“Come on in, guys!”
When they walked in to their reward challenge for the day, Izuku was simultaneously nervous and excited at the elaborate setup. There were two different replications of the same exact course, one orange and one purple, which automatically signified to Izuku that they were going to be split up into teams for this challenge.
The course was huge, with platforms and obstacles stretching out onto the beach and into the water, as well as a huge structure that had to be at least twenty-feet tall at the far end of the clearing. There was a chest sitting in between the water section of the course and the tall structure.
Once everyone was standing in front of Toshinori, Toshinori asked, “Are you guys ready to get to today’s reward challenge?” At everyone’s affirmations, he continued, “For today’s challenge, you’ll divide into two teams. You’ll start on a platform. On my go, you’ll race through a series of obstacles until you reach a chest. You’ll drag the chest to the base of the tall tower. You’ll climb up the tower. You’ll then drag the chest to the top of the tower, where two tribe members will solve a shrine puzzle. The first team to finish wins reward. Want to know what you’re playing for?”
Before Toshinori even revealed what the reward was, everybody was smiling excitedly because obviously it would have something to do with food, and even with the feast they had been given at the merge, they were all quickly back to starving, with nothing more than their rice portions and the odd fish that was caught. Given their infrequent sleep and their excess amount of effort exerted during challenges, they were all waiting for the chance to win a reward and get some more real food.
“Best reward of the season so far,” Toshinori said. “The winning team will leave here to be taken to a Survivor -themed Outback Steakhouse.”
Immediately, everybody reacted to this news with groans and smiles and excited applause. Izuku was no exception. He turned to Ochako, who was standing next to him, and grasped her arm tightly, and she turned a huge smile back onto him.
“You will enjoy wood-fired grilled outback steak,” Toshinori continued, “baked potato, all the fixings. Plus the brand new Outback Steakhouse margarita, the grilled pineapple-rita. And there is dessert, too.”
Izuku was bouncing on the balls of his feet. Steak! Baked potato! Dessert! It was all too good to be true.
“S’mores and mini-milkshakes,” Toshinori announced, which elicited yet more groans from everybody assembled. “Worth playing for?”
Everybody agreed that, yes, this was definitely worth playing for.
“Alright, we’ll draw for teams, and we’ll get started,” Toshinori said, carrying over to them a black bag of rocks colored either orange or purple to randomly decide who would be on what teams. Izuku wanted to be on the same team as Ochako and Tenya, for sure. He wanted to be able to enjoy this reward with them.
And even though Izuku wanted Katsuki to enjoy the reward as well, he was worried about Katsuki’s ability to work well with a team again. He knew firsthand how he had his trouble working with others, how he always wanted things to be done his way, no argument. And there was also the fact that things had been awkward between Izuku and Katsuki since last night, and he wasn’t entirely sure how to fix that rift between them. They had barely spoken to each other all day, but it wasn’t for lack of trying, on Izuku’s part. Izuku had thought that, after last night, Katsuki would be more open with him, since he had already let his guards down once, since he had already been vulnerable around Izuku, in whatever small ways.
Instead, the opposite seemed to happen. Katsuki seemed to withdraw his emotions even further, to put up stronger walls to keep Izuku out. Every time Izuku tried to start a conversation with Katsuki, he was met with a cold shoulder. Every time he invited Katsuki into the woods or onto the boat for a private conversation, Katsuki refused. Izuku didn’t understand it. It was obvious that Katsuki was still playing the game with Izuku, but when it came to anything more than that, to personal feelings or emotions or anything that didn’t directly relate to the game, Katsuki had completely shut Izuku out.
It was so frustrating to Izuku. Just when he thought he was beginning to make progress with Katsuki, everything seemed to regress. It was one step forward and two steps back.
Izuku ended up drawing an orange rock. To his dismay, both Ochako and Tenya had drawn purple rocks. With a quick look around, Izuku saw that he was on a team with Denki, Hanta, Katsuki, and Kirishima. The other team was Mina, Momo, Ochako, Shoto, and Tenya.
Izuku gathered together with his team to discuss quickly who would do the puzzle, which was the only portion of the challenge that really required strategizing. Not surprisingly, Izuku and Katsuki were the ones chosen for the puzzle, since they were easily the smartest people on this team.
They all had to take a boat out to their starting platform in the water. Izuku’s team took the orange platform, while the purple team all gathered on the purple platform. They had been given pieces of cloth with their team color on it to indicate at all times which team they were on, and Izuku had tied his orange cloth around his wrist.
The first section of the challenge was to swim through obstacles in the water, the first of which was a seesaw-like net that they all had to get over.
