding. The bruise on his head is nasty, “What are some...qualities of witches?”
Once again, Katsuki offers him an expression one would offer gum on their newest pair of shoes, “Hideous hats? Guarding and harnessing knowledge of the future?”
Shouto shakes his head. Gibberish—all his words are gibberish, and Shouto has never been more intrigued in his life.
“Foolish man! I’ll go find one myself.”
Ah. There it is—the inevitable step away from his apartment, because what does Shouto really have to give? It was a fun little topsy-turvy day, and Shouto’s likely crazy for finding the aftermath of a motorcycle accident enjoyable, but he can’t say he’s ever had a knife held to his throat by a wildly attractive stranger before. Silver lining and all that.
Though at this point, he’s going to have to bid the silver lining farewell; he cannot force Katsuki to stay unless he can scrounge up a witch, which is the most absurd request and there’s no way he can...he can...
A fickle thought crashes headfirst into Shouto’s brain. It would absolutely be a dick move, and he may be short a friend afterwards, but this Katsuki character reigns far more entertaining than he expected, and he might stick around a bit longer if Shouto can produce a witch—even if that witch wears a two-dollar Houdini knockoff coat and scams sightseers for profit.
Is it worth it? Why does he care whether or not a random cosplayer loiters at his house? No, definitely not—and he couldn’t say. All Shouto knows is that Katsuki talks like something new, and it tastes divine after months of his increasingly boorish dawdling.
Shouto places a hand on this strange man’s shoulders, his old friend mischief brewing in his stomach as his face splits into a mirthful smile. He’ll keep Katsuki here yet—just a bit longer.
“Actually, I think I do know one of those.”
Uraraka Ochako's house is something of a novelty.
The outside fits into the cookie-cutter mold of all the buildings on the street—an off-white paint job, cracking wood, spineless cactuses lining the porch, but the inside is where any similarities taper off.
First and foremost, there’s a calligraphic sign looming over the entryway. It reads Path of the Clairvoyant in dramatic ink strokes and hallmark sequins. This, in Shouto’s opinion, is an advertisement that doubles as a warning—a gift from above that ensures only a select brand of people will find themselves in Ochako’s madhouse with genuine ailments. (Of course, Shouto was one of these people; it’s how they met in the first place).
And then, as soon as you dare to wander inside, there are crystals everywhere, hanging from ceilings and furniture and fans. There's even some on the inside of the fridge that Shouto plays with when he nabs a drink without Ochako’s knowledge (she houses her Capri Suns with a guard dog’s vigilance). The crystals’ colors range anywhere from soulless black to the same bright pink as the living room carpets. Shouto’s personal favorites are the mauve ones that she keeps on her bookshelf—all soft-ish and deceiving for how tough they are when he runs his fingers over them.
Aside from the stones and such, a myriad of other strange baubles crowd any available surfaces, and the entire house feels like an organized hurricane strikes it once a week. Just now, he spots at least seven doll heads and fifteen emptied cork bottles.
The place may be psychedelic and vaguely unethical, but a faux fortune teller is the closest thing they’re getting to a witch, and maybe—hopefully—it will adequately appease Katsuki.
“Shouto, dear, I’m so thrilled to have you, but—” Ochako stomps, and half the world probably shakes with it, “What the fuck.”
And of course, Shouto would never pass up an opportunity to play witness to his friends’ squirming—especially Ochako, who talks with angel’s disposition and schemes like the Devil himself.
She’s been pacing in circles for a while now, muttering gibberish to herself while intermittently flipping Shouto off. He thinks it fits the syncopatic music drifting through shoddy speakers in the background. If he closes his eyes to this particular tune, he’d imagine that meteors and asteroids would orbit past him, and stars would wave in the near distance.
“I did try to explain on the phone,” Shouto defends himself and lazily flicks one of the strings of bells dangling from the doorframe. It sets off a cascade of wind-chime sounds that make him smile. Most of this house’s idiosyncrasies do, and so this is his go-to hideout when his father waddles up to his apartment with clipboards and job offers and teeming disappointment.
Ochako spits out a pterodactyl noise, literally vibrating at Shouto as he loses himself in his ever-abundant river of idle thought, “I thought you were joking. This man is deranged.”
He shakes his head, “No, he’s just…” they both flinch as something shatters, and Shouto schools his face away from a snort, “Eccentric.”
Ochako waves her phone at him, as if shooing the both of them out her magenta-and-orange door and away forever, “He needs to be institutionalized.”
“That’s nice, Ochako. Are you willing to do what I asked?” Shouto plops himself on his favorite couch spot, sinking into the fauna-patterned cushions. He kicks off his shoes and tucks his feet under his thighs, and he strokes the edge of the lava lamp looming beside him, tapping his fingers on the glass.
Slippers fwump to the floor, “Shouto! Are you even listening to me?”
“Yes,” he lies, tilting his head to meet big brown eyes, “I see your reasoning. I do. But. Well, in some way, this has to be my fault. I’d feel bad leaving him to fend for himself.” He cranks up his charm and hopes to earn some empathy here. He’s been told once or twice that he’s not entirely unattractive, so he might as well give it a shot.
His efforts are foreseeably fruitless, “Okay?! And what if he was on crack cocaine or whatever before you ran him over, and now you’re housing a psychopath?”
Shouto pretends to consider that, “Can't be any worse than living with my family.”
Shouto examines his nails, hands now folded in his lap, “And I get a new friend.”
“Friend,” Ochako’s gobsmacked reprimand hardly phases him, and his continued silence finally cracks her, “God, fine, you daft bastard—but you’re paying thrice the usual amount."
Naturally, he muses—it wouldn't be Ochako without a grossly overpriced bullshit session, “I’ll even add the Todoroki family’s obligatory tip.”
“‘Todoroki family’?” Katsuki sneaks behind Shouto, causing him to eep—a monotonous eep, but an eep nonetheless. The man has been so quiet that Shouto nearly forgot why he was here, “Is that your bloodline then, prince?”
Shouto internally cackles at that phrasing, “I suppose.”
“A noble name,” Katsuki nods, observing Shouto’s hair and face with scrutiny. Ochako makes a crude wtf is this movement with her plastic magician wand. It has paw prints on it—and a halfhearted bedazzling job that Shouto and his class of kindergarteners may or may not have been a part of. Katsuki stares at it, seemingly enraptured. Shouto pulls out his phone and snaps a picture to show Eri that her creation still gets some use.
“Katsuki. Ochako here is going to tell your fortune—or your tarot or whatever. She’ll give you your, um…” Shouto explains, and Ochako mouths something to him that he cannot even begin to make out, “Vibe check.” ‘
That must have been wrong, judging by the distinct crack of the wand splintering in half. Shouto begins searching for the superglue.
“Alright, young man,” Ochako moves her arms in an admittedly mesmerizing sort of dance-slash-invisible-handshake-with-a-ghost-thing. Katsuki and Shouto fall into silent rapture while watching, “Tell me about yourself.”
Katsuki puffs his chest fucking immediately; Shouto watches in real time as his nonexistent feathers fluff like some sort of preening bird. He rattles off a smorgasbord of ludicrous names so quickly and confidently that Shouto can hardly keep up, “Bakugou Katsuki. King of the Barbarians, Conqueror of the Seven Southern Kingdoms, Tamer of Dragons, Son of Bakugou Masaru, Explorer of the Bloodward Oceans, Champion of—”
“Okay,” Ochako smiles, strained and menacing, and Shouto swears he sees dark clouds rolling off of her in waves, “I think I have enough information,”
Katsuki closes his mouth in rapt awe, “You must be a formidable witch.”
She clicks finger guns at him, “You guessed it, chief.”
Katsuki bows his head, “Honored.”
“Cool beans. So, uh—King, why have you sought me out today?”
Shouto commends Ochako for her split-second improvisation. It’s fascinating how good she is at this. He would inform her she’d be the perfect con artist, but, well—
Katsuki leans on his palm, speech severe and secretive, hunched and resigned and seething all at once. It’s practically a declaration:
“I need to know what my mother desires of me.”
Shouto slurps his Capri Sun. Pacific Cooler, obviously.
“Wow, okay—deep shit, my man. You sound like a Todoroki,” Ochako turns to Shouto, alarmed, “Is he okay? I’m not a therapist, y’know.”
Katsuki’s somberness drops for curiosity, and his head cocks twice, “Therapist? Is that a witch class here?”
Shouto fumbles with the straw in his mouth, teeth gnawing and chewing at it subtly. He interjects, if only to get the conversation moving, “No, no, don’t worry about it. Answer his question, Ochako. The original one.”
“Of course, your highness,” Ochako deadpans, and Katsuki’s eyes widen in a way that nearly sends Shouto running for the hills of Elysium, “Katsuki, your mother...she is very strict, yes?”
Katsuki nods, enchanted by her diamond-topped drawl. Ochako circles now, a shark surreptitiously observing her dinner—or in this case, who is paying for it.
“She wants you to get a job. Find a place. Settle down and find a—“
Katsuki flinches minutely, and Shouto senses the moment Ochako latches on to her prey.
“—a wife,” she finishes, grin worthy of a wicked witch secured on her features. Shouto watches her plucking her customers like fine-tuned instruments every time he happens to meander onto her couch, and this time is no outlier, “I see it now. The answer you seek, Katsuki, is love.”
Katsuki’s jaw falls unhinged and then snaps back in place within the millisecond, and he growls, “I should’ve known.”
“Honestly,” Shouto agrees, “How impudent of you.”
“I do not mean to rob your time, honorable witch,” Katsuki exudes utmost respect and apologies.
“Don’t sweat it, bud. As long as you, mister...uh, K—Kat…” Ochako’s tongue stutters, and Shouto coughs ‘Katsuki’ under his breath, “Katsuki! If you find it in your heart to love another, then you will find your way back home. The path will be lit for you.”
Katsuki contemplates this knowledge with far less ire than Shouto expects, “So I must court someone before I can return to my homeland?”
Ochako tugs her gloves off, and the happy-go-lucky persona slips away as she flops on the couch beside Shouto, pressing her face into his shoulder, “Yeah. I dunno, go on a romantic date or some shit. Is that good enough?”
Shouto pats her hair in congratulations, “Stellar work, witch. Inspiring, even.”
“Shut it, Mr. Todoroki. Go steal your dad’s yacht or something.”
“I haven’t done that in a few years, Ochako.”
Katsuki gives Shouto a peculiar look, like he’s sizing him up more aggressively than before. He seems to settle whatever he’s discussing internally and mumbles something about ‘appropriate courting rituals’ to himself.
They each thank Ochako in their own ways—Shouto with an absurd number of zeroes and another stolen drink, and Katsuki with a deep bow and a kiss on her fuzzy Mickey Mouse socks. She’s accustomed enough with him not to scream, though her cheeks blush bright red.
As they push through the maze of beads and strings and crystals guiding the way to the front door, Katuski nods at him, “Todoroki.”
They shuffle back into the real world, tugging their shoes back on, Katsuki trailing behind—timid, almost, and it’s so out of character for what Shouto has observed in the last twenty-four hours that he returns the gesture, bemused.
“Call me Shouto, Katsuki,” Shouto punctuates his offer by swinging his leg over his bike and holding out a hand.
Katsuki takes the familiarity in stride, and slots into place behind him, “Shouto. Would you shoulder the task of helping me return home?”
Shouto clicks his helmet in place.
It sounds like a dangerous surprise, and he should absolutely say fuck no and drive into the sunset.
Frankly, his life has been remarkably dull these days. Maybe it’s the repetition and the lesson plans or the searing messages from his father, but a bit of adventure might be what he needs. His gut led him here; what’s a little bit longer? He can aid Katsuki with his fabricated love-quest and maybe locate this home he yearns to return to.
And so, as arms wrap snug around his waist, Shouto pumps the gas and says on a whim that feels like a promise:
Offering Katsuki a place to crash at brings a myriad of rapid-fire adjustments into Shouto’s life—the kinds of things he’s never considered until now, since his only roommates in the past have been his pets and or extremely reluctant family members.
Shouto frantically shovels clothes into his hamper and presents Katsuki with his room on his first day out of courtesy, but he refuses to sleep anywhere that isn’t the couch, and proceeds to land in the exact same position every night. During Shouto’s early-morning cereal runs, he always finds Katsuki facing his door, legs precariously propped over the armrest and sword hugged to his firm chest. It’s like a gun under a pillow in all the spy movies he’s seen at the relentless hands of Natsuo’s “undeniably superior movie taste”, as he likes to put it. Shouto finds himself wholly grateful that one of them can stomach his vastly uncomfortable living room couch—there’s a reason he breaks into Ochako’s house to use hers instead of his own; he would compare the feeling to napping on a bed of gravel versus a sweet cloud’s embrace.
