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Tethered

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Eijirou stared at the boy chained to the floor against the wall in front of him. The boy’s red eyes glinted with fury above the muzzle covering the lower half of his face. His pale hair was matted with dirt and what looked like blood. His arms were chained to each other and to the floor, keeping him on his knees no matter how he struggled. Eijirou couldn’t keep the horror off of his face as he watched the boy thrash against his restraints, snarling as he glared up at Eijirou.

“We gave you a wild one, but you have the highest magic resistance of your class, and all of our experienced handlers have failed with him,” explained Hakamata, the chief mage-handler. “You have your spells?” Eijirou hesitated, unable to look away from the boy on the floor, and nodded. “Good. List them and show me.” Eijirou tore his gaze away from the blond boy and reached for the string of beads hanging at his waist.

“I can absorb magic without a spell,” Eijirou began, his words heavy on his tongue as his fingers brushed the first cluster of beads, the green ones. “The green beads make a mage stronger. The yellow ones weaken them. The orange ones take their power away completely. The red ones...inflict pain on a noncompliant mage.” The blond’s glare intensified at that, and Eijirou had to suppress a surge of guilt. “The blue ones heal a mage, and the different symbols on them tell what they heal. I carry spells to cure common illnesses and speed up the healing of minor and major injuries.”

“Very good. Those are the basic spells. I trust you’ve been trained in using more complex ones?” Hakamata questioned.

“Of course,” Eijirou answered dully.

“Good. Add this one to your arsenal,” Hakamata ordered, holding out a deep crimson bead with a black floral pattern etched onto it. “Use this as a last resort. If he escapes and does not respond to your other spells, or if your life is in danger, use it.” Eijirou took the bead and fastened it to the others, then frowned at Hakamata.

“Which spell is that? I don’t recognize it,” he said. It wasn’t any of the spells to heal his mage, or any of the sleeping spells, which he’d have to remember to pick up now that he had a mage of his own and would be allowed to use them.

“If you use that, it will kill your mage,” Hakamata said, his eyes fixed on the boy on the floor instead of Eijirou. “You have my permission to use it if you decide he cannot be tamed.” Ejirou swallowed hard and nodded when Hakamata glanced at him, then saluted the chief handler. “Excellent. He’s yours now. You can take him to the quarters assigned to you if you want, or you can keep him here. I’ll check on you in the morning.” Hakamata turned to leave.

“Chief Hakamata!” Eijirou blurted out. “Wait! You didn’t tell me his name!” Hakamata didn’t bother so much as glancing over his shoulder.

“He has no name, unless you wish to give him one. Otherwise, he will simply be referred to as Handler Kirishima’s Mage.” Hakamata left then, and Eijirou gaped after him, dumbfounded. Of course the mage had a name. Every mage had a name. Did all of them grow up nameless? That couldn’t be right. He had to have some kind of name, a nickname if nothing else. Right?

The boy on the floor snarled and thrashed again, jerking at his chains and drawing Eijirou’s attention.

“Hey, take it easy for a sec and I’ll get you out of there, okay?” Eijirou said, crouching in front of him and pulling out the key Hakamata had given him before they arrived at the boy’s cell. The boy’s glared intensified, but he held still. Eijirou took a deep breath to steady himself, then carefully unlocked the muzzle first. It fell to the floor, revealing dark bruising around the boy’s face, everywhere the muzzle had been. “They put that on way too tight,” Eijirou whispered, mostly to distract himself from the fact that this boy - well, young man, now that Eijirou got a good look at him; he was around Eijirou’s age - was chained like an animal, not at all what Eijirou had expected for his first assignment.

“No shit, fuckhead,” the mage snarled, wincing as speaking made the bruises on his face hurt. Eijirou reached for the beads at his waist, and the mage surged forward, headbutting Eijirou solidly in the chest. Eijirou lost his balance and landed hard, wincing at the pain. He frowned at the mage, who was smirking even as the expression made his eyes water with pain. “Serves you fucking right, you shit-haired asshole.”