Once everybody was in their starting positions, Toshinori called out, “Two teams randomly chosen and ready to battle. Alright. Here we go. For reward, Survivors ready? Go!”
Everybody jumped into the water to swim to the net. Izuku was one of the first ones on his tribe to reach the net, along with Katsuki, and then Denki, Kirishima, and Hanta all got there. Once all five of them were there, they quickly ran across and over the net. As they got closer to the end of it, it began to drop down underneath their weight, and then they all jumped right back into the water to get to the next obstacle, which was a balance beam that they had to race across.
Katsuki went across the balance beam first, Kirishima right behind him. Izuku went next, and Denki and Hanta weren’t far behind Izuku. Izuku prayed that none of them would fall off. If someone fell off, then that person would have to go back to the beginning of the balance beam and start again. Given that the balance beam was pretty long, separated into three different sections, that would cost their team a lot of time, for someone to have to start over.
Fortunately, nobody fell off, and they all got across their balance beam with minimal issues.
After the balance beam, they had to all gather on a mat in front of their chest, and they had to wait for all five members of their team to arrive before they could start on the next part of the challenge. When everyone was on their mat, Toshinori shouted, “Go, orange!” and then they all had to begin to undo a series of five knots that held the chest down onto a platform before they could begin to move it. Everyone got to work on a knot, their fingers working as quickly as possible to get it undone first.
Katsuki had his knot undone first, and then Izuku’s was undone, then Kirishima’s and Hanta’s. They were all waiting on Denki, but it wasn’t long at all before Denki was done as well, and they all immediately picked up their chest to carry it to their wall.
There was a rope with a clip attached to the wall that they used to clip their chest into it, and then they each had to climb the wall with nothing more than another rope to leverage them up. Izuku made his way up first, followed by Katsuki, Denki, Kirishima, and Hanta.
Up until this point, the two teams had been pretty equal in the challenge, but now Izuku realized that his team was starting to fall behind. The purple team already had all of their members up, and Izuku’s team was still working on getting Kirishima and Hanta up.
Once Hanta was up, though, they began to work on pulling up their chest as quickly as possible. They weren’t that far behind, and they could still win it, especially if they did well on the puzzle.
After their chest was up, they dragged it over to where the puzzle table was, and then Izuku and Katsuki emerged from the group to put the puzzle together.
This puzzle was different than any of the other ones they had done thus far, and it was a puzzle Izuku didn’t have any experience with. It was to be built vertically, from the bottom to the top. Each piece had a set of tiny poles coming out of the bottom that they had to fit into a set of holes that was at the top of the previous piece.
Izuku glanced over for just long enough to see that it was Momo and Tenya working on the puzzle for the purple team.
Katsuki took the lead on this puzzle, since it didn’t really require for two people to work on it, while Izuku stood to the side and allowed Katsuki to work, offering advice whenever he felt the need to. Before long, Katsuki had gotten one piece in, and then a second, and then a third, and then a fourth. Izuku, who had recognized the pattern of the puzzle, began searching for and then handing off the pieces to Katsuki, who grabbed them and set them into the puzzle.
They got their fifth, sixth, seventh, and eighth pieces, and the only had two pieces left. Katsuki quickly and easily took the pieces from Izuku and put in their ninth and tenth pieces, and then they had to open their chest and pull out their last piece that had an extravagant decoration on the top, and, together, Izuku and Katsuki twisted it until the slots fit in the right places, pushing it down to seal it.
As soon as they had their piece in, Denki, Hanta, and Kirishima began to shout their victorious shouts, and Toshinori called out, “Outback Steakhouse reward goes to Izuku, Katsuki, Denki, Hanta, and Kirishima!”
They all clapped each other on the backs and embraced each other for their victory, Izuku and Katsuki receiving most of the praise for putting together the puzzle so quickly. Izuku was beaming, and Katsuki was smiling, and they were all so excited to eat an actual, full meal that composed of steak and potatoes and margaritas and s’mores.
It was the best possible challenge for them to win, at this point in time, and they had pulled it off beautifully.
After everyone settled down and regrouped to silently wait for further remarks from Toshinori, Toshinori said, “Alright, Denki, Hanta, Izuku, Katsuki, Kirishima - well-earned. Enjoy it. Grab your stuff; head out.”
The five of them smiled and grabbed their bags, descending the staircase off to the side of the tower so that they could be taken to their reward.
Their meal was in an open building with a roof and tiled floors and real chairs and tables and everything . It was perhaps a little silly, but Izuku had been away from civilization for so long that even a tiled floor felt like a luxury as they walked up the few steps and into the pavilion where they were going to be dining. They were each handed one of the margaritas upon arrival, and then they all took their seats at a table to await their meal.
