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Flower Bouquet

Chapter Text

Sending you forget me nots

To help me to remember

Baby please forget me not

I want you to remember

 

Forget me nots - Patrice Rushen

 

 

 

 

 

 

There are wounds that mark us, that leave visible and terrible scars. There are others that just exist deep within us, wounds that we keep in the depth of our hearts, wounds easy to hide that always come back to us unconsciously.

Some call them memories.

For Izuku, the memory comes in the spring, when the buds open and the fields are painted with yellow, red, blue, green and lilac colors… The view was beautiful, filled with color, life and an everlasting hope. However, it just takes one look at them for him to feel the weight of the memory come back at full strength.

Every spring, when the flowers rise once again, Izuku sits down to gaze at them—he closes his eyes and inhales the aroma, trying to recognize every piece separately. At the beginning he cried, the sight of the flowers was enough for Izuku to run in the opposite direction until he collapsed on the ground and broke into uncontrollable sobs. With the pass of time, he taught himself how to suppress that first reaction and managed to gather sufficient strength to sit in the fields, surrounded by flowers and memories.

He just needed to breath in the scent of the forest to remember his parents.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The white heliotropes were born in her mother’s left ankle and climbed upwards until they hid beneath her dress. When Izuku was a child he used to sit at her feet to count the flowers, to slide his baby fingers down the impossible stretch of green stems and tiny petals. They were illustrated in a bright white color, the symbol of purity and care.

And it was absolutely wonderful that his father also possessed a white flower in his right hand. It was a beautiful magnolia, with raindrop shaped petals and a tiny yellow center that highlighted the flower’s soft whiteness. From there, the row of green branches filled with small white magnolias were spread through his forearm and ended on his elbow, none as splendorous and magnificent as the one that shone on the back of his hand.

They were the village’s healers. They had a room next to their house where they treated colds, falls, wounds, bites, births and all the ailments every inhabitant of their town could possibly have.

Izuku could sit for hours in a corner of the room while his father diagnosed flus and treated wounds. He could spend whole afternoons with his mother grinding plants and seeds to replenish their shelves. He learned to identify the plants by their leaves, by the color of their flowers. For him, it was like a game to sit at the end of his parent’s feet, blindfolded while trying to recognize the concoctions only by the aroma.

He will always remember the day he wished he could be like them, the day he wished to save the world–he was four years old and his best friend Katsuki fell from a tree, breaking his arm in the process. Izuku remembers that it was him who cried all the way back while the blond, pale as a magnolia, clenched his teeth and grumbled lowly.

His parents did not utter a single scream, nor did they panic; his mother hurried to bring bandages, water and medicine and his father lifted Katsuki from the ground muttering words of encouragement and calmness. Izuku approached the work table, and although he did not dare to take hold of his friend’s hand, he approached as much as possible hoping to offer comfort.

That day, Izuku dreamt of receiving a white flower. That day, Izuku dreamt of being capable enough to heal everyone, to save everyone.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Izuku does not need to try too hard to evoke the scent of lily and honeysuckle. He just needs to inhale deeply so that all the aromas of the forest would infiltrate through his nostrils and flood his body with freshness, bringing back the delicate scent of his old home.

He stays there for a long time, thinking and remembering that time is diluted between his fingers. By the time he comes back to his senses the sun had already begun its descent. The wind blows softly, preserving the warmth of the day, but it will not take long before it starts gusting with cold violence, so Izuku sighs and gets up.

When he returns home Tokoyami had already finished lighting the fire and was amusing himself by cleaning the rabbits that will become their dinner. Izuku is about to apologize for his lateness when he sees them—a bouquet of red shafts protruding from a bunch of other flowers.

Something inside Izuku cracks.

“I brought more,” Tokoyami says, pointing to the pile of flowers. “You’re running out of lotion.”

Izuku smiles, although from the way Tokoyami’s eyebrows frown he thinks his face gesture might be closer to tears than anything else.

“Is something wrong—?”

“No!” Izuku shouts without letting him finish. “No,” he repeats more calmly, approaching with uncertain steps. “Thanks.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mitsuki Bakugou wore a red sarashi that allowed her to exhibit the flowers, of a cherry red color, that extended by all her back and nape.

She had won the title as the best fighter for five years in a row. She knew how to fight, she sailed, and she had an amazing ability with knives. She was blonde and fierce, tall and noisy; Izuku loved to sit and watch her while teaching defense classes for the young alpha.

“Stop drooling over my mother, Deku.” Katsuki used to say when he saw his face of adoration.

“Kacchan, your mother is amazing.”

His friend’s answer was a pinch. “I’d be even more.” He grunted between his teeth as he turned to leave. 

Izuku followed him trying to apologize. He knew Katsuki did not stand comparisons. He did not like to be a diminutive version of anyone, not even his own mother.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Izuku turns away from the flowers and ends up helping with dinner. They sat down to eat in an unusual silence, because after all, the boy does not have the strength to talk about his day, nor does he feel like asking questions.

“Midoriya,” Tokoyami’s voice wakes him up from his trance and Izuku redirects his gaze to him.

“Yes?”

The bird-faced boy looks at him for a long moment. Izuku smells the questions that are hidden under the silence, yet he is careful not to say anything and limits himself to studying the soft surface of the black feathers and the way the firelight dances on his beak. Finally, the boy sighs and murmurs:

“It’s getting late, I’d better go. Do you need anything else?”

Izuku smiles without making any movement to get up.

“I’m fine, thanks.” He says softly. “Will you come tomorrow?”

“I’ll try.”

“Thanks for everything, Tokoyami.”

“See you later, Midoriya.”

Tokoyami gets up and Izuku turns his attention back to his bowl. He pretends to eat while listening to the other boy picking up his stuff; he hears him walking away, his sturdy footsteps fade until the only sound he catches are the crackles of the fire. Only then, Izuku looks back at the flowers.

A gentle breeze shakes the red petals. If you squint your eyes, the flowers lose definition and become a blur of scarlet. A long, slender blur—like a sword.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Nobody got surprised when the noisy son of the village’s best warrior proudly showed the flower of a red gladioli that had bloomed just above the bone that joins the arm to the chest.

The small flower was just about the size of his mother’s thumb, yet it possessed a crimson hue that was inevitably associated with strength, passion and perseverance. The gladiolus was also one of the most beautiful flowers—it represented vanity, strength of character, honor and fidelity. They were the absolute symbol of victory, because once they started to grow they would soon acquire the shape of a sword, long and red.

The complete set undoubtedly made Katsuki Bakugou an alpha.

Izuku remembers with perfect clarity the day he saw the red flower on his friend’s chest. He remembers the bright color and the small dark lines that sprouted just from the center. They were red like the eyes of his owner, red as the sky at dawn. The scarlet color it possessed was extremely radiant.

Izuku remembers the touch, soft and firm, he recalls the delicate smoothness of the skin in contrast to the firm bone that was underneath. He remembers that he spent days dreaming of red petals on a background of alabaster skin.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The sound of an owl wakes Izuku from his trance, only then is when he notices his half-empty bowl with the remains of rabbit cooked in the bottom.

Izuku sighs.

He picks up the remains of his food and buries them, then he cleans the bowls. Instead of going to his bed, the boy goes to his bag where he keeps the last notebook in his collection. He sits by the fire and tries to sketch the shape of the flowers.

He is not surprised when his first drawing turns out to be a gladiolus flower and not a baladre flower, but it bothers him that his sketch lacks life. He spends hours drawing, trying to capture the faint and almost hypnotic movement of the leaves. Dissatisfied, he takes the paintings from his bag and tries to make his drawing possess the ferocity of that red, the strength, the brilliance that he remembers.

It’s useless.

Frustrated, Izuku tears the page, wrinkles it and throws it away. As far as he can. He feels anger and frustration intensely on his pulse. To fight them, he sits next to the flower bouquet and begins to defoliate each of them, separating the petals in different bowls, but his anger fades when he sees the handful of flowers he has in his hands. It just takes to look at them to feel he can see them all again: heliotropes, magnolias, gardenias, roses, daisies, blood red gladioli… all of them and more dancing around him, showing the strength and beauty of their owners.

Izuku takes a breath, his hands full of broken flowers; he would laugh at the irony but the idea is too painful.

“You’ve done this before,” he tells himself, trying to resume the task.

But it is useless. He cannot stop thinking about heliotropes, magnolias and gladioli. He cannot stop seeing them broken and destroyed. All the flowers are gone, and he does not even have a flower on his body to console himself with.

 

 

 

 

 

 

All the children of his age received their flowers almost at the same time. All with the exception of Izuku.

Izuku spent weeks studying his body with attention, waiting for the flower that would define his life, but when it came, it was not what he had been waiting for. It passed while he was bathing. There was another group of children with him and it was one of them who shouted “Omega” loudly.

Izuku turned around looking for the source of the noise and when he saw the finger pointing in his direction he turned around expecting to find someone behind him. There was no one and it was then that he understood. He covered his belly with his hands and ran to his house.

He did not even care that he left his clothes behind.

He arrived breathless. With his body still wet, he dove inside the consulting room where his father attended to his patients. Both were stunned to see him naked, but his mother immediately recognized his scent and ran towards him with a blanket in her arms. Izuku clung to her with his heart pounding in his throat.

That night, his mother held a mirror in front of him so that he could appreciate his mark. To the right of his hip were three thin and elongated leaves—there were no flowers and only those leaves of intense green color. The two at the ends were extremely thin, like fine needles, and the one in the center was a little thicker with a circle; no bigger than a fingernail, dark green at the tip.

“And the flower?” Izuku asked slightly disenchanted with the lack of color on his skin.

“They will appear soon.” His mother said, moving away the mirror and preparing the bandages for him. “Sometimes they take time to bloom.”

“But what flower is it?”

“Fennel.”

Izuku looked at his mother with a frown.

“That is not a flower. It’s a medical plant,” murmurs the six-year-old boy, trying to contain the panic. He does not even protest when his mother starts wrapping his hips with the bandages.

“The fennel is a plant that is used in medicine and it is also used in the kitchen as a flavoring. It grows in countless places and is resistant to many climates. It is a good plant for an omega.”

“The fennel isn’t a flower.” Izuku stubbornly repeats, feeling small and useless.

“The fennel has a yellow flower. It is small and adorable, but it takes time to appear. It will eventually come, it’s not something you should worry about. Now pay attention, have you seen how I just put on you the bandages? Because now you will have to do it on your own."

Izuku muttered a protest.

“Why do I have to use bandages if I don’t have a flower?”

It was well known that although alphas and betas could display their flowers with pride, omegas used to cover their bellies and stomachs, to prevent anyone other than their partner from seeing them.

“The flower will come, Izuku, stop worrying about it. Now I’m going to take off the bandages and it will be your turn to try, okay?”

While his mother was dealing with the jumble of bandages, Izuku took the mirror and stared at his brand again. He was six years old and could not stand the bright green vision without flowers of any kind, so he took the bandages that his mother tended and wrapped his hips and stomach. The first time they were loose, the second one he squeezed them too much, on the third the knot broke while walking, but Izuku continued again and again until the bandages stayed in place. He was not willing to let anyone see his leaves without flowers.

Who would love a flowerless?

“Everything will be fine, Izuku.” His mother murmured as she smelled his anguish.

Izuku embraced her and let himself be cooed by her sweet and warm words. He tried not to think that he would have preferred to be a beta, like his father, or an alpha, like his best friend. Someone who could have a gorgeous and dazzling flower to brag about.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Izuku leaves the flowers, unable to continue touching them, and gets up to pick up the piece of paper with a grunt of anger. He lights his oil lamp and makes sure to put out the fire before entering the cave. He takes off the bandages that cover his stomach and tries to not look at the web of green leaves that spread across his belly while he turns off the light. In the dark, he wraps himself in the blanket with his eyes open—in his mind he does not stop seeing the image of flowers shattered between his fingers.

Izuku does not cry, he has long since run out of tears, but the lament that grows inside him threatens to explode all the walls he has built carefully over time. He concentrates on his breathing, gropes for the ball of paper he dropped near his pillow, and as soon as he grabs it he clings to it and closes his eyes trying to sleep.

At some point he dreams; or rather, recalls.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Izuku shook the water from his face and moved away from the river, into the forest. As soon as the rest of the children’s voices become a distant buzz, Izuku lowers his bag and began to unwrap his wet bandages.

“Why don’t you bathe with the other omegas?”

Izuku jumped and turned around with his heart pounding in his throat.

“Kacchan!” He screamed when he saw the blond standing behind him, as he struggled to redo the knot in his hip. “What are you doing?”

“Why don’t you bathe with the other omegas?”

Izuku clenched his mouth tight. There was a private pond that the omegas used to bathe without worrying about other people’s looks. Children and adults would bathe in the river, in the lake, or on the beach, always wearing their bandages; but on the pond they could undress completely and enjoy a bath in relative peace. Izuku has already had his mark for a year and a half, yet he had never gone to the pond with the other omegas.

“So?”

“It’s none of your business!” Izuku shouted, feeling miserable. “Now go away!”

“What is your problem?!” Katsuki approached and extended his hand to the knot at his waist, “Do you perhaps have a flower so ugly that you don’t want anyone to see it?”

Izuku reacted with anger. He slapped the hand away from the knot vigorously and backed away, he felt the tears burning in his eyes.

“You cannot see it!”

“Haah? Why not?!”

“You—you can’t!”

“Your alpha is going to see it.”

“But you are not them!”

Izuku spun around and ran; behind him he heard Katsuki scream.

“Hey, Deku! Come back here!”

But Izuku kept running, he could not bear to think what his friend would say if he discovered that there was no flower on his body.

 

 

 

 

 

 

All the spring festivals were held at the capital, five days away. That, together with the fall feast, were the two most significant events that brought together all the inhabitants of the island. The villages sent their best warriors to participate in the tournaments, the artisans sold the works done during the winter, the different couples of newlyweds could request the blessing of the priestess… The activities were as varied as they were extravagant.

Izuku was eight years old when his mother agreed to let him attend the festival.

“Don’t stay away from your group,” his mother repeated for the umpteenth time while Izuku finished putting sandwiches in his travel bag.

“Remember to take a change of bandages,” his father advised, as he handed him a wineskin filled with water along with another set of bandages.

The adults embraced and kissed their son until it was he who moved away from them to stand next to Katsuki.

“He will be fine,” said Mitsuki Bakugou, smiling confidently. “Masaru will come with us and he will take care of the children.”

Izuku said his goodbyes to them and joined the travel caravan. That day, he refused to get on one of the carts and preferred to walk with Mitsuki, asking all kinds of questions. The woman answered each of them with a smile, and at no time seemed to get fed up with him.

At night, Izuku tried to put his blanket next to Katsuki’s, but his friend got up and began to fold his blanket.

“Kacchan?”

“My mother is there,” the blond muttered as he pointed to his parents’ little tent. “You can sleep next to her bed.”

Izuku gaped at him while he carried his things to the other side of the campfire, he saw him settle while turning his back on him. Feeling abandoned, Izuku bit his lip and looked around. Most couples, such as Mitsuki and Masaru, had retreated to their tents. Young people and children slept by the fire, all of them under the care of the sentinels stationed around the perimeter. With nowhere else to go, Izuku curled up and tried to sleep.

He woke up at some point of the night because of the howl of an animal. He stood still, expecting to hear movement or voices, but there was no noise and the absence of it aroused his uneasiness. He knew that the sentinels were taking care of the camp and he also knew he was safe, but he could not stifle the feeling of fear that was beginning to grow in him. Not wanting to attract anyone’s attention, Izuku circled the campfire and approached Katsuki.

“Kacchan.” He shook him slowly, murmuring his name next to his ear. “Kacchan, wake up.”

The blond boy shook himself and turned to him, alert and on guard; as soon as his senses caught the aroma of Izuku, his body relaxed.

“What do you want, Deku?”

“Can I sleep with you?”

“What? No, if you are afraid go with my mother. Haven’t you spent all day jumping and smiling for her?”

“Kacchan, please.”

