When Todoroki wakes up, the first thing he notices is that it's still the middle of the night. His room is pitch black, darker than he remembers it being when he went to sleep. It isn't until he sits up, blankets falling down to pool around his waist, that Todoroki realizes he's using magic; the remnants of sleep slowly fade as he becomes conscious of the swirl of his powers as they keep him warm against the cold.
That's the second thing he notices - the temperature has dropped even more, making his lungs burn when he takes a deep breath, the chilly air slapping against his skin and fading away when it encounters the heat of magic.
Todoroki is about to go back to sleep, certain that the unconscious summoning of his powers is what woke him up, when a noise comes from outside his room. It's almost too faint to hear against the howling of the wind, but soon it repeats itself, a pained whimper that seems familiar to Todoroki's ears.
Immediately, he gets up, calling a flame to his palm so he can see the way towards the living room. Even the faint source of illumination seems to cast long shadows on the walls, and as soon as Todoroki's gaze falls on the fireplace he realizes why.
Of the fire from the previous night, there are only embers left, their orange glow not enough to be a reliable source of light or heat. As Todoroki gets closer, he can see that Bakugou's clothes have been abandoned next to it, and Bakugou himself has scooted as close to the dying fire as possible, his full wolf form half-covered by the blankets.
Todoroki's first reaction is to worry about Bakugou's transformation. He takes a few steps towards him, relieved to see that there's no sign of blood - the wounds don't seem to have worsened by Bakugou shapeshifting, which is a sign that Todoroki was right about them being almost completely healed.
Another whine cuts through the air and Bakugou shifts, snatching Todoroki's attention away from his injuries. He's trying to curl up, much like Todoroki had seen him do in his human form the day they'd met, and the realization that the other is taking on the full brunt of the cold hits Todoroki unexpectedly.
He's so used to having his magic to keep himself warm that he'd forgotten that Bakugou can't do that, too.
After a brief moment of hesitation, shaking away the memory of what happened the last time he touched Bakugou, Todoroki reaches out, letting his right hand sink into the soft fur of his neck. Underneath it, he can feel him shivering.
"Bakugou," he calls. The only answer he gets is another whimper, so he repeats, louder this time, "Bakugou, wake up."
A growl comes from the wolf's throat before he opens his eyes, but any beginnings of aggressiveness die out when he sees Todoroki staring back at him. Todoroki quickly pulls his hand back, self-conscious all of a sudden, worrying his bottom lip as Bakugou's stare pierces him even in the dim light cast by the flame.
"You're cold," he says. Bakugou huffs, tilting his head to the side as if mocking the obviousness of his statement. "We're out of firewood until morning. C'mon, I can use my magic to keep us warm until then."
Todoroki turns around, motioning for Bakugou to follow him, but stops after a few steps, letting a frustrated sigh leave his lips when he notices the shapeshifter hasn't made any movement to get up.
"I'm offering you an alternative to freezing to death. Unless you're going out to get wood for the fire in the middle of the night during a blizzard, I suggest you accept it, but it's up to you. I'm going back to sleep."
Todoroki doesn't check to see if Bakugou is following him as he goes back to his room, but the quiet padding of the other's paws against the floor is enough of an answer.
"Stay next to me," Todoroki says as he lies down, finally letting the flame in his hand extinguish, plunging the room back into darkness. Moments later, he can hear some rustling and then a heavy weight settles right by his futon.
Even though the blankets aren't big enough to cover both him and a grown wolf, Todoroki lifts them so he can scoot towards the edge of the futon, until he can feel Bakugou's fur lightly tickling his side. Then, he settles his left arm over his middle, carefully avoiding Bakugou's wounds. That earns him a startled yelp and Bakugou shifts, his eyes the only thing Todoroki is able to make out as the shapeshifter raises his head to stare at him.
"I can't control my magic when I'm asleep, so I can't project the heat to the whole room," Todoroki explains. "This is the only way you can stay warm too."
Todoroki almost expects Bakugou to push him away, but he's surprised when all he does is grumble before settling down once again. Despite the darkness, Todoroki turns his face towards the pillow so he can hide his smile, allowing his own eyes to flutter closed as his magic swirls peacefully under his skin, being lulled by the steady rise and fall of Bakugou's breathing against his hand.
He really could get used to this.
When Todoroki wakes up the following morning, he doesn't immediately open his eyes. A cozy warmth surrounds him, and there's something weighing on his side, locking him in place. His mind is still hazy, trying to make sense of this unfamiliar position - his hands touch something that doesn't feel like his blankets, something soft lightly ticking his cheek, and a gust of air hits his face at regular intervals, almost like- like breathing-
Todoroki's eyes fly open as he recalls waking up in the middle of the night, asking Bakugou to come sleep in his room because of the cold.
Bakugou, who had been in his wolf form then.
And who was now human and very, very naked.