In terms of food, Shouto can’t read Katsuki at all. He balks when Shouto attempts to teach him microwave ramen—or any processed items for that matter. The only meal type he seems to accept are the ones obnoxiously centered around meat. Or almond-flavored candy (the only exception), which he has drooled over since Shouto accidentally left his on the coffee table and it mysteriously vanished. Other than that, Katsuki eats picky, and they’ve resorted to ordering in every night to avoid small-scale fires in the apartment from either their failed attempts at producing an edible meal or the radioactive fallout of Katuski’s distaste.
However, the most emotionally taxing Bakugou-Katsuki-factors are his goddamn clothes.
Shouto explains that there's only so long he can go wearing that same getup, and lends him some old cardigans and wintery coats. They fit him lopsided, the chest area tighter than should be possible and the fabric hanging below the jut of his knees. And even with a t-shirt on, Katsuki will never take off that flamboyant cloak-jacket-thing of his. Especially since he appears to enjoy the way it ripples in the wind when they ride through the rushing traffic of city streets. People tend to, without fail, leer and glare and question them—but—to be honest—
Shouto doesn’t care about that, really. At all.
Katsuki is fucking insane probably, but boy does he make Shouto laugh and giggle and think sometimes about the strangest things, such as bird migration patterns or oddly specific steps to surviving off tree bark and weeds. The man gapes at every mundane invention—microwaves, blenders, actual sinks—as if it’s his first time seeing it. And it’s amusing and wonderful and endearing and...
What originally began as penance for Shouto’s accident (aka an excuse to stare at Katsuki’s tremendously wide chest while he struggles to button a polo shirt—and then alarmingly, an excuse to hear him talk about literally anything for however long he wants) has turned into...well, a whole lot of entertainment and a genuine almost-sort-of-acquaintance. A friend on a good day, one where Katsuki doesn’t break any silverware or his mother’s exotic porcelain plates, and fixes Shouto with his manic toothy grin that by all means should make him cower in overt fear, but only serves to send his heart into overdrive.
It’s a win-win for the two of them at this point: Shouto gets someone other than his kids to keep him on his toes, and Katsuki has somewhere to stay until his head screws on right. Shouto’s beginning to wonder when that will happen. Fuyumi’s frequent visits say he’s fine in the head, and that they ought to just wait it out a bit longer.
And if waiting “a bit longer” means days like today, Shouto doesn’t mind a couple more.
“Katsuki?” he absorbs the abhorrent state of his living room: drawers overturned, chairs tipped sideways, shelf-toppers cluttering the floor. Phenomenal. The man is practically one of the house cats, and Shouto already senses a snort bubbling in his throat.
Katsuki’s disgruntled face pops out of the broom closet like a blonde-dipped whack-a-mole, “Yes, prince?”
Shouto purses his now-wiggly lips, a small noise escaping him, “Um. What are you doing?”
“Working,” Katsuki grunts, ducking his head back down. Today he’s wearing one of Shouto’s shirts (originally Fuyumi’s, a gift from Touya that she sent to Shouto, who gladly took it into his mismatched hell wardrobe). It reads ‘Wine Aunt’ in big bold letters, and is far too tight on his gratuitously muscled chest. Shouto just barely avoids staring, mostly because the red cloak lying over the shirt hides his abdominals. In its absence, that would be the final straw.
“Working?” Shouto clears his throat, “On what?”
He asks with mild curiosity, but when Katsuki miraculously blushes down to the tips of his heavily pierced ears, Shouto is almost so shellshocked that he doesn’t hear him mumble, “A necklace”, and he suddenly needs to know everything about this project that can make Bakugou Katsuki shy. He has to play it cool, though. Take it slow and steady. That’s what Ochako always says, drunk out of her mind and pointing towards the great horizon.
So, he twiddles with one of the toys scattered over his now pigsty of a carpet, feigning indifference like a pro, and asks, “What for?”
“Tch. Don’t mock me, prince. Where’re your heartstrings? All this junk is useless,” he tosses a couple unidentified objects over his shoulder, and they crash-land at Shouto’s feet.
Huh. He didn’t know he had an All Might Lego set. Or an All Might Barbie doll. He picks up the latter and reckons he can salvage its singed hair with a bit of legwork and yarn.
“Chainmail? Rope?” Katsuki continues his fire-fueled querying, and when Shouto remains stoic, he throws his hands up in the air and grumbles, rummaging further through the closet himself. Shouto wants to stop him from probably breaking something worth more than a small country, but he’s also a little curious and a lot scared about what might happen if he tries to deter Katsuki from this apparent task of utmost importance. That sword always hangs, taunting him.
“Ah,” Katsuki rips something open, “Perfect.”
Shouto snatches the flubbed packaging and roots himself to the spot, so, so bamboozled beyond belief.
He holds out the label to Katsuki, just to make sure he understands, “That is a Rainbow Loom.”
“It’s very intricate,” Katsuki agrees with something, though it’s certainly not Shouto, “Well-crafted. How does it work?”
Shouto balks, “One of my kindergarten students gave it to me. It’s like...crocheting with rubber bands.”
Katuski grimaces, “‘Kindergarten’ ? Deku had that once.”
Shouto still has no inkling of who “Deku” is, but he can tell that the figure means a lot to Katsuki by how often the name pops up—but he hasn’t settled on sworn enemy or treasured friend yet.
“Kindergarten is not a disease.”
Katsuki snaps one of the rubber bands in half, grunting in displeasure, “Plague, then. No difference. Could you leave?”
Shouto shakes his head, disbelieving, and can’t much help his bark of laughter; it’s nice—not something he lets out often, but is becoming more and more familiar as Katsuki worms into Shouto’s quiet little life, “Why so angry?”
Katsuki hunches over the loom, “This is—it’s private, fool.”
Shouto barely restrains himself from mentioning Katsuki’s constant state of half-nakedness if they’re talking about ‘privacy’, “Of course. I’ll leave you to it.”
Later, Katsuki sneak-attacks him while he’s browsing the television. He grabs Shouto’s hand, places what context clues would point to being a Rainbow Loom necklace on his palm, and manually wraps Shouto’s fingers around it. They blink at each other until Shouto makes a move, feeling the pressure.
He cradles the necklace in his hands carefully. He raises his eyebrows at the stillness of Katsuki—the man always locked in a state of vigilance, something occupying his deft fingers no matter what—from the Solitaire games Shouto taught him to his fascination with messing with the gas-stove dials and cackling as the fire lights.
Shouto clutches his...gift? “Are you giving me this?”
Katsuki clicks his tongue with more force than should be possible, “Yes.”
Shouto runs his fingers over it, “Um. Thank you?.”
“Do you accept it?” Katsuki presses.
Shouto has no clue why he sounds so pensive, but he replies, “Sure.”
“Tch,” Katsuki crosses his arms, all too cocksure and pleased with himself for no apparent reason. If Shouto squints, he can almost make out the barest hints of a smile on his lips.
Shouto holds the necklace gingerly by his fingertips. It’s quite long for a typical Rainbow Loom creation (at least compared to the ones Eri used to give him every morning as a ‘hello’ when she was obsessed with them), but the bands are arranged in a very pleasing pattern—red and white and some green smattered around, as if he ran out of his preferred colors. Shouto slings it over his neck to give it a whirl, and Katsuki just lights up.
“Formidable choice, prince,” Katsuki grins softly, what the fuck, “I will always stand guard over you.”
Shouto stares, a blank and unemotional slate. His ineptness in meaningful social situations feels more prominent now than ever. It’s tangible. He could pet it, probably. It doesn’t help that all of his senses laser-focus on lightly scarred lips—his psyche won’t budge for anything, including common sense.
“Cool,” he says, just to say something.
Katsuki doesn’t mind, and he tugs at the necklace for a moment before retreating to the kitchen. His last words mirror Shouto’s, accentuated by a wicked smile—far more blustering than his last and just as wildly attractive, “Cool.”
Shouto—now alone in the wreckage of his living room wearing nothing but boxers and a rubber necklace—merely raps his knuckles on his forehead and opts to take a nap and recuperate. He isn’t running away; he’s merely shoving the raw jittery panic in his ribcage down until further notice. Anyway, it’s challenging to pick apart an interaction that’s as sensical as Touya’s relationship history.
He burritos himself under his covers, and as he dreams—inexplicably, there are hoards upon hoards of dragons.
Katsuki’s booming stuns Shouto out of his paragraph, and he sighs, resigned to his perpetual fate of fond complacency. He leans back as Katsuki stomps in, practically walking the plank of his wood-hard couch armrest. Katsuki’s hair is marvelously rumpled today, as he still hasn’t quite caught on to how hairdryers are supposed to work. Though, he doesn’t draw his sword when it turns on anymore. So, progress.
Katsuki points at him matter-of-factly and repeats, “Treasure.”
Shouto squints, shutting his book and setting it on the table. He rubs his brows, idly questioning if he’s started hearing things and maybe Katsuki has been a traumatic hallucination all along, “Me?”
That’s a new one. Shouto doesn’t hate how a curse falls off his lips, but he ought to not encourage this sort of stuff. He’s already gotten in enough trouble for talking back to incensed parents himself.
“Where did you learn that…?” Shouto’s sentence crumbles and he doesn’t bother asking, because he knows it’s his fault for buying an iPad and doesn’t need that tidbit plaguing his conscience forever, “Never mind. Just—why ‘treasure’?”
Katsuki scrunches his nose like he’s never heard anything more idiotic in his life. It’s like an aggrieved lion cub, “Necklace. Eyes.”
Shouto touches a hand to his cheek, “What on earth are you—?”
And in a flash, a forehead presses against his own, noses this close to brushing. Shouto’s mind, body and soul simultaneously short-circuit to the tune of Zero to Hero, his default mental background track. He swears tiny lightning bolts fizz between where their bodies touch and almost touch.
“I own all the riches of the mountains—chambers full of stones and gold,” Katsuki’s gaze stings—and Shouto hardly breathes as lips ghost over his own, “And yet no jewel is that same color blue.”
Katsuki pulls away just as fast as he leaned in, resuming his previous mission. He signals Shouto to follow behind him and treks into the living room. Shouto is devastated.
“What the fuck,” he asks the spirit realm, god, and his cats if they’re listening. He has to be high, or at least mildly intoxicated for this tier of bullshit. His heart jackrabbits.
He trails his fingers over his lips, as if to test for any unfelt remnants there, and Katsuki’s voice bursts through paper-thin walls, “Come forth! Use your steed if you must, fool!”
Shouto ultimately tucks away the incident in the deepest corner of his brain—alongside fragments of song lyrics and zodiac tidbits from Ochako, and all the other Katsuki-anecdotes he stores for later—and slides into the living room, “Was that sarcasm?”
“I don’t know what that means,” Katsuki grips Shouto’s shoulders and maneuvers him onto the brick-soft loveseat he usually avoids, as it surely has a termite or two or seven, “Now, stand here.”
Shouto complies out of curiosity, though he sits as close to the edge of the cushion as possible, both for protection from bugs and a view of Katsuki’s—
“Ah-hah,” Katsuki grins triumphantly, leaping forward to pounce on—
Shouto meets Shiitake’s distressed golden gaze and blinks, “What the hell, Katsuki?”
“Treasure,” Katsuki implores, lifting Shouto’s elusive third apartment-mate and holding her to his chest. She rakes her nails over his wrists, pitch black paws and the blood following them crisp on his milky skin, “I request that you bear witness to a duel.”
“Katsuki,” Shouto mimics his exact intonation and morphs it into the deadest pan he’s conjured in his life, “You are not dueling my cat.”
“Yours?” Katsuki snarls, suspicion amok in his posture, “I’ve never seen her before!”
Shouto rolls his eyes, “Shiitake just hates people. She usually hides under the couch all day. I leave her food and she eats it eventually.”
Katsuki harrumphs, lifting Shiitake to his nose like he did with Shouto earlier. Their gazes collide, engaging in some sort of mental handshake that only they can understand; eventually, Katsuki hums his satisfaction, “I’ll accept it. My cat is similar.”
“You have a cat?” Shouto narrows his eyes in pleasant surprise. How disturbingly...normal for all of the farfetched anecdotes he usually conjures.
Katuski’s nostrils flare with pride almost, “She’s the Duchess of Destruction—a high-ranking member in my courts. Her coloring matches your other warrior.”
That’s more like it, “My other...do you mean Debbie?”