He tried to imprint on his voice all the urgency and fear that he felt at that moment, and it seemed to have worked, because Katsuki wrinkled his nose and took his blanket to place it next to him.

“Stop crying—and control that scent or you will wake everyone up.”

Izuku settled down next to him, wrapped himself in his blanket and arranged his head so that his forehead was as close as possible to Katsuki’s shoulder. He then inhaled the scent of peace and safety emanating from him, and was rocked with the sound of his breathing; he was almost asleep when he heard the soft whisper of his voice.

“...Deku.”

“Hm?”

“You aren’t going to marry my mother.”

Izuku smiled with his eyes closed, “I don’t want to marry your mother.”

“Then why are you always drooling for her?”

“Because she’s wonderful.”

Silence spread through his body and Izuku let himself be carried away by the warmth and calm of the moment. The dream was there, so close he would have been able to touch it if he  stretched his hands, and just before crossing the threshold into unconsciousness, he was able to hear Katsuki clearly.

“More than me?”

With his last flash of consciousness, Izuku muttered. “No one is better than Kacchan.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

“What are you doing?”

Izuku looked up from his sketchbook and watched as Katsuki sat next to him.

“Have you finished training, Kacchan?”

“Why else would I be here then? …You didn’t come to see the training today; my mother asked about you.”

“Really? Oh, I should apologize to her tomorrow.”

“Don’t do it!” Katsuki leans towards him and looks at the object that Izuku held in his lap. “What’s that?”

Izuku smiles and shows it to him.

“My father has gifted me a notebook.”

“Why?”

“He told me that I can start registering the plants I already know. I can draw them and write down their properties and qualities, the uses they have and their benefits.”

“But he already has books on that.”

“Those are his, this one will be mine. I have just started it. It has no color because the paintings are only sold in the capital, but it does not matter. I will fill it with all the plants I know and then, if I can, I will paint them.”

“What are you going to need them for?”

“I want to be a healer.”

“The omegas are not healers.”

Izuku shrugged and continued to sketch the plant in front of him.

“Anume is an omega and has a boat to fish.”

“Anume lost his alpha in a storm, he uses the boat to feed his pups.”

“Even doesn't have an alpha and in spring she won the archery tournament.”

“Even is a rarity… Is that what you want, to not have an alpha?”

“No alpha is ever going to love me.” Izuku murmured, thinking of his green leaves without flowers. He preferred to stay alone and avoid the humiliation of someone else seeing his brand.

“And if someone asks you?” Asked the blond after a moment of hesitation.

“Well, they’ll have to accept that I’m going to be a healer.” He did not say it with presumption or bravado. It was a simple statement, like when someone says that the sky is blue.

 

 

 

 

 

 

He wasn’t able to hear what Katsuki said, he watched him move his lips, but the words did not reach his ears. He remembers they have been squatting next to each other, he remembers the pressure of his shoulder against his, he remembers the scent of his body, he remembers having gazed at the red gladioli flowers on his shoulder.

He remembers the surprise when the man appeared in front of them. He emerged from the bushes and stopped short at the sight of them.

Izuku had never seen before a man with purple skin, there was no one like him in his village. He was big and stocky, he wore loose clothing in light colors and his hair was the color of snow.

The man smiled and immediately fear spread through Izuku’s body. His fear floated like a dense and bitter incense, to which Katsuki responded by standing in the way of the stranger. The growl he made was not a sound that Izuku remembered hearing before, but it awoke in him a sense of urgency.

Izuku stood up just as two other strangers appeared next to the first. One had the head of a lynx and the body of a man, and the second of them had giant eyes and horns the size of his arm.

“Run!” Katsuki reacted first, turned around and pushed him to move. Izuku obeyed, managed to take three steps when something got tangled with his leg and made him fall.

He fell to the ground with his hands in front of him and spun around in time to see Katsuki jump over the man with the whip. The blond was nimble and fierce, but he could do nothing against the combined strength of three grown men. Izuku shouted when the boy fell to the ground.

Izuku remembers to have moved in impulse, remembers to have crawled to him just to see the blood flowing from his head.

“Kacchan, Kacchan!” He had called desperately, extending his hand to him, but was never able to touch him; the blackness falling over his body like a giant mallet.

Still unconscious, he kept shouting his name, again and again, in the middle of the endless darkness.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Izuku woke up filled with fear and anguish. He stirred in his bed, breathing quickly and without rhythm. He stood still, sniffing the world, expecting to feel the gentle movement of the waves and the scent of salt, but instead he breathed in the fragrance of the earth, and felt the scent of the cold morning. He felt the dry tears on his cheeks, and wiped them away without stopping to think.

He straightened on his bed and hugged himself with the blanket. He struggled to control his breathing while counting to a hundred and then up to a thousand. Little by little, his eyes adapted to the darkness and he managed to visualize the outline of the lamp and the shadow of the clothes near his bed.

He dressed up in silence, placing his bandages almost automatically. He sheathed on his gray pants and put his blanket over his chemise. When he came out of the cave the world was a dirty grey, and when he inhaled deeply, the warmth of his body rose up in white spirals.

Izuku took a moment to recover. The memory still felt too close and if he was not careful he was going to sink into it. No self-pity, he told himself harshly, shook his head decisively and went to work. He did it with determination, without hesitating.

He did not allow himself to ponder.

Fire, he told himself and moved the stacked wood inside the cave to the remains of his nocturnal fire. Water, he took his two largest pots and walked the long stretch to the nearest stream to fill them. Lotion, he took a big breath of air and ended up defoliating the flowers, moved a handful of each in containers with lids, then proceeded to work each of them with different methods. Breakfast, he used some of the water he had left to prepare tea and wrapped himself by the fire while nibbling on his wheat cracker.

The sky was beginning to clear and Izuku just looked at the heavens full of amazing colors. The red protruding from the rest.

He closed his eyes.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Each festival was the same and different at the same time. Although it was not the first festival he attended, Izuku could not help himself when he stopped at each post to appreciate the beauty of the necklaces, bracelets, knives and an infinity of other products. So much was the variety and perfection of each piece that he had not been able to decide on any specific one to buy.

“What’s wrong with you?” Katsuki asked him that night when he saw him sulking by the fire. Izuku told him about his predicament and the boy laughed. “Only someone like you would spend the night worrying about not having bought anything.”

Izuku grimaced.

“Take it,” Katsuki dropped a small and long package unceremoniously on his lap. It was about the size of his hand.

“What is it?”

“You will not know if you don’t open it.”

When he opened it, he found a box with six little jars of blue, red, green, yellow, white and black paint.

“Oh!” Izuku murmured with surprise and delight. He turned to Katsuki. “For what—?”

“What’s the use of paint for, eh? To paint! …Do you want your plant books to be boring?”

Izuku blinked and recalled their conversation of months ago. He smiled and laughed in pure happiness.

“Kacchan, thank you!” He hugged him with the pain box still in hand and breathed in the familiar aroma of wood and smoke. For the first time since he was six years old he did not mind at all his lack of flowers.

 

 

 

 

 

 

“I’m going to get out of here,” Izuku told himself for the umpteenth time, opening his eyes. He repeated it every day, sometimes five or six times to gather strength. “I’m going to find you, Kacchan.”

 

Chapter Text

It was usual for one of Izuku’s parents to be absent for a few days to attend patients who lived far from the village. Usually it was his father, who disappeared for a few weeks, either to go to the capital to buy material or while making routine visits to the nearest villages. There was a time, however, that the two had to be absent at the same time.

The fault was on the storm that caused a collapse at the East. The closest village to the disaster had been partially covered with trees and debris. All of the adults of his village had left to take care of the wounded and help calming down the little ones, behind were left all the children under twelve with a small group of betas and omegas to tend over them.

That night, while it was raining once again, Katsuki woke up with the need to go to the bathroom. He rubbed his eyes and it took him a moment to understand that the ball of heat that was next to him was Izuku, with wet strands stuck to his forehead. His usually calm expression was absent, instead he was frowning and moving his lips as if he were talking to himself. When a thunder rumbled outside, Izuku involuntarily contracted and his frown got even more pronounced.

Katsuki reacted automatically. He reached out and gently stroked the dark green strands. While brushing his hair away, he rubbed his forehead delicately until the lines of tension faded away.

Once satisfied, Katsuki got up and went to the bathroom. They had been gathered in the assembly hall, the benches were removed so that the children could lie down on the floor while the adults slept near the entrance. The bathroom was no more than ten steps away from the building, yet Katsuki still returned soaked up.

The beta that had been watching him gave him a blanket when he returned. Katsuki used it conscientiously and parted without saying a single word. When he returned to his mat, he found Izuku awake.

“Kacchan?” The boy asked loudly.

“Shh, Deku, you’re going to wake everyone up.” He settled down next to him and wrapped himself in his blankets.

“I’m sorry,” the boy murmured, moving closer until their foreheads touched. “I just woke up and you weren’t here.”

“I went to the bathroom.”

“You got wet.”

“It’s raining again.”

“I know, the thunder woke me up before and that’s why I came, was it wrong?”

“Go to sleep now.”

And Izuku obeyed him. He closed his eyes and it did not take him more than five minutes to be swept away by the dream. Katsuki stood still, absorbing the warmth and the scent. It was like having a small bonfire for himself, although it was a different type of warmth, this one was radiant but it did not burn. Katsuki let himself be enveloped by the sensation. He closed his eyes and inhaled slowly—he got drunk and fell asleep.

 

 

 

 

 

 

When he woke up it took him a moment to separate the dream form the reality. The feeling had been so real that he was sure that if he just stretched out his arm he would find Izuku sleeping next to him. He laughed at his naivety, and the sound was not pleasant at all. Katsuki turned around and looked at the grey ceiling, feeling that his usual anger invaded him once again. He had woken up in a bad mood, like he always did when he dreamed about him. Which was basically every day.

He rubbed his face and forced himself to get up.

His partner, in the cell on the other side of the aisle, was already doing his morning warm-ups. Katsuki ignored him and started with his. Some stretches, push ups and sit-ups. He finished with the body soaked in sweat, his muscles tense and the feeling that his mood was not going to improve anytime soon.

The bell rang.

Water began to flow through the two channels that passed by the inside of the bars. Katsuki and the rest of the cage dwellers leaned by the water. Some drank directly from the canal, and others, like Katsuki, used their water buckets and began to fill them until the bell rang again and the supply was cut off.

Katsuki drank and washed himself as best as he could with a cloth and fresh water; he kept a little for later as the heat inside their cells was usually unbearable during the afternoons. Then he just waited.

Breakfast arrived half an hour later. Two guards came downstairs escorting two omegas. Two omegas for two rows of cells, although not all were occupied.

Unconsciously, Katsuki’s eyes roamed on both of the omegas’ bodies. The two girls wore a white sarashi around their chests, white wristbands with metal rings and a fur collar around their necks with a ring that left no doubt of their use, yet the worst of all was that they were not allowed to bandage their stomachs. All of the omegas that he had seen over the years on that cage wore a fundoshi that covered the front, but left the back and most of the belly exposed. They were held by loops around the hips and its goal was to highlight the intricate design of flowers that were supposed to be a shared secret between an omega and their alpha.

From afar, Katsuki glimpsed the white petal on the skin of the girl and averted his eyes, clenching his teeth.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The change had been sudden. One day there were no bandages, and on the next one they appeared.

Katsuki was not around when Izuku’s flower had sprouted; none of the presents had seen the flower but they had managed to distinguish the outline of the leaves and stems before the boy ran home.

When Katsuki saw the bandages he did not question or mention them at any time. In his village the alphas were taught that it was disrespectful to ask about the flower of an omega. When he was old enough to understand, his mother told him clearly that the omegan pond was forbidden under any circumstances and that there was a severe punishment for any foolish person who would try to disturb the privacy of his companions.

Katsuki understood and obeyed, but he was still curious.

He was not the only one, though. The older alphas used to gather around together to talk about the possible flowers of the omegas, they would laugh and fantasize, but sooner or later they would inevitably end up matching with one and never come back to participate in such conversations. It was considered of poor taste after all, to ask another alpha about their omega’s flower. So Katsuki’s curiosity was natural and he could not do anything about it.

The problem was… that Izuku always bathed with them, swam with them, made sandcastles on the beach with them. He was at any time of the day with them, with his bandages and all. Izuku did not want to go to the omegan pond and Katsuki had to find out why, even though he knew he should not ask. He knew it was incredibly rude to even try to touch the bandages without permission, but he could not help it.

And his imprudence had made Izuku cry.

“I’m sorry,” he said that night when he steeled himself enough to offer an olive branch. “What I did was wrong.”

Izuku’s unhappy expression softened and he had accepted the olive twig with a smile.

“Thank you, Kacchan.” The boy had approached him and had given him a hug he did not feel worthy for. “I’m sorry for hitting you.”

“I deserved it,” said Katsuki and returned the hug with care. He felt his body vibrate with Izuku’s laughter and he knew that his friend had forgiven him.

Katsuki kept the questions for himself, but his curiosity remained there, as it was natural.

 

 

 

 

 

 

“....blanket,” the voice returned him to reality and Katsuki turned to the girl with brown hair, her round face had a friendly expression. “I’m going to change your blanket and clothes. It’s time to wash the ones you have there.”

Katsuki got up, folded his blanket and came over to give it to her. At that distance, the scent of the girl enveloped him—chestnuts and berries—, and for a fraction of a second Katsuki was tempted to inhale forcefully; instead he backed up to the farthest wall and threw the blanket towards her, which hit the bars and fell to the ground. Then he undressed and kicked his pants near the bundle of fabric.

The girl said nothing, picked up the blanket and clothes, and passed a clean set through the bars. She placed the breakfast above it: cinnamon rolls, fruit, bread and dried meat wrapped in paper. Although the task was relatively simple, the girl took her time to complete her task before moving to the next cell.

After so much time being locked in, Katsuki was familiar with the routine. He knew that the mission of the omegas was to calm them, flood them with pheromones so that the transfer was as calm as possible, but that day the blond could not approach her without thinking of mint and spices. He still had the memory fresh in his mind and he did not want any other aroma to overshadow it.

The omegas finished their work and left with the two guards. He noticed that only two of his companions had also pulled apart from the omegas and ate with the same expression of distrust that he surely had, the rest of them seemed calm and relaxed, no doubt drunk with the sweet aroma of omegas. Katsuki ate quietly away from the blanket and clothes that smelled of chestnuts.

 

 

 

 

 

 

“Nejire smells like strawberries.” Katsuki heard one of the older alphas say. They had finished their training and were sitting at a side, drinking water and stretching their muscles.

“I know,” answered another alpha that had joined the conversation. “I sat next to her in…”

Katsuki moved away from the group while helping his mother pick up the wooden swords with which he had been training, but one of his friends had listened to the conversation and had continued the topic with the children his age. For Katsuki, the inquiry had lacked interest until one of them had brought Izuku’s name up.

“Midoriya smells like medicine,” said one of them, wrinkling their nose.

“Yes,” answered another one quickly. “Smells like mint, or ginger.”

“I think he smells like flowers,” said a third. “I like it.”

Katsuki stopped what he was doing and turned towards them.

“If you have nothing better to do, you can leave. I don’t feel like listening to stupid things.”

“Do you think he smells like medicine?” The first of his friends asked and Katsuki roared.

“I said, get out!” He pushed them until they all run out. “Leave!”

Katsuki finished collecting the stuff and paused for a moment to think. Yes, Izuku always smelled of medicinal plants, smelled like infused flowers, smelled like those pastes Inko always made and that Izuku tried to imitate, but he did not smell like that all the time. After bathing and before he returned home to be impregnated with the aroma of plants, Izuku’s scent was unmistakable.

He smelled of spices and mint. He smelled like home.

 

 

 

 

 

 

After breakfast and before the effect of the omegas became opaque, another group of guards came down to move them. First, they opened the cages on the left and the occupants came out in a straight line. Katsuki took the pants, and while holding his breath, rubbed it against the ground, then against his body until he was sure that his own scent was opaquing anybody else’s; additionally, he had dry leaves next to the wall, so he took them with discretion and put them in his pocket.