Todoroki gulps, frozen in place as he stares at Bakugou's sleeping face mere inches from his own. Somehow, Bakugou had transformed in the middle of the night without any of them noticing, and now his arm is thrown over the other's waist, one of his legs firmly placed between Todoroki's.
Todoroki wasn't bothered by Bakugou's nakedness back when they'd first met, but this close, he's strangely aware of the way Bakugou feels against him. The fingers of his left hand twitch where they rest against Bakugou's back, and Todoroki is confused by the sudden urge to move them, to trace the expanse of Bakugou's spine. It's not that he hasn't touched Bakugou's bare skin before - he's had to do so, many times, in order to treat his wounds - but never had it felt like this.
Todoroki's magic swirls restlessly and he snaps out of his reverie, suddenly feeling a little too hot, something that has nothing to do with the heat he's been projecting to keep him and Bakugou warm against the cold air.
Heart beating faster, Todoroki tries to disentangle himself from Bakugou, but as soon as he starts sliding back Bakugou's hold on him tightens, fingers digging into Todoroki's waist and pulling him closer still.
That causes a loud gasp to leave Todoroki's lips, and Bakugou's eyes snap open. Todoroki watches as his expression turns from shock to confusion.
Bakugou stops mid-sentence, muscles tensing up and eyes widening even more as his gaze lowers before quickly coming back up to Todoroki's face. Todoroki opens his mouth - to say what, he has no idea; he didn't think a situation could get more awkward than the one from the night before, but apparently, he was wrong.
He's saved from actually having to come up with something to say by Bakugou scrambling backwards, clumsily throwing the blankets and Todoroki's arm off him, light pink dusting his cheeks. Todoroki immediately misses the comfortable feeling of having him close, the cold hitting him more sharply even if his magic is still working.
"Bakugou," Todoroki starts, sitting up. He's not sure what to think of the strange feelings that crowd his chest, but he does know that he doesn't want things to stay even more awkward between him and Bakugou. "I-"
Before he can finish, however, Todoroki watches with desbelief as Bakugou shifts back into his wolf form.
"Bakugou," he repeats, his tone sounding like a reprimand. Bakugou simply turns his head to the side, refusing to look at him. "Seriously? Are you a child?"
Bakugou huffs, the corners of his mouth lifting slightly to show his fangs in what looks almost like a grimace.
"We can't talk with you like that," Todoroki says, his previous confusion being replaced by a hint of frustration, which only increases as Bakugou ignores him, turning his back to him and decidedly walking out of the room without so much as a glance towards Todoroki.
Todoroki is left looking dumbfounded at the place Bakugou disappeared at, suddenly finding it hard to believe that the shapeshifter has lived for almost as many centuries as him. He might not be the best at communicating with other people, but even Todoroki is aware that there is something going on, and they should probably discuss it sooner rather than later.
Right now, however, it doesn't seem like that's going to happen.
With a sigh, Todoroki gets up, putting on warmer clothes before going to the living room.
Bakugou doesn't acknowledge his presence from his place next to the window, his gaze focused almost aggressively on the constantly falling snow, so Todoroki sets out to prepare breakfast without a word. By the time he finally attempts talking to Bakugou again, there are two plates on the table, and Bakugou is still in his wolf form even as he approaches the food.
"At least shift back so you can eat," Todoroki says.
This time Bakugou's eyes are fixed on Todoroki's in a silent challenge as he lowers his head, scooping up a few berries into his mouth, his fangs making a slight clink as they graze the ceramics.
Todoroki raises an eyebrow at him before sighing in frustration.
"Fine," he mutters. If Bakugou wants to act childishly, there's nothing he can do. Besides, there are more pressing matters at hand, such as the fact that they're out of firewood. Even though now that he's awake Todoroki can project his magic to keep at the least the living room from getting too cold, braving the storm outside to renew their stock seems to be the only viable option in the long run.
He mentions that to Bakugou after they're done eating, fastening his cloak as he moves towards the door. Before he can open it, however, he finds his way blocked, red eyes piercing him as a low growl comes from Bakugou's throat.
"What is it?" Todoroki asks. Bakugou looks pointedly at the door. "I need to get firewood, Bakugou. And if you haven't noticed, the only way to do that is going to the forest."
Bakugou growls again, taking a few steps towards the exit before turning towards Todoroki.
"This would be a lot easier if you could speak, you know," Todoroki complains. "Do you want to go yourself? Is that it?"
"You're still injured. And I have fire magic. I'd say I'm better suited to go, so you stay here," Todoroki moves past Bakugou, ignoring the way the other's ears flatten on his head, his fangs bared. "I won't be long."
Before Bakugou can stop him again, Todoroki opens the door. He's not surprised to find snow accumulated on the porch, blocking his way, but he summons enough heat to melt it away in seconds, opening a path that he takes without looking back.
