There's something fascinating about watching the snowflakes fall after a storm.
Todoroki's breath fogs up in front of him. He pulls his cloak tighter around him, even though his magic swirls relentlessly to keep him warm. He's been outside long enough that some of the snow that has gathered on his clothes has melted, leaving only slightly darkened patches behind.
Mere days ago, he wouldn't even have been able to sit outside. The snowstorm has mostly died down, however, and Todoroki's eyes are now able to track the snowflakes almost individually, a glimpse of the darker colors of the forest getting into his line of vision every now and then.
As strange as it is to see the sky like this when the snowstorm had been nothing but a veil of whirling white, Todoroki's attention keeps flickering to the horizon, trying to make out a different source of movement. It's been a few hours since Bakugou has left to hunt. It's not the first time he does it; with their decreasing rations and Todoroki's still injured leg keeping him from walking long distances, Bakugou had taken the task of looking for food upon himself as soon as it became less dangerous to go outside.
He'd also told Todoroki that he was tired of eating those goddamn dried fruits every day, which had made Todoroki laugh, because even he had to agree with Bakugou about that.
The shapeshifter had left early that morning as he always did, his wolf form rapidly blending in with the scenery, and Todoroki had sat on a chair on the porch to watch the snow fall and wait for him to return.
He doesn't like having to depend on Bakugou like this, but as he changes his sitting position slightly, Todoroki winces at the pull on his right thigh, a sign that he couldn't go in the other's place even if he wanted to. What he likes even less - or rather, what he fears - is how there's a pull on his chest that hurts more than any injury every time he sees Bakugou's back disappearing in the distance.
He's become familiar with Bakugou's warmth, with the taste of his body, with the way it feels to sleep with the other's arms wrapped around him. He's used to the grumbling and the cussing, to the sound of Bakugou's voice filling the air that was once quiet.
At first, Todoroki believed this strange feeling came from being alone for too long and from a lack of human contact. And he'd come to the conclusion that that's part of it, yes - but the more he thinks about it, the more he starts to notice that it's not so much about having someonethere, but rather about the fact that it's Bakugou.
It strikes Todoroki with more certainty than ever when he spots the familiar cream-colored fur coming out of the forest, and his heart takes a leap on his chest, thumping so loud it echoes on his ears as he tracks Bakugou with his eyes. He must have some strange expression on his face, because Bakugou makes a cross between a growl and a questioning whine when he gets closer, dropping some small bloodied animal he's hunted to the ground.
Todoroki shakes his head as if he could swat away the nagging thoughts. He can deal with that later; right now, the last thing he needs is for Bakugou to start asking him about it.
"Welcome back," he says.
Bakugou grunts, still in his wolf form as he walks past Todoroki to enter the house, bumping his head against the magician's hand on the way.
Todoroki's fingers tingle with more than just magic as he gently runs them through Bakugou's fur.
Bakugou doesn't have to say anything for Todoroki to notice he's restless.
It gets worse after each time he ventures outside. His gaze is often drawn to the windows and he can't seem to sit still, always trying to find something to do, his agitation affecting even Todoroki's magic, that crackles with static energy every time the shapeshifter is close.
Sometimes, Bakugou cooks or cleans; others, he pulls Todoroki down into a kiss that turns into another and another and another, until their clothes are lying discarded on the floor and Bakugou is clinging to him like a lifeline. During those moments, Todoroki can forget the thoughts that bother him. He stops noticing the fading snowstorm outside, the fact that he can walk more easily each day, and the most important detail of all.
Bakugou is a shapeshifter.
He's a creature of the wild, not an animal that would settle on staying in a cage for long. And Todoroki can't bear the thought of making him do so, just as much as he can't bear the knowledge that Bakugou will inevitably leave.
There's almost nothing left of the violent storm that lasted for weeks, now reduced to the dying wind and the blanket of snow that still covers every surface.
Inside the house, the crepitating fire bathes the room in a comfortable warmth as Todoroki reads. Instead of his usual place in the chair, he sits on the ground, his right leg slightly extended as to not pull on the scabs of his injury. He and Bakugou had finished having dinner in front of the fireplace only minutes ago, and Todoroki had pulled out the book to entertain himself while Bakugou went to finish tidying up the kitchen.
It doesn't take long for the shapeshifter to come back, settling behind Todoroki to peek at the book over his shoulder.
"How many times have you read that thing already?"
Todoroki shrugs, turning the page.
"I never really counted."
Bakugou huffs. His breath tickles the back of Todoroki's neck.
"Don't you get bored?" He nuzzles his face into Todoroki's hair, one of his hands making its way to the magician's waist. His hold is a little too strong to be casual, and Todoroki's attention is diverted from the book by the strain in Bakugou's voice. "It's the same books over and over again. You could get new ones."
Todoroki's body tenses. It sounds like an innocent enough suggestion, but it's the implications behind it that make his throat go dry. Getting new books means having to travel to a village where he can buy them, leaving the seclusion of the mountains and the forest that have been his company for so long.