When it was his row’s turn to leave, Katsuki counted the number of guards and their weapons. It was useless of course, several before him had tried to escape, what the heck, he himself had also tried—he bore the marks of his failure on the back. The damn cells were underground, and they were a labyrinth. The only exit he knew of was from the training camp but that place was infested with guards patrolling the battlements. The exit was made of iron and the door could only be opened from the outside.

But instead of going up, they went down. First by stairs and then using an elevator. They went into the mountains, to a zone dimly lit by torches, and next to each torch there was a tall base that had incense on the top. Katsuki cursed to himself when he spotted the unmistakable scent of milk and honey. He heard several deep inhalations and felt, rather than saw, that the environment relaxed. It was inevitable. It was within their nature and it was difficult to combat a custom rooted deep down their system.

It smelled like a pregnant omega. A happy and peaceful omega. It conveyed warmth and calm, and when it was breathed in the natural reaction was to relax, even to purr. The scent made them docile, made them manageable. Katsuki felt his body soften despite his reluctance.

To fight it, he put his hands in his pants and rubbed the dry leaves, then he brought his fingers to his nose and covered it with the mint aroma. It was tenuous, but he concentrated on it. One by one, the alphas divided into groups. Some took their picks and began to dig, others picked up the rocks and transported them to the cargo elevator, the last group was responsible for uploading the material. Katsuki swung the pick in his hands and for a second he thought about nailing it to the closest guard, but the impulse gave away when he remembered that even if he managed to knock down all of the guards, it would have only taken one of them to sound the alarm; all the elevators would be paralyzed and there would be no way out of there.

And Katsuki had to leave. He had to go out. There were pending accounts and he wanted to collect them. So he took his pick and started using it. He lifted it over his head and buried it in the rock, imagining a particular face.

 

 

 

 

 

 

He woke up tied, his head was throbbing, and he was unable to remember the last moments before he became unconscious. He looked up to the sky, smelled the salt of the sea and when he turned around he felt the sand on his neck.

“Oh, look. This one woke up.”

Katsuki turned to the voice and found an unfamiliar and frightening face. His hair was light blue, almost white, and his red eyes were surrounded by wrinkles. He smiled, but his gestures were not kind—his aura emanated pure hostility. The memory of what happened in the forest came back to him, he remembered the men, he remembered Izuku on the ground. ‘I hope he’s gone.’ He thought desperately as he struggled against his bonds.

“Maybe I should put you back to sleep,” the man muttered and Katsuki felt nauseous when his hand made the gesture of reaching out to him.

“We don’t have time, Shigaraki.” Someone else mumbled. Katsuki could not see them because they were outside his periphery, but he would never forget their voice. “The adult alphas are on their way.”

Katsuki thought of his mother and immediately got on his knees. His hands and legs were tied but he had to make time, he had to get his mother—

Every thought possible floated on his mind when his worst nightmare came true. Izuku was on the sand, unconscious; the vision of his body tied paralyzed his heart. Seeing one of the men pick him up to put him in a small boat blew something inside him.

“Let him go!” Katsuki roared and stumbled when he forgot that his hands and feet were tied as he tried to get up.

Somebody else picked him up and he writhed like a worm, but he was only a twelve-year-old kid tied up, there was not much he could do. They put him in a different boat, along with other alpha from his village, all of them unconscious and none older than fifteen. Shigaraki’s boot kept him stuck on the ground, so the only thing Katsuki could do was scream, writhe and gaze at the sky.

He saw the profile of a ship and when they managed to get him inside Katsuki glanced around. There was another ship nearby, both were completely different to the small gondole that his town used to fish. These were gigantic ships, with huge white sails, and on the inside there were giant rooms full of cages.

When Shigaraki threw him into one, Katsuki lost his breath and took a moment to recover. By the time he was able to turn around, the door had closed, and the blue-haired man was smiling.

“Where is he?!” Katsuki howled, ignoring the pain in his head.

“Your friend?” Asked the other with a creepy laugh. “They travel on the other ship, but maybe, someday, if you behave well, you could convince me to let you see him.”

Katsuki had screamed and cursed at him. His nightmare had barely just began.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The pick got stuck, taking Katsuki out of his reveries. He took a moment to breathe and realized he had worked on autopilot. His forehead was beaded with sweat and his shoulders were numb; his back creaked when he straightened, but none of that mattered. He felt good, relaxed and at peace, he inhaled the delicate aroma of honey and his battered body breathed a sigh of relief.

He did not think the work was monotonous, boring and strenuous, he did not think about the time, he did not think the food was bad and tasteless. He worked reveling in the aroma of milk.

 

 

 

 

 

 

“Kacchan?”

His voice; it is hard to hear his voice.

“Kacchan?”

It was like a distant echo. A distorted echo.

“Kacchan!”

 

 

 

 

 

 

He woke up from his trance and immediately scanned his surroundings. He was back in his cell, and the work day was over. He felt his head light and filled with smoke, so he shook his head; despite the discomfort, he could certainly say that the incense has lost its effect.

Katsuki approached his water bucket and wetted his face and body, vaguely aware that the cell has been cleaned, that his shit bucket has been emptied and that there is a slight omegan scent in the air. He drinks until he feels full and gradually regains control over his body. He stretches his back carefully and massages the tendons of his arms the way he has done it at nighttime for the past few years. He was so concentrated on his task that it took him a moment to process the words that came from the adjacent cell. He turns to the voice and is greatly surprised when he discovers a new face.

“What?” He growls, studying the stranger’s features.

“Bad day?” Asks the other with a smile.

And Katsuki does not know what is more extraordinary, the carefree smile or the feeling that this boy has no idea where he is.

“What’s your name?” The stranger asks him, leaning against the bars that separate both cages. “I’m Kirishima, or Eijirou if you find it more comfortable.”

Katsuki growls and ignores him, he does not feel like chatting.

“I had asked you before,“ the guy continues as if nothing. “But you didn’t answer, nobody did. It was pretty weird. You all had the same expression, between reality and dreamland. What happened?”

“Does it matter?” Katsuki grunts, disentangling his neck. “Tomorrow you’ll know.”

“Oh…” He keeps quiet for a second, just one. “Would you mind giving me more details?”

“Yes.”

“...yes what. If you would mind or if you’re giving me more details?”

Katsuki feels that his bad mood returns with full strength.

“Shut up!”

“I see you’re upset, do you think—?”

“Shh!”

Surprisingly the strangers holds his tongue, maybe because he had also heard the steps. The ritual is repeated and two guards escort two omegas that carry their dinner; these are not the same as the ones from breakfast, and one of them is a boy.

Katsuki hears his cell neighbor take a quick breath. He can feel the surprise, the shock, the agitation, and the never-ending flow of different emotions sprouting from him. All newly arrived alphas have the same reaction when they see an omega for the first time in public without bandages.

Katsuki looks at him and is not surprised to see the blush on his face, nor the way he suddenly tries to look everywhere except at the omegas. All his confidence vanished when the blond omega kneels next to his cell to pass dinner between the bars, he stays still while staring directly at his face and when the blond gets up to leave, the stranger directs his eyes to the ground.

While the omega places his dinner inside his cage, Katsuki approaches him. This time he does not mind sucking the aroma of oranges.

“I need more mint,” he murmurs, picking up his dinner while trying to hide his face from the guards. The other does not respond, but Katsuki knows he has heard it. After all, it is not the first time he asks for it.

The omegas leave and Katsuki eats his dinner in peace, or at least he does until the steps of the guards disappear in the distance and his neighbor decides to resume their talk.

“Why are they—?”

Katsuki cuts the question that he has heard a hundreds of times. “Do you think they have a choice?”

He listens the alpha take a deep breath and Katsuki supposes the conversation is over, but he is wrong.

“What did you tell him?” He asks in a low voice, turning his back to him.

“It’s none of your business.” Katsuki mutters while biting on his food lazily.

“Wow, you’re so charming.”

Katsuki’s bad mood bursts out at last, his head hurts, he feels useless and the desperation that roars inside him seems to have no end. He gets up and in two strides he covers the distance to the adjacent cage. He stretches his arm and buries his finger in the chest of the newcomer.

“Listen, you moron. Nobody here has any humor for your jokes or questions. It’s obvious that this is your first day. Do you want to know what’s going to happen? You’ll find out tomorrow. Do you want some advice? Shut up! Let the rest enjoy their dinner in peace.”

The stranger studies him with absolute attention. Katsuki looks back at him and tries to make up an idea of the man in his head while examining his body. He has vast angular features and his complexion is robust and firm. At the center of his chest scarlet lys flowers bloom and gleam. When Katsuki is just about ready to turn around and go back to his dinner, the stranger says:

“Do you like to live here?”

Katsuki growls, a sound of threat and fury.

“Are you an idiot?”

“Do you want to go back home?”

 

 

 

 

 

 

“Do you want to go back home?”

He listens to the question but his brain is not able to process it. The pain on his back is dull and it spreads through his body, crushing any other sensation. He opens his eyes and blinks until he can focus on the face in front of him. When he recognizes the body, he is filled with a thick and liquid hate.

“I’ve heard you say you wanted to go back home, although maybe it’s the incense’s fault, I don’t know.”

Katsuki grunts and tries to throw himself at him, but his arms are chained to the wall.

“Oh, we have a wild cat here.” The blue-haired man laughs and Katsuki feels his insides contract in disgust. “Several actually.”

It is only then when Katsuki realizes that he is not alone. There are more boys chained in the same room as him. All of them are around his age, some even younger than him.

You know,” Shigaraki continues without looking at him. “You’ve been muttering a name while you were sleeping… Deku? Do you find it familiar?”

Katsuki roars and the sound alerts the others who begin to shake in their chains.

“Shigaraki! Stop provoking them.”

“Shut up and bring more incense.”

One of his lackeys rushed to please him and Katsuki struggled with more force. He hates that incense. He hates it with all his strength. It smells like an omega, a happy pregnant omega, but there was something wrong with it, because it does not only reassure them, it also leaves them weak and makes them lose track of time.

But there was no way to escape, soon the room began to get flooded with an irresistible aroma. Ignoring them all, their captors continue with their talk.

“How long will the conditioning take?” Shigaraki asks.

“In a couple of weeks we’ll send them to the general.”

“And the omegas?”

Katsuki tenses, it is the first time he hears them mentioning them.

“We will not have time to go and look for more. We cannot risk being intercepted by Yuuei’s ships. We have to deliver this group to the city.”

“The general will not be pleased.”

“The general will understand that it wasn’t anyone's fault that the damn ship was wrecked. We were lucky that ours didn’t run with the same destiny.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

“Hey? Did you hear me?”

Katsuki blinks and looks at him. He takes a second to rewind the conversation. Back home? No, there’s nothing there for him. His mother, maybe, if she’s still alive. But what he really wants, what he wants above everything else: It is the head of the man called Shigaraki.

“I want revenge,” he says, and his voice resounds low and severe, like the growl of a wild animal.

 

Chapter Text

He woke up with a headache and it took him a moment to understand that yup—for sure—the lamp above his head was moving and that it was not a result of his imagination; nor was he imagining the bars that were next to his face.

“Hue,” he murmured and felt his mouth dry. He tried to get up but only managed to turn around, feeling that his head was beating like a giant heart.

“Are you okay?” Asked another boy sitting next to him, an omega from his village two years older than him.

“Where?”

“On a ship,” someone else muttered.

Izuku closed his eyes and concentrated on easing the pain in his head. He touched the bump and massaged the outline despite the chills that ran through his body when he touched it. When he managed to calm the dizziness he stood up slowly. In his cage there were another eight omegas cohabiting with him, and all of them from his village; there were also four other cages in the room, each of them filled with omegas from all ages. Izuku counted no less than fifteen unknown faces.

None of them was Katsuki.

At first he felt relief, because if the blond was not there it meant without a doubt that he they had left him behind. ‘Stay at home,’ he thought, and it was almost absurd to feel that his consolation managed to reassure him; but the calm did not last long. The room smelled of stress. The fear of the omegas had spread throughout the compartment filling it with a bitter scent. It was impossible to remain calm in those circumstances. Izuku tried, he had tried not to think about the body of his unconscious friend.

‘There was too much blood,’ he told himself and immediately shook his head. ‘No. Kacchan is fine. It was just a blow, someone must have found him already. My parents would have tended him. He’s going to get better, it’s not the first time he has cracked his head open. When he wakes up he’ll tell everyone what happened, Mistuki and the rest will know.’

Izuku came out of his trance when Toru pressed next to him, only then did the boy realize that he had been muttering loudly.

“Will they come looking for us?” The girl asked, resting her head on Izuku’s shoulder.

The answer was immediate. “They’ll come.”

‘Kacchan will come,’ Izuku told himself, full of blind confidence. And when the time comes, Izuku would be waiting for him.

 

 

 

 

 

The omegas piled up in small groups trying to give themselves comfort. The vicious environment lightened, but it still reeked of fear, uncertainty and anxiety. Izuku breathed and every inhalation was shaking his assurance that Katsuki would look for him. He fell into an restless sleep; he dreamt of Katsuki covered in blood, dreamt of his white skin falling apart between his fingers. His fear joined with the others and when they started to cry, he did not have the strength to stop his tears.

 

 

 

 

 

They were not allowed to leave to go to the bathroom, so soon the room got filled with the smell of urine, shit and vomit. Izuku and the rest used one corner of the cage as a bathroom and piled up in the other. They received food once a day and because their rations were tiny and limited to bread and water, the bath began to be used less frequently. Everyone had started to show signs of exhaustion—they slept more and moved less. It only took one to start crying for the rest to follow.

In spite of everything, it was a consolation to be surrounded by the scent of his companions. Izuku woke up in a pile of arms and legs, trying to rescue the aroma of his home.

 

 

 

 

 

Izuku woke up with nausea. The ship was rocking with such violence that one of the lamps that hung on the wall shot out and crashed to the ground. The oil spilled on the wood and the fire spread uncontrollably.

All of the omegas began to scream.

It did not take long before one of the guards came down to investigate the uproar. When he saw the fire he left running and returned carrying two buckets with water. It was almost funny to see him wobble because of the ship, but in the end he managed to put out the fire. When the guard finished he turned to leave, but just at that moment the whole ship shook violently and all the cages moved.

One of them crashed into the guard and the man bounced to the wall where his head emitted a strong ‘Plop’.

“The keys!” Izuku shouted when he saw him on the floor.

Immediately one of the adult omegas that was in a nearby cage took out her arms from the bars and after a brief hesitation began to search the pockets of the unconscious man. As soon as the keys were found the omega tried each one until she found the one that opened her cage.

The omegas came out. Another violent shake sent them to the ground and made them r oll to the wall. The adult, who had some quick reflexes to hold on to the cage, staggered but was able to keep her vertical position. With great care she moved from cage to cage, opening the doors. All the omegas began to move slowly, some crawling, others holding on to the cages, but the trembling was growing in intensity. And not only that, with each violent shake the water that was entering the stairs kept accumulating even more until it reached the depth of two fingers, then it covered their ankles, and it kept growing.

The omegas stumbled and fell, their bodies slid from left to right. Izuku, who was holding on to one of the cages, waited until the movement of the ship tilted to the right and then released his hold. He crashed into another omega but managed to get to the corner closest to the door.

Another violent shake, the worst of all, moved the cages, and they all ended up colliding into the opposite wall. The surge of water that entered the stairs got even more pronounced.

And it did not stop.

Clinging to the ring embedded in the wooden wall, Izuku noticed that the water began to reach his waist, then his chest and by the time it reached his head he let go. He floated and waited until his forehead touched the ceiling. On the corner of his eyes he saw several omegas following his example, then he inhaled deeply and submerged.

He swam to the door, he swam with all his strength and although he felt weak and exhausted, he did not give up. He swam down down the stairs hoping to leave the waters, but when he did he found no air or sky. They were under the sea.

Izuku swam. He kicked until he felt cramps on his legs. He braced until his shoulders turned into fire. His head pierced the surface and his immediate reaction was to open his mouth and breathe, and then when a wave hit his face he sank once again. He emerged coughing and with the lacerating sensation of having swallowed water against his will.