I am not going to get into an argument with my mage on day one, Eijirou told himself, taking another breath and reaching for the beads again.

“Oh, fuck you. You can’t even fucking take a little shitty language, you motherfucking cowardly bastard? What are you gonna do, huh, fuckface? Make me fucking writhe and scream? I bet it makes you feel real fucking powerful,” the mage sneered.

Eijirou grimaced and forced himself to ignore the tirade, plucking a blue bead from the string. The green pattern etched on it told him he’d chosen the correct spell, one that would heal the mage’s bruises and replenish his energy. Eijirou rolled the bead in his palm, calling the magic to full strength. He curled his fingers around it, lifting his free hand to rest on the mage’s shoulder. The mage twisted and bit down harshly on Eijirou’s arm, just above his wrist. Eijirou hissed as the mage’s teeth pierced his skin. He forced himself to ignore the pain and keep his hand on the mage’s shoulder for another few seconds before withdrawing. The mage hung onto his arm just long enough that Eijirou wondered if he was going to have to do something to get his poor arm out of the mage’s teeth, then let go and spit a mouthful of EIjirou’s own blood at him.

“That’s what you fucking get for being a shitty moron, Handler Shitty Hair,” the mage smirked.

“You’re welcome,” Eijirou muttered, moving to unlock the chains on his arms as the mage blinked, frowned, and then realized what Eijirou had done.

“Are you even more fucking stupid than I thought? The fuck are you thinking, shit-brain?” he snapped. “Why the motherfucking goddamned fuck would you heal me?” Eijirou sighed and tucked the key into his pocket, then untied the scarf around his neck and wrapped it around his injured arm.

“Those bruises looked like they hurt. Can you stand?” Eijirou asked. The mage scowled at him, then surged to his feet and shoved Eijirou’s shoulders, knocking him flat on his back. The mage was on him before he could get his bearings, knees on Eijirou’s arms, keeping him from reaching his spell beads. The mage’s fingers curled around Eijirou’s neck, squeezing his throat and cutting off his air.

Eijirou choked, wheezed, and then his training kicked in. He curled his body, bringing his legs up and driving his knees into the mage’s back. The mage shouted in surprise and pitched forward, his grip on Eijirou’s throat loosening and one of his knees slipping from Eijirou’s arm. Eijirou twisted, threw his body weight to the side, throwing the mage off and propelling himself on top of him, straddling him much the same way he’d pinned Eijirou, except Eijirou trapped the mage’s wrists in one hand and pressed them to the floor above the mage’s head. Eijirou’s free hand dropped to his spell beads, tracing over them as he stared down into the mage’s furious crimson eyes. Eijirou coughed, barely keeping his hold on the mage as he fought to calm his breathing after being choked.

“Just fucking do it already,” the mage hissed, tugging at Eijirou’s grip on his wrists. “You’re just another fucking coward, hiding behind your shitty fucking spells. Go ahead, use one, I fucking dare you! Hurt me, god damn you! Prove you’re just as fucking shitty as the rest of those bastards!” Eijirou waited, his breath finally evening out as he stared down at the mage beneath him, who was panting with fury and wriggling as much as he could, trying to throw Eijirou off or at least inconvenience him. “Well?”

“What’s your name?” Eijirou asked, dropping his hand from the beads and resting it on his own thigh instead.

“Fucking seriously? The shit is this?” the mage demanded. Eijirou met his gaze steadily.

“I want to know your name,” he repeated.

“Fucking hell, didn’t your shitty ears hear that asshole bastard before? I don’t fucking have one until you give me one. Like I’m some goddamned pet,” the mage snarled.

“I’m not that stupid,” Eijirou informed him. “Even if you don’t remember what your name was before you came here, you’ve got to call yourself something, right?”

“Maybe I don’t fucking want to tell you, Handler Shitty Hair,” the mage snapped, trying to tug his wrists free again. This time, Eijirou let him, and the mage was so surprised by his success that he just lay there, blinking up at Eijirou.