“This is so good,” Kirishima said about the margarita, pulling the pineapple slice off the rim and taking a bite into it, clearly eager to get around to the food.
Izuku, who wasn’t much of an alcohol-drinker, had to agree with Kirishima. The drink was phenomenal , and he had to remind himself to sip at it slowly, or else he would drink it way too quickly and perhaps make a fool of himself.
The others did not exhibit this same restraint, though, and before the first course was even served, both Katsuki and Kirishima were on their second margarita. They could smell the food cooking from the oven across the pavilion, and the scent of steak wafting towards him sent his stomach positively growling . He was so, so hungry, and he was so delighted that he’d be able to eat a real meal today.
A server came over towards them and set a salad in front of each of them, and they all dug in. The consumption of this salad was punctuated by masculine grunts of approval, and there was absolutely no room for conversation as they devoured their food in what had to be record time. Izuku wanted to savor it, but he just couldn’t find it in himself to hold himself back.
Next, they were brought their fully-loaded baked potatoes and their steaks, which they all devoured in a similarly silent fashion, putting all their focus into shoveling the food into their mouths. The food was just delicious . The steak was cooked perfectly; the potato had every topping Izuku could have wanted. It was all so perfect and so filling, and even when Izuku was full, he kept eating, knowing that he might not have another chance for the rest of the game to eat his fill like this.
After the plates of steak and potato were taken away, they were brought out a platter of s’mores, and they were each given milkshake flavors to choose from. Izuku chose a vanilla one, and Katsuki, who was sitting next to him, chose a chocolate one, and without even thinking about it, Izuku impulsively reached over to grab Katsuki’s milkshake and take a sip out of his, to taste the chocolate.
Katsuki looked at Izuku with drawn eyebrows and hard, narrow eyes.
Izuku froze. He hadn’t wanted to instigate Katsuki in any way, when he felt like he was on shaky ground with the other. Realizing idiotically what he had just done and wanting desperately to lessen the tension between them, Izuku gave Katsuki a sheepish smile before pushing the milkshake back towards Katsuki and sipping his own isntead. He preferred vanilla over chocolate, but he had just wanted one little taste of chocolate, and in his haste to devour as much as he could, he didn’t even think about the fact that the milkshake was Katsuki’s. He just saw it in his line of sight, and he went for it.
After several beats of silence in which Izuku waited for Katsuki to either call him a name or ignore him completely, he did neither. Instead, Katsuki gave a snort of what Izuku could have sworn was amusement, and then he shoved his milkshake back in Izuku’s direction, so that it was resting in between Izuku and Katsuki.
Izuku smiled to himself, pleased with this development and with the fact that, with this one gesture, things between them felt like they had been restored to how they had been before last night. The tension that was underlying their every moment together seemed to dissipate entirely, replaced with the tentative friendship - if that was what it was - that they had formed over the past seven days.
Izuku couldn’t believe it had only been a week since he’d officially met Katsuki. It only took a week for Katsuki to become someone that Izuku felt like he could trust completely in this game.
Izuku reached over to take another sip of Katsuki’s milkshake wordlessly, not wanting to say anything for fear that it would ruin Katsuki’s current good mood -
Until something caught his eyes.
Katsuki’s napkin was sitting where it had been for the entirety of the meal, folded up neatly, but one of the corners had been knocked askew, and inside the napkin, very clearly, Izuku saw a piece of paper.
A clue to a hidden immunity idol.
Izuku felt frozen, and he quickly became aware that he was weirdly staring at Katsuki’s napkin, so he straightened his spine and tried to join whatever animated conversation Hanta and Kirishima were currently partaking in.
How could he alert Katsuki to the fact that there was a clue for a hidden immunity idol nestled in his napkin without making it too obvious?
The only person Izuku was worried about here was Denki. After the last vote, it was clear that the alliances were now split between Izuku, Hanta, Katsuki, Kirishima, Ochako, and Tenya against Denki, Mina, Momo, and Shoto. Although Izuku’s alliance easily had the numbers, he wasn’t sure about whether or not Hanta would flip, and he wasn’t sure about whether or not Kirishima could be trusted to him, personally. If either of them decided that the other side’s vote was in their best interest, Izuku wouldn’t put it past them to turn on him.
Kirishima was loyal to Katsuki, though, and, right now, Hanta was loyal to Izuku. The only person who could not, under any circumstances, see the clue was Denki because that would give him all the fuel he needed to start a fire against Katsuki for having the idol.
Underneath the table, Izuku nudged Katuski’s foot with his, trying his best to make it clear that he was trying to be unnoticed.
