Izuku woke in the early hours of the next morning. The sun hadn’t yet risen completely, although the sky was already lightening over the ocean’s horizon. He would guess that it was about seven in the morning, but without the use of a watch or a clock, he couldn’t be sure.
He had slept fitfully last night. The rain had continued for several hours, and, as such, no one had had the opportunity to start a fire like they all had hoped. As such, the flint sat, unused, staring at them all mockingly throughout the night. So for the third day in a row, they all went to sleep hungry and dehydrated. Izuku was beginning to feel dizzy from his lack of water. The ache of hunger, he could deal with, but the effects of dehydration were fully settling in on the tribe as a whole now. They had been drinking what water they could find from coconuts, but that was nowhere near enough water to keep up with their bodies’ functions and needs, especially given the amount they had been sweating in the heat and during challenges. Izuku thought it was getting dangerous; they would surely need water, and soon, or else they wouldn’t even be able to compete in a challenge.
The dull ache of hunger had woken him up, as it so often did this early in the morning. Even though the rain had been relentless the previous night, Izuku saw, with immense relief, that, for now, the downpour had moved on elsewhere. The ground was wet, and, as such, much of their fire-making material was wet, so a fire would not be easy to start, but it wasn’t entirely impossible, not with flint to hand and a dry sky.
Izuku found his thin, lightweight hoodie and wrapped himself in it, the wet conditions of the previous night making him shiver, despite the relative heat of the island. He walked, barefoot, to the fire pit they had made. He stuck his hand into the pocket of his hoodie, where he found the piece of black cloth Tokoyami had ripped off his own shirt to aid in starting a fire. Thankfully, since this bit of cloth was safe and secure inside Izuku’s hoodie pocket, it was almost completely dry. Izuku set the cloth in the middle of the fire pit, and then he grabbed the flint stick and the knife and began to shave magnesium off of the flint stick and onto the cloth. After he had a good amount of magnesium shaved off onto the dry cloth, Izuku grabbed the pile of tinder that was sitting in the fire pit. It was damp, but it wasn’t soaking, thanks to Tenya. Tenya had had the idea of covering the fire pit overnight with palm fronds elevated on bamboo sticks, kind of like a miniature shelter. Even though the coverage wasn’t complete, it was enough that the tinder was - hopefully - still usable. He rubbed the small bits of bark and dry grass in between his hands for a few minutes, in an attempt to dry the tinder off further. When it was as dry as it would get, Izuku placed the tinder on top of the cloth and magnesium.
Izuku grabbed the flint stick again, his brows drawn together in deep concentration, his tongue poking out of the side of his mouth. He couldn’t remember what angle he was supposed to hold the flint stick at before he struck it. He thought it was either forty or sixty. Debating with himself in his head for a few minutes, he eventually decided on holding it at about a forty-five degree angle. He held the flint about an inch over the magnesium and tinder, and he struck the flint with the blade over and over again, pulling the flint away as he did so, only to return it closer to the magnesium once more when the spark didn’t flame. He kept producing sparks, but none of it caught.
He was determined, though. Izuku Midoriya was not going to do anything at all today, if he didn’t start a fire.
He wasn’t sure how long he had been sitting there in the dirt before the fire pit, striking the flint, before the flame finally, finally caught. He could’ve been there for twenty minutes or two hours. All he knew was that one minute, there was no fire, and the next, he struck a spark onto the magnesium and it caught, a brilliant orange flame forming at the base of the cloth, small but promising.
Izuku could hardly contain his excitement. He let out a small, victorious yelp and quickly moved the tinder so that it would catch the flame, praying that it wasn’t too damp to catch.
Within seconds, the tinder was aflame, and a fire was going in earnest.
“Yes, yes, yes,” Izuku muttered encouragingly to the fire. He shot up out of his sitting position, running to grab any small sticks he found that were dry enough to use to build the fire. He built it up enough that he was confident it wouldn’t go out anytime soon, and he sat back to admire his work with a huge smile on his face.
They had fire. They finally had fire.