He struggled to stay afloat, but wave after wave sank him beyond despair. Suddenly something hard crashed into his face, the blow shook him and he reached out to grab it. It escaped between his fingers, and Izuku used the rest of his strength to go after the piece of wood that was moving away from him. As soon as he had it within reach, he clung to it and used it as a float.

More exhausted than ever, Izuku took a moment to breath. The raging sea did not stop rising until it fell with force, cold and implacable. The wind emitted roars like those of a furious beast, and the sky flashed lights, one after another, accompanied by a deafening bellow. When Izuku looked around, expecting to see other omegas emerging from the sea, all he found was water, white waves swaying against him. There was no sign of the ship, its crew, or the merchandise they carried in the vault.

Izuku was alone.

He closed his eyes and rested his cheek against the board. He thought of his home and let the sweet nostalgia invade him. He cried silently, saying his goodbyes to his parents, to his friends, to Katsuki.

“Don’t be a wimp.”

The phrase sounded clear and fresh in his mind. He could remember the nuances of that voice without effort. He could see the confident smile and the expression brimming with presumption.

Katsuki had always been brilliant, had been the first to get his flower, had started his training before anyone else, had skillful hands to grasp knives and make knots, was fast and agile and had become the star that guided his life. Izuku wanted to be like him, he wanted to be what Katsuki was for him.

Izuku’s hands clung to the plank without hesitation, he opened his eyes and fought the sleep, hunger and fatigue. While the rain raged on him, Izuku vowed not to surrender.

“Wormwood is bitter,” he murmured to himself as the wind continued to blow. “It has long, dark leaves and it serves to calm the pains and the stomach. The basil…”

With the storm whipping above his head, Izuku continued to list the plants he knew. He recited one by one, their characteristics, their utilities, and their shape. He imagined them and tried to remember the aroma of each one.

When he finished reciting all of the plants he knew by heart he started again. He knew he would never see Katsuki again if he surrendered.

 

 

 

 

 

When he came back to his senses the storm was over and he was no t able to remember ever fainting. He woke up in front of a blue sky, bright and clear. He woke up with his body numb and his head full of noise. He woke up under the scrutiny of big black eyes. When he saw her with another person with the head of a bird next to her, Izuku started screaming.

 

 

 

 

 

Izuku opened his eyes and the first thing he saw were the familiar black eyes, the thin square face and small nose. This time, he smiles.

“Hello, Tsuyu-chan.” He smiles and tries to identify the time of the day by the sun’s position. “I didn’t know you were coming today.”

“I came to collect mollusks. I didn’t think I would find you here, it’s a bit past the afternoon.”

“Really?” He straightened up slowly, disentangling his back. “I was working on the sails, but I fell asleep.”

“You know you can’t stay on the beach Zuchan. It’s dangerous if someone else finds you.”

“I closed my eyes for just a moment, I didn’t even realize that so much time had passed. I will start packing my things.”

“I’ll help you, but I have to hurry. My sister will come looking for me if I don’t return soon.”

“It’s okay, if you want to I’ll help you so you don’t get late.” Izuku takes the bucket that the girl had and they spend the next half hour with their feet stuck in the sea. “Is the curfew still enforced?”

“It will last until the king’s troops arrive.”

“How much time is left? One week?"

“The recruiting letter arrived two weeks ago, so another two need to pass before the first group arrives. Fumikage told me you’re thinking of leaving by then. Are you sure it’s a good idea? You could do the same thing you do every year.”

“I’ll go into the woods when my heat arrives. I have everything ready—food, water, blankets; but I don’t want to risk any of the soldiers finding the ship. If they find it they’ll ask questions, or worse, they’ll take it away.”

“Fumikage says—”

“I know. He has offered to take responsibility for it in case they find it, but it’s a risk I don’t want to take. I can’t spend another year building a new one.”

“You’ve done it before.”

“Yes, I did, but this is the first one that has never sunk during any of the test trips. It’s the best I’ve done so far.”

“Are you sure it will resist the trip?”

“I hope so.”

“Have you made any alterations in the route?”

“According to the maps that Tokoyami got me, we are at the southeast of the Inner Sea, and on the other side of the sea is the Yuuei Kingdom. If I can get there and border its coasts, I’ll be able to reach the southern tip of the continent. From there, I must continue to the southwest until I reach the group of Kohei Islands. One of those islands is my home.”

“Crossing the Inner Sea isn’t easy. Storms abound and there are water snakes. Those who traverse it use huge ships to make the sailing successful. I think it would be better if you didn’t separate yourself from the coast. If you manage to follow it, you’ll go around the sea and you’ll reach the other end anyway.”

“It’s an option that I still haven't dismissed. I could get away from the coast enough to avoid being seen by land and if I ran into a storm I could go to the coast and wait for it to pass. It is, without a doubt, a viable option; but, if I do follow through it, I would have to cross near Overhaul Castle, and we know very well how your king isn’t able to put up with my race. If they catch me, they’ll kill me. Even if I suppose that I pass without being seen, immediately afterwards there are the lands of the General and we know that its port is always open. I’ll not be able to cross it by ship, I could leave the boat before arriving to the port and try my luck by land, but even if I manage to cross the territory without being caught, I’ll have to cross the war zone…” Izuku stops and turns around to her. “I’m sorry, I’ve started muttering once again.”

“Don’t worry, I’m glad to see you’ve considered all the possible scenarios, but even so, I think that crossing the sea on that ship is risky.”

“Thanks for your concern, Tsuyu-chan, but it’s something I have to do.”

Once they finished collecting the mollusks, Tsuyu helped him collect his things and hide the small boat under leaves and branches. They begin to walk back home and before separating, Tsuyu sighs.

“Has Fumikage told you?”

“That his name’s on the recruiting list? Yeah, he did. He also told me that you plan to get ready instead of your brother to avoid him being the one taken away.”

“Samidare is too young, my mother would die of pain if she had to see him go.”

“It will also hurt her to lose you.”

“I’m the oldest one of my siblings, it’s my duty. Maybe the war would be over when next year arrives.”

“Those are the news that arrive?”

The girl sighs.

“It’s said that the General and our king have started the process of an alliance.”

“Is that why this year’s recruitment is more exhaustive?”

“It’s said that our king will send support troops for the General. I suppose that with both forces they plan to oppose to the king of Yuuei.”

Izuku absently rubs his nose.

“If the two kingdoms of the western zone come together, nobody will be safe.”

“You must be careful, Zuchan. The General has convinced our king to deliver him anyone who wears flowers on their body. They have also decided to help in the construction of ships, if any of their ships finds you, there’ll be no escape.”

Izuku shakes his head.

“It’s a risk that I’ll take. I can’t stay all my life here, hidden in the forest, waiting for no one to find me. I appreciate the concern that Tokoyami and you feel, but when you guys leave there’ll be no one left who knows that I’m here. I can’t stand thinking that I’ll never see my home again. I have to go, I have to take this chance.”

The girl nods and Izuku moves away from her, offering another sad smile.

 

 

 

 

 

Izuku’s heat comes and goes. It leaves him exhausted, dissatisfied and with a mind full of memories—the aroma of wood and smoke, the ghostly sensation of alabaster skin, the condescending smile, and the bright red of the gladioli.

The memory of Katsuki is radiant and hot. Izuku touches himself while thinking about him, murmurs his name until it loses meaning and grinds until his body melts again and again. And even then, it is never enough.

 

 

 

 

 

The sky is colored in a light grey when Fumikage and Tsuyu arrive at the beach to say goodbye. Between the three they transport the food, clothes, blankets, the bottles with pastes and water.

“Zuchan,” said the girl when she stops to observe her friend. “What’s that?”

Seeing that she pointed at his ankle, Izuku raised his pants to show his artwork.

“I made it.”

A beautiful white orchid flashed just above the bone of his ankle, from it green lines were born and wrapped around his leg.

“It’s not perfect, but I think it’ll work out.”

“Won’t the paint fade?” asked Fumikage.

“If I wet it and rub it away it will and if it stays wet for a long time the ink will run, so I intend to wrap my leg with bandages, this way I'll avoid getting it wet and it’ll serve as a distraction.”

“Have you loaded enough lotion for the odyssey?”

“All that I could, but you can’t recognize us by our scent anyway.”

“But we can track you.”

“I know. Well, I have everything I need, and I’m also carrying some plants in case I get dizzy, sick or hurt. I think I’m ready.”

They embrace once again, offering advice, consolation and good luck. When the sun finally raises completely from the horizon, Izuku hugs them for the last time.

“Thank you for rescuing me,” he says, squeezing them hard. “Thank you for helping me when I had nothing. Thank you for the food, the company. Thank you for not delivering me.”

Tsuyu cries quietly as she mumbles, “Take care Zuchan. I sincerely hope that you will be able to return to your home.”

“Thanks, Tsuyu-chan. If I can, someday, I hope to return.”

Fumikage does not cry, but his expression shows a deep sadness.

“Hopefully, Zuchan, you’ll never see any of our people ever again.”

The two friends push the small boat while Izuku gets ready with the oars. He shakes his hands until the silhouettes on the beach are dwarfed, then, he turns towards the sea.

“Here we go.”

 

 

 

 

 

The first day the wind is favorable. Izuku releases the sails and guides his ship, taking as a reference the sun. It advances at a good pace, and when there is no more wind he tries to fish to maintain his food reservations, although he knows that eating raw fish constantly can be dangerous.

The sun is unbearable, so Izuku wraps his head in one of his shirts and undresses. He sleeps at intervals, always taking care that the boat does not move away from the imaginary line he drew. When it rains, he collects water inside one of the pots that he carries and every day he counts his food, the days he has been traveling and tries to adjust the rations as needed.

According to his calculations, he's not even halfway through the trip when he encounters his first storm. It’s not terrible, but it rattles the sea with fury and the cold waves collide against his boat with such force that Izuku is left with no other choice than to tie himself to the mast in order to avoid falling. The nausea shakes him and the experience overall is terrible.

When the storm finally calms down, Izuku is exhausted. His first thought is to make sure that his things remain safe and it takes him an eternity to check everything in his inventory. When he’s finally over and starts to resume his course, he notices a black shadow that flashes on the horizon. There’s not only one though, because behind it he begins to distinguish another one.

Izuku’s stomach contracts with panic.

 

 

 

 

 

The first thing he does is get dressed. His hands tremble so much that he cannot get his bandages done on the first try. Fear beats within him forcefully, but Izuku bites his mouth, uses his breathing exercises to calm down and restarts his work. He puts his pants on, his chemise, his vest and tries to fold his pants to leave the bandages ankle in sight. After that he hoists the sails, and unfortunately for him, there is no wind.

Izuku curses.

The black shadow advances at an astonishing speed and its contours do not take long to distinguish themselves. Behind them come other three ships, one after the other.

Izuku uses the oars to initiate the retreat, but the lookout of the first ship must have an excellent view because the ship has slightly modified its route and now heads directly towards him. Wanting to avoid a collision at all cost, which would undoubtedly end with his boat split in two, Izuku moves in parallel line to the ship. He waits for the speed of the ship to not allow them to stop so he would have the opportunity and be able to get away before the others react, but the desire is in vain because he realizes that the ship began its deceleration from the moment he corrected his route.

As soon as Izuku’s boat is close to the ship, long ropes fall from the railing. Izuku tries to use the oars to get away but before his boat starts to move, one of the men on board jumps using the ropes and falls on his boat.

The blow shakes the boat and Izuku bends over the edge because of the movement. He loosens the oar unintentionally, and when he tries to grasp the other to defend himself, the intruder grabs him by the hair. Another intruder falls from the ship, and while the first one of them uses the ropes to ascend while carrying Izuku like a sack of potatoes, the other is entertained by putting all of his belongings in several sacks.

The attack does not even take more than ten minutes, and despite the situation, Izuku is quite surprised by the efficiency.

The attacker drops Izuku with force and the boy growls when his arm receives all the weight of his body. Before he can say anything, strange hands turn him around and try to tear his vest. Izuku fights and kicks, but the copper-skinned man is much stronger. Then, a voice near him says:

“Just leave him. He’s a workman.” A hand grips Izuku’s leg and the boy prats that his deception works. Apparently it does because the hand releases him and the attacker takes him up as if he was a mere child.

Izuku looks around, studying the faces. Many of them have animal characteristics, but there are others, like the man who's carrying him, whose only difference is the color of his skin.

“Put him in a cell,” the voice belongs to a small man with eyes of a man but the beak of a bird. “And the rest to work. Turn on the boilers again. Maximum speed.”

Just at that moment a dreadful rumble resounded in the distance. Izuku turned around to look towards the horizon. In the distance, the second and third ships seem to have crashed, but after a thorough observation, Izuku realizes that the second ship is in flames while the third seemed completely fine. Moreover, Izuku distinguishes that they are not even the same type of boat: the one burns has only one mast, while the other had three, and the flag that flutters over them is different.

He listens to someone of the crew yell a curse and the little man starts screaming.

“Come one, move! I want this thing to move! Unless you want to enjoy the damn hospitality of the savages.”

The last thing Izuku sees before they put him inside the cellar is the fourth ship, the one that comes behind everyone, passes the other two and heads directly towards them. Like the third ship, the last one has three masts and on the top of one of them a grey and red flag flies.

 

 

 

 

 

Izuku knows to expect the cages, but unlike the ones he knew when he was ripped from his home, these cells were individual. The cellar is full of small cages, most of them full. Izuku needs just an inhalation to know that all the people present are alphas. There was not a single beta on board.

Inside his cage, Izuku arranges his clothes and tries not to writhe with anxiety. It is difficult to not do it when the whole compartment is full of anger. The alpha, although young, exude warnings and fury, Izuku smells them and understands why they, unlike the omega, go in separate spaces. They smell confinement, violence. Izuku feels the urge to become a little ball, to beg for forgiveness. He is tempted to release pheromones in order to calm them, but he bites his hand and buries his nose in his clothes.

His clothes smell like flowers. Flowers and plants. He concentrates on the aroma and tries not to look at anyone. The alpha that is in the cell next to his speaks to him:

“Where did you come from?” His tone is steely, his face looks no older than fifteen years old, but his teeth look frightening and his eyes sparkle danger.

“I was traveling on my boat,” he explains, trying to keep his voice steady. “I got away from the coast and they captured me.”

The alpha sucks air several times in a row.

“You are not an alpha,” he growls.

“I—I’m a beta.”

“You don’t smell like one either.”

“I’m a healer, I make pastes and medicine with plants. Surely I smell like that.”

The alpha inhales once again, “Yeah… I can smell the flowers.”

“What was the rumble that we heard?” Asks another alpha, the boy who’s cage is right in front of Izuku’s.

“A ship… there was a ship burning.”

“Which one?”

“I don’t know… aren’t they all the same?”

“No! Those demons attacked our villa, but the king’s fleet is chasing them. We’ve been listening to their warning horns since two days ago! It’s a matter of time before they reach us.”

“They are close,” Izuku tells them before explaining with great detail the scene that unfolded on the deck.

“The omegan boat was on fire?” Someone asks and Izuku turns to the voice but doesn’t know where it comes from.

“The omegan boat?”

“Where do you come from that you don’t know?”

Izuku chokes. “From the Kohei Islands,” he said with a dry voice. “They attacked my village a few years ago, but I never knew that—”

One of the alphas cut him with a gesture. “Those demons always use two ships: one for the alphas and one for the omegas. If the king’s fleet has manages to board that ship, then the omegas will be safe.”

There are countless murmurs of excitement among the boys. Izuku notices that the anger subsides, no doubt many of them are grateful to know that their friends, siblings or future fiancés are now safe; but there is something that shakes Izuku from head to toe.

“How many ships of the king’s fleet were there?” Asked someone and Izuku reacts slowly.

“I saw two,” he mutters without strength. “One stayed with the ship on fire, the other one comes right behind.”

