Written for the BakuTodo Week event on Tumblr. Prompt: AU.
There's a myth about the forest that is hidden among the distant mountains.
The stories come from travelers, from those who get lost during the violent snowstorms of winter and wander too far; they talk of a house at the edge of the woods and of a wizard who lives there - a mysterious man with even more mysterious powers, who is always wearing a hood and has a hideous scar on his face.
No one's sure if the stories are really true, but they still avoid straying off the path that surrounds the mountains, for fear of encountering the wizard and becoming victims of a curse. Even the skeptics, the ones who scoff at the mention of magic, keep their distance, not willing to take the risk and find out the answers for themselves.
Months and years and decades go by, and the wizard and his house at the edge of the forest remain a myth.
But most myths are born out of truth, aren't they?
The morning has barely started, the rising sun making the snow glow with an orange-ish tint, when Todoroki steps outside his house, pulling his hood tighter around himself to fend off the cold wind.
He can feel a difference in the weather today. It's harsher, swirling with crackling energy, and Todoroki can tell there's a snowstorm coming soon, maybe one or two days away from reaching the mountains. That makes his task of storing enough wood for the fireplace more urgent, and he hurries his step towards the forest.
While he could use his magic to keep himself warm, he still likes to light a fire during the coldest days, enjoys the natural warmth it provides and the way it spreads to the few rooms in his house. After so many years, he's gotten used to the seclusion the mountains grant - the exact reason he decided to live there - but the loneliness can feel overbearing at times, and the fire helps ease it somehow.
He's familiar enough with the woods at this point that, even if the path he usually takes is hidden, he's able to find his way around without much difficulty. He hasn't gone that far into the forest, however, when his attention is drawn to a smear of red that stands out against the whiteness of the snow covered ground.
Todoroki immediately tenses, the sight of blood making him cautious. He follows the crimson trail with his eyes, to where it disappears among the trees, trying to decide if he should investigate it. His doubts are quelled, however, when the silence that surrounds him is broken by a sound - a cross between a howl and a whimper, clearly coming from a wounded animal.
Decision made, Todoroki follows the trail of blood deeper into the forest. He doesn't walk for long before the trail comes to a stop, and at its end, collapsed against a tree, there is a wolf.
Todoroki knows there are packs of wolves that wander the territory, but they are usually scrawny, their fur varying between pure white or some shade of gray. The one he sees lying on the snow, however, is unlike any other; it's huge, and its fur is of a cream color, which is currently matted with crusts of blood that oozed from large gashes that run across the wolf's body.
Todoroki stands a few feet away in caution, feeling the magic coursing faster through his veins at the possibility of danger. The wolf, however, doesn't move, and Todoroki inches closer, realizing that it's unconscious - the sound he heard moments ago must've taken the rest of its energy, certainly already faint because of the blood loss.
Something tugs at his chest at the sight, and Todoroki finds himself kneeling on the snow, carefully lifting the animal in his arms. He grunts with the effort; the wolf is heavy, probably the same weight as Todoroki himself, and it's only made worse by its unconsciousness. Todoroki grits his teeth, however, and starts going back the way he'd come.
By the time he reaches his house, his arms are shaking and his clothes have become soaked with blood. He places the wolf on the floor in front of the fireplace, then quickly summons water to his palms to clean them before going to the small corner where his kitchen is.
Todoroki sifts through the many pots he keeps there, gathering a handful of different herbs and placing them on a mortar. As he crushes them until they're nothing but a paste, his eyes keep wandering back to the wolf, barely making out the shallow movement of its breathing.
Placing the healing paste by his side, Todoroki sets out on cleaning the wounds as best as he can with a damp cloth. The gashes are numerous, some deeper than others, the skin around them an angry red. They're clearly made by animals - other wolves, if Todoroki had to guess, though he's never known of them attacking one of their own before.
Todoroki is glad for the wolf's unconsciousness as he continues taking care of his wounds. His handiwork at stitching them together isn't the best - he's never had that much training in this aspect of healing, his knowledge being focused on medicinal herbs - but for now it's enough to stop the bleeding. Todoroki wishes he could cover the wounds with a cloth as well, but he's tired, and it's almost impossible to lift the wolf long enough to get it around him. He settles for spreading the healing paste over the hurt flesh, careful not to use too much pressure.
By the time he's done, the sun is already high up outside, its rays filtering through the windows and casting strips of light over the room. Todoroki's limbs feel heavy, his legs hurting from kneeling for too long, but the day has barely begun, and he still has things to do before the snowstorm arrives.
After changing his blood-soaked clothes, he hesitates. The wolf hasn't woken up yet, and Todoroki doesn't feel like it will anytime soon; still, he's a little apprehensive to go outside and leave it unsupervised.
The prickle he feels on his skin, however, warns him of the storm's fast approach. He can't afford to risk it reaching the mountains before he's prepared so, with one last look at the animal resting on his living room floor, he closes the door behind him and steps once again into the snow.
Todoroki doesn't return until hours later, bringing back with him enough wood to outlast the snowstorm and more of the herbs he used to make the healing paste. Once he enters the house, however, he's frozen in place, eyes widening as his stare falls on where he'd left the wolf.
In its place, there is now a man, lying on his side with his back to Todoroki. His hair, sticking out in all directions, is of the same color the wolf's fur had been, and his skin - for the man is wearing no clothes - is smeared with the blood that Todoroki hadn't been able to clean. The wounds, too, remain, along his back and spreading towards his belly, hidden from Todoroki's view. The gashes look even worse against his pale complexion, angry red peeking from under the green of the healing paste.
The word jumps to the front of Todoroki's mind, taken from old books and rumors he'd heard a long time ago; stories about humans who could turn into animals, who possessed a type of magic different than Todoroki's own. He's never had anything to confirm that those stories were true, has never seen a shapeshifter with his own eyes.