“Indeed,” Katsuki contorts his face, imitating Debbie’s unfortunate default expression, “The pacifist.”
“Right. And where did you get Duchess?” Shouto prods, tremendously tickled by the thought of Katsuki raising a kitten wherever the hell he came from.
“We uncovered The Duchess in the West Brambleridge Forests,” his eyes turn far-off and cloudy, “She stole our meal while we slumbered.”
Shouto smiles at the mental image of Katsuki wrestling marshmallows from a ball of cotton fur, “Understandable. Shiitake always used to sneak into the pantry and—”
“No, the Duchess killed the elk we were hunting,” Katsuki explains, swishing Shiitake around like a puppet. He adds growling noises that fade under Shiitake’s purrs.
“Oh,” Shouto says, because what.
“I bet you haven’t killed an elk,” Katsuki grumbles, pointedly ignoring Shouto for his cat; he sets her carefully on the carpet, “Now, face me like a true soldier, Shiitake!”
Shiitake mrrows and licks her hind legs.
“Okay. How about this?” Shouto just resigns himself to never understanding who the fuck The Duchess is, and he fiddles with his pockets. He tosses his laser-pointer-pen to Katsuki, sagely explaining, “She won’t bother you if you use this on her.”
Katsuki grips the pen and switches the light on and off, hissing when he aims it directly into his eyes, “Is this some sort of paralysis spell?”
“Um. No. It will distract Shiitake. If you want to play—sorry, duel with Debbie, she prefers these...feather-stick-things,” Shouto offers him one, but Katsuki remains unshaken.
His eyes match the glowing red of the laser, and he smirks as he finesses the light away from Shiitake’s pouncing paws, “It is not in good practice to interrupt a duel between men.”
“That is my cat,” Shouto helpfully points out, “Who is very much female.”
“Who fucking cares?!” Katsuki barks, leaping up on the couch cushions to avoid a rapid pounce, “A challenge is a challenge. A king does not surrender for anyone!”
“Alright,” Shouto concedes and heads for his room, “Have fun, then. Don’t break anything.”
Katsuki cackles, “Oh I’ll have fun alright—”
Shouto secures his earplugs and drifts away all at once, a buzz of affection rumbling all in his chest. It trickles down his body and fills him to the brim with happy, happy, happy...
And if Shouto sneaks in that night to eat raw cereal and finds Katsuki passed out on the couch, with both cats snuggled up to his chest?
That’s between him, god, and his phone’s new hidden photo folder.
They go to the arcade. Shouto hates the arcade, but he loses a duel with Debbie, Katsuki calls him a “fucking sad bitch coward” and deposits him on his bike—it’s a whole ordeal.
He’s a little betrayed, since his only two loyal family members seem to take to Katsuki more than him after—what? A month? Less? Shiitake already sleeps with the man, which only took Shouto three fucking years to work up to. Even Debbie allows him to rub at her belly, which would earn Shouto a warning nick on his palm if he tried it, followed by suffocation via her parking over his mouth and nostrils at night.
The duel is meant to prove that Shouto still holds the hearts of his own pets, and it ends with Debbie swaddled in Katsuki’s lap instead of his own. Betrayal. Absolute, embarrassing betrayal.
He doesn’t mind too much, though, as the neon Christmas lights reflect altogether lovely in Katuski’s eyes, and his kiddish elation crushes any negativity Shouto has felt today, or ever. He follows Katsuki’s every whim—trekking through the hammer strength test (of which made him sweat for two reasons: his own physical exertion, and the physical exertion of watching Katsuki be so goddamn fine while waving around a toy hammer), losing air hockey more times than necessary (and by “losing” he means getting kicked out because Katsuki sends every puck literally flying, and Shouto now nurses a minor black eye), eating arcade pizza that tastes like concrete and yet he can’t stop—
And now they’re here, per Shouto’s suggestion and Katsuki’s immediate and vocal agreement.
“I understand,” Katsuki says, and for some reason Shouto gets the feeling he absolutely does not. Shouto doesn’t even really get the rules at this godforsaken arcade game. Number nineteen is just “have fun”—like, what. It’s too presumptuous for his taste.
“Is that so?” he hums airily, helping Katsuki buckle into his bumper car—the one that looks about three bumps away from the scrapyard and has a crudely drawn neon-green tiger on its side, “Don’t start moving until the speakers tell you to.”
“Of course,” Katsuki nods seriously, “Even barbarians would not abide by foul play in foreign country.”
“Right,” Shouto murmurs. He finally gets the seat belt to snap in, and he backs away, avoiding the throngs of pre-teens brushing against his legs in their haste.
Katuski scoots his car forward, “And where is your steed?”
Shouto pries his eyes away from the jumbo-sized alpaca plushie in the display window that he locked onto twenty seconds ago; it has a quite the dapper top hat, “My what.”
“Your steed, fool,” Katsuki makes a vroom vroom motion with his hands. It’s tragically adorable coupled with the dark-toned turtleneck and baggy jeans that Shouto insisted on if he was going to chauffeur the man around. Shouto gets enough looks as is, thanks to the curses that are his natural hair coloring and cumbersome scar.
Shouto can guess what he’s getting at, “My...my bike?”
Katsuki fiddles with the flashing red button under the steering wheel, “Is that her name?”
“It, um. Doesn’t have one?” Shouto regrets this now, though; there are so many possibilities,
“Or a gender, actually.”
Katsuki stares at him, profoundly disgusted, “Tch. Strange customs.”
Shouto picks at his nails, “I’m also not permitted to bring a motorcycle indoors, as per the rules like, everywhere.”
“Uptight,” the bell signaling one minute before the brawl rings, “Which will you select, then?”
Shouto scoffs, “None. I will not be participating.”
“Hah? You Northerners cowards or something?”
“I am not a Northerner,” Shouto says, “I don’t know what that means or entails.”
Some mother off to the side glares and covers her child’s ears. Shouto apologizes via a slight dip of the head. Strangely, she turns bright red, suddenly unsure instead of irate.
Baffling. Shouto reverts his attention to the task at hand, “Seriously. Where are you learning these vulgar things—oof—” his eyes meet barbarian crotch, and his legs dangle uselessly, “Katsuki, no—”
Katsuki honest-to-god picks up all six-foot-one of Todoroki Shouto and squeezes him into the sliver of space left on this bumper car (made for children, mind you, since they blatantly ignored the height requirements earlier. The poor moderator looks two rounds away from quitting her job). And before he knows what the hell is happening, Shouto lays cheek smushed against a faux leather seat, Bakugou Katsuki’s ass sat directly adjacent to his face.
It’s a nice ass.
He ponders the ass, but Katsuki yanks him up by his coat pocket for visibility—and then he actually dangles his head out the car, tongue out and tail wagging. Shouto’s blood sings of disorientation and startled endearment watching this absolute idiot drive like a fucking maniac.
The automated bells beeps three times, and the foreboding screeching of high-powered elementary schoolers commences. Bumper cars whirr to life in every direction.
Shouto quickly surveys their playing field, “This is very against the rules, I believe.”
His protests are to no avail, and Katsuki whacks him on the shoulder, pointing to a timid-looking boy as their first target.
“Fuck the rules!” Katsuki bellows, and Shouto hides from the scandalized gasps of about fifteen different mothers, which hardly works when Katsuki lifts both of their fists to the cheap disco ball on the ceiling. Fractals of multicolored lights crawl up and down both their knuckles, and Katsuki’s demoniacal smile punches Shouto in both his lungs.
“Now we ride, treasure!”
“Treasure, dinner’s ready!”
Shouto’s eyes slam open, a myriad of possibilities sprinting through his mind—either Katsuki has finally regained his memories, he’s in the middle of a twisted nightmare, or his apartment is on fire and he can’t smell it because of a sudden influx of winter allergies he's never had before. He high-tails it out of bed, throws on a pair of boxers and a random shirt, and bolts to the kitchen.
“Get outside! I’ll grab the extinguisher if you—” Shouto freezes, somehow more shocked than if his kitchen had gone up in flames, “Could please...get Debbie and Shiitake. Huh.”
There on the lonely kitchen island stands the barbarian Bakugou Katsuki, a Kiss the Cook apron crudely tied over his war pants and not a speck of spilt food in sight. Shouto must be dreaming.
“I made dinner,” he flips an egg with one hand and munches on an apple with the other.
“So you said,” Shouto gulps, poking at the plate on his side of the table (the one with the creaky chair, because the sound puts Katsuki in a wretched mood whenever he sits there), “Is this...noodles?”
Katsuki shovels something on top of his meal, mixing them together, “And chicken.”
Shouto eyes the deceptively mundane dinner, wary for his health and also his mental state, “Did you have noodles back at home?”
“Right,” he worries his bottom lip, in no way encouraged, “Well, what did you put in it? Is it, um, safe.”
Katsuki grits his teeth, snarling, “Do you doubt me? You think I would be so foolish as to harm my treasure? Here, watch.”
He catapults a substantial bite down his throat, exaggerated moaning sounds (god save Shouto and his steadily pinking cheeks) included. He rubs his belly for effect.
Once he’s finished his (still) unconvincing display, Shouto takes a bite out of courtesy—and to his pleasant surprise, it’s good. Like, really good. He would check around the corner to see if Ochako’s hiding somewhere, but she’s shit at cooking even microwave ramen. Shouto knows this because he can sense his own kind. Terrible cooks have an immediately recognizable aura about them. The only exception, apparently, is Katsuki.
They eat through the rest, the two of them tapping their feet to the full hum of the radio in companionable silence. Whenever a softer ballad type of song starts up, Katsuki sways deep and smooth, and when guitar and drumming cuts in, his head bopping adjusts. Shouto savors both the taste of his food and Katsuki’s entire disposition with immense care, tucking both vivid sensory memories away forever.
Shouto eats until there’s nothing left and mourns the last bite, wholly sated by a homemade meal after a lifetime of either expensive cuisine or takeout, “That was enjoyable, Katsuki. I commend you. Though, I ask that you take me with you next time you go to the store.
Utensils clatter in the sink, “I didn’t.”
Shouto pushes his chair in and scrapes off his own plate. He’s glad Katsuki can finally work the sink without trying to fight the water, “I know. That’s what I’m saying; I’ll go with you next time—”
“No, treasure,” Katsuki interrupts, “I didn’t go to the store.”
A moment—and then pure, cold dread drops in Shouto’s stomach like a stick of dynamite. Oh god, he knew he should’ve asked before he ate.
“Katsuki,” he starts, slow as molasses, “Where is this meat from?”
Katsuki stuffs another chunk of “chicken” in his mouth, “It’s my game. I went hunting yesterday. The lady said I needed fresh meat.”
Shouto smiles shakily, resigned to the cruel fate of possibly having eaten Shiitake, “What lady?”
Katsuki motions towards the living room, “The one on your apparition. That charm is sturdy, by the way. I’d like to speak with the witch who enchanted it—none of my apparitions last that long.”
Shouto cranes his neck, “Do you mean...my television?”
“Is that what it’s called?” Katsuki scowls, “Bizarre name for a charm. Was the meal not enjoyable?”
“Before I answer,” Shouto sets his fork down and prays, “What type of meat is this? Specifically.”
“A noble chicken. His sacrifice will be remembered.”
“Oh,” Shouto rubs his temples. There’s not a farm anywhere near the fucking city, so he doesn’t really know how to counter that without grasping at straws, “So you killed a chicken. And cooked it. For me.”
“Indeed,” Katsuki drawls.
Shouto is helplessly, devastatingly charmed. It’s actually kind of...sweet? In a rather roundabout way—but sweet, nonetheless, “Whose chicken was it?”
“Nature’s?” he says—and of course. How could Shouto deign to expect a straight answer? Katsuki repeats, “Did you enjoy it?”
Shouto gives up. He’s probably better off not knowing.
“Yes, Katsuki. It’s delicious.”
“Obviously,” Katsuki preens, “Now, where is your sugar? I’m going to make us,” he pauses, flipping through a cookbook that Shouto wasn't even aware he owned, “Gingerbread cookies.”
Shouto tried to make those once with Touya; it ended with their sprinkler system ruining half his father’s documents—so he retreats, not looking to pay for water damages anytime soon, “Don’t burn anything.”
A hand on his shoulder stops him.
“Same to you, treasure,” Katsuki drops a whisk and a bowl of something in Shouto’s hands, “No labor, no fruits.”
A few hours later, before Shouto knows it, his hands don loose powdered sugar and strawberry sauce stains—and bigger and brighter than the rest, a carefree grin and his own disgustingly neon apron.