Bakugou could be asking Todoroki if he wants to leave with him and it would make no difference.
What surprises Todoroki is that part of him wants to agree, to pretend like it's just that simple - but there's a spike of fear and hesitancy that comes from centuries of hiding that won't let the words leave his mouth.
The seconds tick by without an answer, but Bakugou seems to have grown tired of waiting. The book falls to the side, forgotten, as he turns Todoroki around and pulls him into a searing kiss.
His fingers tremble slightly where they're tangled in the magician's hair.
His movements are tinged with desperation, his kisses aggressive, barely giving Todoroki any time to breathe. Wherever Bakugou touches, Todoroki's magic flares up, fire and ice rushing through his veins as his heartbeat quickens; it's the same as all the other times they've been together, and yet completely different. Even as the tension melts away from his body, Todoroki knows something's off. This time, it's a thought that he can't shake away.
Bakugou clings to him and Todoroki clings back, dreading the moment when he'll have to let go.
When the cold brings Todoroki out of his sleep, it is not because the fire's gone out.
Even with his eyes closed, he can hear the low crackling of the lingering flames. Yet, part of the warmth that had been next to his body is gone - the one that belonged to Bakugou.
There's a sting on his chest like ice, but still Todoroki doesn't move as he strains his ears, hearing only Bakugou's careful footsteps growing farther and farther, and from outside - silence.
No howling winds.
He dares to open his eyes just a sliver - he's got his back to the door, to the sounds Bakugou is clearly trying not to make - and the greyish clarity that comes in through the window tells him it's barely dawn, much too early for Bakugou to be going out to hunt. The clothes the other had worn the previous night lie discarded where Todoroki had thrown them.
The door opens and shuts with a barely audible sound.
Todoroki know what this means - it was just a matter of time, really, he'd been aware of that - but he gets up anyway, not bothering to take the blanket with him as he walks towards the window, ignoring the stiffness in his injured leg. The cold seeps through the soles of his feet, clinging to his skin in a way his magic usually doesn't allow, but Todoroki does nothing about it.
He couldn't warm himself up even if he tried. There's no storm anymore, but his magic still moves coldly in his veins as he peeks through the glass, eyes fixed on the lone figure of a wolf disappearing in the distance.
Falling back into a routine is almost automatic. When Todoroki thinks about it, however, it makes sense. He's lived alone for centuries; it's only natural that he should be used to it by now. Still, the difference from the past weeks is too stark for him to completely ignore it. As he moves through his daily tasks, perhaps a little slower than usual as to not put unnecessary strain on his nearly healed injury, he sometimes catches himself expecting to hear another voice, or to see Bakugou curled up in front of the fire in his wolf form.
He's had to stop himself from making food for two more than once.
Aside from these little distractions, Todoroki has taken a habit of moving the chair to the window by the front door when he sits down to read or drink tea. His eyes keep raising towards the outside, hope welling up in his chest and dimming as the sky grows darker and the scenery remains motionless.
As the days pass, however, hope starts being replaced by frustration. Not at Bakugou, for not coming back - he was never under any obligation to do so, and Todoroki knows it - but at himself, for letting him go so easily without ever giving him an answer.
It makes him restless. His magic seems to urge him to move; it often curls up on his fingertips, searching for that familiar feeling of Bakugou's own magic that is no longer there. Todoroki wonders if it's anything like what Bakugou felt as he longed for the outside. If it is, he can understand why it might have been hard to resist it.
Finally, when it's been almost a week, Todoroki can't take it anymore. He's still scared of the consequences of going out, but those of staying in eat away at him just as much.
"If you think you can just hide forever - I'm telling you, that's fucking bullshit."
As Todoroki fastens his cloak and steps into the thin snow, Bakugou's words from before come back to him and he sighs.
"I'm not going to hide anymore, Bakugou," he whispers.
His magic swirls fast, heat spreading through his body, influenced by the expectation of doing something he's been avoiding for centuries. Todoroki is aware that finding Bakugou might take a long time, if he ever finds him, and it strikes him that he might not ever come back to this place again.
He turns around, looking at his small house, nestled close to the woods he's become so familiar with and in which he once found a wounded wolf.
His next step doesn't falter, and he looks ahead once again with determination, crushing the soft snow beneath his feet and bracing against the wind that smacks his face.
He's only walked a few miles when his thigh begins to protest, feeling stiff and forcing him to stop walking. Todoroki grits his teeth, leaning his weight on his left leg, waiting until the pain has subsided enough to allow him to move again. He can stop when it's nightfall, and prepare a concoction to help soothe the dull throbbing.
With this mindset, Todoroki resumes his trek. He's taken no more than a few steps, however, when he's once more halted, but this time it is not his injury that makes his breath catch in his throat, but rather the lone figure of a man running from the forest towards him.