Izuku didn’t know if Katsuki took the hint or if he was still hesitant about being forthright with Izuku after last night, but either way, instead of turning to look at him in the face, Katsuki gave him a subtle side-eye and raised brows.
Izuku inclined his head, ever so slightly, in the direction of Katsuki’s napkin, looking down as he did so, indicating that Katsuki, too, would have to look down to see what Izuku had seen. These gestures only seemed to confuse Katsuki, though, and he turned to get a better look at Izuku was doing.
Izuku placed his hand on his own napkin and then nodded again in the direction of Katsuki’s napkin.
Katsuki seemed to understand, then, and his eyes went to his napkin, and then his body tensed up for such a brief moment that you had to be paying attention to see it.
Now that Katsuki had seen the note, Izuku quickly returned his attention to the conversation that was going around the table so as to cast aside any suspicious behavior. The entire interaction had only lasted a few seconds, but Izuku didn’t want anyone else to know what they were up to.
Thankfully, nobody seemed any the wiser, and when Izuku checked again, he saw that the paper had been taken out of the napkin, hopefully finding a new home in Katsuki’s pocket.
After leaving their reward, during their walk back to camp, it began to pour rain. Which was bad news for Izuku and Katsuki because that meant that they’d all be confined to their shelter in their desperate attempt to stay, and they’d have absolutely no privacy to take a look at that note that Katsuki had pocketed.
Mina, Momo, Ochako, Tenya, and Shoto were all already huddled inside their shelter. Denki was the first one who enjoyed the reward to make it to the shelter, having sprinted in the rain, and shouted at them, “Do you have room for five more?”
They were greeted by their fellow tribe mates as they moved and shuffled around inside the shelter to make as much room as they possibly could for the five returning contestants. Izuku ended up squished in between Hanta and Tenya, huddling underneath their blanket with them to keep warm and dry.
They were asked about their reward and how the food was, and Hanta and Kirishima were quick to tell them just how amazing it was, spending the better part of thirty minutes describing, in detail, what they ate and what they drank and how it tasted. Izuku felt like this wasn’t really fair to those who didn’t get to go on the reward, but then again, it was primarily Mina and Momo asking the questions, torturing themselves over the answers, although they were smiling throughout the whole thing.
All the while, Izuku’s mind was going in about twelve different directions all at once. He wondered if the paper with the clue to the hidden idol was still dry enough to read, since it had been in Katsuki’s pocket while they walked through the rain. He wondered when the rain would stop so that they could go look at the note together. He wondered if Katsuki would even want to look at the note with Izuku. Not that Izuku was going to give him much of a choice. If he saw Katsuki sneaking off by himself, Izuku would be sure to follow. He was the one who alerted Katsuki to the note’s presence, after all, and he felt he deserved to be let it on the whereabouts of the idol.
And, besides, he owed it to Katsuki to help him find the idol, since Katsuki had wasted his idol on him last night. He would let Katsuki keep it; he just wanted to help him find it.
Only they had to wait for the rain to stop so they could leave the shelter together without it looking suspicious. There was never any telling how long the rain would last on this island, so Izuku didn’t really have a choice but to sit there are wait.
Thankfully, the rain didn’t take all that long to come to an end today, and pretty much as soon as it had stopped, Katsuki had made some excuse or another to leave the shelter. Izuku said that he would join Katsuki, which earned him a hard glare, but there was no outright refusal, so Izuku took that as an encouraging sign and scrambled out of the shelter and into the surrounding forest behind Katsuki.
The ground was muddy and wet beneath their feet, and lingering water was dripping off of the leaves of the trees, and Izuku was getting even more wet and dirty than he would have, had he stayed in the shelter, but he had to do this. He had to come with Katsuki and get a look at this clue.
Once they were a safe distance away from camp, Katsuki quickly turned on Izuku and stuck a finger right in his face, his characteristic scowl stamped across his features. “You better not fucking tell anybody about this, nerd.”
“I won’t, I swear!” Izuku assured him hurriedly. He didn’t want Katsuki thinking he was going to betray him now, of all times. “I just wanted to help you find it, since you used your last one on me. That’s it.”
Katsuki made sure to glare for another few moments before finally removing his gaze from Izuku and digging the folded-up paper out of his pocket, unfolding it carefully. It had gotten wet, and, as such, the paper was quite flimsy, but it was still legible, and it was still in one piece, which was the only thing that really mattered.