He grabbed the pot that they had been given at their camp and filled it with the salty ocean water, and then he set the pot over the fire, boiling it so that it was safe to drink and eat with.
He was so absorbed in his task that he didn’t even hear when Ochako woke up and approached him.
What he did hear, though, was her delighted squeals, and then she bent down low enough to throw her arms around Izuku’s neck from behind.
“You did it!” she shouted, excited laughter tumbling from her mouth. “You got the fire started!”
If everyone wasn’t awake before, they definitely were now, due to Ochako’s loud exclamations. Nobody particularly seemed to mind being awoken, though, only to be met with the welcome news of a fire. They had all of them gone to bed last night miserable and wet; being woken up to drinking water and rice for breakfast - finally , they could eat their rice! - was worth being woken up prematurely for.
Maybe, with food and water in their stomachs, they’ll be able to do better at the challenge tomorrow.
Even though the portion of rice they’d each rationed out for themselves was by no means a decently-sized meal, Izuku lie back in the shelter when he was done eating and patted his belly in satisfaction as though it had been. Ochako giggled at this display before doing almost the exact same thing, lying down next to him in the shelter with a small, contented sigh.
“I already feel better,” she said, sounding almost surprised by this assessment.
Izuku nodded his agreement. It was true; even though all he’d had was a measly portion of rice and a canteen’s worth of water, it was more than he’d had in three days, and the effects of getting something into his body were immediately apparent. He felt more solid, if that made sense, as if his body had been given substance once more. His lightheadedness subsided, and the ever=present ache of hunger had gone away, for the time being, satisfied by even the small amount of food he’d managed.
Encouraged by the fire and the lack of rain so far, Tsuyu had decided to try her hand at taking out the boat they had been provided to try catching fish in the ocean for them to cook up and eat, whereas Tenya was busy making sure everyone’s canteens were full of safe drinking water. Tokoyami was also lying in the shelter, though judging by the soft snores coming from his direction, Izuku guessed that he had fallen back asleep, now that his hunger was sated.
Izuku felt the pleasant lull of sleep beckoning to him as well, but he tried to stay awake for the time being. Izuku cast an eye at Ochako, and then he shut his eyes again.
“Tell me about your family,” Izuku heard himself requesting through his closed eyes.
Ochako didn’t say anything at first, but then she relented, with a smile in her voice, “I’m an only child, but I’m really close to my parents. They’re the reason I’m out here in the first place.”
“Yeah. We’ve always been kind of poor, and I wanted to help them out with money. I’ve been working so hard my whole life to get a good job with decent pay, but it’s going to be a while still until I get to that point. And then I saw an advertisement online, saying that the new season of this show was accepting applicants, and - well, here I am.” She laughed a little, almost self-consciously.
Izuku opened his eyes and looked at her. She was staring up at the roof of their shelter, a soft smile on her lips.
“If I win the money, I’m going to use it to buy them a new house. And whatever’s left after that, I’m giving them half of it. The rest of it is going to my schooling.” She turned her head in Izuku’s direction. “What about you? What’s your family like?”
“Small,” Izuku said with a chuckle. “It’s just me and my mom. And - honestly, it’s kind of the same story as yours. I’m here because of her.” He issued a small shrug. “I mean, we’re not really poor , but we’re not exactly living comfortably with money on the side, either. If I win the money, it’s going straight to her. A new house, a new car, whatever she wants. And my school debt,” he tacked on as an afterthought. His school debt seemed so inconsequential, when it came to a million dollars. All he’d have to cough up was forty-thousand or so to pay off his debt, which wasn’t even a chunk out of the fortune.
“She’s the reason you’re here, too, huh?” Ochako asked.
“I’ve always wanted to be here,” Izuku corrected. “Ever since I was a little kid, when the show first started airing, I’ve been watching it, and I’ve been a huge fan of it. But, yeah, I guess she’s the ultimate reason why I’m here.”
“Well, we have that in common, then,” Ochako said.
Which was just one more reason why Izuku liked her so much. She had the same goals as he did and for the same reasons, which made her that much easier to get along with and get a read on. She was as dedicated to her parents as he was to his, and they were both here to win the million dollars to make their lives’ easier.