Once Todoroki reaches the edge of the forest, the wind and snow that had been smacking against his skinsubside, the leaves from the trees providing a fragile, if temporary, cover. Before he continues further, however, he stops, raising his voice so it can be heard over the sound of the blizzard.
"I thought I told you to stay at the house."
There's a huff and, moments later, Bakugou is at Todoroki's side, no longer trying to follow him from a distance as he'd been doing. Instead, he continues forward, his head smacking against Todoroki's hand on the way. His fur is covered in snow, the creamy color peeking out here and there, but if it bothers him, he doesn't show it. Todoroki's own clothes aren't much better, though most of the snow has melted as he kept himself warm, leaving the fabric uncomfortably damp.
Todoroki quickly catches up to Bakugou as they go deeper into the forest, looking for a place where the trees are less spaced, the foliage forming a protective canopy against most of the humidity and allowing them to find somewhat dry wood more easily.
Despite the tension from earlier, Todoroki starts to relax as they focus on the task at hand, a companiable silence taking place of the awkwardness as they wander through the woods. He finds himself observing Bakugou from time to time, having to stifle a smile more than once as the wolf comes back with sticks of varying sizes in his mouth, handing them over for Todoroki to hold.
Maybe it's because he's too lost in his own thoughts, but it takes Todoroki a while to notice when Bakugou suddenly stops his search, his ears flattening as he crouches, snarling and staring at something among the trees that surround the clearing they're at.
It's Todoroki's magic that warns him of the approaching danger, a rush of power suddenly prickling his skin like tiny needles just as the air fills with the sound of growling. The wood he's holding falls from his hands as he summons both fire and ice to his palms, swiveling around just as shadows spring forth from the forest and a pack of wolves descends on them.
Todoroki's barely able to process the shock of the animals attacking when they should be weakened by the constant brutal weather, too busy trying to keep them from getting closer as he struggles to see how Bakugou is doing against them. He lifts up an ice barrier, the thump of a collision nothing but a background noise as he turns around, scanning the chaos that has taken over the clearing with his pulse hammering in his ears.
Bakugou hadn't been lying when he'd said this pack was big. From his quick assessment of the situation, Todoroki guesses there are at least ten wolves, and even though they're smaller than Bakugou and easy prey to Todoroki's magic, their numbers help, as well as having caught them off guard. Their aggressiveness seems to overcome their instinctual fear, too, their mouths open in vicious snarls as some of them launch themselves against Todoroki from both sides.
Scalding air sends them staggering a few steps back, but Todoroki's concentration is broken by a howl of pain. His head snaps towards the sound, eyes searching franctically until he sees Bakugou surrounded by four other wolves, and his gaze is immediately drawn by a line of blood that drips from the shapeshifter's fur to mar the white snow below.
The sight makes his own blood boil, power surging through him with an intensity that's almost overwhelming, and Todoroki's moving towards Bakugou before he can realize it. His momentary distraction costs him, however, and suddenly there's a lacerating pain on his right thigh, something sharp tearing through fabric and skin and sinking into flesh.
Todoroki's reaction is instinctual, blasting the wolf that'd bitten him away with shards of ice, his only goal to reach Bakugou before he can get hurt any further. His next step falters, however, his injured leg crumbling under his weight as he tumbles to the ground.
Todoroki curses, trying to force his body to stand up only to fall again. His eyes go back to Bakugou - to where he's been backed against a tree, the wolves about to attack him - and the knowledge that he won't be able to reach him, that even if he were to launch a long-distance attack it would be too late, fuels him with desperation as he does something he'd sworn centuries ago he'd never do again.
He calls on a different power, reaching deep into the old teachings of his childhood, welcoming the pain that burns through his body as magic explodes outwards, his vision flashing white and red as he chokes, using every ounce of his strength to keep a sliver of control over the thing that he's summoned to life.
There are howls of fear resounding on his ears, howls that are cut off abruptly as a creature of swirling fire moves through the clearing at an inhuman speed, filling the air with the smell of blood and sulfur and burning flesh, a sickening laugh leaving its deformed lips as it kills.
It's over in less than a minute, though to Todoroki it seems like a lifetime; his arms give in as he falls forward, barely aware of something warm running down his legs as the cold snow soaks his clothes, any remaining strength leaving his body as the magic recedes, like slime crawling through his veins.
Through the haziness, Todoroki is able to make out bare feet running towards him. He opens his mouth, I'm sorry hanging on the tip of his tongue, but blackness takes over before he can say word.
We're getting into the final stretch now!
I'd planned for the fic to only have one more chapter, but since the next one will be very… uh… emotionally heavy (time for backstories yay!) I might extend it to two more. Or who knows, this might get out of control like every single TodoBaku fic I've written so far lmao
I hope you guys enjoyed this chapter, and as always, comments are deeply appreciated!