This is where Shouto taps out. He’s had enough, and there’s only so much his poor, unsuspecting soul can handle before he calls upon his only weapon.
“Treasure?” A sleep-scratchy voice drifts through from the living room, and Shouto visualizes the usual Saturday tradition: Katsuki tunneled inside his blankets and housing one cat on each pec, “You beckon me for once?”
Shouto gulps—and he loathes to wake Katsuki up, but duty calls, loud and clear and urgent, “Uh-huh. Come here a moment, please.”
There’s no eardrum-bursting cat-screams, so Katsuki has finally figured out how to remove Shiitake without disturbing her—no easy feat, as Shouto has about a fifty-fifty success rate with his own execution. He’ll ask for pointers later, when his world isn’t on the verge of demolition.
Then, the apartment’s floor creaks, and Kastuki sidles up to the doorway, nothing to cover his body other than a pair of Shorts that most certainly belong to Fuyumi—and Shouto will freak about how much of his giant thighs are on display later.
“Treasure?” Katsuki yawns, slinging his sword over his shoulder, all languid and drowsy and unfair, “What ails you?”
“The devil,” Shouto points, practically catatonic at this point, “Kill it.”
On the wall blocking Shouto’s path to his closet is a spider—long-legged and fuzzy and probably carrying like twenty diseases. It mocks Shouto, scurrying around in ritualistic circles.
Katsuki examines the eight-legged death machine himself, regarding it with no fear and way too much pleased curiosity for his liking, “Do you wish to feast on it?”
Shouto wants to bury himself in his own casket at the thought, “Never say that to me again. God, no. Kill it.”
Katsuki frowns and steps closer, wiggling his finger in front of actual pincers. He finally lives up to his insistence on the “barbarian” title, “I will banish it instead.”
He cups his hands and allows the bug to perch itself in the center of his palms. Shouto is trapped between cooing and vomiting. The former becomes more likely when Katsuki gives his farewell speech (not by much, but still).
“Be free, young one,” he whispers, unlatching the bedroom window and leaning out to gingerly place the creature on a berry-bush; he holds up one finger as if scolding a child, “But this is your final warning. Stay off this land, for it belongs to my treasure, and I cannot allow this trespassing any longer.”
Katsuki stands sigil until the spider crawls away entirely, and shuts the window.
Shouto feels his entire body relax, and he slumps onto his bed, “My knight in shining armor.”
“Sorry, treasure, I’m no knight,” Katsuki smirks like fire and brimstone and marshmallow-chocolate stains, and now that Shouto has the presence of mind to register legs, he’s screwed for the next century.
His heart just about does its own cartwheel routine. Maybe a springboard vault or two. He feels it kicking against his rib cage.
“Don’t you worry, barbarian. It’s just a saying.”
“Hmm,” Katsuki plops next to him, “Why are you daunted by those creatures anyway? They pose no visible threat.”
Shouto snorts, shucking off his shirt to huddle into his sheets, “Childhood trauma.”
“What—?” Katsuki meets his eyes, sparking and hot, jaw locked and fixated on something that Shouto cannot decipher right now—he just wants to go back to bed, “Treasure, did someone harm you—?”
“No it’s not like—well,” Shouto cannot open that can of worms at this time of day, “This particular fear stems from a movie.”
“A projection spell?”
Shouto suppresses his giggle. Katsuki’s continued misunderstanding of the fucking television bringing him more joy than it probably should, “Yeah. That thing. And this one is called Coraline—"
Shouto nibbles on a piece of charred popcorn, savoring that burnt taste that reminds him acutely of Touya’s impromptu horror movie nights—he was never a willing participant, but he ended up falling asleep anyway, not even waking to the inevitable gasps from Natsuo, who can’t take a jumpscare to save his life. Shouto could pass out right now too—all wrapped in that red cloak (the living room runs cold in winter, and Katsuki runs warm and giving) and this close to leaning on Katsuki’s chest. If he fake-slumbers maybe he could rest his chin there.
“Treasure,” Katsuki gestures at the screen, unimpressed, “They’re made of clay. They merely have buttons for eyes. I cannot comprehend your terror.”
Shouto flinches as his teeth grind against a stray kernel, “Premature overconfidence. Just...wait.”
“There’s no such thing for a king, fool,” Katuski nudges his shoulder, signature simper sliding into place easy as butter, and that really ought to be illegal—Shouto’s fragile, barbarian-susceptible heart can’t take it.
“What happened to ‘treasure’?”
“The title would be ill-fitting,” Katsuk fucking teases, and in a blink Shouto is fifty percent adrenaline without a ‘z’ in sight, “Only fools fear apparitions.”
Shouto breathes through his nose and maintains composure. He applauds his own iron resolve, “Whatever you say, Katsuki…”
Sure enough, two-and-a-half hours and a couple anthropomorphic spider-chase sequences later, Shouto’s the one laughing.
And as the sun dips into a sunset, Shouto finds himself curling into bed, very much not alone.
“Katsuki,” he whispers, amusement tinting the name in warmth.
“Hng,” the man in questions puffs his breath onto Shouto’s neck, sending pleasant little shivers down his spine. It’s nice in a way that Shouto has never felt before. Each exhale shoots honey slowly into his bloodstream, and soon enough he’ll be nothing but.
“Not to sound ungrateful or anything,” Shouto starts, pausing, and his alarm clock’s hand punctuates every second he doesn’t speak and every second he waits, savoring their position, “But why are you in my bed?”
Katsuki chuckles low and baritone, and oh fuck fuck fuck—“Don’t be daft. I’m guarding you.”
“Sorry,” Shouto says, not quite following for a number of reasons, “From what?”
“Spiders. Spider-mothers. Spider-mothers in the walls.”
Oh. Well that is—that’s just. Adorable.
“Interesting,” Shouto slits his eyes open and peeks over his shoulder, taking in Katsuki’s rigid posture and darting gaze. Cute. Shouto must be twisted, because vulnerability sure looks good on him, “Are you sure I’m the one that needs protection?”
Katsuki nods and wraps strong, scarred arms around him. He tucks his head into Shouto’s neck, lips brushing there, and Shouto’s breath practically crystallizes in his throat, “No one takes my treasure.”
Shouto hyper-focuses, tiny lightning strikes zapping the nape of his neck, jolts following each breath Katsuki takes—
And as his heartbeat slows down and those breaths even out, Shouto thinks.
He thinks that three weeks ago, his rib cage wouldn’t be so bruised from all the pounding his heart has done lately—and it wouldn’t be exhilarating to wake up in the mornings, unaware whether he’ll get breakfast and bed or a demand to walk around the block before he even brushes his teeth. He wouldn’t fall asleep every night brimming with contentment and purpose and—
He wouldn’t be this happy.
So here, in the aftermath of a mundane movie night, Shouto decides it for himself.
Despite the ludicrous past and otherworldly quirks, Katsuki means...a whole fucking lot to him. And if he never gets his memory back—or whatever Shouto fucked up on that fateful day, if anything (because now, after so many weeks of Fuyumi and her doctorate saying “no, there’s absolutely nothing wrong”, Shouto’s beginning to ponder…)—he will always have a place to stay. His boulder of a couch will forever be reserved for his favorite stranger, and he’ll even give up his bed if it means keeping this.
Shouto dozes to that thought—of sharing his bed with Katsuki, more than once—and he leans instinctively into a warm body, smiling wider than he has in a long, long time.
The Todoroki household stands lonely at the edge of a winding street, bushes and dollhouse trees lining its edges. Snow blankets every available surface, and ice freezes the bird fountains in place. The entryway is as threatening as ever—bold, engraved, and gated stone. He used to associate it with sharp words and stern orders and punishments. He’s been tugged through those gates by his ears more times than he can count, and the molded bars felt like prison bars once upon a time.
The times have changed, though, and a couple dozen months ago, their family began to piece itself together into a mismatched jigsaw—still not, never quite the full picture—but bits of different lives finally falling together after so many years apart. Fuyumi’s raging success in the medical field and her kid who can already run circles around Shouto, Natsuo’s little cuisine diner up north packed with customers every day, Touya’s degree hanging so close in the distance, Shouto’s Katsuki—they all come from vastly different backgrounds despite growing up together, and that used to stunt their interactions, but now...
Now, there’s a warmth about this place that was never there before. Now, it feels less like a cage and more like a home.
It’s in the flamboyant Christmas tree glinting through the curtains, topped by an Endeavor Corporations bobble-head—courtesy of Natsuo and Touya and the elegant tinsel that Fuyumi doesn’t use anymore. It’s in the already cozy smell of peppermint and burnt meat and the sounds of the radio switching through every iteration of Carol of the Bells—from piano covers, to opera, and then bass-boosted trap music remixes. It’s in the laughter, the lights, the fucking dog that would never have been allowed ever when he was a kid—
And more than anything, home becomes home when he rings the doorbell, and she smiles and hugs Shouto like an angel and says, perfectly, in a breath of sweet air—
“You must be Katsuki.”
Todoroki Rei leans lightly against the door, eyes and mouth and body crinkled into a happiness that Shouto is only recently accustomed to witnessing. He’s glad Katsuki can be here for it.
(A week-or-so ago, as the full, unrestrained vice of winter gripped their city, he finally caved in and spilt his foster-turned-adoption tale to his mother. He was only minutes to the sorry before she asked—nay, ordered him to bring his new friend to the family Christmas dinner—and she sounded a little choked up when Shouto informed her that he was already planning to).
In typical drama queen fashion, Katsuki falls to his knees, taking his mother’s hand and pressing his lips to it, “My queen.”
Silence ensues, followed by five-second-delayed pandemonium.
Touya breaks the spell, sliding out onto the porch, decorated more than the tree probably is—a reindeer sweater with glued-on lights that ought to come with an epilepsy warning. He takes one look at Katsuki and turns to Shouto, “Dude, what the fuck is that—”
“Touya,” Fuyumi calls from inside, balancing a plastic tin of potatoes and beans; her outfit screams Natsuo—who is a surprisingly mediocre knitter and most definitely crafted the lopsided Santa jumper Fuyumi’s wearing, “Say nothing.”
“Easy. You know me, ‘Yumi,” Touya mimes zipping his lips and redirects his sly grin to Shouto, hip cocked and radiating satisfaction. He has a few more piercings than the last time Shouto saw him, tens of blue-studded jewels and silver bits lining the cuffs of his ears, “Hey, baby bro. Who’s your boy-toy?”
“Not a toy,” Shouto says—and oh boy, he forgot about the buzz of constant annoyance that comes hand-in-hand with being in proximity of his brothers. His stomach flips; he hasn’t had the pleasure of feeling this particular fond annoyance in a while, “He’s my friend.”
“Oh, just a friend?” Touya cups his hands over his mouth in a makeshift megaphone, even though Katsuki is less than ten feet away, “Hey bigshot!”
Katsuki twists at the call, halting his worryingly long conversation with Shouto’s mother. He hopes she doesn’t whip out the album of baby pictures like she did with Natsuo’s last girlfriend. Not that Katsuki is his boyfriend. That’d be...ridiculous.
“Yeah—you, you fugly motherfucker,” Touya drawls, “What’s your deal with my kid brother?”
Katsuki cranes his neck carefully, trailing over Touya’s snow-white hair and rambunctious get-up—and he nods to himself, bowing quickly to Shouto’s mother before loudly declaring to almost the entire Todoroki household:
“He is my treasure.”
Now, Shouto doesn’t know for sure what blushing feels like.
It’s not really a habit of his, but the flow of heat to his cheeks points to that fact changing sometime soon. He swears his family's prodding, nosy stares are palpable, and a pin could drop right and the whole fucking neighborhood would know. He can see Natsuo’s shadow eavesdropping from the kitchen window. It’s not—embarrassing. It’s just.
Touya shatters the silence, perching on the railing as he props his palm under his chin and contorts like the fucking Cheshire Cat, “Interesting.”
“Oh, aren’t you the sweetest thing?” Rei coos, death-glaring Touya and pinching Katsuki’s cheek—which he actually allows—even enjoys by the looks of his blush, subtle and pink and positively delectable, “Don’t you think so, Natsu?
“Fuck no,” Natsuo’s voice carries through his window, and he performs a dramatic series of faux gags. Touya air-fist-bumps him.