There are cries of elation, the compartment is flooded with energy, rapture, but Izuku does not pay attention. He cannot stop thinking. A ship for omegas. A ship for alphas. His heart writhes. ‘No,’ he thinks with despair. ‘Kacchan is at home, he’s at home.’ But even while he repeats it, he does not stop seeing the body of an unconscious Katsuki. He does not stop remembering the water filling the cellar, he does not stop thinking about the raging sea.

‘Two ships,’ he repeats. He did not see another ship.

‘Two ships.’ There was no other ship.

The two ships… Did they sink?

Izuku covers his mouth, goes back to the corner of his cage, he tenses his body to control himself and lets the tears overflow. Silent, bitter and salty.

 

Chapter Text

From his boat trip Katsuki remembers the scent: a room full of young alpha, furious and violent, locked for days. It is not something that is easily forgotten.

The grunts, cries and curses lasted a long time, they lasted day and night until hunger prevailed. Despite the fatigue and discomfort, Katsuki remained attentive. His fury was red and bright, it was paralyzing. He could sit for hours, tense as a steel bar. He watched, he listened, he paid attention… waiting for an opportunity to jump and flee; but there never was one.

After the ship they traveled in wagons for days until they reached the fortress. Katsuki saw the tall, grey towers with a small flag waving on the tip of one of them, before they pushed his cage on a platform. Katsuki stood on guard waiting for the door to open. Despite the fatigue, he was ready to bite and kill; he did not expect the floor to move.

He fell through a tilted tunnel. Which’s surface was completely smooth. Katsuki used his hands and nails to avoid moving but he had no luck, he reached the bottom of the passage and his body hit the ground with a dry sound. Even so, he quickly got up, ready to face anything, but there were only other guys like him. All tense, distrustful, dirty and hungry.

Behind him came more prisoners, all of them children. When the tunnel door closed without warning, everyone looked at each other. They waited in silence, getting ready to fight, but their enemy had been invisible. It had arrived in silence, sliding between their legs, ethereal and without form.

Over time, Katsuki would give it the name of the black incense.

 

 

 

 

 

The memories of his stay in that dungeon were vague, fragments and pieces of events that seemed unreal, although if he tried hard he could evoke complete scenes. He remembered that the food came through the tunnel albeit no one seemed interested in approaching, he remembered that many contracted and shrinked in the corners with a lost expression, and he remembers that there were others who shook violently until they suddenly became rigid with the gaze dull.

Several of his acquaintances died like this. Katsuki survived. He survived the storm that had taken Izuku. He survived the incense and conditioning. He survived the dungeons that came later. He survived the chains, blows and hunger.

He survived everything.

And within him burned a single desire.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“I want revenge.”

He tasted the word, each syllable, each intonation. He feeds himself with it and the word becomes fuel for his boiling anger. Revenge . It is the only thing he has left, the only thing he lives for.

His answer causes the newcomer to smile. A gesture full of satisfaction, a gesture of companionship, a gesture of understanding… for Katsuki it is a useless gesture. He does not want his friendship. He does not want approval and nor does he want his attention.

“Then we’ll have to get you out of here.”

Katsuki freezes. ‘Yes!’ The scream resonates within him with the force of a storm. ‘YES. YES. Yesyesyes…’ He wants to be free. He needs to be free. ‘I would be free…’ But before he can say anything, the guards return. Katsuki backs away, tense and on guard.

“It seems that your welcome party is ready.” The murmur that he emits was not intended for him to hear, but the boy in the adjacent cell turns to him and frowns. Katsuki looks at him and tries to use the same tone of voice again. “We’ll see if you’re one of those who returns.”

“What?”

“They have no choice.”

Katsuki walks away. He does not need to look to know how the situation develops, he has seen it too many times—Alphas ready to fight with boldness and determination, only to be reduced by damned tranquilizing darts.

The bastards had learned that if they dare to get into a cage with us, nothing guarantees that they will come out in one piece.

Katsuki hears the curses of the alpha, he hears his body hit against the bars, he hears him scream and fight and when it gets silent, he hears the grid that opens, the body that is dragged, and the silence that follows. When he looks around, he sees the same anger that beats inside him. Everyone knows what awaits the newcomer.

 

 

 

 

 

He woke up chained to the wall in the middle of the darkness. Unlike previous occasions, the chains was fixed to a metal collar on his neck, which left his hands and legs free. When he tried to stand up he realized that he was trembling. He could not say when was the last time he had eaten something.

Slowly, examining his newly recovered will, Katsuki moved through the cell, measuring the length of his chain and trying to disperse the fog that covered his mind. He stretched out his arms in front of him and moved slowly, hoping he would not crash or fall, but before he could touch anything the chain tensed. He began to move laterally until he found one of the walls on the sides, then he leaned against it and let himself fall. He closed his eyes and tried to look back at everything that has happened to him, but there were only incongruous pieces and flashes. He thought of Izuku, and it was a relief that his memory was still there, waiting to be called. He struggled a bit, but he was managed to evoke his dazzling face with round cheeks. The Izuku of his memories was happy and possessed a blinding smile; his voice had a characteristic high-pitched tone and his laughter was carefree. Katsuki inhaled strongly but instead of the scent of basil and mint he smelt the confinement and the rottenness of his cell.

He left his trance when the door opened.

Katsuki opened his eyes and stood up instantly, but the sudden movement and adrenaline hit made him dizzy. It took him a moment to recover before focusing his attention on the visitor, and when he did he felt his eyes resent the faint light of the lamp. He rubbed them hard, hoping the weakness would go away. When he focused on the newcomer, he saw a girl, no older than fifteen, skinny and tall. Her orange hair had been cut short and she was almost half naked.

Katsuki’s eyes slid from the white sarashi to her belly. When he spotted the intricate design of the daisies that stood out on her hip, the boy choked. Surprised, altered and confused, Katsuki looked away from her and turned around, giving her room to cover herself.

He heard her approach but even so he did not turn around.

“I brought you food,” she said.

Katsuki looked at her, trying to keep eyesight above her head. Along with the scent of fruits he distinguished the indisputable smell of fear and anxiety.

“Who are you?”

“Itsuka.”

She sat down in a way that her knees covered her stomach. Katsuki sighted and imitated her. He looked at her necklace and the wristbands with rings. They were similar to his, and he did not need to ask to know that her dress was something she had not chosen by her own free will.

“Eat.”

She handed him a bag and Katsuki looked at her suspiciously. He became alert and the room was filled with his scent.

“Didn’t the tell you?”

“Tell me what?”

There was a sharp inhalation and the girl’s anxiety thickened around her.

“First, eat.” She said.

“Why…?”

“Shh,” she murmured as she rested her head on her knees. Her voice faded until it became an urgent whisper. “Don’t shout and don’t move. They are watching us.”

Katsuki tensed and held back the urge to look around. With his heart eating at full speed, Katsuki took out the fruits, the bread and the water. He hesitated a moment before touching the items, even though his mouth had began to salivate in anticipation.

“It’s clean,” she murmured when she saw his uncertainty. “They want you to trust me.”

Katsuki ate slowly, making sure his stomach was not rebelling against him.

“What do they want?” Katsuki asked, making sure the murmur did not extend beyond them.

She hesitated, her fear shot up and flooded the room. Katsuki wrinkled his nose.

“I’m sorry,” Itsuka said, trying to control herself.

“Just spit it out. Why are you here?”

“We have… they want… we’re supposed to mate.”

Katsuki choked. Although his intention was to remain calm, he could not help but get up and back away.

“What?!”

“Don’t scream, calm down.” When she got up, the other stuck to the wall. “If you scream, they’ll come.”

“Stay away!”

She froze at the indisputable tone of an alpha. They stayed like that for a moment before the door opened and one of the guards entered.

“Come here.”

The omega hesitated before obeying, and as soon as she was near the guard, he held her by the hair and dragged her through the door. It was then that Katsuki realized that the worst had yet to come.

 

 

 

 

 

They tried it again and again.

They tried to nurture his trust and Katsuki made sure to keep his distance. Day by day he was building the walls between them. He was not fooled by her aroma not by her sweetness. They ate in silence, separated, without exchanging a word.

They tried to threaten him and Katsuki laughed at them. He fought and they skinned his back, he received blows and lashes without yielding. There were long periods in blank where he laid unconscious and limp. In one of those times he almost made the mistake of letting himself go. He had woken up confused and disoriented, and when he managed to focus his sight the first thing he registered were two green eyes. Two light green eyes, like the grass in spring. Had he been fully conscious, he would have realized the difference, but his head weighted a lot and the memory of Izuku was still fresh. For a moment he thought he was still dreaming and let himself be carried away. He had kissed that “Izuku” with a silent and anguished despair. He would have done much more if he had not sucked the air hard, longing for the scent of spices, but then he recognized the fruity aroma, sweet and soft, completely opposite to what he expected. He had released her, pushed her away and used the strength he had left to force her back.

They tried to use her nature and Katsuki had preferred to bleed. That day, when she entered, Katsuki knew immediately that something was wrong. The girl’s scent had intensified exponentially and her eyes, usually calm, seemed to tremble with agitation. As soon as he understood it, Katsuki roared, bit his arms until they bled, he screamed in fury until the girl retired to a corner to wail, wrapped in need and desire. Her scent was so intense, so exquisite, that Katsuki saw black. That day, he cracked his head open while throwing it against a wall, the intoxicating aroma of fruit flooding his senses, and luckily for him, h had managed to faint.

They tried to blackmail him and Katsuki had to harden his heart. It was closing all sympathy and all empathy when he saw the bruises on the delicate skin were becoming more and more visible. Sometimes he could hear the beatings of the omega on the other side of the door and Katsuki tried to withdraw into a corner, knowing that if he showed the slightest sign of consternation, everything would start all over again. Eventually, the healthy girl withered before his eyes and it was heartbreaking to see her sink into silence as she sat away from him. There were days when she cried in silence, disconsolately and broken.

Seeing her like that, Katsuki did something he swore not to do: he spoke to her.

“Eat,” he held out the two guavas that were in the bag and waited patiently until she recovered from the surprise to get closer.

Itsuka bit the fruit and chewed silently.

“I’m not going to mate with you,” said Katsuki eating slowly. His voice was a faint whisper and she answered him in the same way.

“Would you prefer someone else?”

He thought of Izuku. ‘If it was him…’ The thought crystallized and it was terrible, because it will never be him, because he will never be there. For the first time, Katsuki appreciated that Izuku was free and wasn’t forced to do what Itsuka did.

“I’m not gonna mate with anyone,” he answered in a tense voice and pulled away.

And he fulfilled it. He resisted Itsuka and those who followed. He fought against everyone at every moment, until finally they got fed up with him and left him alone. There were others like him and he knew of omegas that resisted in their own way. They all watched. They all learned. Everyone was waiting for an opportunity.

 

 

 

 

 

If the knucklehead returned, there would be one more to the group, and if not, it would be a memory that Katsuki would hurry to forget like all the previous ones. He had not time to bond, he did not have time to make friends, Katsuki had sworn he would live to kill Shigaraki, and he waited for that moment. He would leave that cage and once he was out, once there were no more bars, the fucking world would burn with him.

 

 

[...]

 

 

Eijirou woke up hungry, which was nothing new when someone is locked in a damn cell for what, three days? Five? There was water and that at least guaranteed he would not die immediately. Perhaps the intention of his jailers was to let him rot in this damned dungeon, which endangered all his plans.

He knew the risks, he told himself that while trying to distract himself from his stomach’s roars, but it is one thing to know that there is a possibility of dying while fighting and another is to face the possibility of starvation.

He imagined the buns filled with meat that his father made. The memory made him salivate and sent him back home. He could see him by the table, using both hands to prepare his other father’s lunch. In face, the memory was so real that for a moment he thought he could smell it. Meat, tomatoes and…

Oranges?

He opened his eyes and noticed that instead of the usual darkness there was a small flash coming from the entrance. There was an omega there, the same omega from before. Just like last time his clothes were…

Eijirou blushed and looked away, feeling cornered. He coughed to control his embarrassment and when he recovered he asked:

“What are you doing here?”

“I brought you soup.”

He turned slowly, trying to keep his eyes glued to the ceiling. With great care he slid his gaze until he met the blond sitting in front of him. His knees were pressed to his chest and there was a lamp and a tray of food on the floor in front of him. Eijirou’s stomach roared loudly as the aroma of the soup flooded his nostrils. It was not one, not two, there were several consecutive grunts, embarrassing sounds and to some extent… entertaining.

“Well, it seems that my stomach welcomes you.” The comment was spontaneous as Eijirou himself and to his surprise he hear the omega laugh.

He was speechless with shock at hearing it. The boy had a high-pitched and contagious laugh. He was about to make a  comment about it when the omega transformed. That brief flash of humor vanished in a blink, his shoulders tightened, his hands gripped his elbows and his entire body emitted bewilderment and guilt. There was a warning in his eyes, a sign that Eijirou could not read.

“Eat,” said the omega and when the other did not make any gestures to obey, it was him who took the spoon and tasted the soup. “It’s pretty good, don’t let it cool.”

He looked at him again and this time the signal was clearer. Follow me . Eijirou breathed calmly and leaned over to take the bowl of soup.

“Slow down or you’ll burn yourself.” Make time.

“I’m so hungry that it would not be a problem at all.” Why?

“It will be if you get sick.” Do it.

“Did you come just to make sure I don’t get sick?” Why?

“I came to eat with you, when you finish, I’ll go.”

“I would prefer,” Eijirou said while extending his hand towards the omega but the warning in his amber eyes was loud and clear. Do not touch me. So the alpha recalibrated his movement and made it appear that he was leaning over to take the loaf of bread on the tray.

“I didn’t hear you, what did you say?” Continue talking.

“Eh?” He turned his head and the chain attached to him tinkled. Eijirou looked at the blond and smiled. “I just wanted to say that I’d prefer to try stuffed buns.” Why?

“I’m sorry, we don’t made those here.” Patience.

“It’s a shame.” Why?

“Well, if you say it out loud maybe someone will fulfill your wish.” They are hearing us.

“For real?”

The blond shrugged but his eyes did not lose their severity. “You don’t lose anything with trying.” Yes.

“I suppose I could.” And now what?

“I suppose so.” We talk.

They discussed about food and there were no more warnings but Eijirou remained in alert. At the end the soup was finished and as soon as the boy returned the bowl to the tray the door opened. When the omega prepared to get up with the tray, Eijirou looked away and did not dare to move until he heard the door close. Only then did he realize that he had not asked him his name.

It became a routine, a very nice one. The food was never first class, but Eijirou did not care about that. He saw the omega only once a day, chatted about the fruits of the season, about the types of meat and about bread. The omega smiled and was friendly, but Eijirou noticed the tense posture and the way his eyes seemed to shout warnings every time he laughed too much and began to tell personal anecdotes. The blond tried to keep the conversation in a neutral tone, but Eijirou could not stay serious for too long. It was in his nature to laugh and joke. His greatest achievement was making the other laugh. His laughter was charming, though sparse, barely gleaming in the semidarkness. They lasted only a moment, barely a glimpse of a playful and uninhibited nature, until he seemed to realize what was happening and then his eyes acquired that unusual severity and channeled the conversation back to the food. At no time did he ever say his name and Eijirou kept forgetting to ask whenever he saw him enter.

Everything stayed the same until one day the omega sat next to him, closer than he had ever been, and extended his hand to touch his forehead.

“What’s this scar?”

Eijirou was startled when he noticed the finger that slid down the scar on his eyebrow. He was suddenly distracted by the smell of oranges and took a moment to process the question.

“A fall,” he said with a dry throat. His eyes slid down the pale shoulders, over which the light of the lamp spilled, and his eyes wandered down the thin neck and they ascended to the eyes of the omega. He was surprised by the hardness withheld in them.

“A fall?” Repeated the omega and Eijirou understood loud and clear. Keep talking.

“Yeah, it happened when I was about five years old.” He paused when he heard a whisper. Do not move.