“That’s fine. What do you want me to call you, then? You’re a person; you need some kind of name,” Eijirou pointed out. The mage eyed him suspiciously, and Eijirou let the silence hang between them, waiting patiently.

“Call me Bakugou,” the mage said finally. Eijirou grinned and slid off of Bakugou, then got to his feet and held out his hand.

“Nice to meet you, Bakugou! I’m Kirishima. Would you like to get a bath and take a nap? It can’t be fun to have all that dirt on you, and you look exhausted,” Eijirou said cheerfully. Bakugou swatted Eijirou’s hand away and scrambled to his feet, glaring at him again.

“The fuck are you so happy for?” Bakugou muttered. “I’m still a fucking glorified shitty attack dog, and you could fucking kill me whenever you want. Don’t fucking act nice. You’re still a bastard.” Eijirou refused to let his expression fall.

“You’ll see eventually that not all handlers are bad,” Eijirou replied.

“Fuck you. If you’re so fucking different, get me some fucking food or something,” Bakugou sneered, like he was still trying to aggravate Eijirou into hurting him.

“Sure. I’ll have something brought up. I’d say we could go to the mess hall, but you’d get dirt everywhere and then the quartermaster will have my head.”

“Fucking coward,” Bakugou muttered. Eijirou shrugged and stepped out of the cell.

“I survived fifteen years of training by not getting on the quartermaster’s bad side, and a friend of mine nearly died because he tracked mud into the kitchen while trying to steal some extra bread. He was scrubbing dishes without a break as punishment for so long he nearly starved to death.”

“Bull-fucking-shit,” Bakugou growled, stomping after Eijirou.

“Maybe. Maybe not. Tomorrow I can introduce you to my friends. I want to meet their new mages, and I’m sure they’ll want to meet you, too,” Eijirou told him.

“Maybe I’ll fucking strangle you in your sleep once I’ve gotten a decent fucking meal and a bath,” Bakugou countered. Eijirou paused and glanced at the mage, who stared back with a completely serious expression.

“Feel free to try,” Eijirou said after a second. “I’ll just wake up and pin you like I did earlier.” Bakugou scowled and crossed his arms, but followed when Eijirou started walking again.

Bakugou didn’t stop scowling all through bathing, putting on clean - and surprisingly comfortable - clothes, or eating. He even scowled when Eijirou smiled and wished him a good night’s sleep before disappearing into one of two bedrooms in the suite they would be sharing from then on.

Eijirou wondered if Bakugou ever stopped scowling, even in his sleep.


 

Katsuki glared at the bed he’d slept in the night before. He hated that bed. It was too soft. He’d fallen asleep and hadn’t woken up even when someone came in to bring food. He’d finally woken up way later than any decent person should ever be asleep, and he’d scarfed down the now-cold breakfast waiting for him while he scowled and mentally berated himself for letting his guard down and sleeping so deeply that he hadn’t heard anyone bring it to him.

Katsuki finished eating and frowned at his palms, wondering idly if his magic would work if he tried it. He debated trying it, just to see, but he knew from long experience that if he tried to use his magic and he wasn’t supposed to, he’d probably end up back in that cell again, and then he’d never have a chance to strangle his handler and escape. Sure, the idiot with the red hair hadn’t hurt him yet, but that didn’t mean he wasn’t going to, especially if he was going to introduce Katsuki to his “friends” and their mages. Last time a handler had wanted Katsuki to “meet his friends” what he really meant was he wanted Katsuki to fight his friends’ mages so the handlers could bet on the outcome.

Katsuki wasn’t in the mood to be forced to fight his fellow mages.

“Bakugou, you’re up!” Kirishima’s voice was horrifyingly cheerful, which Katsuki thought maybe was a chronic condition for him. Katsuki scowled and ignored Kirishima asking if he slept well.