Which similarly meant that Ochako would vote him out, if it came down to it, just like Izuku would vote her out, if he had to.
The thought made him nervous, but he pushed it aside for now. That moment would not be coming for some time now, not if they stayed loyal to each other for the time being. And in a game where people switched alliances the way they changed their clothes, a lasting, loyal alliance was a huge advantage. Ochako seemed smart enough to realize that, too. Izuku didn’t doubt where he stood with her = yet. It was too early in the game to doubt their loyalties to each other. For now, he was just happy that he had chosen somebody so down-to-earth and kind-spirited as his ally.
“I know it’s only been four days, but I already miss them,” Ochako said candidly. “I mean, I’ve gone without them for longer, but it’s just the knowledge that I can’t call them or talk to them at all. I can’t tell them how I’m doing; I can’t complain to them about starving or the weather.”
“Yeah,” Izuku agreed easily. “I miss my mom a lot. I usually talk to her every day.”
Ochako opened her mouth to reply, but before she had the chance to say anything, Tokoyami stirred from where he had been sleeping peacefully. Izuku and Ochako both turned their heads in his direction.
“Good morning,” Ochako called to him softly, even though, by now, it was well into the afternoon. “Sleep well?”
Tokoyami squinted his eyes at her against the sunlight and grumbled something noncommittal in response. Then he promptly rolled out of the shelter and made his way into the privacy of the surrounding woods, presumably to relieve himself of whatever urine build-up he had acquired during his nap.
Ochako giggled as he walked away. “He’s always so grumpy when he wakes up.”
“When he wakes up?” Izuku asked. “He’s always grumpy, regardless of the time. He’s like an old man.”
Ochako laughed at this. “I guess you’re right.” After several moments of amused silence, Ochako seemed to sober up, and she pushed herself upright, leaning back on the palms of her hands.
Izuku raised a questioning brow at her.
“If we have to go to tribal council again before the merge, are you okay with Tokoyami?”
“You’d rather vote out Tokoyami than Tsuyu?”
Ochako’s cheeks reddened at this, which was just adorable. “I kind of told Tsuyu that I’d protect her at the next tribal if she voted for Koji instead of Tenya.”
Izuku hummed to himself at this information, his brows furrowed. He supposed he didn’t mind voting off Tokoyami instead of Tsuyu. As long as it wasn’t him, Ochako, or Tenya. Only… “What if Tokoyami has an idol?” As far as Izuku knew, nobody on his tribe had found the hidden immunity idol yet. As far as he knew, nobody had really been trying to find it. Except Izuku had noticed Tokoyami wandering off by himself several times since their arrival to their camp, and it wouldn’t be far-fetched to imagine that he was searching for the idol - perhaps he’d even found it by now.
Ochako pressed her lips together. “I know. I’ve thought of that. But I gave Tsuyu my word.”
If Ochako was adamant about not voting out Tsuyu, that left no other option but Tokoyami. It was only that Tokoyami was incredibly smart, in that quiet, intense way of his, and Izuku wouldn’t put it past him to have something up his sleeve, should they be sent to another tribal council.
“Maybe we should try looking for the idol,” Ochako suggested. “For in case Tokoyami hasn’t found it yet.”
“We could do that,” Izuku agreed.
Izuku and Ochako both turned towards the sound of Tsuyu’s voice to see the girl in question bounding her way up the beach, towards the camp, a bundle of beautiful, glistening fish held in her hand.
Izuku and Ochako both shot out of the shelter and towards Tsuyu so quickly that they nearly knocked her off her feet. Tenya joined their excited group, and Tokoyami had even come from seemingly out of nowhere to see what all the noise was about.
Everyone was talking at once, excited exclamations drowning out everybody else’s words or questions.
The only thing that was clear was that Tsuyu had caught some fish, and they would be getting protein in their stomachs tonight, however small the portion of it was.
Izuku thought that maybe, just maybe, their luck was beginning to turn around.