And he obeyed. He tensed in his place and tried to focus his attention on the blond’s mouth. The other gesticulation, without making a single sound, keep going. Eijirou returned to his story almost immediately, it was a shameful anecdote, but he filled it with details while paying attention to what the omega muttered next to him. His voice was tenuous, barely a pitch higher than his own, so it was perfectly camouflaged. It was difficult to talk and listen, but Eijirou tried hard.

“They want us to mate, but when that happens they move us and things get worse. Everyone here knows it, so we must avoid it at all costs; but if we don’t do it, they will try to force us. First, they’ll attack you and then they’ll come at me. It can get pretty ugly if we don’t obey, but we can trick them. Tomorrow I’ll come and I’ll sleep here with you, and under no circumstances you should mark me.”

Eijirou got confused in the middle of his story and he realized he did not remember the nonsense he had been saying, he just looked at the omega with an expression of utter stupefaction, but the blond smiled as if the story had been absolutely adorable and he turned away. At that moment the door opened and the omega came out with the empty tray.

Only at that moment did Eijirou remember what the other alpha told him, they have no choice.

 

 

 

 

 

He wasn’t able to sleep that night, so he sat down, in the middle of the darkness, as he rewound over and over again what he had heard. The whole thing still had no meaning. Mate? It was not possible. Although if he thought carefully he could see the trap hidden between the lines: They lock you away from everything, abandoned in the dark, and then they bring an omega, an omega that becomes a constant. His presence means that there will be food, light, conversations, fresh air…

 

Yes, Eijirou could see the deception clearly, but he could still not understand the reason for it.

 

 

 

 

 

When the door opened, Eijirou tensed instead of relaxed. He kept his eyes fixed on the wall to the left to give time to the omega to come sit next to him. He kept going over the previous day’s conversation and had a myriad of questions, but was not sure how he was going to formulate them or cover them up as they were not technically supposed to talk about them out loud.

When he felt the presence of the omega in front of him, Eijirou turned his attention to the blond. He tried to put on his best expression of “I have questions” but an inhalation was enough for his mind to pause. They boy smelled clean, no doubt he had just bathed, and his scent was clearer than ever. It smelled of fresh juice, of vitality, of citrus, and the aroma caused him hunger. He did salivate and felt his hands tingle. For a fraction of a second he thought about approaching and drinking. He wanted to lick him from head to toe.

‘Shit,’ he thought when a brief flash of sanity made its way across his mind. He covered his nose with his fingers and counted to ten. When he opened his eyes he saw the blond was extending an orange. Eijirou took it and held it against his nose, concentrating on the aroma. It was not the same, it could not be the same, but it had to be enough. Eijirou bit the orange despite the shell. He noticed the bitter taste for a second, then the juice came. It filled his mouth and the acidity tickled the insides of his cheeks.

It was shameful that the sensation alone gave him an immediate erection.

He finished the orange and spitting the shell in between each bite. Then he started with another and another until he licked his fingers and felt like he could control himself. The need had subsided, or so he thought until the blond approached and knelt between his legs. The only thing that kept Eijirou in his place was the expression of fear in the eyes of the omega, a fear that he could now smell. And once he did he had to concentrate on it.

“It’s fine,” he said. He wanted to emit pheromones to calm the other but held back because if the fear went away, only the scent of orange would remain and Eijirou was not sure what would happen then.

The blond took his hand and at the same time bent down to kiss him on the cheek. From there he whispered:

“This is a gag,” he pressed the piece against his hand without moving away. “It’s for… well, you know.”

“This… has worked before?” The alpha whispered back as the blond continued to place chaste kisses on his cheek, barely any friction that undoubtedly had the intention to distract those who were watching.

“...most of the times.”

“And in the others?”

“They take them away.”

“Because it doesn’t work?”

The blond moved slowly away, but before Eijirou said anything else, the boy climbed into his lap, letting his legs wrap around him. He rested his head next to his’ as his arms wrapped around his shoulders.

Eijirou’s hands gripped his knees tightly and counted to a thousand to fight the need in him to wrap him in his arms, bury his nose into the blond’s neck and suck. He concentrated on the fear, on that bitter scent that dwarfed the sweetness of the orange.

“Sometimes it can’t be avoided,” the blond murmured next to his face. “Sometimes they let themselves be carried away. The only thing we know is that if we refuse, they’ll make us suffer.”

“What do they do with those who refuse?”

“Do you want to do what your friend did?”

“Friend?”

“The one on the cell next to yours, the blond with the bitter face.”

“What did he do?”

“He yelled, bit and bled. There are stories of the time he cracked his head open when he kept bumping it against the wall to resist the heat of an omega. He has been left in peace, but there is no doubt that they will try again sooner or later.”

“Maybe I could…”

The blond parted from his face and looked at him.

“You could.”

His expression was a combination of fear and anxiety. Eijirou held back the urge to reach out and touch his cheek.

“What would happen to you?”

“I’ll survive.”

He smiled and the gesture was pure resignation. He remembered what the other had told him before, “First, they’ll attack you and then they’ll come at me” and the idea was unbearable.”

“I don’t want them to hurt you.”

There was a pause and he felt the blond relax. “Then let’s do this.”

Eijirou swallowed the, are you sure? That he was about to murmur almost reflexively. Instead, he said:

“Would you at least tell me your name?”

Instead of answering, the blond made him put the gag in his mouth.

 

 

 

 

 

The truth is that this was not his first time.

He still remembers with emotion how he had covered with kisses the intricate tracing of flowers that ascended from his best friend’s neck to her right cheek. That meeting had been fun and stimulating, but just like any other alpha he had fantasized about sleeping with an omega. He had dreamed of removing the bandages, he had imagined the sensation of touching, admiring and smelling the intricate tracing of flowers. He imagined sliding his hands down the warm belly, kissing the hips full of flowers, or even biting the stems that covered the soft skin of the buttocks. It was stimulating to imagine what kind of petals grew in each one or in what portion of skin there were more flower buds.

He had none of that. It was not the act of mutual trust, adherence and devotion he had expected. It was uncomfortable and overwhelming. He held him close but he did not caress or kiss his skin. He inhaled the aroma of oranges, intoxicating and delicious, but he did not lick or bite the skin that was within reach. He did not adore his body nor did he touch him until he felt fulfilled, he just kept holding him while he slid inside the other. And when he felt the need to bite, he gritted his teeth despite the leather restriction in his mouth.

At some point the oil in the lamp ran out and the room went dark. At that moment the omega instantly broke away from him and Eijirou gave a frightening grunt. The silence became absolute, he couldn’t even hear the omega breathing, as if afraid to move.

“I’m sorry,” murmured Eijirou as soon as he managed to control himself by removing the gag from his mouth.

The omega came up and whispered next to his ear, “They can still hear us.”

Eijirou understood the implications and cursed himself. He leaned back against the floor as he felt the omega’s hands move up his legs. He moaned when he felt them over his erection and had to bite his knuckles so he would not commit any stupidity.

At least on that occasion he managed to finish.

 

 

 

 

 

The omega stayed with him for what seemed like days. Every so often they brought food and oil for the lamp, but the omega controlled the exact amount that was placed in it and in that way they managed to get some privacy. When it went dark, the omega helped him finish with his hands or his mouth.

If the lamp was on, the chatted. If not, they tried to sleep separately. It was a draining situation and Eijirou’s frustration grew day by day; and he was not the only one because he could smell that the omega was beginning to emit signs of dissatisfaction. Until one day, a day when Eijirou’s body refused to cooperate, the omega stopped suddenly, completely exhausted, and made a low sound, like an anguished sob. It was almost inaudible, but Eijirou felt it in his body like a physical blow. He immediately stood up and extended his hands to where the omega was. He pulled him to him and tried to comfort him as best as he could. He felt him tremble, but this time there was no smell of fear in him, only need. From close he smelled even more delicious. It would have been so easy to just drink him whole and get carried away.

Eijirou’s instincts fought against his self-control. It was even worse when the omega buried his face in the curve of his neck and after he inhaled he gave a sigh full of desire. Eijirou wanted to Kiss him and touch him. He wanted to sink inside of him and offer him everything he was. Instead, he hugged him, rubbed his face against his and touched him. It was wonderful to feel him writhing when he tried to relieve his erection but the omega whimpered and he knew that the contact was not enough, so he slid his fingers inside.

The humidity, the aroma, the weight of the other body against his… the combination of everything was enough for his body to recover from the frustration. When the omega returned the gesture and placed a hand on his member, the feeling was completely different. Eijirou pressed him against his as his fingers sank into that slippery passage.

For the first time, their scents became intertwined, and they spread through the cell to cover every corner. Orange and saffron. The omega moaned against him and when he moved, his neck was exposed. More than seeing it, Eijirou felt it; he rested his mouth against him, the aroma in that particular space was absolutely exquisite. The alpha salivated, and when he swallowed he realized that his fangs were ready to sink and mark the omega.

‘Not the neck,’ he thought with the last vestige of self-control he had. He sank his teeth into the curve of his shoulder, far off from the glands in his neck. He bit until it bled, and later he came when he felt the other do it.

After that everything was calm.

“Thanks,” the omega whined as Eijirou licked the blood from his shoulder.

The alpha limited himself to just hold him close and offered comfort. He stroked his back and rubbed his face against the other until he felt him purr. There were no words or kisses, only silent compassion. They stayed like that, offering comfort.

“What’s your name?” Eijirou asked at some point.

There was a long pause, until he heard a whisper almost inaudible.

“Denki…”

Eijirou savored the name, cuddled the blond and fell asleep next to him.

 

 

 

 

 

 

They took the omega way not long after that day and left him alone. They brought him food, water and brought a lamp that they made sure to keep burning constantly. Finally, they drugged him again and moved him back with the rest. When he woke up, the first thing he saw was the blond in the cell next to him.

“So you’re back.”

Eijirou got up and went to sit on the far wall, near the bars that separated both cages. His head hurt and he felt miserable.

“How long was I there?” Was his question while he massaged his forehead.

“A month,” replied the other, shrugging absently. He had imitated his example and sat with his knees raised. He entertained himself by rubbing some dry leaves between his fingers and then smelled the fragrance, at that distance Eijirou was not sure what kind of plant it was. “Though it could have been much longer. In this place the notion of time is crap.”

Eijirou took a slow breath and tried to shake off the drowsiness.

“Well?” Asked the blond without looking at him.

“Well what?”

“Did they break you?”

It was difficult for Eijirou to get angry, so the whiplash of bad humor that ran through his body was completely unexpected. It was so incredible that he was not able to utter a word. He took a moment to study his mood; in addition to the fact that the light was hurting his eyes and that his body was resenting the confinement, the discomfort he had felt was not physical. He felt frustrated, angry and dissatisfied. It took him a moment to understand that the reason for his annoyance was that he could not distinguish the smell of oranges. After getting used to it, it was difficult to live without him.

“In a couple of days the memory will fade away,” he heard someone say, although was not able to recognize who.

“Why?” was the drowned question that he managed to formulate with clenched teeth. “Why… make us do that?”

“Was it not obvious?” The blond murmured without looking at him, but his smile seemed to indicate that he considered him an idiot. “Control.”

“But the drug us.”

“With the darts and with the damned incense.” Eijirou refrained from asking questions about the last one because he did not want to draw attention to himself. “But both methods are imperfect.”

“What do you mean?”

“You don’t get it? What they seek is the empathetic link, the bond that is created between an alpha and an omega. The bond that connects them intimately. They encourage the creation of the link, that way they do not need cages to contain us because they keep the omegas under their power. Any alpha would gladly lose one of their limbs to make sure their mate is safe.”

Eijirou cursed aloud, “ And then what? What do the want with those that get mated?”

“They take them. No one knows where or why, but I can assure you that it’s not to let them live in freedom.”

“I thought the main objective of the kidnappings was slave labor.”

“We work in the mines and on the piers. The omegas wash our clothes and prepare our food… but that is a way to keep us busy. The main objective is another.”

“Our pups?”

“No, if that were the case, they would not take so much trouble in all this. Think about it. They stimulate contact, familiarity, avoid stress. They aren’t trying to impregnate the omegas, they want to mate us. They want the link. I don’t know why, but I’m not going to give them that satisfaction.”

Eijirou studied him carefully. “I heard that you refused to participate.”

“And now they leave me alone.”

“I’ve been told it will not be for long.”

He saw the blond tense, his body radiating a mute warning. Without saying anything, he rubbed the dry leaves with force until they pulverized between his fingers. He inhaled the scent slowly and then looked at him. His eyes gleamed with an overwhelming anger.

“They can try as many times as they want, I don’t intent t participate in their games.”

“I don’t understand how you can say that. You are condemning the omegas to a suffering that you could easily avoid.”

“They will suffer no matter what we do.”

“Maybe if you just bothered to talk to them, to call them by their name, you would see that there is a way to deal with this situation.”

The blond laughed at him. His laughter was brutal and full of contempt.

“We have two rules here, reddy. One is that we never ask for their names. Never ask an omega for their name, it is the last piece of privacy they have. They can’t have anything else, they can’t keep their flowers, they can’t choose, so they keep their names as the last treasure they have left. And we respect their wish.”

Eijirou’s heart was squeezed by an iron fist and he felt the blood roaring in his ears.

“And the second one is that you don’t dare to pity them. Don’t you dare to feel sorry for them, because they already have to suffer with enough shit to make them ashamed of what they do. Don’t get confused by believing that you are doing them a favor, they do it to you. If they don’t sleep with you, you both will be beaten, but they risk a lot more when they sleep with a complete stranger. If you lack self-control or lose your head, then you condemn both of you, yourself and them, to an even worse fate. But they take a risk, they allow you to choose and they don’t reproach you for the choice you made. In the end, if you slept with them and managed to contain yourself, the thing is over for you. Congratulations. They’ll send you back to your cell, they’ll put you back to work, but it’s not like that for them.”

“What are you talking about?”

“Oh, please, I don’t feel like explaining the obvious to an dimwit.”

“No, wait, please… what are you talking about?”

“About the obvious stuff. They can’t see the marks on the necks of the omegas, they can’t smell them like we do, so the only have one way to find out if there’s a link or not.”

“Pain,” murmured Eijirou, noticing his dry mouth.

“So you’re not stupid, well, congratulations. Yes, they’ll take your omega and submit them to a stress test. It doesn’t leave scars, I know, but I don’t think it’s anything close to nice.”

“So they…”

“They look at you. They study you, and if you don’t react to the stress of the omega, they grit their teeth and try again. So enjoy your free time, reddy, because I assure you they will return. Luckily for you they will try with another one,and then you will have to ask yourself if you’ll be able to fulfill the deal…”

The blond turned around to sleep. Eijirou covered his eyes and tried to compose himself. He remembered the dreadful experience when they took the omega, but that was all. It could not be the link, he had avoided it at all costs. He tried to rewind everything, he tried to concentrate, but there was no way. He could not help but evoke the sweet scent of juice, the feel of his teeth sinking into his skin and the vivid memory of his fingers caressing his inside.

He fell into a restless sleep, he dreamed that he was back in the cell, in the darkness, but this time it was not his fingers that slid in that moist passage with the smell of oranges. He woke up and cursed at the hardness between his legs. He inhaled again and again, thinking of terrible things to lower the fever. When he managed it, he studied the cell. There were a couple of lanterns by the stairs, which provided little light, and it was undoubtedly nighttime because the rest of the alphas slept in their corners.

Eijirou sucked air and filled his lungs with the aroma of confinement. That night he did not sleep, he was determined to overcome the smell of oranges. Curiously, his wish was fulfilled the next day when they made him go down to the mines and he inhaled the incense that smelled of honey for the first time.

 

 

 

 

 

Eijirou came back to his senses hours later. He noticed the fatigue, his sore muscles and the hunger. He approached his tray with food and devoured what was there, then struggled to clear the last corner of his head.

“What was that?” Was the question he asked in a low voice, although the silence of the dungeon caused the sound to reverberate strongly. It was night, his first one after his encounter with the smell of honey and milk. “How can they?... How…?”