Despite the long distance he's covered, Bakugou's breathing is steady when he stops in front of Todoroki, hair tousled by the wind.
"I can't believe you're this stupid," he says, as if they had just been in the middle of a normal conversation. "You'll fuck up your leg again."
Todoroki's pretty sure his mouth is hanging open, but he can't stop staring, trying to wrap his head around the fact that Bakugou is standing just a few feet away from him.
"How..." Todoroki starts, not sure what he's going to ask. Clearing his throat, he tries again. "What are you doing here?"
The question seems to catch Bakugou off guard. He opens his mouth, closes it, and averts his gaze, pressing his lips into a thin line. He mumbles something, but Todoroki can't make out the words against the sound of the wind.
"I said I never really left, damn it," Bakugou repeats. "Not for long, at least. I ran for two days, and it was great, but then I-" He cuts himself off, shifting on his feet. To Todoroki's surprise, there seems to be a light blush on his cheeks. "I came back. It started feeling... wrong, okay? I guess I got used to your stupid presence or something. There. I said it. Happy?"
While Bakugou speaks, Todoroki realizes how much he missed his grumpy tone. Then the words hit him, and that familiar rush of warmth that has nothing to do with magic expands in his chest. He lets out a shaky breath, suddenly feeling lighter than before.
"Yes," Todoroki says.
"Yes, I'm happy. Saves me the trouble of looking for you all over the place." The tease comes naturally, and Todoroki feels the urge to smile at Bakugou's familiar frown. Before the other can reply, he adds, "Why are you wearing clothes?"
Bakugou's eyebrows rise and a smirk forms on his lips.
"Would you prefer it if I weren't?"
"You know what I mean."
"Got them at the nearest village. It's easier to find smaller and safer places to sleep at when I'm human, and it's fucking cold in the forest at night. I didn't how long I was gonna be-"
Bakugou stops speaking, eyes going wide when he realizes what he's saying, but it's too late. Todoroki takes a few steps forward, the hope that he's become so accustomed to in the past week coming back.
"You said you ran for two days." His voice is soft when he speaks, but loud enough that Bakugou can hear him with them standing so close. "That means you've been back for at least two days, too."
It's not a question, but Bakugou still nods.
"I stayed in the forest. I didn't know if you'd want me to come back," he says after a moment of hesitation.
Time and time again, Bakugou has shown how much he hates feeling vulnerable. He wears his pride like a medal, and yet, as he fixes Todoroki with a questioning stare, he looks as fragile as he had that night before he left.
Todoroki's heart skips a beat, just barely.
"I wanted you to," he says, and then adds, "Still do."
Bakugou smiles. Todoroki never thought it would be so breathtaking - to see him actually smile, with no sign of irony, or amusement, or disdain. With how close they are, he notices that Bakugou's eyes crinkle slightly, and there's a hint of dimples on his cheeks.
Before he can process what he's doing, Todoroki is moving forward, throwing his arms around Bakugou's neck in a hug. The other's hands rest on his lower back, gripping the back of his clothes as if he were afraid Todoroki would let go.
Todoroki wants to tell Bakugou he doesn't have to worry, because he never wants to let go again.
"I can't stay all the time," Bakugou says after a while. He pulls away enough to gaze at the mountains that surround them, and Todoroki thinks he can see the wolf inside him flash in his eyes for a moment. "I'll have to go away, every now and then."
Todoroki nods, bringing Bakugou's attention back to him. Lowering his left hand, he takes Bakugou's own, using magic to warm his cold fingers. With the other hand, he pulls Bakugou close again by his neck, and there's a hint of a smile on his face when he whispers against the shapeshifter's lips.
"Then I'll go with you."
He's finally given his answer, and Bakugou responds with a kiss.
There's a myth about the forest that is hidden among the distant mountains.
Once, the story was about a wizard, a mysterious man who always wandered alone. With the years, though, it changes, as myths do; travelers start speaking of a gigantic wolf that can be glimpsed through the snowstorms, running like a shadow by the wizard's side. Some say it's a wild wolf, controlled by the wizard's strange powers. Others say it's a being of magic, as fearsome as the one who walks by its side. No one knows which story is true, and some refuse to believe in any of them. However, even the bravest never stray from the path that surrounds the mountains, leaving the answer to the howling winds of winter.
Months and years and decades go by, and the wizard and his wolf remain a myth, one that talks of curses, of danger, of fear.
But the thing is - not everything about a myth is true, is it?
Wow. Wow, guys, it's over.
I am both happy and sad at the same time because I'm deeply attached to this fic and didn't want it to end, but it was also an amazing and fun experience to write it over these last five months. The amount of feedback I received for it blew my mind, and I'm forever thankful to everyone who supported me while I was working on this
I sincerely hope you guys enjoyed reading this chapter (and the whole fic) as much as I did writing it.
Thank you for reading and as always, comments are deeply appreciated!