“Fuck you and your fucking happy attitude,” Katsuki muttered. Kirishima tilted his head, watching him for a moment. Then he shrugged and seemed to dismiss Katsuki’s continued decidedly-not-happy attitude.

“Sero and the others are on their way with their new mages! Hurry up and get dressed!” Kirishima chirped. He fucking chirped. Katsuki realized then that Kirishima didn’t need to use spells to hurt him. Kirishima had his goddamned happy-go-lucky aura and that was torture enough.

“You gonna fucking restore my magic first, dipshit?” Katsuki demanded. Kirishima laughed, and Katsuki wanted to strangle him.

“You didn’t notice? I made sure there were no limits on your magic after you fell asleep last night. I figured the overload from having that much power back was why you slept so much,” Kirishima explained. Katsuki tensed, eyes narrowing. That would explain why he hadn’t woken up sooner, sure, but...was Kirishima serious? He didn’t put any limitations on Katsuki’s magic? Was he testing Katsuki, or was he just that goddamned fucking stupid?

Katsuki was seriously debating the merits of just blowing Kirishima the hell up right then and there versus getting a few more good meals out of him first when someone knocked on the door connecting their suite to the rest of the mage facility.

“Come on in, guys! Bakugou, you should probably put a shirt on,” Kirishima sang, practically skipping through the main room to greet their visitors. Katsuki scowled and tugged on a shirt - he’d slept with his pants on, just in case he needed to make a quick escape - before reluctantly following Kirishima into the main room. If nothing else, maybe some of his fellow mages could help with -

“Oh, fucking shitty goddamned mother-hell-fucking god no,” Katsuki hissed as soon as he laid eyes on the people making themselves at home on the couches and chairs in the main room.

“Nice to see you again, too, Pom-Pom,” smirked the one person Katsuki hated almost as much as handlers. Fucking Monoma shit-face Neito.

“I’m going to fucking murder your fucking ugly-ass face, you bastard,” Katsuki snarled, advancing on Monoma, who continued smirking and sat himself on the floor at the feet of one of the handlers who’d come in. Katsuki didn’t know how someone could look so arrogant and strangleable while sitting demurely at someone’s feet like that, but he was going to murder Monoma extra for pulling it off.

“Kirishima, please don’t let him kill my mage,” the handler sighed. Katsuki wondered how he got his weird-ass purple hair to stand up like that.

“Bakugou, please,” Kirishima piped up. “Shinsou won’t let him call you Pom-Pom if you agree not to kill him today.”

“I did not agree to this,” the handler protested. Katsuki assumed he was Shinsou and dismissed him immediately. Shinsou wasn’t Katsuki’s handler, so he couldn’t do anything to him. Katsuki reached Monoma and lunged for his neck, his magic swelling at his fingertips - Kirishima hadn’t been lying, and having so much energy at his command felt good - but fingers curled around his wrist and stopped him just short of being able to obliterate Monoma with a single touch.

“Bakugou, cut it out. Don’t make me stop you,” Kirishima insisted. Katsuki considered just maybe obliterating Kirishima instead, but then his gaze fell to Kirishima’s arm, where the marks from Katsuki’s teeth still lingered. Katsuki was abruptly reminded that Kirishima hadn’t used any spells against him, and instead had made sure he was clean, fed, and comfortable.

If he was going to escape, Katsuki would rather have the rest and food to prepare himself, as well as unlimited access to his magic.

“Don’t fucking touch me,” Katsuki snapped, yanking his arm away from Kirishima. He shot one last glare at Monoma, then stomped to the only empty chair and sat in it, his glare daring Kirishima or anyone else to comment on him taking a chair when the other mages in the room were all seated at their handlers’ feet. Kirishima simply flashed them all a pleased grin and perched himself on the arm of Katsuki’s chair, which Katsuki wasn’t pleased with - he didn’t want the handler that close to him - but didn’t protest.

“So, Shinsou, apparently Bakugou and your mage know each other,” Kirishima observed.

“No shit,” Katsuki muttered. Kirishima ignored him and kept talking.