The blond in the adjacent cell turned, he was the only one who gave any signs of waking up, the rest remained silent. For a second the blond stood still, looking at him, then approached the bars that separated both cells. Even in the semi darkness, Eijirou could see the tension in his shoulders, the stiffness in his neck, and detected the unmistakable scent of mistrust and threat.

“Who are you?” The blond asked in a low voice, his voice full of ferocity.

“What are you talking about?”

“The first thing they do when they get you off the ship is to put you in a dungeon with incense. Not everyone survives it.”

“What?... Why not?”

“Isn’t it obvious? That thing is not natural. And as such, not everyone reacts in the same way. There are some who go crazy, those are taken away and others simply don’t survive. The rest falls into a simulation of an automatic pilot, which leaves you exhausted, with headache and nausea—”

“But—”

“No. I answered your question and now you’ll answer mine. Who the fuck are you? They didn’t capture you, if that were the case you would have knows the incense since you came here. And you can’t be a new acquisition because you’re too old. They always choose young people, none older than fifteen. The only option I have left is that you’re a spy, their spy.”

“What?! No! Of course I’m not!”

“If you are a damn spy—”

“No! I’ve already told you I’m not! It’s not what you’re thinking!”

“Really? … well, then tell me, who are you?”

Eijirou growled but resigned himself, after all, it was time for things to start moving.

“You’re right,” he murmured, sitting next to the fence. “They didn’t catch me, I asked to be sent here.”

“I knew it! You’re—!”

“Not for them. Todoroki-ouji sent me.”

The blond grumbled. “Who?”

“Todoroki-ouji, you don’t know him?... How long have you been here?”

“That’s none of your business. And no, I don’t know your prince.”

“He’s the Yuuei’s king youngest son.”

“For me he can be the son of the sun for all I care. I come from the Kohei Islands, we don’t have princes.”

Eijirou blinked, only then did he pay attention to the splendid red gladiolus flower that grew from the middle of his chest to the alpha’s arm. He had heard that in the southern islands the exotic flowers were common among their people.

“Well, whatever. Todoroki-ouji sent me and three others to study the conditions and the situation in the two prisons that are the closest to the border. It has been tried before, without much success, but this time we had help from the inside; so we traveled along the shores of the Nomu desert and abandoned the ship at the border to find our contact. He told us that to enter we would have to pretend to be prisoners from another camp that had been transferred; apparently it was the only option.”

“Are you telling me you got into this cage by your own free will?” The blond’s voice oozed with sarcasm and mockery. “Do you really expect me to believe it?”

“It was the only way.”

“Why?”

“Because six months ago Todoroki-oo gave the order to recruit every alpha and beta in fighting age. He’s ready to start a war.”

“Well, he’s late. These bastards have kidnapped our people for years.”

“And every year we fight to recover them. We set up patrols to intercept them, but they have learned to plant decoys. We try to fence their coasts but it’s useless because we can’t establish a permanent blockade. We need an outpost, but there is no way we can cross the desert, not with the beasts that live there, it has to be done by sea and we have tried. We lost ships and men, again and again. Now the king is determined to send a whole fleet with the intention to abolish the ports, but Todoroki-ouji wants to prevent him from doing so.

“Why? It sounds very reasonable to me.”

“And it is, if you don’t care about the losses. A few years ago, there was an attempt to rescue one of the fortresses near the coast. The aim was to establish an outpost and defend it until the reinforcements arrived, but the troops lost many men and in the end they had to retreat; worst of all was that the prisoners had been massacred before the fortress fell. Nobody understood at that moment why our people didn’t fight, but now I know. It was the incense. The king believes that it was an isolated event, which will not happen again, but Todoroki-ouji does not think so. That’s why he sent us with the objective to find out the truth.”

“And what do you plan to do now that you know?”

“Send a message. The king’s troops will attack the ports and the shipyards first, but when they try to besiege the fortresses, it will cause them to kill us all. We have to avoid it.”

“Your logic is absurd.”

“But—”

“But nothing. This is our opportunity. When your king arrives, we will be ready.”

“It’s dangerous, we can’t risk the lives of everyone who’s here.”

“Our lives are already at risk. This is what we have been waiting for. Let them attack from the outside, we will hit them from the inside.”

“Who—?”

The question died in his mouth because he realized that he had the attention of every alpha in the dungeon. He could smell in all of them the thirst for blood, although none of them as intense as the one the blond emanated. Eijirou could not help but smell it and get excited.

 

Chapter Text

He swallowed down the sobs despite feeling like they kept accumulating inside his chest like grains of sand and buried his face between his knees to hide his tears. He could not conceive the idea of Katsuki lost in the storm. It was an absurd idea—an impossible idea. Izuku hugged his knees and his knuckles turned white as they clutched to his ankles. His entire body was a tense knot that held back the sobs that bubble in his throat.

“Don’t be a wimp.”

He heard Katsuki say for the first time when they were four years old while the blond looked at him from one of the low branches of a tree. Izuku protested, but at the same time he was looking out for a route to ascend. He had taken two steps towards the tree when a creak was heard and Katsuki ended up on the floor with a broken arm. Despite the accident, the phrase became Katsuki’s personal motto. It was accompanied by a smile, a daring tone. It presented a challenge and fueled Izuku’s stubborn nature.

“Don’t be a wimp.”

He heard it when he was afraid to learn to swim. He was not good at floating, but Katsuki wanted to show him the duck nest on one of the small islands in the center. Katsuki who swam like he was half-fish, Katsuki who did not stop swimming back and forth while he waited for him. So Izuku swallowed the fear and followed him. His heart throbbed wildly all the way there, but he forgot about it when they reached the island and found several nests of ducks, full of eggs and little ducklings. Izuku managed to caress several of them before a furious mother duck pounced on them. When Izuku sank and panicked, it was Katsuki who grabbed his arm and kept him afloat. He had told him: “You are such a wimp,” but he never let him go and accompanied him all the way back.

“Don’t be a wimp.”  

He heard it when he felt afraid to jump into the sea. His mother had warned him about the possibilities of being dragged away unable to return to the shore, but Katsuki wanted to show him the line of corals and the goldfishes. Katsuki who could dive and keep diving for entire minutes, Katsuki who did not let fear stop him. So Izuku turned a deaf ear to his mother’s warnings and tried to sink with his eyes open. It had taken him a while to get used to it, but in the end he was able to sink to a decent height and with time Izuku could hold the air for several minutes.

“Don’t be a wimp.”

He heard that phrase over and over again during his childhood. When they were trapped in the forest in the middle of a storm, when Katsuki decided to imitate the elders and jumped from the ravine to the sea, when Katsuki defended him from a wild boar. That phrase got Izuku to face fear and allowed him to build the memories that would keep him alive.

“Don’t be a wimp.”

He remember that phrase when the ship sank and left him adrift. He remembered it when he had to gather all the courage he could to talk to the bird-headed boy and the frog girl. He remembered how much he had to hunt for the first time without Katsuki’s help. He remembered it for a whole year, day by day and night after night, gathering strength to survive. He remembered it when winter came and he was about to starve. He remembered it when a snake bit him and he had to heal himself. He remembered it when he fell from a cliff and had to grit his teeth while aligning his broken hand. He remembered it when spring came and he cried for the first time in front of the field of flowers. He remembered it when he made the decision that he would go back home. He remembered it when his hands bled after spending a whole day cutting and nailing down wood for his first boat. He remembered it when his first boat sank. He remembered it when the next two did the same. He remembered it when his first heat arrived and he had to endure it alone and without help. He remembered it when the work became overwhelming.

He remembered it every time he stared at the sea. Every time he gazed at the sky at dawn. Katsuki was with him: Encouraging, pushing, not allowing him to give up. He lived with his memory day after day, yearning to return home. His only wish was to hear him again, to put his head on his shoulder and inhale his scent.

 

 

 

 

 

Izuku woke up when he felt the ship shake. His heart froze when he noticed the bars and had a vision of the raging sea, he was assaulted by the terror of being drowned, but then he noticed the scent of alpha and remembered all the events from the previous day. He rubbed his face, full of dry tears, and stretched his legs. He heard screams on the deck, but he paid no attention to it, instead closing his eyes and evoking Katsuki’s face. He remembered the smile. The eyes with the color of fire. The aroma.

Wood and black smoke.

‘No, not like that.’ Izuku opened his eyes just as a frightful sound reverberated inside the cellar. Everything around him creaked like a seed when crushed. This time the shouts that were heard outside were decidedly clear. The alpha guys who were sleeping woke up and started asking questions while the others tried to distinguish what the voices on the deck said.

“Fire,” said a voice in the cellar, and Izuku could smell the burn wood.

The unmistakable sounds of struggle filled the air and activated the impatience of the alpha boys. The cellar was filled with restless voices, quick questions, assumptions and Izuku tried to follow the conversation, but the scent distracted him. He could smell the fire and could not help but remember what had happened many years ago in a similar situation. He could not stop imagining the water flooding the cellar, covering the rest of his companions.

He left his trance when a man came down to the warehouse, or rather when a man fell down the stairs, his head hit the ground producing an atrocious echo and remained face down, unconscious. There were knocks, grunts and suddenly another man fell, only that he managed to stand up in time, just to intercept the attack of the beta that was coming after him. The boys roared with excitement when the black-haired man attacked. He had two short-swords that he was spinning at an impressive speed, he moved gracefully and was definitely lethal. He managed to slash his enemy three times before cutting his neck.

Immediately he turned his attention to the fallen man and when he turned him around the man left a trail of blood on the dark wood. The beta cursed under his breath.

“Press the wound,” Izuku said almost reflexively and was startled when the man looked at him. He had deep black eyes framed by purple azalea flowers that bloomed on his left cheek and grew on his temple and forehead. They undoubtedly reinforced the natural authority of his gaze.

Izuku remained still under inspection, although for a moment he felt naked. Before he could wriggle with anxiety, the beta got up, took his swords and hit the lock of the cage four times before the padlock gave away.

“Can you help him?” His voice was deep and warm, there was not a single note of anxiety in it.

Izuku swallowed the fear and moved, legs weak with the scent of alpha combined with the authoritative presence of beta. He remained silent as he checked the wound, a deep cut at the level of his ribs, and a giant bump on his forehead. As soon as he set eyes on him, Izuku forgot about the fear, the anxiety of knowing he was being observed and the pain, his mind simply making a quick analysis. He took the pulse, evaluated the depth of the wound and made sure to exert pressure without aggravating the situation.

“It’s a deep wound but the knife was diverted to the outside,” he said out loud and turned towards the beta that stared at him. “I’ll need to sew him, I have the materials in between my stuff. I also have plaster that would help to avoid infections, and another that will reduce the swelling of the blow.”

“Your things?”

“They’re in some burlap bags. They put them in two large bags when they assaulted my boat. I think they were left on the deck.”

The beta nodded, took out two of the eldest alphas, gave to each of them a sword with instructions to release the rest and remain on guard in case there were problems and then climbed the stairs with the grace of a feline.

With his hands wet with warm blood, Izuku fought against panic.

Don’t be a wimp.

He swallowed the tears. Katsuki was right. It was not time to break down.... He took a deep breath and turned to the closest alpha around him.

“I need water and bandages or something that looks like it.”

 

 

[...]

 

 

It had taken time, days of incessant persecution, and a lot of teamwork for the Fleet to catch up with its prey. Despite the captain’s warnings, Shouto enlisted himself with the rest of the crew to fight, the only warning from his teaches was: Avoid losing your head or I will lose mine. Far from considering it obvious, Shouto noted his concern; and at least he managed to nuance it.

“Todoroki-ouj—”

“For the last time, Tenya, we are traveling incognito, I’m Shouto.”

The beta next to him twisted with anxiety.

“Sir! I could not fall at such—”

“Stop screaming or you’ll attract attention. And if my name is too much for you, at least avoid the titles.”

“Very well, sir.” Shouto squirmed at the formal tone. “I just wanted to tell you that I consider it extremely dangerous for you to participate in this raid. The captain has recommended that you should stay safe in the cabin, next to the helmsman.”

“The captain has undoubtedly the best of intentions, but as I see it they will need all the possible hands to ensure victory.”

“To risk your life…”

“We’re not going to start with the same thing, right Tenya?”

“No sir. Sorry sir.”

Shouto remained silent and waited for the captain’s order.

As soon as the enemy ship was within range, the archers threw arrows on the mainsail and almost at the same time others lit cannons. The captain waited for the counter-attack and responded in the same way. One of its bullets was lucky to collide with the main mast and it fell on the deck causing a frightful noise.

When the two ships were almost at the same height the ropes were laid and the boarding began.

Shout jumped behind his teacher and immediately took position next to Tenya. His job was to prevent the enemy from having access to his ship, so they both stood side by side and defended their terrain by cutting, stabbing and dodging. The battle on the front was bloody, but they had no problems. Shouto felt no remorse for the fallen bodies. He fought with agility and dexterity, he did not take two steps if one was enough and made sure his cuts were deadly.

When the fight was over, he had his body covered in a thin layer of sweat, his face was stained with blood and his arms felt heavy. Only then did he notice the cuts on his clothes and neck, all insignificant.

“Sir!” Exclaimed Tenya as soon as he saw his appearance.

“Help the captain with the fire, Tenya, I’ll look for Aizawa.”

He left without giving him time to protest. He moved away from the bodies and found his master kneeling beside a pile of sacks tied to the railing.

“You survived.”

“You don’t sound surprised.”

“If I were I would not have allowed you to come.”

At that moment the captain materialized besides them.

“And the alphas?”

“Safe,” was a dry answer.

“Good, we have little time before the fire goes out of control. My hands are full, the victuals, fire and weapons… where is Hizashi? I need him to inspect the cabins.”

“He’s wounded. They stabbed him and he remains unconscious.”

“Damn it! ...well, can you take care of getting all the prisoners out?”

“I’ll do it.”

He got up dragging two sacks with him and Shouto followed him. They hurried down, turned left and immediately ran into another staircase.

The first thing Shouto noticed when he came down was the smell: Blood, impatience, threat, shit and anguish. He wrinkled his nose reflexively and tried to ignore it. The next thing he noticed was that all the captured boys were forming a circle with their backs to them. Shouto crossed the circle and stood while his teacher knelt.

In the center there was a boy, older than the rest. His hands were soaked with blood as he placed a tourniquet on Hizashi’s torso. Two alpha boys helped him lift the body as he wrapped it in what looked like a piece of sheets.

“The ship will sink,” his teacher said as he extended the sacks to the boy. “Are these your things?”

“Eh? ...ah,” they boy finished adjusting the bandage, bent to look at the contents of the bag and nodded again. “Yes, they are.”

“Good, now we have to get out of here.”

“Oh…” the boy curled a bit in front of his teacher’s stare and when he did a delicate smell of lavender flooded the cabin. Shouto was not the only one who was delighted with the aroma.

“Can I move him?” Asked his teacher, breaking the sudden silence.

“I still… I still need to patch him.”

“I’ll take him to our ship and you can do it there, okay?”

“Y-yeah… just be careful… be careful with the wound.”

The boy seemed ashamed of his advice because he averted his eyes and rubbed his nose. A delicate nose covered in freckles.

“Shouto, help him with his things. The rest with me.”

His teacher came out and the little alphas followed him. When the boy made a gesture to take one of the sacks, Shouto intercepted it. The movement startled the boy who withdrew his hand in a nervous gesture. The lavender scent sprang with unusual strength.

“You smell like flowers,” Shouto said without thinking. It was not the scent of an alpha, there was enough of that scent in the entire cabin… but it did not have the characteristics of any of the other either.

“I-I’m… I work with plants. I make infusions and poultices.”

The boy bent down, took the other sack and left before Shouto could say anything else.

 

 

 

 

 

All the adults concentrated on the tasks of cleaning and transporting. Shouto left the boy’s things and returned to finish transporting the supplies and weapons. A couple of hours later everyone howled with joy when the enemy ship sank with the corpses of the slavers.

Shouto looked overboard until there were no more bubbles on the surface, he felt no pity for any of them, nor remorse. He vaguely wondered if his mother would approve of his attitude and the thought hurt him. To fight against the feeling of failure he went in search of his teacher.