Todoroki sets the things he's holding on the floor, approaching the man as cautiously as if he were still in his wolf form. Up close, his appearance doesn't seem much older than Todoroki's own - around twenty years old, if he had to guess. His face is scrunched up in pain, so Todoroki immediately turns his attention to the wounds, checking to see if they've gotten any worse.
They haven't, but the healing paste is almost dry, so Todoroki prepares another mix to replace it. He hesitates for a second before pressing a damp cloth along the man's back, slowly wiping away the old medicine. In order to reach the rest of the wounds, however, Todoroki has to inch closer, carefully rolling the man over while still supporting his shoulder against his knees, keeping the gashes on his back from touching the floor.
He's barely resumed his previous actions when the man jolts awake. Todoroki finds himself being pushed back, cloth falling from his hands as the shapeshifter launches himself away, growl turning into a hiss of pain with the movement.
Todoroki stays where he is, merely raising his hands so the man sees that he isn't a threat.
"Your wounds are going to reopen like that," he says.
The man's eyes are fixed on him, his teeth bared. Even with the way he's slightly crouching, everything about his stance indicates aggressiveness; Todoroki thinks he can see the wolf reflected in his human form.
"Who the fuck are you?"
"Todoroki Shouto." Todoroki points to the stitches and medicine that cover the man's chest. "I saved your life."
"I didn't need fucking saving," the man spits out. Todoroki hasn't had much contact with other people - much less with shapeshifters - but he suspects most of them aren't this rude.
The man's gaze falls on the door, and Todoroki can see the determination setting in behind his eyes. He opens his mouth to advise against it, but the other is already moving towards the exit, and Todoroki can see his nails sharpening into claws.
He takes no more than a few steps before his legs give out and he collapses, transformation receding as a scream of pain is ripped from his throat when his wounds hit the floor, blood already starting to flow from where the stitches have been torn.
Todoroki sighs, gathering his things that had been scattered and reaching out to help the shapeshifter move. The moment his hand gets close to him, however, the man growls, snapping his teeth at Todoroki's fingers.
Todoroki raises an eyebrow at him, starting to wonder if being this stubborn is a wolf thing.
"Did you just try to bite me?"
"Don't touch me."
"If I don't, then you'll bleed to death. You're not strong enough to take care of those injuries by yourself yet, shapeshifter."
The man grits his teeth. He tenses up, but doesn't struggle when Todoroki reaches out again, pulling him up until he's sitting.
"Bakugou," he mumbles.
"My name, damn it. It's Bakugou Katsuki. Not shapeshifter."
"Oh." Todoroki acquiesces, thinking that this is an improvement from the other's previous behavior. "Okay, Bakugou."
For the next few minutes, they stay silent as Todoroki works. He can't help but notice how soft Bakugou's skin feels to his touch; it's a softness that differs from his fur, but it still seems too delicate in contrast to what he's just seen of Bakugou himself. His muscles are tense because of the pain, but Bakugou doesn't make a sound as Todoroki cleans his wounds, stitching them up once again and slathering the healing medicine over them.
With Bakugou in his human form, Todoroki is able to cover his torso in bandages, carefully measuring the pressure he applies as to not cause him any more discomfort than necessary. At some point, Bakugou succumbs once again to exhaustion, his head lulling to the side and his body weighing against Todoroki's hold, any trace of aggressiveness erased from his face.
The light coming from the window slowly dulls as night arrives, the air getting chillier with every passing second. By the time Todoroki's done tending to Bakugou's injuries, the shapeshifter is shivering in his sleep, his body trying to curl up on itself to preserve any remaining heat.
Todoroki could use his magic to provide it - with how close they are, that wouldn't take much effort - but not only does he think that Bakugou would vehemently protest against that, but it would be going dangerously close to a point that leaves Todoroki himself feeling uncomfortable. Bakugou's still naked, after all, and while he doesn't consider it anything out of the ordinary for a shapeshifter, Todoroki's not lost to how vulnerable that makes him, especially when Bakugou seems to have trusted him enough to allow himself to fall asleep.
With that in mind, Todoroki gathers a few blankets that he lays on the floor before pulling Bakugou on top of them, covering him with some more afterwards and leaving clothes beside his makeshift bed for when he wakes up. Bakugou's shivering slowly subsides, and Todoroki starts working on adding wood to the fireplace.
The room is soon bathed in a warm orange glow, the crackling of the fire muffled by the sound of the strong winds outside. Todoroki can feel his body protesting, his limbs heavy with tiredness after such a long day, but he still pushes further, cleaning up the blood that stains the floor before finally allowing himself to relax.
While he munches on some dried fruits to fill his empty stomach, his gaze falls on Bakugou. The pain is gone from his expression and he looks peaceful, some color tinting his cheeks in comparison to his paleness from earlier. Todoroki is curious about him, and he wonders how Bakugou will react when he wakes up; perhaps, he hopes, he'll be more friendly then.
When Todoroki finally retires to his room, the sky outside is completely dark, and the snow has begun to fall more harshly, quickly piling up and turning the mountains and the forest they hide into a blanket of white.
Todoroki's magic prickles across his skin like static, and then settles as the storm finally arrives.
The title for this fic comes from the song of the same name by Wave & Rome, which happens to be what inspired this work - well, actually just one line of it, "a wandering wolf in the winter", because the rest of the lyrics have nothing to do with it haha
It was supposed to be a one-shot, but I decided to turn it into a multichapter fic so I can develop the scenes I have planned without it becoming tiring to read! There'll probably be around 3 chapters total, and I hope you guys have enjoyed it so far ^^