Shouto rolls his eyes. He holds out a hand to prevent Katsuki from unsheathing the mini-sword he insisted on bringing. At least Shouto convinced him to hide it under his clothes via gingerbread bribery tactics (he immediately ate the one dubbed “Deku'' who wore a single M&M and a gratuitous blob of green-tea icing. The rest are all dollar-store renditions of various family members and friends and some figures from Katuski’s life—a misshapen dog that’s actually a dragon, a cackling pink woman with dainty wings, a yellow-haired boy in a skull-crossed pirate hat—they’re all quite entertaining, and Shouto can’t help but ponder these days about these seemingly fantastical characters Katsuki holds in such high regards).
Touya doesn’t miss the glint of metal under Katuski’s belt, and he stage-whispers to Shouto, “Is he like, y’know, all there? Did you adopt a freakshow, little bro?”
“No,” Shouto murmurs, swimming in his mind pondering, pondering, pondering—and he answers reflexively, “He’s merely a king.”
“Cool. Totally radical,” Touya nods, “So is that a sex thing, or—”
“Shouto!” Fuyumi interjects, smiling so wide that she had to have heard that last bit of their conversation, “I see you kept your little guest.”
Shouto startles himself, fond laugh escaping his lungs easy as nothing; it flows simple, bubbling into a cackle and tapering off in long intervals. He pictures how he woke up a couple days ago, wrapped tight in Katuski’s arms as if he was—well as if he was guarding him, holding something precious, and—he meets Katsuki’s eyes now, watching him carefully, red shining with such tenderness.
“I think he’s the one who kept me.”
Yeah. That sounds about right.
He doesn’t bother attempting to decipher the four-way suggestive glances that ricochet between his present family members after that declaration of marriage (at least that’s what Touya has already started calling it). Besides, their family dog wiggles his way onto the porch, and Shouto wouldn't miss Katsuki with a puppy for the world. Katuski introduces himself to everyone in the same fashion (Fuyumi gets the hand-kiss, Natsuo gets a hearty salute, and Touya also gets the hand-kiss after complaining obnoxiously about not getting the hand-kiss), and they all begin to file inside.
“Shouto,” his mother’s velvet voice stops him, “Will you take these in for me?”
“Of course,” he grabs a couple cardboard boxes from her. They’re bursting with handmade ornaments and year-old candy-canes that they’ve started collecting for the few Christmases they’ve spent together, and their arms brush. Shouto pauses under the arch of the door; he doesn’t know why but—
“Oh, Shou,” a head leans on his shoulder, and his mother’s eyes flutter closed; he places his free hand over her hair, “You like that boy.”
He doesn’t bother denying it. If there’s anyone who can work his brain better than he can, it’s her, “Mhmm.”
The porch light flickers. On and off and on and—
“You gonna do something about it?”
“Maybe,” Shouto hums. There’s a grocery list of reasons why and why not, and really, is he—he who’s never had a significant other in his life really cut out for the delightful enigma that is Bakugou Katsuki? The wind chimes whistle, and so do Shouto’s doubts, perpetually droning in the backrooms of his brain, so fixated on Katsuki and so unsure of how to deal with it.
“I like him,” his mother says.
Shouto huffs, “Really?”
“He’s got character.”
Shouto hears a strangled war cry from the house, followed by Touya’s hacking laugh, “That’s for sure.”
They both chuckle, low and cool—the way that’s just for the two of them. Natsuo has his belly-laughing and Touya has his snickers and Fuyumi has her uncontrollable giggles—but Rei and Shouto laugh the same: airy and rare and soft.
“And,” she thumbs over his cheeks, eyes delving into his, “You seem happy.”
Her hand falls, and she slips inside while Shouto ponders, the door swinging open for him to catch with his foot. He meanders in behind her, dropping off the ornament box and trailing his fingers over old picture frames and heirlooms perched around the house. He pauses on a familiar-yet-unfamiliar one of his parents—of his mother, rosy-cheeked and watching his father like he’s everything she’s ever wanted—and it’s a dynamic that’s old, but starting to burn bright again between two important people in his life. When he was younger, he always wished he would find someone worth looking at that way. And, well—
“Is this pheasant?” Katsuki’s demand kickstarts another bout of Touya’s cat-yowl-laugh.
“Absolutely,” Natsuo nods, and he waves Shouto over once he catches him in the doorway, “Dude, why haven’t you introduced us before? This guy is the best you’ve ever brought home to us.”
Shouto sinks into his seat, noting with overt joy that Katsuki managed to snag his father’s usual seat. He grumbles, “I’ve never brought anyone home in my life, Natsuo.”
“Neither have you, Touya,” Shouto raps his knuckles on the table, sipping his cider. It sizzles down his throat.
“Irrelevant, little fucker.”
Touya’s chair screeches, and Shouto’s entire body tenses at the noogie-giving stance Touya has dropped himself into. Katsuki observes the interaction, a rapt calm overwhelming his features in a way that obliterates Shouto, and he wants to throw himself at Katsuki’s chest to hide from Touya—well, mostly to hide in Katsiki’s chest, but—
But headlights flash through the windows, a familiar engine growling into the night. Weighted footsteps soon track through the house, and everyone falls silent—not scared per say, but off-kilter; it’s hard to kick old habits when it comes to these sort of things.
Eventually, his father comes into view, beard clean-shaven and scowl permanently etched in place. He greets them with a nod, but halts when he lands on the occupied head of the table.
“I wasn’t aware we were having more guests.”
It takes Katsuki one once-over before he offers a scowl of his own, and Shouto’s heart palpitates at the inherent sexiness of defying his dad, “Who is this man?”
“My father,” Shouto says. He rubs absentmindedly at his right side, privately teeming at the irritation plaguing the man. He’s gotten better, but he’ll if it isn’t nice to get under his skin.
“Tch,” Katuski crosses his arms, “He’s no royal.”
“Pardon?” Enji grits his teeth—Shouto promises he can hear them grind. Sniggers echo between Touya and Natsuo.
And then Katsuki grins—and manic and cocky and positively barbaric, repeating himself slowly as if speaking to a toddler, “You’re. No. Royal,” he enunciates, gesturing at Enji’s—face? Head?
Red eyebrow’s slant, and Shouto’s sure his father is about to commit a federal crime. He opens his mouth, growling:
“What does that even mean, boy?”
Shouto shrinks into his seat on instinct at hearing that name, dread curling in the pit of his stomach and wriggling. Katsuki eyes him carefully before spinning to his feet with a flourish.
His hand hovers over his hidden knife, “You wish to duel then, commoner?”
And just like that, Shouto’s fear loosens, replaced by a merry haze of how fucking ridiculous Katsuki is—and how much he loves it. The emotion buzzes through him, pleasant and bubbly.
To his overwhelming delight, his father’s lips turn down—so, so confused, and Shouto wishes he had a camera to capture his sputtering in high-quality video footage; it’s a rare sight. Katsuki continues to glare him down, and his resolve seems to waver every second the smackdown goes on. Eventually, the real head of house puts him out of his misery.
“Enji, dear,” Rei places a hand on his shoulder, a very eerie smile adorning her lips. The room’s temperature chills, “Let Katsuki do as he pleases. He is a guest after all. Shouto is quite fond of him.”
“Yeah, lay off him, dad,” Touya yawns loudly, but Shouto can feel the laughter he’s sucking in, “He’s just like that, apparently.”
“Yeah, dad,” Natsuo nudges Touya, “Shouto is quite fond of him.”
Enji processes this information at a snail’s pace, because his brain is about that size probably. Shouto doesn’t blame him in this instance, though. If there’s anything he fears more than his rage, it’s his mother’s passive aggression—and he also can’t find it in himself to be embarrassed by the Shouto is quite fond of hims, since, yeah. That’s kind of how it’s going.
Easy as that. Enji begrudgingly settles in the fold-up chair adjacent to Fuyumi’s husband—the one they had to borrow from Natsuo because there weren’t enough fancy dining chairs. The image is joyous. He eases into what seems to be a very one-sided conversation with Fuyumi’s daughter about beluga whales.
When the old man for sure focuses on the other half of the table, Touya suddenly grabs Shouto’s shoulders and shakes, expression alight with a pure pleasure that he only ever gets from Enji’s displeasure; he whispers, “Shouto, marry him. Marry him now.”
Natsuo nods his agreement as Shouto flounders, patting Katsuki on the back, “You are a national hero, dude. Welcome to the family.”
Katsuki slaps him back, hard, and his satisfied air—like the cat that got the fucking cream—is just so.
Ugh. Shouto is really fucking hopeless, huh?
The organized commotion after the averted Todoroki-civil-catastrophe runs smoothly—sweetly, even. Natsuo and Fuyumi’s husband bring out their meal, oven mitts holding hams and chicken and his mother’s home-grown mashed potatoes that Shouto would end it all for. Katsuki manages to exceed his expectations and not preemptively devour his meal, probably because he watched some Dining Manners: 101 video in the recommended margin after his now-daily how-to cooking videos.
And, to Shouto’s astonishment—it’s all entirely...normal. Comfortable.
Fuyumi’s daughter runs circles under the table, knocking into knees and smearing food on Enji’s luxury pants like a saint. At some point, everyone ends up with some iteration of festive headwear—Shouto with reindeer antlers and Katsuki with a Santa Hat and Enji with bunny ears wrapped in Christmas lights. The food tastes divine—and yeah, there are occasional clipped comments and awkward silences, but it’s almost like their severity dulls under the full brunt of holiday cheer. It helps that Enji’s reprimands meet both ‘haha, that’s funny, dad’ from Touya and this year’s additional ‘silence, commoner’ from Katsuki.
By the time Shouto finishes his pie and frankly delicious Katsuki-made gingerbread cookies, he would almost say he’s looking forward to next year, and that knocks the wind out of him. How long has it been since his familial apprehension has abated entirely? Fuck, like...never.
As the meal winds to a close and everyone’s chit-chat filters towards the living room for presents, Shouto excuses himself. He makes his way down winding halls that he knows like the back of his hand, and nearly ascends to the stratosphere when a figure darts in front of him.
Shouto sighs in relief and internally warms at the tipsy flush to Katsuki’s cheeks and his remarkably lopsided hat, “Yes, Katsuki?”
Red eyes track him calmly, flicking up-and-down and sideways. Katsuki crowds him closer to the restroom door, and Shouto’s mind short-circuits when a rough palm rests against cheek.
Katsuki nods upward, “I read on the apparition that these poison berries call for a kiss.”
And Shouto follows his lead, finding above them a string of—oh .
A hanging piece of mistletoe. It certainly wasn’t there before, and Touya’s sly simper flashes through his brain, and it’s…
Quickly followed by the fact that Katsuki kind of sort of just asked to kiss him, holy shit. Objectively, Shouto’s been in more perilous situations, but the burst of adrenaline swimming over his whole body suggests that he’s atop the drop of a rollercoaster and he’s about to go down, down, down, and—
“Shall we?” Katsuki shuffles his boots as if he isn’t tipping the balance of the universe right now, Santa-hat puff swaying and brushing over his shoulders. The glow of multicolor fairy lights paint his face handsomely, is all Shouto can really offer besides his monosyllabic verbal response, which is just:
Katsuki preens, “Speechless for your king, treasure?”
This man is awful and terrible and just about the best thing to ever happen to Shouto, fuck.
“Um,” he stutters, mouthing his words but jumbling them in his throat.
Suddenly Katsuki furrows his brow, and Shouto will pay a deity bring back the fucking—the look he had before, dropped in honey and sugar and caramel, “What, are Northerners unfamiliar with the term?”
“No!” Shouto blurts, and his skin boils, “No, no. We have that. Please, continue.”
And then Katsuki softens again as Shouto morphs into putty right then and there; he presses his pretty, pretty hands over Shouto’s wool-wrapped arms, prying them gently away from his waist, and Shouto’s lips part minutely, waiting and waiting and—
And they never come.
Instead, Katsuki cradles his jaw like it’s the most precious jewel, and rests his forehead against Shouto’s, the tips of their noses nudging together. It’s strange; Shouto knows this isn’t exactly what he had in mind, but Katsuki is—
He’s blissful—content and calm and breathing in and out at the same time as Shouto. This is so little, and yet it feels like everything. Shouto follows along, entirely overwhelmed by this single point of contact. It flows through him like snow, piling on his bones and nipping at his toes.
He wants to stay here until the end of time—and it may not be forever, but as they stand in the dim lights of his family’s hallway, it sure feels like it.
Shouto’s head hurts on the best of days, but his obnoxious doorbell coupled with a shadow of a hangover at—he glances at his clock—fucking five in the morning really makes it burn. Katsuki snores soundly at his ear, likely clocked out from alcohol and the unbelievable amount of ham he ate last night at the dinner. His sleeping face is a particular rarity that Shouto indulges in for a moment—Katsuki tends to rise before him, bolting around the house with a guard dog’s efficiency, pots and pans clattering as he pulls up a cooking video to follow to a tee.