“Tell us about him anyway!” Kirishima said, grin still in place. Shinsou sighed, then reached down then poked lazily at the side of Monoma’s head.

“Monoma is a copy mage. He’s actually two years older than us, and he’s annoyingly smug about it. Cooperative so far, though,” Shinsou said, yawning either to punctuate how non-resistant Monoma was for him or because he hadn’t slept in way too long, a theory backed up by the huge bags under his eyes.

“Sero, you next!” Kirishima exclaimed. Another handler, this one with plain, reasonable black hair, grinned and straightened up on the couch.

“Kaminari’s a lightning mage! He’s got some really cool skills!” Sero the handler announced, grinning at the blond mage Katsuki only vaguely recognized. A lightning mage could be useful in escaping, Katsuki thought, but this one didn’t look particularly, well, useful. He had a pleasant grin on his face and when Sero dropped one hand to pet Kaminari’s hair, the blond mage leaned into the touch, even twisting to blink up at his handler like some kind of overgrown dog. It made Katsuki nauseous.

“You got an elemental mage, just like you wanted!” Kirishima cheered. “That’s great, Sero!” Katsuki felt bile rise in his throat but forced himself to swallow it down. “Last but not least, Tetsutetsu!” That had to be the stupidest name Katsuki had ever heard, and he was glad it belonged to a handler, because he would have felt bad if a mage had a name like that, considering the hardships he would have as one on top of having a terrible name.

“This is Uraraka,” the last handler in the room said, grinning at the female mage at his feet. “She’s...uh…”

“I’m a variation of object-manipulation mage,” Uraraka explained. Ugh, Katsuki hated her too. She sounded way too pleasant. He wasn’t going to get any help from Kirishima’s friends’ mages. “I can move objects after touching them.”

“That sounds cool!” Kirishima said encouragingly. Tetsutetsu nodded, grinning.

“We’re going to head down to the training rooms later. You should come, too, and bring your mage! What’s his name and magic type, anyway?” he asked. Kirishima opened his mouth to reply, but Monoma beat him to it.

“Pom-Pom is a rabid attack dog,” Monoma purred. “He destroys things for fun.”

“Monoma, don’t talk,” Shinsou sighed, frowning at his mage. Monoma gave him an almost-apologetic look and fell silent. Katsuki sneered at him; leave it to Monoma to suck up to his handler. He was probably hoping to get Shinsou to give him special privileges like he’d done with the last handler he had. Katsuki realized Kirishima hadn’t said anything yet, and wondered if Kirishima even knew what his magic was. If he didn’t, that might explain why he’d given Katsuki no limits.

“Bakugou is a war mage. He’s a little rough and wild, but I’ve been told he’s skilled with his power. We might join you guys in training eventually, but Chief Hakamata wanted to check in today, and I want to get used to Bakugou’s magic on my own before I risk a group training exercise,” Kirishima said. Katsuki bristled at the idea of a visit from Hakamata, but he reminded himself that he was trying to stay on Kirishima’s good side, at least enough to keep getting food and sleep. Besides, something way more important was brought to Katsuki’s attention.

Kirishima knew Katsuki was a war mage.

He knew that Katsuki could kill Kirishima and everyone else in the room if Kirishima wasn’t fast enough restraining him.

He knew exactly how much and what type of power Katsuki had, as well as his history, presumably.

And yet he let Katsuki have full access to his magic, and hadn’t immediately established dominance by forcing Katsuki to submit.

That meant one of two things.

Worst case scenario, Kirishima was playing him, giving him a taste of how nice things could be before he snatched it away as soon as Katsuki disobeyed.

Best case scenario, Kirishima was one of those foolish, idealistic handlers that thought they could bond with their mages and, like, be equals or some shit, as though they could ever be equal when one literally carried around spell beads to give them complete control over the other’s life.

Most likely, though, Kirishima was just really, really stupid. Maybe overconfident. But definitely stupid.

Until he knew for sure, however, Katsuki would have to tread lightly.