He found him in the makeshift infirmary. There were several injured, most with relatively innocuous cuts. Shouto took a seat next to Hizashi, and from there he watched as the boy who smelled of flowers cleaned a treated all wounds with surprising effectiveness. He was methodical and quick, but he got embarrassed every time one of the sailors gave him a compliment. The change happened so fast that it was entertaining to see: He applied the paste that smelled of aloe with a concentrate and tenacious expression, bandages with agile hands and when the man in question gave him a word the boy would wrung his hands and blush self-consciously.

Shouto did not get tired of watching the same sequence over and over again. There was something extremely amusing in the way his tanned face dyed a delicate pink hue while he smiled nervously.

Eventually all of the injured were treated and the only ones left in the cabin were the three seriously injured. Hizashi was the only one still unconscious.

“He’ll recover,” Shouto said quietly as he watched Tenya approaching with food for them.

His teacher did not answer, instead he signaled to the boy.

“Food,” he said, and Shouto saw the other hesitate before approaching.

“Thanks, but they,” he signaled to the two wounded, “need to eat first.”

Before anyone could say anything, another sailor came in carrying food for his two companions. Without further excuse the boy rubbed his fingers and faltered in his place before taking a seat.

“Thank you.” He accepted the dried meat, the bread and the water. He ate without looking at anyone and Shouto was about to ask a question when his teacher spoke first.

“What’s your name?”

“Midoriya. Izuku Midoriya.”

“I am Aizawa. These two are my disciples, Tenya and Shouto.”

“Pleasure.”

“What were you doing on the ship?”

“Eh?”

“What were you doing on the ship? They don’t usually abduct any alpha over fifteen.”

“I’m not an alpha.”

Shouto’s eyes remained fixed on the dirty bandage that covered the ankle. When the boy pressed it against him, Shouto looked up to find two eyes of an extraordinary green. In just a second of inspection, Shouto took note of the delicate profile, of the freckles that covered the nose and faded around the eyes, he noticed that the lashes were a dark green, almost black, and that his mouth was a delicacy like the bud of a flower.

“A beta?” Asked Tenya, bringing Shouto back to reality.

“I-I’m a healer,” said the boy as he brushed back the strands of his green hair, green as the leaves that grow in the shadows.

“You’re too young,” Aizawa said, printing the tone of authority Shouto knew well in his voice. It was a tone that did not work with him, but it was excellent for teaching beta under his tutelage. However, the boy tensed as if he had been shouted and the scent of lavender returned. Strong and dense, combined with the scent of aloe and chamomile.

“I didn’t finish my training.”

“Why?”

Shouto looked at his teacher through his peripheral vision, wondering the reason for the sudden severity in his tone, but he put the question aside when he put his eyes back on the boy and noticed his discomfort—his shoulders were tense and his hands were writhing nervously, he bit on his lower lip while he laid his eyes on his teacher and immediately looking away, as if he could not face the hardness.

‘Certainly not an alpha,’ Shouto thought absentmindedly, but it was rare that a teenage beta would lose their composure in front of that tone. It was as if…

No.

The boy surrendered to the authority of his teacher, perhaps Aizawa was not an alpha but he certainly had trained several and knew how to prevail. The boy looked away from him and lifted his shirt to the height of his stomach.

As soon as he saw the bandages, Shouto’s heart fluttered inside his chest like a frightened bird inside a cage.

 

 

[...]

 

 

The silence lengthened to what seemed like an eternity. Izuku noticed the fear dancing inside him and tried to control it, but it was damn hard to bear the adult beta’s gaze. His expression was severe and his scent was so imposing that it is physically impossible to lie to him.

He heard on ef the boys say something. The taller one of the two said “You’re…,” but the rest of the sentence was cut off when the adult beta turned his attention to him and Izuku took advantage of his distraction to redo his posture. He took air slowly and kept his hands still.

“How did you get there?” Was the next question, less severe than the previous one, but equally firm. Izuku did not waste time with lies, lowered his voice and looked at the ground.

“A few years ago they attacked my village,” distracted, Izuku rubbed his nose and brushed his hair away from his face as he told them about the kidnapping and the shipwreck. He made a short summary of his life in the enemy land and ended by saying, “I had planned to cross the sea until I reached the shores of Yuuei. From there I would have sailed to the south, towards the Kohei Islands.”

“An impossible trip,” said the younger beta.

Izuku shrugged without looking at anyone, “I had to try.”

“Why the bandages?”

Izuku rubbed absentmindedly the knee from the bandaged leg and looked at Aizawa.

“Because I wanted to avoid being sent with the rest of the omegas if they captured me. I thought the flower would deceive them, and that it would give me time to escape.”

“It was an absurd plan. They don’t capture betas, only alphas and omegas.”

Izuku frowned, “No, that’s not true. They also kidnap betas.”

“Who told you that?”

“Those are the rumors that arrive.”

“Well, they’re wrong. Every year since the kidnappings began they have sent just two ships. Always. They started with a handful here, a handful there and suddenly they started with large groups. Twice a year they’d attack the coasts and kidnap alphas and omega alike. They had never taken a beta.”

“That’s because they attack them at sea. Many beta men are merchants and sailors. For all I know is that they look for boats that are easy to board and then take them away. It’s almost certain that many believe that their disappearance is due to storms and sea snakes.”

There was a long silence while Izuku’s words crashed unto the other three, the boy was surprised to see shock and surprise on Aizawa’s face.

“You didn’t know?”

“Adult betas?” The man murmured, looking at the omega with a surprised expression. “It doesn’t make sense.”

“Why?” Izuku asked in return.

The three looked at each other as if he was not there.

“What’s wrong?” The boy repeated, trying to get their attention.

“I must speak with the captain.”

Aizawa stood up and Izuku stepped aside to let him pass. As soon as the adult disappeared through the door, the boy turned to the other two.

“What is the problem with betas being also abducted?”

“Most people,” said Tenya, “believe that they use the alpha as labor. They are taken young to train them. The omegas are intended to serve as companions.”

“And isn’t it like that?” Izuku asked, looking at the boy with blue hair.

“The king believes so,” murmured the only alpha in the group. Izuku looked at him and tried not to writhe before his eyes. Not only was it amazing that his eyes were of different colors, but his bearing and expression shouted authority despite his age. “For him, that’s the only explanation.”

“What else can there be?”

“To work.”

“No, we know that there is no beta with the rest of the prisoners.”

Izuku cocked his head, unable to follow the alpha’s line of reasoning, but as the other leaned towards him, Izuku straightened, suddenly aware of the smell of pine and moss. It smelt like spring. It smelt like a wet forest, familiar, cool and serene.

“How do you know?” Asked Izuku instinctively backing out, trying to put space between the alpha and himself.

“Since the kidnappings started spies were sent to the lands of the slavers. All of them disappeared, dead or captured doesn’t matter, none of the reports they sent mentioned beta slaves.”

“Are they killed?” Asked Tenya with evident discomfort.

“After taking the trouble to take them away?” The alpha replied before turning to Izuku, who tried not to stoop in front of him. “I still don’t understand, why beta and not alpha or omega?”

Izuku looked at him strangely. “What are you talking about?”

“Why disguise yourself as a beta? If you were afraid of what they would do to you if they discovered that you were an omega, why not pretend to be an alpha?”

“Because the alphas are drugged.”

 

 

[...]

 

 

Shouto took a deep breath trying to put his thoughts in order. He grabbed his temples and rested his elbows on his knees. Tenya tried to speak to him, but he gestured for him to shut up because he did not want to start an interrogation without his teacher, even though that was precisely what he wanted the most.

While they waited the beta—no, the omega—leaned over to check Hizashi’s pulse and then went to check the status of the other two patients. He returned, finished eating and stood still while absently rubbing the scar on his right hand.

“What happened to you?” Shouto asked impulsively.

The omega looked at him, It was surprising that the same person who moments ago was writhing with nervousness could look at him with an expression full of calm. His eyes were amazingly green, in the light of the lamps the color resembled that of moss dampened by the morning dew and were bordered by those long lashes that were green but looked black. Shouto stared at him with such intensity that the boy gave a nervous start and turned his eyes away from him.

“I fell,” he answered quietly, stroking his scar absently. “Slid down a cliff and landed on my hand. I ended up with three broken fingers, but managed to align them without complications.”

Shouto tried not to imagine the situation, but he could not. He was six years old when he dislocated his shoulder when he fell from his first horse and remembered his screams while the healer tried to put the bone back to its place, he remembered how the pain had filed every hole inside his brain, preventing him from processing any coherent thought. He could not imagine healing himself, alone.

“What about you?” The question surprised him and it took him a moment to understand that the omega was referring to the burn on the left side of his face.

His throat contracted at the memory, but before he could say anything, Tenya stepped forward.

“That is an impertinence.”

He made his voice so hard that the omega was startled and his face lost all sympathy, he tensed and pressed his hands against his body. Shouto felt guilty and was about to growl at Tenya when his teacher finally returned with them.

“What happened?” Asked the alpha immediately.

“We’ll talk later.”

“No, we’ll talk now.” He turned to the omega. “Tell him what you just told us.”

“Eh?”

“Tell him about the drug.”

He felt his teacher tense and all his attention was focused on the omega.

“What drug?”

Shouto stepped forward. “He says the slavers are drugging the alphas.”

“Is that true?” The omega nodded, looking at them reluctantly. “How do you know?”

“Tokoyami’s family—the person who helped me trace my route across the sea—lived near the General’s fortress. His father worked as a guard in one of the prisons, and they left after his death, but he still remembers everything his father would say. It was him who convinced me to disguise myself as a beta. He told me that the omegas are the most guarded and the alphas are drugged daily.”

Shouto exchanged a look with his teacher.

He asked. “What did you tell the captain?”

“Nothing,” the beta rubbed his face, trying to alleviate his tired eyes. “I asked him about missing boats or ships.”

“And?”

“Apparently there are a few, but not too many to attract attention.

Tenya shook his head, “What does that mean?”

“It means,” said Aizawa, “that we have another question at hand. Why adult betas? Through all these years young alphas had been taken, omegas were kidnapped indiscriminately, but they have never shown interest in betas. When did they modify their behavior? And why?”

“Does it matter?” Asked Tenya, squinting. “I mean, now we have the answer we were looking for. We know now that Todoroki-ouji was right in assuming that something prevented the alpha from fighting on that occasion. If the drug was able to neutralize them, it will not matter if we manage to besiege a prison. They’ll prefer to massacre the prisoners rather than let them go. We have to go back and tell the king. We have to devise a plan that allows us to take over the prisons without killing the alpha.”

“We’re not going back,” Shouto growled, shaking his head. “Eijirou and his group are waiting for us to pick them up.”

“If they manage to get out,” murmured Aizawa, crossing his arms. “You knew very well that there was no guarantee.”

“Your contact—”

“My contact was clear. He could help them get in, but leaving was another matter. The main objective was to avoid the same disaster from years ago.”

“Eijirou is your disciple.”

“And he knows his responsibilities.”

“And he also trust us. We agreed that we would go to pick him up.”

“We agreed that I would let you come with the condition that you would stay on this ship while I went to look for the contact, at no time did I allow you to come with me.”

“I don’t care if you let me. Eijirou and the others are part of my guard, I will not abandon them.”

“Eijirou knew that if he could not escape he would have to wait until the king’s fleet arrived and even then there was no assurance that the king’s army would get the prison back. He knew that his main mission was to gather information and send it to us. He made the decision knowing the risk he was running.”

“I can’t believe you’re just going to leave him there.”

“There are priorities. We have to warn the king of this situation. He will have to change his plans and will have to gather more details about the drug if we want to overcome it.”

“Then go back to my father. I’ll keep my word.”

“Don’t do this.”

“What is the importance of my return? The old man will not care, you know that just as much as I do. You have a higher chance to convince him to change his mind. If I arrive telling him that he should not attack, the first thing he’ll do is tell me to stop acting like a coward and to set an example to everyone. I will not do any good there.”

“You’ll not do any good while being dead either.”

“I won’t be dead. I will find your contact and maybe we can devise a way out to get Eijirou and the rest of the prisoners out.”

“Are you even listening to yourself?” Aizawa shook his head in disbelief. “You’re only going to get yourself killed, or worse, captured.”

“If that’s the case, then maybe then my father would want to make a real effort to recover the prisoners.”

“Shouto—”

“You know I’m right. You know that my father intends to concentrate on destroying the ports and attacking the General’s strength. His priority is not the prisoners. You don’t need to say it out loud, it’s more than obvious. I know it and you know it. If he manages to free a few, it will be good for him, if not he can always say he tried.”

Aizawa spread his arms, obfuscated.

“No, no and no… This is crazy, how are you going to face a drug you don’t know nor have you ever seen?”

“Eijirou will know about it.”

“And he will be in the exact same situation with you.”

Shouto shook his head, took a deep breath and stared at his teacher.

“Don’t ask me to leave them.”

“This isn’t your fault.”

“They did it for me.”

“You didn’t force anyone.”

“Have you ever said no to my father?”

“... you’re not him.”

“And that’s why we are here.”

Aizawa closed his eyes, scratched his cheek and began to curse the day he became attached to that group of noisy children.

“Be sensible, Shouto, what are you going to do? You want to enter an unknown area, that none of us knows, to look for the prison that holds Eijirou, and then what? How are you going to enter? How are you going to leave?”

“You’ve always said that we should innovate.”

“Don’t use my words against me.”

“Maybe I don’t know the place, but I’ll find the way there.”

“Excuse me,” both were startled at the intervening voice, they had forgotten about the omega they still had around them. “I know where all the fortress in the area are.”

Silence. Shouto rewinds the phrase until it makes sense.

“How?” Aizawa asks sternly.

“Tokoyami got me a detailed map of the army. If I saw myself in the need to get closer to the coast I would at least know which areas to avoid.”

“Do you have the maps with you?”

“No, they stayed on my boat, but I learned them all by heart. I’ve memorized the locations of all the villages and the guard posts.”

Shouto smiles and looks at his teacher, who grunts.

“The problem with the drug is still there.”

“Well…” The omega intervenes before Shouto does and when both turn to him, the boy blushes. Shouto is surprised when the omega moves the hair from his ear, it is a mania that he has repeated at least five times through all the time they have been chatting.

“Do you also know how to neutralize it?” Aizawa murmurs impatiently.

“Uh… no… I don’t know what it is, but Tokoyami told me that it was delivered by air, so before leaving I had to prepare a complete set of lotions. We had the idea that in case they tried to use it against me, maybe I could counteract it by using a cloth covered in perfume. Like when you use a wet handkerchief to avoid getting intoxicated with the smoke.”

Both Shouto and Aizawa spoke at the same time. “Brilliant.”—“Absurd.”

“In any case,” the omega muttered, trying to ignore the tension between them, “it’s not a long-term solution, but even if it does work it will give us a margin of advantage.”

“Yeah, it will.” Shouto smiled proudly and his gesture caused the omega to blush. Still smiling, the boy turned towards his teacher. “I suppose there are no more excuses.”

Aizawa run a hand through his hair, clearly frustrated.

“Are you willing to drag him into this nonsense?” He pointed to the omega and for the first time, Shouto had doubts.

He looked at the omega, undecided, but the boy did something extraordinary. He smiled for the first time since he met him. The gesture was brilliant, shy and charming.

“Actually, it’s me who’s offering help,” the boy said without hesitation.

The silence spread as the three looked at him in surprise, finally it was Aizawa who asked the question everyone had in mind, “Why?”

The beautiful smile was suddenly erased, his gesture extinguished like the flame of a candle. A small wrinkle formed between the eyebrows and his cheekbones went pale. Eyes roamed the room, as if searching for something, but it was obvious the boy was not here, he saw something beyond them all. A memory. A wish. Whatever it was, it had the strength to turn a beautiful flower into a withered leaf.

Finally, the boy put his hands to his face and brushed his hair, slowly coming back to reality.  When he looked back at them his face was the spitting image of sadness.

“If I knew that my friend is a prisoner, I would also do everything possible to rescue them.”