Shouto takes the loss and stumbles out of bed, careful not to disturb Katsuki as the doorbell continues to pierce insistently at his eardrums. He manages to not trip over Shiitake or Debbie, though, so at least he has that going for him.
He doesn’t bother using the peephole, merely yanking the door open to scold some kid and tell them to fuck off so he can go back to sleep. Maybe when he wakes up he can ask Katsuki why they forehead touched last night, and if they can do it again sometime soon and then forever. He also might deign to kiss him for real, if he can work up the courage for it—
His thought process screeches to a halt as big, green doe eyes materialize right in front of him. They’re wide and curios and all-too bright.
Shouto coughs, “What the—”
“Hi!” a boy—man? His face is soft and pudgy-looking, a sharp contrast to his startlingly large and stocky body, and it’s quite baffling—stands at the door, grinning way too wide for this time of day, or ever, “Is there any chance I could come inside?”
“Please?” Shoulders shrug, and foggy breath flows into the air. Shouto hears his teeth chatter.
Shouto turns to let him in, if only because he’s already cold himself from the stray wind chill, and he’s a couple steps indoors. The poor man must be shivering down to his bones. He flicks the lights on, grabbing the closest blanket—one reserved for Katsuki on days he opts to peruse Fuyumi’s family-wide Netflix account.
Shouto hands over the blanket and soaks in his appearance.
Snow clumps in green hair, and Shouto spots a couple stray twigs clinging to his clothes—clothes, by the way, that strike him as an odd decision, even with his Ochako-certified terrible fashion sense. A...silk button up? Gloves and beads and leather pants—he almost looks the same as...
Shouto pads into the kitchen and runs the coffee machine. He shuffles through the animal-themed mugs Katsuki keeps having him buy at swordpoint. He holds it out, “You must be freezing. I’ll grab you some spare clothes.”
“Thank y—holy gods,” the man’s face morphs into abject shock mid-sentence, and he flings himself to his knees so aggressively that Shouto lets out an ‘oh’, “Prince! King? I’m so, so, so sorry! I offer my humblest apologies—if I had known I would never have spoken so flippantly—”
“What,” Shouto peers down nervously, “Are you okay?”
“No!” he practically wails, face planted in the floor, “I’ve gone and disrespected a prince! Please, is there anything I can do to earn your forgiveness, your highness?”
The snowstorm picks up. It beats harsh against the windows.
“You too?” Shouto holds his hands out uselessly, both nearly limp with confusion and his rush of pondering—because this might be proof that Katsuki isn’t spewing bullshit—and Shouto has been suspicious for a while now, and—“I’m no prince. So please, stand.”
He does not stand.
“No need to lie and mask my embarrassment, your highness,” he blindly waves at Shouto’s upper half, and he literally sounds like he’s about to cry, “I know a royal’s hair when I see it.”
Shouto tugs at a strand, “Is that what it is?”
And then, in a flash—the man is on his heels peering at Shouto less like he’s a ruler and more like he ought to be under a microscope, “Does that hair not mark royalty here?”
Shouto backs up a little, “Multicolor?”
“No, your right side. Red marks a commoner, actually. That’s how I mistook your status earlier,” he dissolves into race-pace muttering, and Shouto can hardly any of it, “Though, if that identification does not matter in this time—”
In this time? Interesting...Shouto reaches out the moment the man snaps his fingers, and they both ask—
“Where are you from—
“Have you seen a—”
A pause. Shouto blinks. Green-eyes blinks.
“Sorry,” Shouto bows slightly and folds his hands in his lap, “You go first.”
The man turns beet red, profusely returning the bow, “If you wish it, your high—um.”
“I’m Izuku!” Freckles move as a miraculous grin overtakes him—and Shouto has probably never met someone so expressive in life; it’s giving him whiplash.
He stands, pours three mugs of coffee, and hands one to Izuku, “A pleasure to meet you”
“Likewise!” Izuku beams, sipping and immediately cringing and sticking his tongue out.
“It’s hot,” Shouto offers.
Izuku nods in some form of acknowledgement. Eventually he works himself out, inhaling deep and wringing his hands as he squares himself towards Shouto.
“Okay, so. I’m looking for a man."
Shouto nods along.
“He has blond hair and tattoos like mine, and uh...anger issues probably. Definitely,” he rolls up a sleeve to reveal deep greens and inks so they look like scars—or maybe they are scars, just wrapped in swirling colors, “He came here a moon-or-so ago. His name is Bakugou Katsuki.”
Shouto’s mouth falls open a bit. A slew of thoughts cross his mind: is this a prank, is Katsuki going to leave him for this angel faced man-child, what the hell—does this mean Katsuki hasn’t been tripping about his ‘barbarian’ persona...? He tangles himself in the different trains, and he wants to ask something, anything, but—
Oh, god. First of all, that voice does things to Shouto—especially after last night—and second of all: this is Deku. Deku like the deformed gingerbread man Deku that Katsuki has some sort of twisted rivalry with and ate out of spite.
Shouto glances back and forth between them—though he lingers extra long on Katsuki and his very shirtless chest—brain sputtering and falling apart at the seams.
After the shock wears off, Katsuki sprints so that he blocks Shouto from Deku’s view, tucking him behind his back, “What the fuck are you doing here, pea-brain?!”
Izuku—or Deku, or whoever’s entire personality shifts before his eyes, crossing his arms and standing so that he can reprimand Katsuki like a mother hen, “‘Fuck’? Is that some sort of temporal swear, Kacchan?”
Shouto nearly chokes. Kacchan?
“Temporal?” Katsuki’s words switch to deadly calm, and his typical murder aura begins to emanate, “What’s that supposed to mean?”
“Kacchan, don’t play stupid.”
“I’ve never been stupid in my life, Deku,” Katuski bares his teeth, “What do you mean temporal?”
Izuku observes Katsuki for a few moments, searching him—and he promptly goes sheet-white, “Oh, gods.”
Katsuki marches over to him, bare footsteps echoing through the apartment, “De-ku. Where did the hag send me?”
“Kacchan,” Izuku scrambles back, sweating and flapping his hands about. He runs into the couch, falling against the cushions so that Katsuki looms menacingly over him, “Um. Where do you think she sent you?”
Katsuki mechanically motions at the window where ice has frosted it over, followed by Shouto’s hair, “The North.”
Izuku pales further somehow, “Oh.”
“Is this,” Katsuki inhales shakily, “Not the North?”
“No, um,” Izuku gulps, “No. It’s…she must’ve forgotten to tell you, or you really pissed her off this time—ack!”
He fumbles frantically as Katsuki grips him by the shirt, and Shouto really tries not to be jealous. It works only due to his intrigue.
“Where are we, Deku?” Katsuki whispers in a tone that Shouto has never heard before. Deku cowers, but manages to put himself together enough to shove at Katsuki, who surprisingly doesn’t blow up. They stare each other down, and Deku opens his mouth.
“We’re,” he sighs, rubbing his neck, “A couple thousand years into the future, at least—possibly a different world altogether. We haven’t made the proper tracking spell for it yet. Magic hasn’t completely died out, but their technology is so different that I have to wonder—I brought a scroll so I can collected some data earlier, so I can bring you back now. Though, I can't believe you didn't notice—”
“Katsuki,” Shouto interrupts the spiel, reeling from this onslaught of mixed information, “Who is this man?”
Unfortunately, when Katuski turns, it appears he’s also going through a crisis in equal magnitude to—if not greater than the one Shouto has just been slingshotted into. It’s uncharacteristic, and it makes Shouto want to press their heads together just to bring back that peacefulness—
“Katuski, did you really not—?” Izuku prods at him, but halts when he glances over Katsuki’s shoulder at Shouto. He breathes, soft and stunned, “Necklace.”
Shouto fingers at his neck, the worn rubber soothing his jittery fingertips.
“Oh, is he—” Izuku’s eyes have gone wider than saucers, and he practically tackles Katsuki, stammering, “Is he your bride, Kacchan?”
Shouto squints. Did he...hear that right?
“He’s—” Katsuki peers at Shouto and seems to realize something, face dropping and then switching to a cool lack of emotion—and it’s as if a cog has clicked into place kickstarted something Shouto has never wanted to see, “He’s...a friend.”
And Shouto’s stomach just drops, body wilting in on itself a bit. Shit, he should have known that he didn’t have a—
“Don’t lie to my face, Kacchan,” Izuku scowls, hands falling on his hips, “I wouldn’t be here otherwise.”
Katsuki snarls, pointedly avoiding Shouto’s entire half of the room, “What?”
“That’s why the Grand Witch sent you here, you fool! She wouldn’t have had me follow unless you’d fallen in lo—”
“Deku!” Katsuki covers his mouth, mumbling so that Shouto has to strain his ears to hear his words, “I am—it’s not...Our rituals don’t mean the same to him, okay?”
And he just. He looks so heartbroken—almost how Shouto feels—and against his best judgement, he scoots closer, hand searching for hands.
“Katsuki, talk to me,” Shouto pleads, “What is this about?”
“I just…” pain pools in red, and Katsuki doesn’t meet him halfway, or even at all, “Nothing. Deku, take me back.”
“Wha—” Izuku gasps and fumbles his entire being, hands jotting with his words as he grips at Katsuki’s locked shoulders, “Kacchan! We can’t just leave him! Then this whole thing amounts to nothing!”
“Well, he can’t come with us, now can he—?” Katsuki’s voice cracks, and Shouto wants nothing more than to hug him so hard that he falls asleep comfortably—and he just...he can’t let whatever the hell this is end here.
Shouto hardly understands the implications of a single thing Izuku has said, and even if it only means maintaining their friendship, Shouto will take the risk regardless. He clears his throat, signing a warrant for something, the only thoughts on his mind plagued by sharp teeth and tattoos and a billowing cape and—
Katsuki and Izuku simultaneously shift their attention to him. He tries again, elaborating.
“I’ll come with you,” he says, resolute—as if there’s any other fucking option, “Wherever you’re going.”
“Trea—Shou—you...” Katuski drags his hand stone-heavy over his face, still despondent, “It’s not...We’re going very far from home.”
Shouto stands, remaining firm, “I don’t care.”
Katsuki matches him, “Deku, tell him why he can’t come.”
“Kacchan!” Izuku grips Katsuki’s wrist, distressed, “But...he can—”
Izuku withers this time—maybe because all that bravado and anger is gone, and in their wake is the most un-Katsuki thing Shouto can fathom: resignation.
“Your High—Shouto. You’ll be stuck there for a couple of moons. Temporal spells are fickle...it’s hard to explain—but moving a soul through time requires adept hands and a well of collected magic energy, and it may take longer since we’re bringing three people back right now, and—“
“That’s fine,” Shouto says. Nothing fucking makes sense other than Katsuki, and he’s rerouted his entire mind so that it’s one-track, “I don’t care.”
“You don’t know what you’re saying,” Katsuki studies his collarbone, as if too scared to look him in the eyes.
“Just—” Shouto begs Izuku, and he’ll get on his knees if he has to, “Don’t leave. Please.”
“No,” Katsuki growls, “You’ll regret it.”
“I won ’t, Katsuki! I—”
“Kacchan!” Izuku squeaks, and Shouto jolts because—
His apartment glows—legitimately blooms in lime-colored lightning and glows in the dark—and it’s all coming from—
“Deku! Halt this shit!”
“What does that even mean!” Izuku scowls—and Shouto would assume he’s on fire—but he’s not screaming in agony, only emitting a strange neon light, “I can’t stop! The Grand Witch spelled me to return after I made contact with you.”
“Kacchan!” Izuku slaps his arm, but the hand lingers, “Hold on to me!”
Katsuki obliges, forearm meeting Izuku’s—and the glow begins to flash in pulses, each one growing brighter and brighter and—
“Katsuki,” Shouto holds his hand out, hoping, no more fucking pondering in sight—
The lightning swirls around the rooms, passing through furniture and walls and leftover gingerbread cookies—
Katsuki only offers him a dead smile.
And as the bright lights crescendo, Shouto’s heart does the same, his body moving on its own. He leaps at Izuku, grabbing onto his leg like it’s a lifeline—and it is—it is. Katsuki’s cry and the final flash blend together—
And the three blink out of existence, suddenly somewhere far, far away.
Shouto floats, basking in the sensation of whatever the fuck happened and slowly but surely accepting that they weren’t fucking kidding, and he might’ve just travelled through time.