Izuku peered over Katsuki to read the words that were written there, even as Katsuki muttered them out loud. “‘Take the road less traveled, a hike beyond your well. A course where rain once journeyed means you are close to tell. This idol is surely buried, but you won’t be digging down. A mesh of roots and rocks and dirt hides more power than a crown.’” When he was done reading the words on the paper, he glanced at Izuku and then shoved the clue back into his pocket. “I think I know where this is.”
“Really? Where?” Izuku asked.
Katsuki was already turning around, as if to make his way to the area the clue to the idol described.
“I’ll show you. You can help me look for it.”
“Wait!” Izuku jogged a bit to keep up with Katsuki’s long, quick strides. He was even bold enough to reach out and tug on the back of Katsuki’s shirt to keep him from continuing forward.
Katsuki’s body tensed, but he didn’t whirl around and glare at Izuku or spit any names out at him for making contact with him, the way he would’ve in the beginning of their relationship in this game, which Izuku took as a good sign. A great sign. An amazing sign. It was progress.
“What?” Katsuki barked out without turning around.
“Well - it’s just… I mean, if we go off now, after coming back from a reward challenge, it’s going to look kind of suspicious. I think everyone else will know what we’re doing, and then they’ll make assumptions that we have the idol.”
It wasn’t unusual at all for a clue to a hidden immunity idol to appear at the reward location. In fact, it was typical Survivor , and Izuku knew it. And he would bet that anyone else out here who was a fan of this game knew it, too. So if Izuku and Katsuki, who both went on the reward, left camp for an indefinite amount of time immediately following the end of the rain, it would definitely raise some flags. They would speculate, and they would assume, and if they thought that Izuku or Katsuki was in possession of another hidden immunity idol, it would be bad news for the both of them. Momo and Shoto were smart enough that they could probably turn people against them. Even Ochako and Tenya would probably think it was dangerous to keep them both around and try to take out Katsuki, even if it meant allying with Momo and Shoto, at least temporarily.
Izuku wanted to put his faith in them completely and unfalteringly, but as they got closer to the end of this game, he had to keep reminding himself that they were all here to win. Nobody came to get second or third or fourth or fifth place. Everybody here was here for the million dollars, and just because Izuku felt a bond with both Ochako and Tenya didn’t mean that they wouldn’t vote him or his alliance out.
Similarly, Izuku had to begin to come to terms with the fact that, no matter how much he adored Ochako and Tenya, he would have to figure out the best means and the best time of getting rid of them, too.
But, regardless, it was a supremely stupid idea to give anybody any notion of the fact that they got a clue to the idol, so they had to lay low and play it calm for the rest of the day, and then they should go and try to find it tomorrow.
Izuku voiced as much to Katsuki, which caused Katsuki to finally turn that glare on Izuku. “I’m not gonna sit around and wait to find this fucking idol. What if somebody else finds it before we do?”
“I doubt they will,” Izuku tried to assure Katsuki. “Nobody else has a clue, and nobody else knows exactly where and how to find it. We do. So I think we should just relax for tonight, and we can get up early tomorrow morning and look for it before anybody else is awake.”
Katsuki looked like he wanted to argue this, his jaw clenching and unclenching as he considered the possibilities. He must have realized that Izuku was right, though, because his shoulders slumped slightly in resignation. “Fine. We’ll do it your way, nerd. But you better hope no one else finds that idol before us.”
Izuku nodded and followed Izuku out of the forest and back towards camp, a small smile playing at the corners of his mouth.
Katsuki seemed to be trying, at least, to work cooperatively with Izuku instead of his previous attitude of yelling and insisting he was right constantly.
Maybe, just maybe, their alliance would be able to carry them to the end of the game, if they could keep their trust in each other.
For the rest of the night, anytime anybody went into the woods, Izuku could see the way Katsuki’s body tensed up, as if ready to run after whoever it was to make sure they didn’t find an idol. But he restrained himself, and nobody was gone for nearly long enough to had found anything.
Izuku wanted to tell Ochako and Tenya about the clue, but he knew he couldn’t. First of all, he knew Katsuki would be pissed off about it, since Izuku had been sworn to secrecy. Secondly, as Izuku had thought earlier, he wasn’t entirely sure how they would receive the news, and he was terrified of them turning on him at this point in the game. Historically, in Survivor , it was never a good idea to tell anybody about an idol, no matter how close you were to that person. The only reason both Izuku and Katsuki knew instead of only one of them was because they had both seen the note at the reward challenge, and they couldn’t very well keep it from the other anymore.
Izuku went to sleep early that night, knowing that Katsuki would likely be up even before him to wake him up and find the idol.
Izuku was just happy that they were working together, that Katsuki had gotten past whatever awkwardness or emotions he had felt after last night, and that there was a very good chance that they could dominate the rest of this game, if they played their cards right.