(As he drifts, voices meld around him:
“Katsuki!” one of them says at the same time a hand slaps insistently against his cheek, long and edged with sharp nails; the voice is female, but still deep and scratchy, as if hoarse from overuse, “I stand by it. Your bride is far too pretty for you!”
A crash, “He’s not my bride! Unhand him, hag!
“Hah?! The spell only sends you back once you’ve taken one, fool! Don't question my abilities!” the voice screeches, and Shouto’s unconscious but it still hurts like his eardrums might burst, “Did you even present him with a necklace?!”
“Are you incompetent? I did.”
“Don’t talk to me like that,” the woman scolds, humming for a moment, “Well, did he take it?”
Another crash, “Yes.”
“Then what in the gods’ name is the issue?”
“The issue is that you sent me centuries into the future, where necklaces mean jack shit—”
“You kept complaining about none of the North’s royalty being good enough for you, you ungrateful bastard! I was just helping you along!”
“You helped nothing!” this time there’s a thwump, and a lapse of silence, “Just...can you leave me be?”
“I said leave.”
Footsteps trickle away, and Shouto falls further into darkness—and a weight presses against his side, strong and sweet and as it should be…)
And then, he opens his eyes for real, blinking sleep away. He reaches behind himself instinctively, pausing when he finds nothing there.
Oh. Shouto blinks. So it really wasn’t a dream.
“How do you feel?!” Izuku’s panicked face is just about all he can see with how far the man leans forward, “I’m so sorry! Normally people don’t react that badly to the temporal spell! Or, well. It’s only been used twice...so maybe that’s just a symptom...Either way! I’m terribly sorry that you fell sick—if I had known you were going to latch on like that I would have done everything in my power to stop you from getting hurt and—”
“Izuku,” Shouto says.
“And—and Katsuki is going to absolutely obliterate me because I made him go home for proper rest, and of course you wake up now...Oh gods—and I’m not saying that’s your fault. I would never—I’m just a bit nervous to see his reaction—and I just—mmfphf—”
“Izuku,” Shouto puts his hand on the man’s mouth, just like Katsuki did...well, yesterday? But he guesses that isn’t quite right anymore, “Please shut up.”
“Sorry,” Izuku says, but it comes out like ‘smhrrry’.
The both lock into a silent stasis for a moment, and Shouto eyes the room with a detached amazement, brain working at twenty-five-percent speed for all he has to take in.
The first thing he notices are flowers next to his bed—orange and gold and...shimmery? It feels like gazing into the heart of a fire, and he can’t stare at them for more than a second without a migraine prodding at his forehead. He squeezes his eyes shut, inhales, and redirects his attention to everything else.
Bottles, baubles, bubbles—they’re fucking everywhere.
Every color imaginable is tucked away on shelves, even some Shouto is sure he’s never seen before, and if he thinks about them too long, they double his already-existing headache. Pendulous crystals all-too reminiscent of Ochako’s place line the walls and door frames, twisting in mesmerizing movements. The walls themselves are made of...rock? Marble? Something with smooth carvings etched into every square of brick-stone, and if he wasn’t on the verge truly panicking, he would peruse each little picture the way he does Ochako’s ten-dollar “fool-proof fortune telling cards'' pinned to her bulletin boards.
He falls on one near the opposite side of the room, where another bed with silver-grey sheets is perched, and it’s surface depicts a boy with a sword carefully sheathed at his side, a too-large cape trailing behind him. The square adjacent has a prowling wildcat, sharpened fangs and rippling muscles. A few to the right shows a man raising his weapon to the skies, details left out—save for familiar tattoos and a victorious smile, and—
“Pretty, aren’t they?”
Shouto snaps out of his trance, turning to Izuku, who runs his fingers over a different section of more faded pieces. These ones display a woman, a large staff clutched in her hand in every image.
“It’s for royalty,” Izuku explains, glancing back at him, “They’re all over the castle. They sort of...tell our history through art—it’s a long-time tradition, from what I’ve studied.”
“Who’s that one?” Shouto points to where Izuku’s fingers trace over sharp lines.
“Oh. Our queen,” Izuku chuckles, “Though she prefers ‘Grand Witch’. She’s, ah, not much of a traditionalist.”
Shouto nods even though logic is backhanding him, ordering to pinch himself until he wakes up on his couch in his own little apartment, adventure out of sight. He refrains and figures this is the type of situation that calls for suspension of disbelief—and, well, the mere thought of this being all a dream grips his heart and squeezes. And then, fleeting, the thought of Katsuki’s grey expression however long ago, resigned and sad and—
He hobbles out of bed, eliciting alarmed humming from Izuku and a vague ache in his ankles. He waddles to the other side of the room, and sensations begin to return to his body again.
“And who is this?” he rests his palm over the warrior boy, already well aware of the answer. He dips his finger into a chipped divot of stone.
“Our prince,” Izuku fetches a glass cup from one of the shelves and hands it to Shouto, “You've met him once or twice. Uh, here. Drink.”
“Prince?” Shouto peers at the unappetizing liquid, all gooey and purplish and lumpy, fuck that. He chokes it down and is surprised to find it tastes like strawberries—or maybe it’s blueberries? “He told me quite vehemently he was the king.”
Izuku barks out a laugh, “He would say that. He’s the king-in-training, I guess. He has to complete his apprenticeship before he can have a coronation.”
“Right,” Shouto nods. He’s heard coronation in a Disney movie at some point probably, “And what does this apprenticeship entail?”
Izuku lights up, “It’s a long process, believe it or not! There’s a lot of conquering and paperwork regarding treaties that needs to happen. Witches examine the candidate's state of mind, they’re trained in ten-or-so ancient sword-fighting techniques, they drink from this big tree in the Queen’s Orchard, and—uh,” he shuffles his feet, awkwardly facing the wall, bumping into an end table, and apologizing to it.
Izuku rubs his neck and gestures at Shouto’s neck, “They have to take a bride.”
Shouto presses his internal screaming into a box and tucks it away under his suppressed Katsuki-worrying.
“You mentioned that before. Or, um. Later,” he mumbles, fiddling with his fingers as he searches for the right words, “In the future. What exactly is a bride?”
Izuku’s brightens in a way that makes Shouto think he’s under constant scrutiny—that this man has a notepad of organized bullet points dissecting every word Shouto utters.
“Do you not have brides? Interesting,” he strokes his chin, tapping it like a mad fucking scientist. Shouto finds himself a tad intimidated as Izuku holds up a finger, “Brides are essentially a mating custom for us. We court the spouse that we’d like until they accept our offer. It usually starts with,” he waves again at Shouto, “a necklace.”
Shouto gapes—well, no. He parts his mouth slightly, but it’s essentially the same thing. What.
“Are you implying that Katsuki was...courting me?”
“Uh,” Izuku smiles nervously, “Um. Yes.”
That’s a good one, Shouto coughs in amusement, speed-walking back to his bed, “Unrealistic.”
“Wait, no!” Izuku catches him by the wrist and immediately lets go, mortified, “Sorry! Oh—gods I am so—gods. Okay. I mean to say I mean no disrespect whatsoever, sir. Your highness. But I think you’re entirely mistaken.”
“Seriously, are you alright—?” Shouto observes this train wreck and wonders how the hell such a skittish personality can handle Katsuki. And then he wonders about Katsuki in general and is it too much to ask for a note or something, and—
“Yes! Just—” Izuku blurts. He opens his mouth to say something and then promptly snaps it shut, instead manually maneuvering Shouto so that they both face each other on the bed.
“Okay,” Izuku slaps his hands together and rests them on his forehead, “Tell me about you and Kacchan.”
Christ, if Shouto somehow fixes his entire relationship with Katsuki he’ll call him Kacchan just to see the look on his face.
“Izuku, it’s alright. I’m not going to take him from you—”
“Please silence yourself. Sir. Uh, your highness—with all due respect, I would sooner castrate myself,” he deadpans, or maybe he’s actually dead serious, “Just. Start from the beginning.”
“I really don’t think that’s necessary—”
Izuku doesn’t relent, “What does he call you, then? Your first name?”
Shouto’s skin sizzles like a pan, “No.”
Izuku cocks his head, waiting.
“He usually just says,” Shouto trails off, murmuring, “‘Treasure’.”
Shouto gets half-a-second of reprieve before Izuku is practically on top of him, “What.”
“Is that weird?”
“Is that—?” Izuku wiggles his lips like a fish, fumbling for words, “Yes! That’s—gods, it’s a term of extreme endearment. It’s so sappy, though, and I never expected Kacchan to use it. That’s—"
He breaks into a beam, wholesome and happy, and the knot in Shouto’s chest is starting to loosen, because maybe—
“That’s incredible, Shouto! We weren’t sure about the execution—this type of magic is still foriegn to us—but if the return spell worked as it was supposed to, Kacchan could only come back home under one condition.”
Shouto’s heart ricochets back-and-forth, seesawing, backflipping, trouncing his doubt now—and maybe has turned into oh fuck, “What’s that?”
“Love, Shouto,” Izuku’s pure joy is what sways him, and here Shouto vows to mend this misunderstanding—fuck anyone who gets in his way, “He had to have fallen in love.”
And so, with the help of a surprisingly devious Izuku, Shouto forms a plan.
When Izuku said castle, he meant a fucking castle.
Within the confines of the infirmary, the whole “time travel” thing hadn’t registered with quite the same bravado as it does now. Now it’s not just potions and Izuku’s overt and scientific interest in a Rainbow Loom to remind him how far from home he is.
Now it’s a grand hall and chandeliers and lavish dresses. It’s in the way marvelous stained glass divides the different rooms, how decoration adorns every available source, presumably for the festival Izuku spoke of with stars in his eyes—and oh, a man with actual wings, as of just now. Shouto bumps into him on accident, left on his own by Izuku, who pointed in this direction and said with profound certainty, “Kacchan will be moping that way.”
“Sorry ‘bout that!” The man offers a grin so wide that Shouto worries idly for his skin. His wings, scaly red and shiny-looking, shiver with his greeting, and Shouto cowers a bit because he’s never seen someone so...gargantuan in real life. His shoulders could rival Katsuki’s and his waist a bodybuilder's, “I haven’t seen you around before! I’m Eijirou!”
He grimaces at the unexpected frequency of this man’s friend-making volume. The appearance does not match the spirit, “Hello. I’m Shouto. I’m from...out of town.”
“Are you a Northern prince?” Eijirou asks animatedly, “What kingdom is your bloodline?”
“Oh, uh, I’m not a prince—”
“A king, then! That’s amazing!” And then he says, matter-of-factly, “I’m a king too!”
“No, I’m—” Shouto pauses, suddenly feeling like he ought to bow or something, “What.”
“Yeah!” Eijirou bounds forward, wings now spazzing about, and Shouto spots an actual tail swishing behind him, spiked like a bear trap, “I’m King of the Dragons! But I’m here to spend some time with my friends before the festival ceremony.”
Shouto watches the tail raptly. This isn’t fair; he’s weak, “That’s nice. Have you seen—”
“Hey!” Eijirou gets all up on his face with this hopeful expression, quite similar to Debbie, “You wanna come with me?”
Shouto humors him out of feline-pity in spite of his desperation to hunt Katsuki and force him to listen, “To the festival?”
“No, silly!” He bellows out a truly terrifyingly amicable laugh, “To see my friends.”
Shouto remains ramrod stiff compared to the overall looseness of Eijirou, entirely out of place and very fucking confused, “Why would you want me there?”
Eijirou flinches, eyebrows turning down, and Shouto feels like he kicked a small woodland animal, “Are we not friends?”
“Huh,” Shouto says. If he counts backwards, he met Eijirou maybe...a minute ago? At most. And yet, he feels a disproportionate pang of guilt out of nowhere. He backtracks, “No—uh. Yes. Take me to your friends.”
What the fuck. This is terrible. Shouto has no time for niceties, but but a split-second later Eijirou is dragging him down the spacious hall, rattling on about this Winter Festival, and Shouto can only focus on two things: this was the direction Izuku was pointing in anyways, so who cares, and also tail—
“Watch your step, Shouto!” Eijirou grabs his arm, opening an ornate door with his other hand and pulling him down a winding staircase until—“Here we are!”
The room is small but stunning, obviously some sort of meeting area with a velvet-topped table in the center of it. There are jewels embedded into the woodwork.
“Ei!” a blur of yellow catapults himself into Eijirou’s arms, and the two spin around in circles for a couple seconds. Once they slow, the blur grabs Eijirou by the face, his blond hair reminding Shouto painfully of his own longings, “I missed you! Who is—?”
“Gods, where have you been?” A petite but stocky woman offers her own hug to Eijirou. Translucent wings lie perched on her back. Shouto stares—they’re beautiful, just like Eijirou’s jagged ones...and the other boy is wearing a fucking pirate hat, and the moment Shouto stops to ponder for second, he realizes—
A dragon, a fairy, a skull-crossed hat, a blob of a gingerbread cookie dubbed ‘Deku’—stories and anecdotes about a life that Shouto had assumed to be fabricated but can only be the bolded truth at this point. These people are indubitably Katsuki’s, and that means—
He shutters to a stop, cogs stalling and heart doing the same. His limbs are jello and his mind zeroes in on that voice.
Katsuki steps closer into view, no red cloak this time—only fucking light battle armor that shoots Shouto straight in his brand new achilles heel. He starts towards Shouto, almost as if on instinct, but then falters for a moment before situating himself next to Eijirou, and Shouto just wants to reach out and—
“Are you okay?” Katsuki asks, but it’s all wrong and scripted and bland and tastes like fucking nothing—
“Quite,” Shouto grinds his teeth, nerves coiling in his veins, “Katsuki, I…”
“Good. We will have the temporal spell ready soon,” Katsuki recites, “You can stay with Deku until the Grand Witch can send you back.”
Eijirou and Denki fix Katsuki with varying concerned looks—and the woman glares at Shouto so hard he thinks it burns his bones. He probably deserves it. If he had just talked to Katsuki, he would’ve been in his arms a month ago. So, well, maybe he can amend that now if he—
Shouto inhales, rounding on Katsuki.
“Why the fuck would I stay with Izuku when you’ve been living with me for a month now?”
Red eyes blow wide in shock, probably because that’s the loudest Shouto has ever spoken in his life, “I don’t have time for—I am a king.”
“Oh, really?” Shouto crosses his arms and taps his foot, “I heard you’re just a prince.”
“Hah?!” Katsuki’s ears pinken, “Who told you that?! Was it Deku? I’ll obliterate him.” He rolls up his sleeves and beelines for the door, and Shouto can sense the uncertainty of his movements—the sign that this is nothing more than a tactical retreat. Shouto will stop him via force if he has to (somehow, with his far physically inferior body), but Denki beats him to it, latching onto Katuski’s leg like a savior koala.
Denki flutters his eyelashes, “Who is he, Kacchan? He’s very pretty.”
And Katsuki instantaneously growls, grabbing Denki by the scruff of his shirt and forcing him to meet his simmering gaze and commanding, “Silence, leech.”
Denki observes him for a moment, feet barely grazing the ground, before he smirks. Molasses oozes from the smile, and Shouto finds himself reminded of Touya and his mischievous brand of shenanigans.
“Jealous, aren’t we, dear prince?” Denki sings.
Katsuki’s features tighten in—not anger, more like frustrated sheepishness, “Shut up.”
“Don’t be mean, Katsuki!” Eijirou chides, pulling Shouto to his chest and puffing a lick of fire from his mouth, “We’re friends!”
“Get your hands—” Katuski breaths in sharp through his nose, “When did you even meet—?”
“Oh, Kacchan!” Denki calls, poking Shouto’s cheek. The pink woman pinches his other one.
Katsuki scowls at Eijirou—no, Denki—everyone, probably, “What?”
Denki, who apparently fears no god, grabs Shouto’s head and twists it, examining him as if he’s a doll. He poses with Shouto’s cheek pressed against his, slyly taunting Katsuki, “He wouldn’t happen to be the bride Izuku keeps alluding to, would he?”
This truly sets Katsuki off. His posture crumbles and his expression shatters, and the buoyant veil of humor evaporates.
“For the last time, he’s not my—"
The whole room halts, and Shouto just thinks: fuck it. He reaches into his pocket, tugging out his plan with one finger.
Katsuki grumbles, breathy and off-kilter, “What.”
Shouto shrugs, “Well I guess, technically you would be my bride, though I don’t know the tradition as well as you do. We can ask Izuku when he gets back, but—”
“What,” Katsuki inserts his entire six-foot-four-self in Shouto’s face, “the hell are you talking about.”
“I woke up a couple days ago,” Shouto continues, “And I’m sorry it took me so long to come find you, but it was so I could...”
“No, Shouto. What the fuck.”
He shoves his gift in Katsuki’s hands, pressing those strong fingers around it. Shouto stares up at him, an unfamiliar bashfulness jittering in his bones.
“So I could give you this.”
Katuski watches his own fist, gaze swinging up to Shouto every couple of seconds, prompting Shouto’s nerves to knot up even more—but then Katsuki unwraps his fingers slowly and delicately and—
Shouto stuffs his hands behind his back and wrings them together, waiting and waiting and—
It starts as a minute twitch of blond brows, then a steady flush to his neck—and then the ripple of realization striking the others. Denki gasps and Eijrou laughs out a melody; two sets of wings buzz.
And most poignantly, as Katsuki lifts a freshly-made necklace to soft candlelight, his dull eyes brighten—and sure as the sun sets and rises, his liveliness trickles back inside.
He brushes each bead with his fingertips, starting from the Debbie off-white and the Shiitake grey and thumbing through until he finds red, brown, and blue-blown glass. The beads are slightly misshapen, but Shouto would be damned if he didn’t make every last bit himself. He even cut the string he used from the source, scouring the castle market for the deepest black yarn he could find—the type that could match Katsuki’s boundless tattoos.
“Treasure,” Katsuki starts, tapering off in wonderment, and that’s how Shouto knows he’s won; by god, he’s gonna kiss the boy.
“Do you accept?” Shouto’s lips curve up, mirroring a conversation that he only recently understands—and yet still his answer would remain the same.
Katsuki responds just as Shouto did back then, only with his rampant trademark vehemence, barbaric grin slotting where it’s supposed to be:
“Fuck yeah, I do, treasure.”
Just like that, huh?
Katsuki slings the necklace over his head, and it lands on top of his other jewelry, obviously far less masterful than his finely crafted silver. Shouto reaches under his shirt to run his fingers over stray rubber-band bumps, ear-to-ear grinning. There’s cheering around them from Katsuki’s people—people that Shouto is positively thrilled to get to know when he’s not in the middle of a soulbound reunion. Right now, he does the only thing he can think of and—
Shouto throws himself at Katsuki, landing in his arms—and yeah, their foreheads brush together, noses following in tandem. He wraps his legs all around him. Katsuki smells like gunpowder and stale cookies and home—and Shouto breathes him in like his lifeline. He thinks they’re alone now, but he couldn't be bothered to look around when Bakugou Katsuki is right there.
“Treasure,” Katsuki holds Shouto up with one arm, using the other to stroke the nape of his neck, massaging the skin there, “My treasure.”
“Hmm,” Shouto hums, water pricking at his eyelids; he’s just so fucking happy that he doesn’t know what to do with himself, “Is this how you barbarians kiss?”
He feels Katsuki raise an eyebrow, “You think you can do better?”
Shouto laughs, letting it bubble in his throat and settle sweet on their ears. He nips lightly at Katsuki’s nose, “Let me show you.”
Shouto takes Katsuki’s jaw in his palms, rubbing over the skin there as they stare at each other, perfectly, wholly content. He presses his lips to Katsuki’s, long and chaste and everything. Katsuki presses back, all fumbly and adorable, and they both end up on the floor in their exhilaration.
Who knows how long passes before they finally blow the candles out, and even then Shouto smiles against chapped lips, bliss blooming in his chest and spreading through his body as deft arms carry him away.
“This,” he whispers into Katsuki’s neck, basking in the steady pulse of his heartbeat, “Is how we kiss in the future.”
“Oh, yeah?” Comes the response.
Shouto falls back onto cloud-soft sheets, Katsuki propped over him on his forearms. They peels away their shirts, and only the necklaces remain when Katsuki breathes against Shouto’s ear:
“Hop to it, treasure. I’m going to need a proper demonstration now.”
“Rise and shine! Today’s the day, kings!”
Shouto blinks awake, bones achey and limbs wrapped in a bow around Katsuki, who responds to that voice with a particularly non-threatening knee-jerk aggression.
“Fuck ‘ya, Deku,” he buries his nose into Shouto’s collarbone, “Get outta our room.”
Shouto rolls his eyes, blinking up at Izuku’s early-riser sparkling sunshine face. He’s smiling and the sun isn’t even out. Shouto curses him too, just a little bit, “He’s still a prince technically, Izuku.”
“You’re absolutely correct,” Izuku kicks at Katsuki’s spine, “Get the fuck up, prince.”
Shouto starts reluctantly unwinding himself, thankful he’s at least wearing silk pants in front of Izuku. A month here has taught him to assume Izuku has no boundaries when it comes to his best friend—slowly but surely becoming friends, “Did you teach him that?”
“It’s not my fault he copies everything I do,” Katsuki grumbles, grabbing halfheartedly at Shouto to pull him back into bed.
“So, if you picked it up from me,” Shouto expertly dodges, moving far enough out of reach that he’s in the safe zone, “Then what does that make you?”
“A shithead,” Izuku supplies, propping himself against their door frame, “Is that right?”
“Incredibly poetic,” Shouto nods, “How long do we have?”
“You’ve got until sunset at the latest. Mitsuki wants to practice the pre-spell work on you and Eijirou beforehand since you’ve never been on this end of things before,” Izuku pulls a scroll from his belt and skims it, as if he doesn’t already know every bit of temporal magic by heart at this point, “Then you’ll be back in your time, with no more than a minute passed since, ah. What’s it? Oh—Christmas. Two months there and you’ll automatically come back—and we voted to bring you home for the Spring Festival so we can show you off to the neighboring nations.”
“It’s not ‘showing him off’,” Katsuki rolls out of their bed, tucking the sheets in and fluffing the pillows, “He isn't going near any of those bastards if I can help it.”
“You don’t have a choice,” Izuku yawns, “You’ll actually be a king by then, and you’ll need a bride to show for it. Anyways. I’m going to go meet Ei for some last minute prep—don’t worry, we’ve been studying all the future etiquette you gave us, Shouto.”
“I’m sure he has,” Shouto mumbles after the door creaks shut, “How many of those ‘future phrases' did you make up?”
Katsuki stretches, grabbing Shouto a shirt and bundling him in a royal blue cloak left for him, “Half. Maybe more.”
“He’s going to be so embarrassed.”
“I’m counting on it,” Katsuki nabs his sword from under their bed, “Ready? I have an idea for what we can do for our last day.”
“Oh?” Shouto hugs Katsuki from behind, “What is it?”
Katsuki smirks, “C’mon.”
They trek through the castle, passing by a chittering gaggle of Mitsuki’s witches, and narrowly avoiding Mitsuki herself. Shouto loves the queen dearly, but he’s never been so terrified of a person in his life—not to mention her anger apparently elicits punishments such as spontaneous time travel.
Mina (the pink woman from before who has quickly become Shouto’s go-to for learning all the names of royalty in just about every nation) lounges on one of the chandeliers, wings tucked and folded. Denki is asleep at the table below her, and Shouto can conclude that they probably got wasted in Katuski’s dining hall again.
Eijirou and Izuku greet them as they pass the courtyards, the two of them crouched over a book and gesticulating at each other. Both of their expressions are so animated, and Shouto is truly thrilled to invite them to crash at Natsuo’s house until they can find an apartment. He just has to introduce them first.
Once Katsuki pulls them to the edge of the forest, Shouto can guess who they’re seeing. Katsuki pulls his fingers to his lips and whistles—which does something to Shouto.
Sure enough, a sleek, gorgeous wildcat emerges from the leaf-woven canopy, promptly ignoring Katsuki and padding over to Shouto to nuzzle against his neck. Her fur shines indefinitely, dappled and pristine, and she always looms comfortably over Shouto, far too large to be an animal that exists in his time.
“Hi, Duchess,” Shouto nuzzles back, petting her snout.
“Greetings, traitor,” Katsuki also pets her, because he’s just as weak as Shouto.
They stand there for a good bit, leaning in companionable silence against Duchess’ warm body. Shouto meets Katsuki’s eyes over the arch of her neck.
“What is she, exactly? I don’t think I’ve ever really asked.”
Katsuki smiles like lightning, stroking dotted fur, “My bike.”
“Oh, right,” Shouto’s lips split into a private grin, high on spirits and pink-cheeked winter. He pulls Katsuki’s steady hands to him over Duchess, and presses his lips to scarred knuckles—each finger, twice over, and Katsuki lets him.
The sun is nigh in the middle of the sky. They’ve got all the time in the world, and Katsuki reads his mind.
“Hey, treasure. Wanna go for a ride?”